His sixth Kickstarter campaign, for two prose novels in his MANDRILL P.I. series, had gotten off to a hot start, but a few days in, the Dead Zone had already settled in.
As the days went on, he realized he was in for a longer dry spell than usual, and if he wanted to inject some life back into his campaign, he’d have to get creative.
But all the while, he couldn’t help but wonder…
“Is this the new normal?”
Chris had heard the chatter from other creators online:
The Kickstarter Dead Zone was hitting faster and lasting longer these days. He chalked it up to a few different possibilities.
“Creators in general have gotten better about driving traffic on day one of launch, so it’s clumping more backers onto launch day; there are more cool projects on KS than ever before, so people might be getting inundated with campaign launch messages; macro-economic trends might be causing people to back fewer projects, so the people that are 'for sure' backing have budgeted and are consciously backing projects by their favorite creators early.”
Or maybe, he thought, everything he’d seen and heard from other creators was purely anecdotal evidence from a small sample size.
“Maybe the macro trend is actually that the more projects you launch, the bigger the Dead Zone gets because there are fewer family/friends backing and more people sourced on the Kickstarter platform or through ads (so you’re more at the mercy of the Kickstarter algorithm, which seems to favor projects launching and ending).”
Whatever the cause, Chris knew he’d have to make an adjustment. It was too late to shorten the length of his campaign—and therefore the Dead Zone—so it was time to get creative.
So Chris buckled down and got to work.
Chris decided to use his page and updates to highlight freebies that he’d give away during the campaign as time-bound incentives to encourage people to back.
“I think this helped more so than stretch goals or milestone rewards, because it allowed me to use the pressure of time to encourage people to grab this cool item before it disappears.”
He had already offered a free launch day gift (an acrylic pin), but now he sweetened the pot by offering weekly free gifts to encourage people to back early.
“This also gave me a reason to send updates to previous campaigns and message backers from previous campaigns (e.g., 'Week 1 of the new campaign is about to end, and I don’t want you to miss this awesome free acrylic pin'). I also listed all these gifts at the top of the story page (with pics) to show people casually browsing the campaign all the cool extras they can snag by not waiting to back (and induce some FOMO because of the cool stuff they missed).”
But Chris knew he couldn't just use "Fear of Missing Out" to push free stuff on prospective backers.
If he was going to break out of the Dead Zone and push up his funding, he'd have to leverage FOMO to sell more things to his current backers too.
During a ComixLaunch Mastermind session, Tyler James suggested discounting Chris’ backlist for a limited time only.
“I used this strategy a couple times during the campaign. I have a series of comedic sci-fi novels titled The Multiverse Askew Trilogy, for which I had available inventory. The first time I used the strategy, I offered the set for 33% off, and kept the time limit to 48 hours so it would be a short window in which people would need to act. I also limited the number of copies so there would be an upward bound limit.”
Chris first made the announcement via updates for the campaign, then also sent messages to backers of previous campaigns to encourage them not to miss out.
But that wasn’t all.
“I used the strategy again about a week later, offering the same books at a 25% discount, mainly so the people who purchased the 33% off bundle would feel good that they got the best deal for acting fast (and to also encourage them to act fast next time there is a limited-time discount).
"This strategy helped significantly to bump pledges during the middle of the dead zone, and one I think helped a ton to make this the most successful campaign thus far.”
His strategy didn’t come without costs, but this time it wasn’t money that bedeviled Chris… it was time.
Something most Kickstarter creators know is in short supply.
With a day job and a five year old at home, Chris finds time to be the biggest challenge for expanding into additional titles and growing his fan base.
Bearing that in mind, he’s intentional about how he spends his time.
“I try to maintain a routine so I can flow quickly into creative work without a lot of second thought (I.e., try not to give myself the chance to think about how daunting a task might be). I wake up every morning between 4:45 and 5:15 and row for exercise. Then I shower and begin creative work, and I treat this creative work kinda like the exercise. I start no matter what, and even if it’s a ‘bad’ day creatively, it at least chips away at projects in my queue.”
Along with that comes strict production quotas.
“When I’m writing a novel, I force out at least 1K words a day no matter what. For comics, I aim for at least 6-8 pages of content. And then it’s time for the day job until the evening, at which point it’s family time, and then when the kid goes to bed, I’ll lean more into the social media / marketing side of things.”
Chris says the best advice he can give is to find the routine that works for you and keep it up.
“Creativity is a muscle that gets better with exercise. To mix metaphors a bit, I like to think of it like this: those of us who are creative have an ability to fish in an infinite lake of ideas, and the more we prep ourselves to be able to reel in a leviathan, the more likely we are to be ready for success when we snag one.”
And while he credits Tyler and the ComixLaunch community for a ton of good friendships and sources of invaluable mentorship and advice, there’s one person who motivates him more than anyone else.
Chris says if he could attribute his success to only one thing, it would be his mom.
“She used to tell me that you never know if somebody’s encounter with you is going to be the only positive experience they have all day. I think about that a lot, and I try to make people feel valued and heard every time I speak with them. And I think that’s one of the reasons I’ve been able to build such a big network over the years. People are willing to go to bat for you and try something new from you and spread the word about your passions if they know you care for them as people.”
Chris’ mom passed away over a decade ago, and after losing his father a few years later, he briefly felt adrift.
“I lost most of my late 20s and 30s to grief over them (I couldn’t write and I grew pretty distant from a lot of the people who I had been close to previously), and now that I’m out the other side of that grief, their loss gives me the motivation to get things done NOW and be a good friend NOW, because I don’t know how much time I’ve got left.”
So in 2020, he began the work of adapting his 2010 novella MANDRILL P.I. into a comic book. He found an artist, Carlos Trigo, on Reddit, and together they created a 12-page prequel he used for pitches.
After waiting to hear back from publishers, one of them finally advised him to just put it out into the world through Kickstarter. He took it to heart, found ComixLaunch, learned the process, and was off to the races.
“And if I could go back and talk to the me of back then, I’d tell him to go straight to Kickstarter and get started earlier instead of wasting so much time waiting. Because now I have a much bigger audience, and with the rate it snowballs through Kickstarter, I could have been much farther along on this creative journey if I had pulled that lever earlier.”
In the end, Chris’ sixth campaign marked his most funding raised and second-most backers. In addition to earning new fans, he broke $5K in funding, which allowed him to further invest in his publishing business.
Next up, he plans to launch Kickstarters for the next two (comic book) issues of MANDRILL P.I. and then a final prose novel in the series. He’s also hard at work on the next series of novels, CLOSURE, INC., an urban fantasy about a ghost who runs a business “exterminating” other ghosts by finishing their unfinished business.
With plans for starting a publishing company, plus anthology appearances and more new comics in the works, Chris looks to have a busy—and bright—future.
And it all starts right NOW.
Join Chris' Mailing List to read:
Free 12-page MANDRILLP.I. prequel comic
plus a short story and a free MANDRILL P.I. Volume 0 novella
Then attend an upcoming FREE online ComixLaunch Workshop and learn the keys to making your next launch your best launch ever!