Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Kickstarter Interview With DOUG TENNAPEL

I was recently asked to attend an animation/video game festival in Canada and one of the subjects they wanted me to speak on was "Crowd Funding your creation", since I had finished a successful Kickstarter project for my Opposite Forces GN.  I had some information and opinions from going through the process, but I really wanted other opinions.  More experienced ones too.  I quickly turned to friend, Doug TenNapel.  He is one of the most successful Kickstarter creatives I know.  His sketchbook project went through the roof (details below) and he is now working with some partners on a video game Kickstarter project- that ends in TWO DAYS!  (Back it NOW- http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1949537745/armikrog).  Doug has great insights into how to run a successful Kickstarter, below is the transcripts from a phone interview I conducted with him.  Any mistakes made are my own, this is unedited and fairly raw since I was trying to type as he spoke.  And- no- he wasn't shouting at me the entire time, I just made his responses ALL CAPS for clarity.  ENJOY!  


Kickstarter Thoughts with Doug TenNapel


Doug Tenapel has a long background that includes successfully creating video game concepts/characters as well as many well-loved graphic novels that he writes and draws.  He has animated, done comic strips, character design, art direction- basically all forms of media you can think of.  He has done one very successful Kickstarter for a huge sketchbook that he asked for $18k but exceeded his goal by receiving over $100k.  He and two partners are now running a Kickstarter for a video game called Armikrog.  They are the creators of Neverhood and Earth Worm Jim.  After a huge start, the Kickstarter is about midway through with a goal of reaching a goal of $900k.  They are about half funded as of this writing, with 20 days to go.

His first big break in video games came when Steven Spielberg funded Neverhood and just said, “What do you want to do?”   They were starting a video game company and just gave him a million- 2 million and said go make a game.  He made a stop motion video game that was a worldwide hit.  #1 pirated game worldwide- especially in Japan and Iran.  That overseas black market has given Doug a strong following worldwide which is helping his current Kickstarter projects, ironically.  Most popular game in Iran so he is getting a ton of backers for Armikrog- in Iran. 


Q and A:

What was the one thing you learned/discovered that you didn’t know about Kickstarter when you started this- even with all your research beforehand?

IN A GOOD WAY, THE GENEROCITY AND KINDNESS OF THE FANS, I DIDN’T EXPECT.  KICKSTARTER DONORS ARE DIFFERENT FROM CON FANS.  THEY ARE VERY GENEROUS AND SELFLESS, USED TO GIVING TO PROJECTS WITH THEIR MONEY.  THEY ARE THE MOST HEART-FELT MEMBERS OF MY FANBASE.  LOTS OF PLEASE AND THANK YOUS. 


Can someone with very little to no social networking following run a successful Kickstarter/Indiegogo program?

IT’S VERY HARD.  ITS HARD ENOUGH EVEN WITH A HUGE FOLLOWING/FAN BASE.  I HAVE A DECENT SIZED FOLLOWING CAN’T COMPARE.  BUT ONLY A PORTION OF THAT FOLLOWING INVESTS IN MY KICKSTARTER PROJECTS.  SO IT CUTS DOWN QUITE A BIT.  IF IT IS A LOW PRICE POINT, THE NEWBIES WILL HAVE A MUCH BETTER CHANCE AT SUCCESS. 

I EVEN DECIDED ON THE VOICE CASTING BASED ON THEIR TWITTER FOLLOWINGS A BIT TOO.  NOT COMPLETELY BUT YOU DO WANT TO CONSIDER HAVING PEOPLE INVOLVED/EXCITED IN YOUR PROJECT THAT HAVE HUGE ONLINE FOLLOWINGS. 


HOW DO YOU BUILD AN AUDIENCE?  YOU GIVE THEM STUFF FOR FREE.  YOU HAVE TO PROVE TO THEM YOUR CREATION IS WORTH FOLLOWING FIRST.  YOU CAN’T MONETIZE THEM BEFORE THEY ARE A FAN.  YOU HAVE TO CREATE A PROJECT AND GET IT OUT THERE.  LATER, YOU CAN START ASKING THEM TO HELP YOU ON YOUR NEXT PROJECTS.  BUILD YOUR AUDIENCE FIRST, THEN ASK FOR MONEY FROM THEM. 


Do you think the crowd-funding craze will go away/die soon? 

NO, IF YOU LOOK AT WHERE ENTERTAINMENT HAS COME FROM, IT WAS GEARED TOWARD A UNITED VIEWERSHIP.  NOW WE HAVE CABLE AND ONLINE VIDEOS WHERE THE AUDIENCE IS “INDIVIDUALISTIC” AND MORE NITCH.  THE INCOME OF THE NETWORKS HAS GONE DOWN.  IT ALSO GIVES US THE CHANCE TO SEE STUFF WE NEVER WOULD HAVE BEFORE.  KICKSTARTER IS FEEDING INTO THE INDEPENDENT MOVEMENT AND NITCH MARKET SELLER/CREATORS.  WE DON’T NEED TO GO TO PUBLISHERS, WE CAN HAVE OUR FANS FUND THE PROJECTS THEY WANT.  THIS GENERATION IS USED TO/WANT TO DO THIS STUFF.  NO PUBLISHER WOULD LET ME DO A PROJECT THAT ONLY SELLS TO ABOUT 1000 PEOPLE.  BUT I CAN CROWD FUND IT AND ACTUALLY MAKE A PROFIT OFF OF A SMALL PROJECT.  PEOPLE ARE MAKING THEIR OWN DECISIONS ON WHAT THEY WANT AND THEY ARE PUTTING THEIR MONEY WHERE THEIR MOUTH IS. 

Besides funding your dream project, do you set out to make a profit with your projects?

THERE’S NO ROOM FOR ASKING FOR PROFIT.  I PUT ABOUT TWO MONTHS OF FULL TIME WORK INTO ALL THE INCENTIVE FULLFILMENTS AFTER THE SKETCHBOOK WAS FINISHED.  THAT WAS UNPAID TIME.  YOU HAVE TO PUT A TON OF TIME INTO A PROJECT (WORKING FOR FREE) BEFORE YOU CAN LAUNCH A KICKSTARTER ALSO.  WHAT IS YOUR WALK AWAY AMOUNT?  YOU SHOULDN’T EXPECT KICKSTARTER TO FUND YOU WHOLE PROJECT.  I THINK, WHAT IS THE MINIMUM AMOUNT I NEED TO DO THIS PROJECT THAT I WOULD DO ANYWAY?  DON’T HAVE KICKSTARTER LIFT THE WHOLE THING AND YOU HAVE A LOT BETTER CHANCE TO HIT YOUR FUNDING.  IF PRINTING COSTS ARE $10K THEN ASK FOR $9K AND GET SOME HELP ON THE BACK END FROM FAMILY OR FRIENDS TO RAISE THE REST IF NEED BE.  OR YOU MAY GET OVER YOUR AMOUNT ASKED FOR.  FIGURE OUT WHAT YOU THINK YOU CAN GET ON KICKSTARTER AND NOT WHAT YOU NEED. 

Stretch-goals?

I REALLY BENT OVER BACKWARDS TO DO MORE MANUAL LABOR (EARTH WORM JIM COMMISIONS,ETC.) TO GET PEOPLE EXCITED ABOUT THE KICKSTARTER TO MAKE THE KICKSTARTER MORE EXCITING.  I THOUGHT THEY MAY NOT BE AS EXCITED ABOUT THE ACTUAL SKETCHBOOK, BUT I KNEW THEY WANTED THE COMMISSIONS AND WOULD GET THE SKETCHBOOK WITH IT.  IN THE END, I THOUGHT THEY WOULD WANT THE SKETCHBOOK, BUT THEY DIDN’T KNOW IT.  I MADE SURE I HAD STRETCHGOALS THAT WOULD MAKE THE SKETCHBOOK BETTER AND BETTER BUT DID IT BY DOING MORE AND MORE COMMISSIONS OF EARTHWORM JIM AND NEVERHOOD, ETC.  THEY WANTED THE CHARACTERS MORE THAN THEY WANTED MY WORK EVEN.  THE VALUE TO MY FAN BASE IS IN THE WORLDWIDE POPULARITY OF THE CHARACTERS, SO I SOLD THAT. 


Is there an incentive you would NOT do again?    One you wish you had?

NO REGRETS ON THE SKETCHBOOK PROJECT BECAUSE IT WENT SO WELL.  NOW THAT I’VE BUILT THAT AUDIENCE AND GAVE SO MANY SPECIALTY COMMISSIONS, I MAY COMBINE A FEW TIERS.   NOW THAT PEOPLE KNOW I AM GOOD FOR IT (FULLFILING COMMISIONS AND PROJECTS) I CAN ASK FOR MORE MONEY AT THE STARTING POINT OF THE KICKSTARTER.

What proportionately “paid off” better?   The lower priced tiers or the higher priced tiers? 

IN MY CASE, THE HIGHER PRICED TIERS.  IN AMRIKROG, IT’S THE LOWER PRICED TIERS.  FOR THE SKETCHBOOK, I WAS KNOWN FOR MAKING THE VIDEO GAMES (Earth Worm Jim, The Neverhood), SO THEY WERE INTERESTED IN GETTING THE BOOKS.  THEY KNEW EARTHWORRM JIM BUT DIDN’T CARE I DID THE COMICS.  THEY DIDN’T CARE ABOUT THE SKETCHBOOK PROJECT ITSELF, BUT THEY REALLY WANTED THE HIGHER PRICED ORIGINAL ART OF EARTHWORM JIM AND NEVERHOOD.  I SOLD IT AS “THIS BOOK IS HOW I DID IT”- ITS WHERE THOSE IDEAS- AND OTHERS STARTED.  WE HAVE 10K BACKERS ON ARMIKROG AND THE AVERAGE PER PERSON DONATION IS $44.   THAT TELLS ME THAT I NEED TO HIT A LOT OF PEOPLE SO THEY CAN GIVE SMALL AMOUNTS FOR US TO HIT OUR GOAL.  A LOT OF MY TIER STAGERING WAS ME FIGURING OUT HOW I COULD MAKE THE NEXT TEIR UP LOOK IRISITABLE.  IF ITS $5 MORE, HOW CAN I GET THEM TO JUMP UP TO THAT TIER AND WHAT DO I NEED TO GIVE THEM TO MAKE  IT EASY TO JUMP UP TO IT?  SOMETHING THAT THEY WANT. 


Is 30 days a good amount of time to do a Kickstarter project? 

YOU DON’T NEED MORE THAN 30 DAYS.  IF YOU GO LONGER THAN THAT YOU JUST INCREASE THE “LULL PERIOD “ IN THE MIDDLE.  MOST GIVE AT THE BEGINNING AND AT THE END.  THE LATE GIVERS ARE IMPULSE BUYERS.  NO ONE IS BRAVE ENOUGH TO DO A 20-DAY CAMPAIGN BUT I THINK YOU’D MAKE THE SAME AS THE 30 DAY.  THE BEGINNING AND THE END ARE THE WHOLE DEAL!



"If you 20% in your first week, you have an 80% chance of being successful in your Project funding."  –Brian Fargo 







3 comments:

Klaus Lyngeled said...

Great stuff, but please could remove the caps. It's really hard to read. Thanks for the article!

Matt Nelson said...

Yeah, the caps are a bit distracting, but it is kind of funny to imagine Doug sitting upon a throne booming down at his loyal readers. :D

Maybe bolding or italicizing the Doug-speak would be better? :)

Armando Barredas said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.