While doing some research for an analytics article on how many playing card projects does an average Kickstarter backer pledge, I went through quite a number of projects from early 2012 to December 2013. I encountered a few backers who had pledged quite a few, but one stood out because he had pledged for a lot more playing card projects than any other backers I had encountered.
For my recent articles, I emailed and interviewed lots of project creators but it recently occurred to me that it might be helpful for other project creators to know what a backer thinks about Kickstarter. Not just any backer, but someone who has the passion for playing cards and has backed almost 200 project. (Approximately 194 projects as at December 2013... that's 59% of all listed playing card projects on Kickstarter!)
Better known as Sharpie in the forums, he is a very well liked member of the community and you would have probably seen him around. I reached out to him and he graciously accepted my offer to interview him. I hope you enjoy Sharpie's insights.
Oh.. please do not use this as an excuse to spam him with requests to back your project. Sharpie has been really generous responding to these questions, so let’s show him some respect in return.
The first playing card project you ever backed was the Lance T. Miller Steampunk playing cards in November 2011. How did you first discover playing card projects on Kickstarter?
I believe it was while searching for Lance Miller's "Gargoyles Deck", that I found out about this one. Which has since led me down a long, sometimes dark road of Kickstarting. I'd collected decks for many years, but I jumped back in in a big way at the end of 2011.
As of December 2013, you have backed approximately 194 playing card projects on Kickstarter. What makes you keep coming back?
Wow. That's a lot. In the beginning it was the desire to back people working in a hobby that I enjoyed so much. A little payback, or pay-it-forward. Despite some questionable designs, I would try to back for at least one deck to support them.
Then when Kickstarter became a little crowded, and my tastes more refined, it just seemed the best way to ensure that I got the Kickstarter decks as they happen, instead of waiting and regretting it after the fact. 90% of the projects I back that are funded, end up fulfilled. So even though there have been a few disappointments (Founding Fathers, anyone?), it hasn't been enough to warn me off... although opinions vary.
On average, what reward tier do you back (e.g. single deck, a pair...)? Do you usually increase your pledge for add-ons? If so, why?
Currently, if I like the design, I tend to back for at least 3 (1 to open, 1 to keep and 1 to trade). But if the design is really appealing (Uusi, Empire, Federal 52), I'll pick up at least 4-6. Sometimes just 1 is enough for the decks that are questionable but still interesting to me.
As for add-ons, I usually do it when there's a coin or it's the only way to get the number of decks I want. And I'm a sucker for a well designed "whatever".
How do you discover new Playing Card Projects? Do you log on to Kickstarter every day for interesting projects, or do you have a 'secret system' to discover projects?
Occasionally I check in with Kickstarter, though that is difficult lately with all the other things keeping me busy. And as for a secret system, it's called Unitedcardists. It is an easy one stop shop for playing card project info. Not all of them Kickstarters.
Without this particular community forum, I would have missed out on most of the projects I've backed. There are other blogs and forums, but none are as easy to navigate and keep track of, as the UC.
Given the number of playing card projects you’ve backed over the years, in your opinion what are the top things that every creator should do?
Well, keep in mind I've never run a Kickstarter, though I have considered it. I think the main thing is communication. When people back your idea, you're both entering into a relationship of sorts. And as with any good relationship, communication is key. Let them know the details of the project as it goes along. The good and the bad. Holding onto bad news that you eventually must tell, is a good way to lose a person's trust. But on the same note, don't kill your backers' inboxes with endless and needless updates. It can come off as desperate, and that can ruin a relationship quick too.
Next, and almost as important, is to have your design as close to finished before launching your campaign. All your ducks in a row, so to speak. This includes getting design approval and a quote from the USPCC or whoever you intend to use.
Consider using a fulfillment center for shipping out your rewards, and try timing your add-ons to be ready to ship out with the decks. Most backers don't want to wait for the dice you ordered to arrive before they can get their decks. Especially when they start seeing them pop up on eBay.
All of this will help a great deal with the projects funding and shipping goals. And that's not to say that the design can't change. It's always good to listen to the community for pointers and detail changes. There's nothing like public opinion to help one conceive a better deck. So...
Do it, if you have an idea you want to make a reality. You may not get anywhere, but you'll learn a lot in the process.
Do listen and be willing to adapt your campaign as you go, without compromising you goals.
Don't promise unless you're sure you can fulfill. You do not want to be on that list of campaigns that took money and delivered nothing. Even if you refund it, your reputation is stained forever.
Don't get discouraged if your project doesn't fund, but also don't be too stubborn to realize why it didn't happen. Life is a lesson. Learn it.
What are some of the things a playing card project creator can do to make you cancel your pledge or not get your pledge at all?
No updates or communication is big.
Unwillingness to listen or adapt to feedback or suggestions.
Funding goal too low to create the project (essentially misleading your backers).
The number one thing for me is a poorly thought out or executed design. I think the playing card community has wide spectrum of tastes when it comes to card design, but if you look at most of the Kickstarters that didn't get funding, you'll see that a poor design is a pretty common theme.
Looking back over the last 2 years on Kickstarter, what are a few of the playing card projects you enjoyed the most and why?
I thought Skallops was an amazing idea. Opening up a whole new avenue to explore with a deck of cards. So happy to have gone in on the original Blue Bloods, and have never regretted throwing money at Uusi, since. Loved the Draw Like A Boss campaign because it came out of nowhere. An amazing custom deck that many wrote off as a novelty. Now people are begging for it.
Generally, what do you think of the quality of delivered playing card projects? Have you ever been disappointed with any?
I'm usually more than satisfied with the quality and design of the decks. There are sometimes a few that are manufactured very poorly, but you can usually tell that's going to happen, if you pay attention to the project.
The only times I'm really disappointed are when I back for too many decks, and one would have been enough. Or when I receive only one or two of a deck that I really like, but forgot to add on more to my pledge.
I have the same problem! Finally, do you have anything you’d like to say to creators or backers?
Thank you for putting yourselves out there for the world to see and support, or disdain. Too many people hold back their creativity for fear of ridicule. I say put it out there, and learn and grow. Whether you're successful or not, it will teach you a lot about the world you obviously want to be a part of, and the experience will be invaluable. Not succeeding is just as, if not more, important than success. Think about it. If you succeeded every time you tried something, what would you learn? What would you take from the experience?
To quote my favorite author in a recent speech:
"...go, and make interesting mistakes, make amazing mistakes, make glorious and fantastic mistakes. Break rules. Leave the world more interesting for your being here. Make good art."
I for one, don't mind that there are a lot of Kickstarter Projects out there. It just means that our hobby is growing, and more artists from all over the world are joining in to create more unique, amazing and interesting stuff... along with some disasters. I think that's a good thing. But as you may have noticed... I'm an easy sell. ;)
Thank you for taking time off to talk to us Sharpie.