Article #10-Live Advice Panels & FAQ

Updated: July 2017

This page is a collection of Qs & As from our Live Advice Panel events held at conventions around the country and across the years.

At each of these events we take our Advice Columns to the street to meet people where they're at. I serve as the moderator for a Q&A style discussion with a panel of 2-7 unique Kickstarter experts, often far larger than myself. *humbled* The events are strictly Q&A based, so the discussion is generated entirely by the audience addressing their immediate and relevant concerns. Each event has new experts, each event has new guests, each event's questions are recorded below.

Perhaps you have the same questions?

The following is a full list of questions asked and answers given from these events.

Guest panelist have thus far included...

  • Jamey Stegmaier (Stonemaier Games & Kickstarter Lesson Blogger) x2
  • Michael Lee (Managing Partner at Panda Games Manufacturing) x2
  • Fabian Louton (Account Manager at Panda GM) x2
  • Lance Myxter (Undead Viking Reviews) x2
  • Michael Mindes (President of Tasty Minstrel Games)
  • Seth Jaffee (Designer at TMG)
  • John Coveyou (Got Genius Games)
  • Jeff King (All Us Geeks)
  • Adam Clark (Creator of Kicktraq)
  • Forrest Bower (Bower's Game Corner Reviews)
  • Joel Eddy (Drive Thru Reviews)
  • Max Salzber (Co-founder at Backerkit)
  • Dan Halstad (League of Nonsensical Gamers)
  • Greg Spence (Owner at Broken Token)
  • Jonathan Liu (Geek Dad)

Here are the resource fliers for the events: 2014 & 2015 & 2016* (Handy tools; printing is welcome.) *2016's flyer courtesy of Casual Gaming Revolution

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The Q&A list will continue to grow as we continue to host these events around the globe, so keep an eye out for regular updates.

Actual Questions and their Actual Answers:

"What do you think makes a good kickstarter video"

-Keep it short. 3 minutes or less. We came up with an example of a video script that I made up on the spot ...it was 20 seconds long. Simple, and direct is good.
-Don't put a full game run-through on this video. Simply mention that such can be found below.
-Mention that your professional reviews can be found below. Show logos of reviewing companies to give your product immediate street-cred.
-Give your "elevator pitch". All the best points and highlights in near bullet-point form, so we know quick and dirty what this is about. Mention that details can be found below on the site.
-Show yourself. People want to see you and the product so they know both are real.
-No need to be verbose. Again, "XYZ can be found below on our site" will save you time and present an approachable video.
-"Intro back-stories" at the beginning are all the rage these days, but catch mixed emotions on their presence, many prefer you avoid 30 second "meaningless voice-over intros" and "Just get to the goods". (What are your thoughts on these? Tell us in the comments.)
-Remember: one tool Kickstarter uses to rate & rank projects is the percentage of completedvideo watches. So keep it short and compelling.

"How do you increase the likelihood of your game getting reviewed?"

-Make a complete game with a well thought out rules and approach reviewers respectfully.
-Be prepared to pay. Some charge.
-Reviewers are people and gamers too. Pitch it to them. Be nice. Make them want to play it.
-Choose a reviewer that likes your style of games. Some won't play certain types, other hate all games of X type, some like em all. Ask before sending.

"How many others should you involve in publishing?"
"Should you find a partner, or go it alone?"

-If pitching to others to have them publish your game for you-you only need to include the company you want to publish it (or the one that accepts if you pitch to multiple).
-If self-publishing, get help. You'll need it. So get a partner, or bribe your gaming buddies into helping with some stuff. If you're married, make sure your spouse knows they're going to get roped in one way or the other. Even if they don't help you with your KS page, they will get stuck with the dishes more often-This counts as help.
-Whether or not to establish a full formal partner is up to what's best for you, and who you have with you that is as deeply interested as you are. Vetting a business partner can be tough.

"What's the difference between design, publishing and distributing?"

-Design is the process of game creation. You then self-publish or pitch to publishers.
-Publishing is the process of taking a finished game, marketing it, manufacturing it, and getting it ready for distribution. The publisher's logo is the one that goes on the box. The designer's name will go near it, ie: "A game by: NAME".
-Distribution is the process of getting a published game into retail stores around the world. For this you always hire distribution company.
(Note: "Fulfillment" is the process of mailing out your KIckstarter rewards to backers. It looks a bit like distribution, but it is not the same thing.)

"How far along should the product be towards completion before kickstarting?"
"Should your project be about 100% complete before launching?"
"Still playtesting, when do we Kickstart?"

The experts unanimously agreed on the following points:
-You should NOT kickstart an IDEA. Kickstart a fully designed and playtested game.
-The game should be 90-95% complete. Leaving 5-10% for wiggle room from backer-ideas is a great way to improve your game from the minds of 100s of backers, and to get them involved. Any less than 90% is kickstarting an idea, and to be avoided.

"What recommended pre-launch marketing is there?"
"How should you build enough exposure and buzz to be ready to use Kickstarter?"

-Not much pre-launch marketing needs to be done for indie publishers. Nobody knows who you are so it doesn't really matter if blogs talk about you much. That being said...
-Talk to game bloggers. Get involved in their blog, make it personal, then tell them about your game, maybe they'll cover it.
-You can run banner ads, but it's not recommended until launch.
-Beyond this, Kickstarter IS your marketing. Just have a solid plan for the run of the campaign.
-If you are established, and this is your 2nd or 15th game, you have a following and a mailing list, and these people should be informed at least a month in advance of launching your new campaign.

"If running an RPG campaign, when do your ramp up paper quality? What about hard vs. soft cover?"

-Paper quality should be thin enough to keep the book reasonably light, while still feeling quality. People don't notice super thick paper in a book and think "This book is awesome". The content does that.
-RPG books should start as Hardcover. Nobody enjoys a soft-cover RPG book. Plus the wear-and-tear of constantly flipping through it will get it destroyed if it's only paper-back.
-If you're really concerned about costs, then "Hardcover" should be the very first stretch goal. People will get excited about that.

"What is the standard delay caused by art? I've seen various levels."

-Art delays depend entirely on the amount of art and the amount that can be paid for and completed pre-launch.
-15-25 pieces can be fairly easily paid for pre-launch, if that's all you have, there are no delays. If you have 130+ as TKA does, and can still only afford 25 pre-launch, then you have to wait for the other 105.
-How many artists? How fast do they paint? How much are you paying them prioritize you?

"How does the community react to different types of reviews by product type?"

-Simple enough: Regardless of product type, good reviews are good reviews, bad reviews are bad reviews. Just like amazon.com, if you see a solid recommendation you're more likely to buy it. If your BGG game page has a 2.0 rating, you won't sell many games; if you see an 8+ there, you should buy it.

"How do you properly store leftover inventory till you need to move it?"

-First, A+ for realizing you'll have leftover inventory.
-Depends on your fulfillment method. If you fulfill personally, you'll be keeping it in your attic/basement/garage/PublicStorage facility. If you fulfill with Amazon, you'll be paying them to store it in their warehouse.
-Once you enter distribution, they'll store it in their warehouse. Same deal, you pay for the space you use monthly.

"Once a project goal has been met, what is the flow of the money? How soon does kickstarter release the funds?"

-Kickstarter used to give you most of your money in under 48 hours through your Amazon.com account. They now give all collected funds in 1 burst directly to your bank account exactly 2 weeks (to the hour) after your campaign ends-It may take 2-3 days to post.
-Uncollected funds will occur from failed credit cards. KS will try to recover it, with automatic emails, but your personal one to each backer will increase your odds. Once the 2 weeks is up, they can't fix it any longer.
-Once you have it, you pay people as soon as they expect it. Your manufacturer may not have a final final final quote for you yet. Once you get it, sign, and they'll invoice you. Pay it promptly. If you owe artists anything, pay them that week.
-The rest stays in your account (put it in a 6 month C.D. at your bank!) until you ship.
-The rest stays with you until tax season.
-The rest stays with you until you spend it on wine and cheese and a trip to the country of your grandfather's homeland to celebrate.

"How much time should we invest into social media versus getting the product out the door to our backers?"

-Depends on what point you are at in your campaign. Pre-campaign, as much as you feel like. During, medium; maybe a post every 2 or 3 days to your Facebook and Twitter. After, minimal, focus almost entirely on getting the game made.
-General consensus: Social Media is useless for marketing. Don't advertise on Facebook. Nobody will care. Don't expect results from Twitter, nobody actually reads their feed, it flows far too quickly to accomplish valuable exposure.
-If you want to focus somewhere for marketing purposes, do it with banner ads.

"Should a print and play version of the game be a reward on the project page?"

-Some said yes, some said no. All agreed a black & white version must be available and for cheap or free.
-Jamey likes them for free. He thinks it builds trust and confidence in the game. I believe he's right.
-I like them at the $1 level. It's not too much to ask for basically giving your game away, plus it increases your kickstarter #'s, and locks that person into getting your updates which may pull them into a full pledge. Plus making a printable version of your game isn't
-Don't make it more than $1. They already have to spend $10 on ink to print it.
-Full Color Ones do well between $10 and $25. This helps you pay for the art! ; )

"Does Undead Viking Reviews communicate first with the designers if you like or dislike the game before posting a video? This would allow for corrections." (Lance was present for this specific question.)

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-Yes. Lance will politely tell you if he thinks it isn't ready. He'll even ship it back to you absorbing the cost and refunding your payment.
-Note: Not all reviewers do this. FatherGeek makes it clear that they'll post a scathing review if that's what they think of your game. So do your research.

"How much is too much communication with your backers? Is there such a thing?"

-There is such a thing, but it's somewhat hard to achieve.
-If your Updates are useful and full of worthwhile information, post them.
-Anywhere from 2 to 5 updates a week during your campaign is valid. Once the campaign is over, this rate should peter down to about 1 every week to 2-weeks to month. Once the game has shipped, and everything is fulfilled, people only need to hear about relevant related projects of yours through the updates.
-That being said, too LITTLE communication is possible. If you don't post Updates in the project you'll see people start dropping like flies as doubt grows.
-As for Comments... visit them at least once daily, and post questions to keep the chat going. A nice "# of comments" in the header draws people in.

"Taxes...? Are products "Sold" via kickstarter? Taxed as profit or as a donation?"

-The IRS doesn't care that Kickstarter is "crowdfunding" and "fundraising". It's income to them. Period end of story. So your local, state, national, and international tax rules will apply.
-In the USA usually the buyer is responsible for sales tax payment. It's common that the seller collects that (like when you go to shopping mall), but since state taxation varies it's common that the seller does NOT collect for online sales, it's the buyers responsibility to report it. Check your local laws.
-Assets-Liabilities = Owners Equity. Your income from Kickstarter is part of your Assets. Your manufacturing and shipping costs are your Liabilities. The left over is your owners equity, and will be liable for taxation as company profit.

"What decisions can we make to save money in the manufacturing process?"

-Start with a lower component quality. ie: Greycore cards (standard), instead of Ivory or Black core (premium); 1.5mm punchboard instead of 2.0mm. Then place these as add ons.
-Consider alternate components (Panda will help with this). Can your full game board be remade with simple playing cards? Can your spin tokens be made with only 1 layer of punchboard? Can your cards be made with a smaller size card? Do you really NEED x,y,or z component; can you put it as a stretch goal?
-Smaller box.
-Better layed out punchboards (get all of the tokens printed on the same single layout called a Die Cut).
-Base your Kickstarter goal on a 1,500 print run, instead of a 2,000 run. This will be less.
-Just make sure you get a real quote. Never guess at the cost.

"What's the best way to calculate and handle shipping costs?"
"How do you build in shipping costs?"

-If you fulfill yourself, then use the USPS site, medium flat rate shipping by area.
-if you fulfill with Amazon, use their PDFs to estimate prices.
-You first need to know your product size & weight; you design the size, get an estimate from your manufacturer for weight. Once you know that, do the math for Amazon's Fulfillment, and then do the math for USPS Flat Rate shipping. Figure 70% in the USA, 15% EU, 10% Canada, 5% elsewhere (#s approximate, and based on a USA based campaign). Add it up piece by piece.
-More details here.

"How much should a person be paying for art when putting together a kickstarter?"

-Depends on the piece.
-A simple card art will can cost between $40 and $120.
-Your box and game board will cost between $200 and $3000.
-Then you need to multiply by the # of pieces of each. It can add up quickly.
-More details here and here.

"What tools are available to organize pledge levels & stretch goals?"

-Nothing formal. These vary so much by campaign, you will have to do it yourself according to your project.
-Jamey's blog has some advice on how to think about these. Once you have them layed out, you can ask him to review your site and he'll give you some tips.
-I offer myself for the same help. I'm also a chief at catching silly typos and marketing no-nos. ; )
-General rule: Don't price the buy-in cost for your game at a greedy amount. We priced TKA at 37 cents above our estimated cost. Don't break $50 unless it comes with minis. It's ok if MSRP is above this.
-General rule: Place a REALLY awesome stretch goal first. People will fight for it. Once that's broken, you've got momentum!

"What if your project fails?"

-You can relaunch (give it a couple months, and really rework both the issues the game has, and the issue the kickstarter page has).
-You can let it go. Maybe it wasn't meant to be. Failure shouldn't reflect on your personal worth. It's a learning experience.
-More info on my thoughts on this topic here.

"Where is the best place to find publishing resources (board/card printing, piece/dice making, etc.)?"

-Go to my site, and look around, Jamey's site, panda's site, and BGG.
-Here's a PDF of our flyer for one of our events, with a list of resources on it - KS Advice Panels Brochure.

"Besides social media what's the best way to promote a KS?"
"Do you advertise on Facebook?"

"Any tips for getting the best exposure possible online in order to reach the KS funding goal?"

-Firstly, Jamey cautioned about the idea of "Promotion". The KS can't be about you making money. This will slow you down. Though campaigns have clearly had that goal and succeeded anyway.
-Social media produces mixed results. Certainly for a start up. We had zero click throughs on our substantial Facebook ads (including boosted posts, etc.) on our first campaign. On later ones Facebook ads proved remotely useful, and certainly affordable.
-Though the above was GKG's experience, we've been told a particular mini's campaign that nearly 40% of their pledges came via their Facebook ads, though I'd like to see the actual stats on that before I trust those #s.
-Kickstarter is promotion in and of itself. You can guarantee that people will see your project page. Make sure it sells itself.
-Advertise with banner ads on BGG, Kicktraq, and the Dice Tower. Top 3. Board Game Quest, Drive through reviews, and several other sites offer low cost (but low return) ads. All "paid for themselves" in our campaign.
-Contact bloggers you're familiar with. Ask them if they'd do a write up on your campaign.
-Study our Advertising KSAC thoroughly.

"What are some good companies for manufacturing a hybrid board/card game?"

-Panda Games Manufacturing. Not only present to help at the panel, but also very easy to work with. (They speak English as their primary language, are based in North America but print in China, and are Gamers themselves.)
-Ludo Fact. (Based in Germany, prints in Germany; Super high reputation.)
-Quality Playing Cards. (US Based, but prints in China, I've heard good things though my experience was ...odd.)
-...and a mess of others. If you know a legit one, email me, I'll add it to this list.

"How do you choose a manufacturer?"

-Find a couple games that you respect the component quality of, and find out who manufactured it (often on the box, on the BGG game page, or you can contact the publisher and ask).
-Choose from the names you've seen & touched one of their products.
-Getting a good recommendation from a publisher you respect is also a good idea (they may have worked with several already and may be able to provide feedback on each).
-Get a quote from each of these companies.
-Do NOT work with someone who does not have an account manager fully fluent in your native tongue; far too much will get lost in translation, we've all heard horror stories.
-Do NOT work with somebody just because their quote was cheaper than everyone else's.
-Sage conceptual tips: "Never take the highest or the lowest bid." & "You get what you pay for."

"What is the timeline/process from game completion to Kickstarter launch?"

-Get art-1 to 6 months.
-Get Manufacturing Quotes-1 month.
-Build a budget-3 days to a week.
-Make video-1 day to 3 weeks.
-Design site-3 days to 3 months.
-Set up linked amazon account-1 passive week for approval.
-Get site reviews-1 week.
-Prepare banner ads for immediate launch-1 week.
-Promote where you can-Various.
-Launch. (14 to 40 days. 30+/- recommended).
POST FUNDING
-Finish art-0 to 6 months.
-Finalize quotes for updated components/changes.
-Submit files to manufacturer-1 week.
-Pre-press / Pre-production-25-100 days (depends on components. paper = faster, plastic = longer).
-Mass production-40-75 days (depends on components...)
-Freight shipping-25-50 days (depends on location).
-Fulfillment shipping-1-2 weeks to process, 1 week to ship. (but varies by self vs. amazon) (customs may require holds, testing, etc.)

"How do you enforce quality control over a manufacturer, especially with fades in coloration, warping of tiles, etc.?"

-Pick a reputable manufacturer. You always get what you pay for. Reputable manufacturers include climatized pieces and climate-controlled storage.
-Beyond that, you can't. There are no refunds on shoddy components. If you go with "JoBob's Discount Manufacturing", and they spend $20,000 making a shoddy version of your game, costs they can't recover either, there's no way they're going to refund you; and you just went bankrupt. If you don't have a solid recommendation for the company, and a sample that you've seen and felt, don't use that company.

"Any experience with fulfillment services? eg: Shipwire, etc.? Lessons learned?"

-Do your research. Shipwire, in addition to charging "Pick and Pack" fees (as they all do) also charges you USPS shipping costs. If you have a full & heavy board game, just go do it yourself. ...or...
-Amazon on the other hand includes shipping in their Pick & Pack fees, and the net result is much less.
-If you have a super light board game that has multiple add on packs a company that doesn't charge pick & pack would be a good idea.
-More info here.

"How long do people expect to wait for a finished product after the Kickstarter funds?"

-Several months past your projected date. Nobody believes a game will ship on time, except MAYBE from established companies.
-Regardless, give that ship date plenty of leeway. Better a little late, than a lot of late. This will increase return backers.

"What pitfalls have you encountered with Kickstarter?"

-Some functionality of the site leaves a touch to be desired, but they are actively upgrading it.
-They're letting almost anything get approved these days unless it's smut or illegal. You can kickstarter cookies, then kickstart muffins, and then kickstarter a loaf of bread. Fortunately in our genre, this isn't too much of an issue; the market weeds out the insane pretty quickly.
-Some people hate kickstarter exclusives, but other love them. Right now you have to worry about right now. Exclusives are good. But not too many.
-Other than that, not much. The site is reputable and respected.

"Can you speak on the 3rd party post-campaign tools to manage backers/pledges? ie: Backerkit"

-Largely no, actually. Both Jamey and I used our own methods of managing pledges instead of the BackerKit method. Jamey uses the Kickstarter Surveys straight up; I invented my own pledge manager in "EmailMeForm".
-We've heard good things about BackerKit and the like, but they take 1% of your funding goal right off the top, plus set up fees, plus Credit Card "stripe fees" on extra sales. Jamey and I both preferred to do the work ourselves and keep our money.
-I did communicate with BackerKit, and they were very polite, and even refunded our set up fee when we decided to do it ourselves. That much I can say. I also found other sites to be exceedingly difficult to get information from; so I defiantly walked away from them. (Tip for your own site, right? :)

"I believe my team's idea is genuinely unique. How can we introduce it to the community without fear and paranoia about getting it stolen?"

-Fear not.
#1-Nobody steals other's ideas in this industry. People are cool.
#2-IF they did, you've got a massive head start. They'll never build, redesign, get art commissioned, do layouts, set up a Kickstarter page, and launch before you. It won't happen.
#3-Build a Game Page for it on BGG. The posting date and revision history can serve as proof of previous existence should it become a legal issue.

So share it!
-Provide a PnP on BGG for feedback. Respectfully sk people not to rate it if they don't like it, allowing the chance to improve.
-Play it with honest and "Blind" playtesters (those who only have the game and rules, but you don't teach).
-Share it with a reviewer. It's like copyrighting it. People see that YOUR game is in HIS hands... they know who had it first.

"Are there any downfalls to crowdfunding a game on Kickstarter?"

-"No. Haha." (unanimous answer from the panel).
-At worst, you have a few people after the campaign who "won't buy it because they can't get the Exclusives". Otherwise, nope.

"Any tips on how to get people to playtest my game?"

-Call every gamer friend you have. Playtest with each. If you have a large group, playtest in smaller groups with mixed company to get more tests out of them than just 1 big one.
-Local hobby shop's open gaming nights.
-You could always ask on some of Facebook groups.

"How do you differentiate you game from others with superficial similarities (theme/concept)?"

-Don't ever just clone a game. Always start from scratch. Games "with a 'twist'" are doomed to fail.
-Beyond that, make your game new. Theme is repeated all the time, no problem. Concept?... you might be cloning. If you're not, then great. Be the best you can be.

"Go broad, or look for a niche crowd?"

-Game design should start from the heart, not the audience. But since that doesn't always happen...
-Niche is generally the preferred answer, as "you can't please everyone".
-General works too. But even with "Euro"... that's not gonna make Ameritrasher's happy.
-Go with what works for your game. If nothing works, then consider alternatives. -Gnomes tend to fail.

"At what point do you go from Game Designer 'Noobs' to a game design company."

-This is actually a choice, and that's when you incorporate (or make your Sole-Proprietorship offiical).
-Few become "game design" companies. Most are solo designers, selling rights.
-Those that design & publish, will want to incorportate.

"What if a copyright issue pops up during/after Kickstarter."

-Avoid this with research.
-If it happens during, Kickstarter will shut down your page until the dispute is settled-you end date will not be adjusted. You'll likely want to cancel unless the claims is clearly bogus. You don't want income based on another's IP. They'll take the money, and you'll never fulfill.
-If it happens after, you'll be in a legal battle and owe some money.

"Is there anything you should do in advance for a potentially failed campaign?"

-Plan your "quit, cancel, or see it through" before you announce that you're gonna shut it down.
-Inform your backers before pulling the plug.
-Since no money changes hands on a failed campaign, there is no concern here.

"How do you have a reviewer review a game if the production comes after the Kickstarter?"

-Prototypes. High end are better, but hand made are ok too, and you definitely need at least a solid handful of art.

"Is there a best time of year to run a board game Kickstarter?"

-Evidence suggests yes, but quality games with properly designed campaigns are successful every month of the year.
-Visit Coveyou's blog for stats on this.

"What are good ideas for board game stretch goals that don't suck too much money?"

-Upgraded components (Ivory core cards-Black core is much much more) (Thicker punchboard) (Tokens to meeples) (Dice to custom).
-+1 or 2 of X component. +X cards is really cheap, less than .02c per card.
-Items that can be "added on" at a cost to the backer. ie: "Unlocks the ability to add minis to your pledge".
-Tip: Watch for weight increases that will affect shipping costs.
-Bottom line: All SGs should be planned in advance and thus budgeted for, so all can be ok at that rate.

Watch one of the actual events from GenCon 2015:

Always adding more questions! Keep an eye out for updates!

Got a question yourself? Post it in the comments, and we'll add it above.