How to Kick Ass on Kickstarter: An Interview with Frank Chimero

Frank Chimero's self-published design book was funded (with $27,000) on Kickstarter in just under four hours. How'd he do that?

On Monday, a smart young designer and writer named Frank Chimero posted a project to Kickstarter. The idea was a book, The Shape of Design, which Chimero hoped would highlight the sense of meaning and purpose that designers bring to their work. Chimero posted the link to his Twitter followers, where I read the link and decided to write about it. But a mere four hours later, The Shape of Design was already funded. And with 26 more days to go, Chimero is actually about to double his goal of $27,000. Kickstarter itself has acknowledged his exceptionally successful campaign.

I had to know how he did it, so I asked Chimero (who is also a GOOD contributor) a few questions. I think his answers will be tremendously useful for anyone who wants to fund a project (or publish a book, for that matter). Here are his tips for kicking ass on Kickstarter.

Write for Two Years to Establish Goodwill

"The topics in the book are the topics I've been writing about on my blog for the past couple years," says Chimero. Writing online not only gave him a solid audience familiar with his work, it gave him a chance to try out his theories on a variety of topics, then figure out how they fit together later. "I think the writing was important because it was a way to pilot ideas and bulletproof them," he says. "I started recognizing the connections between them, so here I am, with a book to make."

Create a Video That People Will Want to Watch

Chimero's engaging, conversational video helped made the pitch extremely palatable, even for those who aren't familiar with his work. "I figured I needed something more emotional, something human where you didn't have to stare at my dumb face for forty minutes," he says. "So, the handwriting and the postcards were the concept I developed. I liked that concept, because it seemed to say 'this is in progress, the paint is still wet.'" The other key is that Chimero created the video so it could stand alone as a little burst of inspiration and entertainment for viewers. "I figure that's the most good that it could do, whether they decide to fund the project or not," he says.

Have a Good Reason For Using Kickstarter

Using Kickstarter was a way to show that the ideas about the book were as important to him as the execution, says Chimero. "I realized I had all the tools to make it myself—developing these ideas, reaching an audience, creating the physical book—so I decided to give it a shot." In his pitch, Chimero also explained that a large part of his goal was the challenge of making three digital editions as well as a hard-cover book. "I wanted to retain ownership of that as much as possible and share it with the world on my own terms," he says. "Part of that means making it accessible to everyone; part of it means exploring how a 'digital book' should behave and how to improve the reading experience on these digital devices so many of us have."

Create Thoughtful Reasons for People to Support You

Centerpiece to Chimero's pitch were a range of special incentives that backers would get for pledging at different tiers. This included signed, limited-edition copies of the books, a series of original artworks, and, for $3,000, a speaking engagement where he'd present a talk on the book to your school or organization. "It will be time intensive, but I want this to be a special experience for everyone," says Chimero. "That's the thing about Kickstarter: if you do it right, it's less about asking people to give you money for your idea, and more about saying 'I'm about to go on this journey. Do you want to come with me?'"

Make Your Backers Part of the Process

Now that Chimero has rallied more than 1,000 backers for his cause, he's excited to share the work with this new community. He plans to keep them updated so they feel like they're sitting right there, writing and designing with him. "When a backer gets this book in the mail, I don't want them to come to it fresh. I want them to have a backlog of thoughts, memories, and emotions attached to it. I want there to be a personal story behind it before the spine gets cracked," he says. "A writer couldn't have that before. Now we can, and I think that is nothing but good for writers and readers."

Chimero's work was featured yesterday on the Kickstarter homepage as its project of the day, as well as on the company's newly-launched Curated Pages where groups can highlight their picks for worthy projects. GOOD's Curated Page features some of our favorite projects that need your support, including Chimero's, as it inches towards $60,000.

Screenshot via (left) Wikimedia Commons (right)

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