Posted on Leave a comment

Failing a Kickstarter: Lessons to Learn

Recently, I have launched my second campaign: a deck of playing cards themed around New York City in the 20s, with a style strongly reminiscent of Art Deco. Here is the link. We did not make it. I believe that failing a Kickstarter -or anything- is a great opportunity to learn. As a matter of fact, much more than from a success. In this article, I want to put on bytes the learning process that I went through, and how I think I could improve the original idea.

The Original Project

The original project was pretty straightforward in the playing cards world. The price was in line with the market, at around $13 per deck. The funding goal at $7.000 is also fairly normal in the industry for a 1.000 print run. The printer (USPCC) is arguably the best one as far as reputation goes. The art was well designed, and in line with the theme.

Failing a Kickstarter: Guns, Jazz & Whiskey Playing Cards
Playing Cards Mockup

We worked on it for several months, received solid feedback on social media. I did not see a reason for it to fail. Yet it did.

Why did my Kickstarter project fail?

As I was saying, I was taught that failure is the absolute best option to learn. So, I started to think about all the things that could potentially go wrong, and to analyze them.

Was it the project?

The most obvious reason for failing a Kickstarter is that the project is not good enough. When talking about playing cards, this could mean two things: the art is not good enough, or the printer is not where it should be. In our case, being our printer USPCC, the latter was not an option.

About the art – I literally reached out to all the 156 backers, asking about improvements. I asked a very open question, so not to receive a biased answer. All those who commented on the art were very positive. The only criticism I received by some is that there was too much negative space around the court cards.

Was it the marketing?

Kickstarter has a great organic engine that is able to bring many visitors. Nonetheless, it is crucial to put the word out there.

In our case, we have a fairly active following on Instagram, and I have been engaging on reddit, Facebook groups and some card-specific forums along the process. It has always been hard for me to go and get the voice out there, but I don’t think I have been bad at it.

Was it Pricing, Add-ons and Stretch Goals?

This is arguably where I did most mistakes.

First, the pricing was probably to high to be cheap, and too cheap to have a sufficient margin. Hence, backers went for a small amount of decks (usually one), and a single-deck pledge does not push the campaign ahead as much.

I had decided to hide stretch goals, to create additional hype. This was definitely not a good move.

Also, I could have done more on the add-on side, looking for additional gadgets to increase the value and the average pledge.

Failing a Kickstarter: Guns, Jazz & Whiskey Playing Cards
Playing Cards Mockup

Failing a Kickstarter: What we will do in the relaunch

We most definitely plan on relaunching the campaign. The comments I received were overwhelmingly positive. A guy even offered to back the 2 thousand dollars that were missing a couple of hours before the end of the campaign. There are a few things, however, that we will be fixing.

  1. Add a limited edition deck. While this looks counterintuitive, since it increases the funding goal, it should allow us to increase the average funding goal in two ways: giving an additional, more valuable product to pledge for, and allowing us to lower substantially the unlimited deck’s price, hence making it attractive to cardists.
  2. Polish the art. We will act upon the suggestions we received, mostly working on the white space in the background.
  3. Marketing. I will definitely be looking for other ways to be seen as the project launched. More Facebook groups, more subreddits. We are slowly building a mail list, that should also help in the effort.
  4. Social Media Presence. We are alright in Instagram, but definitely there are a few places we should be more present in. This blog is another way to be found. I will try to start a TikTok account and post more frequently on Pinterest. I made a note to write 3 comments a day on the internet, as yet another way to be known.

The single most important thing failing a Kickstarter.


If there is one thing I learnt about the crowdfunding world, it is that people are happy to help out someone that asks politely. People, and especially backers, are happy to feel involved in the improvement process of a project they like. Ask for feedback, in an open and constructive way. Many will not answer. Some will be harsh, almost annoying to deal with. But most will answer nicely and constructively. If you can accept that your project can be improved, there is no better way to do so.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *