Two depressives do Kickstarter – what could possibly go wrong?

Could this be a Recipe for Disaster?

  • Take two depressives
  • Make sure one is an extrovert, wing-it type and the other an introvert with perfectionist tendencies
  • Steep them in the idea of turning their worst mental health experiences into a picture book
  • Stir in a plan to raise funds for self-publishing by crowdfunding on Kickstarter
  • Slather with a total lack of experience
  • Season with a generous pinch of unfounded assumptions
  • Leave them to stew

On 12th April 2016 at 7.15pm we let The Black Dawg loose on Kickstarter

Cheered on by lovely supportive friends in the gorgeous Vejer restaurant Corredera 55 we pressed the ‘Launch Now’ button for a month of crowdfunding.

the black dawg, kathryn hockey, artist. illustrator, louis mcintosh, writer, poet, author, illustrated poem, depression. hope, picture book, illustration, mental health, black dog, kickstarter, snorkel, drowning, deep, dark, sea, breathe, presence, mindfulness, crowdfunding, corredera55, vejer

3, 2, 1…our project goes live!

Back story

If you google crowdfunding you’ll be supplied with many, many pages of sites offering advice on

  • how to choose between crowdfunding platforms (our choice boiled down to Kickstarter vs Indiegogo)
  • how to tell your story
  • how to make an awesome video
  • how many projects are launched each day
  • how many of those go on to be funded
  • why the successful ones worked
  • why the failures failed
  • how long it takes to form a crowd and engage them before the project is launched
  • the best site on which to promote your project prelaunch
  • the best day of the week to launch
  • the optimum length for a campaign
  • how to set your target
  • how to set reward tiers
  • what rewards to offer
  • how much Kickstarter will charge you
  • …etc, etc…

In response to all that information a crowdfunding to do list was started in January 2016, it is nearly a metre tall and that is epic even by a lifelong list-lover’s standards…photographic evidence below.

crowdfunding, the black dawg, illustrated poem, depression. hope, picture book, illustration, mental health, black dog, kickstarter, to do list

By the time we hit that launch button the introvert perfectionist was ragged with self imposed over work in her efforts to get the project really, really, really ready. A degree of underlying and unreasonable resentment was also present because the poem had been written in a two night whirl of channelling genius and the illustrations and all the associated social media and internet promotional images had taken months of intense graft.

the black dawg, kathryn hockey, artist. illustrator, louis mcintosh, writer, poet, author, illustrated poem, depression. hope, picture book, illustration, mental health, black dog, kickstarter, snorkel, drowning, deep, dark, sea, breathe, presence, mindfulness, crowdfunding, corredera55, vejer

Add to that a potent mix of excitement and dread about going public with artwork about such an intimate topic and the reawakening of a longstanding medical problem which really needed bed rest and a strict detoxing teetotal vegan diet (that glass of bubbly was a prop for photos only). Hmm…a private crowdfunding launch was hardly an option…

The extrovert was outwardly confident, promotion was his bag – he was off to promote a music project and visit family for a week and promised to step up and take the Kickstarter helm once he returned.

That family visit turned out to be pretty taxing and then the realisation of impending skintness hit home. He came back frazzled and broke the news that he’d accepted a boat delivery job that would take him away from his fatherly and domestic partner duties for a month and his crowdfunding promise evaporated like the post flush sweat from a perimenopausal woman’s furrowed brow.

A positive note at this point, three ‘angel’ backers offered to get the project over the funding line come hell or high water. There were still, however, three weeks remaining of intense promotion needed to reach the ‘top up’ point.

Below is a classic Kickstarter funding curve

kickstarter-funding-curve

There’s a surge at the start when many, many of your wonderfully generous supporters, who you’ve primed for weeks with your project’s exact launch date and time, will sign up and pledge you cash…it’s hugely exhilarating and induces much gratitude and confidence.

Then comes the plateau.

It feels like a dead calm…you find yourself paddling wildly in a vast sea of doubt and potential disappointment and humiliation, spending hours each day messaging everyone in every contact list from LinkedIn, to Twitter, via Facebook, Gmail and Hotmail saying  ‘Hi there, how are you? Look at my project. I’ve been depressed, please give me money. Now.’

You’re also urging the people who’ve already backed you to share the shit out of your project so that their friends might chip in.

You’re also wondering why the people who said they’d back you haven’t yet and how many times you can remind them before they tell you to shut the F€$£ up and stick your dawg thing where the sun don’t shine.

It is best, at this point, not to be tempted by the large number of crowdfunding promotion companies who will send you friendly emails urging you to sign up for success for a ‘reasonable’ fee.

The health situation did not improve, the bed was turned into an office and the flat was left about once a week to shop for supplies and go to boxing training because the urge to hit something really hard needed to be channelled in a socially acceptable way.

Occasional email updates arrived from sea (the actual sea, not a metaphorical sea) with news about how relaxing it was to be sailing and were greeted with a silent ‘shut-the-flippedy-F€$£-up, you flaky a-hole!’

The hugely generous end surge happened, some of it was coordinated over three time zones and some of it was spontaneous. The target was reached in a blur of relief, gratitude and jubilation. The introvert celebrated by taking fizzy water (now dubbed vegan champagne) and a break from social media. Health improved.

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The extrovert sailor returned and asked ‘Was it stressful?’

‘Of course it was F€$£ing stressful you numpty!!’ sprung forth the answer, despite the introvert’s best intentions to be gracious.

Rows ensued. Boundaries were redrawn. Rows abated.

A few things I’ve learnt from this experience

kickstarter, rewards, paperback, the black dawg, illustrated poem, depression. hope, picture book, illustration, mental health, black dog

Never underestimate the work involved in any project. Plan for the long haul and take frequent breaks. Partying does not constitute a break.

You shouldn’t take your health for granted.

As soon as you feel fine again you will want to take your health for granted.

Don’t assume that because someone has a great idea which they present in a confident manner that they have any notion at all of how to make it manifest.

Crowdfunding is not easy money; I wouldn’t do another Kickstarter campaign if you paid me. (Insert ironic laughter).

People’s support for and interest in The Black Dawg project has been truly amazing; so many lives are touched by depression, either first or second hand but it’s not the sort of subject that comes up in casual conversation. And talking about it really does help – if there were any doubts remaining about the wisdom of sharing such intimate and dark experiences they have now evaporated. Completely.

The Black Dawg book really is a beautiful thing! Get yours here!

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