C2E2 Blog: The Sun Brothers and Crowdfunding with Professionalism


Brad and Wesley Sun (L to R), founders of Sun Brothers Studios. Picture taken from sunbrosstudios.com.

A quick definition of professionalism, placed in the words of the Brad and Wesley Sun of Sun Brothers Studios: “Even if it’s not what you do to put food on the table, treat it like it is.”

I tweeted this morning saying:

So writing this blog tonight instead of tomorrow is my attempt at professionalism.

The “great panel” WAS, in fact, a great panel; two men, after kicking the idea around of starting their own company (like many), actually got off their asses and started their own comic company (UNlike many). Before they even considered Kickstarter as an option they saved a ton of their own money, invested their own time, and basically finished their product. By the time they ended up on Kickstarter basically all they had to do was send their first graphic novel, Chinatown, to the printers.

Their fund goal: $11K. They raised over $25,000. Pretty amazing.

At the panel they gave some pretty savvy Kickstarter-specific tips, things like making sure to set up your Amazon Payments account early, and have family and friends back you on Day 1 right when the campaign begins so that other people who see your project get excited about the investment.

Those are good tips. But none of those are how I think they raised over twice their Kickstarter goal.

Here’s what they did:

  • Set a timetable. Sure, you have an idea, but what’s it matter if you don’t get it done? If you’re going to Kickstart your project then you’ll have backers who expect rewards for their contributions and you’ll want to provide those promptly. On the subject of backers…
  • Think of Kickstarter as an investment opportunity, not a charity. Wesley Sun drove this point home over and over again throughout the panel. Treat the people who pump money into your project as investors who want to see your project succeed, not random people who just want to give you money because you’re a cool person (even if that’s why your Mom and friend Lenny from down the street backed you).
  • Research your market. One of your biggest recruiting tools on Kickstarter is the video at the top of the page: watch tons of other videos to find out what works and what doesn’t. Then do what you do best, but, again, remember you’re reaching out to investors. You can be funny, but take your project seriously or else nobody else will.
  • Know your scope. Wesley and Brad knew they weren’t just interested in making one comic, so they marketed to backers like they were helping to build a company instead of publish a comic. It worked.
  • PLAY SMART, PLAY HARD, PLAY TO WIN. There are tons of variables in play when you do a Kickstarter: leave none of them to chance. Actually calculate how much money you’ll need for the project, and don’t forget that you’ll lose 10% between Amazon Payments and Kickstarter fees. Invoke every hook you can to bring in backers; the Sun Brothers launched their Kickstarter in October since Chinatown is a haunted house story and people would be thinking about Halloween. And don’t forget the power of face-to-face marketing: hit up local shops, send letters to your friends and family, do it all.
  • Don’t stop after the campaign’s over. Tons of the work only shows up after the campaign’s over. When backers wrote to complain about damaged copies of the book they ordered, even when they were damaged by the US Postal Service the Sun Brothers still sent out replacement copies to those donors.

Technology now makes it easier than ever to turn ideas into real products, to take our dreams and turn them into reality. But Wesley and Brad’s success shows it takes more than a good idea and a Kickstarter account: it takes professionalism. Hard work, determination, careful planning, and taking both yourself and your project seriously…like they said, it’s amazing what a bit of professionalism can do to help you become successful.