You have a big idea, but you lack the resources to transform it into a reality? Welcome, you ended up in the right place!

I am a scientist and an illustrator. And I published an art-meets-science book through a Kickstarter campaign to share my idea around. In this 3-posts series, I hope to help you realize your big project!

In a previous post, I talked about how to define your big idea and why you should consider a crowdfunding campaign to realize it. In this one, I am going to get into the nitty-gritty of where, when, and how to plan a crowdfunding campaign. Finally, we’ll have a look at alternatives to crowdfunding, specially tailored for scientists.

So buckle-up and let’s get started!

Where to publish your crowdfunding

Not all crowdfunding websites are created equal. While Kickstarter is the most popular, with a close rival in Indiegogo, there are several more to consider. You should look for the one that best suits your product. And very often, less-known platforms charge cheaper fees than the big crowdfunding websites.

If you plan to sell internationally, Kickstarter or Indiegogo might be your best option. But if you expect your audience to be mostly located in a specific region, you could look for nationally focused crowdfunding websites, like Eppela in Italy or Makuake in Japan.

Another important distinction is the type of product. There are crowdfunding websites dedicated to hardware and tech, to games, to TV and movies, or even just to wine. I chose Kickstarter because I traded specificity for a broader audience.

You also want to look for the type of campaign that’s most economically convenient for you. There are two types of funding: “all or nothing” or “all you get”.

“All or nothing” campaigns, the only ones offered by Kickstarter, allow you to get the funding only if you reach your goal. With “All you get” campaigns, in contrast, you get whatever funds you have collected. On Indiegogo, you can choose one option or the other, but the “all you get” costs a higher fee.

Kickstarter– International sales
– Largest user base
– Easy to use interface
– Large community of creators that can provide information
– Difficult to get your project noticed
– Only “All or Nothing” campaign
– Larger fees (~10%)
– Failed projects are visible
Indiegogo– International sales
– Large user base
– Large community of creators that can provide information
– Both “All or Nothing” and “All you get” campaign
– Difficult to get your project noticed
– Larger fees (~10%)
Country Specific Platforms, like Eppela (Italy) or Makuake (Japan)– Easy to get your product noticed
– Smaller fees (~5%)
– Additional custom services for creators (at higher fees)
– Both “All or Nothing” and “All you get” campaigns (depending on the specific site)
– Limited to sales in a single marketplace
– Small user base
– Smaller success funding rate
Product Specific Platforms, like Crowdsupply (hardware) or Fig (games)– Pre-existing target audience
– Easiest to get your product noticed
– Smaller fees (~5%)
– Additional custom services for creators (at higher fees)
– Both “All or Nothing” and “All you get” campaigns (depending on the specific site)
– Limited product types
– Small user base
– Smaller success funding rate

When choosing the type of funding, one thing to consider is how the cost-per-item is affected by the number of produced copies. For example, I could only afford an “all or nothing” campaign. To lower the production cost for the book, I needed to aim for a minimum amount of copies to print. I could not afford to produce the book if fewer people than what needed to get that minimum amount of copies would pledge. Besides, I did not want to publish a book if only a few people pledged: I wanted to use the campaign as market research, to make sure that I could sell extra copies of the book after the campaign was over.

When to publish your campaign

Being in the right place at the right time can make one’s fortune. The same applies to crowdfunding. You have to plan carefully the time of the year, the days of start/end and the length of the campaign.

Make sure to pick the best time for you campaign. Photo by Enikő Tóth from Pexels

If you are planning to market your product for the holiday season, your campaign should end before the end of November, since that is when most people buy gifts for their loved ones. The start of the year is also a terrible moment to launch your campaign, as people support fewer projects when they still remember how much they spent over the holiday season.

The day of the week to start and end the campaign also has an effect on the final result. In fact, over the weekend people are less likely to spend time online and discover your awesome idea. Weekdays are usually best, especially at lunchtime or after 5 p.m. If you target an audience that is split between different timezone, make sure that there is a large window of time overlap.

Finally, make sure to give your campaign enough time to pick up momentum, but not so much that supporters will forget about it. If you have a large supporting community, a short 20 days campaign might work best – people are encouraged to pledge and support early for fear of missing out. On the other end, if are not sure of your audience, a longer 40 days timeline will give you enough time to build visibility.

30 days is usually a good compromise. Remember that most of the support arrives right at the start or almost at the end of the campaign, so do not get discouraged if you see a drop in visibility in the middle of the campaign.

How to plan a crowdfunding campaign

When I started Inking Science, I had no idea on how to plan a crowdfunding campaign. The Kickstarter blog has a series of useful posts, providing insights from how to price your product based on the website’s solid analytics to how to share a budget with your backers.

However, here is a more personal list of things I did that worked really well, and a few that I wish I had done better.

Plan ahead

I made the illustrations for Inking Science in October, as part of the Inktober challenge. I wanted to go live with the Kickstarter before the end of the month and run it through November to take advantage of the Inktober visibility and have it out on time for the holiday season.

Initial planning for Inking Science

My immigration status in the US, however, would allow me to start only at the beginning of December. Because of the “When”, I moved the campaign in March. The illustrations were almost ready, so I was confident that starting in November would have been feasible – and I was extremely upset having to postpone it.

But when I actually started working on the details for the Kickstarter, I realized that I was less prepared than I thought on how to plan a crowdfunding campaign successfully. Between November and March, I designed the final form of the book, I defined the details of the Kickstarter campaign, I practiced and recorded the promoting video, I made a landing page and started growing a mailing list, I had the time to better estimate the costs of the book production and shipment.

I would not have been able to complete all these without the added months. While this happened as an accident to me, make sure you give yourself plenty of time to consider what needs to be done.

Play by the rules of the game

One of the reasons to choose Kickstarter or Indiegogo over smaller crowdfunding websites is their larger audience. While it’s likely that most of the supporters will reach your product thanks to good marketing, a part of them will be brought by the platform itself.

A large number of users, however, is a double-edged sword. It exposes your brilliant project to more people, but also makes it more difficult to get discovered.

Discover and play the rules of the game to make the most of the large audience. For example, Kickstarter will advertise your project (at no cost to you) if the campaign follows the suggested standards, especially if you manage to get it selected as “Project We Love”. For Kickstarter, all you need is to have a full profile, to fill up all the sections required for the campaign (including a promotional video) and to show that you have a solid plan and a well-thought-out budget

Use compelling graphics, tell a story, and explain why your project matters. Make sure people remain engaged by writing updates and keeping your supporters informed on the development of the campaign.

Pair up!

Inking Science was a project that I ideated, but I could have not completed it if not for my partner in crime. I knew I wanted to collect my illustrations in a book, but I am not a talented writer. I know, however, a brilliant science communicator and writer, Valerie Bentivegna. She is also a close friend and she was excited to be part of the project.

Having Valerie on board meant I was accountable to someone who also had skin in the game. If Valerie was spending her precious time writing the scientists’ stories for Inking Science, I could not let her down by not planning the campaign – she was doing her part, and I had to do mine.

Also, she brought her own network to the campaign, doubling the exposure we could get!

And sometime you might need more than a partner in the project. For example, we hired a professional editor to clean up the book once it was ready. We could have done it ourselves, sure! But not as well and not as fast. Whenever you can, delegate.

Marketing, marketing, marketing

Inking Science was funded, but barely. And this is partly due to poor marketing on my side. I believe I have done all the right things, but I should have done more of them and sooner.

For Inking Science, Valerie and I prepared a Press Release Kit, with graphic material, our bio, photos, illustrations, and text blurbs ready to use for publication. If you need inspiration, you can check Inking Science press kit here.

I started by announcing the Kickstarter on my blog and on my social platforms. I got more interested people when I targeted specific groups of people that fit the audience for Inking Science, for example, a facebook group of the Italian researchers abroad. When sharing the project before the Kickstarter launched, I invited the interested people to join a mailing list on the Inking Science landing page.

However, I leveraged these networks less than I could have. In fact, I did not re-post and many potentially interested people might have not seen the news at all. I did not want to “bother” people. It is good to be cautious and avoid mindless spamming, but you should not be afraid of annoying others when promoting something you believe in.

A successful approach for Inking Science was to reach out personally and directly to science communicators on Twitter. The SciComm community is very active there, and not only did this approach provide many supporters, but it allowed me to bond with amazing communicators. But again, I should have done this more and sooner, instead of using this approach after the Kickstarter had already launched.

Reach out to big blogs and websites, pitching them your project. I approached about 30 different websites or blogs and received no answer. Should you give up on reaching out to big websites then? Absolutely not! This number is to tell you that the bottle-neck is quite steep, and you should contact way more publishers than I did if you wish to get featured in one of them.

Finally, I also tried paid advertising on Facebook, with no result. This is the only thing I would not repeat, but it might be different for you. I organized events where paid advertising worked its wonder, while it gave no results for my Kickstarter. Make your market research before spending the money.

Cost and time estimations

If you have to bring home a message from this post, bring this one: do your math! In learning on how to plan a crowdfunding campaing, estimating costs and delivery time are the most important tasks. It takes patience to make these estimations, but it is worth it. And while this might sound like a daunting task, you will soon realize that it can be broken down into smaller and easier to manage bits.

Start by asking: What do I need for the actual product? If your product is a book, for example, you will need to edit/proofread it, print it, and add an ISBN for sales. So you will need to look for estimations to hire a freelancer for the editing job, estimations for printing the book, and find information about the costs to buy ISBNs. You do not need to do everything at once. Mark this list down, and go one step at a time.

Once you have figure out the costs for the production, you want to look at “accessories” costs. To find out what these are, look around at Crowdfunding campaign you financed in the past or other recent online shopping you have done. Example of questions to ask are:

  • How did you discover a certain product you recently bought? What is an ad on a social media or a flyer on a board at your workplace? — Take inspiration from your own experience to get the estimations needed to repeat the same thing (e.g. to finance some ads or to print flyers).
  • Do you need a website? A mailing list? — Look at what are the associated costs for each, if free options (like or mailchimp base plans for the website and the mailing list respectively) are not enough.
  • How was the packaging of the last thing you ordered online? Did you care that it was branded or not? — Take note of what you like and what would you like to reproduce in your own product. For example, if you want your product to ship in branded shipping supplies, look for companies that would print your logo on custom boxes or use stickers on unbranded boxes if you want to save some money.
  • What about the environment? Can you afford eco-friendly supplies? — Check what are your margins and identify if you can take the wellness of the environment into your equation.

Look around in your daily life and search for inspiration on how to improve your product and how you want to produce it and ship it. Take notes of everything, and one by one move down the list: for each element in the list contact a few companies for estimations. It is as simple as this! Maybe tedious, but quite easy to actually do it.

I want to give you a few more tips coming directly from my experience regarding the estimation of the production/shipping costs and for the determination of the delivery time of the whole project.

Excel porn. Here is the messy table I used to work my estimations for Inking Science. You can see different estimates for the book printing, for the shippings, added costs for ISBN and editing. Moreover, I included some formula to calculate how many Kickstarter rewards I would need to hit to reach the minimum bulk discounts. I then kept updating these numbers as people started pledging the Kickstarted so that the spread would update from estimates to actual costs.


When requesting the several estimates, make sure to ask for a bulk discount. Then set the goal for your campaigns so that you will be able to get that sweet discount.

For example, I could have ordered only 76 books for exactly the 76 supporters of Inking Science, but to lower the price of the single unit I needed to buy at least 100. So I calculated the goal of the Kickstarter campaign to cover at least that production number, even with fewer supporters than 100.


While I did a pretty good job estimating the production costs, I underestimated the shipping. I successfully calculated the cost for the actual shipping. I knew that my supporters would be split about half and a half between Europe and the US, so I calculated shippings for both places and then I calculated an average shipping cost per book. However, I completely forgot about the packaging. This is a minimal cost on its own, but if you have pretty low margins, packaging supplies can eat a large slice of them.

Other things to consider when planning your shipping costs are international charges and customs. Customs are typically paid by the crowdfunding supporters when the package enters their country.

I planned Inking Science to be custom-friendly (meaning that the supporters would not be charged) for the countries where I expected most supporters. I paid the costs of customs by shipping a big batch of Inking Science to a dispatching location within those countries, then I shipped the individual rewards from within the country. Being custom-friendly can be a game-changer if you expect to attract the attention of international supporters.

The last thing I recommend is to include part of the shipping costs in the product itself if the former is higher than the latter. The average shipping cost for Inking Science was higher than the cost of producing the book itself (excluding in the production cost my and Valerie’s work-hours). Instead of asking for 15 dollars for the book and 25 for shipping, I incorporated part of the shipping into the book and inverted those numbers.


Finally, let’s talk about timing. If you have ever funded a crowdfunding campaign, you know that your reward is gonna be delayed. But it doesn’t have to be.

Inking Science shipped on time. The secret was to add a lot of buffer time. I added 3 more months to the time that I thought everything would be fulfilled. I chose my extra time based on my previous estimations on launching the campaign in November, and the actual time I spent planning it.

Use previous experience from your own past to bump your estimation. This experience does not have to be crowdfunding-related. Look for an example in your past when you underestimate your delivery time: if expected delivery time for a project at work was 3 months, but in reality it took you 6 months, then you should consider doubling all your estimations. If you were thinking that you could confortably deliver your crowdfunded product in 5 months, make your delivery time on the crowdfunding platform at least 10 months.

Finally, add extra time if you need to deal with external suppliers to be ready for the worst case scenario. For example, since the editor I hired for Inking Science had promised to deliver the edited book in 2 weeks, I estimated 3 weeks for editing so that I could have some buffer if they delivered late. I did the same for the delivery time estimation on the book printing and on the shipping.


All things considered, Inking Science was a great success, but it was not profitable. Valerie and I barely broke even, and that’s only counting the books we sold after the campaign was already over. If you make your math right, you could end up with more money in your pocket. However, I believe that doing crowdfunding is mostly an opportunity to get your idea out there to share with the world. And doing so at a good affordable price for the supporters might be worth more than a profitable campaign.

Final tips & tricks

Now you have a birds-eye view on how to plan a crowdfunding campaign. Have a look at the Inking Science page on Kickstarter, and see my suggestions in action.

Multiple websites offer pre-made statistics about Kickstarter, including the best times to launch or what products work best. But if you have an analytical mind and want to do your own research, be sure to start by searching on the Kickstarter website itself. The search options are excellent, allowing to look for useful information, like Projects We Love in the same category as yours. Get inspired and takes notes on how to make your project shine.

Screenshot of the Kicktraq page for Inking Science.

Kicktraq is another awesome tool for math enthusiasts. It collects statistics about past and running campaigns. Here is the page for my Kickstarter, where you can check how the funding progressed.

For the Inking Science landing page, I used Amazon AWS cloud services exclusively. I bought a domain via Route53, hosted the static website on S3, and set up e-mail addresses using SES. Compared to other platforms that provide ready out-of-the-box websites, AWS is cheaper but you need to be comfortable doing some minor coding. I personally based my landing page on one of the free templates on the Bootstrap website, saving a lot of time and lots of headaches.

Talking of digital suppliers, I used Mailchimp to collect leads and manage my mailing list. And it’s free for the first 2000 contacts. I love it, and I kept on using it for my blog after the end of the campaign.

Finally, shipping costs in the US can be reduced by accessing business discounts. You can do that by using a shipping service like I personally tried it but decided against it. In fact, while they provide a great service at a reasonable fee, you could get the exact same prices with Paypal Business shipping tool at no cost to you.

I hope you found this post useful, but before you jump into launching your crowdfunding campaign, wait for my next blog post.

— Wait! What? Another post?! What’s left to talk about?

I am glad you asked. In my next and final blog post of this series, I am going to discuss reasons you might NOT want to run a crowdfunding campaign. In fact, every good thing has its negative side. While there are plenty of reasons to crowdfund your idea, there are many ideas that might be more successful through other routes. I hope I made you curious enough to come back for the next blog post!


I want to thank my fellow scientist and illustrator Gaius Augustus for his help editing this blog post.

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