Writers on Kickstarter: Do’s and Don’ts
As each year comes to a close, many people in the United States take a few moments to ponder what they are going to make a priority for the coming year. Many of those people then promptly give up on said resolution, and another gym membership sadly goes to waste.
I’m talking of course about New Years resolutions. My own resolutions are going well – 2 are ahead of schedule, 2 have substantial progress made, and only one is behind; between work and painting, I have not been devoting as much time to writing, specifically not blog related writing as I should be. I’m not here today to talk about my resolutions today though, I’m here to talk about what I can only assume are other peoples.
Kickstarter always has an abundance of projects in a few veins. We have recently discussed some of the most popular already in a previous post, but there are also a fair number of “save our movie theater,” “Fund my art residency at X,” “Help get my children’s book published,” and of course – “help me publish my first novel.” This time of year there seems to be more novel projects than average – I can only assume that is because people vowed over new years that this was the year they were going to make it happen, and become an author; unfortunately many projects in this flood have picked up a few bad habits along the way.
To be clear – I don’t have a problem in the world with writer’s using Kickstarter. I think it is a totally valid funding mechanism for reasonable projects. Unfortunately most projects are pretty unreasonable.
So if funding one’s life is against Kickstarter’s policies, how did a project called “Help me live while I write my first novel” get through the censors at our favorite crowd funding site? More importantly, if one was to flag it (like I did,) why would such a project still be up and funding 24 hours later? The author, it what might be the worst funding pitch ever proceeds to offer you this bit of wisdom:
“If I were you, and I knew me, I wouldn’t give me a cent and expect anything back. It’s not that I’m a bad person… I’m really not. I’m just, like I said, ineffective.
I’ve been dealing with depression and anxiety for as long as I can remember, I’ve done a poor job of trying to get treatment for it, and now I’m 34 years old and I have no career, no passion, and a very uncertain future.
It has never occurred to me before now to financially commit myself to finishing a writing project. It’s not like I got an advance on that article for Odyssey, and they didn’t even pay me until a year later. What’s changed is I really feel, for the first time, like I have an awesome and viable idea for a work of fiction, and the idea very much draws from my own experience.”
He finishes off by explaining that the risks and challenges are: “The challenges all come from me being my own worst enemy. I have no ability to concentrate, I panic at the slightest hint of adversity, and I’m on Reddit.” I acknowledge that this may all be sort of a joke/humor project, but then I don’t really think that belongs on Kickstarter either. At the end of the day though, this author wants $5k and offers no explanation whatsoever with how he will spend the money.
Another, more reasonable project I also found illustrates another very different error. Sparcus only want’s $2k, has a reasonably professional pitch, and offers some explanation as to where the money the author is trying to raise might go. On that side of the equation it does most everything right. The rewards though, are another matter. For $1 you get a thank you email and for $5 you get a copy of the e-book; I don’t understand why those rewards are offered in limited numbers, but so far so good. For $25 you get an autographed copy of the paperback, for $50 you are recognized as a contributor in the back of the book, for $80 you are recognized as a major contributor, and for $250 you are recognized as a patron.
I hate to break it to everyone, but the signature of an unknown author is not worth a whole lot, and the public thanks and appreciation is significantly overpriced. I included a signature level in our own project, The Wardenclyffe Horror, I know. I think it is a fine upper tier addition, but that only works if you have a lower tier for other backers to jump on board at, which this project lacks.
After taking a long look around at these, and similar projects though, I have developed a few guidelines on the subject:
- Keep your goal and reward tier costs low – people don’t know who you are yet, and pricing yourself above the latest New York Times Bestseller might well price you out of the market.
- Account for your costs as specifically and completely as you can – I will not pay you to write your book, but I am much more inclined to contribute a few bucks to help it get edited, or see that a good book gets a good cover.
- Have the book written (or mostly written) – there are enough risks in a good Kickstarter – don’t add “and the book might never be finished” to them.
- Include a sample of your writing – many projects fail to do this. Worse, many projects have a pitch page riddled with typos and poor sentence structure; we are all guilty of these things (me especially) but you are trying to sell your writing.
Anyone have more to add on this subject?