Robot 6

Point-counterpoint: What is Kickstarter for, anyway?

Johanna Draper Carlson has a thoughtful post about the appropriate use of Kickstarter, and uses Lea Hernandez’s Kickstarter for The Garlicks as an example of a campaign she’s not comfortable with, because the comic doesn’t exist yet:

I am more comfortable funding a project where the work already exists, one where the creator needs print costs. This doesn’t apply to Lea’s case, but one of the reasons why is that, if rewards deliver within a couple of months, I’m protected if something happens and I don’t get what’s promised. Within 3-6 months, I have the ability to do a credit card chargeback in the worst case, if the provider flakes out. On a more personal level, it’s more rewarding to get a book or other rewards within a couple of months, as though it was similar to a preorder. Otherwise, it feels like throwing money into the wind.

In Johanna’s case, it’s a matter of not wanting to invest in something that isn’t substantially complete — because she wants to be sure she gets what she paid for. In the comments, though, it turns to a more general discussion of whether it’s appropriate to use a Kickstarter to support the artist while she is working on the project. Hernandez points out that her Kickstarter includes printing and production costs and a modest page rate paid directly to her for doing the work:

It’s a modest and responsible budget that ensures THE GARLICKS doesn’t go off-track because I’ve under-funded and have to stop working on it to take other work or a job in case of an emergency.

Alex de Campi (Valentine) agrees and points out that for a writer, Kickstarter may be the only way to raise the funds to pay the artist on the project.

On the other hand, Jeremy Whitley, who worked on Princeless during his off hours (and was able to get an artist to share the risk), has a different point of view:

I’m all for making donations that match the costs of printing. What you get is likely to reflect what was given. However, when we get into cost of living and so on, it gets messier. Maybe I’m a bit of a sadist, but stay up late nights and work during my breaks and lunches in hopes of making my comic successful and asking someone to take all the risk for me with only marginal reward just seems too easy to me. But of course, that’s just me.

Maybe there’s an opening here for a second version of Kickstarter, one for donors who are more interested in nurturing new talent than holding the finished book. Creators would still have to have a well thought out business plan (as Lea does), but donors would be more comfortable with a longer time scale. With crowdsourcing, even people of modest means can be patrons of the arts—as long as the expectations are clear on both sides.

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9 Comments

I don’t see the need for a splinter version. If you don’t want to fund that kind of project, don’t. Simple as. There’s no trickery involved here. Having a separate type of site for this kind of funding partly defeats the point. When you come to Kickstarter to fund one project you might (and probably have) stumble upon another you wouldn’t have otherwise learned about and support it. Part of the point of Kickstarter is exposure.

Okay, personally, I have always found Kickstarter weird and a little unsettling, so I guess I can relate to the people who are uneasy about using it to pay someone for his or her work in advance. At least somewhat.

But beyond “this doesn’t feel right” I don’t think any of these arguments hold up. Kickstarter is, whatever it was intended to me, a system for crowdfunding projects. Why does it make sense that such funding would be restricted to printing costs, especially since Kickstarter’s entire existence has taken place within a world where work is increasingly digitally distributed?

Again, I can relate to the sentimental idea that “you need to tough it out and take the risks and find a way to accomplish the labor on your own before you receive a cent, because that builds character” but it seems like a pretty difficult argument to sell to someone who doesn’t share that feeling. Work is work, creative work included. Why shouldn’t someone get paid, especially if there are people willing to trust that the work will be to their liking and to pay up in advance so that the work will exist?

Is working at night while you pay bills with a dull corporate slog, and/or living on ramen noodles and free samples from the supermarket, REALLY such a wonderful experience that we want to insist on it as a prerequisite for any new person who wants to produce a big creative project?

The customer makes the final choice where the money goes, the artist doesn’t.

If the customer doesn’t like the work, how it is packaged, how it is marketed, financed, or anything else about it, then they have the right to put their money elsewhere. That is the only issue.

The customer is the boss of their money and how they spend it.

I think that both point of views are sound. I’d feel much more comfortable donating to a project where at least I can see the blueprints, some sample (code, art, sampling, excerpt, whatever) to see if it meets my expectations of said project. On the other hand, crowdsourcing is increasingly becoming THE avenue for established creators to get their pet projects off the ground in which case you at least have the creator track record to put your mind at ease.

I’d not throw a dime to someone like, say Liefeld (whose track record is less than stellar in that regard to put it bluntly but ultimately his work is not my cup of tea anyway) but am more than willing to help to fund the works of someone like Palmiotti that you know will deliver!

But as someone else pointed out already, in the end it is up to you to find out whether you trust that the creator(s) will deliver and then decide whether you are going to spend the dime in it or not.

I’m calling THE GARLICKS Kickstarter over so I can get a shower and a drink, but I hope you’ll watch my final video on the front page:
http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/divalea/the-garlicks-pandora-orange-fail-vampire

http://farm8.staticflickr.com/7128/7415615850_cac45cc797_b.jpg

I don’t necessarily ‘get’ the argument for printing costs only.

For my two cents, I see Kickstarter as an opportunity to help support someone’s mad dream. Be it an art installation, comic, graphic novel, film, or whatever. Call me an idealist, but that’s as important as whatever reward I get in return.

Bottom line, I want to pay creators for their art, and if this is the best way for someone to get over that hurdle, well that is $20 well spent in my book.

Let’s see what the official sources tell us:

Kickstarter.com:
Kickstarter is a funding platform for creative projects.

—–

According to english thesaurus, funding is:

Cambridge online dictionary (http://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/british/funding?q=funding)

Definition:
money given by a government or organization for an event or activity
Ian is trying to get funding for his research.
They received state funding for the project.

The Free Dictionary (http://www.thefreedictionary.com/funding):

A sum of money or other resources set aside for a specific purpose…
noun: funding – financial resources provided to make some project possible;

——

So technically, kickstarter is for making projects happen. not just printing them.

Crowdfunding is angel investment made “real” and audience-based.
Which means that not only the creator will get funding for his project, but the fact that it will get funding IF and ONLY IF his product has an audience willing to buy it. An audience of any kind, anywhere in the world.
And… once the product is made. it will have also been “automatically” delivered to this audience –”automatically” as in: the audience is not to be discovered and marketed towards buying the product.

So, basically, thinking of crowdfunding (kickstarter or the next one in line) as just a means for industrial production (i.e. printing costs) is -in my opinion- like buying the new macbook pro Retina for spreadsheet editing, while still clinging to VCRs for movie-watching at home.

Manglr: “For my two cents, I see Kickstarter as an opportunity to help support someone’s mad dream. Be it an art installation, comic, graphic novel, film, or whatever. Call me an idealist, but that’s as important as whatever reward I get in return.”

Yes. This. I only recently bit the bullet and joined Kickstarter, but the projects that tempted me before were always the ones where it was a known quantity asking for support in doing a dream project outside of their usual wheelhouse, something like Tony Harris’ “Roundeye: For Love” or Paul Jenkins and Humberto Ramos’ “Fairy Quest.” Getting someone typically chained to a Big Two drawing desk to create something new that’s as amazing looking as those two projects? Now that I can get behind.

I think one of the bigger contrasts between Alex de Campi’s success on Kickstarter that hasn’t been pointed out is that she’s doing a sequel to a pre-existing well-loved property. I can see Kickstarter being used successfully for that purpose a LOT. “Did you like the first one? Help us fund the sequel!” seems like the most natural sales pitch in the world. I think a lot of people would be more inclined to finance a “new” project with a higher $ goal if both the creative team AND the work itself have a track record. See, for example, Paul Jenkins already having $6k toward a revival of his “Sidekick” property.

And this page…

http://www.kickstarter.com/help/stats

…has some fascinating statistics. This may be the biggest one: “Funding on Kickstarter is all-or-nothing in more ways than one. While 13% of projects finished having never received a single pledge, 82% of projects that raised more than 20% of their goal were successfully funded.” Also interesting: there have been 600 successful comics projects, and 719 unsuccessful. If you cut out the 124 that received 0% funding (i.e. the creators didn’t even bother), the success rate is basically 50-50. That’s impressive.

How much promotion is too much depends on personal tolerances.

I looked over her Twitter though and counted the Tweets and ReTweets visible to anyone following her, including Tweets directed at one person but having the period before the @. I noticed that the majority were reminders, goal announcements, requests to share and signal boost pleas. There was a lot of repetition ReTweeting herself. (Fyi I may have missed some or counted Tweets another wouldn’t so this is NOT to be considered 100% right error free.)

19th, 31 Tweets. 18th, 54 Tweets. 17th, 33 Tweets. 16th, 16 Tweets. 15th, 37 Tweets. 14th, 24 Tweets. 13th, 23 Tweets

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