Kick Me

I’m curious to know how many people who read this have either started a Kickstarter (or something similar) campaign in order to fund something, or contributed to one? And no, I’m not thinking about doing one myself. In fact I’m pretty confident I never will.

When I first heard about these crowdsourcing/crowdfunding processes, I was intrigued. For those who don’t know, what something like this amounts to is someone — say a writer, or a filmmaker, or someone who wants to do some kind of expedition — uses an online application like Kickstarter to try and raise money for their project. They set a goal amount of money they want to raise, then people pledge against it. The creator — a writer, for example — then sets contribution amounts with incentives; pledge $10, you get an electronic copy of the book. $20 gets the eBook and the print copy. $50 gets the book signed. $100 gets a character in the book named after you, whatever. It’s a great way for someone to maybe get something done that they may not be able to otherwise, and, importantly, get paid for it. If the money is raised by a certain date, then it is successful and the contributions are accepted and the creator gets the dough. If the goal isn’t met, the creator gets no money. For example, let’s say I pledge $50 to a film project trying to raise $10,000.00 by December 1st. When December 1st rolls around, if that $10G is met or exceeded, then my $50 is charged against whatever my money source was (PayPal, credit card, whatever). Essentially, I just bought in and my $50 is gone until delivery of the project and whatever I signed up to receive at my contribution level. If the $10G is not raised, then I never get charged the $50.

So I’ve contributed to several campaigns, with mixed results. I contributed to a short film and I received a copy of it on DVD. I’ve contributed to a couple graphic novels and gotten copies of those too. Another movie I contributed to I just received a status update on today. A photography book I contributed to I get fairly regular status updates, with photographs of the process. When a Kickstarter project is started, the creator is required to provide an estimated completion date. In the case of a film, for example, that could be a year (or more) down the road. I’m cool with that. Creativity takes time.

I also contributed to a project a guy was doing to ride his bike to the Arctic Circle and make a documentary about it. That dude turned out to be a flake, was written about in Outside, and seems to have disappeared (though he claims to be revamping his approach for another try). But he still has the money. No big deal, I was into it for something like $20, and it was worth the risk. But others aren’t so happy about it. And this is only one example of Kickstarters gone awry. There are probably ways to claim fraud, but I haven’t been so deeply invested in one to really care that much. I take a risk and hope for the best.

What sucks, though, is when creators don’t seem to take it seriously enough, or fail to respect their contributors. In this case I am talking about two writers in particular I have read in the past and enjoyed. Both did Kickstarter campaigns for books they hoped to write, and I contributed. The first one actually raised a couple grand more than the project was asking to raise, and was supposed to be delivered back in June. The last update to this campaign was in May, saying it would be done at the end of the summer. Still no book, and no further update, though this writer has put out a couple other things since then. I’m only out $10, but still . . . $10 is $10. And the writer has a few grand in pocket for work presumably undone.

The other example is worse. It was supposed to be delivered a year ago December. That was the last time there was even an update to the project’s status. I’m out $50 on that one, and, frankly, that pisses me off. It’s rude and disrespectful to people who are, presumably, the author’s more dedicated fans. At the time of the last update the writer expressed a level of time crunch due to other deadlines, but when you are sitting on a few grand of other people’s money that would seem to me to be a pretty important deadline too. It’s not so much that I’m irritated that there hasn’t been delivery, it’s that the writer doesn’t seem to care enough about their supporters to even offer an update. And if I’m irritated, I’m thinking other folks must be livid. I have a pretty damn long fuse for this kind of thing — I know plenty of people who take their money, even $10, waaaaay more seriously than I do. Which is probably why I’m always broke.

So I think this whole Kickstarter thing is a big risk for creators if they aren’t extremely careful. In both these cases I’ve lost respect for these two writers, and enthusiasm for their work. Frankly, I don’t even care anymore if the books are delivered or not, nor have I purchased any of the books they’ve produced since then. Is this childish of me? Perhaps. Maybe I should follow up with emails to see what the story is. But is that my responsibility? I hate asking for money, even when I’m dealing with publications who owe me for work I’ve done for them. If these writers were people I know, I’d give them shit about it. But I don’t know them, so I feel the responsibility in generating an update lies with them. Maybe I should be more understanding. Maybe this is me revealing once and for all that I am, at the core, a shitty person. Who knows. I never claimed I wasn’t petty and prone to ridiculous, long-term grudges.

So I’m curious to know of other people’s experiences in the wild, wild world of crowd funding. Success stories? Horror stories? Am I a dick for being irritated at these two writers? Talk to me, people. . . .


Author: Chris

Chris La Tray is a writer, a walker, and a photographer. He is an enrolled member of the Little Shell Tribe of Chippewa Indians and lives in Missoula, MT.

18 thoughts on “Kick Me”

  1. I am considering Kickstarter with a fellow writer. We want to combine our western characters and K seems like the best approach. So, if I’m reading you right, it really comes down to many “creators don’t seem to take it seriously enough, or fail to respect their contributors.” The platform is a worthy one as long as the artists live up to their end of the bargain.

    1. That’s pretty much it, David. I think when you set a deadline and take people’s money, that deadline is as important as any other one. If you don’t meet it, then you need to communicate regular updates. For the record, I would, and will, contribute to your project in a heartbeat.

  2. I’ve contribute to three Kickstarters. Two worked out really well. With the last one, I kicked in $25 and received five e-books (Two of which were written by people who I consider friends.) and an apology from the Kickstarter organizer for being a couple of days late because of formatting issues. I, of course, didn’t mind because writers got paid and I received the end result.

    But with the first Kickstarter I ever participated, the author (One who I respect and like as a person.) has yet to deliver. It’s frustrating because I work pretty goddamn hard for my money, and because the project is already funded, I can’t get my cash back, which blows ass.

    1. Overall I’d say my experiences have been positive as well. I’d probably be a lot more careful when it comes to novel projects in the future, though. Films have been the sweet spot for me, and I don’t think I’d hesitate to contribute to another one.

  3. I have kicked in on a handful of things, with mixed results. In some cases, there is a definite lack of following through on the creator’s part. On the one hand, life doesn’t stop and sometimes things get derailed. On the other hand, if you are going to ask that people put their money in your pocket well in advance, you need to treat your Kickstarter project with the same level of professionalism you would (I’d hope) treat any project you have going with a publisher.

    I also have a huge problem with Kickstarters that are for a specific project but then funds are used to have a good time.

    And then there are the Kickstarters from creators who have no need at all for the cash to make a project happen. They just feel entitled to it. Those individuals are not deserving of anyone’s time or money, if you ask me.

    As of today, I wouldn’t say I’m angry or pissed off, but I also think I might be done kicking in.

  4. I have lots of other evidence, but I don’t see any way your reaction here makes you a shitty person. It’s maddening that some (hopefully few, though you seem to have a high percentage) folks appear not to consider their responsibility to those who invest. As soon as you take money from people for a project, they should become the priority. I don’t understand the mentality that allows people to take advantage of the kindness of others. I didn’t even invest in that venture and it pisses me off on your behalf. And on behalf of those who run kickstarter programs who do take their responsibilities seriously. I think Kickstarter is a great idea when used properly, but I often see it misused.

    1. Your first sentence literally made my day, Lauren. Wiseass.

      The whole thing is like what my parents told me when I was a teenager. It wasn’t so much if I was going to be home late, it is if I was going to be late without calling them to let them know what was going on. A phone call, or an update, goes a long way toward keeping feathers unruffled.

      1. Now I’m laughing. My wiseass reputation precedes me. I was actually trying to be nice by saying I had lots of other evidence you are not a shitty person. But I like your interpretation (of my admittedly, upon review, poorly written sentence) much better. Asshole.

  5. I agree with all the above statements about the altruistic possibilities, the potential for abuse and shutdown, etc.

    I have an additional perspective. I have been a person making a career out of creative endeavors for a long while now. On the rare occasions where I received monies for purely reward purposes (prize money) I am flattered and honored and feel that I have a duty to keep presenting myself in a professional way out of respect for the supporters who somewhere along the line provided the prize. On the rare occasions where I have received grant money, I am absolutely floored and humbled, and if there is a final requirement, you damn well bet I am there and on time. To me a kick starter is even more of a social investment than a grant. You are saying that you probably can’t get a grant, but what you do is interesting and important enough that a lot of average folks should help you. I think that obligation is mighty. To pull this kind of jack ass move of taking the money and running? Well that makes me want to get addresses and show up in someones driveway in sweatpants with my hair french braided, ready to go.

    I hope kickstarter is used for projects that are truly too big for a person to do on their own, basically production type endeavors. I find it less appealing as a means to pay a wage for someone who wants to work on a creative project with a safety net.

    1. “To me a kick starter is even more of a social investment than a grant.”

      What a great point, and thanks for weighing in. I agree 100%.

      I like the idea of this type of funding getting things made that can’t via the traditional route, even if there is risk involved that it could still ultimately fail. But cash grabs, even if they started with the best of intentions, are still cash grabs.

  6. I’ve only contributed to one – and it was someone who I knew in real life, from work. He and his wife were starting a southern food cart in Portland. I kicked in $10. The project got funded. I thought, Good for them! Then a couple months later I got a $10 check saying Thanks for the support, but it’s not going to work out so here’s your money back.
    I really love the idea of crowdsourcing to get things made. I don’t know if I would ever have the guts to do it – I have terrible follow through and would be one the people who inadvertently stiffed you – but I see projects all the time that I want to fund, I just don’t have the disposable income.

    1. I guess I’m trying to say: I want to give people the benefit of the doubt and would probably fund more stuff if I could. Then again, I haven’t been ripped off so my outlook is still rosy on the whole thing.

      1. Despite a couple failures, I still feel pretty much the same way, April. I don’t know that I will finance novels again — I’ll do that via the bookstore. But if someone wanted to fun a trip somewhere and write about it, I’d consider that. And films. And any number of other things. I guess I’m just a little less willing to “make it rain!” maybe than I used to be.

  7. I didn’t realize so many people don’t follow through on Kickstarter. I’ve contributed to just two and I’m following one as she fulfills her goal in New Zealand. I guess I’d feel pretty miffed if I donated and nothing came of it, that’s for sure. We all work too hard for our money to be taken that lightly.

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