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. . . .