KickStarter and Fiction: A review

For those like me who struggle to keep up with internet trends (darn young’uns with their innovations) Kickstarter is a nifty website/connecting tool that allows people to present creative projects publicly to look for financial backing in what I think of as in interesting blend of fundraising and seeking investors. Backers are typically promised some sort of pie, such as limited additions of the finished product, and the posters of course get said financial backing. I mostly heard about it initially through gaming, as a place where indie game makers could attempt to source more resource for game creation. It’s also been a place where well known artists in one field have been able to easily and virally source funding to branch into other areas, such as The Oatmeal creating Exploding Kittens and I believe (but too lazy to double check) Cards Against Humanity creating a real rather than ‘print your own game.’

I had a quick Google of problems around Kickstarter and Fraud, and while its hard to make a clear statistical statement, it appears the process is somewhat reputable which the website pulling genuine scams (if discovered) but equally with many projects being flops/failures or not quite living up to the hype being frequent but not perhaps overwhelming the website. In general it seems to actually be a good example of basic market principles working well, if people can’t present a legit and credible product they simply won’t get the funds.

Anywho, the reason I am blogging about this now it on the odd occasion I have heard tell of fiction authors pitching work on Kickstarter, effectively asking people to fund their work. I confess when I note these cases I had been dismissing them as unethical and somewhat douchey without really looking into the situation. I doubly confess that part of the reason for this judgement is that the typical fiction writer’s journey is a painful commitment to the art without promise of financial reimbursement and to use Kickstarter to effectively get paid to write (rather than paid for a good book) evoked resentment. There are many people looking for short-cuts and ways ahead and it was irksome to discover there might be one, but also I thought that the move took advantage of readers who might not have a good understanding of the publishing process (i.e. basically that traditional publishing helps separate an abstract tonne of complete crap from readable material) and that backing a unknown author to write a book might be a cool thing to do. Just to expand on the issue a little more, in traditional publishing you can use your credentials and proposed topic to successfully pitch a non-fiction idea to publishers, however this is not the same for fiction, publishers want finished products and no-one wants to pay someone in the hope of them producing a good piece of work.

Now being a well behaved, self-confessed analytic thinker I’ve actually put the effort in to investigate Kickstarter and what sort of fiction writing activities go on there to make a more informed judgment.

Right this minute there appear to be just under 500 publishing projects asking for money. I was pleased to note that the majority of them where mixed mediums or ‘project-worthy’ for want of a better word. What I mean is many of the projects included art and illustration – the reason I see this as a positive is its much easier to show people talent with a visual medium, or put simply I would rather back an obviously talented artist than a fiction author who may have managed to put together a decent blurb. In terms of projects there were several literary mag and anthology proposals which while still peddling fiction are at least asking for money to do something, rather than just expecting money to write.

Now onto the fiction, fiction. There were actually many fiction novels being presented as Kickstarter projects, but perusing a few did not grind my gears nearly as much as I expected. It was immediately obvious through disparities in achieved funds that kickstarter backers were not nearly as naive as I first (naively) thought. The efforts that writers had to put into to sell their work were not much different from the efforts of a query letter or advertising for self-publishing. While I can’t rule it out, my worries that the website was being used to essentially trick people into paying one to write, it seemed more of an alternative method of self-publishing that like anything did take genuine hard work. I did want to put more effort in and try to investigate whether there were many flops or failures but that information wasn’t immediately or easily available. Given that most people I have spoken to wished to use their Kickstarter project to also build readership it’s not going to do their name any favours if they don’t deliver or even impress.

So just for internet etiquette’s sake a Too Long; Didn’t Read summary

  • Some fiction writers are using Kickstarter to fund their work
  • I originally thought this was a cheap shot at getting paid to write rather than paid to produce a good book
  • On investigation is looks like for the most part backers are discerning individuals (after all why spend money on future rubbish when you can typically have it now?)
  • In conclusion it looks like a decent Kickstarter campaign and resolution might be as much work as say self-publishing and marketing and carries a pretty high risk to the authors name, so doesn’t seem so dodgy.

While I dream of the day someone generously pays me simply to write, I suspect Kickstarter will not be a project in my future. While traditional and self-publishing are agonizing prospects in many ways at least there are no deadlines if you aren’t getting paid. Novel writing is a long term project and there is just so much to botch up especially with physical self-publishing.

I’m hoping to track down a successful Kickstarter author and ask them a few questions so in the rare co-incidence one takes a look at this post – COMMENT or get in touch.


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