Let’s be honest. It would be wonderful to climb the stairs to our private tower, a writing oasis, carrying a cup of coffee and nary a financial concern. Oh, the blissful euphoria, to have our creativity flowing freely, unimpeded by the worry of small things like the electric bill. We could travel extensively, immerse ourselves in foreign culture and inspire our masterpiece. We could be like Spunky the cat, who has had a fabulous benefactor her entire life allowing her to work on her favorite project–herself. Proper grooming and self-absorption have been, in this feline’s case, taken to a lofty level.
To have a patron who writes the checks and funds our creative vision should be a benefit available to all dedicated artists. Unfortunately, the funds to support art and artistic endeavors are the first line item cut by the bean counters. Without the joy of visual art, music, dance and literature we would certainly live a black and white existence. There is hope, my friends. From a small office in Brooklyn the idea of crowd funding was realized in a brilliant platform called Kickstarter. You can read about Kickstarter basics here.
Simply put, crowd funding is a concept in which the funding comes from a broad base of supporters rather than a large donation from one person. You can ask total strangers to give you money to help realize your indie literary dreams. The people who give you donations are not backers or traditional investors. They do not own any part of your project. The idea is to gather a substantial number of people to help you fund your project through many small donations.
This is how it works. On the Kickstarter site you create a profile and write what your project is in detail. The project guidelines are here. This is a sales opportunity so make sure to peruse other successful project pages to see how they are structuring their requests. Then, make your business plan detailed and exciting. Tell people why they want to be part of it. Don’t be embarrassed to specify how much money you need to accomplish your goal. You can offer small gifts with certain levels of donations, for example a t-shirt with a $25.00 donation. Dinner with a charming author could cost $100.00 in backing. These tangible rewards are up to you, and they need to be legal outside of Las Vegas. Then, you can sit back and, hopefully, watch your funds grow.
There are a couple of catches, and I suggest you read the guidelines thoroughly before setting up a fund request. In the US the pledges are processed on the Amazon platform and, of course, they take their 3-5% cut. The Kickstarter site takes a 5% cut as well. And, most importantly, if you do not reach your set goal, the specific amount of money you asked for by the targeted date, you do not receive the pledged funds. No one who pledges money to a project that fails to reach its fundraising goal is charged. That doesn’t seem fair to me, but those are the rules. It’s all or nothing.
There are dazzling success stories of funds raised for indie endeavors. From Wikipedia’s list of notable projects: “The documentary short Sun Come Up and feature documentary Incident in New Baghdad were each nominated for an Academy Award. The contemporary art projects EyeWriter and Hip-Hop Word Count were both chosen to exhibit in the Museum of Modern Art in 2011. The filmmaker Matt Porterfield was selected to screen his film Putty Hill at the Whitney Biennial In 2012. The author Rob Walker’s Hypothetical Futures project exhibited at the 13th International Venice Architecture Biennale. The musician Amanda Palmer’s album Theatre is Evil debuted at No. 10 on the Billboard 200. The designer Scott Wilson won a National Design Award from Smithsonian’s Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum following the success of his TikTok + ExtremeLikes project that provided TikTok users with affordable social media promotion. And, approximately 10% of the films accepted into the Sundance, SXSW, and Tribeca Film Festivals are funded projects on Kickstarter.”
Some of the successfully funded projects have resulted in scandal such as the Amanda Palmer story. Suffice it to say that if you present yourself as an artist with a collective/communist philosophical belief you should share the millions raised on Kickstarter to support your project with the musicians who are going to perform with you.
There are no firm statistics that indicate whether or not the sites like Kickstarter divert funds away from other charities. It seems that when a project inspires interest people manage to find a few dollars to support it. If you decide to give Kickstarter a try I wish you good luck and success in your fundraising. Let us know how it goes.
12 thoughts on “Kickstart Your Indie Project”
Interesting. Maybe it’s me but this ‘feels’ like begging. But then, making money has never been my strong suit.
I understand your point, but consider this–many Hollywood celebrities are looking to Kickstarter to raise money for their projects. So, while we struggling writers want to hold onto our independence and pride, these wealthy stars are using the platform to fund their creative projects. Wikipedia lists some of these celebrities and their projects. I just don’t know what I would request the money for; editing? A cover? A professional trailer? I have designed a video game but it is only in the paper stage. I would love to do a Kickstarter experiment.
Thanks for your comment. 🙂
I guess it depends on how it can benefit the donor as well. I suppose the product is supposed to do that, or the they somehow have to ‘buy in’ to the project. It has to be attractive to them in some way.
I think Kickstarter is a wonderful site, and I have seen some amazing projects on it. However, I worry that if too many authors use it as a money-raising platform, most will just get lost in the shuffle. I don’t know if I would feel right using it for anything I wrote, but I am all for helping authors with unique ideas presented there.
Here’s a scenario- what if you needed to do research with a forensic pathologist and had to travel to get there? Let’s say this research was critical to your book, a murder mystery, and you had secured a meeting with a leading expert in the field. This would be a very valid reason to ask for funding.
I agree with your point that if tons of writers asked for funds for perhaps editing and a cover for their book it doesn’t look professional, and dilutes the higher level requests. But, if the platform is there shouldn’t we use it?
Thanks for your comments. 🙂
A couple of months ago, I was researching funding for a technology project and spent a few hours looking at funded writing projects, too. From what I recall, the writing projects with >$5,000 funding were the ones with amazingly creative and unique ideas and most often with a visual art or technology component or those writers who already had a big platform that they mobilized to make donations. All of them had one-of-a-kind, tiered system of rewards plus versions of the completed project. There were also a good number of small funded local projects (<$1,500) for indie writers who needed to hire an editor or cover artist, which I was happy to see, I have to say. But everyone had a project near completion and needed the money for a specific purpose to finish it; it's not designed to be a grant for a writer to quit the day job and then write. But, as Lois points out, if you follow the project guidelines, and your business plan is really exciting, anything is possible. Thanks, Lois, for writing about this!
You hit the nail on the head! And, I love the way you gave detail on what you saw in the specific fund requests. Thank you.
I think because writers are artists we try to create in a “Holy” environment, often to our detriment. We place ourselves above the business of writing. This is why things like self-promotion, appearances, and the proper use of social media can be a challenge. There is nothing wrong with putting together a business plan that asks for funds. To my mind, it is not any different than asking people who have read your book to promote it to their friends or other book clubs.
The worst anyone can ever say is “no”. 🙂
Thanks for stopping by.
Kickstart, the concept is intriguing and I can see where lots of things might be helped to… well… kick start, and the ‘what if?’ scenario you postulated might well work; I may have a closer look. I have a friend, a fellow writer and fellow Scotsman, who has had a book on the back burner for some time, waiting until he can visit the old country, and visit Singapore on the way, to complete some his research (involving both Singapore and Scottish forensic research) for the story. He’s been waiting for a grant that may or may not be forthcoming. This just might be another option.
Your friend should definitely check out Kickstarter. His project sounds like it would fall within the guidelines. He just needs to write a compelling overview of the project. Good luck to him!
Thanks for your comments. 🙂
Oh, and I completely forgot to add: great post, Lois, and thank you.
Comments are closed.