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Kickstarter and Book Funding

So I haven’t updated the blog very recently. I apologize for that one. In trying to get back to regular updates, I figured I would do a quick entry on Kickstarter and its use for funding indie books / authors. Don’t know what Kickstarter is? Check their page out here. Kickstarter is a website that allows users to raise money for any project they are working on to support their work. While many of the initial projects involved centered around music production, video game studio foundings, and event fundraising, there has been a noticeable spike in the number of authors using Kickstarter to fund their first books.

This has caused some controversy, moreso from within the indie writing community than from without. I’ve rarely heard much support from indie authors for this type of fundraising. Much of the opinion coming from within the community seems to indicate that using kickstarter or other fundraising tools is akin to ‘begging’ for money, or assuming that you should be paid well for your work before you actually sell it. Now, to a certain degree I can agree with that. There is no reason to assume that just because someone is putting up a novel fundraiser that they are a good writer or that their book will sell. In some ways, perhaps it feels to many people that this is just another version of vanity press, but instead you get other people to pay for it for you.

OK, well, in case you hadn’t guessed, I’m a huge fan of Kickstarter. While I’m not likely to use it myself, that’s more because writing is a part-time job / hobby for me. When you raise through kickstarter you generally have rewards for the various donation amounts, much like donating to public TV or radio. For me, I don’t want to have the burden of both writing the novel and making sure I get the various copies of hardbound, paperback, and electronic books, tshirts, stationary, etc shipped out to everyone who backed me. Maybe I’m lazy like that. But I think opponents of this method should sit down and examine just exactly what they are critiqueing about this process. Here are a couple of arguments I’ve seen against using Kickstarter.

You might be supporting a bad writer who only makes indie authors look bad: Well, that’s true of course, but that’s the same argument people use against Amazon and their self publishing. The idea that you should judge someone’s work, especially before it is even completed, based solely on the fact that they are an unknown player is a little risky. Mainstream authors had the same reaction when indie authors started becoming successful using epublishing with Amazon / B&N/ Smashwords. Indie authors were seen as diluting the quality of books available to the public. Some of my favorite series come from indie authors, so I take that idea with a grain of salt. There are plenty of traditionally published, New York Times best selling authors who I think dilute the quality of writing in the world, but that’s for another post. If you use funding sources and don’t have a contract with a trad publisher, you need to reevaluate why exactly you are against someone getting funding up front based on a possible lack of quality while you publish your own work for free with no risk.

Authors are basically begging for money and that is demeaning: Isn’t this pretty much what authors have done for hundreds of years? What exactly is an advance payment for a book, other than giving you funding to focus on writing and not worry about bills? I get the feeling people don’t realize that Kickstarting for money is the independent version of getting a contract with an advance. If anything, we should be applauding these people for convincing others to fund their projects where many authors must struggle to piece together a novel while working full time jobs elsewhere.

You shouldn’t be paid for work you haven’t done and there is no guarantee you will finish: I think if people are investing in a project, they take the risk it will never be finished, just as a publisher takes the risk that an author might never get a book through to completion. Now those two situations have different outcomes. Trad authors will probably have signed a contract, so legality comes into play there, but with Kickstarter, you invest in projects at your own risk. The site reviews each submitted project and only posts ones that look legit, though I’m sure a few bad ones leak through. But it really is up to each individual backer to investigate the authors and examine the book they propose to write to see if it looks like a good investment.

Ultimately, I’m not hoping to change your mind just through this post. But I think skeptics of Kickstarter would do well to just browse through the site for ten minutes and see all the amazing projects you can fund. Then ask yourself, if all these other people can get funding to produce awesome content, why shouldn’t authors be able to as well?

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