Friday, December 02, 2011

The Rise Of The Micro-Patron

That sounds dirty, doesn't it? Like some guy calling his member Herve Villechaize and then winking suggestively at the increasingly disturbed prostitute he's hired for the evening before suddenly declaring, "Welcome! To Fantasy Island!"

But no, that's not what I mean. Sorry to disappoint. That's patron as in Medici, not tequila.

In the last several months I've seen more people using Kickstarter to fund their creative projects. Some pretty incredible projects, too. Books, games, comics. It's all over the map. Ones that might never see the light of day, otherwise.


'Cause shit costs money and they don't have any. They don't have a publisher behind them, or a distributor. They can't take out a loan and they have no realistic expectation that they'd make a profit, much less have the cash on hand to pull in the people they need to get the job done.

We're not talking about dumping your whiskey-themed mystery backlist onto the Kindle here. We're talking about products that require designers, artists, writers, playtesters, printers.

We're talking some serious overheard, here.

Laura Anne Gilman, Will Hindmarch, Gareth Skarka, Matt Forbeck, Alex de Campi. Matt Forbeck. The list goes on.

When you boil it down, the Renaissance came about because a handful of bored Italians with money decided the place needed some sprucing up. So they tossed that cash at painters, sculptors, musicians.

Well, we don't have the Borgias, anymore. We don't have one guy who can be a patron to a bunch of down and out artists.  Of course, that also means we don't have quite so many politically themed poisonings, either. More's the pity.

But what we do have is a bunch of people with 20 bucks they can throw at something cool. Get enough of them together and we're talking some pretty decent coin. Enough to, say, get a comic drawn, or a game made, or a book written.

No, it's not the answer to the creator's prayers. The goals are pretty small. We're not funding their lives, we're funding the project. At best we're maybe putting a dent in their winter heating bills. A few thousand dollars to pay artists, designers and writers isn't much.

But I think it's the answer to the prayers of people standing around going, "Wouldn't it be cool if...?" It gives you the opportunity to actively contribute to the creation of something. And at the end of it all, you get to share in some of that. You get a copy of the game, maybe, or a bonus story that nobody else gets.

It's paying it forward. It's letting them take a chance. People can ill afford to take risks right now and, perversely, they can't afford not to. Tools like Kickstarter can help.

At some point it might burn out. People might get sick of it and this model might fall apart. Kickstarter, IndieGoGo and others like it might go by the wayside and disappear. It's inevitable, actually. Everything ends.

But then so did the Medicis.  That took a few hundred years and look what they did. I think we can make some decent headway in the next twenty.


Sabrina E. Ogden said...

Excellent post, Stephen. For me, Kickstarter has been an amazing opportunity in that I get to read about projects and choose which ones I would like to back. And the options for giving range from a little to a lot, allowing me to give what "I" can give.

The first project I ever signed on to support was Sleep The Film... and nothing excites me more than getting updates on the film's progress.

BISH said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
BISH said...

Great stuff, Stephen. Kickstarter is an amazing way for the 'Davids" to outmanuver the "Goliaths.'

It is going to be interesting to see how Kickstarter plays out over the coming couple of years:

Will well concieved projects rise to the top like the proverbial cream?

Will good projects fail to reach funding because their creators have no idea how to write a coherent pitch?

If somebody can wrte a coherent pitch, how good can their project be? (My rule of thumb with independently published ebooks is if I can't make my way through the poorly written, mispelled, book description, I'm sure as hell not going to buy the book.)

Will all badly conceived projects fail to reach funding point, or will some slip through to crash and burn?

Will creative con men find a way to use Kickstarter to rip people off?

Will I stop procrastinating and get back to writing the 5,000 words I have to finish today ...

Stephen Blackmoore said...

I think we're going to see some good and bad projects. Great ideas and poor execution.

Just because somebody can find funding doesn't mean they necessarily know what to do with it.

We're definitely going to see some con men. Any system that can be twisted to make a fast buck breeds scams like cockroaches.

I don't think that's necessarily a bad thing, though. It's going to depend on how the company responds to that.

It's a mark of maturity when the system can adapt to counter that sort of thing.

The pitch thing is going to be huge. Here's a prediction:

Within the next 6 months someone will write a blog post on how to effectively pitch on Kickstarter (if they haven't already).

Three months after that someone will take the same information and charge you for it.

It will be largely useless and declarative sentences. Lots of, "You HAVE to..."

And the person doing it will make bank and we'll get more of the same pissing matches we see around self vs traditional publishing.

I think we're not going to get a really good idea about how effective this system will be except in hindsight.

I think it's a mark of its already likely success that there are multiple companies doing this model.

We'll see more and a lot of them will disintegrate and the ones that offer the best customer experience, just like any other business, will float to the top and stay there.

Thus is it written! Thus shall it be!

Thomas Pluck said...

At first I scoffed at Kickstarter for book projects. The overhead isn't much and is often free. But for Lightning Source, editing, a pro cover... I've heard $1200 being a solid figure to get a pro job on a book that bookstores can (and will) order.

Even for projects without those expenses, I see benefits. You get your audience early, and they anticipate it. They buy into it, and if you need deadlines, well, now you have one. I'd be wary but I'd jump on one for an author I like and trust. A new one I've never met, maybe not. The internet has a long history of "pay first, get later" tragedies, and eventually it will happen to KS.

I've given to a few KS projects and I've gotten... nothing. I had to hound a band for the CD I was owed. I'm waiting for a director to finish a documentary... and I'm waiting for Letters of Note to make a book. There is no "after 6 months, you get your money back" clause that I know of. But that's part of supporting a project, they don't all pan out.

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