So there I was, doing my monthly Kickstarter round-up to help showcase some of the more amazing crowdsourcing projects our city has to offer (mostly tabletop and video games because that's what happens when the staff geek does the column). Once again, I ran across yet another first-time author looking to use the site to try to finagle the money to write a book.
Please stop doing that.
Seriously, stop. There are very few legitimate reasons an author would be on Kickstarter, and in the almost two years I have been doing the column, I have seen none of them in practice. You want to know the kind of author who should try for funding?
1. Someone Who Is Making a Book That Only Works as a Physical Creation: These include pop-up books, certain children's books, coffee-table books or things of that nature. If Mark Z. Danielewski said he needed to use Kickstarter to make a sequel to House of Leaves because conventional book routes just wouldn't do, I would believe him because he's proven he's that kind of nuts.
Who Doesn't Need Kickstarter?: Any kind of conventional book. If it fits on a standard bookshelf or is perfectly readable as an eBook, then you have no need to be printing anything. CreateSpace.com will set you up for print-on-demand for customers for $35, and get you listed on Amazon, and concert your book to Kindle, and make copies available to order from booksellers. If you need copies of your own for some reason, the price is also very reasonable.
2. Someone Who Needs to Leave the House to Write His Book: Writing fiction is a very solitary act, and all you really need is space to do it in. There are nonfiction books, though, that require travel and research. Want to go spend two weeks exploring the haunted-ass Bridgewater Triangle and researching all the uncanny stuff that goes on there (everything from thunderbirds to Satanic rituals)? Sure, I'll plunk down cash for that.
Who Doesn't Need Kickstarter?: Anyone who can write his book without ever leaving his chair. Yes, it would be nice to get paid to miss your day job and just write. Either go on welfare like J.K. Rowling or get up early and do it before work like literally every other working writer I know. Sorry, you don't get to skip to the "author toiling at his leisure" stage.
3. Someone Who Needs to Buy the Rights to a Story: Back in the '70s, there was a lesbian horror flick called Vampyres that was a modest cult hit. In 2001, a fan named Tim Greaves acquired the rights to release a novelization almost 30 years after the film came out just because he felt like it. That's an awesome thing, and the book is great! If someone told me that he had negotiated a price for the rights to novelize the old MacVenture games like Déjà vu or maybe a series of Exosquad novels based on the old cartoon series, you can bet I'd throw money at the screen.
Who Doesn't Need Kickstarter?: Anyone who plans on spending the money on either a book doctor to spuce up the work or to buy reviews from one of those shady outfits like GettingBookReviews.com. This is not marketing. Ads are marketing. Readings are marketing. Persuading authors to read your work and post or quote about it is marketing. What you're doing is at best lazy and at worst cheating.
4. Playwrights: One of the few areas in the world where a writer is completely at the mercy of others much of the time is when he or she is writing plays. Scripts aren't much if there's no one performing them. I can certainly see a campaign to try to get a small production off the ground, or at least get some scenes filmed to take to bigger investors.
On a similar note, if you have a really -- and I mean really -- good idea for a book trailer to promote your self-published work, then this may apply to you as well. That trailer up there for Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters was money well spent!
Who Doesn't Need Kickstarter?: Screenwriters. If you're at this level of creation, you either already know someone who can turn your script into a low-budget movie or you are living in fantasyland. Nothing will come from us paying you to hammer out a script and hire someone to send it around. If there is anything I've learned in the entertainment industry, it's that when they want writers, they call you 90 percent of the time.
5. Someone with Realistic Expectations: I recently broke into the world of short stories, and a few people have asked me what it would take to get another one out of me. Considering how much I work on articles like this, time spent on fiction is time not putting food on the table. To chock out another 5,000 words worth of weirdness...$50. Yeah, I would take an afternoon or two off if I could be assured $50 out of it. A donation of $1 gets you the PDF, $2 gets you something else I wrote as well. That seems realistic for a writer no one has ever heard of.
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Who Doesn't Need Kickstarter?: Oh, I don't know... how about this lady who wanted $400,000 to write a science fiction graphic novel that has production values below those of a CGI porn film? That's right, nearly half a million dollars. The same amount we pay Barack Obama to decide whether or not to bomb other countries. You have got to have some perspective here. When you take to Kickstarter, it's to get you over a financial hump that is otherwise difficult or insurmountable. It's not free money to practice wordpunching.
In conclusion...if you want to write, write. Start a blog, do show reviews for a local publication, read at poetry nights, join a writer's workshop, anything. Just don't ask other people to pay for it unless there is a very good reason to do so.
Please? I'm tired of making fun of you in my column.