Friday, June 10, 2011

What is this Kickstarter monster and will it ravage the village?

According to this article, the newest publisher of independent comics is everybody, through a central clearing house for funding.
Kickstarter is a great idea.
I've known a few people who have successfully run one- Greg Ruth, Ursula Murray Husted, Zak Sally, Neil Gaiman (a bit of a conceit on my part- we've met a half dozen times, had a few chats, so I can say I know Neil, but I'm skeptical he'd remember me).
I've been batting the idea around for a while now, trying to decide just what to fund. I think my best bet's a comic book, though there are other possibilities- an illustrated version of my screenplay? A series of handbound books? An "absolute edition" of my Mother's paintings, which I've been collecting in book form for the past 6 years?
Whatever my decision, it will be a response to the phenomenon of crowfunding, or funding by a crowd.
Other venues offer similar: IndieGoGo began as a way to fund music projects, but has branched into other enterprises, including comics. Their business model differs slightly from Kickstarter. They keep 4% (as opposed to KS's 5%), and allow the solicitor to offer premiums or tax writeoffs, which strikes me as a bit dicey.
Then there's Quirky, which is devoted to funding inventions.
The good: more projects are getting out there. You don't need an external publisher or startup funding to print a comic. This is a variation on Scott McCloud's idea of microfunding comics, put forth in his Reinventing Comics.
The downside of the good: we all need editors at times, especially when we're honing our craft AND when we've reached a pinnacle of success. As pointed out in a recent discussion with screenwriter Tom Pope, the risk at the high end is that you start to believe your own PR, and nobody wants to say no to you. So while the self-publishing model is tempting and useful, it should not be the only thing you have going.
More good: the funding is improving. About half a year ago, roughly 40% of Kickstarter projects were fully funded (it's all or nothing funding on these sites, remember). Today the figure is slightly over 50%.
The skeptical response to that good: more small projects are being funded, which means if you have a BIG IDEA, your odds are lower, unless you have a name attached. See the aforementioned Gaiman-related project, an animated feature based on one of his stories.
This begs a larger point. These sites are open to everyone. That's fine, but it chafes me a bit when established creators put their projects on them. Oh, they're entitled, and I know that recognition and some success does not give one carte blanche. But I'd like to see something devoted solely to up-and-coming creators. I don't know what criteria could be used for that, or how that would be vetted, but I could see some utility in having a work totally stand on its own merits. Hm- possibly a crowfunding site that gives funds to projects whose creators are not named?
On the other hand, if this option existed in the 1970s, perhaps Orson Welles would not have to shill in commercials to fund his films.

After all, Jess Franco is using crowfunding to finance his next film.
Another problem in relation to this funding is the mandate for offering premiums at different levels. That can cause as many problems as it solves if the premiums are not up to snuff. Also, the creator is responsible for the creation and strategies of ancillary promotions before the project even begins. 
I hope my skepticism on this process is unfounded. I'd like crowfunding to be a benefit to most. I don't think it's practical that it benefits all. Some projects need to go unfunded- this is also a form of editing, albeit a populist one.
But whatever my project turns out to be, you can bet that it's going to be great and deserving of funding!

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