So You Want to Kickstarter: How Not to be an Asshole
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So You Want to Kickstarter: How Not to be an Asshole

By Steven Lloyd Wilson | Netflix Movies and TV | February 25, 2014 | Comments ()


Kickstarter is a fantastic innovation of crowdfunding entrepreneurship that is changing the way that small and creative projects get funded. Hell, I think Netflix could use it to revolutionize entertainment. It’s a renaissance of independent art and creativity. But by god, for all the really neat things that would otherwise never see the light of day, there are a hundred Kickstarters for lazy assholes looking for someone else to subsidize the hard part. The level of bold entitlement is enough to make you buy Romney 2012 t-shirts on clearance just out of spite, because suddenly words you don’t actually like are starting to make sense to you. And you would not believe how many emails trickle into the staff email accounts announcing Kickstarter after fucking Kickstarter.

This little tutorial is designed to get more Kickstarters into the good category instead of the bad category. Or it’s just me bitching, so take it as you will. It should be noted, I’m not gearing this towards people who set up Kickstarters as mechanisms for their family and friends to give small donations and loans. But the sheer number of requests to promote Kickstarters from random people I’ve never heard of, generally for relative chump change that they can’t be bothered apparently to actually work for themselves, is staggering.

Look, a Kickstarter is a plea for money that you’re going to pay back in product. That makes it a business plan, not a friendly request. You need to upfront make several points to be taken seriously, and avoid the asshole pile.

First, make it clear what you’re producing and when it will be completed (it’s amazing how many Kickstarters are variations on “I’m like just going to write, and we’ll see what happens”). Fuck off, you don’t need $2000 of investment for that project, you need your parent’s basement and some weed.

Second, explain what it is that the donator is getting out of this, and why it is a good deal. Successful Kickstarters are positioned as the investors providing the upfront capital and getting more or less what they would get if they bought said finished product retail, and with some extras to sweeten the pot and avoid freeloading. Roleplaying games have made a killing in this niche, in which the significant start up costs to get a glossy hardcover to press, or an order of miniatures into production, are what kill a lot of products. Kickstarter gets the capital upfront and guaranteed, ensuring that the products supplied are actually the ones there are demand for.

Sure there’s inflation. People didn’t give $200 for the Veronica Mars movie because they thought the T-shirt and movie ticket was worth that much, but at the end of the day there was still a clear deliverable that had some real value. Actual intellectual property is created, with a potential for making more money and products down the road. That’s a business plan in a nutshell: telling us how that money actually is going to create something in this creatively bankrupt world. Asking for donations to record your single, with the deliverable being an mp3 and gratitude? That’s not a plan, that’s a vanity. Asshole pile.

Third, if you are asking for less than a few thousand dollars, think really really deeply about what your motivation is. If you have a fantastic little indie film that you have dreamed of making for the last decade, and all that’s standing in your way is the lack of a thousand dollars? Get a fucking job. But, you insist, I already work a full time job and I can still barely make ends meet. If you have time to make the movie of your dreams in your spare time, then you have the time to work at Starbucks in the evenings in your spare time for six months to earn the thousand bucks that you need to do so. If your dream is not important enough for you to actually work, then why should I give you a bloody dime?

So when you put up a Kickstarter for $2500 in order to write a novel that you intend to self-publish through Amazon, I have the temerity to wonder what you’re using the other $2250 for when I know full well from personal experience that it only takes $250 to do so. There’s a good rule that most federal research grants have: they cannot be used for living expenses. In case you were wondering, doing so puts you squarely in the category of: asshole pile.

Here endeth the lesson.

Steven Lloyd Wilson’s assorted ramblings coalesce at You can email him here and order his novel here.

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