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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Comments Are Welcome, Bigots and Trolls Are Not

  • nosio

    I want to hire a plane to write the text of this post in the goddamn sky for everyone to read.

  • I love everything about this post. If I could, I'd marry it and have it's babies.

  • googergieger

    I'm starting a kickstarter that'll help me make it legal to whip it out. For literally anything you donate, I shall whip it out.

    I don't know, I think I just like to hang out with my wang out.

  • RMH

    I would add some advice from a musician friend of mine: you get ONE. You can do a kickstarter for your record pressing, or your upcoming tour, but you are going to lose fans and wear them out if you ask them to a. come to your shows and buy your records and also b. fund every endeavor you do. Use that one kickstarter for just what the title is - to kickstart your artistic career - not as an ongoing funding source.

  • space_oddity

    I had a friend on facebook a while ago asking to support their kickstarter fund to pay for MASSAGE SCHOOL. This is someone who's already in the middle of completing a PhD (admittedly, they are more likely to earn a living giving massages than anything to do with their doctorate). I will gladly chip in some money for worthwhile startups, and I have in the past (meager as those contributions may have been), but things like that fill me with anger. Am I being unreasonable?

  • Not at all.

  • I'm probably taking this way too personally because I've been considering launching a Kickstarter campaign myself but....

    You can't put out a book for $250. Well you can technically but it'll look and read like you spent $250. Professional editing, layout, and cover art that is on par with what readers expect based on others in the genre cost money. Frankly $2500 is a low bar estimate all in.

    Perhaps nobody cares enough to kick in so that you (and by you I totally mean me) can produce a book which doesn't scream SELF PUBLISHED inside and out. But I disagree with the idea that a talented author can put something reasonable for a few scant dollars.

  • pissants_doppelganger

    (it’s amazing how many Kickstarters are variations on “I’m like just going to write, and we’ll see what happens”)

    Dude, I know he doesn't write for this site anymore, but he probably still reads it...

  • JoannaRobinson

    Oh dearie me. That MUST be a coincidence.

  • amberdragonfly

    So you're saying I SHOULDN'T ask for $15,000 to quit my job for six months and stay home watching tv and hanging out with my kid? Who's the dream crushing asshole now, huh?

  • AudioSuede

    Anybody know if Kickstarter is good for getting startup funds for a nonprofit, or if there's a similar crowdsourcing site that works for that purpose? Obviously it wouldn't be the full cost of startup, but for someone looking to build a community investment in a local charity effort, I think crowdfunding could be a very valuable tool.

  • Bananapanda

    Firstly, go to IndieGoGo rather than Kickstarter - it's a little more non-profit friendlier.

    Secondly, check the guidelines. Most don't let you start an organization but they would fund a project under an organization which could cover materials, staff and activities. Honestly, I would never just fund an organization, it's sketchy and shows lack of community base.

    Thirdly, check IRS guidelines. This may not be tax deductible or allowed but it depends on what your non-profit focuses on.

  • Banana - because you seem like you know more than me (admittedly a low bar) - how much is the Amazon Payments angle as a barrier to getting funding on Kickstarter? I keep ruminating on it because I think I have enough readers who would support my project. But I doubt many of them have existing Amazon Payments accounts and signing up for one seems sort of...burdensome.

    Have other people had this concern or am I insane to be hung up on this?

  • Bananapanda

    To be honest I haven't looked at Amazon Payments in a while. If they have Amazon accounts, could this cover it? Most Americans have bought something from Amazon but not sure about intl (or Canada ha ha!) folks. Let me see.

    We use Paypal and Square b/c a merchant account for credit cards is so expensive.

  • Nope - Amazon Payments is different from having a regular account. I only know this because I just tried to back a kickstart project (wanted to see how it worked) and I had to go through the fairly arduous process of getting Amazon Payments signed up.

    I'm with you - Paypal makes life much simpler...

  • Sara_Tonin00

    That's weird. I paid for a kickstarter today just by logging into my regular Amazon account.

  • Jim

    My notes from the lesson:

    If you're asking for millions from an angel investor, you better have a good business model and it'd better make sense, because it's his/her money you're playing with.

    If you're running a Kickstarter to get $50 from Edwina in Plattsburg, you should ALSO have a good business model and it'd better make sense too because her $50 means as much to her (perhaps more) and she deserves the same amount of respect.

  • If what folks need is to get some help with expenses, etc., there are other sites for that, like Go Fund Me. If you're doing a Kickstarter, you need to have a plan and a product that people will find intriguing. On the other hand, what I value may not be what you value, and if there's a great writer out there whose work you like, and they would like to bang out a book in short order rather than trying to squeeze writing into the few hours they have between full time work and sleep, and you would like that book sooner rather than later, well, then give that writer your money, even if all you get is a pdf or kindle version of that book. Value is subjective.

  • emmalita

    Who knew I was going to find something practical and useful on Pajiba today. This is helpful. Today I am researching crowd funding options for a friend's very worthwhile animal rescue non-profit.

  • TherecanbeonlyoneAdmin

    I would like to subscribe to your newsletter and bear you children. I mean bear in the Ursus sense of the word.

  • Essentially, your complaint on the smaller projects is that some people are asking for the Kickstarter campaign to cover a living wage while they work on the project you're supporting. No one bats an eye when a popular webcomic artist does a Kickstarter for a new series that is mainly a ploy to pay for them to move to a big city and rent an apartment for a year, but people complain when someone thinks their time as a creator is worth something.

    You don't know how late an author is staying up to work on a few pages a night in their novel, and the idea that they should just take another job is insulting. Maybe they do work two or three jobs. Maybe they have children to take care of and no one to watch them at night so they can't take on another job. Maybe they have health complications and physically cannot take on the demands of a second job. You don't know and Kickstarter doesn't require them to post their work schedule or bank statements to guide you in your decision to back a project.

    I don't even try to figure out why people complain about certain projects because of the price tag anymore. I just back what I want to back, share projects that need a little boost, and leave it at that. If I can help someone else make their dream project a reality and I like that project, I want to help.

    And, to be blunt, the only reason I have no plans to even try to Kickstart anything is the idea that, since I have smaller projects in mind, my ideas aren't worthy of any kind of support from a potential audience. That's really what the complaints about under $2500 projects are worth. Aim bigger or do it yourself. If Kickstarter isn't for the smaller projects that no major studio or producer would even agree to a meeting for, what is Kickstarter actually for?

  • MarTeaNi

    Wasn't the whole point of Kickerstater that small projects that otherwise wouldn't have a chance suddenly have one? How crushing to be told that you're "too small" for Kickstarter.

    Most comic Kickstarters I've seen are for $1500-$6000. That's artistic work that takes a TON of time, made by people who already have day jobs, freelance and commission work and then spend their nights doing this whole other thing they love, basically for free. What social life? Too busy drawing.

    Complain that a Kickstarter is badly put together, that its goals are ill-defined and there's no proof the creator will ever do what they say. Complain that the whole project reads like they're just looking to mooch instead of providing a clear outline and business plan. But don't say that the $1500 someone needs to print and travel is too small, go get some bootstraps.

  • Bananapanda

    As someone who used to run a (intl travel) fellowship program, I completely sympathize with the issue of trying to raise money (and asshole applicants). However, there is a vast difference between "I've done my research, saved up a bit and need just $2000 to cap it off" rather than "Hey I think if I had like $2000 I could do something". The money isn't enough to quit your day job anyway.

    (For the record, I picked up a nighttime bartending gig, saved almost $5k in tips over 6 months, and went to Australia, New Zealand and Fiji for 4 months on that cash. It can be done.)

    That said, I think there's a sweet spot of about $5-10,000 which is ambitious but achievable, requires budget and operational planning, and takes a real effort to pull off - raising beyond friends and family.

  • Sara_Tonin00

    This is a pretty righteous guide. What's amazing (to me, and I'm sure only to me) is that this was posted ten minutes after I backed Kickstarter project for the first time in MONTHS. And this one is a fairly random one - followed from a friend's theater project, it's for a Kill Shakespeare game. And that blends a whole lotta things I love, and for my money I'll end up with an actual physical game plus some art. THAT's worthwhile to me.

    I work on theater myself, and have self-produced a few items, and I haven't been able to bring myself to do a Kickstarter yet. I can't even bring myself to ask my parents for money. Because I know they're going to come see the show, and that's its own form of support. If I know what I'm doing isn't financially viable, why should I ask others to share my burden, created only by me? And if what I'm doing IS financially viable, then why shouldn't I find real producers, or work in the knowledge that it's going to come back to me in the long run (isn't that why God created those 1% cash advance checks Chase sends me every week?).

    That's not true of all projects, certainly, and I do think there's a time & place for Kickstarter. I do think it's a great platform - when used for good.

  • mswas

    With great power comes great responsibility.

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