So, if you’re a big enough fan of YA you might have noticed the latest kerfuffle surrounding a Kickstarter for Stacey Jay. While I’m not going to recap it here (there’s an excellent summary here), I do want to take the time to explain that while I most likely won’t supporting any such projects in the future. While I have no issues with the idea of authors asking or people being willing to support them, think of this post as a cautionary tale if you’re considering supporting such a project.
By way of background, I’ve been using Kickstarter since mid-2012 and have backed ten projects. It may not be the most, but I’d be willing to argue its more than most people have, but more importantly it’s enough that I’ve had a wide range of experiences from truly fantastic to truly awful.
Of the ten items, I can divide them into groups: media and (for lack of a better term) non-media and as it so happens, there are five of each.
The non-media Kickstarters I have backed are:
- playing cards (2 different projects from 2 different creators)
- brownies (a baker trying to raise funds to rent commercial kitchen space)
- a phone dock
- The Hollywood Science-Fiction museum.
The phone dock has hands down been the best experience I’ve ever had: clear and consistent communication, on-time delivery and when there was a problem they fixed it (and for free!) for all backers. I’ve received both decks of playing cards and the brownies. The progress on the museum is harder to judge – phase I is due late 2015 and the main museum is due in 2018, but I’m quite honestly happy with what I’ve received: I got my reward and I can see that the museum is making the connections (Marvel! Nasa! James Cameron!) that promises a great museum. But one truth can’t be avoided: I have received everything I have paid for. 5 of 5 have completed as far as I’m concerned.
The media Kickstarters I have backed:
- A documentary
- A comic collection
- A symphony
- An English translation of Osamu Tezuka’s “The Crater”
- A fantasy anthology
The story with the media projects isn’t nearly so happy. Let’s take a closer look at these projects:
- The documentary – funded 8/12 – non-film related rewards were sent out on time, but the film itself remains unfinished to this day. The project is on the 3rd editor and the last update was 7/14. It’s a passion project for the actress whose project it is; but if I were a backer whose award included a copy of the film, I’d have written this off by now.
- The comic collection – funded 3/13 – received 5/13
- The symphony – funded 4/13 – due 9/13 – remains incomplete to this day. Last update was 12/2014. The only reason I haven’t written this off is that the last few months the composer has made an effort to improve communication. I do believe I’ll eventually get this, but I don’t know when. If I get it before the two year mark, I’ll be surprised.
- The translation – funded 6/13 – due 8/13 – remains incomplete to this day. Last update was 6/2014. No way around it: I’m out $37. Communication was awful (when it did occur) and after some sleuthing people have discovered that the LLC that the creator had set up for the project was made inactive by the state of Florida for failure to file required forms. Whether a flat-out scam or a creator so in over their head that he drowned it still ends the same way: I’m not going to get my book and I have no recourse to get my money back. True story: ask Kickstarter for help with creators that have disappeared and you basically get a “Cool story bro, talk to the creator” canned response
- The anthology – funded 9/14 – due 12/14 – remains unfinished. However, communication has been good, and a lot of projects usually run 1-2 months over their initial estimate, so I remain confident. The only real reason I went with this project was because the creator had some experience and they attracted some legitimate names to the project. I’ll be sure to show this off if/when I get it.
So of five media projects I backed, four have not completed their main project. Two are ridiculously overdue and one I’ll never get. This is a HORRIBLE track record of 20%. And the one that has completed thus far actually more resembles the non-media projects: the book was written before the Kickstarter and the printer was already lined up. The funds let him send it to the printer. But the other four? Where items were being created from scratch and? Big old goose egg. Even if I eventually get say, the symphony, let’s be realistic: you aren’t backing a project to get it a year or even two years late. You want your project on time.
I’ll be honest, I’m feeling burned by these more creative projects and I’ve become super weary of them. Good intentions are great, but they’re just that: intentions. I’m not a publisher. I’m not in this to take a risk and maybe make some money. I just want what I ordered. And so will most backers. Nothing turns off someone from crowdfunding more than a project not meeting expectations and to have MULTIPLE projects do so, well, yeah. I’ve played with fire, been burned and now backing off.
And so, odds of me backing any more media projects are very slim. I’m tired of money going out with nothing to show for it. If you want to go for it, by all means, be my guest. But listen to your gut and be prepared for the project not to deliver. It’ll soften the blow of potential disappointment.