Thursday, October 2, 2014

Kickin it with Funding

Money is the root of all financial success
Kickstarter is a strange beast.  Crowdfunding at all is a bit odd, as it is a sort of cross between panhandling and a telethon fundraiser for the common man.  Now you too can do a PBS pledge drive!

Essentially crowdfunding sites such as Kickstarter help you fund your project by putting it out for people to read about then send you donations.  The donations are only accepted if you reach a goal, and theh Kickstarter (and the government) takes their cut.  Special incentives are offered at various levels of donations (like telethons often do), such as early release, mention in the product, and so on.

For a long time now I've toyed with doing a kickstarter project to fund my books, but I've not done it.  One aspect that held me back was a video. Many people insist you must have a video to have success, and others say its not critical.  I don't have the ability or desire to make a video, and from what I've seen, many successful book kickstarters never had one.  But most do.

The concept of doing a fundraiser to write a book is odd, it strikes me as being like Monty Python's skit on Thomas Hardy writing a novel:

Its oddly commercial in a way that didn't make any sense to me for ages.  If people are investing money in a project on Kickstarter, what on earth do they invest in for a book?  Where's the return?  The book is being written anyway, its not like a product that has to get money to make it on the market.  The book is written.

But I've since come to understand it better.  You don't invest in art, not the same way as a business.  You're a patron in the arts.  Hundreds of years ago, very wealthy merchants and princes would become patrons of the arts, picking someone to sponsor and provide for so they could engage in creating beauty and greatness.  These artists always thanked and did work for their sponsors, which would bring the patron esteem and status in the social world.

Men like Benvenuto Cellini and Michaelangelo had patrons that allowed them to produce art and survive when they would have starved in anonymity in the past.  And essentially, that's what Kickstarter does.  I allows people to be patrons of the arts, in a small way.  Instead of having a single very wealthy patron, you can have multitudes of modestly wealthy patrons who all donate to your work.

Its a concept I appreciate greatly, because it puts art on a footing where it was when some of the finest works of all history were produced, instead of being funded by taxes or at the total mercy of the market.  Which is a nice alternative and perhaps a glimpse at a possible different economy that the internet is creating.

For me, Kickstarter would be a way of funding certain aspects of writing such as paying editors, hiring a cover artist, and other expenses such as a minor amount of publicity.  I wouldn't need much, maybe $1500 (since about half goes bye-bye from taxes and Kickstarter's cut).  Anything more than that I could fold into more publicity or even an audiobook recording.

The other concern about a Kickstarter for me, aside from "what if it fails?" is the work involved.  Creating and monitoring it is one thing, but if it succeeds, there's all the responses to people, gifts set up and sent out, and effort in fulfilling all your promises.  So that's something to consider.

If only it was as easy as pushing a button
From what I've read, the Kickstarter can be more effective with a few simple concepts in mind, such as explaining not why you should be given money so much as why you'll succeed and be a valid target for donation.  In other words, don't focus on begging but on explaining why its a good investment.  And when you do a kickstarter matters as well.  

From what I've read, the bulk of donations come at the end of the run, and that means you should end it when people have money: around the beginning of the month. Others suggest the 15th is an ideal time to target, because a lot of people get paid every 2 weeks and by that time theoretically all the bills have been paid and people have some cash on hand.

Strangely enough what month you run a Kickstarter on seems to matter as well.  April and October, according to studies, seem to be the best months for funding.  Definitely late November and December are poor times, because people not only are spending their cash on Christmas presents then, but every jobu that finished a National Novel Writing Month book has thrown it out on the market and is looking for money then.

What day to start and end is a bit of a puzzler.  Some argue the middle of the week is best, since people are distracted on weekends.  Others suggest Sunday, because that's when people will be home after weekend fun and before work checking the internet.  Others suggest Friday, because on Ebay, that's typically the busiest day of bidding.

One thing that does stand out and is consistent is that the time of day matters.  As an Oregonian, for me most of America is much later in the day.  When its still morning for me, its sometimes afternoon for others.  I've noticed that there's a lag on my blogs, so that when I post its fairly early in the day, but for the bulk of my readers, its later, so they don't pick it up often until the following day.

Since your project begins and ends at exactly the same time of day, you want to pick a time that will not waste hours.  If you end at 4 in the morning for most of your potential patrons, that means hours when no one is actually going to be donating. You want to end when people are likely to be online, which often means work hours.

So there's a lot to think about, and this page at Stonemaier games has some great tips - if a lot of work - to maximize your chances of success.  We'll see what turns out.