The Tattooed Baby Kickstarter Castle Whale

If you call yourself Save the Whales, every once in a while you have to save a whale.

~ Tom Ahern

 Once upon a time… if you wanted to go into business you worked a day job, saved up some money. Wrote a business plan and went to the bank and seriously considered giving oral pleasure to the loan officer behind the desk in order to get the funds you needed to maybe get your business off the ground.

I speak from experience, having been self-employed before in ye olden days when crowd-sourcing didn’t exist.

Now we have easy investor recruiting with sites like Kickstarter, PledgeMe and a host of others.

The principle is sound. You offer people the chance to invest in your product or service. In return they receive acknowledgement and something related to the product as a reward.

In reality, you see some shocking examples of professional begging and outright larceny. I’ve seen a well-respected editor promoting a Kickstarter campaign for publishers where the rewards included passing the slush-pile and getting your novel (not your submission to the anthology) read by an actual acquiring editor.

Nice. However, the target figure for fundraising was massive. The editor and the publishing company were not looking to cover the costs of producing an anthology – they wanted to make their profit (and pay their freelance editor her $5000 fee) before they even published the book. That makes sales irrelevant and that means contributing authors are effectively buying their way into being published. The term for that is vanity publishing.

Ethically, I find that reprehensible.

At the other end of the scale, you have examples of where Kickstarter style campaigns explode. Michael Inman, creator of The Oatmeal, has a Kickstarter for a new card-game called Exploding Kittens. The concept is awesome. The card game looks like a lot of fun.

They wanted a reasonable $15,000. Seven hours after the Kickstarter campaign launched, they had total pledges of over $1,500,000.

That’s a helluva lot of cards!

What you don’t do (as I saw this week) is announce yourself as a publisher, ask for $15,000 from crowdsourcing and offer ridiculous rewards (pay $500 and get a free book!).

Correct spelling in your Kickstarter campaign page is also essential. As is paying authors, especially as you are asking them for money up front. I have to say, for pledging $500 I expect to see your firstborn with my website address tattooed on their forehead.

In the middle ground is my experience with Kickstarter campaigns. Set a realistic goal for your fundraiding (sic) and offer reasonable rewards for backers.

This works. You get enough funds to cover your actual costs (for example for book production) but you are not asking for so much that people point and laugh.

Beyond Kickstarter some basic business sense is necessary. Businesses are built by hard work and careful investment. If you have a quality product and work hard – the money will come. Include great service, innovation, be different. That is how a business succeeds. Of course many businesses fail too – but at least you only have yourself to blame.

This work-for-reward approach seems to be increasingly lost on us as we turn more and more to Kickstarter to get the castle before we have earned the crown.

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