If you’re on the internet and even vaguely interested in the arts, you’re probably aware that crowdsourcing is the new black. And with musician Amanda Palmer raising over one million dollars in support and Rich Burlew raising over one million to fund his self-published comic, it’s easy to understand why creatives of all types are excited.
There’s no doubt that Kickstarter is the king of the hill when it comes to crowdsourcing sites, with many of the big success stories using the platform. It’s also started raising some interesting questions, such as the Publishers Weekly post asking whether Kickstarter is the #2 Graphic Novel Publisher in the world right now, citing gross revenues generated through the site that are comparable to the revenues of established comic book publishers such as DC, Marvel, and Image.
Plenty of people have critiqued the article, including Stephen Padnick on Tor.com, who points out the obvious flaw with the question being posed:
First off, to be blunt, Kickstarter isn’t a publisher. Of any kind. I don’t mean to be glib, but it’s a major point Allen skips over. Kickstarter is a funding source. It is a way for people to make start-up capital for their projects. I guess a publisher could be described as a funding source, in that it pays artists and writers to make books, but the publisher also edits books, and advertises them, and prints them, and distributes them.
Even if you disregard the fact that Kickstarter is a funding source, there’s the added complication that many Kickstarter campaigns aren’t just collecting pre-sales. Take the phenomenal successful Kickstarter for the Order of the Stick comic book mentioned in our introduction, where lower-tier funders were purchasing a fridge magnet and digital comic, while upper tier funders received personalised illustrations, board game expansions, back-issues of the comic, and more. The rewards were funding were varied across the project, and all have their own production cost.
Consider, also, that many Kickstarter campaigns benefit from the generosity of fans who are willing to contribute and ask nothing in return. UK Publisher Stone Skin Press’ recent campaign has received donation at their lowest tier of funding, an option whose sole reward is to contribute $3 that will be used to “improve our managing editor’s productivity by providing her with a cupcake.”
While upper tier pledges are effectively pre-ordering books and other products from Stone Skin Press’ line (and some have willingly added the $3 to their pledge in order to give Beth a cupcake), this initial tier speaks directly to the power of fan goodwill and a carefully crafted story at work within the Kickstarter campaign.
Is the excitement warranted? Several companies and individuals have had phenomenal success with Kickstarter, to the point where it’s been suggested that crafting a campaign with an artificially low goal is now a core part of the campaign, allowing for sensational headlines about the unprecedented success of the crowd-sourcing model. It’s when you look past these outliers that the numbers get more sobering, with roughly 50% of all campaigns failing to reach their goals.
When those statistics are limited to publishing projects, the results are even lower (around 32%), which suggests there’s an art to crafting a successful kickstarter. Fortunately there’s plenty of advice out there for creatives wanting to build their own campaign, and the most important element plays directly to a writer’s strengths – a good crowdsourcing campaign isn’t selling a product, it’s selling a community on a story.
While Kickstarter isn’t available to the vast majority of Australian creatives, there are alternative crowdsourcing platforms available and the recent news that Kickstarter will be opening up to British residents suggests the site is looking to expand its reach. Several projects have already been funded, including last year’s Digital Writer’s Conference run in Brisbane by the Emerging Writer’s Festival team, and it seems more Australian artists and writers are turning towards Crowdsourcing an an option for financing their work.
If you’re interested in exploring crowdsourcing in more details, we recommend checking out the following platforms, campaign advice, and commentary on the phenomenon.
- Pozible.com – an Australian crowdfunding platform community for creative projects and ideas.
- Indiegogo.com – international crowd-funding site featuring campaigns ampaigns in areas such as music, charity, small business and film.
Crowdfunding Campaign Advice
- Dan Blank, Lessons from Seth Godin’s Kickstarter Project
- Knitting in Public, how to make money using crowdsourcing (from someone who made amost $40,000)
- Ryan Koo, Ten Must-Read Posts Before Running Your Own Crowdfunding Campaign
- Ryan Koo, Ten (More) Must-Read Posts Before Running Your Own Crowdfunding Campaign
- Nathaniel Hansen, 7 Things to Consider BEFORE You Launch Your Kickstarter Project
- Pozible.com, The Pozible Handbook (thanks to Kylie Gusset for the link)
- Robin Sloan, Creator’s Guide to Video (thanks to Kylie Gusset for the link)
Commentary About Crowdfunding
- Lisa Dempster, Writers, Money, and the Web: Further Thoughts on Crowdsourcing
- Meanjin, Pozible, Crowdfunding, and the Emerging Writers Festival
- Stephen Padnick, No, Kickstarter Is Not The #2 Graphic Novel Publisher
- Amanda Palmer, How Amanda Palmer Built An Army Of Supporters: Connecting Each And Every Day, Person By Person
- John Scalzi, Amanda Palmer, Kickstarter, and Everything