A decade ago, as I was running a small preorder for my latest book on my website, a friend emailed asking me if I had heard about this Kickstarter thing and if that would work for preorders. It was in beta and looking for people to use it. A year later, Kickstarter was out of beta and the word was starting to spread.
Kickstarter was the first of a slew of crowdfunding sites. For those not in the know, crowdfunding relies on a small crowd of people each pledging to pay for a project before the project is completed and get various rewards for their support when the project is completed.
Kickstarter is cool because unless a project raises all the money it says it needs (or more!), no one is charged. (Other sites such as Indiegogo have no such rules.) Once that threshold of pledges is reached, it’s game on! For instance, a cartoonist may want to print their latest book, the cartoonist says they need $1,000 to print the books. Visitors to the site can pledge to support the project to help raise that $1,000. In return, there are rewards at different levels of pledges. There are usually a lot of different levels of pledges and the more a person pledges the more they get. Someone may just want the finished book and pledge $15 to get that, but a superfan may want the book, a signed print, a personalized drawing or other cool things and will pledge more to get that reward.
It didn’t take long for crowdfunding to become a massive game changer. My friend Spike ran a Kickstarter to pay for the production of a comic called “Poorcraft” with a goal of $6,000 and raised over $13,000, which helped launch her company. Today, Iron Circus Comics is a massive comic book publisher and uses Kickstarter to fund the creation of all its books. The coolest part of that $13,000 was it was raised by only 703 backers.
It’s not just unknowns either. Amanda Palmer, former lead singer of the Dresden Dolls, left her label when they felt 25,000 sales in the first week wasn’t enough. With Kickstarter, Palmer raised the most for an independent musician ever for her new album: over $1 million with about 25,000 backers. Her album hit the Billboard Top 10.
Artists have embraced crowdfunding and entire companies are being built by crowds. Sadly, there are other uses. Another site called GoFundMe is used by people who are having financial problems to gather donations. A lot of people use GoFundMe to pay medical bills and even funeral expenses.
It just takes a small crowd to be successful. While most projects will offer amazing rewards for high-dollar pledges, the truth is most projects are funded by small pledges. A lot of times, people will pledge and select “no reward,” just wanting to help artists create their art. Of course, a big part of it is also being part of the community that comes with that crowd. The direct communication between the artist (or inventor) and the audience has become a key component. People like to help their friends, and that’s what crowdfunding feels like – helping your friends.
As for me, on May 14, my latest Kickstarter launches to fund the creation of my first graphic novel. I can’t wait to see how the crowd likes Anna Chronism.
To see Patric’s latest Kickstarter, head to www.marvelouspatric.com/anna