Rachel Neumeier

Fantasy and Young Adult Fantasy Author

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Using Kickstarter to give yourself an “advance”

So, I missed the thing where Stacy Jay ran a Kickstarter for a new book and said in her summary for said Kickstarter that some of that money was going to go for living expenses for a couple months while she wrote the book. In other words, it was going to function as an advance.

And evidently quite a lot of people got upset because Kickstarter is supposed to fund production costs, not living expenses and there was this big Twitter brouhaha, which I missed, fortunately, because life is too short. But the upshot was, Jay was startled and upset at being shouted at, and withdrew the Kickstarter and apologized.

And then Chuck Wendig and Laura Lam wrote a post about this, which is what I saw first and how I found out about all this.

As is frequently the case, I agree with Chuck. (And Laura.) I wish Jay hadn’t withdrawn the Kickstarter; I’d drop over there and kick in. Good God in Heaven, what, now we have special arbiters of Kickstarter Correctness to tell us what we can and can’t try to fund? Evidently someone out there — more than one someone — is offended because someone somewhere has a different idea than they do of what crowdfunding can properly be used for? Even though nobody is actually being forced to fund anything?

What exactly is up with that?

Laura’s take-home message:

Kickstarter is optional. If a Kickstarter is your jam, you pay the level you choose. As long as you receive the product on time as promised, the obligation has been fulfilled. If I’m paying $10 instead of $5 and that $5 difference is going to go to letting the artist whose work I admire be able to create a better book sooner, and I know that and don’t care, then what, exactly, is the problem here?

As usual, Chuck goes on a bit, but here’s his fundamental take home message:

…honestly, I don’t see the problem. Not contributing money toward the Kickstarter is the cleanest, simplest way to let her do her thing while simultaneously not supporting her. Just as you likely do day in and day out with 99.9% of the media that crosses in front of you.

What Laura and Chuck said is too obvious for words, except evidently not, since a good many people on Twitter don’t seem to have figured out that people can legitimately disagree about this stuff.

Also, the overall take-home message of all this is plainly: Don’t explain what exactly you’re going to use Kickstarter money for, and there’s no problem. You think that’s what that Twitter outburst was meant to provoke? Because I think that’s exactly what’s going to happen.

Me, I’m all for letting people run their own crowdsourcing campaigns however they want, and letting people decide what they do and don’t want to fund. We’re all adults, yes? No one needs special advisors to tell them whether they think it’s okay to fund an author’s time in order to get a book they want to read.

Update: I’m glad to say that *my* Twitter feed is filled with people making supportive comments about Jay’s situation and decrying the outrage mob. Good.

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7 Comments Using Kickstarter to give yourself an “advance”

  1. Mary+Beth

    I think using Kickstarter funds as an advance is in fact an excellent idea; there are plenty of authors for whom I’d love to buy lunch, so if contributing to your Kickstarter lets me buy you lunch, excellent, have a panini! (Maybe Patreon is better at this? I haven’t used it, as none of the authors I particularly follow have mentioned a Patreon — though I have donated to the tip jar on someone’s website more than once.)

    The Internet does enable a Culture of Outrage, though. It’s SO easy to find something to be offended about, and even easier to broadcast how offended you are and encourage other people to dogpile as well.

  2. Rachel

    That’s certainly how I would feel — why should the person kicking in care exactly what every penny gets spent on?

    IMO, the best way to tell when you should join an Internet Outrage Mob is to consider the following decision tree:

    Do I feel an impulse to join this Outrage Mob? —–> Don’t.

    There’s really no need for another branch on that tree.

  3. Maureen E

    I think there were significant problems with the way Jay went about the whole thing–it was not very well organized and Kickstarter was not the right platform for what she was trying to do. These things are confusing, certainly, but it pays to take the time to look around a bit. Plus, at least in what I saw from her, there was a tone of “my book deserves your support” that I wasn’t wild about. That being said, I wasn’t a huge fan of her first book, looked at the Kickstarter, went “meh” and clicked away. I think there were some valid critiques of how she went about it, but I also think the backlash went way too far.

    I will say that people have been really burned on Kickstarters before–the Lizzie Bennet Diaries neverending saga of excuses for why we didn’t have our DVDs definitely put a damper on my personal investment in projects. I’ll still do it, but I want to be really sure that the people involved have planned and thought things through. I didn’t see that here.

    I don’t know–I sympathise a lot with authors who want to be able to continue series they love AND get paid for them (I am definitely in favor of authors getting paid) but I can see why people were reacting negatively to this particular instance.

  4. Maureen E

    Reading over my comment again, it sounds a lot more critical of Jay than I meant it to be, and I know there were some really awful personal attacks on her that I don’t at all support. But I can also see where some of the criticism was coming from and I think a lot of planning and thinking things through really does matter when it comes to Kickstarter et al.

  5. Maureen E

    Ugh, I think I am still not saying what I mean. Sorry–one more try and then I will leave it alone! I think Jay invited some of the criticism with the way she set things up, but she did not deserve and should have had the internet falling on her head. Basically, I want authors to be paid and allowed to continue creative projects they love, but I also want there to be space for valid criticism (which is mostly what I was seeing at the Storify link in your post, Rachel, although I know there was a lot of stuff said that wasn’t) when things are done in a way that really is a problem.

  6. Hanneke

    I quite agree with your conclusions, if they didn’t agree with the goal or the means to that goal just don’t participate, as participation is a free choice.
    But even if they want to limit Kickstarters to production costs, isn’t a very large part of the production costs of a novel the time a writer needs to be able to spend writing (instead of having to do other things like earn a wage)? That’s why established authors get advances from publishers, to live on while they write the next book – it’s (to my non-bookbusiness eyes) a large part of how the creation of books is traditionally funded.
    I don’t mean that I think the writers get the larger part of whatever the book earns (I’ve read enough writers’ blogs that I don’t believe that is how it works unless maybe for the absolute top earners), but that in order for a book to come into being, the absolutely crucial part of the production is that it has to be written; and that the one thing that is always crucial to a book being written is that the writer has time to write it. If the writer needs to spend 8 hours a day at another job to earn a living wage, and the work of running her household needs the same amount of time either way, then freeing the writer of the need for the paying job means freeing up those 8 hours for writing time – that’s why the publishers started the system of paying advances for future books in the first place, isn’t it? So if readers want to collectively pay the advance, so they can get the finished book at least months or maybe years sooner than if the writer has to try and squeeze it into a crowded schedule, who are those twitterers to complain?
    The more I hear about this kind of hassle, the happier I am not to be on Twitter and Facebook and such.

  7. Rachel

    Maureen, I’m pretty sure I get what you mean! I think it is probably tougher to run a really good Kickstarter campaign than it looks from the outside; I know I’m a bit scared of doing it. I am certain it’s easier than it looks to put something in writing that doesn’t come across exactly as you meant. It looks to me like some of the Twitter comments were accusing Jay not just of feeling entitled — which I doubt she was — but of trying to pull off something underhanded and dishonest. So, ugh.

    But I agree people are and should be free to criticize stuff. It can probably be hard to notice a pile-on at the beginning, too, and so that makes it hard to get out of the mob when it’s just getting started. On the other other hand, if I see a Kickstarter that doesn’t look well-thought-out, I’m personally inclined to assume clumsiness instead of dishonesty or malice, and it sure seems to me that quite a few people go the other way because they enjoy assuming the worst.

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