Thursday, January 8, 2015

The Danger of Crowdfunding



No, I'm not talking about funding a project and watching the project be silently cancelled, because of mismanagement, unforeseen costs, etc. I'm talking about the vitriol one receives from people who don't care for backing projects.

Every so often, there's a project that comes along the crosshairs of these people. Something that is so egregious, it's the symbol for everything they see wrong about their said point of obsession. This time, it was Stacey Jay's YA indie sequel to Princess of Thorns.

The idea was simple, Kickstart the production costs of writing the book. What are those production costs? It's food, electricity, mortgage payments, you know, the living expenses, because authors tend to write at home. That's what a paycheck does, that's what a book advance does, so what in the fuck happened?

I can't say for certain, but what I know was the backlash was severe. It was bad enough to cause the Kickstarter to be cancelled after only a few days.

They'll say, "This is what's wrong with crowdsourcing. These people want to have everything taken care of them, so they can do what they want." Well, yes, if I crowdsourced a book, I'd like not to be homeless, so I'd tally up the costs and projected time of a finished product. You know, like every one Kickstarter already does.

"But there's no guarantee the backer will ever receive the product!" they'll whine. Of course, that's the fundamental understanding of crowdfunding. It's not a guarantee. If you want a guarantee, go to a store and purchase something for $9.99. You're guaranteed to have that product and leave the store with it. It's yours. Maybe you don't like investing, maybe that's the problem. I say you can fuck right off. I think you'll be happier that way.

In terms of confidence, this was coming from a proven author with years of experience and history. Not someone like me, where I wouldn't blame anyone for questioning my track record of one book. I can see there's not a lot to go on.

Ultimately, this is people morally upset about what other people choose to do with their own money. And I'm not talking about corporations who evade tax, or mismanagement of funds that leave roads broken. I'm talking about the average every day consumer and what they feel a project is worth. That's the upsetting part. 

My favorite example is the Kickstarter for a potato salad. The goal was $10. If no one in the world thought this guy should be given money for a potato salad, no one would have funded him, but they did. Not only did they reach the $10 goal, but people thought he should be given a little more, tallying up to $55,000. They could have stopped at $1,000. "That's plenty good," they'd say. But they kept giving, and giving, and that's their right to do with their money as they please.

Do you know why? Because it's not my money. I care about what I do with my bank account, and that's where my control ends. I frankly don't care what people use their money for. At the end of the day, it's not my problem.

It's not about the money, at least, I don't think the cancellation was centered about funding. I'd venture to guess that collapse of what Stacey Jay thought was her community lead to the cancellation. Not everyone likes being the center attention. Many people want to do what they love. They don't want to be the keynote speaker for a convention or see themselves interviewed on daytime television.

And that's what happened. This small Kickstarter blew up, and everyone was talking about it. I don't believe this was a good discussion to have, it's not a discussion worth having, it's something we should have an understanding about already. Someone asks for funds, other people choose to fund it or not. End of story. 

What actually happened is a cancelled Kickstarter. There's no book, which is a loss. The author no longer feels comfortable among peers, which is a tragedy. I'm upset, as I can't do anything about it. Believe me, I'd like to grab a few people and shake them as if they were bobbleheads driving on a dirt path.

This doesn't just happen to books, but to movies, and video games, and anything else crowdfunded. For some reason, people are super interested in how other people spend their money. Sadly, I don't see anywhere near an energetic backlash against them.

That's a shame, because fuck those people. Now there's a conversation worth taking part in.