Kickstarter Tag Team Post: What’s Asking Too Much?

Okay, here’s the deal. I have thoughts on this whole Kickstarter kerfuffle yesterday, and my ranty-pants are securely fastened upon my kicking legs. Ah, but YA author Laura Lam — a wonderful author fresh from the fallout with Strange Chemistry — also had thoughts and asked if she could write up a guest post at the blog. I said hell yes, and told her I’d add my thoughts, too, at the bottom of the post. TAG TEAM MATCH. Here, then, is Laura, with her thoughts:

Very recently, YA author Stacey Jay launched a Kickstarter to fund her sequel to her first novel, Princess of Thorns. Hers is a familiar tale: due to low sales of the first, her publisher declined to pick up the sequel. But the sales were still high enough to investigate self-publishing. Yet self-publishing in YA can be a tricky beast. E-book sales are still a smaller slice of the pie than print sales, meaning without bookstore and library presence, it can be hard to gauge interest. She created a Kickstarter, detailing her goals: $3,500 for fees, cover, and editing, and around $7,000 to make it a financially viable option for her because it’d be enough to cover basic bills and give her 3 uninterrupted months to write the novel and get it to readers sooner.

Yet Kickstarter is more about the end product, some argue. Living expenses aren’t a product. Stacey Jay came under criticism, both for asking for an advance, essentially, and for the line saying if it didn’t fund she’d instead focus on re-publishing her backlist. Some thought it had a whiff of emotional blackmail about it. (I didn’t see it that way. She writes under three names and is supporting a family. I figured she was saying if it doesn’t fund, she’ll focus on things that will let her provide for her family).

Stacey Jay ended up taking down the Kickstarter, and writing a blog post saying she’s stepping back from writing as Stacey Jay for a while.

Hearty debate ensued on Twitter – was this right? Is it fair? Was it bullying? When crowdfunding, is it appropriate to ask for more than simply production costs? As hybrid publishing is becoming more common, it all ended up coming to a head here—unfortunately for Stacey Jay.

So, my feelings. I think this story especially hit home for me. I don’t know Stacey Jay, but man, I just want to give her a hug. My books Pantomime & Shadowplay came out, but my trilogy was cancelled, and then the imprint folded a few months later. I have considered Kickstarter, and done a lot of research on it over the last few months, but since some stuff is up in the air, I haven’t gone live. But if things had gone differently, I might have been Kickstarting Masquerade (book 3) right about now. And then, maybe, this could have been me? Who knows.

Perhaps, in a request like this where living expenses for three months were needed, something like Patreon or IndieGoGo would have been better than Kickstarter. However, this can be a hard call. I asked on Twitter a few times over the past year if Kickstarter or IndieGoGo would be better for raising production costs for a book. With IndieGoGo you can have flexible funding and keep what you raise instead of losing everything, so that was appealing. People overwhelmingly told me Kickstarter because it had a bigger reach, so I figured I’d use that if I needed to.

In terms of Patreon, that seems to be more of a website to support an artist from month to month, regardless of the specific project. This can work really well for ongoing things, like Peter and Emma Newman’s excellent podcast Tea and Jeopardy (here’s their Patreon page). But if I wanted a set amount for a set goal Kickstarter would probably still be what I’d go for.

I don’t think saying outright that some of your money going towards having the time to create the product is disingenuous. The most precious commodity for writers is to have time to write. Time to create a good product is just as important as having a good cover and strong edits, if not more so. I’d rather read an awesome book with a horrific cover than the other way around.

Other people thought the levels weren’t generous enough. $5 for an e-book seems to be fairly standard practice in a lot of Kickstarters. Yeah, $10 for just an e-book is a bit steep. But I do see Kindle books regularly for sale by publishers for that price. I’ve bought Kindle e-books at $10, and recently. Yeah, I’ve grumbled about it, but if I love the author and know I’ll love the book, eh. It’s the price of a movie ticket but a book lasts longer than 2 hours. I’ve also seen other Kickstarters that funded and then some having a $10 e-book levels, too.

Would I have run a Kickstarter the same way? No, I would have done some things differently, but hey, I’m a different person, so that’s not terribly surprising.

I would have given a more detailed breakdown of costs. I’d have a wide range of rewards with different options, with the hope that there’d be something for everyone. Benefits for librarians, teachers, or booksellers. For e-only bundles, they’re the highest profit margin because you don’t have to pay for postage. To sweeten the pot, maybe I’d add some exclusive extra short stories for KS backers only, or deleted scenes, or access to a forum to discuss things about the book. I think offering print copies is still important, but that means: physical formatting & costing print runs or seeing if you only need CreateSpace. Also: lots and lots of swag! Everyone loves swag, right?

That gets complicated really fast though. And it gets more expensive, and that it’d take a lot more time, taking away from other potential (paying) projects.

And time is still the kicker. Writing takes time. Having the time to write takes money. You can’t get around that. Publishers pay advances. Most of the time it’s not enough to fully support you, but $7k is still a standard advance for a lot of authors (for SJ, it was a 60% paycut from the first book). Not everyone is in a position of privilege to be able to ask only for production costs and hope that, once all the work is done and it’s out in the world, it’ll make a profit eventually. From my own experience, my self-published short stories and novellas, Vestigial Tales, haven’t made me the professional minimum of 5 cents a word yet, even though they’ve been on sale for 2-6 months. That was a hell of a lot of work. Not everyone can write for free and love and warm fuzzies. But creators are still battling this notion that we deserve to be paid for the work that we do.

And, importantly, it’s so hard to reach out for help to crowd-fund a novel, especially on a series where publishers have told you they don’t think it’s worth the money. You’re vulnerable. I don’t blame her one put for putting up her hands and going “you know what? Never mind. I’m sorry this didn’t work out.”

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?

* * *

*Chuck jetpacks in, lands on the back of a sea serpent, ululates*

Isn’t getting cranky about Kickstarters a 2011-2012 thing?

Is this time travel? Maybe it’s just nostalgia for an Internet kerfuffle from our salad days. Soon VH1 will do a series of episodes — “Internet Kerfuffles of the Last Decade,” and a hilarious panel of Z-List talents will opine about this.

So, here’s the thing.

I did a Kickstarter to fund a novel. A YA novel, actually, called Bait Dog.

I did that three years ago.

At the time, Kickstarter campaigns were not yet super-savvy and. I didn’t know what the floppy fuck I was doing, so I didn’t talk much about why I was asking for what I was asking in terms of money (which was three grand). I didn’t reference what would go toward cover art and editing and all that. I also didn’t note that uhh, yeah, some of that money would land squarely in my pocket.

It would be something roughly comparable to an advance — money up front that would pay for a pre-order. A pre-order for a novel that I had not yet written. I knew the novella had sold really well, but I wasn’t sure how much of an audience was out there clamoring for the next part. So, I thought, a Kickstarter is a good way to test those waters. I’d land a Kickstarter, see who flocked to it and who didn’t, and if it funded — well, then I knew I had the audience to write that book.

As I am wont to say about crowdfunding, in the OLDEN DAYS of HUNTING BUFFALO and HAVING ONLY ONE WAY TO PUBLISH, you worked your way to the stage and then the crowd would carry you away from it on a magical fun ride over their heads. Now? Kickstarter and the other platforms for crowdfunding determine whether or not the crowd will surf your ass to the stage, not away from it. If you have the audience? They’ll get you there. If not? You’re gonna drop on your head and crack your creative skull like an egg.

But that’s how it’s supposed to work. If I don’t fund, why make the thing at all?

A lot of Kickstarter campaigns work this way. It is situation normal.

For me, my Kickstarter was funded 100% in 10 hours.

It gave life to the book, Bait Dog, and that book then went on to a more traditional publishing deal — and, in a bit of utter shamelessness, I’ll note that the book releases in e-book and paperback at the end of this month. Further, I’ll get to write a second book as part of that deal (tentative title: Frack You) and Kickstarter backers will receive a copy of that book, too (thanks to stretch goals and the goodness of my publisher, Skyscape).

Some of that money from the Kickstarter?

It probably went to groceries.

It helped fund my life, in a literal sense.

Now, here is where you object, flailing your arms around — “Buh, buh, buh, Kickstarter is to fund projects and products, not lives.” And your point is accurate, if a little pedantic. But here’s the deal: let’s say the money is there to pay for the project only. Let’s say I want to pay an editor, a graphic designer, a dog-washer, a bodyguard to keep away my adoring fans (all three of you, two of whom are actually just cardboard cut-outs with leather masks over their drooping heads). Okay, so, the campaign is successful and I pay them.

Where does that money go? Once it reaches the intended recipients, I mean.

I’m going to take a wild guess here and say it goes toward paying their bills.

Meaning, I’m helping to fund their lives, if in a small way.

So, back to me. Me, me, me. *pirouettes*

I’m part of the equation, too, and so was Stacey Jay in her own campaign. She was acting as writer and as publisher of the work. Two genuinely essential jobs in the creation of this work. One could argue that she ventured too much information in being honest about, ohhh, needing to eat and pay those pesky bills, but truth is, the Kickstarter would have paid her to write and publish the book. Paying for those things, yes, means some of that money is going to find its way into her own personal ecosystem. Because it needs to.

What, she and her family should starve while she writes the book?

And here, you object: well, I starved when I wrote mine, why shouldn’t she?

That’s not very nice. Is it? That’s like saying, “I didn’t have the Internet when I was a kid, why should all these other kids?” Next thing we know, you’re telling us how you had to walk to school uphill both ways and cross rushing rapids and there was this evil ring you had to go drop into a volcano along the way and you were being hunted by orcs and the ghosts of corrupted kings, and then you’re shaking your cane and talking about those damn kids and why don’t they get off your lawn and stop playing video games while they’re at it.

Here you might say: well, I had to work a dayjob when I wrote my book, why shouldn’t she?

Again: super not cool. Why do you insist that things be bad for others like they were for you?

Here’s a thought: celebrate that Kickstarter is now an option.

One you, and me, and you over there, could use.

The starving artist is a real-life trope that we should never, ever encourage. Listen, being a creative person is hard enough as it is. It’s a path fraught with boundless uncertainty. And one such uncertainty is: will I be able to feed myself next month, next year, for the next ten? Can I feed my family? Can I have a family? It’s scary. It’s life without a net. Kickstarter, along with other modes of self-publishing, is a valuable way — one option — to create cool stuff.

Out of the $10k, she was asking for $7k for three months.

Roughly, $2,300 a month, or $28,000 a year.

(Not exactly The Great Gatsby.)

You might offer: This isn’t an advance and most authors don’t get advances.

Well, it functions for the author as a kind of advance and to the reader as a kind of pre-order system and… again, some authors don’t get advances and some do. She wanted to feed her family while she wrote. Not buy a Wave Runner. Hell, if she wanted to buy a Wave Runner with that money: not my business.

*takes a note: run Kickstarter campaign to buy self a Wave Runner*

You might say: but this challenges my livelihood, and it changes the system.

Meaning, what? It changes the way books are written? And marketed? It doesn’t change what’s already happening out there — it just adds a brand new option. It’s like, the door out of the room is still there — but now you have another door. And a window. And a basement. Options. Paths. Choices. Those are choices for you too. It changes nothing except gives you more ways to write, more ways to reach an audience. How is that bad?

Well, I don’t want to be marketed to all the time by these authors with Kickstarters.

Hey, I don’t either, so if an author gets noisy about it, I unfollow them. That’s true of anybody who acts like a human product and not a human — get spammy, I boot you out the airlock.

I didn’t like the way Stacey Jay ran her campaign.

So, maybe don’t put money into it? A weird, revolutionary concept, I know, but Kickstarter and other creative endeavors is one of those ways where voting with your dollar really matters.

We should be allowed to criticize her and her campaign and this process.

You can, and you are, allowed. Just as I’m allowed to sit here and tell you why I disagree. I disagree because what you’re criticizing is her option. Moreover, an option that is not precisely new — like I say, this is kinda how Kickstarters work. It’s how mine worked three years ago. You’re yelling at a woman in a boat because you’re mad at the ocean. Meaning: if you don’t like the Kickstarter option, or self-publishing, or traditional publishing, okay. Criticize the mode and the model. But sniping at those using those models is, to my mind, a little bit of dirty pool. It’d be one thing if she used the model in a way that wasn’t expected or wasn’t standard. It’d be one thing if her campaign was somehow socially bereft — racist, sexist, or shitty in some other hurtful way.

But, to me, she wanted to write a book and she got grief for it. (I dunno that I’d call it “bullying” — I think in this Internet Age, we maybe overuse that term when real bullying exists. Both in the halls of schools and across social media. Gamergate is home to a great many bullies, actual bullies.) Do I think criticism is fair? Sure. You’re free to do it, and she’s free to respond however she responds. But we’re all free to respond to that, too, and 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.

Again, you can find Stacey Jay’s apology and retreat from Kickstarter here.

I hope none of this stops others from exploring the wide, weird variety of writing and publishing choices available to them. Lots of options that will continue to exist only when we use them.


  • We used to have this little thing in the 1930’s called the WPA. (There were other programs too.) They funded artists of all kinds during the Depression because FDR thought it was important to promote the arts. By the end of the ’30’s conservative elements in Congress defunded these programs, because, heck, why should the government promote the arts?

    I think it is sad and strange that we think it is perfectly OK for the top 1% of the population to hold more than 40% of the wealth, and look up to them when they do nothing more than sit on the money. Most of them literally do no productive work for this money, but heck, they’re rich and they deserve it. On the other hand the people that need money to live (you know to pay the big corporations for the right to live, electricity, water, heat, food, etc) are told “forget it.” If you can’t earn it, then you don’t deserve it. And we’ve begun to call any money received from the government ‘entitlements’ (making that a nasty word) when all they are a poor attempts at income parity. In reality the people who are in the top 1% receive more money in grants, loans and subsidies than all the money that is given in aid. We don’t blink an eye at that.

    My point is–we have a screwed up sense of who deserves what. And if the government won’t support our culture than we should. If you have the money, give it. $5, $10 is nothing individually. Together, it gives another human being a chance at his or her dreams. And we should support those dreams, like we would our own.

    So yeah. Let the artist have food on his or her table. Keep the lights on, so they can use their laptops. Keep the water running to make the coffee. Why? Because the arts are a part of what makes our species special, unique and worthwhile. Support that.

    Rant over. For now.

    • Abso-flippin’-lutely – to every word of this!

      I don’t get it; at what point did Stacey Jay hold a gun to people’s heads and say “Gimme your money or else?” If you don’t want to give to a Kickstarter campaign, for whatever reason, you put your wallet away and you click the button to go look at something else. Simples. When did such a moronic section of society lose the ability to do that?

      And are those same people who whinged that asking for living expenses was ‘wrong’ in some way also gonna go and complain bitterly to all those Certain Big CorporationsTM (who know who they are so I won’t name them here) who rake in millions in profit every year but only pay 1% of the tax they owe on it – presumably to cover THEIR ‘living expenses?’ No, I don’t suppose they are – because they’re too busy buying the very latest incarnation of their products just because it comes in a cool new colour now. Urrrrggghhh, people! Now I am gonna have to eat a metric SHITLOAD of chocolate to calm down. AND IT’LL BLOODY WELL BE FAIRTRADE AN’ ALL!

      *Deep breaths. Goes to raid Chocolate Stash.*

      I may be some time…

  • “Hunting Buffalo”??? I think you can count the number of Native American YA authors with publishing deals on one hand. Why don’t we replace all these whiny, mewling, waspy YA authors with Writers of Color? Maybe the sense of entitlement is over the top now. Stacey Jay is a crybaby. This is a privileged person. She has a house in Hawaii. Everyone needs to get out of her bumhole.

    • The sense of entitlement about wanting to make money writing? She was asking for $7,000, which is about the same as a lowish advance (from what I know, not being in publishing). she was hardly asking people to keep her in ermines and caviar. people can absolutely decide that they don’t want to pay her salary, but I don’t think she was asking for an exorbitant amount of money.

      I think the attitude “you shouldn’t expect to be paid” is bad for all writers, whether they are “whiny, mewling wasps” or people of color. It says that they are not valuable and do not deserve to be compensated for their art.

      • I don’t quite understand why all this miserable people can’t just look at a kickstarter and go ‘nope, don’t want’ and leave it at that. Someone is not wrong on the internet for doing a kickstarter. If something is an obvious fraud, then I can see people speaking up. This, however, was obviously NOT a fraud, a proven author with a track record. So, if you don’t want to fund it, don’t fund it and shut the hell up. Why do they all feel compelled to whine about it until the hound someone out of town?

  • I wish someone could produce one single tweet a blogger used that was personal.

    Writer’s are very good at emotional manipulation and bloggers are good at critical thinking. Thinking along the lines of what happens when an author doesn’t come through. Because it has already happened. This is what people were discussing.

    Chuck, I really think you’re doing that think mend do when a girl cries and you rush in to save her. Where is she to speak for herself? If you can’t defend yourself then you don’t deserve to be an author. Put on your big girl panties and deal with it-don’t run away and quit.

    And I’ll take this time to remind everyone that Stacey Jay was a professional actress. Drama is literally what she is good at.

      • I read Stacey Jay’s original Kickstarter before she pulled it down a day later. The tone was not good. It was desperate, and odd and uncomfortable to read. It had no excitement for her own project. I think she was ready to quit.

          • That is my point: NO ONE DID THAT. All this supposed backlash did not occur. The offense never happened! This whole lament is other authors coming to her defense because unknown “people” and unknown “they” supposedly were malicious, as you say. Who was malicious? Just authors self-stroking with their own righteous indignation.

          • Didn’t you just say “Writer’s are very good at emotional manipulation” (sp) and “Stacey Jay was a professional actress. Drama is literally what she is good at.”?

            That sounds to me like you’re assuming some kind of untoward behaviour on her part.

          • You’re saying that because you’ve only read her apology. That’s what she wants you to think happened. When she cries “i am not a crook!” Nobody said that. It’s dramatics. You did not read the Kickstarter. It was pathetic.

            What was actually discussed by bloggers: What this a viable business model for kidlit? Should her fans go ask there parents for money to support her?

          • For all I know, it was just one off-hand comment that upset her and made her worried people thought the worst of her. I’m not passing judgement on anyone, here. I mean, honestly, if a Kickstarter is asking $10 for a book, and a backer is happy to pay it, then so long as they get their book in the end, it does not really matter how the raised money is distributed. If you don’t like it, don’t back it. Myself? I don’t back Kickstarters where I would have to pay over the odds for an actual product, or where a copy of the product isn’t an option. But I would never condemn someone’s decision to use that model.

        • I completely disagree. She was up front and honest that she would require living expenses to write the book in addition to her formally published gig and was honest that she would not write any more YA if it doesn’t fund. People called it “emotional blackmail,” but it’s just business. If the Kickstarter failed, there would obviously not be enough interest in her YA, so she would expend her efforts elsewhere instead of where she would fail.

        • I wanted to add a note here for anyone confused that the Kickstarter is still there for all to read; it’s just not active. I didn’t see anything unusual with the tone, personally.

    • Could you be more condescending?
      Who are YOU to tell a woman how she should cope with the stress she suffered? Are you her doctor? “Put on her big girl pants” – are you for real? If a man said that, there would be pitchfork wielding mobs.

      You are the one that needs to grow up. YOU do not get to gatekeep WHO qualifies to be an author based on YOUR almighty standards of “big girl.”

    • I don’t know what you’re seeing in Chuck’s post, Cheryl, but I’m not seeing him rushing in to save any one individual. You’ve clearly decided YOU don’t like Stacey Jay for whatever reason (so arguably YOU could be accused of doing what you’re accusing Chuck of doing, but from the opposing side, but let’s not get into that…) This is about something bigger than just one person, or even one group of people. It’s about demonising people who ask for money on a website where the purpose of it is to ask for money, if they decide to spend it on what people think they ‘shouldn’t’ spend it on. Taking that time out to publicly criticise and ridicule individuals who simply made a polite request for money, when instead you could just… y’know, shut up and not donate. Meanwhile, giant corporations who make millions every year are using loopholes to deliberately not pay the tax they owe on their mahoosive profits, and don’t give a rat’s arse whether you like that or not.

      As the internet grows ever bigger and people can ‘talk’ to just about anyone anywhere in the world, it seems to me we’re all losing the ability to be tolerant and – y’know, CIVIL – to others about the piddly little things that really don’t affect our world that much at all, while at the same time reducing the things that DO matter (like the HUGE gap between rich and poor, wars, oppression and torture, climate change etc.) to sadface emotes and YouTube videos. If the people who put all that effort into shouting down Stacey Jay diverted that energy into some cause that REALLY mattered… wow, imagine what could be achieved instead.

      I would say Stacey Jay – or rather, the backlash that her Kickstarter appeal generated – is a SYMBOL of that stupid skewing of priorities that seems to exist in this new generation of ‘warrior’ trolls. And we can’t fix that until enough people point that out to enough other people. And even then, we may never win. But most of us at least will feel better about ourselves for trying.

      • Your last paragraph manages to be both realistic and inspiring, Wendy. Thanks for making me feel less like a pest for pointing out when people find fault–nay, outrage–in the peccadilloes of online life.

  • For me, the biggest point in all of this is the important takeaway: if you don’t like how someone runs the Kickstarter…don’t fund it.

    I don’t have any objection to authors asking for money for production costs, advances, buffalo, and the rainbow tears of Unicorns. You can ASK for whatever you want. However, the people who see your Kickstarter have the right to feel whatever they want to feel about your breakdown of costs – not to harass you, but to decide whether or not they want to contribute. Neither side has the right to harass the other about those choices.

    All of which said…all of the Kickstarters I’ve contributed to were production-cost kick starters rather than ones that built in advances. Would I contribute to one that built in an advance? Don’t know. Would depend on the book and the quality of the author’s pitch. Pretty much the same way I evaluate the other ones…

    For me, the bad thing is harassing someone for the choice. You don’t like it…just walk away.

  • I take back what I said about the SJ being an actress and living in Maui. I’ve just found out that was just a pen name persona, and the author’s actual life is not as well-off as she professed. So I apologize to you “Stacey Jay” whoever the hell you are.

  • I’ve been thinking about this and honestly I don’t get it. We don’t blink about paying football players or basketball players millions of dollars for their talent and to literally just show up (they might make more after they win, but really their salaries are paid regardless of production) yet we have issues paying for someone to write. Wow have we, as a society, got our priorities skewed. Think the roman gladiators made a lasting impression? Nada. No it is the arts that we still study today.

  • I’d like to see people try to hire a plumber or a carpenter or a mechanic by saying they’ll just pay for the parts, not the labor. The expensive part of putting out a book isn’t the materials (parts), it’s the time (labor). Craftspeople get paid for both, and it’s called making a living, and there’s nothing shameful about it.

    As for the idea of supporting artists during the creation of a work: there’s nothing new or astonishing about that either. That system has been around forever, since long before the internet. Nowadays, instead of applying to an organization or university for a work-in-progress grant or fellowship, some artists have decided to do a crowdfunding project and see if they can raise the same type of funds for the same purpose that way. More power to them, if they can find the backers they need.

  • A spam oubliette? Is that an omelette of some sort. Chuck, ours would be a poorer world without you. Keep on keepin on, you are loved

  • I’m not sure why this is such a crisis, unless said Kickstarter writer intentionally misrepresented where the money was going.

    As long as the request was transparent, the whole idea is that people who want to support it will, and those who don’t, won’t. How hard is that to figure out? It’s not about artists being deprived.

  • Kind of makes me wonder what would’ve happened if she’d said, well, we need a $10,000 pre-sell to commit to a 5000 book print run (or whatever). If you’re a professional, what you charge is what you charge. And what you charge pays for… bills. And, um, living expenses. And sometimes even vacations!

    There’s an interesting schism between expectations for “artists” vs expectations for “professionals”, but I don’t feel like unpacking it right now.

  • It seems that some of the negativity towards Stacey Jay’s Kickstarter can be distilled to a simple case of envy. Especially among the Indie writers community. I find the sentiment that “I didn’t have the benefit of funding, why would she,” “I found time to write AND work my day job, why can’t she” permeating the threads childishly petulant. Such feelings (however valid) seem completely out of place here. Kickstarter is not a field for philosophical debate or a means for karmic retribution for your personal slights, but an evolving piece of free market economy. You like a project-you invest in a project-you get a product. Simple as simple. How often buying a book, do you wonder what fraction of your hard-earned cash is going to the author? You don’t. You either buy a book, or put it back on the shelf. Unfortunately, people cannot shelf their envy. It is a shame that a talented writer’s options were squelched by such base emotions.

  • January 8, 2015 at 2:12 AM // Reply

    It bothers me how none of this discussion inculdes the hard stats: only 30.90% of Kickstarter publishing projects get funded. Of those, 79% raise less than $10,000.

    What Chuck doesn’t mention in his essay is his Kickstarter asked for $3,000 and, lucky him, raised $6,000. Another example from the comments is also under $10,000.

    Stacey Jay began with a goal above the majority of book projects on the site, and in her pitch she stated her actual goal was over $15,000. I’m amused that writers don’t get a) $10.5K is a lot of money to ask for one book on an all or nothing crowdfunding pitch, and b) job one of an author who asks for that much is to write a very persuasive Kickstarter presentation.

    A brief look at successful $10K plus presentations shows Jay failed to do job one. No video, bland art, no explanation of the series premise, references or links to writing samples. Just an earnest, not very artful plea for money which didn’t seem to fully understand the Kickstarter presentation concept, including how it’s unwise to say most funds will go to paying rent instead of the project itself.

    Defending someone who started a half-assed Kickstarter and quit a few days later after being criticized kind of comes off as saying effort and perseverance are not necessary, just really wanting that money. I don’t think readers are saying authors shouldn’t be paid, and I’m not seeing the professionalism in giving up immediately when faced with resistance or criticism.

    • And all those things could lead to a failed Kickstarter, sure. Not arguing that. The argument is about the criticisms she *did* take, some of which seemed unusually focused on that whole “groceries and life” thing.

      • And again comes back to “If you don’t like it, don’t back it.” In fact, the fact that she didn’t have a fancy video and was asking for a basic goal that was higher than most authors ask for means backing the thing is *less* risky, since you’re more likely to not have to pay anything at all…

  • FIWI, I was reading the 31st Edition of “The Year’s Best Science Fiction.” I love reading the short biographical entry of the author, especially when it says “he/she by day and writes science fiction by night.”

    Why? Because this, to me, is not the ideal, but the example of the committed writer. Yeah, it’d be great to write for a living. But so many live to write, and do it in spite of their economic situation.

    Bravo, worker-writers.

  • I don’t know why this isn’t a legitimate use of Kickstarter. Writers are allowed to request grants to do the very thing Stacey Jaye requested Kickstarter funding to do. I don’t think a lot of popular / commercial fiction writers actually receive funding through grants – which is one of the reasons using Kickstarter may be necessary – but the request is legitimate. There is the reality with grant requests, however, that the funds must be accounted for with paperwork. I don’t think Kickstarter allows for that.

  • Dude, my buddy made a Kickstarter for his game a while back and listed exactly that same thing. His exact words were — under “what is this funding for” — “Most of it is to enable 24/7 work on the game for the duration of the planned development timeline–after taxes, of course.” Nobody gave him shit about it. (And he made like 80k on a 12k goal so it’s not like it was a tiny Kickstarter that nobody noticed.)

    Anyway, I think what I’m saying is… what? Who came up with this bullshit? Why is there a complaint to be made here at all?

    • Ex-fucking-actly! I’m completely befuddled by the arguments against _proven_, previously trad-published writers being paid an advance as part of a kickstarter. All these arguments for the author always doing all the major writing work before getting a penny, or only going about it using another proven model (since kickstarter has been proven, time and again, as a viable model for producing an as-yet-unwritten book)… I’m all, “What the hell, people?” You don’t do it this way? Why the fuck not?! If you have an audience hungry for your word babies, then let them pay you to gestate that scrumptious critter; offer stretch-goals like free word-BBQ sauce, and a Word-Baby Grill-Master 3000 at the $500 level. If you don’t have a horde of fans slavering for your book-progeny, then yeah, don’t bother with a kickstarter.

      Whoa… that got kind of cannibalistic there, didn’t it? I think I was channeling Chuck there for a minute. Is anybody else getting hungry? No?

      But really, paying a salary for the time required to produce the thing you’re kickstarting? That’s standard practice in KS land, and there’s ZERO reason that a proven author SHOULDN’T try this self-pub model.

    • Jay mentions in the post apologizing, and cancelling the Kickstarter campaign, that another reason she’s going to retire her YA pseudonym for awhile is because of an “increasing vitriol in the Young Adult community.” I’ve seen some of that myself (from the outside, thank heavens), and it’s made me wary of getting involved in YA publishing as well. Perhaps this is why some other authors and gamers haven’t received the criticism Jay did, when they used Kickstarter in a similar way. At the risk of gender baiting, I have to wonder … is it possible some of the criticism comes from her being a woman writer? I’d be curious to see a breakdown of the criticism levied at male vs. female writers asking for creative funding.

  • Sorry if this gets a bit far afield, but reading the comments here has me thinking not only about artists being paid for their time, but about what the insistence that you should scrape together time as an investment and get paid later means: it means that we’re really, really limiting the field of who can produce art.

    Not exactly an original thought, but poor and marginalized people generally have the least time to spare. If you’re working multiple jobs, not to mention commuting from them, handling childcare and feeding a family, etc etc, you simply have less time to spare. Plenty of people push the idea that you somehow MAKE time, and for many people that is indeed possible – but what if you’re already getting up at 5 and not home until midnight? What if you don’t have a lunch break, just five minutes while you dash from job #1 to job #2? Not to mention the emotional toll of being poor and the ensuing difficulties of arting while exhausted.

    Some of that is pretty extreme. Most people are able to find an hour or two to spare. But even there — what if that was easier, for everyone? More people would be able to create art, and we would lose out on fewer potential artists. I think we’d all benefit from a world where the art people shared reflected more than just the perspective of people who have enough privilege (time- and money-wise) to create now.

    I don’t know that Kickstarter is the solution to this, for a bunch of reasons. (Like: I probably wouldn’t want to pledge to an untested writer; someone with this little time/energy to spare probably wouldn’t have the reach required to get a kickstarter funded, etc.) But like you always say, Chuck: we need more options, not fewer. Not just so individual artists can build careers that suit them, but so that people who otherwise might not be able to create art at all can have a chance, too.

  • I agree that part of the problem is that many people believe a writer shouldn’t be paid for writing. But I think the more central problem in this incident is, as others have already discussed here, “the taint of misogyny.” As I said on another site today:

    I’ve seen Kickstarters by male writers that include payment for the author (i.e. himself, the person running the Kickstarter) for the estimated length of time it will take to write or finish the book. I distinctly recall at least one Kickstarter where the male author explained the Kickstarter goal $ included an estimate of what he needed to be paid to write this project (I think it was a book in a series cancelled several years earlier) when he could INSTEAD be using that time to write a project for his advance-paying publisher; so he needed enough money, as his authorial income while writing, to make writing this project a fiscally viable use of his time.

    And I have not seen a Twitterstorm or scandal (or even isolated objections) to numerous instances of male writers posting Kickstarters like that.

    So what was different here? Was it merely the phrasing? That she described the money for the author as her “living expenses for 3 months” rather than as her authorial earnings or writer’s fee or whatever?

    Well, no, I don’t think so. There’s at least one male writer who has, for 2 or 3 years now, repeatedly asked the internet to send him donations (so you’re not funding a book as a backer, for which you’ll get a product; you’re just sending money to this writer as a gift or donation) to help pay for his living expenses, for his children’s school fees, and to send him to conventions which he can’t afford to pay for himself. And I’ve never seen any Twitter storm or scandal about that, either, even though he asks routinely for money for living expenses and also asks for money for, yes, luxuries (such as convention attendance–when I can’t afford to attend a convention, I just stay home).

    So it’s a little hard to avoid the conclusion that Stacey Jay has gotten criticism and flack for her Kickstarter because she’s an uppity woman who thought she had a right to be PAID for her professional work and time the way men are, or that HER living expenses were important in the way that a man’s living expenses are.

  • Boy, do I feel dumb! I always assumed part of the funds on Kickstarter went to ‘wages’ for the person/people creating the product. Only the delusional believe starving artists do better work, or any at all, for that matter.

  • Patron of indie games here. I don’t understand where these people were coming from. There have been tons of video game projects that got off the ground because people chose to fund them, and everyone who funds a game knows they’re paying the developer both the costs of development, and the costs of living. This isn’t unexpected. It’s not magic. Somebody has to pay the bills while the developers create. I am baffled to discover that there’s an audience that would complain about this.

    • I wonder if perhaps it’s to do with the nature of the work involved? Computer programming and game design are seen as full-time jobs, while in many people’s eyes, writing is a hobby, something we do in our spare time.

  • She can do whatever she wants, it’s her choice, you don’t have to fund her if you don’t want to, blah, blah, blah. Whatever.

    That’s all true, and there’s nothing wrong with what she’s doing. And her budget sounds about right. But it doesn’t change the fact that it sounds pretty weak to ask folks to fund something like this. Indie authors self-publish successfully all the time without asking for handouts. I get that the work-ethic of indies is different, and that folks who’ve been on the trad-pub trail for years can feel lost and overwhelmed by all the tasks involved in self-pubbing. But all I hear in this proposal is that she doesn’t really want to take responsibility by shouldering the same risks lots of authors do everyday.

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