Near the end of the most recent episode of Happy Jacks RPG Podcast, I engaged in a rather heated tirade about Kickstarters. We received an email from a listener who was promoting a Kickstarter, and he asked “what do you want to see from a Kickstarter?”
My answer, was this, “I’d like to see a fucking product.”
I’ve backed four or five Kickstarters now, and so far, I have very little for my money. Some of these Kickstarters are, I realize, still not near their estimated delivery dates for their products, but some are and some have said they’ll miss them.
In the future, I’m going to look at Kickstarters with more skepticism that I have in the past. Here are some warning signs I’ll look for:
1. Distant Estimated Delivery Dates
If you are a working game writer, the last thing you need to do is spend several month of your life working on a megadungeon for the new D20 Care Bears RPG, just to find out that only 4 or 5 people actually want that product. I understand that you’re probably using Kickstarter as a virtual flagpole to gauge interest in whatever project on which you might next work.
If you don’t have a list of published works under your belt, and you give me a distant estimated date of delivery, I’m assuming this is a product that is just in the idea phase. Additionally, I have no reason to have confidence that you have the capacity to finish it.
Maybe you do, but my wallet’s staying closed.
2. Promises of Extensive Artwork that Doesn’t Yet Exist
Unless the Kickstarter organizer is the artist himself (or herself), you are indicating that an enormous amount of work is going to be performed by a third party — a third party over which you have no control whatsoever. You and your prospective artist might work on a bid for the artwork in good faith, but what happens if the artist gets a boat load of work before your Kickstarter funds? “Sorry, dude, I had to take on the work, I didn’t know if yours was going to go or not, and I got rent to pay.”
Can’t blame the artist. Can’t really blame the Kickstarter organizer either. But the Kickstarter organizer is not in control of their product, so promise dates mean nothing.
I should hasten to mention that I’m not singling out artists here — it could be any outside, contracted talent — but it seems that art tends to be the thing that get farmed out more often than not.
3. No Previous Products
If you haven’t ever published anything before, I’m probably not going to help fund your product unless you are a personal friend. Nothing personal, but if I don’t know you (either personally or by reputation), I have no reason to expect you to follow through.
4. Too Many Stretch Goals and Extras
This, I suppose, is my own personal pet peeve. I’d rather go to a Kickstarter page, see what products you are trying to produce and if I like it, fund it at that level. When you start throwing in t-shirts, collector’s cases, engraved highballs, etc., I just start to wonder if you’re going to get bogged down when it comes time to ship the original thing you promised.
To me, too much stretch-goaling risks becoming a distraction.
Why I’m on About Kickstarter (Full Disclosure)
The reason all of this came to mind is because I’m currently working on a music CD, and I intend to run a Kickstarter to fund the final production of the disc. Having been on the other side of a Kickstarter, I’ve learned a couple lessons:
- All songs will be written and recorded before the Kickstarter goes up.
- I will get bids from multiple artists for the album art.
I considered including writing and recording a custom song, which would be included as a bonus track, at some funding level (it would be hundreds of dollars), but even that worries me, as that would be a new song that I would have to write (and rewrite if the first pass was shit) and record, mix and master in a timely manner. We’ll see.