Kickstarter… the name in itself is evocative. I’m sure many of you have heard of this new website that supports creative people by giving them a place to ask for pledges in return for project assistance. It’s really an incredible took, and I blogged recently about a Kickstarter project done by former TSR artist Jeff Dee. His initial work with the fan-based pledge site got me thinking about what I wanted to accomplish in 2012.
I mean I had art contacts, right? In fact I had loads of them, so why not try to use some of the old school nostalgia I loved so dearly and market it toward others who felt the same way? In a sense, it’s kind of what Black Gate already does with each and every post on this site.
We get to relive awesome stuff from our past here all the time with stores about classic horror flicks, adventure movies, venerable series books, and comic book heroes. Black Gate, for all intents and purpose is a portal into a lost generation, or perhaps several lost generations.
So for all of you out there who have ever thought about doing something creative, and I mean anything, I’m going to run down how Kickstarter works and how it might apply to your dreams.
First, you have to come up with an idea, in my case I decided to do a project with legendary fantasy artist Jeff Easley. The concept was simple, I would write a short book like those found on dime store shelves in the 60s, 70s, and even the 80s that we all loved. You know the books I’m talking about, 45K words, 180 pages or so that you could read in 5 hours, and then get Jeff to cover it with an awesome old school Swords & Sorcery image. If we got enough pledges, he’d also do some original black and white interior work to help capture the tone. Simple, right?
You see, Easley is an old fan of the genre, of classic magazine and book covers, and he well remembers the good old days when life was so much simpler. With him on board, I just had to manage the mechanics of it all.
First thing in those mechanics was to register with Kickstarter. That’s easy enough, just have an email address. Once you have your project in mind, you fill out a project form that details two things, what the project is about and what pledge rewards are going to be given. This is pretty limited by the site itself, and they don’t want you to write your thesis, just concise points, and they actually give you a word count you can’t go over.
You then submit, and the turnaround is said to be a few days but I got my approval in forty-eight hours.
Now that you’re approved, you need to make a video. This was the hardest part for me, not only because my partner was two thousand miles away, but because you have to direct it, star in it, write it, shoot it, blah, blah, blah. I’ve seen it done a lot of different ways, with slide shows, with animation, etc, but I chose as straight forward course featuring some of Jeff’s artwork in the background behind him as I tried to convey what this whole thing was about in less than five minutes.
Also, a special note, the video can’t be larger than 250 MB, so be sure you have a flash converter for the file or keep it short. The last thing you want is to go to all that trouble and then have a file that is too large to load!
After the video, you enter more detailed project specifics, goals, locations, and pledge levels before they take you to the financial side.
This is another hurdle, because Kickstarter is owned by, you guessed it, Amazon! To create a Kickstarter you need an Amazon merchant account, so you have to register for one, verify texts messages, email, and a bank account which can take up to 7 days.
This is a real headache, and Amazon will take 5% of your pledges and 3-5% transaction fees on all credit card processing, so be sure to build in 10% of your budget for costs to the provider of the service you intend to use.
Now, once that’s done, you get to launch! This is the true nail-biter, putting yourself out there for the world to see with the huge risk of rejection that comes with hoping people want what you have to offer.
If you’re going to do this, you’d better have a social network because roughly 70% of what you’ll have pledged will come from ‘outside sources’, which is to say people not shopping projects to support on the Kickstarter home page. It’s also nice to have a true fan base, because you’re going to need a couple angel investors who are willing to step up and grab your top tier pledge level, in my case a $500 pledge got you an Easley original piece of book art. Just two of those and you should be halfway home.
It’s a harrowing experience, and one that has you checking for pledge alerts on your phone like you’re on vacation, your dog is in surgery, and your sister said she’d text when it got out. This is not for the light of heart.
Still, the reward of a project that you only dreamed could ever get done can give inspiration where you thought none existed before. It’s a strange and enticing lure, and if you think you have what it takes, and probably the 2-4 weeks of spare time it takes to get this thing going, then I suggest you take a shot.
As for my Kickstarter, well, I’ve recently got it up and running. You can take a look at it here and I truly hope you’ll do so. Having the chance to support real people with real dreams and not some large corporation can be truly empowering. Sure, corporate America gets their cut, but in the end the bulk still serves the correct purpose, which is to help create things that might otherwise have never seen the light of day.
We here at Black Gate are a unique sort, people who provide a service because we love what we do, not for the financial rewards. If you read all the blogs on this site, or even just a few, then you have to realize just how much passion each of us has for the genres we feature.
So if you like Jeff’s art, and you enjoy my blog, then pledge graciously, because I promise you won’t be disappointed with the final result! This, for all you scoring at home, is going to be something you can look back on and say, ‘you know, I had a hand in that when it was only a dream’, and that, is a pretty special feeling.