Kickstarter And Be Damned

I’ve been an exponent of the Kickstarter form of financing the publication of comic books for a few years now. But in the back of my mind, there has always been one proviso. That it is perfectly possible for the recipients of the donations received not to spend it on creating a comic book and publishing it, but instead to piss it up the wall, or go on a cruise to Rio. And stay there. And when some revenues raised went into six or seven figures, that likelihood was only increased.

Moreover, some people just totally underestimate the cost and time necessary to fulfill their promises. Sometimes stretch goals, while raising large amounts, can actually make the whole enterprise financially nonviable.

If it all all goes wrong, what right do you have as a consumer to a refund? None – unless you sue. And you have to know that going in. What you are doing when making a Kickstarter donation is akin to that of a venture capitalist. Let’s have a look at three projects that readers have raised recently.

Take Occupy Comics, funded for $28,000, almost three times the $10,000 funding target, reaching its goal at the end of 2011.

While e-comics and single comics have been  supplied to those who made donations, of the physical collected anthology, coming from Black Mask was scheduled for September 2012 there is no sign.

Another high profile book was Sullivan’s Sluggers which, after raising almost $100,000 against an original $6000 target,  rapidly grew into an oversized hardcover graphic novel. However the cost remained the same – even the shipping charges abroad. Oops. Which means the creators have had to scratch around to find ways to get the books overseas in an affordable fashion, and started selling copies to retailers, even though it was promised as an exclusive Kickstarter publication. And even the domestic version has just taken them far longer to supply to individuals, leading to people able to buy copies at their local store well before they’d receive it in the post.

Then there’s Tony HarrisRoundeye: For Love, a gorgeous looking twist in the samurai comic, which was fully funded in February 2011. Over $10,000 to fund the production of a 96 page graphic novella. At the time Harris said the book would take one to two years to complete, before it would be serialised in an unnamed anthology from IDW/Desperado,but there has been no update made on the Kickstarter.

Instead, in April last year Harris stated at ECCC that the Kickstarter had funded the creation of 15 pages of to show to publishers, and Image Comics had signed up. So, for those of you waiting (and e-mailing me), there is progress… it’s just that news may be hard to come by.

This is what people who set up Kickstarters are told, laying out their legal obligations

That’s basically it. Legal action would be tricky, though for large amounts class-action could be pursued. But reputation? That’s harder to police. Kickstarter have  responded to concerns saying;

In May 2012 we added additional guidelines and requirements for Product Design and Technology projects. These include requiring creators to provide information about their background and experience, a manufacturing plan (for hardware projects), and a functional prototype. We made this change to ensure that creators have done their research before launching and backers have sufficient information when deciding whether to back these projects.

We’ve also allocated more staff to trust and safety. We look into projects reported by our community for guidelines violations and suspicious activity, and we take action when necessary. These efforts are focused on fraud and acceptable uses of Kickstarter, not a creator’s ability to complete a project and fulfill. On Kickstarter, backers ultimately decide the validity and worthiness of a project by whether they decide to fund it.

These are just a few examples I’ve received compliants about by email, two of which I’m a backer of. How Sullivan’s Sluggers sticks out however is that they are using Kickstarter Updates to keep in touch with their donors. They have let them know about problems, their current situation and what they are doing to fix it. Not everyone is happy, but at least they know what’s going on… Alex De Campi and Ashes is another example of how well that’s been managed. As ever with these kind of things, communication is the key.

So… what Kickstarters are you waiting to hear back about?

About Rich Johnston

Chief writer and founder of Bleeding Cool. Father of two. Comic book clairvoyant. Political cartoonist.

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