Friends of mine run Uncanny Magazine, which raised its first year of operational costs via Kickstarter. Having sold them an essay for the issue that comes out this upcoming Tuesday, I had a chance to preview the whole issue. It’s glorious. You’ll want to read it. It’s full of stories, poems, and essays with what I’ll call, with no cynicism or irony, “heart”.
For all that, the sentiment that resonated with me the most strongly came from the editors themselves. Halfway through their fully funded first year, they used their editorial to talk about funding a second. They offer subscriptions, and they’re looking into other funding methods as well. (Use them if you want to help good people fund good speculative writing and theory.) What they don’t want to do is run a second Kickstarter.
“We would prefer not to run another Kickstarter. Although Caitlin loves dressing up and everybody loves Space Unicorn swag, Kickstarters are exhausting”, they say. Having just finished a Kickstarter last week, I agree with them.
Don’t get me wrong. I’ll probably do another Kickstarter. I have ambitions for projects that are perfect for the platform, projects I can’t do all the work on but can’t afford to risk professional fees on all on my own, projects that are only worthwhile if the interest exists. But after having finished one Kickstarter and having seen their peculiar stresses up close, I’ll tell anyone who will listen that Kickstarters are a sometime funding source. They shouldn’t be a steady diet.
Not only that, but there are some people who probably shouldn’t run a Kickstarter at all. They’re perfectly competent to run them, but their personality traits and quirks will make an extended funding campaign stressful all out of proportion to the possibility of failure.
Are you one of those people? Here are three indications that you may be constitutionally unsuited to Kickstarter. I’m sure there are more. Feel free to add them in the comments.
You have problems dealing with rejection.
There are many things that a background in theater prepares you for. Rejection is one of the most important, especially if you’re running a funding campaign. If a month or more of small rejections will wreck you, don’t run a funding campaign. You will be rejected, even if your project is fully funded.
People won’t have money for your project, though they’ll find it for things they want more. People will decline to promote your project even when you make it incredibly easy for them. People will be too busy to even look at your project or notice that you’re tweeting about it six times a day. People will tell the world why they think your project is worthless.
Also, with the exception of a few carefully structured funding campaigns, any project you do is going to see a period of doldrums in the middle. The people who are super excited to give you money will do it right away. The people who aren’t 100% sure and the people who simply don’t feel the same sense of urgency as you do will wait until the end. The middle of even a successful Kickstarter campaign is a long, slow stretch of “Is this thing on?”
Then there’s the very real possibility that your project won’t be funded.
Make sure you can handle it. Know whether it’s the Pollyannas or the pessimists who will grate on you when you’re rejected. If you’re going to despair, get your promotions all scheduled in advance. The same is true if you’ll have to distract yourself with video games, bad movies, and romance novels when your total pledged stops moving. Have an appealing plan for what you’ll do with the time your project would have taken if it doesn’t hit its funding target; make failure taste like freedom.
Most of all, though, be honest with yourself about what you can handle. You will have enough to recover from after a Kickstarter. Don’t push yourself into a crisis of confidence or into depression to fund your project. Whether people like your project or not, we like you more than that.
You have trouble letting go of grudges.
A funding campaign, by virtue of taking up so much of your time and energy, will make everything related to it loom large. Ridiculously large. It is your life.
And no one else will understand that.
Not only will you be rejected while running a Kickstarter, but you will also be let down. People will tell you they’re going to pledge, then wait until the last minute, even after you’ve told them that people want to take part in successful campaigns, so early numbers are important. They will frame investing in your wonderful project as a charitable donation that should be done because you’re a nice person rather than someone with a great idea. They’ll make you a promise they don’t keep. They’ll ignore your project even when you’re doing something innovative in the field they promote.
You’re going to hate people at some point during your funding campaign. You may hate just one or two of them, if you’re lucky, or you may hate all of humanity by the associative property of “Ugh, people.”
You should probably stop that when the Kickstarter ends. Sure, take a few days for the world to return to its normal shape and size. The discovery that the world moved on while you were pouring yourself into this project should help you get your perspective back. If that doesn’t work, you could ask a few people about all the balls you dropped while running your campaign. Other people’s transgressions should look a bit smaller.
If you struggle with this normally, however, a Kickstarter may not be worthwhile for you. There’s no good reason to burn up your social network running a campaign that requires social networks. It’s self-defeating.
You have untreated, stress-triggered insomnia.
You will probably lose sleep during a Kickstarter. You’ll have messages to respond to, updates to write or record, people to poke about that promotion they promised, extra tweeting to bug your followers with. Unless you have the option to make this your only job, plan your life for the duration as though you were working two. You will be.
This means you’ll probably already be losing sleep. There are only so many hours, etc., and you still have to get laundry done, make food, and at least sketchily maintain relationships with the incredibly patient people in your life. You can’t really afford to lose too much more.
I’m speaking from personal experience on this one. I’m bad at sleeping to start with–migraines and a bad case of buzzing brain mean my sleep schedule isn’t that regular. Stress exacerbates that. I fell asleep late and woke before my alarm the entirety of our Kickstarter. I also got sick in the middle of it, probably due to sleep deprivation, which meant I wasn’t as effective as I wanted to be.
If you have anxiety issues, you should already have a plan for treatment for the duration of your fundraiser. This includes managing your sleep. I put my treatment plan in place with the help of my doctor after this Kickstarter because of this Kickstarter, and I’m paying out my sleep debt now. Don’t be me. A lack of sleep can kill you several different ways. It’s not worth it.