Kickstarter and the Club of Self-Righteousness


I’ve been pondering Kickstarter a lot lately. Ran all the numbers and everything. Let them sit.

Because Kickstarter is highly controversial these days and I just don’t feel mentally strong enough to deal with the backlash, with the snark, with being hated anymore than I already feel like I generally am.

Thing is, no one I know seems to have any extra money. Not really. We all seem to be passing around that one spare $20 from hand to hand like that stupid Coke commercial on the beach. We run across a new person who seems a tad worse off, so we give them the money we just got and then they find someone worse and pass it off again. There are so many people struggling to have food and shelter or pay for life-saving medical care or to fund planet-saving research, that the idea of begging for a bit of dried fruit from that already small pie for something as trivial as “art” feels kind of, well, wrong. There are too many more worthy places to give.

Maybe that’s why there are so many people who think writers and artists should fund their own work with well-paying day jobs or extra freelance or through publishers and record companies and prior sales. It’s the idea that if you believe in your work enough, you’ll believe in it enough to put your own money behind it or it’ll be good enough for an almighty corporation to fun for their own benefit. All that’s great if you can afford it, if you can get your hands on any of those things or maybe have a half million Instagram followers who will fund your new venture after your social media meltdown. I mean, if that works, awesome. Good for you. If not, Kickstarter is essentially a form of pre-ordering for projects that lack the necessary budget to do that on their own. I mean, in theory.

Which is a thing, sure, but what really bothers me about this idea that people should fund their own stuff is how that further marginalizes already-marginalized people. (Not me. Living in that space between normal and weird isn’t being marginalized.) Sure it’s great for people who want to experiment outside genre or who want to sing and play music that doesn’t fit in with the radio edits. People who want to create zines for niche groups but don’t have the storage space if the things don’t sell. But ideally, it should be  a way for us, the world, to get more diverse books and music and art from people who struggle to break through the whitewashed walls of publishing, the thin/pretty world of pop music, the logo-covered land of hip hop. People who don’t have the cash, who don’t know friends with the cash to chase a dream. It’s honestly, one of the biggest flaws of Kickstarter is that it really relies heavily on friends and family to fund your efforts unless you have spent years cultivating a social media presence to rival the biggest celebrity through your perfect beauty or exactly-styled image. Amanda Palmer talks about asking as if it’s that simple, but she’s built a platform out of couch-surfing and weirdness and flinging herself naked into crowds. Not everyone can or should be famous.

I don’t want to fling myself naked into crowds. I’m not sure writers should do that. Ever. At the same time, I’ve tried — for years — to do all things the “proper way” with regard to both “art” and day jobs and I have the student debt to prove it. (You know that old wannabe Indiana Jones movie The Librarian where the kid of a single mom in NYC has 22 degrees and gets a job at a magic library where he’s hunted by villains who want powerful objects? Yeah, the least believable part of that is that he hasn’t first been hunted down and shot by the student loan industry. Magic organizations have nothing on those people.) I’m just not “normal” enough and I’m not “weird” enough and I’ll never be popular enough. I don’t mean that to sound like a complaint, but just plain realistic. Look, Robert Galbraith had modest sales — despite being well received critically — before being outed as JK Rowling. Spoiler alert: I’m never going to secretly be JK Rowling. I’m never even going to secretly be EL James.

So, you have any thoughts? It is the internet, after all.