Some of you may have heard about Stacey Jay, the pen-name of an author who set up a Kickstarter for the sequel to an earlier book after her publisher decided not to continue with the series. For those who haven't, what happened was that there was some backlash to the fact that she stated that around $7,000 of the $10,500 goal would go towards "mortgage, groceries, and gas for my family during the three months it will take me to write the book."
Now, Kickstarter has this guideline against "fund me while I do X." The money raised has to go towards a specific project, which must result in some product at the end. Let's put a pin in that for now.
Stacey advised potential backers that she wanted to take three months to concentrate on this book, as opposed to using some of that time to work on other writing projects which she knew could earn her money. In other words, the extra money she was hoping to raise was in order to bring out the book sooner than if she'd had to work on this book alongside other projects. And she was honest about that.
But there was a negative response to this, with some questioning whether it was appropriate to take Kickstarter money and put it towards something other than the creator's own expenses. Stacey seems to have been having a hard time of late, and this wound up being the final push that has left her deciding to cancel the Kickstarter and give up on her pen-name, at least for a while.
I'm left trying to figure out where the line is drawn between a creator's freedom to use their funding as they feel is required, and a backer's rights to decide how their money is spent. When you pre-order a book on Amazon, for example, you would never assume that the royalties the author earns will only be spent on editing and cover design. Leaving aside the specific amount of money being requested up-front, if someone's willing to pay $10 for an ebook, and they get the ebook as promised, whose business is it how exactly the money is spent?
I asked over on Chuck Wendig's blog, but didn't really get a response from the naysayers I was addressing, what is the difference between the following:
(A) An author asking for $10,000, on the understanding that $7,000 of that would be used to ensure that the book would be released in 3 months.
(B) An author asking for $3,000, on the understanding that the book would be released in 6 months, but receiving $10,000, and as a reward for the enthusiastic backers, deciding to leave aside other projects and release the book 3 months early.
Kickstarter is a great tool. It's yet another way for authors to bring their work to a quality that can compete in today's market. It's probably not right for me, at the moment, and yes there are Kickstarter projects I haven't backed because I don't like the reward levels offered or the amount I would have to pay to receive what I'd want from the creator. I've seen publishers offer the chance to write a book for them as a reward for backing a project at a certain level. I've seen people set up a Kickstarter to fund their pledge for another Kickstarter. I don't approve of these, so I don't back them. I might even bitch to a friend about it. But I don't take the creator to task for it.
When a man can receive $55,000 to make a batch of potato salad, what is inherently wrong with a woman trying to see if there's enough reader interest in a book that she can devote her full attention to writing it? Particularly when compared to the likes of the guy who took $122,000 (after a $35,000 starting goal) to produce a board game and simply cancelled the project, claiming the money was all spent and the game couldn't be made, with no explanation of where the money had gone except for a vague summary of costs, including using some of the money to move back to Portland.
People use Kickstarter to raise money for business projects. Business projects are intended to make money for those behind them. If you don't like the idea of someone making money off of things they create, perhaps don't back Kickstarters? Or buy things. At all? I don't know. Perhaps Stacey Jay would have been better off just asking for money and not telling the truth about her intentions.
What do you guys think? Am I way off base here, and Stacey was engaged in truly unethical practices, or is the answer to seeing Kickstarters you don't like to simply not back them?