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Fund Your Own Writing Project

If you’re looking to get funding to write a book, one option is to use Kickstarter, which was pointed out to me in the comments of a previous post.

I’m sure by linking to this, it’s going to annoy the hell out of some writers – those who think we’ve a god-given right to be doing what we’re doing, that we’re somehow Very Important People. Me, well, I’m reminded of a Don DeLillo character, a writer, who said of himself:

‘I’m a sentence-maker. Like a donut-maker, only slower.’

I don’t think we’re special people any more than anyone else is – we’ve just worked hard, had the skills, but got lucky. There’s a whole bunch of people who probably work hard and have the skills, but luck wasn’t on their side. I can understand that.

This means I’m open-minded about who should and should not be a writer. It’s a fine line between success and failure, and for those who have fallen on the wrong side, perhaps Kickstarter is a good way to fund your project.

‘But is it ethical?’ I hear you cry.

I would place this on the same level as self-publishing, which can split of into ‘good self-publishing’ (small-scale projects that publishers would never touch, such as the history of a local church – something that serves the community) and ‘bad self-publishing’ (vanity, I’ve been rejected a billion times but the world must – must – see what I write because I am a genius and all editors are just missing the point, and I will go into bookshops to annoy the hell out of every member of staff until they stock my book, and it’s all about me, me, me). It’s bad for that kind of person psychologically, perhaps, but more important financially – we should also give warnings against those companies who seduce desperate writers into parting with their cash in order to get published. ‘We’ll send your books to newspapers to be reviewed!’ they cry as you open your wallet and fold dollar notes down their low-cut publishing tops. Because they can say they will send out your book to reviewers, but without the support of a whole bunch of things (a publicist, a publisher with a trustworthy pedigree) it’s most likely going to end up going straight in someone’s bin.

So, perhaps Kickstarter bypasses the whole ‘parting with cash’ problem. It’s an advance paid for directly by the public – or rather, levels of donation in which the public buy in to your project, and you already get some idea of a level of interest. There are questions of ‘ownership’ raised, perhaps, and some may have entitlement issues. George R R Martin could totally be your bitch this time.

But I like the questions and self-examination that Kickstarter raises. Is there anything wrong with funding someone to write a book that you will be interested in? This funding means that – possibly – editorial services can be employed, a decent printer can be sourced. There is still a lot of hard work involved. What if a writer is talented, just not commercial enough? What if they’re writing in a niche of a niche, and the project would never be touched by the major publishing houses? What about supporting the Arts, darhlings?

And what about funding smaller projects run by ‘established’ authors – would that change your opinion? Things which we are mad enough to think of, crazy little ideas that not even the small presses think they can sell, but with a little self-funding, that established writer could commit the time.

Food for thought.

There are some dubious projects already getting a lot of donations, and you have to question who exactly is donating money to have ‘a private reading in a public place’ for a book about sex.

It’s also worth asking that if it wasn’t literature we were talking about funding, would you still think the idea was a bad one?

By Mark Newton

Born in 1981, live in the UK. I write about strange things.

3 replies on “Fund Your Own Writing Project”

A similar ransom model has been used successfully by a number of RPG publishers to fund books that couldn’t possibly have produced any other way.

It’s worked for them, I don’t see why it wouldn’t work for fiction.

– Neil.

Happy to see this get its own post. I love this site, though tend to spend more time looking through all the art/music projects. That seems an even harder way to make a living than writing.

As for the “me, me, me” crowd, I’m not so sure this appeals to them. My hunch is they want validation more than anything else. They want agents/editors to swoon, bookstores to pile up their tomes, the media to come begging for interviews. Kickstarter seems to be more about small projects achieving modest levels of funding. It’s not a shot at fame and fortune, but a chance for niche creative projects to find an audience… or determine that there really is no audience for the project.

Interestingly, I’ve seen projects by published authors barely get off the ground. And those by writers completely unknown to the publishing world come back with four or five times their funding level. It seem the successful are those who know how to harness social media, not necessarily those who have built a traditional readership.

Neil – RPGs sound exactly the sort of thing that this would be good for, now you mention it.

DJ – when you put the “me, me, me” crowd like that, that begins to sound like most writers, to be honest. 🙂 Wouldn’t we all love that? But yes, I see what you mean – and the niche aspect seems to be key to a successful set-up. I’ll keep an eye out on what happens to some of the projects there.

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