There’s a new direction some writers are taking online. Instead of the old cliche of “don’t patronize me,” these writers are looking for just that. Patronage. The old school method of funding artistic endeavors through the kindness of others. Using generous pocketbooks to fund both supplies and time, with an expectation of some form of artistic recompense.
This modern patronage scheme has a name, and has a website. Kickstarter.
For those unfamiliar with the site, Kickstarter is a way for those looking for funding to connect with those who believe in their ideas. Most of these projects involve some form of creative expression, whether through design, art, theater, game creation, or literature. The hopeful artist creates a project, gives a mission statement, usually includes a video, then sets the actual amount of money he or she needs for dream fulfillment and a deadline for raising the funds. Typically there are also rewards for various levels of patronage. If the money is raised by the deadline, it is transferred to the artist, minus a Kickstarter skim. If not, the money is returned to the patrons.
It is, in some small way, a way for the free market to provide and decide on what it wants to consume. Nowhere is this clearer than taking a trip through the writing section of kickstarter. Writers who are looking for money to buy groceries while finishing their magnum opus. Writers looking to defray the costs of publication after traditional routes have failed. Anthologies and journals looking to fund future editions. It’s not even small names. SFWA pro market Bull Spec chose Kickstarter to help fund its third year of existence, and in the process raised more than twice their $1000 goal.
But where the free market glorifies, it also ignores. I’m not going to link to failed Kickstarters, that’s just piling on, but there are several writing proposals that have languished to their demise, some raising less than $100, some not raising any money at all. Why? Perhaps people didn’t believe in the project. Or the writer. Or didn’t care for the rewards. Or it wasn’t well publicized. There’s any number of reasons a project might fail, and many of them will. There’s no entitlement to patronage just because someone has put together a proposal.
And even success as a Kickstarter project guarantees no success beyond that. Several of the projects look to be people raising the funds to self publish, which is the first step in a long and painful road of self promotion that very produces only the rarest of victories.
This isn’t the future of the publication industry. I feel rather confident in saying that. But it is an interesting take on the old patronage system, and could provide some deserving artists, writers, creators, and designers with the funds they need to get over the hump and see some form of success. It can also provide an absolute kick in the teeth for that artist who falls just short or, worse, gets no support at all.