About Those “100% Funded” Banners

My main hustle, Dancing Lights Press, has started running ads declaring various projects to be 100% funded. They’re meant to evoke Kickstarter campaigns. The caveat, if you read the text, is that they don’t need additional funds because they already exist. They’re not crowdfunding projects at all. The tagline goes on to declare “No Risk. No Wait. No Nonsense.”

Caveat/spoiler: I have nothing against people who run crowdfunding campaigns. There are many cool  creative people who do these things amazingly well. I would support more of them if shipping to Finland didn’t cost the equivalent of the GDP of South Sudan. The point that I’m going to make here is that crowdfunding is not a good fit for me. 

There are several different trains of though behind this. The first is my own sense of ethics. I have seen many creators over the years bite off more than they can chew where crowdfunding is concerned. They have a grand vision and a seemingly solid plan, but no practical experience. When they run up against something they didn’t foresee, or when life throws them a curve because the Kickstarter is a side gig, they can’t recover. There are also people who intentionally run scams of course, knowing exactly how much they can pull off without running afoul of the law, but I think there are fewer of those than you’d expect. In either case, people are out money and never see a product.

I’m a one-person shop, and I’ve managed to pay the bills doing nothing but this for over 3 years. That’s because I run lean. If I get sick, there’s no one to pick up the slack. I have physical and mental health issues. To set up a Kickstarter and make promises, to me, feels irresponsible. Running a crowdfunding campaign might net me a lot more customers and higher sales, but from an ethical standpoint I’m not going to take peoples’ money if I’m not 100% certain that I can deliver on time.

A lesser consideration is the level of expectations people who contribute to Kickstarters have. I could complete a project and then run a crowdfunding campaign. It would basically be delaying release by 30 days. People want rewards and extras, though. They don’t want to throw $10 + shipping at you and only get a book. They want the option of throwing $50 or $100 at you and getting super-deluxe editions with bells and whistles and exclusive merch. That’s not what I want to create. Having run the numbers, that business model isn’t profitable for me. It would also take an incredible toll on my physical and mental health. People don’t like hearing that truth, that it’s just not worth it for me.

What’s really behind the “100% Funded” campaign, though, is the attention crowdfunded games get. I have a thing that exists, that gets good reviews from customers and reaches best seller status, but I can’t get any press. It’s not that I’m a small publisher. Vloggers, podcasters, and websites cover plenty of indie releases. The problem is that I’m not on Kickstarter or IndieGoGo. They just don’t care about your book unless you’re part of that wave. I can’t get them to take a review copy or run a press release. Once, exactly once, did I convince someone to run my press release. What he actually ran was a post mocking me for not running a crowdfunding campaign and expecting him to care about my product. I don’t think he even read the press release, because he got a lot wrong. He certainly never read the book.

My brand at this point is doing my own thing, my own way, and not really caring what the rest of the hobby and the industry is up to. There’s an audience that gets what I’m doing, and I am ever grateful that they keep my afloat. I know that sounds petulant, but over the coming weeks and months you’re going to see a lot of posts in this space challenging the orthodoxy that exists, paradoxically, in a creative field. The Black Box Manifesto was only a first shot across the bow.

If you’re interested in checking out 100% Funded books that you can download now, visit my page at DriveThruRPG.

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