Former Kickstarter Junkie II: Even Formerer

Smoke/Ashes, Alex DeCampi, Tomer Hanuka

The Smoke/Ashes two-in-one limited hardcover edition was made possible through Kickstarter and conscientious perseverance. Art by Tomer Hanuka.

My copy of the new hardcover graphic novel Ashes arrived in my mailbox this week. When I first put up my money for the project, it was a sequel to a well-received IDW miniseries called Smoke. During the production process, creator Alex DeCampi announced it wouldn’t be a stretch for her to include both stories in a single volume. I’m certainly not one to turn down a value-added bonus.

This fabulous package was the result of a Kickstarter campaign that was launched in October 2011, successfully funded in December 2011, announced with a delivery date of December 2012, and plagued by setbacks too numerous to recount. Through frequent updates composed with above-and-beyond personal candor, DeCampi kept in touch throughout the process, provided backers with access to a digital version months ago, and generally gave the impression that she had every intention of fulfilling her commitments, no matter how much it would end up costing her in the long run, all without passing the budget overruns on to us. Congress should be so conscientious.

More than a few Kickstarter projects out there can’t say the same.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover:

I loved the idea of artists, writer, musicians, inventors, designers, and other makers of stuff bypassing the corporate processes that normally rule their respective fields and obtaining the necessary funding to self-publish, self-release, or otherwise bring their works to life through the magic of crowdfunding, which in most cases works a lot like pre-ordering an item except you’re also adding a generous tip.

…But other priorities have come a-callin’. My last pledge was in December 2012 (a Bob Mould tribute concert film); I can’t swear it’ll be my final use of the site, but any future contributions will have to be severely limited, judiciously selected, frugally committed, and wildly recompensed with endless freebies.

That was six months ago. I’ve thus far not pledged for another Kickstarter project since then. At first, it was mere exercise of selective self-control, consciously deciding to prioritize other responsibilities vying for my attention, and favoring other areas in which I’d rather splurge my monthly fun money.

In recent months, I’ve amended my stance and my game plan. The short version: I’m not backing anything else on their website until and unless I receive the rewards I’m owed from all other projects I’ve previously backed first. And I mean all of them. I can name two projects off the top of my head that sorely tempt me at the moment, but will have to soldier on without me till I have closure with absolutely everyone who preceded them.

(If you’d like to fund them, by all means: check out Brian Augustyn’s graphic novel Dead Ringer and Five Year Mission’s next album, Year Three. Enjoy! But count me out, through absolutely no fault of their own.)

I agree that the crowdfunding concept can work well, and has worked well for myself as well as for some of the artists I’ve backed. Unfortunately, as managed by Kickstarter, the concept has a weakness: zero accountability. In theory, Kickstarter users should draw up their plans in advance, use all possible tools at their discretion to calculate a reasonable minimum funding level they’ll need to achieve their goals, use the money only for those goals, need only that money, reach those goals, keep their promises, and win at creating.

For those who pass that checklist with an A-plus and a happy “Good Job!” sticker, it’s a testimony to how well the system works. For those who leave one or more boxes empty on the checklist, the consequences are…largely psychological. New Kickstarter registrants are required to agree to the following:

If your project is successfully funded, you are requird to fulfill all rewards or refund any backer whose reward you do not or cannot fulfill. A failure to do so could result in damage to your reputation or even legal action on behalf of your backers.

The more general Terms of Use viewable to the public before signup naturally and more succinctly state, “Project Creators agree to make a good faith attempt to fulfill each reward by its Estimated Delivery Date.” Should things go awry, however, Kickstarter’s policy regarding their role in such a potential fracas would be as follows:

Kickstarter is not liable for any damages or loss incurred related to rewards or any other use of the Service. Kickstarter is under no obligation to become involved in disputes between any Users, or between Users and any third party arising in connection with the use of the Service. This includes, but is not limited to, delivery of goods and services, and any other terms, conditions, warranties, or representations associated with campaigns on the Site. Kickstarter does not oversee the performance or punctuality of projects. The Company does not endorse any User Submissions. You release Kickstarter, its officers, employees, agents, and successors in rights from claims, damages, and demands of every kind, known or unknown, suspected or unsuspected, disclosed or undisclosed, arising out of or in any way related to such disputes and the Service.

The Terms of Use do contend that the estimated delivery dates are not guaranteed. There’s no word on whether or not there’s a grace period, or a true deadline at such-and-such a date and time at which point Kickstarter would actually do anything. Worst-case scenario: if you’re flagrantly evil, they’ll cancel your account and delete your page. As for the backers…well, it was fun just participating, right? The short version: “We really hope you guys work it out, ’cause if you don’t, people gonna talk!”

If you read the comments section of any given project where results are somewhere between mildly disappointing and Entertainment-720-level embarrassing, the most common response is a threat of legal action. Sure, that’s one option in America, but to me, lawsuits aren’t always about the honor of simple accountability. Lawsuits can be a form of justice, granted, but for petty stuff like this, they’re more an escalated form of revenge when all forms of polite, civil accountability have failed. If my family’s health and well-being were at stake, that’s one thing. I’m not going to court because someone owes me a book.

That’s not to say I’m 100% helpless, mind you.

On a related note: the following represents my personal checklist of Kickstarter campaigns that I backed between August 2011 and December 2012 for which I’m still awaiting promised physical rewards. Not all of them are officially overdue. Yet. Curiously, almost all of them felt compelled to send updates within the past two weeks, coincidentally in the wake of recent geek-headline stories about the would-be video game Clang, whose Kickstarter campaign raked in over half a million dollars that still wasn’t enough to produce tangible results. After that, suddenly many other Kickstarter users felt obligated to send updates before we villagers stormed their castles.

Pretty much all digital rewards were sent out in a timely fashion, as far as I can remember. This list is largely about physical rewards, by which I mean hard copies of things that require mail delivery. If every single overdue item shows up in my mailbox by Halloween, awesome. If I recheck this list in another six months and see delinquent items remaining…well, that would suck, and it’ll certainly be revisited here at much greater length.

Coming soon, hopefully:

Project: Jamal Igle’s graphic novel Molly Danger
Launch date: August 2012
Estimated delivery date: September 2013
Last update to backers: August 26, 2013
Status as far as we’ve been told: My physical non-book freebies arrived months ago. For the books, Igle requested our mailing addresses around September 10th. The publisher, Action Lab Studios, was still accepting preorders as of September 30th. A launch party is planned in NYC for October 12th. We’re within acceptable limits and I remain optimistic and pleasant.

Project: the spaceflight documentary Fight for Space
Launch date: July 2012
Estimated delivery date: December 2013
Last update to backers: September 27, 2013
Last update before that: July 28, 2013
Status as far as we’ve been told: All interviews have been completed. Scripting and editing are now underway. Considering the due date still two months away, if this is the last project outstanding on my list, I might consider lifting my moratorium, budget permitting.

Project: Gail Simone and Jim Calafiore’s graphic novel Leaving Megalopolis
Launch date: August 2012
Estimated delivery date: February 2013
Last update to backers: September 17, 2013
Status as far as we’ve been told: The book is at the printer waiting its turn in line to ship this very month, some 30-50 pages longer than projected. 75 updates over the past year have provided us with tons of behind-the-scenes special features and little freebies, along with allegations of even more little freebies in store. Simone and Calafiore were the driving force behind Secret Six, the greatest DC Comics series around before the New 52 stomped on everything, so I’m presently mollified.

Project: Dan Harmon and Charlie Kaufman’s stop-motion short film Anomalisa
Launch date: July 2012
Estimated delivery date: May 2013
Last update to backers: August 28, 2013
Last update before that: July 19, 2013
Status as far as we’ve been told: With apologies and a confession of being “overly optimistic”, whoever among them is in charge of updates informed us a few months’ worth of animating was still in progress, to be followed by however long post-production takes. The names behind this have been responsible for very high-minded entertainment in the past, plus they’re Of Hollywood and probably no strangers to excessive shooting schedules, so I’m not sure what day I can officially start being indignant.

Project: The animated short Atomic Robo: Last Stop, based on the excellent all-ages comic series
Launch date: February 2012
Estimated delivery date: January 2013
Last update to backers: September 25, 2013
Last update before that: July 10, 2013
Status as far as we’ve been told: “We were waiting for final mastering for the film, which is holding up the disc pressing.” The animation company hired a new guy specifically to assist with Kickstarter reward shipping, about whom we were supposed to hear more this week. Book rewards are ostensibly shipping this month, with the DVDs going out “after that”, which hopefully doesn’t mean the 12th of Neverary.

Project: folk-rocker Mary Lou Lord’s next album
Launch date: September 2011
Estimated delivery date: December 2011
Last update to backers: June 4, 2013
Last update before that: February 22, 2013
Status as far as we’ve been told: Follow the timeline:

* February 2012: we received a digital download of one (1) song.
* June 2012: it was “coming along nicely”.
* September 2012: it was “almost done”.
* February 2013: it was “pretty much finished”, but was being held back to coincide with an album release by some other solo musician, so that they can go on a shared tour and sell records together and it’ll be just like any other new-album release except for the part where promises were kind of made.
* May 7, 2013: The other guy’s album is released.
* June 4, 2013: Direct quote: “We are trying to get a tour together in the fall sometime and I have pushed my own record back a bit so that the release will coincide with the tour and the timeline will be good for tour press – which usually happens immediately following a release.”

No word since then. In thirteen updates over two years, four of them thank us for being “patient”. That’s inaccurate. I aim for the patience of a saint in some aspects of my life, but in this case it’s weary resignation and an assumption that I’ll never live to hear a second song from this hypothetical album.

To be continued! Hopefully with six happy endings.

One response

  1. Pingback: Yes, There’s a Scene (and an Easter Egg) During the “Veronica Mars” End Credits | Midlife Crisis Crossover

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