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Why I Don’t Do Crowdfunding

Why I Don’t Do Crowdfunding originally appeared in a slightly different form in HUBRIS: A Commonplace Zine volume 2 issue 1.

I’ve written about why I don’t do crowdfunding projects before. This post isn’t a rerun. Think of it more as an update. While I’m going to cover some of the same ground, my opinions have evolved over time. I’m not saying I’ll never run a Kickstarter or IndieGoGo campaign. That’s just not part of my current business structure right now.

My rationale for not embracing the crowdfunding model comes down to three points: operational capability, creative freedom, and personal integrity.

Operational Capability

There are sound reasons why I’m a one-person operation working at the kitchen table. My business is intentionally structured so that I don’t have to deal with physical inventory, rent a dedicated work space, or hire employees. Without getting into specifics, they have to do with profitability, tax law, and my immigration status.

In short, I could not run a successful crowdfunding campaign by myself. Expanding to be able to handle the logistics would screw me over so hard in so many ways. It wouldn’t be profitable, and it would cause me more problems that it would be worth even if it did make me a lot of money.

Creative Freedom

I want to make what I want, the way that I want to make it. While there are far fewer backers today who feel that their pledge gives them the right to dictate what a creator does, there are still expectations surrounding campaigns themselves. Everyone wants a range of backer levels will extra rewards. People want stretch goals. If you just want to make a thing, that’s boring. Guess what? I just want to make a thing.

At this point I could point back to operational capability, above, but I don’t have to. I don’t want to make a bunch of other stuff. At the very least, I don’t want to roll that other stuff together with this particular thing. I will make the other thing in its own time. You can’t just crowdfund a game, you need to promise a whole product line. There have to be custom dice and other shiny objects. This violates the whole spirit of the Black Box Manifesto, which I think is the right direction for me, creatively, at this moment in time.

Personal Integrity

While I am getting much better about telling people what I’m working on, I still shy away from announcing release dates. I’m a one-person operation. Set aside my physical and mental health issues. Assume that I’m in peal condition. One day I could wake up with a cold. I could step off the curb and get hit by a truck. There’s no one to pick up the slack. The project doesn’t move forward without me. It’s irresponsible to make promises that I’m not 100% certain I will be able to keep.

I have seen those tragic Kickstarters. Someone has a family crisis and spends all of the backers’ money on medical bills. Understandable on some human level, wildly unethical on a professional level. A person whose depression is under control gets absolutely crushed by the stress of a successful campaign, and it ends up destroying their life. I’m happy when I see understanding backers in those situations, because the creators appear to have started out in good faith. A lot of backers, though, just assume that you’re a scammer and make your life a living hell. There are scumbags out there, and they deserve to be roasted, but some folks don’t want to bother sorting out a person in crisis from a con artist.

Why I Don’t Do Crowdfunding

There have been times when I’ve been tempted to do one. One. Singular. Because it might bring in some new customers. My research shows, though, that they wouldn’t follow me. I’d drop something on Kickstarter, but they wouldn’t go look at my other products on DriveThruRPG. They’d expect my next project to be another Kickstarter. It would force my business in that direction, and as I’ve stated above, no. Just no. To even consider starting down that road would be a disaster.

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