by Arnie Fenner
Doing It Yourself
Everybody these days seems to be using Kickstarter (or some other crowd-funding method) to finance their self-published art books. I had briefly mentioned KS in an earlier post so I thought I’d take a shotgun approach to discuss a few additional points.
Let’s assume you’ve got a book you’re aching to do and for one reason or another you’ve decided to forego pitching it to a publisher and plan to print it yourself with the help of a few hundred on-line supporters. I guess the first thing to do is hit this link and familiarize yourself with the process…
Read it? Great. Now you’ve learned that not every project proposed to Kickstarter gets accepted (they have to make a profit after all) and not every accepted project gets funded. Like everything else in life, there are no guarantees. Beyond that there are some key things to think about:
- First, the most humbling question to ask yourself straight out of the gate is: Do people actually want a book of my art? Have I created a body of work people will pay to have preserved between covers? Do I have the rights to publish the art in a book? (Remember my previous post about copyright and Fair Use: you are legally responsible for everything you put into print so make sure what you include does not infringe on anyone else’s rights.) Or, if I’m going to create new work for this project, have I built an interest in what I do for people to want more? And perhaps most importantly can I produce what I’m promising when I say I will?
- If your answers to the above questions are “yes,” the next step is to do your research and figure out the details. Assuming scans are available of all the art, how many books am I planning to print and how much will it cost to print them? Am I going to sell extra copies printed above what’s needed to satisfy my obligation to supporters and what will be the retail price? Who will print them (domestic or overseas)? Who will design the book, me or will I have to hire someone (if you’ve never designed a book before, there’s a lot to it)? How long will it take to deliver a finished product to backers? How much will it cost to ship them to backers? Where will I purchase shipping materials (boxes, bubble wrap, etc.) and how much will they cost? And who is going to be doing all of that packing and shipping? Believe me when I say that schlepping packages to the Post Office or UPS is awful and takes up a lot of time and energy. You have to plan how to handle every aspect of your project from initiating the idea to getting the finished product out the door, and that planning has to include the labor needed to get the job done. All of the negative costs have to be factored into the dollar figure you’re hoping to raise if you want to avoid nasty surprises further down the road.
- Be realistic in the amount you’re trying to raise. The goal is intended to cover the expense for doing your book, either simply or with as many bells & whistles as you can come up with. And, sure, if you can turn a profit from the git-go no one is going to seriously complain. But have a certain amount of humility and don’t overreach if you want support. Many look at the success of the KS project for Brom’s book a few years ago and figure, what the hell, I’ll expect a quarter million, too! While anything’s possible (look at the Potato Salad project) the thing to accept is…there’s only one Gerald Brom and he is in a rarified position of respect, demand, and popularity. The rest of us ain’t him. Keep your expectations modest and if you hit your goal, for God’s sake be happy; anything extra is just icing on the cake.
- Remember that there are fees attached to the funds raised. Kickstarter takes 5% of the gross and other processing fees can take up to another 5%—meaning that if your goal/production costs is $10,000 and you meet it (are “funded”) at the end of the cycle, you’re going to get $9000 not the whole $10K. Plan on seeking slightly more than what you’ll need to produce your book so that you can cover the fees and don’t come up short at the end.
- Also remember that what you raise via crowd-funding is not free money: it is income. The tax man will know exactly what you got and, at some point, will expect their cut, quite possibly at a higher tax rate than what you’re used to. Every negative cost associated with your book/project is a business expense that can be deductions, but you’ll have to keep receipts and account for everything to receive them come tax time.
- You have to deliver. Duh. Simple enough, right? Unfortunately, not everyone does and in the U.S. the Feds have started to crack down on deadbeats. There are repercussions for not giving people what they’ve paid for so be conscientious.