A few years back, I started work on a book about the Chicago music scene in the 90s. I spent close to two years conducting interviews, transcribing them, and formatting them into a readable context. That book, "Chicago Rocked," had a publishing deal. Then it didn't.
Once the publishing deal was over, my book was essentially dead. The process had defeated me. I had to let "Chicago Rocked" sit for a while before I could even talk about it again. After considerable time (two years), thought, and analysis, I made the decision to "crowdfund" the self-publishing of my book. To make it happen, I turned to the then-new site Kickstarter. Kickstarter collects pledges for projects, and then those pledges are applied to a goal amount that the project creator sets. If that goal isn't hit, the pledges go away and the funding doesn't happen.
Using Kickstarter's 90-day maximum window for fundraising, I did everything I could to generate interest, from participating in a dozen traditional and non-traditional media interviews, posting countless updates and pleas across various social networking platforms, and making personal appeals to friends and acquaintances. The result at the end of 90 days, as seen here, was close to the mark, but not enough to get the funding. Three months after I launched my effort, the book was dead. Again.
I haven't been thinking much about Chicago Rocked since the Kickstarter experiment. That is, until I got an unsolicited message from this guy, who helps run IndieGoGo, a new crowdfunding site. I'd never heard of IndieGoGo, so I clicked over to check it out. The first thing that struck me about the site is that it looks exactly like Kickstarter. Shamelessly so. The only (obvious) functional difference between the two is that IndieGoGo lets you keep the money you raise, regardless of whether or not your goal is hit.
I'm put off by IndieGoGo because its imitation of Kickstarter is so blatant and thorough. I realize that imitation and mimicry of a successful brand are nothing new to the world of websites--or products, for that matter. This just seems...not right...to me.
If I were to consider crowdfunding again, I'd likely return to Kickstarter. The idea of generating some--but not all--of the needed funds for a project sounds dicey. If only a portion of the money is raised, what does a creator apply that funding towards? Isn't there an ethical obligation to provide contributors with a finished product? Won't contributors feel "taken" if their credit cards are charged, but have nothing tangible from the creator in return?
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