PR: What Not to Do: Be a Kickstarter Jerk
Kickstarter is so easy to use that a lot of people are rushing into it who don’t have the skills necessary to run their own business, especially when it comes to marketing. With so many people using it for comics, it can be difficult to get attention and meet your pledge goal (especially if you’re asking for thousands of dollars). Many Kickstarters know that they need to get mentions and links to succeed.
Earlier today, I got one of those pleading letters that wanted me to mention their Kickstarter project. The email was pretty good, although it was obviously a form letter to a large group of websites. It opened by saying that the person didn’t want to beg, but he was hoping to get the word out and “get some feedback from a professional source”. It continued: “I’m definitely not looking for just a quick way to get some free advertising (ok, I am, but I’m not), so if you guys want to give this thing the old once-over, I would appreciate your time and thoughts”. Not surprisingly, this turned out to be completely untrue.
The project itself is a graphic novel pitched as being just like an 80s action movie. It was also (this has since been changed, based on my feedback) revealed as a screenplay that the author knew he couldn’t get produced, so he turned it into a comic.
I sent back a note saying that I wouldn’t be covering the effort because there was nothing that made this comic interesting. I thought he should make the comic sound more special, since “lots of action” described too many other books out there. Plus, talking about how it was originally a screenplay made it sound like settling for making a comic was a booby prize.
Even weirder, there are two versions of this work. The writer/editor couldn’t decide which of two artists to pick, so he had both draw the script, and he’s offering either or both in book form. I think if you can’t make tough decisions, like selecting just one artist, you should stay out of comics. Maybe then you can ask for a more reasonable amount of money. When I see a newbie asking for more than $10,000, and the book prizes start at $45, I’m turned off. $20-25 is a more reasonable price for pre-ordering a graphic novel, in my opinion.
Anyway, my blunt email said much of the above, although I did try to couch it in terms of tips he could take action on, as with the change he did make. Silly me for believing that the petitioner really meant it when he said, “I hope to hear from you.” It won’t surprise you to hear I got back insults and reasons he didn’t want to listen to me.
My criticism was “constructive (although completely unhelpful)”. He wasn’t mad, he told me, but he felt the need to assert I was turned off by his manly comic and I was criticizing him because he wasn’t a woman. He then told me I clearly wasn’t the target audience. (I know that. But if you think that, why promote it to me in the first place?) When I was a potential advertisement for his project, my site was fine; now that I’d rejected him, I had no idea what “original” looked like because I read manga and Archie and that was all the same. This did somewhat impress me, in a demented way, because most he-men “you women ruin comics” idiots don’t bother to check out the site to any depth.
Then the email got really weird. Let me quote: “You seem like one of those snobby know-it-alls who sips wine while snuggling up to “classics” like Essential Dykes and who would be more than happy to hear more about my book if I won the Prism Comics Queer Press Grant”. So he’s also marginally homophobic and biased against wine drinkers.
I know people like this who ask for feedback are lying (or misleading themselves). They don’t want honest reaction. They want to hear how great their work is and how eager you are to tell others that. Any other reaction hurts their widdle ego and drives them to find reasons to ignore you. It’s completely understandable, and it goes along with the job.
I shouldn’t even be wasting your time telling you about this — but this kind of behavior does give anyone using Kickstarter a black eye by association. Now, I’m even less likely to listen to anyone pitching a project using that method, because I don’t know when I’m going to scratch another ridiculous person lashing out.
Update: I’ve now received the following offer for a “compromise” from this guy. If I “call it even”, he’ll stop berating me (although he’ll keep calling my words “slander”), but in return, he wants me to either erase this post or remove the information about his project being an 80s action movie comic, because he thinks that’s too specific an identifier. Sorry, dude, not going to happen. I think people should know who they’re trusting to send them Kickstarter rewards in return for their money.
(Note: When originally posted, the Kickstarter guy showed up in the comments with a few of his friends and there was a long back-and-forth about who was right and wrong and phrasing and snobbery and calling me a bitch. So I haven’t bothered reprinting those comments. Goodbye, history.)