So, my Kickstarter launched today for an e-book I’ve been chipping away at over the years: The DIY Performers Guide.
Within hours it’d raised a nice little chunk to kick it off thanks to awesome humans sharing it widely on social media.
Within these exact hours, somebody commented the following:
“Ahhh good old Kickstarter.
I'm not sure why it costs $6,500 to make an e-book?”
It’s a totally valid question.
I responded, suggesting to check out the budget (which covers the fact that the vast, vast majority of the 6,500 goes into expenses, not into my pockets), to which he replied. I'd like to share parts of our conversation below with my comments - I've asked his permission to share which he granted but asked I keep his show names private. Anyway, here's his next comment:
“If I can ever offer advice on how to produce an e-book for less than $6grand, it would be my pleasure to offer some insight to help you get the wheels up for far less $”
And here’s the thing: he’s absolutely right. I totally could do this for less than six grand. But I’m not. I’m choosing not to. Because:
I don’t want this to be a half-arsed PDF, I want it to be a quality resource including interviews with amazing folks, designed beautifully and something that is as useful and practical and well produced as it can possibly be. And to do that:
I want to take the time to conduct interviews with as many quality, authentic, creative DIY folks as I can and to take the time to write it properly and well.
The reason I decided on a Kickstarter - rather than just writing it and releasing it into the world for sale - was that I wanted to make sure there was truly demand for it before I dedicated months of work to it.
If there just aren’t enough people who are interested, then we don’t make the target, the project doesn’t happen and while I’ll be disappointed (and my pride will take a hit), I honestly am fine with that, and if that’s the case, then it costs nobody anything (that’s the beauty of the Kickstarter model). I’ve got a billion other projects in the queue to work on. It’s all good.
What I’m not okay with is dedicating hundreds of hours of unpaid work to a project in the hope that it sells later.
His next comments:
“My point is that you actually can afford to do it for less…You literally, actually can. Asking for money doesn’t give you more time.”
“I’m exceptionally time poor - in the last 12 months I have been to 100 cities with *show name omitted* I spent 3 months learning to walk again - but creatively I acquired producing rights to two new shows and then in there I wrote a 70 minute show called *show name omitted* which comes out in a few months.
I got paid for none of that until after I did it, including *show name omitted* because we take full risk on all of our endeavours.
So I work for free, because
a) I believe in what I’m making b) It holds me accountable c) Money is not my motivation. It’s the bi-product of making something good.
So speaking practically...
I make time by - sleeping 1 or 2 hours less a night - spending less time on social media
(Im doing these things at the moment as we are touring America but I have 3 new shows launching in Oz shortly)
- I invest in my self by betting on myself - “put your money where your mouth is”, as they say - And if I run short on money for a project, I sell things that are less important to me than my desire to get the project happening
I’m sharing his comments not just as a means of explaining the rationale behind the Kickstarter, but also to shed light on a particular mindset when it comes to being a DIY performer (which he certainly is. In fact, I’m hoping he’ll agree to be interviewed for the e-book! There is room for different approaches, and different perspectives!
Because his approach definitely works… for him. For where he is in his life today.
I have taken financial risks on projects. I have sold stuff and sacrificed sleep and money and lifestyle to subsidise my shows and projects. I’ve worked my ass off. I’ve made time for work when it seemed like there wasn’t any, and sacrificed the other things that I could have, should have, been doing instead.
And guess what?
I’m done with that.
Call it a different career phase, call it a different life phase, a different family phase, but here’s the deal: at some point in your creative career you have to draw a line between what you are and aren’t willing to do.
I have six kids in my family now. I have regular, awesome - creative - gigs that pay the bills. I love what I do.
And I am no longer willing to work for free (charity stuff aside).
I’m not willing to risk my family’s finances on my passion projects. I’m not willing to sell their possessions to fund my creative habit. This Kickstarter is about minimising risk, before devoting the time - time away from my family, time away from my other projects, time away from my other paid work - to a big project.
Money is not my motivation either - heavens, is it the motivation of ANYBODY carving out a career in the arts?! - but that doesn’t mean that I’m a martyr for my art.
Professional artists deserve to get paid. That’s exactly why I’m writing this book: is to help people to work towards achieving just that.
For me, if I can’t afford to make this project happen without getting paid for it while I write it, then I can’t afford to make this project happen. It’ll be a bummer, but as a professional creative, that’s where I’ve drawn my line.
His last comment:
You getting people to give you money to write will buy you 0% more time than what you already have.
There are only 24 hours in a day, that’s true. However having the $ to create this project is not about buying time, it’s about trading time: giving me the chance to to sacrifice other work in the meantime so that I do indeed have the time free to work on this project, while still being able to provide for my family.
The point is, as performers, we are all in different places; different career phases, different life phases, different family phases.
He has drawn his lines around what he’s willing - and isn’t - to do. So have I. They’re just different lines is all.
This is why it costs 6,500 to make an ebook.
Because this is my line.
And I’m totally good with that.