Brendan Mackie Writes His Second Novel

Brendan Mackie’s Help Me Write My Second Novel is one of Kickstarter’s earliest successes. Mackie, a novelist, sought $500 so that he could devote himself fulltime to writing. To attract backers, Mackie came up with some ingenious rewards, including fake facts written for you, a month as your personal writing slave, and our favorite: “I will name a minor character whatever you want. Within reason. No Purpledick McStinkblossom or anything.” Thanks to inventiveness like this, the project took off like a shot.

Currently the project has been pledged $536 with eleven more days to go. We sent Brendan some questions about his project and, true to his writerly nature, he responded with an essay on his project and Kickstarter. Here it is:

I joined Kickstarter so I could get support to write my second novel.
I’ve managed to finish novel number one, and am presently going
through the glacial slowness of trying to get it published.  I want to
keep on writing, but I don’t have the funds.  With the Kickstarter
community’s help, now my life as a starving artist will have a little
less starving, and a lot more art.

I chose my rewards based on what I could produce.  I write, so I
thought that, in addition to giving naming rights to some characters,
I could offer to write some things for the people who donated stuff.

About three quarters of my backers I know personally, but by far the
bulk of the money I got was given to me by perfect strangers.
Emphasis, I would like to add, on the word perfect.

How am I going to be updating people?  I don’t know.  I’ve recently
faced a hard-drive crash which has made my productive time a little
more harried.  I think I am just going to provide my backers with what
they got according to their donations, and tell them only when the
project is completely complete.

My favourite band?  Right now it’s Okkervil River. Been listening to
the extensively coinciding with an unfortunate bout of melancholy.

What was unanticipated was how quickly I could get support!  And the
super wonderful kindness of strangers.

What would I change.  Hmm.  I don’t know yet.  Ask me when it’s finished.

Project Widgets

Save the Ramzi (Canceled)

Well, we all remember Save the Music, right? You know, the charity that helps schools pay for music programs? VH1? Gloria Estefan...

Check out the Kickstarter widget that just rolled out. You can find them for all projects by going to the “Share” button in the navigation bar, like this one for Save the Ramzi. It’s an easy way to promote a project you created or are supporting on your blog. Give it a try.

KSR Open House Recap!

Last night Grand Opening in the Lower East Side of NYC held the first-ever Kickstarter open house. And it was awesome. So many more people than we ever had imagined came out, including some project creators, like Mike of LostLES, Kevin of Decorative Nihilism, Jeff from Accidental Nostalgia, Rob of Late Night Tunes, and Joseph of iPhone icons. All of whom were fantastic people. There were also some serial backers (like myself) who got to meet the folks they were supporting, as well as prospective project creators. Total lovefest.

One of the great things about the night was the energy: people were lobbing ideas back and forth, asking what projects they had done/were thinking of doing. Two separate people said that before coming they had never thought they’d make a project (“I’m not a creative person”) but after meeting everyone, declared that they had to do one. Simply being around that kind of positive, creative energy (to get all granola) was invigorating. It really was.

Clearly we’re going to have to do another one of these soon. And definitely make it out, if you can. And everyone who we talked to about starting projects last night: get started! There were so many passionate, exceptional ideas, and we can’t wait to see them live.

Thank you to everyone for coming out! Thank you to everyone for pitching in for booze! You got a lot of really great people drunk! And a special big thanks to Josh Miles, an awesome dude who, out of nowhere, volunteered to donate a case of wine to the party. Hi-fives all around.

PS: I was the “event photographer” last night, but got engrossed in so many conversations these are the only pix I took! But it’s something!

Interview: darkpony and Drawing for Dollars

Darkpony’s Drawing for Dollars was the very first Kickstarter project to be officially funded. (Currently, even when projects cross the 100% threshold, they aren’t officially launched until their time limit is reached.) He was looking for $20 from a total of three people to make some drawings like the one above. He ended up getting $35, with the reward being one of his sketches, which he shared using his project updates.

We sent darkpony some questions on his project and experience. Here are his responses.

Tell us about your project.

I like drawing but I never seem to finish anything beyond a certain point.  So I thought if other people were somehow invested in the project it might convince me to finish it not just to my liking but to a greater public level of completion.  So that’s what I did. i said “hey if you guys pay me some money i will draw a picture.”

How did you decide on your rewards?

Well, I was a little uncertain about that. I was initially thought I would give away a couple of sketches if people contributed a certain amount. but in the end i decided i would give each contributor a digital print of the work. that seems like a decent deal. the reason i decided against sketches is i didnt have enough interesting sketches.  plus if i ever did this again, a digital copy seemed like a more scalable (per contributor) model.

How many of your backers do you know personally?

Just one. my buddy Joel who really put the project over the top. the other two I didn’t know. well i knew one by name. but the other was a complete stranger to me. which is a really nice feeling. hey some stranger thinks this is a good idea! wow! inspiring!

How are you going to be updating people as you go along?

I use the ”updates” to keep people posted on the progress. I have been taking cell phone shots of the work as i make progress.

Have you learned/discovered anything from the experience?

Working on this was alot of fun. i work a regular job where someone else tells me what to do and then they pay me money for doing thier stuff. then i draw pictures for myself and no one tells me what to do, but for this i dont get any money. my kickstarter project was a fun way for me to try out mixing the two where i am working for someone else who will eventually pay me money, but they will be paying me to do what i want to do. hahah suckers! 

What was unanticipated about the experience?

LIke I mentioned above. the feeling that some complete stranger likes your idea. that can be a very big motivator. you know, with friends you can doubt thier level of interest ‘oh they are just being nice and throwing a couple of bucks my way to help me along.” but seeing someone you have no idea who they are sign on for your project really does something to make the whole endevour seem more ‘real’.

What, if anything, would you change about your project?

I would change the format. maybe make it cost more and get some nicer printing done? offer more smaller poster options. something like that. but luckily i did something very small and it is practically done and i can try again soon and tweak my model.

Who’s your favorite band?

I really like the heartless bastards i don’t know if they are my favorite band but i like the first two albums a whole whole lot and while i have a pretty varied selection of music on my ipod i very frequently would turn off shuffle and just play only heartless bastards while i worked on this project. they are very good music to draw to.


Raising funds was not easy. “So few were the readers at the time in Philadelphia and the majority of us so poor that I was not able with great industry to find more than fifty persons, mostly young tradesmen, willing to pay.” In doing so, he learned one of his pragmatic lessons about jealousy and modesty: he found that people were reluctant to support a “proposer of any useful project that might be supposed to raise one’s reputation.” So he put himself “as much as I could out of sight… That present little sacrifice of your vanity will afterwards be amply repaid.

kind of bloop

A very good project went up today called Kind of Bloop: An 8-Bit Tribute to Miles Davis to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Kind of Blue. The creator is Andy Baio, he of Waxy and general internet fame. Andy is raising $2,000 so he can properly license (good for him!) and pay for the Davis covers; he’s hiring five 8-bit artists to make the songs using their instruments, in this case original Nintendos and other gaming systems.

Incredibly, Andy raised his $2,000 in a matter of hours. There’s still more money to be made, as this album will only be distributed through Kickstarter, and it’s great that the project’s future is already secured. Well done.

Interview: Laura Kicey Goes to Iceland

Laura Kicey’s Kicey to Iceland is among the first projects to be successful on Kickstarter. Laura, a photographer and designer, has raised $630 over ten days so far to visit Iceland and take photographs. (She was only seeking $350.) Her trip is planned for June.

Two things in particular seemed to help Laura raise so much so quickly: 1) she has a strong presence on Flickr, and she got the word out there. And second, she offered her backers real, tangible rewards: your choice of a nice print of one of her photos from Iceland. It nicely ties it all together.

I sent Laura some questions about her experience using Kickstarter, and about her project. Here are her responses.

Tell us about your project.

About a month ago I decided I was overdue a vacation and if I did not take a trip in the next six months I was going to be extremely put out. I haven’t left the country (except to go to Canada) since 2002 and the past two years I’ve had some health problems that made really traveling a bit prohibitive so it was time. Iceland has fascinated me for a while — it is a beautiful, remote country, rich in culture, it has cold weather and lots of abandoned houses in the countryside all of which make it completely alluring to me as a place to visit and photograph. Being photogenic is the top reason for me to go anywhere, as photography is my work and my pleasure. The more research I did the more I realized it was going to cost. One of my friends said, “I’d never go to Iceland, I’ll just live vicariously through you, can I sponsor your trip? Just give me a print of a photo of yours from the trip.” At first I kinda scoffed at the idea. But I’ve had success selling prints on Etsy, in galleries, to corporate art buyers and licensing images for commercial use — I realized that maybe people would consider making a small investment in exchange for a piece of art. I started off by posting about it on my Twitter/Facebook/Flickr, making listings via Etsy, but they weren’t keen on the sponsorship verbiage but I did get a bit of a start with the project. Then I caught wind of Kickstarter’s launch and it was THE perfect platform for this, I haven’t looked back since.

How did you decide on your rewards?

My trips are all about taking photographs, always. I thought giving backers a print would be a perfect way to give back to the people who were sponsoring the trip. It is certainly a unique and rather exotic location… certainly a step up from going down the shore — this way I feel like backers are getting something unique, photos of a once in a lifetime kind of trip — that being said, some of my sponsors *have* already been to Iceland. At least 2!

How many of your backers do you know personally?

Most of them I know (prior to signing up for Kickstarter - I had about 8 additional backers all of whom I know). 5 out of 12 on kickstarter I do not know, I actually got more backers I don’t know since I met my goal - its great that people I don’t know are that into my work and supporting the making of it enough to want a piece of it, sight unseen.

How are you going to be updating people as you go along?

I am hoping to make some blog-like updates, though abbreviated - while I am there: where I went, what I saw, misadventures, photographic evidence thereof. I believe at least the one hotel will have internet access. Since the midnight sun will be extending my days - I plan on being on the road as much as humanly possible, rather than in a hotel. Outside of the big cities I will be a bit out of touch web-wise, but when I return to Reykjavik for a recharge I am hoping to have some time to download some images and process them on the fly. I am all about instant gratification and letting people get a sneak peek along the way - and since I work digitally that probably won’t be a problem. Right now, more than a month before I leave I don’t have much to share, I’m sure as it gets closer, something will come to me.

Have you learned/discovered anything from the experience?

It has given some confidence in my ability to sell the idea of my work in an abstract way and opened a door for future projects. The existence of Kickstarter gives me a place where I can launch ideas I would have had nowhere else to present.

What was unanticipated about the experience?

I was surprised by how many people backed me in so little time - and honestly I was surprised as much by friends and acquaintances backing me as the complete strangers! Also I think it is pretty great to be vocal even in a tiny way in the development of a great idea, so being able to not only launch my project but discuss the my experience with the people on the backend is exciting. I’d be happy to give you more feedback when my transaction goes through and I complete the process and wrap up the project, which I don’t expect to be until early July.

What, if anything, would you change about your project?

I’d like to set my goal higher without sabotaging getting the pledges I already have! I feel like meeting my goal has made people lose some interest in supporting it. I wish I was doing some photo projects right now I could share, so people could see some current work but I’m only doing client work I have to keep private. I guess most of the people sponsoring me already know my work pretty intimately, I just want to look like I am being visibly active somehow.

Who’s your favorite band?

I am a little wishy washy on naming a favorite anything, but lately I’ve been listening to Animal Collective, Andrew Bird and Beirut a lot. The most recent Animal Collective is infectiously happy, which normally I would find tedious as I like my melancholy entirely too much, but this I can’t get enough. Andrew Bird combines two things I adore - crazy vocabulary and strings - in a way that just does it for me. Beirut sounds like music made by a bunch of guys with Rasputin beards and concertinas on their knees, how could I resist that?