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The greatest work IN English literature, now in the greatest format OF English literature: a chooseable-path adventure! Read more

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This project was successfully funded on December 21, 2012.

The greatest work IN English literature, now in the greatest format OF English literature: a chooseable-path adventure!

About this project

Now the #1 most funded publishing project on Kickstarter ever!

To Be Or Not To Be is an illustrated, chooseable-path book version of William Shakespeare's Hamlet, written by me, Ryan North:

  • "William Shakespeare" you may know from single-handedly giving us some of our most evocative phrases, such as "all that glitters is not gold", "too much of a good thing", and "the game is afoot" (Sherlock Holmes said this too I guess.) 
  • "Ryan North" you may know from my work on the critically-acclaimed comic Dinosaur Comics, writing the incredibly popular Adventure Time comic book series, or from co-editing the #1 Amazon bestselling short story anthology Machine of Death
  • "Chooseable-path" you may recognize as a trademark-skirting version of a phrase and book series you remember from childhood.  Remember?  Books in which... an adventure is chosen??

These three things got mashed up together into one BASICALLY AMAZING BOOK full of JOKES and also SWORDFIGHTS and GHOSTS and AWESOME AS A MASS NOUN.  But don't take my word for it:


While we won't be delivering the books in time for Christmas, if you pledge $30 or more, you unlock a Kickstarter-exclusive Holiday Hamlet ecard that can be sent directly to your gift recipient.  You can read about that here!  It's the perfect last-minute gift for anyone on your list (assuming they are good at waiting for things) (and also like to read)!  Also we've unlocked lots of new prizes at each reward level: be sure to check the updated list!


A few things:


  • My friend: it is exactly as awesome as you remember, only now you're playing the main character instead of watching someone else just PRETEND to be him.
  • Also unlike Shakespeare I didn't skip over the pirate scene in Hamlet.  You get to fight PIRATES.  With SWORDS.  And yes OF COURSE you can choose which body part you cut off.  Why would you write a book where you can't do that is my question.


  • YOU WON'T HATE HIM ANYMORE.  Honest!  This is great literature in what has to be the most accessible, friendly format ever.  If you ever struggled with wondering what was going on and what people's motivations were in the play, you will totally understand everything once you play through this book, assuming you make the same choices Shakespeare did when he played it.  That doesn't mean this book is written for children.  It just means it's easy to understand someone's motivations when you're the one making the decisions!
  • Hey speaking of that, making the same choices Shakespeare did will be easy as there will be little Yorick skulls beside the "canonical" choices.  So if you want to stick to the plot of the play, that's not a problem!  It's super easy!  But I'll warn you: Shakespeare's choices didn't lead to the best ending for the characters.  Not by a long shot.
  • While the book itself is told in modern language, for each of the big speeches, you have the option to say it in the original beautiful and fancy language, or you can have told in modern language, like with Hamlet rapping it or whatever.  IT IS TOTALLY YOUR CALL.


  • Yep, I hear you.  The interactive books of our youth often suffered from arbitrary plotlines and capricious death.  This book puts you in a real, consistent world where your choices matter.  Also there are ghosts.  Also you can play as a ghost.  Also you can haunt the planet for generations because GHOSTS DON'T DIE.


  • Yep!  In fact, the first choice you make is to choose your character, and each character has their own storyline.  Storylines, actually: dozens and dozens of storylines.  You can play as Hamlet, his girlfriend Ophelia, and his dad Hamlet Sr, who (SURPRISE) dies on the first page and becomes a ghost.  And then we make fun of you for dying on the first page, but you can become a ghost and must INVESTIGATE YOUR OWN MURDER that you TOTALLY SLEPT THROUGH because you got SLEEPY IN AN ORCHARD. (Shakespeare wrote this part, I can't help it.)
  • Ophelia's adventure is as well-thought-out as Hamlet's, but rather than being a hero suffering from crippling inaction, you are a smart, self-sufficient woman who knows what she wants and is totally rad 100% of the time, and also you are dating a PRINCE.  You can choose what you want to do with your life: help your boyfriend who's crying about a spooky ghost, or I don't know TAKE DOWN INTERNATIONAL TERRORISTS INSTEAD??  It's nuts.  It's awesome.  Oh my gosh.


  • Then I can assure you this book is still totally awesome and chock full of those things you like.  You can (AND WILL?) love this book even if you've never had any particular interest in to being or not to being.  This is a book written for adults who like only the most awesome of things.  That is you.  I know it. 
  • I've used the story of Hamlet as a starting point, but a) that's already a great story because it ends with pretty much everyone in it getting stabbed in the body and b) the story can go in all sorts of fun, crazy directions when you make a choice that Shakespeare didn't.  


The book itself is already written: it's 80,000 words of comedy and mayhem that I lovingly crafted together myself over the past year.  80,000 words is about what you'd call an "actual book-length book".  So why the Kickstarter?  One reason, really:

We are going to decide how amazing this book is going to be.

The more money we raise, the better the book will be.  Paperbacks and hardcovers and nice paper stock are a given, but we'll also be adding PICTURES.  And not just any pictures: PICTURES DONE BY SOME THE BEST VISUAL ARTISTS AND ILLUSTRATORS ALIVE TODAY.  I say this without hyperbole, and as proof offer up this alphabetical list of Amazing People Who Are Doing Pictures For This Book, Look At All These Amazing People, I Love Them:

... AND MORE (surprise artists?  YES)


If we reach our goal for the book, I'll be able to release the book as a professionally-edited, professionally typeset, professionally-designed beautiful volume with a single illustration commissioned from each of these artists, each rendering a different way your story can end.  And the more money we raise, the more deaths get illustrated, until we have all 110 deaths done!  You can die a lot in a book like this, and I want to make each time something to look forward to.  I want it to be a treat.

In the video, I've included images showing each artist's style, and in some cases, an actual detail from an illustration I've already commissioned from them.  It is a SNEAK PEEK (assuming this project reaches its funding goals and is a success, otherwise it is just TANTALIZING GLIMPSES INTO A WORLD THAT WAS NOT MEANT TO BE)

This book will be published with help from Breadpig, who have a proven track record in bringing awesome into the real world.  They're the publishers behind super rad, super quality books like XKCD: volume 0, SMBC: Save Yourself, Mammal! and The Most Dangerous Game, and most recently, Zach Weiner's own chooseable-path gamebook also launched here on Kickstarter, The Trial Of The Clone


Well, I can tell you I think it's my best work so far.  And while you can't read this book just yet, pretty much everything else I've ever written is online for free!  I mentioned a bunch of it at the top of the page, but there's still more, like B^F, where I reviewed the insane novelization of Back to the Future, page by page, and my Twitter account, where I tell jokes that are short because it's Twitter, that's what it's there for!

BUT ALL THAT ASIDE, I've worked to include every amazing thing possible in a book like this.  There's loops, alternate endings, secret paths and things that I'm pretty sure haven't even been done before in the medium.  Also, instead of a play-within-a-play to trap the conscience of a king, there's an "an-adventure-is-chosen" book within this "an-adventure-is-chosen" book, which you read while playing as King Claudius reading this nested book!  It's a whole separate book contained within this book, with cover and illustrations done by Andrew Hussie.  It's kinda the best?

For every 5K we raise, I'll post another section from the book!  We'll all choose what path we take... TOGETHER.  So you can read some of it that way too!


Every reward level gets you a DRM-free digital download of the book.  $15 is all it takes!  And this is highly appreciated.  But if you want to contribute more, there are some fun things I can offer in exchange!  Because things have been going so well, every tier threshold now includes TWO brand-new, never-released-anywhere Dinosaur Comics ebooks, so it's three books for the price of one.  PLUS if you donate a little extra, we'll throw in things like a plush Yorick skull (cutest ever!), an amazing multiple-path bookmark designed for this multiple-path book, awesome stickers and TATTOOS, a choose-your-own cover reversible dust jacket, a poster showing a map of the entire choice-structure of the book (beautiful, lose yourself in it), an audiobook version, all the way up to custom comics and custom little adventures starring YOU that I will write and that will be super rad extreme.  Keep reading to find out more about the rewards and what's left to unlock!  These are priced to raise money for this publishing project, but they're still pretty good deals too! 

Not everything reward is listed in the tiers over there to the right (they can't be edited once they've started) but rest assured you'll be getting all the prizes you've earned here.  I made a page that shows an up-to-date listing for each tier!  And the more money we raise, the more new rewards get unlocked that'll be automatically applied to people who have already contributed :o


Yep!  If the book reaches its goal, yep, there's plenty of motivation to keep going!  I've got lots of plans for awesome things we could do to make this book the BEST EVER.  They include:

  • $20,000 = UNLOCKED!!! Base goal, book printed w. 30 illustrations.  THIS BOOK IS GOING TO HAPPEN.  Thank you all SO MUCH!  Here's an illustration AND the first page of the book - comment to vote on where the story goes next!
  • $30,000 = UNLOCKED: nine more superstar artists, plus every reward threshold gets the ebook now too!  More details here!
  • $35,000 = UNLOCKED: book printed w. 40 illustrations
  • $40,000 = UNLOCKED: Dinosaur Comics ebooks! I've never offered Dinosaur Comics in ebook format before.  THAT IS ABOUT TO CHANGE, and you're getting them first, and for free, and anyone who has donated $15 or more (ie: every reward tier!) gets one.  You're now getting two books for the price of one because I LOVE YOU :o
  • $45,000 = UNLOCKED: book printed w. 50 illustrations
  • $50,000 = UNLOCKED: SCREW IT, book printed with every ending illustrated, that's over 110 illustrations but WE ARE GONNA DO THIS
  • $55,000 = UNLOCKED: the most amazing bookmark ever in time, specially designed for multiple-path books.  Everyone who donates $25 or more gets one! 
  • $60,000 = UNLOCKED: All hardcovers will now all come with a dust jacket.  A CHOOSE YOUR OWN DUST JACKET, THAT IS.  One side has one image, but you can take it off and flip it around for a whole new badass cover design!  Check it out!
  • $65,000 = UNLOCKED: ANOTHER brand new Dinosaur Comics ebook goes out to everyone at any tier level.  We're now at three books for the price of one!  And yes, these Dinosaur Comics books will include all three secret texts.
  • $70,000 = UNLOCKED: audiobook - SOMEHOW.  The future of audiobooks, right here.  Listen To Your Own Story That Is Read To You By A Voice In Your Ears.  And this will be sent free to everyone who gave $75 or more!
  • $75,000 = UNLOCKED:  five amazing new artists!  Surprise!
  • $80,000 = UNLOCKED:  Hamlet stickers!  If your reward tier included temporary tattoos, you're getting stickers now too.  NICE!
  • $90,000 = UNLOCKED: POOR YORICK.  This is a Kickstarter-exclusive chooseable-path mini adventure that takes place BEFORE Hamlet, leading into the action of To Be Or Not To Be.  We're 25 years in the past and alas, poor Yorick: you're broke!  While you may be a man of infinite jest and most excellent fancy, THAT DON'T PAY THE BILLS.  Your one hope is an opening at the royal court for a jester.  Seems easy enough: the listing says your responsibilities are " entertain Kid Hamlet and also to not end up dead at every turn".  Will you survive?  Or will you end up in a shallow grave?  WHO KNOWS, I HAVEN'T ACTUALLY WRITTEN IT.  This ebook is free with every tier level!
  • $95,000  =UNLOCKED: Poor Yorick will now have illustrations!
  • $100,000 = UNLOCKED: What the heck, I will write a sequel book.  You guys are crazy.  And since you have forced me to dream like a crazy man, here are some more "let's make To Be Or Not To Be awesome" motivations!
  • $110,000 = UNLOCKED: five more incredible artists!  NICE.
  • $125,000 =UNLOCKED: all endings in the Poor Yorick prequel will now be illustrated!
  • $150,000 = UNLOCKED: The Kickstarter-exclusive prequel book, Poor Yorick, is now a real, physical, separate volume, sent to everyone at the $25 tier level or above.  Thank you so much.
  • $175,000 = UNLOCKED: five more amazing artists.  YOU GUYS, WHAT IS THIS.
  • $200,000 =UNLOCKED: a stage performance where the entire internet votes on what happens next!
  • $225,000 = UNLOCKED: 100 free copies will be sent out to schools, libraries, colleges and universities!  If you'd like your school to be on the list, forward this page to your teachers or professors, and have them contact us either through Kickstarter or by emailing ryan [at] qwantz [dot] com!
  • $250,000 = UNLOCKED: A special holiday ecard with an unseen brand-new super-awesome holiday Hamlet illustration by cover artist Noelle Stevenson, sent free to everyone who's pledged $30 or more - with or without shipping charges!  If you're getting this book as a gift for someone, here's something you can print out and give them in time for Christmas.  Plus, we'll ALSO add another 25 books to the pile we're sending out to schools.  To get the ecard, just fill in your information here!
  • $275,000 = UNLOCKED: Squishable, the people behind Wee Rex, will team up with me to make a SQUISHABLE YORICK SKULL.  This soft and adorable skull will be the same size as Wee Rex, fit in your hand, and be a TOTALLY CUDDLY WAY to contemplate what a piece of work humanity is.  The cutest memento mori ever?  ALMOST DEFINITELY.
  • $300,000 = UNLOCKED: To Be Or Not To Be will now be printed in full colour.  We've taken a simple black-and-white book with 30 illustrations and turned it into a full-colour, fully-illustrated, gorgeous volume.  And it's yours for the exact same price!
  • $325,000 = UNLOCKED: five more super-rad artists!  HOLY SMOKES.
  • $350,000 =UNLOCKED: another 50 books are being sent to schools, universities, and libraries!  If you'd like your institution to be on this list, have them contact us either through Kickstarter or by emailing ryan [at] qwantz [dot] com!
  • $375,000 = UNLOCKED: B to the F ebooks included at the $25 dollar tiers and above!  Rewards list updated!
  • $400,000 = UNLOCKED: the Kickstarter-exclusive mini prequel adventure, Poor Yorick, will also be printed in full colour!
  • At this point both books have become the best possible books it is possible for a book to be!  Nicely done, everyone!  Here's the final stretch goals:
  • $425,000 = UNLOCKED: Another 25 books sent to schools and libraries, plus the book will be published under a Creative Commons license!
  • $450,000 = UNLOCKED: Another 25 books sent to schools and libraries!  Also I will... create a pizza that looks like Hamlet and... eat it? 
  • $475,000 = UNLOCKED: another 50 books sent to schools and libraries!  But that's only 275 books total so let's bump it up to 400 books sent out instead!  LET'S GO NUTS
  • $500,000 = UNLOCKED: I will literally explode (literally)
  • $525,000 = UNLOCKED: everyone who is getting stickers will also get a sticker that says "I BELONG TO SOMEONE AWESOME".  Put it on your book!  Put it in your monster truck!

We've unlocked so many awesome things! This page shows the rewards given at each tier level.


Because you like making choices where people DIE??  Also because it's going to be great.  I've put a list of other things I've done above, offering them up as my Comedy Credentials, and hope that all these mostly-free content will encourage you to take a wee tiny risk on something that's not free.  I've been insanely lucky to be able to make a living by being an online cartoonist and writer - one of the very few to live this awesome dream - and I'd like to keep producing cool things for awesome strangers.  Hopefully this experiment is a success!

Prototype cover with art by Noelle Stevenson, she is the best
Prototype cover with art by Noelle Stevenson, she is the best


You look up from this webpage and decide that this book is definitely something you'd like to have in your life.  You want to make something awesome happen.  You click the "Back This Project" Button up at the top of the page and it feels - it feels good.  It feels right.
In fact, nothing ever goes wrong for you again!!

ps here are the video credits



Risks and challenges

I'm really excited and confident about this project. The main challenge will be in corralling the artists to get the illustrations on time, and then producing the best possible book (and rewards!) we can. This shouldn't be too hard, because as an artist, I know that all artists are incredibly reliable people who love meeting deadlines! Also if this is somehow not the case I will crack the whip on all slackers. Also, we've chosen fulfillment deadlines based on reasonable expectations of how things will go, but if it takes longer, we'll let everyone know and double-down on getting it done.

The difficulties in producing a physical book are well-known to me (I've self-published several volumes of Dinosaur Comics) and we're prepared for them. I feel confident that with your help, this is a Thing we can Make Happen!

Learn about accountability on Kickstarter


  • Unfortunately, it does. While I'm in sunny Toronto, Canada, the publisher Breadpig is in the States, and that's where the books are coming from. We're looking into getting a Canadian distributer to ship books directly to Canadians - if that happens, then the $10 international shipping fee won't apply to Canada anymore, and I'll update this FAQ - but for now, it's still necessary.

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  • This is totally reasonable! In this case, you should combine the dollar amount for all the tiers of rewards that you are interested in (including any extra shipping costs just once), pledge at least that amount, pick the highest reward level that you are interested in, and send us a message letting us know what else you would like. Please include your email address in your message!

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  • Yes! Kickstarter won't let us edit the information for each tier once we've launched, and we've unlocked tons of prizes since then. Visit to see the up-to-date list. Plus, there's pictures!

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  • Yes! We are going to print a lot of copies (like 15000!) for the first run, and those that don't go to Kickstarter supporters will show up in lots of places, online and off. The books will retail for $18 + tax + shipping.

    HOWEVER: the paperbacks you buy after the Kickstarter won't come with all the free goodies we're offering now, like the Yorick plot device and the ebooks. Also, we will be printing a VERY limited number of hardcovers and posters. If any of that is important to you, contribute now!

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  • Don't sweat it! Before we are ready to ship everything, we will send out a backer survey. We will ONLY use the address you give us at that time to ship your reward. In fact, we don't have access to anything else!

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  • Please send us a message with your school or library's name, your school or library's location, your name, and your email address! We'll put you on a master list and then contact you if we can get a book to you.

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  • Unfortunately not right now. We're hoping to offer it for sale later on, but for now it's only available in the tiers that have it listed on

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    795 backers

    ONE FUTURE BOOK, PLEASE: You'll get a DRM-free digital copy of To Be Or Not To Be as soon as it's completed, that will last as long as we've got electricity and computers. This is the fastest and cheapest way to get the book!

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    ONE PHYSICAL AND FUTURE BOOK, PLEASE: You'll get a SIGNED paperback copy of To Be Or Not To Be AND a digital copy. For non-US donors, please donate at least $30 total to accommodate shipping.

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    5,490 backers

    TOTALLY SWEET: The physical and future book (signed book and digital copy!) plus some Kickstarter-only temporary tattoos! One is of T-Rex saying "Sup?" and the other is of Utahraptor saying "WHATEVER". Don't you want these on your skin? Probably?? For non-US donors, please donate at least $35 total to accommodate shipping.

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    1,421 backers

    AMAZINGLY RAD: You'll get a SIGNED limited edition hardcover copy of To Be Or Not TO Be AND a digital copy. For non-US donors, please donate at least $60 total to accommodate shipping.

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    Pledge $55 or more

    313 backers

    SUPER AMAZINGLY RAD: Everything in AMAZINGLY RAD (signed hardcover book and digital copy) plus some Kickstarter-only temporary tattoos! One is of T-Rex saying "Sup?" and the other is of Utahraptor saying "WHATEVER". Don't you want these on your skin too? Probably you do?? For non-US donors, please donate at least $65 total to accommodate shipping.

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    271 backers

    IS IT ALLOWED TO READ ONE BOOK MORE THAN ONCE, WHAT IF IT'S NOT: 3 paperback copies of the book, signed. Please give at least $15 extra in shipping for non-US orders.

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    825 backers

    I WANT TO PUT THINGS ON MY BODY AND WALLS: Everything in the "TOTALLY SWEET" pack (signed book, digital copy, rad tats) AND a giant, gorgeous poster featuring an annotated flowchart for the entire book. You'll be able to go through the story just by staring at your wall. That's what living is all about, my friend.

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    1,009 backers

    BEST BUDS FOREVER: a signed paperback copy of To Be Or Not To Be, PLUS a signed hardcover version too. And you get all the goodies in "SUPER AMAZINGLY RAD" tier twice! That means two bookmarks, two copies of the prequel, twice the tattoos, and so on. I hope fighting over who gets the hardcover version will not destroy your friendship :( Add $15 to ship outside the US.

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    508 backers

    SUPER I WANT TO PUT THINGS ON MY BODY AND WALLS: Like I WANT TO PUT THINGS ON MY BODY AND WALLS (book + poster + rad tats + digital copy), but with a hardcover copy of the book instead. International donors please donate at least $100 total to accommodate shipping.

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    11 backers

    GIANT ADVENTURES, GIANT POSTERS: Everything in SUPER I WANT TO PUT THINGS ON MY BODY AND WALLS (hardcover book, rad tats, digital copy, poster) but with the poster printed both regular (large) sized and TREMENDOUS-SIZED. You'll get 4 posters that combine, Voltron-style, to form a poster that is larger than your body in every dimension except thickness. International donors please add at least $15 to accommodate shipping.

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    0 backers Limited (5 left of 5)

    PATRON OF THE FRIGGIN' ARTS: Everything in the Super I Want To Put Things On My Body And Walls pack (hardcover book + poster + rad tats + digital copy), PLUS I'll write a Dinosaur Comic on the subject of your choosing that will appear on the site. Just don't make it a terrible subject ("Sam eats poops, I saw it, I was there") and we'll be good. You will have the power to create an actual comic on any topic you choose. This will make you a literal patron of the arts. This is amazing. Also it would make a nice present for someone I'm pretty sure.

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    5 backers All gone!

    WHAT ABOUT ME THOUGH: Everything in the Super I Want To Put Things On My Body And Walls pack (hardcover book + poster + rad tats + digital copy), PLUS I'll write and sign and sketch a dinosaur in a separate pamphlet book containing a 100% all-new gamebook adventure starring YOU. Just tell me a bit about yourself and what sort of adventure you'd like to go on! You are now a patron of the arts with a custom minibook written about your wacky times! Put that on your epitaph, baby.

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    0 backers Limited (1 left of 1)

    ULTIMATE CHAMPION IN ALL POSSIBLE TIMELINES: Everything in the WHAT ABOUT ME THOUGH reward level, plus I'll paint a painting of T-Rex that you'll get to have in your house. This is a thing you can make happen. NOTE: I am not a very good painter is the thing. Thank you for supporting the book and in exchange I will make you the best painting I can but let's both go into this with our eyes open.

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    ULTIMATE CHAMPION IN ALL POSSIBLE TIMELINES 2000: Everything in "ULTIMATE CHAMPION IN ALL POSSIBLE TIMELINES", plus your painting will be on a sexagonal canvas which makes it better and more valuable, plus you and I will have a nice conversation on the phone during where I'll ask you what T-Rex should be doing in the painting, and then we'll just talk about our feelings, during which time you will be given SEVERAL opportunities to choose where the conversation goes next.

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Funding period

- (30 days)