Tuesday, July 10, 2012 / 6:59 am

A Beat L.A. Kickstarter Requiem

$6,000, and how we got it.

by Tony Chavira

Beat L.A.
You've ordered them, now we've gotta print 'em.

I pressed the “Submit” button on Kickstarter's project page with no sense of responsibility to it as a matter of course. Roughly two and a half weeks later, I realized what an idiot I was to ignore it so utterly.

But backtracking, I thought our video would get us there on based on its own merit, and that it was awesome for no other reason than that I made it myself in Adobe Premiere, in the same way that a hunter most enjoys the cooked meat of his own hunt. Just look at it.

Pretty good for someone whose mind grasps concepts descriptively and not visually, right?

Well, anyway, I thought so.

So like I was saying, our Kickstarter began with no fanfare whatsoever, except for a shameful plug on my own Facebook page and another, less shameful one on the FourStory Facebook page, which you should visit right now and befriend (or whatever verb one uses when they connect to non-persons on Facebook). Here's the link: Right here.

Immediately our video and project received a resounding round of generous donation by the likes of such noir-enthusiasts/good pals as Justin Ching, Katrina Chan, Kyle Covino, Jordan Harper, Dr. Chaosisorder Esq., and Mr. Charles Eldridge, whose unambiguous support for the good work/comics that FourStory executes warmed even the coldest and darkest region of our site's frigid internet heart.

Then, because of my immense good fortune in marketing through the internet, the donations completely stopped for 10 days. Gary, ever-connected to the Los Angeles non-profit underworld, quickly noticed our little problem and set me straight, to a fantastic lady by the name of Beverly, who was kind enough to sit down with me over a tea latte and slap the entitlement off my face.

“You think this is easy?” she asked rhetorically, smiling.

“I clearly think that I have no idea what to think,” I responded plainly, the first of my many confused responses throughout that conversation.

“How much time to you still have left?”

“Ten days. More or less.”

“Oh… that's okay,” she dismissed, then took a sip or two to make me wait, “You can do it.”

Finally, she proceeded to seize the javelin of reality and hurl it through the center of my brain with the simplest, most obvious advice anyone had ever given me about raising money for anything, which I will provide for you/everyone on the internet now:

“Don't be afraid to ask and don't stop asking.”

Not sure if you knew this, but most fundraising, for any project, depends on how much you can depend on your personal references and network for help. Just so you get a better sense, let me explain this point's importance more explicitly: The day after Beverly and I met, I sat in front of a computer and emailed the closest 30 people I knew, begging for their help to spread the word. To my surprise, a great many of them actually helped too.

But to my shock, they even wanted to order the book!

And with that, our first surge of cash burst forth from the webicopia… ushered in by the kindly Beverly herself, then by equally kindly friends Blake Barrett, Christopher Mortimer, DWKIV, Joe Mandia, Dave Smith, Cynthia Lozano, Farah Dakhlallah, Jason Joseph, Dawn Pace, Zachary Rees, Johnson Kwong, Reid Isaki, D'Artagnan Heath, and S.A. Johnson. Nine days left and we were well on our way to 1/6 of the money we needed to get this thing funded.

A quick aside, there are actually two pretty well-known funding avenues for creative projects (for those out of the know/unwilling to google/who do not care). First, obviously, there's KickStarter, the avenue we chose because we, at FourStory, figured it was the most well-known. But second, as it turns out, there is also IndieGogo, which hosts other massively successful creative projects throughout this and other suchs webs.

The key difference, from what I've seen, is that IndieGogo lets you keep whatever money you raise, whatever the the amount, and Kickstarter will not give you anything unless you hit your pre-determined cash goal by the time you specify. So if we had raised, for example, $2,000, on IndieGogo, we would still owe our funders the published books that we promised them. Our problem, which made Kickstarter our only option in the end, was that we simply could not afford to publish the books unless we ordered them in bulk to the tune of $6,000.

So either we raised it all, or our comic Beat L.A. died trying.

On day 17 of our 30-day Kickstarter campaign, as we rounded the $1,000 mark, I posted this, “Update #1: HUGE Thanks to our supporters so far!” and thanked the amazing people, mentioned above, that threw down their hard-earned money without reservation or waiting for pay day at the end of the month. Finally, this project–they possibly believed–was the reason credit cards had come to be invented.

And they were soon joined, and their assumptions were completely validated, by the addition of such stalwart sirens of good taste as Fernando Miceli, Victoria Bernal, Danny Louie, Doug Burch, Bill Crider, Rodney James Mallari, Veronica Jauriqui, our friends at Over The Edge Books, Jasmine, John Shannon, Bruce McRae, David Walker, and Alvin Oei.

With that, and now that Update #1 was armed with two–yes friends, two–Facebook likes, Gary and I knew that the time had come to begin addressing the internetworld with more than mere written words of encouragement: They had to be spoken, possibly shouted, from the high hills of high-tech! In this case, Youtube. From the comfort of Gary's armchair, again, as a matter of course, to pump up the e-crowd while explaining exactly how he came up with the idea of Bicycle Cop Dave, the first story in Beat L.A., which you can begin to read here:

Eight days remaining and I knew that I would soon sit in front of the camera, explain myself and my own reasons for writing the story of Brand & Reese, Gary Phillips's throwaway side characters cum my downtrodden, relectant hero-cops which you can begin reading here.

But Gary being who he is, another surge took place, led by the valliant button-clicking, FourStory-supporting, credit card-submitting efforts of Jason Wood, Jason, Ryan Fazulak, Axel, Winnie Swalley, Jon Lieberberg, Trevor Yang, Tracy Mallette, Norma Chavira, Herve Fumberi, Shan Wickramasinghe, Per Gunnarsson, Jean Miller, Aaron Steinfeld, Michael Plough, ArchVicar Stavromulla, Klaudia Aresti, Kevin Maginnis, and Ayira Khan!

Just as impressive, the Facebook “like” count beneath our project had bloated to an amazing number over 400, which I can't remember now because the final number ended up being 505! Were I some kind of mathematician, or–possibly–wizard, then only could I fathom just how many eyes had received the opportunity to see our project scroll down the ever-oppressive Facebook front wall of however many people happened to be using Facebook whilst that overwhelming degree of “liking” took place.

Now I knew, unequivocally, that something must be said, and so a day before June's final hour, I posted a video of myself, sitting in my office, where I meant to discuss how the idea of Brand and Reese came to be, though ultimately rambled on about things relatedmostly-- to my comic:

An instant flop on youtube, with a unjust 99 viewers out of billions (potentially), I could see our progress moving upward, but with no clear sign of cash tsunami on the horizon, how could one ever be certain?

So, despite my better judgement, my incessant sense of optimism, our passion for the subject matter, and sage advice from Beverly that “most donors give in the last five days”, my sadder animal instincts overwhelmed me and I did nothing for three, whole, days.

But lo… I logged into Kickstarter on July third, in the year of our lord, two thousand and twelve, and what did my eyes see? Support, my friends and colleagues, of all shapes and sizes, from the likes of such donors as will live in the halls of legend! Mark Woods! Michael Kurland! Amar Vidyarthi! Stacey Inza! Andrea Hanstein! Mike Plunkett! Shahla Rahimzadeh! Alistair Russell! Andrea Gibbons! Mimosa! Giora! Erin E.P. Morris! Jonathan MacFarlane! Jerome Aguesse! Dina Bahgat! Launa Eddy! Emily Lam-My! Priya! Julianne Yamamoto! Harrel Carman! Stan! Gerard Raiti! Robert Nakano! Hossein Khajoo! Bhanu B! And a fantastical contribution increase from the ever-generous DWKIV!!

Enlivened, emboldened and endeared to the recent showing of internet love, I posted another, frantic and furious video near our 75% mark…

…and then, with only four days remaining, the cavalry arrived, waving banners and firing into Beat L.A. a wave of hope not felt since the darkest hours of the American Revolution. It was, after all, July 2nd, and we are, after all, doing this for freedom.

To those cavalarymen and women, I and Gary Phillips salute you! Richard McHam! Scott! Pat! Ann Karaim! Solmaz Sharif! Bermina Jackson! Suzanne Epstein! Ruth Valadez! Forrest Sutton! Herman Choi! Helena Smelena! David Ricky Almada! Judith Teitelman! Celine! David Whitfield! Leslie Wong! Veronica! Melodi Brown! Robert Valley! Erik Tạ! Nick Ahlhelm! And, to top it off, a cherry-sized increase from our ever-supportive piller, our friend Beverly.

Thus you have all been named for your generousity, friendship and conviction, to bring Beat L.A. to life and help FourStory to fight another battle, another day, with-possibly–another comic in the future.

To your doorsteps will come your respective perks and to you, now, a thanks from the bottom of my heart. We could not have done this without you.

And to those out there whose spines tingle for noir and souls ache from a world of injustice, your $25 signed copy of Beat L.A. can yet still be secured from our Kickstarter page, which is right here. Do it for America, for justice, for the homeless, for the city of Los Angeles, for good cops everywhere, for what is right and true, and–most of all–for yourself who knows, deep down, that the good guys must win in the end.

That, I believe, is the story arc of our comic, Beat L.A., on Kickstarter.

Progress Chart
This is how Beat L.A. came to be. Amazing, isn't it?
Tony Chavira is the President of FourStory, a nonprofit organization that promotes fairness and social justice through strong writing and storytelling. He is also the Program Developer at RACAIA Architecture, writes and posts comics at Minefield Wonderland, and teaches Business Report Writing at California State Polytechnic University, Pomona.


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