Without A Net

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When the Kickstarter engine fails to turn over — From Veronica Mars to NPR

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The "Veronica Mars" movie comes out next month, which was one of the highest profile Kickstarter-funded projects to date and raised $5.7 million, but Kickstarter projects often aren't so immediately successful.

There can be a lot of reasons for that — maybe the rewards for supporters aren't set up properly, without enough motivation for small donors. Maybe there isn't the faith in the creators behind the projects, which video game site Kotaku says could have contributed to two failed Kickstarters for the video game "Shadow of the Eternals." Some are so woefully bad ideas that there's a popular Failed Kickstarters Tumblr documenting them. Or maybe there just isn't the mass enthusiasm needed to draw enough donors to bring the project to life.

So far, 44 percent of Kickstarter projects have been successful, which isn't a bad success rate — but that does mean that almost 73,000 projects have failed to achieve funding, according to the organization.. Kickstarter asks a variety of questions to try to make sure that the type of dreamers who want money for a project also have at least a little idea of the business questions they'll need to sort out if they do get their project funded, but those questions can only go so far.

RELATED: 'Veronica Mars' trailer arrives, featuring a murder mystery ... and KPCC

The creator of NPR show "Bullseye," carried on KPCC Saturday afternoons, is in the middle of his own Kickstarter battle. Jesse Thorn set to put together a conference for independent creative types called Make Your Thing, with a goal of $120,000. He booked well-respected speakers from the worlds of TV to public radio to pro wrestling, including TV writer Jane Espenson, comedian Chris Gethard and BuzzFeed writer Ayesha Siddiqi.

With 11 days left to hit his goal, he's at only 19 percent funding. Still, Thorn thinks that Kickstarter was the way to go to help reduce risk while pursuing this project.

"Kickstarter's a great platform for a lot of reasons — it's easy to use, people are comfortable with it, it's built for the social web," Thorn writes in an email to KPCC.

He also thinks he's in a unique position with his Kickstarter — he's making a big ask, with his conference being a long way off and tickets costing $400, so people may just need to take their time to think about it.

"I'll certainly be disappointed if it doesn't work out, and I'll be out $10,000 or so, all told, for deposits and so on, but if we did it the old fashioned way, and it really tanked, it would be catastrophic for a really small business like ours," Thorn writes.

It's one of the appeals of Kickstarter — if it gets the funding to happen, great, you get your thing, and if it doesn't, no foul, and no money gets taken from your account. That works for most Kickstarters, though there has also been a problem with some Kickstarters actually getting funded but still failing to deliver. Ambitious posters on the Kickstarter subreddit put together a thread cataloging the projects that have been funded but failed to deliver, currently standing at 14 with seven more in a similar realm getting honorable mentions.

One of the big post-funding failures was "The Doom That Came To Atlantic City." It was supposed to produce a Monopoly meets H.P. Lovecraft board game for backers and more than tripled its fundraising goal — $122,874 instead of the $35,000 it was looking for. However, a year after being funded in June of 2012, the team behind the game announced that no one was getting anything and that they would endeavor to provide refunds to those who'd donated to the Kickstarter.

Still, there's a light at the end of the tunnel for those who don't get Kickstarter projects funded. As Jesse Thorn noted in his email to KPCC, if Make Your Thing doesn't get funded, great, he's got the second year of his comedy and music-themed cruise to focus on, BoatParty.biz. Kickstarter's not the only place for funding, after all — Thorn has a podcast network and multiple live events a year funded directly by fans. And whatever happens, using a Kickstarter makes sense with the ethos of the project he's launching.

"I've had to fight so hard through the first 10 years of my career to bushwhack through this crazy jungle, trying to build a creative business," Thorn writes. "It's been scary and difficult and I've thought about quitting many, many times. I know there are a lot of folks who want to make being creative a bigger part of their lives, maybe even for money, and I think that connecting with other people, and hearing from experts and folks who've already been through it can really make a huge difference."

Check out the video promoting Thorn's Make Your Thing:

Listen to the audio to the audio at the top of this story to hear KPCC's John Rabe talk with Mike Roe about this story on "Off-Ramp."

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