The days of being a creator in the geek space with no home for your work are disappearing. You don't need a big name publisher, studio, or investor. What you do need is great content, fan support, and money. And when it comes to securing funding for projects, crowdfunding has changed the game. Last year alone, I watched and participated in the funding of over a dozen comic books, animation projects, and even mobile games. Almost every one of these creators who created something that resonated with their audience and built some hype not only reached their goal, but surpassed it with time to spare. The greatest thing about crowdfunding is that it's the perfect equalizer. It almost requires that the work you do mean something to you personally, and to the people who support you as well. There are no half-baked, dialed in ideas that will get a fan's hard earned money. Every project is a passion project – and that's the way it should always be.
That's why crowdfunding means so much to queers and minority creators and the fans who identify with them. In many ways, the mainstream has failed us. Conversations about representation in media have been on the uptick for a reason. Hashtags like #OscarsSoWhite, #WhitewashedOUT and #TiredMediaTropes have mobilized the message and communicated our concerns about the way we are portrayed...if we are even represented at all.
Taneka Stotts, the founder of Beyond Press, has dedicated her professional life to crowdfunding projects that showcase queer and minority voices. She says, "Crowdfunding has changed the game for creators of color and LGBTQIA+ identifying folks. Instead of waiting for replies from publishers, we're joining them at the publishing table and presenting our own spread of work. We no longer have to play narratives that edit us down to fit the narrow view of an 'acceptable' audience. And the limitations of publisher-based royalties are stopped short in favor of us truly earning our piece and making a living from our craft. Personally, my work has doubled, and my life has changed completely."
None of this is new, but social media has amplified our voice. And crowdfunding platforms allow queer, black, and brown creators to easily showcase the stories they've created, through their medium of choice. Having that work feature characters who represent them and us, as a consumer, is an incredible feeling. Both using our voices to raise their visibility and our dollars to breathe life into their vision feels more like an act of personal fulfillment than sponsorship. With each newly funded project, crowdfunding is leveling the playing field for creators that mainstream media would not accept.
Another great example of this is Universal Fan Con, a 24-hour convention focused on highlighting diversity and inclusion created by Black Girl Nerds and The Black Geeks. Their Kickstarter campaign began last year on December 14th. And now less than a month later the event is fully funded. The best part about this is that anything over the asking amount just goes into creating a better experience for the consumer. And the immediate value that a contribution brings is made very clear, whether it's tickets to the event, a celebrity autograph, all the way up to a VIP experience and a suite at the host hotel for the con.
I talked to the homie Jamie, founder of BGN, about her personal experience with crowdfunding as a creator of color. She told me, "Crowdfunding makes so much sense for this special convention because the communities of Black Girl Nerds and The Black Geeks were built online. We have organically built our brands using social media and connecting directly with fans and followers by the way of tweets, podcasts, and editorials. What's rewarding is seeing so many people excited about this con. We want to take words to action and be the inclusive community we represent ourselves to be. And I'm honored and proud to see this unfold."
Projects that represent people of color and the LGBTQIA+ community from creators that represent and identify as a part of them are in high demand. And the people are ready to put their money where their mouth is.