What on earth is a Kickstarter?

Crowdfunding, indiegogo, Kickstarter. To some comic creators very familiar terms but to many potential readers still a mystery.

What on earth is a Kickstarter?

Crowdfunding and things like Kickstarter or indiegogo could be the Holy Grail for those comic creators who have always wanted complete control of their characters and get paid directly for their work. Yet for many comic fans they are still an unknown and untried entity. So here at ComicScene we thought we’d give you a crash course in crowdfunding for your comic reading pleasure!

There are a few platforms to help fund a comic project – crowdfunder, indiegogo and Kickstarter being some of the preferred for comic creators.

So what’s your role as a potential user of these platforms? Well, you are also an investor in the creator and their comic as well as a potential reader. If you like what you see you can support them in producing, printing and distributing the work. You pledge your support having seen what rewards are on offer. That can be something cheap and cheerful such as a digital copy of the comic, a print version or print copy with ‘extras’ including prints, artwork, even the original script. All potential collectors items in the future (as well as now). You have to make your choice, although the platforms are playing with additional ‘add ons’ where you can perhaps pick up other comics by the same creator or a back issue you have missed.

A Kickstarter landing page

The creators of the comic have created a goal that they have to reach within a certain timeframe. This timeframe can be up to sixty days but normally two weeks to a month in duration. Once the financial goal is reached, usually to pay for print and distribution costs, then you are expected to pay your pledge when their campaign ends and expect the product when it is complete. It may be ready to go or can take a few months but your contribution has made it happen. The comic is delivered direct to your door. No newsagents, no comic shops, no bookshops and no publisher talking their ‘cut’. The creator gets it all, keeps full creative control and only needs to sell half of what they’d have to in a bookstore to make back their investment – even less when not having to over print to ensure wider distribution. The figures and benefits of both are becoming increasingly close where online purchase via crowdfunding and additional selling platforms like Amazon, eBay, Comixology, Comichaus, BuySmallPress, GetMyComics, Comicsy, Etsy shops, buying direct from the creator and the odd attendance at a Comic Con. All add to an eclectic and quite exciting period for creativity in comics.

A sample reward – there are usually a number of options to choose from

Once the goal is reached everything else is a bonus and the creator benefits from that. Some creators will perhaps include a cost for co creators and their own time producing the comic. Whatever goal is set to fund the project is a risk the creator has to take. If the goal is reached many creators will offer ‘free’ gifts to those who have pledged already for the project for any additional £1000+ they make. Who doesn’t love a free gift? That may be anything from stickers, postcards, bookmarks, prints, posters or even a piece of Mars!

Creators do have to work hard to make a good crowdfunder. That first cover and first image for a crowdfunder, as it is on the shelves of WHSmith, Forbidden Planet or Barnes and Noble, is key. They have to build networks, navigate the internet to drum up interest in their product and project prior to launching their Crowdfunder. They can set up a pre launch page so you can sign up in advance and be notified on launch. They need to produce a small video, share artwork or write great copy to entice you to make your pledge as well as post out the final product when complete. Everything a publisher may provide for them is done by the creator. They even have to tell you what the risks are when you back the project.

Not all Crowdfunders are successful. They simply don’t capture your imagination and the reader decides if the project thrives or fails. A good crowdfunder can sell about 200 copies (not bad when you think a book only has to sell 400 copies in a bookstore to be featured in the top ten of the Sunday Times bestseller list!). Some do many more. What is important is it gets off to a good start. Reaching 10-20% of their target or more in the first day is a good indicator the creator has done their job well. For some reaching their goal in a matter of hours is important. To many playing the long game and sharing their journey (sometimes to a specific audience) throughout the campaign can lead to far greater sales in later projects as you feel you get to know the creators more. Think of the ‘story’ section and updates as a modern day fandom where getting to understand the person behind the work and their creative process in real time is more interesting than a quick sale.

Follow the story and catch up on past campaigns.

Throughout the crowdfunder the creator keeps you up to date with updates and how they are meeting the risks and challenges. You can ask questions to the creator and can even help share their crowdfunder to encourage others to help teach the goal.

Once that goal is reached you have to fill out a survey to ensure you get the product delivered to you – don’t forget to do that! The creator can still keep you informed of how the project is going whilst in production. If you accidentally missed the Kickstarter or Indiegogo campaign there is usually a link to a site where you can pick up the comic if you’ve missed it. However the best offer is usually via the kickstarter or indiegogo campaign – and in most cases the crowdfunder project doesn’t happen if you don’t help them reach their goal.

Sales aren’t anywhere near what a publisher/creator may sell in a newsagent, comic shop or bookstore. However environmentally it’s a better option as there is less waste (of junked comics or books) as it’s effectively print to order. The creator doesn’t have to lose money for their work on distribution and sales cost from publishers and outlets. The cost to them is time for marketing and roughly 10% in fees to the platform/card companies.

You can’t simply flick through the comic to see if you’d like it but after a while you get a good sense of a project is for you. There is usually a postage charge, but perhaps no more than having to pay for parking and transport costs to pick up you favourite comic titles. If a title seems to lose readers when they do their second or third issues don’t worry – that happens to all your favourite comics. However some crowdfunder comics do increase readers as more people become familiar with the title and current readers like what they see.

In some ways the relationship has now flipped between creators and publishers. Some creators now work with people who publish/market titles and put together and promote the Kickstarter and split the profits – the publisher/marketeer/administrator now getting the 20-25% rather than the benefits of all the creators work. Some creators also turn to people like GetMyComics to post out their packages. Again this takes away a potential burden on the creator. Trying to do everything can lead to creator ‘burn out’ so printers like Mixam and Comic Printing U.K., fulfilment houses and marketing teams like ComicScene can make life that little bit easier.

The platform, once the domain of keen self publishing creators, has been now been used by established publishers and named creators. Named creators, like the Keanu Reeves or Todd MacFarlanes of this world, can make millions on the platform and, just as in bookshops, drag people to the platform who may try one or two other projects that take their fancy. However good customer care is important and if consumers get upset it can have a detrimental impact on creators future reputation or other projects. Mistakes can happen, particularly with postage and packing, and most people are understanding if you deal with it as quickly as you can. Indeed recently U.K. creators have been faced with patchy postage over a busy Christmas period during the pandemic, postal charges have gone very high when sending abroad and Brexit has created a administration nightmare when sending packages to the EU. All part of the risks and challenges.

ComicScene moved to kickstarters for our History of Comics and Annual projects. Both have been fairly successful and as we start our third campaign for Phase 2 of our History of Comics project we hope it will be successful. You can see our current live campaign and see what we have been talking about here. The History of Comics 2020 will also look at crowdfunded comics (as will future books). We hope we reach our goal. You have pledged more than we did in our first campaign in two days than we did in four weeks last time so fingers crossed! It’s up to you.

As a media channel we also promote kickstarters when we can and are usually approached by creators who are eventually successful. Keep your eye at ComicScene.org for all the latest news.

We hope this article has helped you understand crowdfunding comics a little better. We know many of you still find it difficult to get your head around the concept, but it is quite exciting! Before we started doing ComicScene we also knew nothing about crowdfunding, Kickstarters or indiegogo. Now when we see a new Kickstarter that peaks our interest it’s like going down to the newsagent every Saturday for your favourite comic! The more you back, the more you hear about other titles available on the platform from the U.K., US and across the world. Some of this stuff is truly brilliant – here’s a sample of some we have backed.

Here’s also a video of Dave Cook from Killtopia and Steve Tanner from Time Bomb Comics who have both been highly successful on Kickstarter. Hear about work and their approach to crowdfunding comics.

Check it out here.

If you’d like to add to this article or want to contact us email comicsceneuk@gmail.com

Written by Tony Foster

Also read how to make money from making comics here.

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