Kickstarter is the ultimate internet high. It’s a feeling of empowerment for dreamers and believers that the middle class still has a modicum of control over our destiny. It is the new economy tucked inside the microcosm of electrodes that fuel our collective zeitgeist.
Kickstarter is also something I have seen hundreds (and this is not an exaggeration) of comic creators completely shit the bed on and lose just a small piece of their soul simply for perusing their dream.
And this is not just novices. Plenty of well respected and established creators have misjudged their own Q scores, believing clout could help surmount best-practices. The first being Bill Willingham, creator of FABLES. I don’t mind mentioning Bill by name because when I interviewed him about his Kickstarter project BIFROST, the Kickstarter was already faltering. So, Bill was pretty insistent that we discussed the Kickstarter process in addition to discussing the book. Since, I’m a comic book reporter for Ain’t It Cool News, Bill knew I had seen many a Kickstarter both soar and sink. And I have, so now I depart to you my darling creators with your eyes gleaming of spinner rack stardom this accrued “wisdom: in the best way I know how – a scathing indictment of Kickstarter idiocy.
If you have built any of these types of Kickstarters, NEVER send it to me for review. If you have avoided these trapping the by all means please email firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line, “My Kickstarter Don’t Suck!”
All right, enough preamble. Let Mjolnir fly.
The Lazy and Delusional Comic Kickstarter – It’s awesome you and your artistic buddy got baked last night and came up with a cool concept that he, “totally sketched the shit out of,” but you two did not create a comic.
Comics are a serial medium of sequential art and story. A comic is an arc, a progression of several chapters that end in a logical conclusion. IT IS NOT ONE PAGE! Your Kickstarter hath failed if your only initiative this far is an idea.
The “No, I’m Not Paying You to Make a Comic Book Kickstarter”: So you’ve written the script. You’ve proofread and had the guy at your local comic shop give it the once over (but not before signing a legalzoom.com generated non-disclosure form. Oh, on that front. No, I will never sign one before I do a review. OK, maybe if J.J. Abrams wanted me to review Episode VII, but that’s it!). Now you face the terrible hurdle that causes so many projects to wither and die – the artist.
Art is a time consuming and laborious process, I get it. I understand the time it takes. However, a comic born solely in the pursuit for money will bare a soul as thick as the currency it is chasing. Stan Lee was not seeking to be a millionaire when he transformed the industry. The late 80’s boom out of Marvel that led to the formation of Image was bred of men who were not getting a gazillion dollars to create. If 99% of comic artists went commercial and did B2B work, they would make more cash.
My point is a comic should be a labor of love. Shameless plug alert: I have a comic called AVERAGE JOE coming out later this year, published by Com.X (Here’s a nice little piece CBR just did on us). I wrote all 5 chapters (extra long issues of Joe) while I was working as Digital Marketing Manager for a tax software company. I am writing the second volume as I take on the most work responsibilities of my life. No one was paying me to create. The artist on Average Joe, Stephen Andrade is diligently rubbing his hands to a tiny nub after a hard day of doing the same at his day job.
The point here is that the professional writer and artist believed so much in this project we poured out our hearts in the few free minutes we had each day. We don’t know if the book will make a dime, but we truly believe it will. So we created the pitch both words and art, found a publisher and presto comico. There are enough publishers out there today that if the book has true merit, someone will be proud to represent it. Here’s a guy named Ken Garing, no Kickstarter, he just created a book called PLANETOID, I reviewed it and then Image grabbed it up. But when Ken sent me the first issue, he didn’t have any clue he was going to be published by Image. And I’m not implying my review got him picked up, far from it, he simply made a GREAT book.
Just go make a comic book, quit begging. It’s not that hard. C’mon our Grandparents went overseas and stormed two friggin continents.
Sorry, stop crying. I didn’t mean to be so harsh. Here…like falling in love, you and the right artist will simply know this book needs to be created.
The “We’ve got a book, we just need a publisher Kickstarter”: Awesome, who is it? You don’t know? How many copies are you printing? Don’t know that either huh? Well, surely you must be close to figuring that out, because you will have to get the second book going to press shortly after? No, oh the second book’s not even done yet? Good luck, nice talking to you. Clearly you are not interested in being a publisher or even a good creator that will capture fan interest.
Have a business model people and share it on the Kickstarter description page. Espousing dreams will only get you so far, we need to know you can deliver the goods. Which leads to…
The “I hope that moron sandwich was delicious, cause you prolly should have ate it AFTER you created your incentives.”
Wow, this is the most egregious and yet most common mistake. Have you ever heard of a world where people will pay something for nothing or pay an inflated price by percentage points in the hundreds? Then why on earth do you think a digital PDF (the bottom feeder of High Res comic files) is worth $4.99? Brian K. Vaughan, award winning comic writer, publishes a book called PRIVATE EYE that is almost completely free. It’s DRM paypal, give whatever you want. Are you as good as Brian K. Vaughan? Honestly, first book ever. Are you as good as this guy? Honestly, this is your very first book, remember that. So should you then be charging a $5 contribution charge? No, you should not. $5 is for print, just like retail. Suck it up. I know it will eat your margins, but see 2 rules up for my feelings on that.
Also, don’t make your incentives too elaborate. Like Bill offered himself and Frank Cho up to come over for dinner, but didn’t even offer a copy of the book???? Now, Bill admitted his error in that decision and it was born from his superstar status. He didn’t want to encumber a publishing deal. 99% of would be Kickstarters don’t have this problem.
Ensure you make each level of incentive, commensurate or a margin below market value. Humility is a very endearing virtue, ask Scott Snyder.
The “You didn’t tend your own garden Kickstarter”: There are millions of folks out there trying to create Kickstarters for comic books, rising above the cacophony of noise is a Herculean task. But hey, we all have friends, most of which live onthis thing called Facebook.
Kickstarter is a social media driven economy. Success in social media is about exponential share. Yeah, Aunt Sally may be the only week to like the Facebook page you set up for t8he project, but Aunt Sally is connected to Aunt Myrtle, and Aunt Myrtle’s neighbor is Gladys Baumgarten, Gladys’ Grandson Joey like comics.
BAM instant fanbase.
This is called pre-press, stoking the fire as you begin to trickle out assets. Tease…delight…and get the chops watering to a level people will gladly shell out duckets for a taste of your meaty tome.
The “Presentation is EVERYTHING Kickstarter”: So you avoided all trappings? Every…single…one? You and your artist joyfully completed a full story arc, you know exactly where you will go to get the piece produced once the funds are raised? You created incentives of tangible value for your future legion of fans?
You are a beautiful human being. Now:
Create a page rife with multi-media assets. You should ideally have a YouTube trailer and a plethora of art to help break up the mountains of text you will need for high placement on Search Engine Results Pages.
Understand how tagging works on the Web. ESPECIALLY GOOGLE + AFTER HUMMINGBIRD (sorry that’s a whole other post). Tag your post with the utmost care.
Now, you are ready to reach out to the press and press launch campaign.