The Diesel Sweeties eBook-Stravaganza 3000 is a cut above the average Kickstarter campaign, both in the breadth of the project being considered and the originality of the prizes being offered.
The Kickstarter drive (which has already garnered over $10,000 worth of pledges, over three times its original goal) will pay for Stevens to compile a downloadable e-book of all his Diesel Sweeties strips. While the strip is a free webcomic, and Stevens has made smaller collected editions in a variety of formats, this would be a 3,000-page book that would include every strip; Stevens plans to correct typos and other errors, do some minor editing, and index them—in other words, this would be the definitive edition of Diesel Sweeties.
This e-book would be released as a DRM-free iBook or PDF under a Creative Commons license. Stevens is emphatic on this point:
It’s also very important to me that this ebook collection be done in the spirit of the original work: Free to read, free of geographical restriction and accessible to as many people as possible.
I care about credit and copyright, and love the idea of selling ebooks, but as long as I am able to work on Diesel Sweeties, I would like payment to be optional. That’s the model which has supported me as my main job since 2003, through boom and recession. That’s the model this comic was designed for and where it’s going to stay.
I hope you’ll also store this collection and share it with your friends. Remix it for devices that don’t exist, buy a decommissioned missile silo and Apocalypse-proof it, print it out and ask me to sign a twenty-pound stack of paper when you see me at a convention. Once you get a copy, it’s yours. The only copy protection I need is the fact that tomorrow’s comic doesn’t exist yet and my brain’s the only place that bakes that cookie. I only ask that you respect the Creative Commons license and do not use them commercially without permission.
So if the book is free, what do Kickstarter pledgers get for their money? Advance copies, a physical copy (on a thumb drive), a commissioned print of any two Diesel Sweeties characters in bed, pixel sculptures built of Legos and glued together, a life-sized pixel portrait of a pet. There are also two torture-the-artist pledges: For $666, Stevens, a vegetarian, will eat a pound of bacon (supermarket bacon, he specifies in the FAQ), and for $10,000 he will swear off coffee for a month. (Both pledges are currently unclaimed.)
What makes this work is that Stevens has been making Diesel Sweeties for the past ten years, and in the process he has built a fan base that is more than willing to pay him to make it, despite the fact that the comic and all his e-books are free. With that kind of a following, voluntary donations are not too heavy a risk.