Crowdfunding update: Patreon on the rise, Indiegogo struggles

After growing to 2 percent the size of the direct market in the last quarter of 2013, the crowdfunding sector of comics stumbled in January, even while the younger Patreon expanded.

Following up on my number-crunching and analysis from last month, I've continued tracking the progress of a market within comics that's only beginning to mature. While there are more than two dozen crowdfunding platforms, Kickstarter and Indiegogo have been the established leaders from the get-go, especially in terms of comics-related campaigns. There is a smattering of comics projects on sites like GoFundMe, but by comparison those could be considered the long tail of this market. A crowdfunding hit has yet to occur on a platform other than Kickstarter or Indiegogo.

That could change with Patreon, however. As our ROBOT 6 contributor Chris Arrant noted last week, Zach Weinersmith of Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal was already bringing in $7,500 a month after launching his campaign on Dec. 10. At the time of this writing, that amount is now $7,822.86 each month of comics he produces (minus Patreon's fees). That;s coming from 2,839 patrons, or supporters. Meredith Gran's campaign for Octopus Pie, which launched at the beginning of this month, already has more than $750 per month from 235 patrons. Last month, I would've included Patreon in the previously mentioned long tail with GoFundMe; however, those two high-profile campaigns are drawing attention to Patreon, so I wanted to see if I could better measure its footprint, and see how it stands up against Kickstarter and Indiegogo. Surprisingly, it turns out that Patreon could eclipse Indiegogo as the No. 2 comics crowdfunding platform.

Patreon's structure makes it difficult to get a monthly snapshot: Campaigns run indefinitely with no easy way to determine start dates, or really the dates of much else. The site also has a fairly terrible search engine, which only pulls up the first eight campaigns containing a search term. "First" appears to mean "most successful," although that's not always the case either. The other way is to scroll infinitely through every campaign on Patreon, but I never reached the bottom of the page, and campaigns started to repeat in random sequence, so there doesn't appear to be a public-facing record of everything like Kickstarter and Indiegogo. As such, it's difficult to know if I've captured everything; still, I caught a lot of them.

Although less than a year old, Patreon already has more than 100 campaigns raising money for creators of webcomics, comic books, graphic novels, manga and related content. Estimated to the end of January, the top 100 comics campaigns are generating $25,195 a month, which is really good growth so early in Patreon's existence. In comparison, the first year or two of Kickstarter and Indiegogo were fairly flat. As those two sites helped to establish crowdfunding, people are more open to trying out Patreon, which helps it grow faster. Whether it will compete on Kickstarter's level remains to be seen, but Patreon's  business model is smart: Instead of finite projects and relying on blockbuster campaigns to drive money and interest, the site works with ongoing projects. That means unless there's a mass exodus, the platform theoretically should only see money and participation grow from here on out.

As for Kickstarter and Indiegogo: January was rough for both sites. Similar to the seasonal slowdown in comic stores, January continued the downward trend we began to see in December, only more dramatically. I suspect this could be a yearly pattern, as potential supporters are recovering from holiday expenses and winter storms fraught with power outages. There was just one campaign that could be called a blockbuster in January, Frank Cho's how-to book Drawing Beautiful Women, which raised more than $150,000. Then there's a drop-off, with everything else raising $30,000 or less. All told, 47 campaigns across Kickstarter and Indiegogo raised $475,579, or 1.22 percent of the direct market's $38.97 million, as estimated by Comichron.com. That's a decrease of 37.54 percent from last month, a worrying drop. What's interesting is that both platforms dropped by about the same percentage. Kickstarter usually does the heavy lifting in these numbers, and throughout the entire fourth quarter of 2013, it consistently raised more than $700,000. However in January, Kickstarter dropped 37.6 percent to just more than $450,000.

Meanwhile, this month continues a startling series of drops for Indiegogo, from October's $244,000 to this month's $25,500. If Indiegogo were a comic book in the direct market, it would probably be canceled by now, or at least relaunched with a new #1. That could suggest something more than a holiday lull is going on with the platform. If there's a bright side, the decline appears to have slowed. December was down 67 percent from November for Indiegogo; January dropped 36.34 percent from December. The only other bright spot for Indiegogo was the increase in the average donation amount: Backers gave an average of $75.79 on each campaign, significantly up from last month's $61.54, and significantly higher than Kickstarter's January average donation of $46.44 (a drop from last month's $60.19 for Kickstarter). It's possible that as less people are donating on Indiegogo, those who do feel compelled to give want to give more to make up for the lack of other backers. It should be interesting to see if the comics category of Indiegogo can recover from this downward trend. What's remarkable is the much younger and relatively untested Patreon raised virtually as much money in comics funding as Indiegogo in January. Adding Patreon's $25,195 to the month's totals brings the overall month to $500,774, or 1.28 percent of the direct market, which is better but still considerably lower than December's $761,382. From October's $1,001,310, it's a significant plummet.

So is that it? Is crowdfunding for comics doomed? I doubt it. While it's clearly still very erratic, there's growth to be had. High-profile campaigns are already returnin:. Paul Jenkins and Humberto Ramos' Fairy Quest 2 and Jimmy Palmiotti, Justin Gray and Pier Brito's Denver each has a good 20 days to go with already a significant amount raised (the latter has surpassed its original $31,000 goal). Samantha Whitten's plush doll of The GaMERCaT and Andrew Hou's HJ-Story are also doing well. Whether it will be enough to bounce back from January remains to be seen, but as we get further from the holidays and winter storms, I'm expecting to see first some recovery, and then even some growth.

Before I close it out with our favorite things, lists, I should make a correction and an update to last month's numbers. First, my math for November was a little off: Kickstarter and Indiegogo campaigns raised an estimated $856,365, which is 2.03 percent of the direct market's $42.24 million for the same month. I had somehow come up with 1.80 percent. For December, the direct market's numbers had not yet been released when I posted in January. Since that time, Comichron.com has estimated $42.22 million for the overall direct market in December. As I reported then, crowdfunding raised an estimated $761,382 in the same month, which was about 1.80 percent of the direct market's figure.

Like last month, I’ve included the Top 40 fundraising campaigns, although I've truncated it to the Top 20; a sign of the times, as there weren't 40 successful campaigns in January. You’ll notice some entries have two amounts. That is due to the campaign being run in a different currency. I converted those to U.S. dollars, but it is an approximation due to the fluctuating dollar, euro, pound or what have you. I’ve also included the Top 10 campaigns with the most backers, as I think it’s interesting to see where the people flock. You’ll see that sometimes projects have a larger following that maybe can’t spend as much, and some have fewer fans with bigger pocketbooks. But first, here are the totals for January.

January 2014

Total Raised on Kickstarter: $450,038 (down 37.60 percent from last month)Total Raised on Indiegogo: $25,540 (down 36.34 percent from last month)Total Raised on Patreon: $25,195Total Funding: $500,773 (down 34.22 percent from last month)

Total Backers on Kickstarter: 9,690 (down 19.14 percent from last month)Total Backers on Indiegogo: 337 (down 48.31 percent from last month)Total Backers: 10,027 (down 20.65 percent from last month)

Total Campaigns Funded on Kickstarter: 36 (up 2.9 percent from last month)Total Campaigns Funded on Indiegogo: 11 (down 15.38 percent from last month)Total Campaigns Funded: 47 (down 2.08 percent from last month)

Average Raised per Campaign on Kickstarter: $12,501 (down 39.34 percent from last month)Average Raised per Campaign on Indiegogo: $2,322 (down 24.76 percent from last month)Average Raised per Campaign: $10,119 (down 36.21 percent from last month)

Average Backers per Campaign on Kickstarter: 269 (down 21.34 percent from last month)Average Backers per Campaign on Indiegogo: 31 (down 38 percent from last month)Average Backers per Campaign: 213 (down 19.01 percent from last month)

Average Donation on Kickstarter: $46.44 (down 22.84 percent from last month)Average Donation on Indiegogo: $75.79 (up 23.16% from last month)Average Donation: $47.43 (down 21.28% from last month)

Top 20 Campaigns - Most Funded - January 2014

  1. Drawing Beautiful Women: The Frank Cho Method by Frank Cho - $152,854
  2. Erstwhile 2: Grimm's Fairy Tales Anthology by Gina Biggs - $30,142
  3. Cautionary Fables and Fairy Tales: Africa Edition by Kel McDonald - $29,021
  4. Anime News Nina: The Complete Collection by Robin Sevakis - $27,740
  5. Fred Perry's Gold Digger Color Gold Brick One by Antarctic Press - $21,429
  6. Keepers of the Lost Art - The Lost Art of Being a Kid by Cavedweller Productions - $20,854
  7. Fearless Dawn: Eye of the Beholder by Steven Mannion - $20,116
  8. The Dreamland Chronicles Book Seven by Scott Christian Sava - $15,217
  9. Imaginary Drugs by Michael McDermott - $13,609
  10. Erfworld battle crest lapel pins by Rob Balder - $12,911
  11. Misbegotten by Caesar Voghan - $12,084
  12. Super!: Toys + Trades by Unlikely Heroes Studios - $11,976
  13. Antique Books by Scott Boyce - ~$10,715 ($11,731 CAD)
  14. Fairy Tales vs. Monsters by Clint Hilinski - $8,976
  15. Uncaged by Benjamin Bailey - $8,421
  16. The Adventures of GWF: The Road to Redemption by Earl Yi - $7,403
  17. Breathtaker by ComicMix, Mark Wheatley and Marc Hempel - $6,940
  18. Good Dream, Bad Dream by Liberum Donum, S. Valentino and Oliver Chin - $6,540
  19. Trained Medic: First Response, Last Hope by Charlie Hodgson and Chris Baker - ~$5,710 (£3,430)
  20. The Night Owl Society #1 by James Venhaus - $5,410

Top 10 Campaigns - Most Backers - January 2014

  1. Drawing Beautiful Women: The Frank Cho Method - 2,772
  2. Cautionary Fables and Fairy Tales: Africa Edition - 1,107
  3. Erstwhile 2: Grimm's Fairy Tales Anthology - 779
  4. Anime News Nina: The Complete Collection - 688
  5. Imaginary Drugs - 650
  6. Fearless Dawn: Eye of the Beholder - 409
  7. Antique Books - 355
  8. The Dreamland Chronicles Book Seven - 306
  9. Fred Perry's Gold Digger Color Gold Brick One - 285
  10. Erfworld battle crest lapel pins - 268

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