The web is afire with conversations about Kickstarter this week, about what should and shouldn't be Kickstarted and what its long-term effects will be on big-C Comics. Tom Spurgeon asked the readers of The Comics Reporter what they thought, and they had plenty to say. Sean T. Collins and David Brothers had thoughtful posts as well. All these posts make for good reading, but if you're pressed for time, here's Kickstarter Made Simple:
Kickstarter is a mechanism for taking pre-orders.
That's it. As Evan Dahm pointed out on Twitter, "We are not taking donations, we are taking preorders." There is no moral or ethical implication to using Kickstarter to raise funds for a project. It is no less virtuous than any other way of doing business. It's simply a way to gauge the interest in a project before sinking any more money into it. It removes the element of gambling from publishing: If you can pre-sell enough copies to pay the costs, then you won't lose money on the project.
That doesn't mean Kickstarter is necessarily the best way to go about funding a project. Gina Gagliano of First Second makes an excellent point on their blog this week:
Sometimes there pops up a project on Kickstarter where an author's like, 'okay, I'm publishing an original graphic novel, it's 200 pages long and it will take me two more years to complete after this point and you should all support it!' And sometimes I'm like, 'huh, that looks like something that we wouldn't publish at all because the zombies are exploding whilst having sex,' and sometimes I'm like, 'huh, we didn't get this charming and interesting project in our submissions inbox.'
And for that second category of projects, I wonder, why not? I mean, I know that publishers are terribly frightening and occasionally mean, but sometimes it's just like, 'Kickstarter creator, didn't you at least want to check to see if someone would flat out GIVE you $20,000.00 to publish that book and then you wouldn't have to worry about printing or mailing your graphic novel to 1,500 people?'
Gina makes another point as well: Creators who make their projects exclusive to Kickstarter may be limiting their future audience and sales. So while Kickstarter is a useful tool to get a comic published, it is not the only route to publication-and it may not be the best from the creator's point of view.
Here's a look at some of the more interesting Kickstarter campaigns that are going on right now.
What's the Big Idea? A print edition of volume six of the long-running webcomic "The Dreamland Chronicles."
Moving force: Scott Christian Sava, a former animator who left the hustle and bustle of Hollywood to live in Tennessee and make comics.
Selling Point: "The Dreamland Chronicles" has a strong fanbase, and Sava has already funded the fourth and fifth volumes via successful Kickstarters.
Premiums: Sava offers the standard range of premiums: A digital copy of all six volumes for $10, a signed copy of the book for $25 -- a little pricier than the standard premiums, but not terrible. It goes up from there with additional copies, stuffed characters, sketches, etc. What Sava is doing a little differently, though, is adding an a la carte list of items that backers can add to their selected premiums. In other words, he is selling additional items through Kickstarter, which makes it as explicit as can be that this site is simply a way to sell product without setting up a storefront of your own.
This caught my eye: Sava's $15,000 stretch goal is the "Shipper" Package: Sava will take a poll of the 10 most popular romantic pairings of his characters and turn them into desktop wallpapers that will be distributed to all backers. Now that's interacting with the fandom!
Goal: $8,500, and he's about halfway there now.
Deadline to pledge: October 8.
What's the Big Idea? You have heard of local food? This is local comics: A comic set in Nashville, distributed free through a number of outlets in the Nashville area and supported completely by advertising.
Moving force: Brett Thompson, who runs a company that makes comic art boards (preprinted boards for artists to draw on) and is also the creator of the mini-series and graphic novel "Project EON," published by Markosia.
Selling Point: A very different marketing strategy. Thompson's plan is to use Kickstarter to fund the first issue with a print run of 25,000 and distribute it free via supermarkets, movie theaters and game stores in the Nashville area. Future issues would be funded by advertising. The comic will be regional -- set in Nashville and mostly distributed there, although it will also be available digitally.
Premiums: $1 gets you an ad-free digital issue, which runs a bit counter to the whole idea. A copy of the printed comic will set you back $10. The most interesting premiums are the ads, because they give an idea of the rates: $350 for a half-page ad, $500 for a full page, $700 for a cover.
This caught my eye: The art in the 8-page sample is pretty nice, but it's somewhat dismaying that a different artist is taking over -- and there are no samples of his work on the page.
Deadline to pledge: August 19.
What's the Big Idea? A four-volume series of graphic novels about a ten-year-old superhero, designed to be lighthearted and fun.
Moving force: Penciler Jamal Igle, a 22-year veteran of the comics industry who has done work for DC, Marvel, IDW and others; his credits include "Supergirl," "Spider-Man" and "KISS." This will be Igle's first solo creator-owned project.
Selling Point: Igle's pitch: "As the father of a young girl, I've found myself disheartened that there isn't a female superhero character for my daughter to read that hasn't been turned into a killer, or overtly sexualized. A character that isn't joined at the hip to a male hero or subservient to one. I like to think of Molly as a cross between Astroboy and the Powerpuff Girls, the perfect type of character for young, burgeoning superhero fans." Igle's art and the overall professionalism of this pitch are points in its favor as well.
Premiums: Igle starts off fun with a membership card for $1 that gets the donor access to a special production blog. A PDF of the comic costs $10. After that it's books, T-shirts, sketches, personal appearances and for $10,000, 38 pages of original art from the comic.
This caught my eye: Igle is working with the small publisher Action Lab Entertainment and the Kickstarter funds a limited edition of 2,000 copies.
Deadline to pledge: August 31.
What's the Big Idea? A nonfiction comic about the science of consciousness. This will be a companion piece a the six-part series that will run on the radio program "To the Best of Our Knowledge," which is produced by Wisconsin Public Radio and distributed by Public Radio International.
Moving force: The radio show "To the Best of Our Knowledge" is listed as the backer.
Selling Point: The talent: writer Jim Ottaviani ("Feynman") and artist Natalie Nourigat ("Between Gears"). The topic is interesting in its own right, but it could be pretty dry in the wrong hands. Ottaviani is an experienced writer of graphic novels about science and Nourigat is an up-and-coming artist with a charming style. They will make it work.
Premiums: Prices are a little steep: $15 for an advance PDF of the comic, $25 for a print edition. The $100 premium is a USB drive loaded up with both the comic and the radio show. For $120 you get a tote bag made of recycled plastic, because this is public radio, after all.
This caught my eye: Guests on the radio show will include Oliver Sacks, Richard Davidson and Eric Kandel.
Deadline to pledge: September 1.
What's the Big Idea? New digital and print editions of the cult classic Flaming Carrot Comics, plus a new eight-page comic that will be exclusive to the hardcover edition.
Moving force: Bob Burden, the original creator of Flaming Carrot Comics.
Selling Point: The original comics from the 1980s (it first appeared in 1979) are out of print and pricey, so the new edition will bring "the world's first surrealist super hero" to a new audience at a reasonable price.
Premiums: For $1, you get a secret message. For $10, a digital comic -- what's with all the expensive PDFs this week? Actually, this one is 250 pages, so it's a good deal. For $35 you get the PDF plus some vintage Flaming Carrot comics. The hardcover is $50 and includes an eight-page comic that won't be found anywhere else. There's a Champagne Edition (signed and numbered) for $100. And as the rewards go up, they throw in rare action figures, vintage T-shirts, and all sorts of interesting old comics.
This caught my eye: "One month Flaming Carrot even outsold Superman comics." The series was the inspiration for the movie "Mystery Men."
Goal: $12,500; so far they have gotten more than twice that in pledges.
Deadline to pledge: September 9.