We’re all geeks here. And really, what would we have to geek about if creative types didn’t pour their souls into their work? These guys and gals take enormous and, sometimes, unappreciated risks to put their products into our Cheeto-salted mitts. One of the largest hurdles that indie creators face is finding the funds or the commercial interest to publish their works. Crowdfunding, one of the most inspiring uses of social media, seeks to mitigate independent publishing risks and costs. Sites such as Kickstarter and IndieGoGo give fans an opportunity to have a stake in up-and-coming projects.
On crowdfunding sites you can find countless comics, movies, documentaries, and games with their creators just asking for a shot at getting idea off the ground. Typically, for a few bucks more than you might have paid otherwise, you get a copy of the product and the satisfaction of knowing that you are helping somebody get their foot in the door. The project owners set a pledge goal with various levels of giving. The more money you pledge, the more loot you get in return for a successful campaign. I’ve seen pledge rewards such as signed copies, a spot in the acknowledgements, custom sketches, production comic pages, and even including you as a character in the story.
The crowdfunding concept is more altruistic than profitable for pledgers. Yes, you can buy this stuff cheaper straight-up – but only if the project actually achieves publication. And that’s where the masses of pledgers come into play: together their funding power helps publish deserving projects that otherwise might have died a slow, silent death in somebody’s junk drawer. Crowdfunding gives geeks a call of duty other than the one that involves knifing mouthy, 14-year-old, dude-bros on Xbox Live. The concept shows that maybe social media can be something greater than duck lips, witty 140-character banter, and kitten memes. Who am I kidding? I love teh kittehz.
Here, we’ll highlight a few crowdfunding campaigns that caught our attention. We’ll also provide prospective creators with some juicy nuggets of insight and advice with post-mortems of successful projects.
Jason Brubaker‘s reMIND is a wildly successful web comic that has acquired awards such as the 2010 Xeric Grant. To pay the bills, Brubaker works as an artist at DreamWorks Animation and it shows: the artwork in reMIND stands among the best in all of comics. Every page that Brubaker produces begs you to admire and awe at its expressive technique and textured colors. While the art alone makes a hardcopy worth owning, the story is equally as unique and engaging. The story focuses on Sonja and her cat, Victuals, who returned to her after going missing, only now the cat can somehow speak intelligently. Together the two embark on a grand journey about “faith, underwater lizard-men, and brain transplantation.” It’s a little out there, but a fun experience to take in nonetheless.
Jason Brubaker has already successfully conducted a Kickstarter campaign to publish the first volume. His effort to fund volume 2 is already over 300% past his original goal of $24,000 to fund reMIND Volume #2. It might seem excessive to feature such an absurdly successful Kickstarter campaign; however, Jason Brubaker gives back so much to the web comic community with his instructional blogs, you can’t help but root for him to go 400% over his goal. The deadline is August 22, 2012 and his campaign is nearing the magical $100K number. Along each step of the path past his original goal, Brubaker has promised cool bonuses to pledgers such as postcards, bookmarks, and even animation cels. The $100K mark will give all $75+ backers a hardcopy of “Making of reMIND” book along with all the other unlocked loot.
In Woe of Oz, writer Ethan Tarshish and artist Kelly Brown pick up the story after the 1939 movie ends. This ain’t your granddaddy’s jolly romp down the yellow brick road. The opening scene with the Lion looking over a bloody battlefield sets the stage for a violent land of Oz. The Winkies, the Wicked Witch of the West’s followers, begin an uprising against Queen Ozma. It’s vicious and grim, but interesting, take on Oz that’s aimed at mature audiences.
The creators are two issues from completing their first six-issue story arc. This campaign, which ends on September 14, 2012, seeks to fund the final digital two issues as well as a print release. The pledge levels run from as little as $1 all the way up to $5,000. A $5 pledge will net you digital copies of the first two issues while a $30 pledge grants you the “Glinda The Good Deal”: All 6 digital issues, behind the scenes materials, and the PDF Character Booklet. If you’re seeking to have your name and likeness immortalized in the sequential arts, a $5,000 donation lands you a role in the book. Other pledge levels include signed copies of the graphic novel, pages from Kelly Brown’s sketchbook, and original art.
Ah, steampunk. Sky Pirate Wars of Valendor follows the story of Captain Tobin Manheim on his airship, the Rogue’s Revenge. In this high-fantasy tale, Tobin is forced to work with his ex-wife Gearz while conducting a job for Governor Langford which begins a swashbuckling, sky pirate adventure. Writer Everett Soares and artist Brian Brinlee have already completed a trade paperback edition for Volume 1. Their goal is to raise $2,000 by September 29th, 2012 to fund the publishing costs of Volume 2 and lay groundwork for the third volume.
The most appealing aspect of the Sky Pirate Wars of Valendor campaign is its remarkably attainable pledge rewards. For a mere $10 you get you a copy signed by Marvel artist Mark Sparacio, who painted the cover. Or for the same amount you could also choose to appear as a character in the comic who is summarily executed by a pirate of your choosing. A $20 pledge grants you a copy of Volume 2 and gives you the chance to name a pirate ship in Volume 3. At $50 you will be drawn into the comic as a captain of your own pirate ship and you’ll receive the original art of that page. This is truly awesome schwag and it’s designed to just rake in the average pledges.
The creators also pledge to donate 14% of the funds to victims of the Aurora, Colorado shooting at the Dark Knight Rises premiere. Everett Soares and Brian Brinlee have a proven web comic and self-published trade. With a great cause and accessible rewards, this campaign deserves some GoD love.
Jeff McComsey, the “Supreme Commander” of the FUBAR 2 project, completed a Kickstarter campaign in September 2011. Within days of his campaign’s start date, he nailed the original pledge goal of $3,000 – he ended up doubling his original goal. FUBAR #2 is a wicked cool comic anthology about the World War II Pacific Theater — with MOTHERFUCKING ZOMBIES!
Forty different contributors had a hand in making this massive collection of zombie short stories a success. The comic squeezed buckets of fresh creative juice out of a genre that’s perilously close to going stale. In an astounding achievement, there’s not a stinker in the bunch and the book even spent some time the New York Times Bestseller list for graphic novels. Jeff McComsey took a few moments of his time to let us pick at his brains for insight into the crowdfunding process; he gives some invaluable advice to anyone looking to dive-in with Kickstarter.
Geeks of Doom: How did your Kickstarter campaigns contribute to the success of FUBAR #2?
Jeff McComsey: It was huge in terms of paying for more books to print initially and putting off those costly reprints for a year or so. The other HUGE aspect of Kickstarter is the marketing and advertising you get from it. In addition to that the backers list once the campaign is over is a great resource to keep fans in the loop about what’s up next.
GoD: Why do you think people are drawn to the idea of crowdfunding?
JM: As a person who backs projects, it’s just a cool way to get exclusive books and other gadgets while supporting creators outside of just lip service and buying material off the shelf. You also get a tiny bit of ownership in the respect that you know you helped a project or creator when they needed it most. Their successes become your successes.
GoD: What convinced you to try out Kickstarter?
JM: I was very cautious about pulling the trigger on the FUBAR Kickstarter, but I had seen a lot of my fellow creators getting more than we were thinking of asking for and essentially just kickstarting issue to issue.
We were offering a 284-page graphic novel for just $3,000. We still planned meticulously. Reward structure and pricing is something you really want to focus on I’ve found.
GoD: I recently completed a review of FUBAR #2 and was very impressed with the quality and variety of the stories. How did you manage such a large group of contributors? Did you seek them out or did they volunteer?
JM: It’s about 50/50. I always have my eyes out for small-press creators that I think would be interested. I also get a few emails a month from folks who want to get involved. I have help from my fellow editors, Steve Becker and Jeff McClleland. A lot of it is staying organized and working with teams as best we can to accommodate busy schedules. It doesn’t hurt that I pencil, ink, grayscale, and letter. If a story needs any or all of those parts done, I can jump in and make sure it gets done for our deadline.
GoD: What advice would you give to people creating a new Kickstarter project?
JM: 1. Focus on reward pricing and structure. Make sure you offer good value on what you are offering. People don’t mind paying a little extra for a KS campaign, but be reasonable. Have rewards for people who just want to give a few bucks AND for people who want to give a few hundred. Factor in shipping ESPECIALLY overseas shipping. Offer specially priced rewards for backers outside the U.S. that have extra shipping factored, Count on about 20-30% of your goal is going to shipping, rewards, and Amazon and Kickstarter.
2. Have a marketing/advertising plan in place before you launch. Press releases and an email list of fans, friends, and family is a must. Prepare an email blast explaining the project and what you’re doing and what you’re asking for on Kickstarter. Shoot that out the second you launch your campaign.
3. It is imperative to get some money on the board FAST in the first 24 hours. It’s worth reaching out to a few friends and family prior to launch and having them back immediately. It’s a perception thing for the most part. You want to start the momentum early and keep it going. A great start to a campaign does just that.
GoD: Your two Kickstarter campaigns went over their funding goals. FUBAR #2 earned 200% of its original goal. What did the extra funding go to?
JM: We’ve always just used the overage to print more books than we initially planned. So far it’s worked out nicely.
GoD: What new projects do you have in the pipeline? Any new crowd-funded campaigns? FUBAR #3 maybe?
JM: We are absolutely Kickstarting FUBAR: American History Z in the late Fall, so keep your eyes peeled.