Xeric Foundation Ends Grants to Cartoonists

Well, THAT’s the end of an era. Established by Peter A. Laird with some of that Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles money, for 20 years, the Xeric Foundation has awarded twice-yearly grants to aid cartoonists in self-publishing. From their FAQ:

Xeric Foundation logo

“Xeric grants can be used for the physical production and distribution of your new or previously unpublished work: printing, color separation, photocopying, solicitation, shipping, advertising, and securing an ISBN number or domain name.”

They were also seen as attesting to a certain level of quality — a Xeric Grant winner was something to watch for. To date, they’ve given out over $1,250,000 … in lumps of $5,000 or less. However, for the 20th anniversary, the Foundation mission is changing.

The advent of essentially free web publishing has forever altered the way aspiring comic book creators can get their work out into the public eye. With this in mind, I have decided that it makes sense that the Xeric Foundation will no longer provide grants to self-publishing comic book creators, and instead devote all of its available grants funds to charitable organizations.

There will be one more round of self-publishing grants, in May 2012, with applications due by the end of February. I can’t disagree with Laird’s logic here, acknowledging the changing balance between digital and print comics. Since the grants couldn’t be used for website design, computer equipment, promotional activities, or merchandise, they didn’t suit the needs of what many young creators want to get started today, and printing a book is less important to get started than it once was. Plus now, they can write their own grants with Kickstarter.

Update: Tom Spurgeon has a thoughtful response echoing the idea that the Xeric’s time had passed:

This was an overall great thing that he did. Not only were dozens of creators given a splendid opportunity at what was likely a key point in their careers, thousands of readers have richer lives for the art he helped make available.

… While the knee-jerk reaction is to bemoan the loss of a publishing opportunity of any kind, and to look back with kindness on all the material that the program put into paper form, there are reasonable arguments that the program as it exists today had become far less necessary than it used to be.

… As someone who’s read nearly all of the Xeric books on this list, I feel that on balance the quality of submissions and cartoonists involved is heavily stacked towards the early years. … As the program progressed, more grant winners seemed to to secure arrangements with established companies that made it possible to outsource some of the work that would normally fall to a classic comics self-publisher.

… It was probably just as great for the first group of creators as it will be for the last group to open that printer’s box and hold an actual printed comic in one’s hands, a comic made possible by some wonderful benefactor’s money and interest, a comic with their name on it. It’s everything else that’s different now.


8 Responses to “Xeric Foundation Ends Grants to Cartoonists”

  1. Diana Green Says:

    My first reaction – no! – is tempered by a bit of common sense.
    It’s not just the Web model that has changed the face of indy funding, but Kickstarter.
    In the latter model, your successes are not contingent on the judgment of a half-dozen people, a dicey situation no matter how versed in the nuances of comics those six may be. Instead, you’re answerable to the masses, a sort of online American Idol for comics.
    Does that model solve all the problems? Of course not. But there is an evolution to this stuff, and it’s wise of the Xeric folks to accept that.
    It’s been a great 20 years. But now the only self-publishing grant (AFAIK) is the PRISM Grant.

  2. Johanna Says:

    I think some people in Canada have gotten arts grants there for comics, although they aren’t intended specifically for that format. Me, being a pessimist (although I prefer realist), I’m still waiting for the first great Kickstarter scandal, where someone raises a lot of money and bails on the rewards. But like you, I hated the idea of the Xeric ending, before I thought about it and realized it was just a sign of changing times.

  3. Xeric Foundation to offer one last round of grants to creators | Robot 6 @ Comic Book Resources – Covering Comic Book News and Entertainment Says:

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  4. Davy Jones Says:

    I’m amazed there are still people self-publishing paper comics at all. Why would any indie creator these days even bother? The internet is a superior medium in every respect. It’s cheaper, more immediate, space is unlimited, and you can (potentially) reach a LOT more people than two thousand (or, more realistically, the 400 you’ll sell)hard copy comics could. Granted you’re not making any money, but at least you won’t end up in debt, surrounded by unsold comic books.

    The only attraction I could see in publishing a hard copy comic is the “thrill” of having a real live finished comic in your hands. But you know what? I’ve been there, and that thrill gets old, fast. At this point my main concern is just getting the work out there as quickly and painlessly as possible. And I couldn’t imagine going back to the Model T of print comics when the internet is giving away a free Porsche.

  5. David Oakes Says:

    The Internet is letting your drive the Porsche, for roughly the cost of gas. But if you want to make money, at some point you buy the Model T (invest in a print run), and tool around the country talking to individual customers (sell the books).

    Now, you might as well let the Internet take you to all those customers’ houses first, so you can gauge the value of buying the Model T. No argument there. But unless your *only* goal is the artistic satisfaction of the work existing, you simply aren’t going to get there in someone else’s car.

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