- Posted by Johanna on March 8, 2012 at 5:16 pm
- Category: Comic News
Maybe there’s something to this Kickstarter thing…
You only have a week to support equal marriage rights by pledging to Little Heart, an anthology of comic “work created to show that love strikes all walks of life.” Although conceived in response to a Minnesota referendum, contributing artists are from the US, Canada, and other countries. The introduction is by the blogverse’s own Christopher Butcher, who shares information on his own marriage and how it relates to the material therein.
Going in a totally different direction, the multitalented Keith Knight ((Th)ink, The Knight Life) is asking for funding for his first full-length graphic novel, entitled I Was a Teenage Michael Jackson Impersonator. I would love to read more about this time in his life, but the structure is the kind of project that makes me nervous: asking for a lot of money ($40,000) with rewards not available for two years, since that’s how long it will take him to create the work customers are effectively pre-ordering.
Certainly, with recent ridiculous success stories, maybe tens of thousands of dollars is plausible, especially for someone like Knight who’s a long-known quantity with a substantial audience built over years of work. However, I found Rich Burlew’s evaluation of the effort enlightening in two ways: he spent nine years building an audience for a known, pre-existing work (his offering was a reprint of comics already made) and he spent all his time for a month doing nothing but promoting the Kickstarter.
Kickstarter isn’t easy, in other words. It gives you more control and makes you master of your own art, but it’s a lot of effort to succeed. It also has a lot of pitfalls, most of which I’m cribbing from Gary Tyrrell’s excellent breakdowns (links below):
- There’s a huge tax burden and associated costs — for Burlew’s Kickstarter bringing in over $1,250,000, postage costs are estimated to be over $200,000, while taxes are over 40%, or approximately $500,000, and fees are about 10%, or $125,000 to Kickstarter and Amazon for doing the processing. That leaves Burlew with under $425,000 — very nice money, but not the huge amount everyone first hears about. In short, the more you want to ask for, the much more you need to receive.
- Kickstarters often succeed based on selling higher-priced limited editions to dedicated fans. The average contribution per person of Burlew’s project was over $83. That’s not a $20-30 “I think I’ll preorder a book”; that’s an already-converted reader wanting signatures or sketches or art or other special items.
- Here’s the scary one: over 40% of Kickstarter comic projects fail, and many of them fail hard. (By which I mean, 10% funded or less.) As Gary says, “The super-jumbo-mega successes are few and far between, and they’re driven by the people that are already making a living at comics.”
- Kickstarter is a one-time thing. You’re not going to make enough to live on on a continuing basis (unless you run a series of continuing projects, but that will have diminishing returns). It’s a valuable tool in the business of art toolbox, but the more you know and plan going in, the better your chances of success.