Comic Fans Need Patience: Thoughts on Lengthy Kickstarters & Incomplete First Issues
I’ve been pondering the question of how long comic readers should be asked to wait when it comes to independent work.
What started this off was Lea Hernandez’s Kickstarter for The Garlicks, which ends tomorrow. Since it’s only about a third of the way towards the goal of $40,000, it looks like it isn’t going to make it.
(Update: Be sure to read Lea’s comments below, where she explains more about her effort. And Alex, who’s also run a long-term Kickstarter, has a good list of why some projects don’t succeed in the comments.)
I’m part of the reason why. While I love her work and will buy her next book, I didn’t contribute, because the project is set up to support her while she creates it. That means she’s promising rewards to deliver a year from now (May 2013), and that’s too far away for me to commit to.
I am more comfortable funding a project where the work already exists, one where the creator needs print costs. This doesn’t apply to Lea’s case, but one of the reasons why is that, if rewards deliver within a couple of months, I’m protected if something happens and I don’t get what’s promised. Within 3-6 months, I have the ability to do a credit card chargeback in the worst case, if the provider flakes out. On a more personal level, it’s more rewarding to get a book or other rewards within a couple of months, as though it was similar to a preorder. Otherwise, it feels like throwing money into the wind.
Of course, if you have the resources to be charitable and make donations, supporting favorite artists without concern for what you get in return, then this isn’t a worry for you. But at that point, Kickstarter reminds me of a popularity contest.
I would advise those planning Kickstarters to note that something in the range of $4-8,000 is more likely to be achieved than asking for multiple tens of thousands of dollars. Sure, there are plenty of success stories, but they’ve been run by people with huge followings and a long-term track record of delivering products of known quality. Also, anthologies, which have a much bigger crew of contributors working to get the word out. A Kickstarter is, on many levels, a measurement of trust, and if you don’t have enough dedicated followers and a solid, substantial track record of doing what you say you will, you may not succeed.
Along similar lines, I got another email recently from a guy who seemed nice and funny who funded the first issue of his comic series through Kickstarter but wouldn’t be able to do another until he sold enough digital and print copies to cover costs. The problem was that the first issue, while intriguing in its setup, didn’t provide anything close to a complete story. Readers are asked to have faith that they’ll eventually see another issue, which may or may not finish the story.
There’s a problem of momentum here. It’s hard enough, with so many options and so much competition out there, to get a customer’s attention once. Expecting them to come back at some future undetermined time is foolhardy. I know the economics are tough for young creators, but I don’t understand why anyone would release just part of a story for their first issue these days. Put out a complete work, so readers get a good idea of what you’re capable of.