ComixLaunch

Crowdfunding Comics & Graphic Novels on Kickstarter... and Beyond!

Editor’s Note: While ComixLaunch has almost exclusively focused on the Kickstarter platform, it is not the only game in town. Indiegogo is a crowdfunding platform that hundreds of comic creators have chosen to fund their projects.

In this guest post, Jen Finelli makes the case for Indiegogo, and while ComixLaunch stands by Kickstarter as the #1 platform comic creators should master to fund their creative projects, we appreciate hearing alternative views and are happy to share them with you here.


When you hear “crowd funding,” you think Kickstarter.

Comics creatives, however, might want to think again.

Indiegogo gets a bad rap in the general numbers game out there, which I’m sure you’ve discovered from some careful googling yourself.

(You DID compare success rates before picking your platform, right?)

However, most of those statistics don’t show you data specific to comics. A la Han Solo, I had a bad feeling about this, so after hours scrolling through Indiegogo’s archives to crunch numbers, I interrogated John T. Trigonis.

John–or “Trig,” as folks in the Indiegogo neighborhood call him–is a comic creator and crowd funding expert who’s worked on thousands of dollars worth of campaigns, with his top solo campaigns grossing up to $67,000.

His personal campaign for noir comic Siren’s Calling raised more than double its goal and continues to bring in funds for him long after through Indiegogo’s InDemand option. You may know him best through the some of crowdfunding projects he’s strategized behind: projects like Iron Sky, VGHS Season 3, Super Troopers 2, Gosnell Movie, Wong Fu Productions’ First Feature Film, and a number of other big films, games, apps, and of course, comics.

Comics rock

Comics projects have some unique advantages on both major crowdfunding platforms, I discovered: our “full funding” rate bounces between 47 and 51 percent depending on how you count things (more specifics later). That’s WAY better than the averages floating out there on the internet for general crowdfunding, which hop around the tens and teens. Why do comic creators rock so much?

Trig attributed our success to the tight-knit nature of the comics community. It might also have something to do with the fact that we ask for more reasonable sums of money than most projects, with the plurality of successful comics projects hovering between $1K and $10K. We’re not greedy. We’re real creators. We’re rebellious, counter-cultural, and we’re stubborn: we all want to ride with our comics for the long haul.

And that’s actually part of what makes Indiegogo so attractive for comics-specific crowdfunding: its software is intrinsically built for the stubborn long haul and the small community dynamic. What am I talking about? InDemand and referral incentives.

For that stubborn long haul: InDemand

“InDemand” means that once a comic reaches its goal, the creator can keep the page up on Indiegogo forever actually collecting funds, like a store. He or she can continue to have competitions, CyberMonday sales, holiday specials, and so on, all without the work of setting up a new store, redirecting audience TO said store, and learning everything there is to know about marketing to promote said store. Store, store, store.

“Comics creators tend to not understand e-commerce,” Trig told me, and why should we? We want to spend time drawing, not selling, which makes InDemand a particularly impressive option for first time crowdfunders who want to build a long-term, faithful audience.

And it’s first-timers who need that kind of support.

On Kickstarter, the top comic project brought in over one million dollars, with 72 projects over 100K, and 1072 projects between 10K and 100K.

These winning crowdfunders were predominantly webcomics artists who’ve spent five to ten years or more daily developing their audience–people who would’ve been wildly successful on any platform.

There’s no denying that Indiegogo does attract some big names–DC comics ran a charity event that brought home more than 100K, and Alternacomics could almost call the platform home–but scrolling through the top Kickstarters vs. scrolling through the top Indiegogos offers two very different pictures (and I’ll give you the numbers on them in a second). Indiegogo definitely seem more dominated by the newcomers, and newcomers need that easier transition into long-term sales that InDemand provides.

Mobilizing Community Through Referral Rewards

IndieGogo also appeals to the uniquely tight-knit community aspect of comics by allowing creators to set up referral programs.

“Kickstarter discourages this kind of thing,” says Trig, and it’s not built into their software. On Indiegogo fans can recruit their friends and log, in the platform, how much income they’ve generated for a project. Creators can offer a special reward tier for generating $X in referrals, which builds hype and engages lower-income fans who would still like to try their hand at winning a cool prize. With that kind of power in the hands of fans, new creators can maximize the potential of much smaller communities.

Supplementing this referral option, Indiegogo also offers the ability to set up “secret perks”–perks no one can see unless they click a link to a page you create. “They can use that to incentivize previous Kickstarter backers to move over to Indiegogo, or to e-mail a thank-you, or they can send a secret perk link to just a sub-set of their backers,” says Trig.

You can imagine how powerful secret perks could be when coupled to referral software, especially in the comics community. Comics-lovers, we like stories and excitement. We run in small groups, and we like to fight over stuff. So imagine I’m crowd funding for Becoming Hero (http://byjenfinelli.com/becoming-hero-superhero-kills-his-author/), my comic-within-a-novel about a comic book character who decides to kill his author. I can tell my IRL friends that if they’ll agree to wear a sticker about Becoming Hero (the sticker thing’s been done before, to great success), I’ll give them early access to a secret perk no one else can have. I say “early access,” and then halfway through the campaign, when fever starts to die down again, I can now build hype by unlocking that secret perk for everyone who refers someone to the campaign. Or, I can offer the secret perk to everyone who donates, as a thank-you AND an incentive to get them to give more. I can create referral teams to “fight” each other based on the theme of my comic, I can set up games to play, contests, narratives–and all with a relatively small fan base that can then grow.

Show Me The Numbers

So here’s the question: do all those cool tools bring results?

That’s what I wanted to know, so I started counting.

First off, Kickstarter has WAY more comics projects archived online than Indiegogo does: we’re talking 8741 vs 902. Having the name recognition helps Kickstarter a lot. On the surface, that name recognition seems to help creators, too: out of 8741 total comics projects, 4482 reached full funding on Kickstarter, while out of 902 comic Indiegogos, 420 reached full funding. That puts Kickstarter at a 51% success rate, and Indiegogo at a 47% success rate.

This isn’t a real picture of what’s happening, though, for several reasons.

47% >/= 51%, Reason One: Flexible Funding Is Weird

First, when we estimate success like this, we fail to take into account the difference between the flexible funding and fixed funding models. (As you know, Kickstarter only offers fixed; Indiegogo offers both) Conventional wisdom now says fixed funding campaigns always have a higher chance of reaching their funding goal because of all-or-nothing stress you put on your audience.

Our 47% doesn’t factor in that difference between flexible and fixed campaigns, and the vast majority of the successful comics crowd funded through Indiegogo used flexible funding.

This surprised me: I expected to see a clear trend where successful Indiegogos used fixed funding, and unsuccessful Indiegogos used flexible funding. That’s just not the reality out there, and you’re free to scroll through 900+ crowdfunds yourself to check. For whatever reason, the flexible funding model seems to be more successful for comics than it is for the general crowdfunder: as I’m sure your Google Fu will tell you, there’s usually something like a two-to-three fold difference in success between fixed and flexible campaigns.

Why would comics do so well with flexible funding? Trig said something during our interview that I think sheds some light:

“That depends on how you define success,” he said, when I told him about the success rates I’d found. “I define it by whether or not the project gets made.”

In other words, a comic that got 75% funded, and still delivered a product, is successful, even if the creator had to take home a little less money than she hoped. You can have a good comic run for $2000, and you can have a good comic run for $25,000: the same can’t be said about bikes, coffee makers, and even sometimes films. That might be why flexible funding doesn’t seem to be hurting comics the way it apparently hurts crowdfunding in general.

So with this knowledge, I went back through my math hell and included the last 28 projects that had gained between 75% and 100% of their funding with flexible funding, allowing them to create a comic.

Note that there were 420 comics 100% or more funded, and only 28 comics between 75% and 100% funded: that means that once you pass 75%, you’re almost 15 times more likely to get full funding than you are to stop there. Furthermore, there were 449 comics above 75%, and only 234 between 25 and 75% funded: in other words, once you pass that first quarter mark, you’re two times more likely to reach your goal than to fail.

This more precise analysis comes out to a 50% success rate.

50% >/= 51%, Reason Two: InDemand Is Amazing

One thing I couldn’t mathematically take into account–because I’m not smart enough–is the impact of InDemand. I already told you that Kickstarter’s plethora of well-known webcomics artists means it nets more big-money projects, but I didn’t break it down for you with a good Indiegogo percentages comparison. I’m going to do that now.

When you play the percentages, both platforms have the bulk of their comics successes between 1K and 10K: 65% for Indiegogo, and 64% for Kickstarter. Both platforms have a very small percentage of successes in the upper echelons of 100K to one mil: 1.1% for Indiegogo, and 1.6% for Kickstarter. Not much difference here.

The big differences in funds are in the lowest low, and the moderately high funding ranges, and that’s where all those well-known webcomic artists sit.

On Kickstarter, 24.6% of their successful projects make between 10K and 100K. On Indiegogo, that’s halved: 12%. On Indiegogo, 22% of comics crowdfunders set and reached a goal of less than 1K. On Kickstarter, only 13.2% of successful projects ask for less than 1K.

In other words, the folks who generally ask for less–the little guys–make up a larger portion of the success stories on IndieGogo. And, as we established above, it’s the little guys who need InDemand to help build a continuing audience post-crowdfunding, and I don’t know how to calculate the wonderful financial boost of continuously adding funds over time. I can tell you this: I’m sure it makes up that one percent difference.

50% > 51%, Reason Three: Kickstarter Picks Winners

“But Jen,” you say.

“Hey, how did you know my name?” I say. “I didn’t mention it at the beginning.”

“Look, Jen, I’m psychic,” you say. “And I need every percentage point I can get. That last one percent makes a big difference to me.”

To which I say: you know what created that one percentage point?

Artificial picking and choosing by Kickstarter, while Indiegogo plays the nice guy. The nice guy mathematically always finishes last.

What do I mean by this?

Kickstarter is known for having stricter rules about what you can and cannot crowdfund on their site. Your Gramma cannot fundraise for her mission trip to the homeless guy down the street on Kickstarter. She can do that on Indiegogo. Kickstarter’s success rate is artificially driven through the roof by its policy of keeping out the undesirables, and Indiegogo’s rate is driven down by its willingness to let a bunch of kids ask for money to get to Comiccon. When you go through the failed “comics” projects on Indiegogo, many of them aren’t real comics projects at all. They’re people asking for stuff I don’t really understand, like trips, or comedy-related “just give me money to start my career,” or…I dunno, was that a doily? I really don’t know. It’s in the comics category, so to be honest and fair and not be mean to Kickstarter, I didn’t weed out what I didn’t understand (Indiegogo didn’t). But they’re bringing the average down.

Which is a wonderful thing, because, you see, Indiegogo doesn’t think it’s better than you. Indiegogo doesn’t believe in a right to tell you what you can and cannot dream about.

“We allow everybody to be a star,” says Trig. “And it’s just about how hard you’re willing to work to be that star.”

The Kickstarter staff personally choose what campaigns show up on the front page of Kickstarter. Meanwhile, the Indiegogo front page is determined by an algorithm that factors in the number of people who pitched in to a project, and the speed at which a project is growing, so the day I did my digging, they had a $140 campaign highlighted next to a $26,000 campaign. There’s no human picking and choosing of the winners.

There’s no superiority complex, no gatekeeper. The indie spirit is real here, you guys.

(https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x11zYMLYzfs and https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EgXsGXxyAFs and http://turtlehearts.com/2016/10/ritg-dev-diary-why-we-chose-indiegogo-instead-of-kickstarter/)

And that’s ultimately what bottom lines it for me.

No, it’s not the cool tools like InDemand, referral software, and secret prizes, and no, it’s not the fact that it’s AWESOME to have less competition (902 vs 8741 total projects is a very big difference when you’re vying for that spot on the front page).

It’s the fact that when I sign up for Indiegogo, I’m a free agent. Indiegogo doesn’t tell me whether or not I can offer perks over $10,000 (which I’d never do, but hey, crowdfunds doing industrial good might want that (http://sustainablekits.com/why-indiegogo/).

Indiegogo doesn’t make my life difficult, or ask me too many questions if I’m not American (https://beyourownbankbook.wordpress.com/2014/12/16/why-i-chose-indiegogo-over-kickstarter-to-crowdfund-byob/ ).

(Except when I’m trying to calculate success rates, in which case, holy crap Indiegogo, could you please list a total count of projects at the top of each search category because oh my gosh please?)

With Indiegogo, I can taste the smaller company mindset, and feel that direct access to peeps like Trig, even if I’m not a huge important comics person. As some other guy said (https://medium.com/en-route-to-saenthood/en-route-to-saenthood-e1a805712eaa#.j2ybqqnzd), over at Indiegogo, they’re hungry.

And that makes me hungry, too.

So tell me. What platform will you pick for your crowdfunding campaign?

________________________________

Hi there! I’m Jen Finelli! I’m a world-traveling scifi author, and I wrote that guest post up there! This whole article came about because Tyler over here at ComixLaunch is a real hooman who actually corresponds with the peeps on his e-mail list. I filled out a survey recently on his website, and rather than just using that data for himself, Tyler contacted me about it personally.

I thought that was really cool. In this world of fakery and weird online advertising, I really like peeps who are real, and if you like real, too, you can sign up for Tyler’s e-mail list here to get more crowdfunding comics tips in your inbox.

If you think I’m okay, too, you can find out more about me and my whacky scifi on my website, byjenfinelli.com, and if you’d like to hear more about that comic book character who shoots his author, you can hit me up at http://becominghero.ninja/.

Happy crowdfunding, lovely people!

Editor’s Note: This non-partisan guest post was graciously submitted by Clay Adams of Fried Comics. Enjoy!


All election-ed out?

Tough.

Because the 2016 contest between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton provides ample crowdfunding lessons.

(There’s a reason we call them Kickstarter campaigns.)

So, sit back, relax, put your partisan politics aside, and let’s look at what worked and what didn’t.


LESSON #1: FORGET VIRAL. YOU NEED A GROUND GAME.

Many creators put their campaigns up on Kickstarter and hope it goes viral. (Confession: this is what I did).

The problem?

Nothing just “goes viral.”

Behind the scenes, there is a large, grassroots effort to spread the word. It usually starts among friends and family and then builds steam from there.

In politics, we call this grassroots effort “ground game.” Otherwise known as: “get-out-the-vote.”

This is exactly what it sounds like.

You pound the pavement, knock on doors, and find the people who will support you. And then you get them to the polls.

(Or, in your case, your Kickstarter pledge page.)

In the 2016 election, Hillary Clinton’s ground game was phenomenal. And because of it, she won the popular vote by a wide margin.

After getting shellacked in 2008 and 2012, the GOP worked hard to improve their ground game as well. By all accounts, it paid off.

But wasn’t Trump’s campaign a “movement”?

Didn’t he gain a massive following while doing little in the way of advertising?

Shouldn’t we look at his Electoral College win as evidence that some campaigns just go viral?

No.

Because you are not Donald Trump.

Donald Trump has been famous since the 1980s.

Donald Trump had a top-rated TV show for 10 years.

He has written best-selling books.

And he is not you.

You do not have his name-recognition or brand.

You need to have a ground game.


Takeaway: Use a service like Green Inbox to reach out to everyone you know.


LESSON #2: HAVE A SMALL SET OF SPECIFIC REWARDS (Or: K.I.S.S.)

Many creators make the mistake of loading their Kickstarter with a large set of rewards. The thought process is: the more stuff I offer, the more money I can raise.

Leaving aside the fact that the more stuff you offer = more stuff you have to pay for, this is a bad idea for another reason.

It muddies your message.

You need to practice K.I.S.S.

Keep It Simple, Stupid.

Think about it.

What were you going to get from a Clinton presidency?

I’ll wait.

Have you thought of it yet?

Well, we can suppose she’d be more inclusive in her language.

Maybe you remember something about free college.

And a no-fly zone in Syria, and… well, there was a bunch of stuff. I’m sure I saw it on the website.

Now, think about this:

What would you get with a Trump presidency?

Answer: A wall.

Also: New trade deals.

Also: Jobs.

He offered specific rewards.

And not too many of them.

These simple, tangible, and sometimes unconventional rewards made his ideas sticky.

Whatever you think of the policies, you can’t deny it worked.


Takeaway: Make a specific, physical thing. Price it at $25. Then offer a handful of specific items at the following price points: $1 or $5 for digital. $12 for deluxe digital. $50 for a deluxe physical. And, maybe a higher cost, shoot-for-the-moon option. Keep it simple, stupid.


LESSON #3: IT’S NOT ABOUT YOU. IT’S ABOUT YOUR AUDIENCE.

When crafting your message, remember to focus on your audience.

Too many creators make the mistake of making it all about themselves.

“Help me do this!”

“Help me make that!”

But, terrible as it may sound, few people do something just to help someone else.

The first question people ask is: “What’s in it for me?”

(Be honest. You do this, too.)

So what’s in it for your audience?

As Michael Moore said repeatedly: Trump would win because he promised to be a “Molotov cocktail” thrown at Washington. For the people.

By contrast, Clinton asked her audience to declare, “I’m With Her.”

When all the votes were counted, which message worked best?


Takeaway: Don’t ask people to support you. Support them by making something they want.


LESSON #4: EMOTIONS TRUMP FACTS.

Pop quiz: What do you think drove people to the polls more?

a) Hillary’s 12-point tax plan

b) Trump’s proposal on infrastructure

c) The chance to vote against “Crooked Hillary” or “Orange Hitler”

If you answered “c”, go to the head of the class.

Campaigns are about persuasion. And, as Dilbert cartoonist Scott Adams likes to say, when it comes to persuasion, facts are irrelevant.

This is why both candidates spent a lot of time—and money—making you fear the other one.

Fear is a strong motivator.

But as Obama proved in ’08, so is hope.

As a prospective backer, I don’t care that you spent twelve years making your comic.

I don’t care that you found the best printer in the world.

But I might care that you are part of an underrepresented minority, making a project about people like you.

Or I might care that your project will make the world a better place.

And I just might back you for it.


Takeaway: Find an emotional hook for your project that makes people say, “I have to support this!”


LESSON #5: FORGET STATS AND CLOSE STRONG.

Statistics say that if you reach 20% of your funding goal, you have an 80% chance of meeting it.

And if you can hit that benchmark in the first week? Even better.

Sounds good, right?

Ask Nate Silver how stats work.

The fact is, the final week matters just as much as the first.

But in the closing days of the 2016 campaign, one of the candidates left the trail.

Neither had met their goal (winning the election).

But statistics said one had it locked up.

So instead of reaching out to voters, she planned victory fireworks over the Hudson.

Meanwhile, the other candidate continued to campaign hard. Especially in those states that put him over the top in the Electoral College.

We all know how it turned out.


Takeaway: It ain’t over til it’s over, baby. Keep pounding that pavement til the bitter, bitter end.


Clay Adams is the co-founder of FRIED Comics, proud purveyors of off-beat, irreverent pulp fiction since 2013. He has successfully crowdfunded a project on Kickstarter using many of the principles outlined here. Get three free first issues plus a bonus gift at friedcomics.com/free.

There have been almost 6,700 launched comic projects on Kickstarter.

Of those, only half are successful.

And of the successful projects, only 1.5% raise six figures or more.

These campaigns are the vanguard for comics on Kickstarter – often defying expectations and changing how people approach the platform.

While impressive funding totals is part of what makes these campaigns worth studying, it’s not the only interesting aspect.

Most six-figure campaigns don’t set out with massive goals, instead swelling in size over the course of their campaign until they pass that threshold.

What unique advantages do they have that allows them to reach those levels?

And how can the experience that the creators behind these projects gain in running these large campaigns help other creators looking to use the Kickstarter platform as a launchpad for their projects and creative career?

To answer these questions, I’ve been speaking with the creators behind these success stories.

This time, I spoke with Spike Trotman, the creator behind 10 successful comic book kickstarter campaigns.

If you want to check out her latest  campaign – you can click here.


So, when I think about indie comics today, I often think of you. In my mind you represent a path for up-and-coming creators to follow – difficult as it may be – and one of the elements that seem central to what you’ve accomplished is Kickstarter.

I’m excited to dig into all of this with you, but I’d love to start back at the beginning and ask you if you remember how you first came across Kickstarter and what you thought of it when you first encountered it?

I was first told about  Kickstarter by a friend, onstage, during a panel at a small press convention. I think it was CAKE. His name is Gordon McAlpin, he’s a cartoonist himself. This was the year Kickstarter launched; 2009. He explained it to both me and the audience at the same time, and of course, I am mediately went home and investigated it. I knew right away it was going to be awesome.

It was basically just the formalization of something Internet cartoonists had already been doing for years through PayPal. When we wanted to fund a print run of our books, we took pre-orders and directed people to a PayPal address; they pretty much just had to trust that we were faithfully reporting back on the totals and our costs.

But here was this thing that made everything transparent and trustworthy, and didn’t charge you an arm and a leg to do it. Plus, you can make a nice campaign page, with a video and some images and whatever, and maybe draw in a few new readers instead of just the folks who already knew about you.

There was some resistance at first, of course. There always is. But when even the Luddite hardliners start quietly using the service, you know the debate’s over.

Right, a lot of the perspective on it has definitely shifted. I think following that evolution – back from when you funded your first project, Poorcraft, in 2009 (years before it really took off for comics in 2012 from what I could tell) you probably have a great perspective on it.

While the core of what makes Kickstarter, Kickstarter has remained the same the economy around it has definitely evolved. What do you make of the way the platform has changed and the way it is today?

It’s become a lot more serviceable for folks who use it as a pre-order facilitator. If you ask the guys over at Kickstarter, the ones who started the site, they’ll tell you that they never initially planned for the strong commercial aspect that eventually evolved on the site. You had to do a lot more work behind the scenes in the first few years; calculating shipping, that sort of thing. And when I launched my first project, there wasn’t even a comics category!

They envisioned Kickstarter as almost a privately run endowment facilitator, community theaters funding that year’s season of Shakespeare or dance troupes trying to fund their plane tickets to the semi finals in Tulsa. The “backer rewards” were not envisioned as real products, if you get me? Like, you don’t donate to NPR because your heart is REALLY set on that sweet tote bag.

But, quite frankly, it was just too good an idea and too good a website to stay solely in the hands of artists, ha ha. And I’m very relieved they didn’t try to fight that trend.

They didn’t start Kickstarter with the idea that Spike Lee  and Amanda Palmer would show up and make hundreds of thousands of dollars there. But I would argue that was inevitable.

I agree. I think it’s also impressive how they’ve somehow managed to ride the line – between product marketplace & public source of patronage – well over the years.

Though now it’s also changing the industries it’s touching – like music, board games, or comics. As a fan of Kickstarter myself, I wanted to ask about the general role you feel Kickstarter plays in comics today.

For me, when I look back and see the kinds of comics you’ve been able to put out via Kickstarter, from the Adventures of TJ and Amal which just won a Harvey Award, to Smut Peddler, I see books – particularly the latter – that may have had a hard time getting made through traditional channels.

Now, though, as the industry is broadening – with imprints like Oni’s Limerence Press publishing erotic & sex ed comics – do you feel like the role of Kickstarter is changing?

Well, I think the small press has always been the vanguard of comics. It’s where the most interesting subject matter is being tackled, it’s where the most interesting work is being produced. But the small press’ chokepoint has always been two things; funding and audience access. I think Kickstarter has remedied both those problems intentionally and unintentionally, along with the Internet in general.

I would argue that most readers of comics these days don’t actually go into classic comic shops and pick up floppies. Most “comic readers” follow comics online, and develop their tastes outside of the influence of the big two.

The bar for entry in comics is basically down to almost nothing, now. a tumblr page is free. An enterprising teenager can go to the library and scan their artwork, and post it online, and start growing their audience in high school. I’ve seen it happen multiple times. And there’s no editorial staff to hurdle, no old white guy in a suit who’s worried if what you’re doing will sell to other old white guys.

Thank god for that! (edit: or Kickstarter, rather, I suppose)

And if that teenager does their comic for three or four years, gets a big enough audience and enough work finished that a book seems like a good idea, then they can head to Kickstarter and get something printed. They don’t, at any point in the process, actually NEED “the industry” at all.

And meanwhile, the smart ones in the industry are trying to headhunt for talent online, well the stubborn old mules they work alongside with are waiting for this to all pass like a fad. Or, in some cases, wondering aloud why no one wants to work for them, anymore.

I should say here I don’t think Marvel and DC are going anywhere; I think they’re ensconced and comfortable, and they’re reasonably pleased with how things are going. However, they’re also a small part of enormous media conglomerates. They don’t HAVE TO do well, or try new things. Or, quite frankly, even stay solvent.

They’re pretty happy licensing 30 and 50-year-old properties for film and television, which makes sense, because there’s a lot more money in film and television.

I think those facts are what leave places like Kickstarter open for the rest of us, right?

Pretty much!

Comics is so cheap. It’s almost the cheapest thing that a creative person can use to tell a story, short of text alone. So, it can be made without a lot of risk, and with a lot of experimentation, and with no worries about appealing to as many people as possible.

So, stepping away a bit from these “big questions” I want to dive into, specifically, your own experience with Kickstarter projects.

Obviously there’s the Six-Figure projects you’ve done. And will get into the fact that that’s plural in just a second, but even more impressive than that might be that you’ve funded a total of 9 projects, raising more than $660,000. That’s more than half a million.

Before diving into the Six Figure Kickstarters, the Smut Peddler Projects, I want to ask you what you feel has contributed to your enduring success on Kickstarter.

Comics is so cheap. It’s almost the cheapest thing that a creative person can use to tell a story, short of text alone. So, it can be made without a lot of risk, and with a lot of experimentation, and with no worries about appealing to as many people as possible.

Honestly, I’m just making what people want. Fortunately, that seems to match pretty well with what I want.

Or rather the other way around, ha ha.

I made the SP series because I really, REALLY wanted a new smut peddler book out there, and the original publisher didn’t want to take it on. And my other anthologies, like new world and the sleep of reason, those exist because I tend to have a philosophy about the way those sorts of stories are told.

I think our culture in general has a serious issue with imperialist narratives, and those really come to the fore when you read fantasy and sci-fi. New World was my attempt to sort of rethink that way of telling stories. The easiest way I have of explaining it to folks is, will happily watch Indiana Jones break into a temple, round house kick a bunch of brown people off of a suspension bridge, and snatch a golden idol, cheering him all the way, but what if someone showed up at the Vatican tomorrow, slap the Pope off his balcony, and made off with the shroud of Turin?

So New World is an attempt to tell stories from both sides of a culture clash.

And with The Sleep of Reason, I was just tired of horror that was basically “this is how I like to do zombies” or “action adventure time! But with a monster!”

Sleep of Reason was very much inspired by old issues of Taboo, a horror anthology that featured both the first chapters of Alan Moore’s From Hell and what would eventually become Charles Burns’ Black Hole.

If I make a comic, either come up with a theme for an anthology or publish a book by someone else, you can be pretty sure it exists because I feel it has to. And it doesn’t already.

And again, comics are cheap! So I can do that.

I suppose that would help! Haha.

So, obviously the range of what you’ve been able to bring to life on Kickstarter is impressive. From those comics that you have made possible, though, the Smut Peddler projects were, arguably the most successful – at least in terms of the funding raised.

Both projects – the 2014 edition ($185,301 raised with 5,709 backers) and then the “Smut Peddler Double Header” in 2016 ($161,169 raised with 3,851 backers) – smashed the “Six Figure Milestone” – putting you in the top percentile of successful comic creators on Kickstarter.  What do you think distinguished those projects from the other Kickstarters you ran?

Definitely the porn.

Laughs

Ha ha, but it’s more involved than that! The kind of smut that I peddle is smart with a very specific and, as far as the comics community goes, underserved audience in mind.

There’s tons of dirty comics out there.  But the vast majority are written solely with a potential heterosexual male audience in mind. And that’s reflected in the panel arrangements, the characters involved, the situations, what the artist and writer think is the most important part of the scene.

Did reaching that level of success with a Kickstarter change your perspective on running campaigns? You’ve had other projects come close before, but I imagine a project that large must come with its own set of challenges.

Ha ha, with the 2012 smut peddler Kickstarter, I remember the point where funding passed $80,000. And a voice in the back of my head said very clearly, “you’re going to die.” Like, this was it, I was gonna screw this up bad. I was doomed. I hadn’t prepared for this level of funding, and I was about to be destroyed. But that didn’t happen! Everything went fine! So honestly, when my $180,000 and $160,000 Kickstarters came around, I wasn’t all that intimidated. I knew the score by then.

It was just a matter of keeping things simple, making sure everybody got what they paid for. And making sure out of everyone the project owed money to, the ARTISTS were PAID FIRST.

That’s a great lesson for other creators on Kickstarter to take away. For those people reading this, who are looking to join the Six-Figure comic club themselves and replicate the kind of success you had, do you have any advice?

The Kickstarter itself will be the easiest part of the Kickstarter. Seriously.

And while I of course understand the attraction of a big fat payout from a project, don’t look at your Kickstarter as a personal pay day, unless your project goal is, literally, “hey everybody, fund my life.” Your project exists to pay for what you claim it’s paying for; nothing more, nothing less.

If there’s some money left over after all is said and done and you get to treat yourself to a new office chair or a new drawing tablet, that’s great. But if that’s the first thing you buy the minute your money hits your account, you’re doing something wrong. Both morally and practically.

And, honestly? I’m glad my first Kickstarter wasn’t some gigantic, six-figure bruiser. I got a chance to work out how these things go without the pressure of 5 or 6000 people waiting for their rewards. Not having a massive first Kickstarter project isn’t something to be disappointed by. Most of us won’t. And that’s probably a good thing.

That’s a fantastic takeaway and note to end on.

I want to thank you for taking the time to chat and share your experiences. If people want to find you online, where can they do that?

You can check out my website at ironcircus.com, and I tweet RELENTLESSLY at @Iron_Spike. I’ve also got an Instagram at ironcircus, and a tumblr at ironcircuscomics.tumblr.com.

Great! Is there anything else you’d like to add?

Hm can’t think of anything. But if you come up with any other questions, I’ll be happy to answer them!


Spike, and what she’s built through Iron Circus Comics, is definitely a creator to look up to. I think the example she’s set through her work on Kickstarter and in the small press world in general is to be admired and learned from.

I hope the lessons she’s shared will help you in your own Kickstarter campaigns.

Her latest Kickstarter campaign, Letters for Lucardo: An Erotic Graphic Novel, is currently on Kickstarter! If you’d like to check out the campaign and support it, you can click here to do so!

Okay, so you’ve pressed launched your Patreon page. Now what?

One of the things most creators are stumped by when it comes to Patreon is really the most basic question of all:

“How do you get Patrons?”

I recently surveyed over 100 creators about their knowledge of and experience on Patreon. The challenge of growing Patrons beyond a few immediate family members and diehard of fans was a prevalent theme for many.

“It’s difficult to attract new patrons. I have a bunch who are regular readers of my comics and have been for a long time, but it’s been much harder for me to get new patrons on board.”

Sound familiar?

It should because that’s a question every creator wrestles with.

How do you encourage readers, fans, subscribers, and followers on social media to actually become Patrons?

It’s a question I know I’ve been tackling for the past decade, building a small press comic book company, a children’s book line, and most recently, a podcast.

Here’s What I Know About Building an Audience That Will Support You Monetarily…

There is no silver bullet.

There’s no one single action you will take that will take you from a new Patreon page with 0 Patrons to a page full of Patrons throwing money at you every month.

But because there’s no silver bullet does not mean there’s nothing you can do about it.

Rather, increasing your Patreon Patrons is the culmination of a series of actions, the alchemy of fan engagement, and the ability to craft the right message, in the right way, to the right audience, at the right time.

I also know that what you measure you can manage, and what you manage, you can improve.

I realize, though, that all sounds like very general advice.

If you’re like me, you love a good framework, you understand the importance of having the right mindset, but above else, you love the actual tactics!

“Skip the woo-woo stuff, and just tell me what to do!” you might be thinking.

Alrighty, then. Let’s do it.

To demonstrate the principles laid out above, and hopefully demystify the Patreon Launch process, I’ve decided to keep a “Patreon Launch Journal” for the first 30 days after launching my first Patreon, documenting actions and results.

I’m committing to devote at least some time every single day for the next 30 days to take some action intended to increase the number of Patrons backing my new Patreon project for Club ComixLaunch.

And I’m committed to documenting in this blog post, in detail, every action taken and the specific results from those actions.

Sound like a plan?

Who am I, what’s my project, and how can this help you?

I’m Tyler James, a comic creator, publisher, award-winning game designer, and host of the ComixLaunch podcast, where I teach creators the mindset, strategies and tactics to crowdfund their creative projects and take their careers to the next level, particularly on Kickstarter.

I’ve successful managed 9 Kickstarter projects for myself and others and have raised more than $220,000 in funding on the platform.

Capture_ComixLaunch

For the past year, I’ve shared my crowdfunding insights as well as the best practices of more than 60 of the top minds in crowdfunding on the free ComixLaunch podcast.

On August 5, 2016, I launched Club ComixLaunch on Patreon as a way for listeners to support the show and for me to provide extra value to the ComixLaunch community in exchange for monthly Patronage.

Patreon_MainImage_1200x600_ClubComixLaunch

ComixLaunch.com/patreon

Though I consider myself a crowdfunding veteran and knowledgable Kickstarter practitioner (I hate the words expert or guru), I am a total Patreon Neophyte.

In this context, though, I see that as a strength, as I’m seeing everything through fresh eyes.

How big does your audience need to be to have success on Patreon?

Creators often wonder how big your audience needs to be to “have success” on Patreon or to make Patreon “worth it.”

Obviously, that’s going to depend on your definition of success.

Patreon is currently paying out more than $6 million dollars in monthly payments to thousands of creators.

Now, there are creators who are happily relying on Patreon as their primary monthly salary, and making a living off of the platform.

Many others are also happy simply to be making pizza and beer money every month.

So, whether or not Patreon will be “worth it” to you depends on:

  1. How much funding would make it worth your while? ($5 a month? $50? $500? $5,000? You tell me… only you can answer that.)
  2. How big and engaged an audience your currently have, and whether that audience is big enough to realistically hit your “worth while” funding amount?

In their Launch Guide, Patreon instructs creators to expect that for every 100 people you send to your Patreon page, roughly 1 or 2 of them will become your Patron.

Patreon’s search functionality is atrocious. Unlike Kickstarter, where popular projects are often discovered by people unfamiliar with the creators behind them, on Patreon, creators are largely responsible for driving all traffic to their page.

So, it all boils down to a simple question:

How many people can you drive to your Patreon page?

I can’t answer that for you and your audience, but I can for mine.

The ComixLaunch podcast audience is a small, but relatively engaged audience.

The podcast has been downloaded a total of 19,500 times and there are currently 450 people on the ComixLaunch email subscribers list, as of 8/9/2016.

So, knowing my audience size, I can make a rough estimate of how many Patrons I can hope to get, which allows me to set a goal.

Setting a Patronage Goal

One of the biggest mistakes most creators make when it comes to building an audience is the same mistake dieters make when trying to lose weight…

The goal they set isn’t SMART.

And by SMART, we’re talking:

  • SPECIFIC
  • MEASURABLE
  • ACHIEVABLE
  • RELEVANT
  • TIME-BOUND

“Grow my # of Patrons” is not a SMART Goal.

It’s not specific (grow by how many ?) and it’s not time-bound (by when?)

A true SMART goal for Patron growth, would instead look like this:

Goal: “Grow my # of Patrons from 0 to 20 patrons by September 4, 2016.”

Specific: Yes. (20 Patrons.)

Measurable: Definitely. On September 4, I’ll either have 20 Patrons or I won’t. Easy to measure.

Achievable: Indeed. With 450 subscribers on an email list, 45 positive reviews on iTunes, and hundreds of podcast listeners, 20 Patrons is doable.

Relevant: Okay, 20 Patrons isn’t going to change my life or drastically improve the show. But it will cover the cost of at least one episode each month, and is a foundation to build upon.

Time-bound: Yup. September 4 is marked on my calendar.

So, I have a goal, but I’m actually going to take it a step further and do a best practice taught by many goal-setting experts, and actually set three goals:

Goal: 20 Patrons by 9/4/2016. (A basic SMART Goal.

Stretch Goal: 45 Patrons by 9/4/2016. (An ambitious goal. Still attainable, but represents a reach.)

Hairy, Scary Goal: 100 Patrons by 9/4/2016. (This would likely cover all podcast costs, definitely not a walk in the park, and probably unattainable without a whole lot of hustle, and a little luck.)

With three goals set, I won’t let myself take the my foot off the gas should I hit my first goal early on.


Note: With goal setting, I’m choosing to focus on PATRONS as opposed to DOLLAR AMOUNT. You might choose to go the other way. There’s no right or wrong approach here, but I’m more concerned about the number of people in my audience who choose to vote with their wallet and declare that the podcast has real monetary value to them by supporting it, than how much value they’re placing on it.


Each day, I’ll be journaling my activity towards growing a following on Patreon, starting from 0. Each journal entry will contain:

  • Date
  • Commentary – What I’m thinking about or focusing on to clarify or help explain the reasoning behind the actions?
  • Actions – What specific actions I took to directly or indirectly promote the Patreon?
  • Results – How those actions directly impact the number of Patrons who have sized up?
  • Reflections – My thoughts and emotions about the actions/ results?

Patreon Launch Journal for Club ComixLaunch

LOVELYFLOWER

Day 1 – 8/5/2016 – Patreon Goes Live

After working on the Patreon Page for about a month, on pushed the launch button on a Friday afternoon. My page had everything I wanted for launch, except a video, but I decided not to delay the launch to create a good video. Rather I’ll use the addition of the video as another marketable event in a few weeks.

I pushed launch on a Friday afternoon, not because I thought it’d be a good time to launch, but rather the opposite. I wasn’t planning on promoting my page to my audience until Sunday’s podcast release. I launched it early so that I could test the page and make sure things were working prior to promoting it.

Actions

Capture_FBPost1

Results

  • A few hours after this soft launch, Club ComixLaunch got its first Patron.
  • Total Patrons: 1
  • Goal Progress: 5% (1/20 Patrons)

Reflections

I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t just a bit disappointed to only receive one backer after launching… even though I wasn’t planning on promoting the launch until Sunday with the podcast and more importantly Monday with an email to the ComixLaunch subscriber list.

But, as I teach creators in the ListLaunch course, it’s a numbers game… and the conversion rates of a single Tweet or unpromoted Facebook post are astronomically low. So, 1 Patron given the amount of promoting I was actually doing, wasn’t bad.


Day 2 – 8/6/2016

Another day in “soft-launch” mode, where I wouldn’t be actively promoting the Page, as I was waiting until Sunday’s podcast Episode Patreon Launch #1: Kickstarter vs. Patreon (Which is Right for You?) went live. But that doesn’t mean I was idle.

Rather, I spent Saturday composing a few emails to my email list, and scheduling those in ConvertKit, which is the email marketing service provider I use and recommend.

Action

  • Wrote an email to the ComixLaunch list announcing the opening of Club ComixLaunch. Scheduled for Monday.
  • Wrote an email to the ComixLaunch list pointing out the FREE Club ComixLaunch VIP Monthly Resource they could get for free to experience the priveledges of membership in the club.
  • Reviewed early survey results from first 100 creatos on the Patreon survey. Flagged some of the key pain points and questions that would need to be answered in my Patreon series on the ComixLaunch Podcast.

Results

  • No new Patrons.
  • Total Patrons: 1
  • Goal Progress: 5% (1/20 Patrons)

Reflection

Not surprised that there were no new Patrons today, as I did 0 external promotion. Was really setting the stage for Monday’s email blast, which was when I expected the first Patrons would actually start coming in.


Day 3 – 8/7/2016 – Patreon Launch #1 Podcast Releases

The ComixLaunch podcast goes live on Sundays. Today’s episode was the first of a multi-part series on the Patreon platform, and yes, I was strategically launching my own Patreon to coincide with the launch of the ComixLaunch podcast series all about Patreon. I decided to make Club ComixLaunch on Patreon the sponsor of this episode of the podcast, with a call to action for creators to check out the Club.

Action

Results

  • No new Patrons.
  • Total Patrons: 1
  • Goal Progress: 5% (1/20 Patrons)

Reflection

I thought I might get one or two Patrons who would listen to the podcast Sunday night and immediately become Patrons, but that didn’t happen. Of course, as this Tweet by Michael Perlman reminded me, most of my listeners listen to the podcast on their schedules, not mine.

Capture_Perl1

Capture_MPearlman

Still, I was excited to finally be getting a little more active about promoting it Monday. Gloves coming off!


Day 4 – 8/8/2016 – Active Promotion Phase Begins

Okay, Monday… this is the usual day I start promoting crowdfunding campaigns when running Kickstarters, so it felt good to be promoting the Patreon for real. At the same time, because there’s no pressure for a HUGE Day One Launch to get out the gate strong and feed the Kickstarter agolrhythm, I took a much more laid back approach to active promotion of the Patreon. The goal for today was simply to let the ComixLaunch subscribers know Club ComixLaunch was open for business.

Action

  • Sent email “ComixLaunch is now open! (Get your Welcome Kit)” to 450 ComixLaunch subscribers.
  • Recorded a ComixLaunch podcast interview with Anthony Christou of Luminous Ages.
  • Posted about unlocking first Club ComixLaunch Goal on Facebook and Twitter.

1

Results

  • 10 new Patrons.
  • Unlocked Patreon Goal #1 – $20: Monthly Media Hosting Covered
  • Total Patrons: 11
  • Goal Progress: 55% (11/20 Patrons)

Reflection

Well, if nothing else, todays increase in Patrons is illustrative of the lessons I teach students in the ListLaunch course: If you are [podcasting, blogging, YouTubing, webcomicing, arting, writing, etc.] and you want to make an offer to your audience, and you don’t have an email subscriber list, it’s like running a race with your shoelaces tied together.

Pretty cool to get to 55% of the goal I set more or less after a single email. Also very cool to have the support of Anthony Christou, who I interviewed for ComixLaunch Session 58 that day. He became a Patron right after we ended our Skype call. (Anthony has a great Patreon page himself.)


Day 5 – 8/9/2016

Today was spent primarily working on the podcast, specifically Patreon Launch #2. One of the challenges with promoting a Patreon is that it’s another something to do on top of keeping the thing the Patreon is for (in my case a podcast, but for many of you it will be a blog, webcomic, video series, etc.) going strong. If you’re not careful, in promoting the one, you’ll let the other slip.

Action

  • Email went out to the ComixLaunch list letting them know about the free Kickstarter Update Guide: 19 Types of Updates That Add Excitement & Funding to Your Kickstarter Campaigns. Those who download will get a follow-up sequence of emails with more training on Kickstarter Updates, followed by another invitation to join Club ComixLaunch.
  • Started drafting this Patreon Launch journal blog post.

Mock-Up

Result

  • 2 new Patrons.
  • Total Patrons: 13
  • Goal Progress: 65% (13/20 Patrons)

Reflection

I meant to schedule some social media around these pieces of content, but simply haven’t gotten around to it. Boston Comic Con being around the corner and me being woefully unprepared for that Con has sucked up a ton of time that would otherwise be going toward the Patreon Launch.

But again… I didn’t set out for the Patreon Launch to be the ONLY thing I’d focus on this month. I simply committed to doing at least one thing very day to keep it moving, and I have been able to stick to it.


Day 6 – 8/10/2016

The big to do for today was to do essentially an audio version of the “Club ComixLaunch pitch” that makes up the the Patreon page, and release that as a special, mid-week, bonus episode.

Action

  • Sent the weekly ComixLaunch email blast to 450 subscribers + an additional 200 subscribers on our media list and Patreon interest lists, announcing the new Patreon launch series. The email included shoutouts to our first wave of Patrons and mentioned passing our first goal.
  • Recorded and posted a podcast episode titled “A Special Invitation to Join Club ComixLaunch.

Result

  • 2 new Patrons.
  • Total Patrons: 15
  • Goal Progress: 75% (15/20 Patrons)

Reflection

I was hoping the bonus invite episode would be short and tight… 10-15 minutes, but it ended up running over 26. I like doing bonus episodes of the podcast for special occassions and to make direct pitches to the audience, but keeping those separate from the value packed regular Sunday episodes. 75% to the 20 patron goal, and pretty close to getting that full episode a month funded.


Day 7 – 8/11/2016

Today was largely spent packing for, driving to, and setting up a Boston Comic Con, which didn’t leave any time for Patreon promotion, besides posting this article. (I decided to keep it in draft form until I had a solid 7 days of Actions and results to share.) It will be difficult to promote the Patreon at Boston Comic Con, but I expect to promote the podcast and hopefully talk to some listeners, which may help.

Action

  • Posted this Patreon Launch Journal article.
  • Scheduled Tweets promoting this Patreon Launch Journal, the Kickstarter Update Guide, and Patreon Launch #1 for over the weekend while I’m at the con.

Result

  • 0 new Patrons.
  • Total Patrons: 15
  • Goal Progress: 75% (15/20 Patrons)

Reflection

First day with no new Patrons after starting to promote. With a convention the next three days, expecting to hit a bit of a wall. Going to focus on


Day 8 – 8/12/2016

Up early because I’m heading in to Boston for a convention. Just time to post a quick update to Facebook and send a schedule a quick email letting people on my Patreon interest list know about this article series, as they might find it helpful.

Action

  • Posted link to Patreon Launch Journal article on Facebook.
  • Emailed Patreon Interest List about the article.

Result

  • 0 new Patrons.
  • Total Patrons: 15
  • Goal Progress: 75% (15/20 Patrons)

Reflection

Convention day! Boston Comic Con will take center stage, but I’ll try to make sure that I’m taking at least some action to move the Patreon and podcast forward.


Day 9 – 8/13/2016

Day 2 of Boston Comic Con. Did get to talk to a number of ComixLaunch listeners in person, which is very cool.

Action

  • Chatted in person with ComixLaunch listeners including George O’Conner (Healed), Rich Clabaugh (The Graveyard Gang), Jim Whiting (Margo), and Dylan Andrews (WarHood Odyssey).
  • Introduced myself to the head of marketing for Line Webtoons and discussed having her on the ComixLaunch podcast to discuss the recent collaboration with Patreon.

Result

  • 0 new Patrons.
  • Total Patrons: 15
  • Goal Progress: 75% (15/20 Patrons)

Reflection

Boston is HOT! (Literally. Day one was murder. Day 2 a little cooler, but by mid-afternoon, the AC was not doing its job.) Excited about that Line Webtoons get… that will be a great episode of ComixLaunch if I can swing it.


Day 10 – 8/14/2016

Final day of Boston Comic Con. Again, that’ll be the focus, but will try to promote the podcast.

Action

  • Had a clipboard going to collect email addresses for comics, children’s books, and creators. Will add creators to the ComixLaunch podcast and ComixTribe creators interest lists.

Result

  • 0 new Patrons.
  • Total Patrons: 15
  • Goal Progress: 75% (15/20 Patrons)

Reflection

No movement at all on the Patreon side of things in terms of Patrons. Too exhausted from the con to fret much about that today, though.


Day 11 – 8/15/2016

Woof. Exhausted from the Boston Comic Con, but had to be up and at ’em at 7am to return the U-haul and unload all my con stuff at the ComixTribe storage locker. Patreon taking a bit of a back seat.

Action

  • Responded to a few ComixLaunch listener emails, providing some advice and feedback.

Result

  • 0 new Patrons.
  • Total Patrons: 15
  • Goal Progress: 75% (15/20 Patrons)

Reflection

Patreon is a long-term play, it’s not a short-term cash grab. Knock on wood, ComixLaunch will be here a year from now and five years from now. So, I’m trying to take the approach of adding value to creators’ lives first. Do that and the rest will sort itself out.


Day 12 – 8/16/2016

Today was focused on getting the next episode of the podcast recorded and sent to my editor.

Action

  • Recorded an episode of the ComixLaunch podcast.

Result

  • 0 new Patrons.
  • Total Patrons: 15
  • Goal Progress: 75% (15/20 Patrons)

Reflection

We’ve flatlined on the Patreon support, after a strong launch. But you know what? I’m kind of glad about that… because this is the reality that many creators will face. Truth is, for the past several of days, Patreon growth has not been top priority… con prep (pre, during, and post) has been. But it’s all about continuing to move forward, and do things today that have the possibility of producing results tomorrow.


Day 13 – 8/17/2016

One thing I hadn’t given much thought to when it came to launching a Patreon page for ComixLaunch was what I would use the Patreon Posts for… beyond “extra value.” Obviously, that’s not much of a plan, and Patreon does tell you that maining an active posting schedule on Patreon is a “best practice.” Creators have the choice to post public posts (everyone on Patreon can see) or private posts (only Patrons can see… and you can restrict based on Patronage level.) So, I decided to post my first public post on Patreon, containing some raw thoughts and takeaways related to my recent Boston Comic Con experience.

Action

Result

  • 0 new Patrons.
  • Total Patrons: 15
  • Goal Progress: 75% (15/20 Patrons)

Reflection

Day three after a three day convention weekend and I’m still in recovery mode. I’m out of shape! (Convention and otherwise.) So, I’m going to have to take a Action/Result style approach to address that as well.

The positive… thanks to the obsessive “hand sanitizer must be present at all times and liberally used” policy recommended Mr. Joe Mulvey who I tabled with at the show, I did not get a case of con flu this year.


Day 14 – 8/18/2016

Never a dull moment when you’re a creator. I sat down to update this very journal first thing in the morning after completing a morning workout and brewing a fresh cup of french press coffee only to find the ComixLaunch website completely down! An automatic WordPress update was incompatible with a single line of code in this site’s them, and “FATAL ERROR” was what all vistors would see at the site (including me.) Though I have very little coding expertise, I was able to change a single line of code in an obscure file on my site, hit refresh and pray… and what do you know, it worked! Site back up and running, me feeling like Mr. Robot.

Action

  • Updated the Patreon Launch journal.
  • Recorded an iPhone video about this Patreon Launch Journal.
  • Shared the update on Twitter.
  • Sent the weekly ComixLaunch email blast to the latest episode of the podcast. The email also pointed out the fact that we were just $14 away from the next goal.
  • Recorded an episode of the ComixLaunch podcast.

Result

  • 1 new Patrons.
  • Total Patrons: 16
  • Goal Progress: 80% (16/20 Patrons)

Reflection

Hey, we broke our patron-less streak and added a new VIP Insider. Awesome!


Day 15 – 8/19/2016

Decided to review the Patreon Survey results for more topics and insights. Also realized that it would be worthwhile to let all the creators who asked about the difference between Patreon and Kickstarter know that the Patreon Launch #1 Session of ComixLaunch tackled that question.

Action

  • Emailed 6 creators pointing them to Patreon Launch #1.

Result

  • 0 new Patrons.
  • Total Patrons: 16
  • Goal Progress: 80% (16/20 Patrons)

Reflection

Busy with a lot of ComixTribe stuff, so today was a “just one action” kind of day.


Day 16 – 8/20/2016

Bought a car today. (#Protip: Don’t leave a pound of chicken breast in the trunk of your car for 5 days in the summer. That’s not why we traded it in — it was on the way out — but it sure made certain we HAD to get a new car.) Also went to a wedding… didn’t leave a lot of time for ComixTribe/ ComixLaunch stuff.

Action

  • Replied to a few ComixLaunch emails and voicemails, hopefully pointing creators in the right direct on a few queries.

Result

  • 0 new Patrons.
  • Total Patrons: 16
  • Goal Progress: 80% (16/20 Patrons)

Reflection

Now in the second half of the 30 Day Challenge, I still feel confident I’ll hit the 20 Patron mark… but it may be time to mix things up and try a few new strategies this week.


Day 17 – 8/21/2016

Hey, in super cool news, Searnold, a comic book writer, has decided to take me up on the 30 Day Patreon Launch journal challenge and has started sharing his progress publicly here. He also because a Patron of Club ComixLaunch. (Here’s his Patreon page where he posts unique comics.)

Action

Result

  • 1 new Patrons.
  • Total Patrons: 17
  • Goal Progress: 85% (17/20 Patrons)

Reflection

Thrilled to have another creator joining me in the 30 Day Challenge. You never know when you throw a challenge out there if anyone will accept… but happy to have Searnold joining me in the experiment.


Day 18 – 8/22/2016

Being totally honest here… it’s hard to keep Patreon growth the primary focus when so many other things are demanding my attention. But that’s kind of the point of this journal. Do at least one thing. And do it every day.

Action

  • Added an email sharing a Kickstarter Page Critique video critique to the Club ComixLaunch interest automated sequence, that introduces the concept of monthly Kickstarter page critiques as a bonus piece of content for the Club.
  • Added that same tutorial video as a Patron-Only post. (My first!) As an unexpected bonus for my Patrons.

Result

  • 0 new Patrons.
  • Total Patrons: 17
  • Goal Progress: 85% (17/20 Patrons)

Reflection

Three more Patrons will hit goal.


Day 19 – 8/23/2016

Been doing more short, quick, videos recorded and edited on my iPhone and posted to Facebook.

Action

  • Posted a new video on Facebook titled “How Important are Patreon Rewards?” which was intended to share some of the misconceptions about Patreon rewards that I’m hearing from creators and drive people to the latest episode of the podcast.
  • Decided to do a $10.00 Facebook ad spend over 5 days to boost the video videos of the above reward. I will likely do some more targeted Facebook ads to encourage Patronage in the final leg of this 30-day challenge.

Result

  • 0 new Patrons.
  • Total Patrons: 17
  • Goal Progress: 85% (17/20 Patrons)

Reflection

No movement in Patrons, but I set up a couple of great guests for upcoming ComixLaunch interviews.


Day 20 – 8/24/2016

20 days in. Just gotta keep taking action.

Action

  • Emailed a set of 4 of the most commonly asked questions on the Patreon Survey to the creators who filled out the survey and have Patreon pages in order to get their insight. Not something that directly grows the Patreon… but will help improve the Patreon launch series and my own understanding of the platform.
  • Recorded an awesome Podcast interview on Patreon for Writers with Jim Zub (Skullkickstarter, Wayward.)

Result

  • 0 new Patrons.
  • Total Patrons: 17
  • Goal Progress: 85% (17/20 Patrons)

Reflection

While I’m definitely seeing the value of the daily journal, part of me wonders what my results would be if I literally made this Patreon Launch my number one priority for 30 days in a row. While I have been getting something in each day, Patreon promotion certainly isn’t tops on my to-do list.


Day 21 – 8/25/2016

Got a “great” idea today for a new workshop, and decided to implement.

Action

  • Started outlining BADASS Productivity Workshop.

Result

  • 0 new Patrons.
  • Total Patrons: 17
  • Goal Progress: 85% (17/20 Patrons)

Reflection

One major difference between the ComixLaunch podcast and the courses I’ve been putting together is that I allow myself to skip around on the Podcast… Stuff will be posted out of order, or I’ll interrupt a nice and tidy series on Patreon for example, to inject something real, and raw, and that I just have to get off my chest. I think it works out great that way.


Day 22 – 8/26/2016

A big principle behind this launch journal is that if you want to capture value (get more Patrons) you need to create more value. Hence the new workshop… The idea I had was that I’d do a workshop for the public live, but then archive it as Club ComixLaunch exclusive content. This was an effort to have a bit of the best of both worlds… not put my content behind the Patreon paywall, but require some buy in (attending the live stream) in order to access it. We’ll see if it works!

Action

Result

  • 0 new Patrons.
  • Total Patrons: 17
  • Goal Progress: 85% (17/20 Patrons)

Reflection

Excited to be talking about productivity and putting it together into a valuable live workshop format.


Day 23 – 8/27/2016

Working on putting some elements in place for the workshop, including learning Webinar Ninja.

Action

  • Created the Webinar registration page for BADASS Productivity Workshop.
  • Recorded ComixLaunch Podcast episode content.

Result

  • 0 new Patrons.
  • Total Patrons: 17
  • Goal Progress: 85% (17/20 Patrons)

Reflection

Always great to see people sign up for a live workshop.


Day 24 – 8/28/2016

Getting excited about the workshop!

Action

  • Emailed list a second time about the BADASS Productivity workshop, teasing more of the content.
  • Promoted BADASS Productivity on Twitter and Facebook.
  • New episode of ComixLaunch pushed live. This one was titled, “The Struggle is Real, Creators, and Never Going Away” and a break from the Patreon Launch series.
  • Result
  • 0 new Patrons.
  • Total Patrons: 17
  • Goal Progress: 85% (17/20 Patrons)

Reflection

I like giving my “speed of implementation” muscles a workout from time to time. This was workshop idea to filling up the workshop and executing it in record time. It should create a great Club ComixLaunch resource.


Day 25 – 8/29/2016

Getting excited about the workshop!

Action

  • Recorded a ComixLaunch interview with Mike Kennedy of Magnetic Press. (Mike runs an awesome Patreon for his company.)
  • Emailed list a second time about the BADASS Productivity workshop, teasing more of the content.
  • Promoted BADASS Productivity on Twitter and Facebook.

Result

  • 0 new Patrons.
  • Total Patrons: 17
  • Goal Progress: 85% (17/20 Patrons)

Reflection

Great chat with Mike about Patreon. Will make a strong upcoming episode.


Day 26 – 8/30/2016

Hosted a live workshop for my listeners and other creators today.

The Good: More than 80 creators registered for the event and more than 50 showed up live.

The Ugly: The technology platform I was using, Webinar Ninja, absolutely crapped the bed. Instead of my normal speaking voice coming through, every heard me talking like Alvin from the Chipmunks! Despite testing it out and having it work fine a few days earler I was completely bummed that a tech issue spoiled what was going to be a rocking presentation on that platform…

The Good: I was able to bring a good % of people from the Webinar Ninja platform over to Facebook Live, where I gave the presentation. You can watch the workshop there. (Because of connectivity issues there, there is a Part 1 and a Part 2.

Action

  • Promoted BADASS Productivity on Twitter and Facebook.
  • Hosted the BADASS Productivity workshop, teasing more of the content.

Result

  • 1 new Patrons.
  • Total Patrons: 18
  • Goal Progress: 90% (18/20 Patrons)

Reflection

I say it a lot on the podcast… that you need to stand up tall, plant your feet, but always keep your knees bent so you can pivot when needed. Calling the audible to move to Facebook Live definitely helped me salvage a trainwreck of a technology issue.


Day 27 – 9/1/2016

Hitting the road for a long vacation today! The downside: limited internet connectivity and limited ability to push the Patreon in the home stretch here.

Action

  • Emailed BADASS Productivity Workshop attendees an email loaded with some of the best resources from last night’s talk.

Result

  • Got some good feedback on the BADASS Productivity workshop and resources, despite the technical difficulties.
  • 1 new Patrons.
  • Total Patrons: 19
  • Goal Progress: 95% (19/20 Patrons)

Reflection

Hey, the first of the month means Patreon Payday!

Capture_Sept

And we are officially on the board!

Is $53.63 lifechanging money? Certainly not. It just barely covers a single podcast episode each month.

And if Patreon was the only source of revenue for ComixLaunch, the business model would need some serious work.

But we’re on the path towards sustainability for the show via Patreon, and that’s more than I could say a month ago.

So, progress.


Day 28 – 9/2/2016

Second day of vacation. Got to hangout poolside with my dad, who is loving retirement. Another spotty internet and light promotion day.

Action

  • Responded to some emails and Facebook comments about the BADASS Productivity Workshop.

Result

  • 1 new Patrons.
  • Total Patrons: 20
  • Goal Progress: 100% (20/20 Patrons)

Reflection

Was a bit perplexed because we added another Patron, but my Patreon pledge number didn’t go up. I was looking around the Patreon app to try to see if one of my previous Patrons had dropped, but couldn’t find any evidence of that.

What I ended up discovering is that often what’s shown on the Patreon Page isn’t necessarily synched with what’s showing under the hood. Two of my Patron’s cards were declined when they were charged, which has the effect of removing them from the Patron’s displayed on your page. It’s an interesting choice, and makes things like a daily Patreon journal a bit more tricky to keep up on than you’d think it would be.


Day 29 – 9/3/2016

At the lake for Labor Day Weekend.

Action

  • Exchanged a few Facebook messages with a few ComixLaunch listeners, answering a couple of questions.

Result

  • 0 new Patrons.
  • Total Patrons: 20
  • Goal Progress: 100% (20/20 Patrons)

Reflection

Definitely tough to take action and get results when you’re on vacation. At the same time, sometimes I feel like this guy:

Capture_dog

And need to recharge those batteries.


Day 30 – 9/4/2016

Well, here it is, the last day of the 30 Day Patreon Launch challenge.

Definitely an anti-climatic end, seeing as I spent it at my family’s lakehouse, without internet connectivity and without doing any active promotion, besides releasing the regularly scheduled update.

Action

Result

  • 1 new Patrons.
  • Total Patrons: 21
  • Goal Progress: 105% (21/20 Patrons)

Reflection

Here we are, 30 days from launch, and I hit the modest launch goal established for the Patreon Launch.


A Few Parting Thoughts from a 30 Days Patreon Launch

Well, I did it.

30 days later, I have the start of a Patreon page, and even managed to hit (and just barely surpass) the Patronage target for the first month.

patronsvsday

A few parting thoughts, with the launch month behind me:

1.) It’s hard to stay focused on a new thing for 30 days. Maybe it’s just me, but I’m somewhat addicted to plate-spinning, probably to the detriment of my own productivity. The “novelty” of Patreon promotion wears off pretty quickly… so it’s important to find ways to build ongoing Patreon promotion into your normal workflows.

2.) That said, actually staying focused on that new thing will result in some surprising discoveries and ideas along the way. The BADASS Productivity workshop and resources that I pulled together got a lot of positive feedback, and I’ll likely continue to work on that as a program or mini-course. Likely that would not have happened had I not been focused on how to deliver value for present and future Patrons during this launch month.

BTW, if you’d like to get your hands on the BADASS Productivity Resource Guide, it’s one of our Club ComixLaunch VIP Resources.

Kickstarter Page Critique (1)

3.) Not surprising, but email really is the best way to get people to back you on Patreon. That spike of 10 Patrons on Day 4 was triggered by sending an email invitation to the small ComixLaunch list. If you haven’t set up and email list yet, do it.

If you haven’t set up and email list yet, do it.

If you need help setting up your list and building it to 1000+ engaged fans, check to see if the ListLaunch course is open for enrollment.

listlaunch_sexy_680

ListLaunch Includes:

  • 20+ Training Videos
  • Checklists, Worksheets, Templates and Real-World Examples & Case Studies
  • Lifetime access to the Private ListLaunch FaceBook Group for support and accountability
  • Beta Enrollment – Which means additional instructor support and a chance to shape the course curriculum.
  • ListLaunch students also get priority enrollment for the limited number of spots the next time The ComixLaunch Course opens.
  • Access to the ListLaunch Exchange for creator cross-promotion.

Click Here to Find out more about ListLaunch and sign-up!

4.) “One is greater than zero.” This is a common Gary Vaynerchuk quote, and one that we all need to keep in mind. You’ll see a lot of blog posts out there that talk about making a gagillion dollars in a week. This one, is decidedly not that. And I think that’s a good thing, because most creators out there will not have a meteoric rise on Patreon. But some support on the platform is better than no support at all, and it’s a foundation you can build upon.

So, rather than hem and haw over whether or not Patreon will be “worth it” for you… why not just launch one, and commit to taking action for 30 Days to build your following?


Patreon Launch Journals from Other Creators

No one has a monopoly on good ideas, and that’s why I’m excited to share the ACTIONS / RESULTS of other creators launching (or Relaunching Patreons.)


Searnold is creating Completely Different Comics on Patreon

BehindTheHero017 (2)

Read Searnold’s 30 Day Patreon Launch Journal here.

View his Patreon page here.


Natalie Dawn is creating music.

View how Nataly Dawn increased her Patronage from $1.5K to $6K in 30 Days!

View Nataly’s Patreon page here.


Big Tim is creating Funny Books

Click here for Big Tim’s Patreon Launch Journal.

View Big Tim’s Patreon Page here.


Are You Game for a 30 Day Patreon Launch (or Re-Launch) Challenge?

One of my goals for this series is to inspire those of you who are launching a Patreon page soon or have already launched your page but your Patrons support has flatlined to really give building your support on Patreon a concentrated effort.

If you’re willing to:

  • Set a SMART Goal for Patron growth on Patreon over the next month.
  • Commit to taking at least one action every day to promote your page and
  • Track and share your Actions and Results publicly on your blog or website.

Then I would love to include a link to your Journal on this article and highlight your progress on an upcoming episode of the ComixLaunch podcast.

If you’re up for the 30 Day Challenge, here’s what I want you to do:

  1. Set your SMART Goal and 30 day time-frame.
  2. Decide where you’re going to write about your actions and results and start writing your post.
  3. Start taking action each day to grow your Patrons.
  4. Journal your actions and results each day.
  5. Once you hit 7 days of continuous Actions and Results, send me an email ([email protected]) or Tweet me (@tylerjamescomic) with a link to your article.
  6. Note: If you’re excited and in to do this, great! But I don’t want to hear you’re going to do it… which is why I want you to wait until you’ve actually taken a week’s worth of ACTION and seen a week’s worth of RESULTS before you tell me that you’re in.

Here’s one thing that has always been true:

When you take action, you get results.

Now, the results aren’t always the results you wanted, hoped for, or expected… but they are results nonetheless.

And with results comes insights, and with insights, often come breakthroughs.

So, Patreon Creators…

Are you in?


Mock-Up

Let us send you the FREE guide!

There have been almost 6,700 launched comic projects on Kickstarter.

Of those, only half are successful.

And of the successful projects, only 1.5% raise six figures or more.

These campaigns are the vanguard for comics on Kickstarter – often defying expectations and changing how people approach the platform.

While impressive funding totals is part of what makes these campaigns worth studying, it’s not the only interesting aspect.

Most six-figure campaigns don’t set out with massive goals, instead swelling in size over the course of their campaign until they pass that threshold.

What unique advantages do they have that allows them to reach those levels?

And how can the experience that the creators behind these projects gain in running these large campaigns help other creators looking to use the Kickstarter platform as a launchpad for their projects and creative career?

To answer these questions, I’ve been speaking with the creators behind these success stories.

This time, I spoke with Jake Parker, the creator behind the six-figure comic, “SkyHeart.”

If you want to check out his campaign – you can click here.


You first came to Kickstarter with your Antler Boy project. How did your decision to first use Kickstarter come about?

My agent went out with a proposal for the book to various publishers, and everyone passed on it. I had been watching Kickstarter, and seeing a few successful comics project on there, so I thought I’d try it out.

So after diving right in, first with Antler Boy and then with the Drawings sketchbook that you kickstarted a year after, did you make any mistakes that helped you with the SkyHeart Kickstarter? What was the learning curve like?

Yes. The biggest mistake I made on the Antler Boy kickstarter was undercharging for shipping. I was a dummy and didn’t do my homework on international shipping fees and lost a small fortune shipping packages over seas.

I also learned to pack the books in solid and safe packaging. While most of my antler boy books made it safely to their destination, there were too many that got damaged in transit and I had to replace them. Itmight cost a little more to package everything up right, but it’s worth it in the end.

I also learned that everything I offer through the Kickstarter needs to fit in one box, to avoid the cost of shipping things in separate packages. I shipped out books in boxes and large prints in tubes, and it ended up costing double to deliver rewards to those who backed at the book + print level.

I fixed all of these mistakes in the second kickstarter and things went much more smoothly. I also had much lower overhead in the second Kickstarter even though the Kickstarter made less than the first one.

It’s interesting to me that that lesson is largely tied to fulfillment, but – diving into some specifics of SkyHeart – you opted to offer both soft & hard-cover versions of the book. That seems like it would complicate things a lot, especially for an independent title. What was behind that decision?

To put it simply: monSkyHeart Book Mock-Upey. For essentially the same content I can charge double for just changing the material o

f the cover. Granted it costs me more to make and ship a hardcover, but it doesn’t take any extra time on my part.

Kickstarter is about raising money for your project, in return you offer some sort of value. The hard cover option allows me to offer something a little nicer at a premium that gets me closer to achieving my goal without costing me the one asset I have a firm limitation on: time.

As for fulfillment, it doesn’t complicate it that much. My packing team just puts a hardcover in the box instead of a softcover.

That is pretty simple. For a lot of creators, fulfillment can be very intimidating. Can you explain a bit about your packing team and how you tend to employ that help?

In the past my wife has called in favors and she and her friends or family would pack books. We’d order lunch for everyone and make a day out of it. Recently a handful of art students from the university in town volunteered to help out. For 3 hours we packed up books from my recent pre-order event. (my non-kickstarted, kickstarter) It was great to get to know these guys and see and hear about what they working on and give them advice on how to approach their projects.

That’s a really great way to handle fulfillment. Mutually beneficial for you & the people helping you. You save a lot of time. They get pizza, or some advice on their projects depending.

Seems to be working out.

You also did something some creators might find controversial – which is including the cost of production within the goal of your Kickstarter. Why was that important to do and did you have any qualms about budgeting for this?

If you have the chops and a proven track record, I don’t understand why you can’t ask for people to fund the production. It’s completely acceptable, and understandable for a traditional publisher to fund the production of any book. So why when you go to crowd funding is it taboo to ask for the funding needed to pay for the production? Outside of the work needed to make a proof of concept or a pitch the actually production of the book needs some kind of funding. This is the same for any kind of tech product, video game, or film, why not comics?

That’s totally fair. I think to that end, it’s important to note that you went to great lengths to communicate the logic behind your budget for the SkyHeart Kickstarter – making a 30 minute video diving into it – why do you think that was important to do?

When you’re asking for anyone’s money you have to be respectful and part of that is clearly explaining what you plan to do with it. So for me it was important to educate people on where all the money goes. Kickstarter numbers can be deceiving, both in the amounts asked ,and the amount the project funds at. Someone might see a kickstarter earn 6 figures and think, “oh man they’ve got it made!” But when you break down the cost of doing business, you quickly see why a project can cost so much to produce and ship, and how little money the creators actually get to pocket.

Now, we’re here talking in the first place because SkyHeart and, by extension you, belong to a very exclusive club of six-figure comic Kickstarter projects. Why do you think SkyHeart reached the six-figure level of success it did?

  • 1) It’s a cool idea that was presented well, and…
  • 2) Reach.

I’ve been developing the idea an day art style for years and funneled everything into this story and the presentation of it. I tried to make it as appealing as I could, with a everything I’ve learned as a professional. And I think it came off looking like something legit.

I’ve also been working hard to build an online following that knows and trusts me with the intent to use a percentage of that fanbase to support my projects.

Do you have any advice for people looking to replicate that kind of success for themselves?

It’s really simple, but I think people get turned off because it’s really really hard work.

Show up EVERYDAY for 2, 3, 5 years and provide people with something of value. Whether it’s just cool art that gets their imagination going a little (like I do) or it’s your webcomic that moves a story along or provides a daily chuckle, or if it’s just advice on how to be a professional comic artist. Provide value. Then when it’s time to sell something, you’ve earned your followers dollars already, and they will gladly give it to you.

Beyond reaching the six-figure level, I think there’s something even more impressive with what you’ve accomplished on Kickstarter. Specifically, turning Kickstarter into a renewable resource for yourself. First, Antler Boy raised $85k, then Drawings raised $63k, and – of course – SkyHeart raised $101k.

Do you have any additional advice for creators looking to build Kickstarter into a sustainable platform, specifically, and build an enduring relationship with their audience?

That’s the big question…I don’t know what Kickstarter is going to be like in 5 years or if it will even exist. So I don’t know that someone looking to make Kickstarter a source of reliable income is a wise decision. In the last 4 years Kickstarter went from bringing me 75% of my backers with Antler Boy to just 25% of my backers with SkyHeart. In the beginning Kickstarter was new and shiny and the possibilities were endless. People surfed Kickstarter regularly looking for projects to back, and a lot of projects benefitted from that. But nowadays the comics community has seen some projects take years to deliver, the hype surrounding projects has died down a little, and I think of that is starting to reflect in overall backing numbers on projects. What happens if a big lawsuit forces Kickstarter to shut down, or if so many projects don’t deliver that Kickstart becomes synonymous with snake oil salesmen? We’ve seen other sites completely die (like Myspace) and some juggernauts losing users left and right (like eBay). I think it would be naive to say that Kickstarter is invulnerable.

If you want to survive and thrive as a creator in the world as it stands now and for the foreseeable future you need to build an audience that’s engaged with your work. Build your brand and then drive them to whatever sales platform you can use to make money from.

Jake Parker DrawingsMy 2nd and 3rd drawings collections were all kickstarted on my own website, with  just a landing page I created and a Paypal-based online shop. I sold 700 books in a month for Drawings 2 and matched that in 2 weeks for Drawings 3. It was my experiment to see what I could do outside of Kickstarter should Kickstarter cease to exist.

Well, we should definitely have you back to talk about that experiment in the future. Thank you for taking the time to chat, Jake. Before we close is there anything else that you’d like to add?

Thanks for the questions!

If people want to see more of my work they can follow me on instagram: @jakeparker

If people like hearing me talk about stuff like this, they can subscribe to my youtube channel: jakeparker44

And of course the hub for everything I do is http://mrjakeparker.com


I think the qualities Jake exemplifies – both in patience and not shying away from the hard, often tedious, work of building an audience are to be admired and for us to strive to replicate.

If you’re interest. We’ve done other interviews in this Six-Figure Kickstarter series before. You can find them here:

There have been almost 6,700 launched comic projects on Kickstarter.

Of those, only half are successful.

And of the successful projects, only 1.5% raise six figures or more.

These campaigns are the vanguard for comics on Kickstarter – often defying expectations and changing how people approach the platform.

While impressive funding totals is part of what makes these campaigns worth studying, it’s not the only interesting aspect.

Most six-figure campaigns don’t set out with massive goals, instead swelling in size over the course of their campaign until they pass that threshold.

What unique advantages do they have that allows them to reach those levels?

And how can the experience that the creators behind these projects gain in running these large campaigns help other creators looking to use the Kickstarter platform as a launchpad for their projects and creative career?

Get the book, trading cards & more for The Young Protectors—a smart superhero tale featuring a hero who just happens to like other guys

To answer these questions, I’ve been speaking with the creators behind these success stories. 

This time, I spoke with Alex Woolfson, the creator of the massively successful comic “The Young Protectors.”

If you want to check out his campaign – you can click here.THE YOUNG PROTECTORS Vol 1 project video thumbnail

You first came to Kickstarter with a comic called Artifice. How did the decision to use the Kickstarter platform come about?

So with Artifice, basically what happened was that it had been going for about a year and it was sort of an experiment on my part to find out whether I liked working with webcomics – and part of the thing I did was make sure that it was short enough that I knew I could finish, because a lot of webcomics fail.

A lot of webcomics stall and fail. I didn’t want to do that to my readers but it actually took off, it was quite a success and I was very pleased with the results so I started following other webcomics including one from a creator called E.K. Weaver. She had a webcomic called The Less than Epic Adventures of TJ and Amal – which is a comic I really recommend to everyone – she had a Kickstarter campaign and she asked for something like $4,000 and she ran a very clever campaign.

I particularly appreciated her video. With my background as a video editor, I could see she did a really good job. It had humor, it gave all the important information, and so she winded up getting like $13,000 and put Kickstarter on my radar.

I had this project – Artifice – that I wanted to bring to print, but it’s pretty expensive to do so because I wanted to do offset printing. I tried releasing some of my comics using print on demand and was really disillusioned by that for lots of reasons, so I figured after seeing her success I was inspired and I figured you know I bet with my video knowledge of this I could come with a free good video and I think I can do pretty okay with it.

Yeah, that makes sense, especially having that additional background with video I think that’s usually one of the biggest hurdles for creators to deal with. So knowing that you could handle that part must have been reassuring.

It was. You know, I think it is intimidating to a lot of people, I mean frankly it was intimidating to me, in some ways because I knew exactly what to do so I had these high standards, and it did make it feel a little more daunting to me than it had to be.

You want your video to be entertaining, you want it to move along, you want to have some humor. You don’t want it to go on too long, but it doesn’t need to be a totally polished production either and a so a lot of what it’s about is letting it feel organic and natural an homemade, but even with that – yes – having the experience gave me the confidence and the video that I think you know makes a huge difference.

I forget – I don’t know if Kickstarter allows projects without videos right now, it seems like in the beginning they didn’t. In the beginning you could have a video or not that was your choice, then it seemed like through the period of time where you had to have a video you know where they’re standing on that right now?

I’m pretty sure you’re allowed to still not have a video.

Right, but earlier on they had this stat that showed that without the video people have like a 30% success rate and with the video it will be 50% successful.

Right, exactly. And from what I understand those stats still hold through.

It just makes so much sense. A video sort of introduces you in the best most entertaining way to kind of introduce people to your work and introduce people to what you’re trying to do with your Kickstarter.

So you had this preparation and you had this understanding of what you needed to go out and do – but were there any mistakes you made during the Artifice campaign that helped you run what we’re here to talk about, which is the Young Protector’s campaign?

Well, one of the mistakes that I made with the Artifice campaign, I mean one of the things they talk about is they talk about shipping being the silent killer of Kickstarter and crowdfunding, and I grossly underestimated how much it would cost to pay for international shipping.

In particular, the posters I had were 13×19 inches because I have this nice printer at home that creates these 13×19 prints that looked really gorgeous and professional, and bigger is better so I wanted to send this out.

What I was not aware of is that when you’re sending internationally, the difference between sending international first class and international priority has to do with the overall dimensions of the box and so just by choosing to have 13×19 prints instead of 11×14 prints (a standard size), I doubled my shipping cost internationally without getting any extra benefits.

It doesn’t get through any faster – priority mail international and first class international – get there at the same speed, they’re the same tracking same everything pretty much – it’s just twice as expensive.

So, there was that. There was also not allowing accounting for the fact that because I was going to be shipping after January, the post office also nearly doubled all the shipping costs.

So I got screwed by the shipping. Luckily with Artifice I asked for 7,000 and I got 36,000 which was a big bump up, but it wasn’t so incredibly huge that I couldn’t recover from that with my day job funds, but it was a mistake I definitely wanted to avoid with the Young Protectors.

I noticed that with the Young Protectors campaign you had separate tiers for your Canadian backers, did you do that specifically because of that same shipping reason, or why was that exactly? Was it related to what you learned during your Trial by Fire with Artifice.

It had been, but mostly it was a desperation device. Kickstarter had been making improvements to their interface, but at a glacial pace and so when I had done the Young Protector Kickstarter they were smart enough to allow you to have different shipping rates between international and domestic backers.

I think that was a new thing, but they didn’t allow any granularity there. They do now – now I believe you can divide it up by country and something that changed, which I think is kind of a nice thing is that the shipping is separated out so it doesn’t have to appear in the pledge level. So just from an optic point of view it doesn’t increase the size of pledges when you’re adding in shipping – it’s something that gets tucked on at the end and people are pretty used to that with online shopping.

So all those are things that will help mitigate the “shipping being the killer” thing. But when I did Young Protector’s there wasn’t a granularity and there really is a big difference between shipping to Canada and Mexico and the rest of the world, but mostly between Canada and the rest of the world.

I wanted to be kind to my Canadian backers and so I didn’t want to have to charge them Germany level shipping, because I was certainly not going to lower the Germany-level shipping down to Canadian level.

So my workaround was to create this separate Canadian tier. I think I saw a few other campaigns doing that and that’s one of the secrets of success to Kickstarter. Look at what other people are doing successfully and shamelessly steal from that.

Absolutely. So you’re pulling from all these different sources, you already had one successful Kickstarter under your belt, but you know you asked for $14,000 for Young Protectors and you made almost $140,000.

Right, $133,000, that’s right.

Yes way.

How do you go from a $14,000 goal to the six-figure level that Young Protector’s ended up at?

Well there’s a few ways that I made that happen. So let’s talk about the things that I think are really necessary to have that kind of success, and then I’m going to talk a little bit about some of the downsides of that.

The biggest difference – and this is something that I think is crucially important and when people come and consult with me about Kickstarter stuff it’s the advice the they don’t want to hear.

Usually, when people come to talk to me about Kickstarter stuff they’re ready to launch, ready to go, and my very first question is how big is your current audience right now? And do you have a way to be in touch with them on a consistent basis? It’s one of the reasons why I think webcomics are the best way to monetize – particularly in terms of crowdfunding, both with services like Kcisktarter and Patreon.

My first bit of advice is that if you’re wanting to do a campaign in the thousands of dollars then you should ideally know your stats for unique visitors, like who shows up for your updates. And that should, ideally, be in the thousands. It mustn’t be in the tens of thousands, but you should at least have I think three, four, or five thousand unique viewers on your update days.

That’s where I was when I started Artifice. When I launched my Artifice Kickstarter I think I had about five thousands uniques a days.

And the other factor is having updates – some way that you can contact people. An email list is the most effective way to reach out to your backers and to convert, but that seems to be a surprise for people. Building that email list is really, really important, and then there’s Facebook and Twitter, but it’s even better when you are a destination that people are wanting to go.

Especially when you have a webcomic that updates twice a week, which is basically a treat for people, and they get to see the new page and they look underneath it and the get to hear about this campaign.

It’s sort of the best way to keep people informed, and let people know about it. Have you read – I think his name is Robert Cialdini – his book called Influence?

No, but I’m familiar, actually.

You know I think his work is really ,really useful. In terms of being an ethical marketer I think it’s important to know you what kind of things motivate people to want to actually do something.

One of the things I think a web comic sets up is a sense of reciprocity because you’re putting this work out there for free and its consistent work, and it’s not hobbled in any way. It’s a premium model and its one of the reasons I think Mailchimp has the success it has where you put something out there is of total value and so that in itself you know people appreciate that and it creates a sense of reciprocity.

It also asks people to sample all the merchandise right upfront [chuckle], they get to know if it’s for them and then what it does is translating like for web comic into Kickstarter.

A web comic is almost the ideal thing to Kickstart because people get to enjoy the whole thing for free to decide if they like it or not and then to become fans and to become into it but if they want something special, they want to get the artifact, if they want to get the book which actually has a premium value.

I mean it’s more pleasant to read a comic in book form than its on the screen, all they have to do is contribute a little bit of extra money so it follows sort of the premium idea where you get to have the entire story for free but if you want a little something extra, you have the choice to pay a little bit more then you get something that really has some real value for you.

So I think that’s the second factor, there two, the fact that it’s a web comic that allowed me to contact people and be in touch with people on a regular basis, in fact have them to come to me and check in with me on a twice to week basis.

I think that was the factor there too, I think it’s also being the web comic that is something that converts into a physical artifact and I think in general with crowd funding campaign and with kick starter in particular, having a physical artifact you’re going to do much better than just offering digital only rewards but in terms of answering your question like what specifically do I think shot me from 14,000 of to 133,000?

You want to set audiences is in place and once you have a way to directly contact them and be in communication with them throughout the campaign, then I did a few different things. The biggest thing that I did that I think was most useful was coming up with a multiple stretch goals that were all within easy reach.

So the tricky thing with stretch goals is that you want to make sure they’re stuff that you really want to make. It’s a really hollow victory just to raise your number up you know if you’re going to be making stuff you don’t care about or that you aren’t into.

In particular, one thing I just want to be very clear and this something I’d want to be clear in your blog is that Kickstarter is not a pay day. For Artifice you know I asked for 7,000 I got 36,000, how much did I wind up spending? Probably about 38 or 39,000 but none of that Kickstarter money wound up in my pocket right, but what did end up in my pocket I was able to do the economy of scale which is what Kickstarter really allows you to do.

I wasn’t able to afford a big print run so from kick starter I pretty sold 800 copies of artifice but I printed 5,000, so that meant I had 4,200 copies that I could sell at $20 a book that were basically all paid for, that can make some money in the back end and it’s the same thing with the young protectors you know I asked for 14,000 I got 133,000.

I’m going to wind up spending more on that, on the merchandise and shipping. Shipping alone is $30,000 even with me being smarter about it than with artifice. I mean I knew we’re going to need $30,000 when I planned everything out ahead of time but I like to make that clear.

But in terms of making that happen what I did is, I want to do trading cards for my readers because the part of the deal that I have with my comic is that I’m looking to create the same kind of high quality professional full genre experience that says white straight boys have got to enjoy and forever from the mainstream companies. I’m kind of working to create that for the rest of us.

The secret of an exploding Kickstarter is evangelism.

Right, that’s something that I wanted to talk about because they’re not just genre stories. They’re also distinguished by the fact that they can appeal in a more pronounced way tot hat niche audience.

How important do you think it is for a creator of a book to have this kind of niche appeal regardless of what niche it is?

I think it’s important for you to be passionate about your work and I think it’s important to have your fans to be passionate about your work if you’re going to succeed.

The secret of an exploding Kickstarter is evangelism – and that’s going to be people who really believe in what you’re trying to do.

Do I think it needs to be something that’s going to change the world in a positive way?

Probably not, I’m not sure every iPhone gadget out there on Kickstarter that succeeds makes the world a better place, necessarily, but it does help when you’re communicating on your video, when you’re talking about your project.

In particular when I started out, there weren’t many superhero comics out there that look like professional super hero comics that have LGBT heroes and people of color being the primary featured heroes as the characters.

That need was not being met and therefore yes, when people saw it not only did they think I’d like to own it myself but there is also the halo effect that also connects – where they also think there should be more of this in the world.

I mean crowdfunding – ultimately – is about getting a group of people together to chip in to create something that would otherwise never be possible, and if you’re doing a standard mainstream comic, that you can’t just get on a regular comic book rack.

Crowdfunding is about getting a group of people together to chip in to create something that would otherwise never be possible.

Do you really need to go through the crowdfunding to make that happen?

I think a lot of people would look at that and say probably not. But if it’s a science fiction story that looks really high quality and has a really good story and it happens to feature heroes who just happems to like other guys, or superheroes who are people who just happen to like other guys, that’s something you’re not going to be able to get any place else and so that’s going to be definitely a bigger motivator in terms of them wanting to make sure the campaign succeeds.

That makes a lot of sense to me. There is something I want to dig into which is – you’re talking about how the most important hing is being passionate about what you’re doing and having your audience be passionate about what you’re doing, but there’s definitely a school of thought which recommends appealing to different niches just to leverage the appeal or the reach of your comic.

Do you think there would have been as much appeal for your comic if it didn’t come from an obviously authentic place?

Contextualizing that – given your own background growing up gay without seeing yourself represented in the heroes from your favorite genre stories, you had something real behind that aspect of your story.

What would you say to creators who are trying to leverage those things if it’s not as immediately or obviously coming from an authentic place?

Well, you know, I think authenticity is certainly important because crowdfunding is based on trust. That’s one of another advantage of the web comic thing. People who have been following my web comic know that I’ve done what I said I was going to do for a full year. I never miss an update, delivered twice a week on time every time and interacted a lot in the comments. That builds trust because people feel like they know you and that’s important.

Likability is another factor that you know likability and then similarity. These are the factors that Cialdini talks about in his book. So I think that if people smell that you’re cynical, I think that will work against you.

I also just think it’s hard, it’s sort of like people who write screenplays hoping to figure out what Hollywood would want or what audiences want. I mean we’ve certainly seen enough films coming out from Hollywood where teams are put together by committee and focus groups, and ultimately I think it’s difficult to make good work that way. So I think you’ve got a tough hill to climb climb if you’re planning at cynically going after this.

All that said, you know there advantages to appealing to a niche in addition to doing good work. If you’re independent creator, if you’re appealing to a niche that’s a much smaller, more targeted audience to market to that means you can direct your ad budget and by ad budget I mean not just money but your time, very specifically.

And being an independent creator you have very limited amount of those things so I can understand the appeal of appealing to a niche.

And, for example, if there’s a budding male creator out there who’s a hardcore feminist and wants to create comics with strong female leads in them, and that’s part of what they’re wanting to put out there I’m not going to fold my arms and say, “well you’re not a woman and you can’t do that.”

Let me just speak for myself civically like if some straight creator said, “Hi, look I really believe strongly that gay people are underrepresented in comics and I want to fix that with my own comics and they put that in their video and they sincerely put that out there, I’m not going to ding them just because they aren’t gay themselves.

What matters is do I think they’re going to deliver what they promise? And I think that if you’re doing it cynically that’s a tough road to go.

Bringing the conversation back to a positive place rather than exploring the cynical angle that I wanted to discuss…

Is there anything that you learned in this most recent Kickstarter that would influence how you do a next one – whether or not you’re planning one?

Well sure, certainly. I mean to answer your question from before about how did things get explosive. What happened in this particular case is in the first campaign I really picked up on the power of stretch goals and so what I did is I wanted to create this trading cards and so what I said is basically every $2,000 that we got beyond our goal, I’d create a new trading card.

The second part of that is I made it interactive, so I had a survey monkey account and people got to vote on which character would appear in that trading card. And so what that did is gave a stretch goal that was within reach, the $2,000 from where we were felt pretty within the reach to most people and because there were people still signing on from my main audience, we hit the stretch goals pretty quickly.

What it did is it set up a situation where people got used to hitting a stretch goal every single day. Part of my goal in this campaign or even with Artifice versus a lot of other campaigns is that a lot of campaigns stagnate in the middle, and I was able to avoid that in Artifice with my stretch goals. And I really wanted to avoid that completely in the Young Protectors, so I was able to create this very linear line between the first three days and the last three days.

It’s a pretty clear linear line between these points, because I had stretch goals that could be hit every day and when we hit day 15 which tends to be the day of death in Kickstarter – the midpoint – and it looked like we weren’t going to hit that stretch goal that day, people evangelized like crazy and we still wound up hitting it.

And you can look at my whole list of stretch goals, it wasn’t just trading cards. There were other things I had in there. And I was listening to my readers. For example, somebody said they wanted sticker sheets. I learned from somebody who really rocks the sticker sheet that people are really enthusiastic about it so I added and that became a huge motivator for people to get those sticker sheets, and I’m very pleased we got it because I like the sticker sheets we’ve come up with now.

Listening to the readers is important and then also, like I said, making it interactive so people can get excited about it and eep coming back to the Kickstarter campaign. So basically everyday there was a new vote. “Who do you want to be in this trading card?” or “This particular print you get to vote on who’s going to be kissing in it.”

It’s again, this premium idea where you’re offering something that they could not get any other way. For example, in my main comic I don’t show full nudity. We might get to be “soft R” in some pages, but that’s about as far as we go. But for this particular Kickstarter campaign I said okay, if we hit this higher level of stretch goals I will create some full Monty art.

It will be tasteful because that’s my whole deal – anything that I create is not going to be not tasteful, it’s all going to be art. But you want to see the whinny, you can hit the stretch goals and you’ll get it. And I had that sense of humor about it too. Because it’s funny for me that people value that so much, because my readers do and god bless them for that.

So those are all the things that kind of then snow balled into you know going from 14,000 to 133,000.

The fact that I had stretch goals that you could hit every day so people wanted to hit them every day, I was offering things they could get no other way, I was thinking of things that I wanted to make so I could be passionate about it and I made it interactive so people were showing up on a consistent level to check in on things and so when they saw something new like, “Oh, my gosh, we’re so close to getting this other thing and so we never get close to it and I really want it” they can then evangelize.

That’s the positive side of all those things.

Now, in terms of like what I would do differently, the downside of all that is it put a whole lot of work on my plate and yes, I knew what I was doing because I had had a Kickstarter campaign before, but it was so much extra work that what happened is something where I was hoping to deliver the book within a year and I figured that it was going to take me a year to get this book out with all these extra words, because of various things that happened outside of my control and now we’re two years from that date.

Not two years from the date of my delivery, we’re a year longer than I wanted to be when I’m delivering, I’m just about to deliver now and for – and this is essential – you have to keep communicating with your backers. You have to.

Transparency is everything because I do communicate with my backers, you know I would say 95% of them were totally cool with it. But over the past four five months, people have gotten pretty impatient. And it takes a good deal of time responding to those people, explaining what’s going on, and giving people options for what to do. And that’s been a bit tiring for me, and frankly I have all this inventory that I can’t sell because the Kickstarter backers need to have it first.

So, even though I’m delighted with all the merchandise that I’ve created, the next campaign its really going to be just about the book and if that means that I’m back to making $35,000 or $40,000 on the Kickstarter, rather than $133,000, I’m totally okay with that because I’ve plenty of merchandise from this Kickstarter and frankly, as I said, Kickstarter isn’t really a money maker for me. It’s a way to take advantage of the economy of scale with a merchandise purchase so I can make money on the back end, and I’d rather just have a quick turn around with the book than have to have my backers wait so long for next time.


And that’s the beast.

The interview actually continued past this point, if you can believe it.

I really appreciated the insights on Kickstarter Alex had to share and the careful and measured way he approaches campaigns. The advantage of webcomics on Kickstarter is also interesting food for thought.

Here are links to the past installments of the Six-Figure Kickstarter interview series if you want to check them out.

And another link to Alex’s campaign. Though it’s over now you can currently pre-order the book.

There have been almost 6,700 launched comic projects on Kickstarter.

Of those, only half are successful.

And of the successful projects, only 1.5% raise six figures or more.

These campaigns are the vanguard for comics on Kickstarter – often defying expectations and changing how people approach the platform.

While impressive funding totals is part of what makes these campaigns worth studying, it’s not the only interesting aspect.

Most six-figure campaigns don’t set out with massive goals, instead swelling in size over the course of their campaign until they pass that threshold.

What unique advantages do they have that allows them to reach those levels?

And how can the experience that the creators behind these projects gain in running these large campaigns help other creators looking to use the Kickstarter platform as a launchpad for their projects and creative career?

Ctrl+Alt+Del Main

To answer these questions, I’ve been speaking with the creators behind these success stories. Back in October, I spoke with Daniel Warren and Dave Rapoza the creators behind the Steve Lichman Kickstarter, digging into their strategy for success.

This time, I spoke with Tim Buckley, the creator of Ctrl+Alt+Del and the man behind its massively successful. If you want to check out his campaign – you can find it here:

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1983987666/ctrl-alt-del-10-the-box-set/

You started your webcomic in 2002, making it one of the most long-lasting online.

To get us started, I was wondering if you could comment on what the webcomic landscape was like back then? Why did you start doing Ctrl+Alt+Del and publishing it online?

Tim Buckley: I started Ctrl+Alt+Del primarily as a sort of practice exercise, actually. I had just started college, and was taking some basic courses, but was really looking to round out my art portfolio. I had a lot of comic-book themed stuff, but not much with a more cartoon/comic strip styling, so I started playing around with ideas. I had been introduced to the concept of the “web comic” through Little Gamers, and figured as long as I was going to be working on this comic strip, why not throw it up online for other people to read as well?

Back then there were a couple of “top webcomic” voting list websites, where a comic could sign up, and then put a banner/link on their website asking their readers to vote. The more votes you got, the higher up the list you went, and that was both how I found a lot of other comics at the time, and received a lot of exposure for mine. Still, the idea of doing it for a living back then was still very new and sort of mythological, even. I can count on one hand the number of comics that I believe were doing it full-time back then.

With so many years behind you, why come to Kickstarter only in 2015 and not before?

Tim: It was only in 2015 that I had come up with a project with a funding goal so massive that I needed to turn to crowdfunding. Previously I’d funded any print runs for my books with preorders, or even out of pocket, but the size and scope of the Ctrl+Alt+Del Box Set put it well beyond anything I’d done in the past. Moreover, I didn’t want to collect $100,000 in individual pre-orders that I would then have to manually refund one by one if we didn’t hit our target goal.

Kickstarter just made sense in terms of being able to say “Here’s something I want to make, if you guys are on board with it, cool. If not, we all get to simply walk away.” It took some (not all) of the pressure and stress out of giving it a shot. Ultimately it was about making use of the infrastructure that Kickstarter already had in place for managing something this big.

So, there’s a couple things I want to expand upon here. Firstly, the product itself. Can you explain about how you came to the idea of book box-set you eventually turned to Kickstarter to fund?

Tim: Well, previously I had been releasing smaller books, collecting roughly 150 comics each. However, I fell behind… I got busy with projects, I didn’t release one every year, and before I knew it I’d been at this for 12 years and only had four collections released. To put that in perspective, it would take another 8 of those smaller volumes just to reach the end of my primary storyline in 2012. Even if I started putting out one a year, the first ten years wouldn’t be in print until 2023, and in the meantime, I’d have created a decade’s worth of additional comics that would need to be printed. It just didn’t make any sense to me.

So I started thinking about the logistics of just publishing the first decade into one gigantic set, similar to the Calvin and Hobbes and Far Side collections that I own.

Like you said, that product necessitated a massive goal, which you set at $150k. That ties you for second-largest successfully-funded comic Kickstarter goal with the Fantagraphics 2014 Kickstarter. Did you have any worries about trying to fund & deliver something so big?

Tim: As I said before, I’ve printed books in the past, and I’m familiar with the process, both from a design standpoint and a manufacturing one. And, as a species, it’s something we’ve been doing for centuries, so I wasn’t concerned that actually making a book would present many hurdles. I also made sure that all of that work was done before I ever hit the button to go live with the Kickstarter, so I wasn’t even asking people to give me money to sit down and start working on a book. The books were designed and ready to go to print the instant I had the funds to pay for them.

But problems can and will happen, so with a campaign so large, and so many thousands of dollars at stake, there was definitely a lot of stress involved. Did I do my math correctly? Is there something I missed? What happens if the printer takes my money and sends me garbage? What if I drastically miscalculated shipping costs and didn’t charge people enough to actually send them their books? In some ways, I was putting my livelihood on the line with this Kickstarter campaign, because if it failed, if I mishandled it somehow, I would lose the trust of so many of my readers. And that’s something that’s incredibly important to me, and to my business. So I definitely had some very natural concerns, but I also felt fairly confident that nothing I was attempting was beyond my ability to manage. So I just triple checked everything, did my research, and dove in.

That’s an admirable way to go about it. Now, you obviously have your own experience, but you mentioned making full use of Kickstarter’s infrastructure. Can you explain how that helped you handle a project of this size?

Tim: Well, as I mentioned before, the fact that pledges were handled transparently and that nobody was tangled up in an actual transaction until the funding goal was officially reached was a big help. But beyond that, having a built-in platform to reach all of the backers via posts and emails was key. Had I simply taken pre-orders via PayPal, my only option would have been to make posts on my website about progress, and then hope that everyone read them… which quite frankly is a pipe dream.Ctrl+Alt+Del You

I could have taken additional steps and set up a mailing list, and set other systems in place, but I also feel it was helpful to have this project separated and encapsulated elsewhere, so that I didn’t need to mix it in with my regular goings-on with my website. Perhaps that’s personal preference, but I enjoyed having a place that I knew was entirely dedicated to this massive undertaking, and all discussion there was focused on that.

 

Do you have any tips on how creators – at all levels of Kickstarter – can make better use of the resources available to them?

Tim: Well, one of my first tips would be to avail yourself of the fantastic write-ups over at Stonemaier Games (http://stonemaiergames.com/kickstarter/) I read a lot of their articles while I was researching and setting up my campaign, and while a lot of it retreaded ideas or theories that I’d already settled on, it was still nice to hear reiteration and reasoning on why they were good ideas. And there was a lot of valuable resources there that taught me a lot, like different methods to handle fulfillment, etc. They produce boardgames, but a lot of what they have to say about running a Kickstarter can be applied to most projects.

I would also suggest that people realize that while Kickstarter is fantastic for managing fundraising/pledges, it does not necessarily have the most robust backend for order fulfillment. So depending on the size of your project, the size of your campaign, the items you’ll be producing, etc, it may be necessary to research a post-Kickstarter system to help with managing actually getting your products to your backers. That might be a partnership with a fulfillment house such as Ideaspatcher, or a system like Backerkit to manage it yourself, or a mixture of both. But most of those systems let you sign up for a free trial to play around with the tools they have available, or they have customer service available to answer questions and walk you through how things would work.

But either way, do the research beforehand. Recognize that closing out a successful Kickstarter campaign is only the beginning of the job, and Kickstarter alone may not be able to see you all the way through to the finish line. Be aware of the options you have, and the associated fees with those options, before you launch your campaign.

That’s some fantastic advice. Last couple questions.

We’re here talking because your project belongs to an elite club of comic Kickstarter projects. It’s among the 1.5% of such projects that have raised over six-figures.

Now, you were setting out to be a six-figure Kickstarter from the start but you still ended up exceeding your goal – raising approximately $665,000 – well over half a million and more than four times your goal. Was there any specific reason you think your project was so successful?

Tim: I’d like to think it was because I approached the campaign with a very clear goal, laid out my vision for a high quality product, and that it was a product that enough people wanted to own. Of course, some of it owes to the Kickstarter exclusive bonuses I offered, and some to the limited nature of the product. This big box set was not really something I set out to print with the goal of just having tons of boxes sitting around so it could be in stock for years to come. The print run was only marginally larger than the total number of pledges/preorders. So I think there was definitely an element of “now or never” when it came to backing the project that encouraged a lot of people to pledge.

And, as with most things, there’s probably a healthy dose of luck thrown in there too 🙂

Do you have any advice for creators looking to achieve the same six-figure level of success you have?

Tim: Ahh, the million dollar question. I’ve been asked this quite a few times since my campaign, and continue to be asked by people running or about to run their own Kickstarter. I wish I had some sort of secret, magic strategy that could be passed on, but the bottom line is that I’ve spent the past thirteen years steadily creating entertainment, and in that time I have accumulated/attracted a very large readership. That readership was my target demographic for this project, and they were built-in already. And over the course of that thirteen years, I think there’s a trust that has been established that made people feel comfortable/confident that I would follow through with my intentions.

But coming in, out of the blue with something brand new that nobody is emotionally invested in yet, and trying to encourage them to put money behind it? I’d be as clueless as anyone else.

Though I think what’s most important as far as Kickstarter is concerned, from the viewpoint of someone who has backed many campaigns and run one himself, is transparency. Your backers cannot be investors in your project/company, that’s one of Kickstarter’s rules, but I still think you should treat them as such. Don’t be secretive with plans, don’t be secretive with news. I know for a fact that backers will prefer to hear bad news about a delay or setback than hearing no news at all. And they’ll be more forgiving/understanding/trusting for being kept in the loop, than shut out in the dark with no idea what’s happening.


And that’s another one down. There are more on the way, to keep lending you insight from these top Kickstarter creators. Lack of a magic formula aside, they’re still running the biggest projects on the platform and are worth learning from.

In talking with Tim, I really like his commentary on just putting in the work. Years of hard work and consistent publishing really paid off for him. In looking at both his interview and the earlier Steve Lichman one it’s becoming evidently clear that for them, the goal was never to rush to the finish line, but to build something they’re proud of and that’s respectful to the audience that’s chosen to support you.

On Kickstarter or off, that sounds like a recipe for success to me.

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1983987666/ctrl-alt-del-10-the-box-set/

Ctrl+Alt+Del Box Set

There have been almost 6,700 launched comic projects on Kickstarter.

Of those, only half are successful.

And of the successful projects, only 1.5% raise six figures or more.

These campaigns are the vanguard for comics on Kickstarter – often defying expectations and changing how people approach the platform.

While impressive funding totals is part of what makes these campaigns worth studying, it’s not the only interesting aspect.

Most six-figure campaigns don’t set out with massive goals, instead swelling in size over the course of their campaign until they pass that threshold.

What unique advantages do they have that allows them to reach those levels?

And how can the experience that the creators behind these projects gain in running these large campaigns help other creators looking to use the Kickstarter platform as a launchpad for their projects and creative career?

Steve

To start to answer those questions, I spoke with Daniel Warren and Dave Rapoza, the creative team behind the Steve Lichman Kickstarter Campaign – the project’s ending on Friday, October 30th at 9 PM PDT. As of this writing they’ve already past $140,000 in funding from their $18,000 goal and over 4,200 backers.

If you want to check out their campaign you can find it here – https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/stevelichman/steve-lichman-volume-1


How did Steve Lichman – and the decision to bring him to Kickstarter – come about?

Daniel Warren: Steve was basically just a joke that we started when we were both doing a lot of tabletop fantasy freelance.

Dave Rapoza: Yea, we started the comic based around this job Dan was doing where he had to paint this Lich, and we just went off on a tangent about how Liches must lead the most boring horrible lives. They basically are waiting there to be killed.

So, we started out doing a tumblr comic and it took off. Lots of people were sharing the first issue, but we basically did it for fun and without really thinking it’d be anything.

After that we followed it up with a few more issues and decided to post it up to imgur. We ended up getting around 500k views on the first 9 issues and everyone said they wanted a full book. So, we dove into fleshing it all out and decided that Kickstarter would be great for a little preorder platform.

Daniel Warren: Yeah, basically we never intended for Steve to be a thing, we just did one and people liked it so we did another then another. The internet response kinda made it what it is and led to us doing the book. People have been really awesome and supportive about the whole thing since it started

Your initial goal was $18,000. What was your reasoning behind that #?

Daniel Warren: Well, the whole point of the Kickstarter was to give fans of Steve who helped make the project what it is, something special directly from us. A lot of people reached out and commented about how they’d love to support it as a book, so we decided to go with that and do a limited edition hardcover for Kickstarter.

In the beginning, we estimated we probably wouldn’t sell anymore than 700 books, so we came up with $18,000 dollars to fund it based on the numbers to make just under 1000 books happen.

The numbers are as follows:

-12,000 dollars (estimate) to cover production of 1,000 books

-3,000 dollars (25 percent) to cover Kickstarter shrinkage costs

-2,000 dollars of incidentals for things like book proofs from the printer and stuff

-1,000 dollars of insurance just in case anything went wrong or we miscalculated

Dave Rapoza: Basically we were going to make no money, especially selling at $20 for a 230 page Hardcover.

Daniel Warren: The idea for the book wasn’t to make a ton of profit, just to get something cool out to fans as affordably as possible. The recommended price based on Kickstarter books that are hardcover and of a similar length was 35 dollars up to 60 dollars. But that seemed way too high to us for people to afford, especially overseas, because those numbers didn’t even include shipping

So we decided to make less money on the book and get the number down to 20 so that as many people who were fans of it could get it without paying a ton.

Steve2

Obviously there’s the fan response, but why do you think your project has been so successful?

Daniel Warren: I think it comes down to 3 main things. The first is a hugely supportive network of fans, like you mentioned, that have been following, sharing, and helping us promote Steve for over a year now.

Second is the fact that we decided to put out 60 pages of the book for free for anyone to read- including all the issues that were already on the internet plus a handful more. The reason we did this is sort of what leads into reason 3.

Most Kickstarters follow the traditional Kickstarter model of creators having an idea, but no capital to make it, so then backers assume the financial risk and hope the creator delivers on their idea with their money.

We wanted to flip that and assume all the risk ourselves – meaning that we would complete the book, on our own – at at our own expense – first, then launch a Kickstarter for the printing of a product that was already made.

Jeremy Melloul: Right, Tyler and I talk a lot about the idea of putting some skin in the game with your Kickstarter and you guys definitely took that to the fullest. And it’s obviously worked for you.

Daniel Warren: I think a big part of the response is people realizing the book is done and the project isn’t a gamble like some others are. It’s something they can go read already and that will go directly to the printer the day it is funded.

We’re both big Kickstarter fans and have supported lots of projects, but some take 3 or 4 years to ship and we just didn’t think that was fair to Steve fans.

Dave Rapoza: Yea, even having everything done, people still assume because of the bad reputation of Kickstarter projects falling apart, that ours would be a gamble. Which is too bad, we hope that this success and quick turn around of the book will give us more credibility when we move into the following books.

Daniel Warren: We want to assume as much responsibility as possible, and just use the platform as a pre-order service to gauge demand.

Regarding demand, there’s obviously a ton of that and you’ve talked about how the fan response was integral to even deciding to do the project. But there’s an element of that that comes from you too – I’ve noticed that you’ve been really active in the comments of your Kickstarter page, why do you think that’s important?

Daniel Warren: I try to answer all questions the second I see them on the comments and messages. I think it’s important because they’re from people who are willing to give us money to make a thing we enjoy- and that’s really awesome. If they’re willing to give us the amount of money they have to pursue something we love, the least we can do is be there for them when they have any questions or concerns.

From the get go we wanted to be as transparent and open about the entire thing as possible, so we try to immediately help with anything we can when a question or problem pops up.

Dave Rapoza: We spend a fair amount of time responding to every imgur comment, reddit, Twitter, and emails. We just wanted to show that we really do appreciate all the feedback and comments. For something like this, it’s the most personal project we’ve ever done, so it means everything.

Daniel Warren: Just from personal experience backing other projects, it always stands out when people treat their thing like a community and let themselves be available to the fans backing it for conversation and communication.

It’s the reason I’ll get behind Yacht Club Games forever. They ran their Shovel Knight Campaign (https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/yachtclubgames/shovel-knight) that way and it made a huge difference to me.

We can’t thank everyone who’s backed our Kickstarter enough honestly. It’s still absolutely crazy to us that this is happening. we owe everything to the fans who did that for us, so of course we’re there for them.

CaptureSteve

Normally, once you blow past your goal, you’re expected to set stretch goals – but you haven’t yet and you mentioned to me before the interview that you weren’t planning to – can you explain that decision?

Daniel Warren: Basically there are two reasons. The first is that the majority of Kickstarter campaigns that fail or under-deliver do so due to over-promising. It’s such a problem that Kickstarter even sends emails to funded projects telling them to be very careful of doing stretch goals, and to avoid them.

The second reason is that we cut the costs of the project so far down already to get the hardcover book to 20 bucks that we aren’t making a ton of profit. What we do make will go directly into finishing the next Steve book, and the one after that.

But stretch goals are very risky, and usually cause projects more harm than good. Since we’re treating this like a preorder for a product that already exists, they don’t make sense for our model, and doing them could potentially create a situation that would delay the book, which we aren’t willing to do

Dave Rapoza: Yea, we didn’t want to over complicate our Kickstarter in any way. It seems that with a lot of Kickstarters they tend to over-promise and end up setting the project back as a whole. We didn’t want to get to a point where we were setting our timeline back so we could send out t-shirts or other rewards. We streamlined our entire approach so that we could make sure that everyone would have their book next year. Also, keeping the book at $20 meant that we weren’t going to be able to offer a lot outside our initial asking goal. We would have had to bump the price up per book to make the stretch goals possible.

Daniel Warren: Our goal is to get a quality thing people want to them cheaply and quickly. Stretch goals seriously inhibit both of those aims.

I also think, on a related note, that stretch goals come from that mentality we mentioned earlier, where a project is in development when people back it, and isn’t done, so adding in some extra in the process can work. But with us, the book’s done already. Meaning stretch goals would have to be physical things that we’d have to ship out so it would cost a lot.

That’s a very prudent decision. I know you said you’ve backed a lot of Kickstarter projects, is this your first Kickstarter project?

Daniel Warren: Yes, for both of us. But a big part of the decision was that I’ve worked on about seven, for other people – miniatures companies, woodworkers, card stuff.

Jeremy Melloul: Got it, so you’ve seen firsthand how Kickstarter projects can be run

Daniel Warren: Yea exactly, I learned a lot about the risks of running this kind of thing from them.

So with this first Kickstarter now definitely successful – it’s not quite over yet obviously and there’s still fulfillment ahead – but is there anything you’d do differently the next time you run a Kickstarter project?

Daniel Warren: Honestly for the next one most of what we did this time will be the same. We want to keep it streamlined and focused so it can be cheap and efficient for backers. The big things that would change would only be tier rewards, cool one off things. This time we did a lunchbox with some special surprises inside, next time we could do a bunch of other stuff. We never want to repeat anything so that each Kickstarter feels unique and one of a kind.

Yeah, it’s obvious you guys both really care about making this special for your backers and want to make sure it’s a positive experience for them – which I think would be a great lesson for other creators looking to run their own campaigns to learn from you. With that in mind, do you have any advice for creators looking to achieve the same six-figure level of success you guys have on Kickstarter?

Daniel Warren: The best advice we could give anyone is to finish a lot of your project on your own, and to be completely transparent about it. Showing people a lot of what you intend to do and having it done for them as a proof of concept helps with the confidence in a project.

Dave Rapoza: Share what you’re doing with them to some extent, let people understand the comic and see if it’s for them.

Daniel Warren: And treating the backers like people who are helping you, and not as customers is also huge. Be respectful and answer any questions anyone has – it should always be a level discussion. I can’t stress enough how dead that model of ‘give me money now and I’ll show you later’ is. You need to prove to people it’s worth helping out.

Dave Rapoza: Also, as far as the six figure thing, I don’t think you can ever know you’ll get that response for sure. Especially if you’re just starting out with your first ever book. For us, if it weren’t for all of the people reposting Steve on reddit and imgur, we wouldn’t be in this position right now. It helps a ton to be involved in whatever community supports you already.

Daniel Warren: It’s all relative. Some projects need more and some need less, so the end number is always relative to what the creator needs.

Dave Rapoza: We honestly didn’t receive very much coverage for Steve Lichman. What little we did was from people we already knew a little bit from our previous work as illustrators. From our own experience, it’s very hard to get comic reviewers to read a book that has the Kickstarter label on it. But thankfully, people already loved Steve enough to get us to the point we’re at now. So, we can’t thank everyone enough for giving us the opportunity to do the thing we really love doing. It’s amazing.

Daniel Warren: Big thanks to the few who did cover it though! It helped immensely. This goes for you as well, Jeremy. Thanks a ton man

Dave Rapoza: Yea, seriously, thanks a lot

Jeremy Melloul: Absolutely, I think what you guys have done is awesome. And I’m looking forward to seeing you do more.


The Steve Lichman Kickstarter ends on October 30th. If this interview was useful to you, show Daniel & Dave your gratitude by backing their Kickstarter!

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/stevelichman/steve-lichman-volume-1

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