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 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.
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!