So Long and Thanks for the Fish, Man #007: Indie Comic Book Publishing 101 Part 7

If you google my name, and “Kickstarter”, “Crowdfunding”, or “Needs Money”, you will undoubtedly find a plethora of articles I’ve penned detailing my complicated thoughts on the matter. But, time has passed, and as such, it’s time within the context of this series to imbue you, the newly-minted would-be comic creator, with my hot take on all of your fancy IndieGoGoKickStartGoFundMe’ing. In short:

Crowdfunding is the blessing and bane of the indie comic movement.

Let’s just go ahead and lay out the forest before inspecting the trees, shall we? The good part about crowdfunding is that it offers the chance to level the playing field when it comes to raising funds before a project is ready to go—allowing successful campaigns to have a honey pot from which to build a budding empire. With the toolsets of all the major players set, crowdfunders enjoy having a working platform to process payments, organize purchasers, and promote their project both socially as well as natively to the crowdfunding site itself. And when a creator is extra good at creating a buzz? Well, sometimes those crowdfunding sites will organically promote those on-the-rise campaigns which can snowball a project from funded to stretch goals in a matter of hours. It’s exhilarating. 

The flipside to that coin however is that a crowdfunding campaign is a massive gamble, a potentially disastrous avalanche of decisions, and a would-be backlog of tasks that an unsuspecting indie publisher may not have originally planned for. I know all of this all to well… as I’m the victim (the idiot) who successfully ran a campaign, and have been buried ever since. A lot of lessons learned, and some I’m still learning. But I digress.

I’d be temped to dump out a listicle of top tips you need to know, but this series of articles is really more of a frank and earnest conversation between us. Let’s keep things on the up and up here; a lot of this may feel like common sense, but it doesn’t hurt us to lay it all out.

For starters? Before you jump on a crowdfunding platform and start building your campaign, thanks in large part to the ecosystem that’s been built by the indie industry, you’ve got a long list of pre-production to handle before you start tearing through your reward list. A good campaign is rooted with a good video. Not a videographer? Congratulations. Either you’re learning how to cut together a working movie using your iPhone, or you’re now IMing 17 of your distant cousins to see if any of them still have that camcorder you messed around with in high school.

And before you yell action and read from those cue cards you made? Well, you better know exactly how much you need to raise, and what you plan to give away as “rewards”. The chance you’ll stumble across the next $10,000 Potato Salad Kickstarter is akin to landing that cherry Quarterback position in the NFL. Ensuring you’re offering the right rewards at the right price point is crucial to your success. Do you offer just a few rewards — making it a simple game of quantity of backers to succeed— or do you create dozens of packages to ultimately squeeze every last penny from potential customers?

And before you start listing out how much the Mega Super Uber Fan Pack will run a would-be backer? Have you actually made a list of would-be-backers? Because far be it from me to be a stickler about this… But with the sheer number of crowdfunded campaigns being launched every day, you are but a pebble in the ocean. The ripples you create will be drowned out by the boulders dropping around you. Unless, of course, you’ve done the work ahead of time to assemble a line of folks ready on day one to get you started. Folks who you’ve done the legwork to know what they want, and what they are willing to spend to get it. And don’t forget that you’ll likely need to have plans to market your campaign religiously for as long as you run it. Did you figure out how to sound engaged and excited and not desperate (unless that’s part of your charm…) several times a day? Are you sure your Facebook and Twitter friends won’t snooze you the seventh time you beg for just one more backer?

And before you start gathering that list of your friends and family to shill to? Well, therein comes the biggest hurdle to leap over. If you read my article last week regarding printing — and we’ll assume you’re reading this week because you want to actually make a comic— you no doubt know the issues you’ll face long before any steps are taken on any platform. Simply put, you need a vendor’s quote, and an idea of how much your overhead will be on your given project. Are you shouldering all the creative work, or will that come from out of pocket? And with your printer quote, did you find out how much it’ll cost to ship those books to you to make backer packages from? Oh, and do you have the mailing supplies to send those rewards to your backers should you succeed?

With all that resting heavy on your shoulders, I sincerely hope I’ve not scared you out of crowdfunding. In fact, I hope I’ve only whet your appetite to give it a go. For you see, if you can navigate through all those waters — selecting your vendors, getting your shipping in order, perfecting your offerings, networking and marketing yourself, filming a great video, and building that visually appealing campaign homepage to drive donations to—you’ll wind up on the other side of the river an independent publisher. Not just a creator.

And truth be told: there’s a metric ton of businesses now built around the crowdfunding industry. Services offering to handle all your shipping. Creating post-campaign storefronts to drive future business or capture late would-be-backers. Selling you lists of potential customers to market to. Selling the ability to blast those folks who you bought from the list. Selling you organic coverage of your campaign, built to look like a blogger has stumbled on to your amazing campaign. Or straight selling you the entire kit and caboodle, for a percentage take on your entire campaign. It’s enough to cross your eyes. The allure of ease-of-use rubbing up against the rhubarb of true real-life experience. It’s all a gamble, kiddo. You just have to choose who will throw the dice and when.

Next week? So, you want to succeed at a comic-con…