Earlier in this series, Jason Enright detailed how to sell your comic once you have it in hand. But how do you finance the publishing? Kickstarter is a powerful tool in the indie comic creator’s arsenal, but only if used right. In this week’s Darby Pops Off, Vinton Heuck, of the funded Kickstarter comic project MABIGON, tells us the dos and don’ts of running a comic book Kickstarter.
Until Next Time,
The fact that you are reading this posting makes it a pretty safe bet that you are considering running a Kickstarter for your own comic book. I suspect you have already read at least some of the information that is floating out there on the web. If not, do so; a simple search on the topic will bring up plenty of articles for you to read regarding general do’s and dont’s.
Okay, now that we have that out of the way… a little backstory: some time ago, Byron Penaranda and I worked-up an epic fantasy story (entitled “Mabigon”) that captured the love we had for armored knights and Arthurian fantasy. But, for years we struggled to find the time to bring it to life, producing a page here and there as our animation day-jobs allowed. Then, one day, we realized that we had nearly sixty pages of the graphic novel drawn and lettered in all its glory. We hired some professional color artists to paint twenty-two of those sixty pages before we ran out of money, at which point we were basically “stuck” for several years until we caught wind of the Kickstarter platform for crowdfunding. Here are 5 steps we took to successfully fund our “baby”:
Step 1— Know how a Kickstarter works! Learn the basics of how to set goals, get the word out, and so on. Look at examples of other successfully funded Kickstarters and use them as a template for your own. What we found was that when it came to a graphic novel, it was important to keep the budget for funding relatively modest. That meant under ten grand. In our case, we asked for just under six thousand. I saw one big-name artist ask for $40,000 to cover his living expenses while he created a whole book, counting on the fact that he had name recognition and a following. The campaign failed. I’ve actually seen guys get significantly more than this in a few cases, and they were relatively unknown, but they had nurtured an audience for their particular book for quite awhile before launching a Kickstarter. Which actually leads to the next step…
Step 2— Build an audience. Unless you are a brand name with a new project, this is essential to your success. In our case, we decided to make a web-comic site, and publish a page a week for about a year. Along with that we created a Facebook page which we updated regularly, and shared it across social media as much as we could. We also did some appearances at local conventions, handing out ashcan books and flyers to get the word out.
Step 3 — Personalize your project for Kickstarter. Research showed that projects with videos showcasing the book AND its creators did better, so we climbed out of our artist shells and let everybody see our ugly mugs as we talked about the project, our goals, and showcased some of the work. We created rewards for pledges that we ourselves would want as fans of the project, and estimated a budget that could deliver on that.
Step 4 – Launch your Kickstarter. This is the scary part! I can’t tell you how long my finger hovered over that “launch” button. You would think I was starting World War 3 the way I was sweating, but really I was just afraid to fail. My suggestion to you is: “don’t be!” What ultimately helped me move forward were the testimonials of other Creators who had to launch more than once before becoming successful. We were lucky enough to get it right the first time, but it is common to have to go back, retool, and try again. Our timeline was the recommended 30 days, and it was both gratifying and a relief to see that first wave of pledges roll in over the first week. There is an often talked about “dip” that happens after that, and we felt it big-time. But, we had a pair of well-timed aces up our sleeve that got us over the finish line. One was lining up our Kickstarter with a table promoting our work at the San Diego Comic Con during the thirty days we were seeking funding. The other, and this was key to our success, was getting a high-profile interview with Newsarama showcasing “Mabigon” and letting readers know about our Kickstarter campaign. By the time our thirty days were up, we’d managed to attain our funding, if just barely. Byron and I were relieved, and validated. We had done it! Little did we know the greatest challenge was still before us.
Step 5 – Delivering on your pledges. We ran into two major problems at this stage. First, an unanticipated percentage of backers’ credit cards were declined when they were run through after funding, so my advice to all of you is that you over-budget an additional ten to twenty percent to account for this discrepancy. Second, the Colorist we attached to our project ended up not working out for us, and this after we had foolishly advanced him a significant amount of money. Although very talented, what he gave us was not only late, but subpar. The end result was that, although we still had enough money to deliver our perks to our supporters, we no longer had enough funds to hire another colorist — which was the primary reason we launched a campaign in the first place! This meant Byron and I had to do the coloring ourselves. Which we did. The finished pages look great, and we are very close to completion, but this has been accomplished while holding full-time jobs, and we are long past the original deadline we initially gave our supporters. We can only hope everyone feels that “Mabigon” was worth the wait.
If you would like to check out our funded Kickstarter, you can find it here: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/924981725/mabigon/description
And you can follow us on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Mabigon/164115973744175?fref=ts
Vinton Heuck’s love of comics has been a life-long affair. Before he could read, Vinton would just look at the pictures, and not knowing any better, would sometimes cut out images of his heroes to play with. Eventually, Vinton became literate, and bought his first comic book — “Amazing Spider-Man” #133 — at a local drugstore. With eager anticipation he rushed home, but — before he could get there — local bullies ripped the prize from his little hands and threw it in a ditch. Vinton has been obsessed ever since, reading any comic he can get his hands on and creating his own to deal with his childhood trauma. He eventually grew up to work as an animation director on “The Batman”, “Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes”, and “Transformers: Prime”, just to name a few. He has also worked professionally as a comic book artist and writer, most notably on “Wednesday Comics” for DC.