Greg Rucka on Lady Sabre and whether crowdfunding will replace publishers

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Lady Sabre & the Pirates of The Ineffable Aether hit 200% of goal in two days. Now they are currently over $77k and working towards their fourth stretch goal.

What’s all the hubbub about?

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This project was created to fund the printing cost for the first five chapters of the Lady Sabre steampunk-adventure webcomic by Greg Rucka and Rick Burchett, and unlike a lot of projects that are begging for your support, this book is finished.

Lady Sabre’s world is one of danger, adventure, and deception, filled with clockwork monstrosities, dire magic, and noble hearts. It is a world flavored by Victorian England and late 19th century Europe and the Old West. It is a world of cannon fire and steel meeting steel, brass gears meshing seamlessly with steam-driven pistons, a world of passion and humor and a dash of romance.

Someone recently asked me what was my favorite Kickstarter and I couldn’t give a true answer because a majority of the projects are (hopefully) still in the process of being completed. But I have read Lady Sabre and know that this is something I want to own and I can share it with friends who don’t read webcomics.

You can tell the team did their homework because there’s an incentive for everyone. There are a lot of high priced rewards that are going fast. There were only two $600 tiers that allowed you to be written as good or bad character in the story. Some lucky HEROES Con attendee shelled out $500 to have a historic dinner with the creators. It will be the first time ever that Rucka, Burchett and Newsom will be in the same room.

I remember when Rucka announced that he was going to stop working on other people’s ideas and concentrate more on his own, and it seems like it’s paid off. I had the honor to call up Greg and have a conversation about his rapid success, areas where the project could use improvement, and what he’s currently working on.

Here are excerpts from the conversation.

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Henry Barajas: I’m staring at your Kickstarter and you’re at $46,211 at the moment.

Greg Rucka: After I get off the phone with you, Eric and Rick and I have to update the site. It turns out that don’t get to turn it (the project) on and walk away, in fact, you turn it on and have to baby sit it (laughs).

Barajas: What other stretch goals can we expect?

Rucka: Next will be a 32 page moleskin pocket book. It would be made up of essays put together by characters of the comic. It would have drawings and sketches. We are thinking, heck, now make it 64 pages. Now that would be awesome. I don’t know what we are going to fill it with though (laughs).

We had some other things in mind, like we thought about including pages of the script but it would end up being over 400 pages. The price point would have been prohibitive and we would be asking $60-$75 per book, and that’s too much. So if we can reach it, and contact the printer to get revised quotes because our numbers are changing, we are thinking about a soft cover companion script book. Rick suggested to include the sketches book and just combined them. Then it would be annotated project. I have no idea where we are going beyond that. Our first stretch goal, we were thinking, “maybe we will get to that,” but we reached it on the first day!

Barajas: It all happened overnight.

Rucka: Maybe we will do a poll of some sort and ask backers what they want to see for another stretch goals.  We are going to have to go back to our notes and find the best way to make this work. We’re tapering off now, and backers are going to be fewer and fewer. Which is to be expected

I think it’s interesting though that Kickstarter creates an illusion that the money raised becomes the money of the project managers. It isn’t because the money is already spoken for. The higher we go, the higher the fees and taxes become. At every turn we want to be responsible. In the last 24 hours we have seen the places where we have slipped and fallen.

Barajas: What are those places?

Rucka: I need to go back and check the Canadian postage. Some of the rewards tiers work have an option for shipping. Shipping is one of those hidden costs that we had to be aware of because too many Kickstarters have met their goal but ended up in the red because they didn’t account for the shipping. Overseas postage for this book averages out to be $20, but it matters to us that whatever we send we will be able to track and give that information to the backer.

Barajas: Are you only limiting shipping to Canada?

Rucka: No, but if someone in Hong Kong wants the book, that’s $20. You hope that it averages out because some places will cost up to $40 and others $14. Another thing we are looking at is the retailer packages, we have only one available. Its $400 for ten copies of the book—but if the book is selling for $30, that’s $300.

Where is that extra $100?

The books (retailers) will be getting are signed and numbered, and that had to be the equivalent to the signed tier and  included the 30 prints. Some aren’t interested in the prints. Also if you’re going to sell it at your cost, what’s the market going to be?

The problem there is that if you’re offering the retailers a lower rate, you don’t want to compromise the other rewards to the community. It doesn’t serve our campaign if we say we are going to sell it to retailers for $15. These are all things we tried to investigate in the beginning, but there’s a saying, “No plans survive first contact with the enemy.”

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We are also being asked “I’m pledging at X level but I also want to get Y level. Is there a way to do this?” Some of it is a little daunting because we introduced the rare reward level and didn’t think was possible. We are going to offer a prestige copy of the book bound in imitation leather with a ribbon bookmark, and comes with a slip case. It’s supposed to be rare and royal, so it’s a limited number. You can’t do that and go print off another hundred because it will be “kind of rare.”

Barajas: Do you plan on doing another Kickstarter for vol. 2?

Rucka: It will depend on the success of this campaign, meaning that if it’s successful to fund number one. If we make enough on the pledges to cover everything we need to cover, all the shipping and everything we are doing, and if there is enough left over to keep aside for the next trade. Maybe the next one we don’t ask for as much.

Kickstarter isn’t a money making venture, it’s a funding venture. This money is for the production and deliver the things we are offering. This money isn’t for me to say, “hey guys lets go to the movies.” There is a community investment and we have to be responsible to it. It really matters to me to deal honorably. These are people who—on the basis of our reputations and what they have seen—want to give us money for this. It would be the highest honor of insult to not honor and deliver.

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Barajas: Do you think the support is from fans of the web comic or your previous body of work?

Rucka: I have no idea (laughs). I think you’re liable to get both and more. Rick has fans who want this book for his art. Some people haven’t heard of this until now and want to try it. There are backers reports and I can look and see the pie chart that will let you know where the pledges are coming from, within Kickstarter, or Twitter and Facebook.

Barajas: Where are you getting your most support?

Rucka: The majority of support is Twitter. That is my largest reach, personally. There are Facebook people and Tumblr. What I like the most about Tumblr is that it posts to everything.

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Barajas: Should comic book publishers be afraid of Kickstarter and the crowdfunding success of you and your peers?

Rucka: I don’t. I think it absolutely changes the way we can approach these things. Kickstarter gets used in so many different ways, right? We are using this to fund the printing of work that is already created and to distribute that to those people who want it and potentially provide a remainder that can be sold at shows and website for the book. That is traditionally the publisher’s role (laughs). We have just fewer than a thousand backers so that’s roughly around a thousand copies of the book. That is not a terrible threat to a major comics publisher.

The flip side is the danger in that publishing model and the advanced system. I’m leary of a move amongst publishers that would say, “Look. You got a great book and idea there, but instead of advancing the money required for you to finish the work you’re creating, we will then publish and distribute, recoup that advance and share royalties.” Make the talent assume all the risk and crowd fund it and once you do that, they will use that money to print it for you. Wait a damn second, I see the appeal but it will be a very dangerous road to pursue because it’s going to render the publisher irrelevant. Some bright [entrepreneur] will sit up and figure out that all a publisher is just a distribution house, and they will just open their own distribution house then take a fee of number that they distribute (of the project). That’s already being done.

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“Lazarus” Michael Lark and Greg Rucka’s latest project at Image Comics.
Price: $2.99
Diamond ID: APR130420
On Sale: June 26, 2013

Barajas: What is currently on your plate?

Rucka: I’m working on Lazarus that will be out with Image at the end of June. I have been working with Michael Lark, and we are very excited about it. It’s been a long time coming and I hope people like it. It’s different. Lady Sabre is whimsy, delight, while it has some gravitas to it at the moment, the purpose is to delight you. Lazarus is a much darker story, it may entertain you but its purpose isn’t to delight you. The new novel BRAVO INDIGO is with my editors now and I expect to go over notes in the next week. That should be out by summer 2013. Other comic book projects with Dark Horse I can’t announce yet. I’m keeping busy.

Henry Barajas is the co-creator, writer and letterer for El Loco and Captain Unikorn. He has also written and lettered short stories for two successful Kickstarter SpazDog Press projects: Unite and Take Over: Stories inspired by The Smiths and Break The Walls: Comic Stories inspired by The Pixies.  He is the Newsroom Research Assistant for The Arizona Daily Star and was nominated for the Shel Dorf Blogger of the Year award for his work at The Beat.  You can follow him on Twitter @HenryBarajas.

Comments

  1. Al™ says:

    Thank you for posting this, and thank you Greg Rucka for thinking about the details. THAT’S the kind of thinking that makes it worth donating money to a creator. And to hear that you are looking realistically at non-US shipping costs is wonderful. Best of luck!

  2. I’m not going to say it’s rare that a creator “gets” it but Greg Rucka certainly does.
    “Kickstarter isn’t a money making venture, it’s a funding venture.” was the best summation and one that some creators need to understand.

  3. Johnny Memeonic says:

    There’s also an interview with Greg Rucka about his comic on this week’s War Rocket Ajax podcast.

  4. Kind of an interesting era we are in. I think that the kickstarter revolution is more than a passing fad. Artists have always looked for ways to be in control of their own work and this is just another evolution of that. Being able to publish a niche product with 1000 (or less) fans is a huge deal, and I think its great.

    Like Mr. Rucka mentioned, a big hurdle right now is shipping costs and fulfillment. If some of these new services can establish a foothold, its going to be a game changer.

  5. Unrelated, but since many of the readers of these comments are probably people looking to do a Kickstarter and looking for pointers, I’ll give you one of the most important (and often overlooked) tip. Invest in an external lav mic. The audio from your iPhone/ video camera or worse, your computer, pick up everything. This means that it’s not just your voice that your potential investors are hearing, but it’s also the wind, traffic, background noises. Everything. It’s very noticeable, and if you’re asking potential investors to give you money, you want to put your best foot forward. As good as your project might look, people will remember the fact that they couldn’t hear your audio.

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