Rumor Control: Kickstarter is NOT Banning Retailer Rewards (But Bulk Transactions Are Out)

By Todd Allen

Although ICV2 is reporting that Kickstarter has banned retailer rewards—selling a bundle of copies of your product at a discount—this is not entirely true.  I wrote about the phenomenon of getting retailers in the loop for crowdfunding projects over at Publisher’s Weekly last year, so I did a little digging.  

In a blog post that probably went up after the ICV2 piece ran, Kickstarter spells it out:

As of today, we’re defining “bulk quantity” as a reward that offers more than ten of a single item. We feel that a limit of ten will prevent bulk commercial transactions while still allowing independent stores (the most frequent backers of these rewards) to back projects and share them with their communities.

The interesting thing here is Kickstarter pushing back a little and deciding they don’t want to be a full-on B2B distribution tool.  They’re fine with small businesses chipping to help projects, but this is more of an anti-big box measure by the look of it.

Remember, crowdfunding came out of indie music and indie film.  That’s where this is coming from.  The mentality may apply a little differently in practical ways to the world of comics, where there are relatively few retail chains in the greater scheme of things.  (And those chains could have their branch manager pledge the projects if they wanted the product for individual stores — workarounds exist.)

That said, the rule is only about bulk sales.  Nothing here says you can’t have an in-store signing as a pledge premium or engage retailers.

Keep the 10-copy limit in mind when you’re setting up your Kickstarter.  Past that, proceed normally.

Comments

  1. so it’s not “rumor control”, it’s kickstarter changing their mind after some backlash. And it’s not anti-big box. If a small shop can sell 100 of a person’s comic or book and wants to order that many, what’s their problem with that?? Or does it have to do with Amazon’s involvement in kickstarter?

  2. “…more of an anti-big box measure…”

    I didn’t realize Walmart and Barnes & Noble were stocking up at Kickstarter. Thanks for protecting Mom & Pops, Kickstarter!

  3. horatio weisfeld says:

    @Todd Allen & ComicsBeat:

    I will have to ponder the motives and potential ramifications of this one for a bit but otherwise ..thanks for keeping on top of everything KS.

  4. Todd Allen says:

    Kickstarter really should have just listed a definition of “bulk” when they updated terms in July. That’s where most of the shock is coming from. The involvement of retail is a function of the growth of crowdfunding. The format was envisioned as people supporting individual artists and the scope has certainly widened.

  5. This would kill the Cyberforce relaunch from Top Cow.

  6. So, if I’m following this correctly, you can’t put a reward that’s say 20 copies of your new book for $100 because they don’t want me, a small store, to get 20 copies?

    umm… Why don’t I just set up another Kickstarter account and do 2 pledges of 10?

    Granted, that’s lame and probably not cost effective for a small store to do, there’s no profit in it. I’d really rather give them the hundred bucks and get my stores name in the book. Then I’ll order my 20 copies at whatever deal I can work out and maybe run some sort of ad or promotion or something.

    I just don’t get the need for this sort of rule… /shrug.

  7. Bruce says:

    The point isn’t about money as much as it is about staying true to what the kickstarter community is about, providing money to artists and designers who could not find the capital to complete these works. Kickstarter is not Etsy, or just a straight up storefront.
    Just to be a bit honest, the comics community has kind of subverted Kickstarter into just another social media outlet, which is a bit against the DIY aesthetic. Though this is probably only because printing can be so cost prohibitive and comics take so long to draw. And why it works well for webcomics, since there’s no need for digital incentives.
    Selling a PDF of a book you’ve already drawn for a $5 incentive? I think you can see why this is ridiculous compared to other endeavors, and how this is simply promotion. The same as selling an album that’s already been recorded and edited in a studio as opposed to artists that need this community support to pay for studio time in the first place. Basically, if you’re doing well enough that this restriction is an impediment, sell it on your own site and don’t co-op the kickstarter community to do it for you, you’ve already done it.
    I’m just of the opinion that there’s an unwillingness to fund projects for complete unknowns (fund a page rate for an unpublished or new/indie artist before a page is drawn), ie pay for studio time. Not saying not for good reason oftentimes, but again, that IS the purpose of the kickstarter community. Just look at the films on kickstarter; they won’t get done without support, and often the only real reward is helping someone to create is the first place.

  8. horatio weisfeld says:

    The point isn’t about money as much as it is about staying true to what the kickstarter community is about, providing money to artists and designers who could not find the capital to complete these works. Kickstarter is not Etsy, or just a straight up storefront.

    >>

    @Bruce:

    So why then is KS acting as a funding agent for companies like IDW, who are backed by a huge company worth 100s of millions (billions?) and are already distributed by ComiXology (which, as Mark Waid was good enough to recently point out is, ” just another Diamond” / virtually acts as a digital gate keeper for Marvel, DC and a few others) — why does KS raise for already VERY well financed entities, if KS really wants to be what you say?

  9. Bruce says:

    Well, I’m really just pointing out what they’ve said their intent is, and how I think that they’re going to start implementing policies to be more explicitly clear on some things. I’m pretty sure they only have a staff around ten, and that what I laid out was their stated intent. They certainly didn’t start out or are angling towards becoming a digital storefront, and the community they have is built around that aesthetic.
    Comics are a small part of what they do, so realistically they’re not focused on preventing problems like we’re talking about until it has an impact on the overall community.
    I was essentially stating their intended position, why they taking the step to limit bulk rewards, and how things that move against this grain are likely to see future attempts made to mitigate the abuse of an ideal.
    On an aside, I don’t think IDW is as rich as you say, but nonetheless if comics were a large part of the overall pie I think things would be different when established business try crowd funding business ventures.
    It would be like Justin Bieber saying he won’t release his next album until he gets 10mil in pledges, with each song at a different reward, and it’s the only site for Walmart to place orders. If the point of KS was just to make money for Amazon we would see gimmicks like this already, and since it’s not, I think the community would frown on such exploitation.
    Personally I don’t mind named creators crowd funding projects, and they seem to be doing well; I also understand finished material that doesn’t get picked up demonstrates market value and is then signed and solicited because of the site; it’s just not the original intent.
    It does speak to either a need for non-comics shop venturing people an outlet to access these books, or Diamond needs to run a similar set-up because retailers are failing to order books they assume, through practical experience, won’t sell.
    And really, there’re far more projects that fit the intended KS model than the few one-offs that don’t.
    And finally, it’s not film; people who spend for comics on Kickstarter don’t want to support the art, they use it as a storefront; I think we’ve seen some high profile failures when artists ask for actual production costs like a film would. Work for free, we’ll buy the book; it’s okay in film and music to pay for editing, sound, post- production, maybe even nominal associated costs with touring and festival entry fees, but not for artist to buy ink to make the pages. Not saying they need a page rate, because those associated costs are also, according to Kickstarter not the point or purpose so don’t ak, but really, making comics is hard. You can only pay the artist a rate when they’re also an abstract cost, like renting a recording studio. So yeah, that’s tangentially off topic now, sorry.

  10. horatio weisfeld says:

    On an aside, I don’t think IDW is as rich as you say,

    >>
    @Bruce:

    Really? Is that right? No kidding & ..You don’t say?

    According to Wiki: “In 2007, IDT Corporation purchased a majority interest in IDW Publishing”

    IDT appears to be one of the largest media companies in the world. Imagine what the poor DO YOUR-OWN-THING starving artists at IDT/IDW would do without being able to pull a few more bucks out of generous suckers who fund Kickstarter projects?

    Here’s is a full list of (little) IDT’s holdings – why don’t you take a minute and read background on some of these companies (LOL!) :

    IDT Telecom, Inc.
    IDT Europe
    Expercom pre-paid phone card business
    IDT Telecom Asia Pacific Ltd
    Net2Phone, Inc.
    Union Telecard Alliance
    IDT Spectrum Inc. (wireless)
    IDT Capital (formerly Menlo Park division)
    IDT Carmel
    Zedge Holdings Inc.
    IDT Financial Services – 2Go prepaid cards
    IDW Publishing]
    Jonas Publishing
    Worthwhile Books
    IDT Media
    CTM Media Group
    ettractions
    Liberty Broadcasting
    Horizon Global Trading
    1160 WMET
    Approach

  11. @horatio weisfeld,

    I’m not saying that IDW doesn’t do well for themselves. Just that I don’t think they have access to the capital that their investors possess, nor could I really estimate the liquidity of investors in any of the companies that have holdings in comic publishers. I would naturally assume the opposite, that when you invest in a company you would like a return on said investment, not to be providing capital and assuming risk for them.
    Either way, I see them acting as the printing and publishing avenue for projects, where I assume they at least break even, gain rights to publish more than the KS totals and push books into the direct market, and hopefully earn profit for the creators involved.
    As for them running their own KS campaign, yeah I think that’s unwarranted, and doesn’t serve the intent of KS in the first place. It’d be like Coke running a Kickstarter as a means to determine which novelty flavor of soda they should sell next.

  12. horatio weisfeld says:

    It’d be like Coke running a Kickstarter as a means to determine which novelty flavor of soda they should sell next.
    >>

    @Bruce

    I’m not sure about “their own” –or whatever.

    Why not just cut to the chase: I begin to wonder if we’ll soon be seeing Marvel of DC projects on KS.

    For the moment: Appears we have either people who have deals in place w/ HUGE media companies — and/or – or otherwise, the HUGE MEDIA companies themselves –seeking Kickstarter funds – and I would love to hear any or all explain why they really need “kickstarting” (?)

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  1. [...] reader more incentive to pledge, although there is also a retailer reward (limited to 10 copies, per Kickstarter’s rules), so eventually some folks should be able to buy the book in [...]

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