The Flaws of Kickstarter, part 1

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by MK Reed

So before anyone gets offended: No one is a bad person for using Kickstarter. It’s a tool in our toolbox for these tough economic times, and it has genuinely helped a lot of creators get their work into print who otherwise might not have been able to do that. For groups working on a project together, even better! As a mechanism for fundraising or pre-sales, when the money’s put in the right hands, we can all feel nice about it. Good for you if you’ve been able to make it work, I am genuinely happy for your success.

That said, Kickstarter isn’t a business model to prop up our industry. It has some inherent flaws that are potentially damaging in the long run. And there are a lot of people that are really reluctant to say anything on the internet, because of responses like those from when Johanna Draper Carlson wrote about it last year and got bashed for it. Let’s try manners this time.

Disclosure: I’ve self-published comics for a decade, edited an all-woman comics anthology for the Friends of Lulu in 2007, and my first GN is being released through First Second this month, (it’s nearly entirely available at saveapathea.com if you feel inclined to read it. /plug). I make some money from comics, though not all of what I live on. I’ve never used Kickstarter, though several friends & acquaintances have. This is a reflection of events over the past few months & a number of articles posted this week such as Meredith Gran’s & Lauren McCubbin’s.

Rob Walker wrote in his NY Times piece about Kickstarter this week, “A project suggests something finite; it is not supporting a career or underwriting a start-up.”

Which makes Kickstarter great for people trying to get one thing printed, but not so great for creators who are trying to build a career around a yearly Kickstarter solicitation.

There are anecdotal blips in the system that are parts of why I don’t care for Kickstarter. Aside from outright scams, like the guy who plagiarized a short film, there’s projects that never mail their rewards to backers; one recently cited on the Ink Panthers podcast was one unnamed creator who was over a year late and had stopped replying to inquiries. There’s the popularity contest aspect to it. There’s the Twitter badgering on day 42 of 60 when funding has already been doubly met on the first day. And these are faux pas & annoyances that I can overlook, but I see deeper problems.

In some Kickstarter projects, it is possible to see the dollar signs flashing in people’s eyes through the computer screen. It may be because some view Kickstarter as a viral promotion tool that’s more effective as guerilla marketing towards their corporately sponsored project. Besides the risk-free money, you have an extra token of internet respectability and public approval to show off to any interested media, who would very much like to write something people will read. There’s temptation to follow the zeitgeist of Kickstarter, even though your product may be a slapped together funnel for money, or just entirely unnecessary.

One of the many lamentable things about the death of the Xeric Grant is that there actually a board of people reviewing the financial needs of the recipient. This was part of Kevin Laird’s mission to help launch young cartoonists’ careers, and it ensured that the prize went to a talent that both deserved and needed the help. True, there’s a project review board at Kickstarter, but it doesn’t look over anyone’s tax return. (The Xeric did.) On top of that, you had to have a completed work for the Xeric, to make sure that you were dedicated enough to the project to see it through on your own. You had to already be all in to do it.

THE PART ABOUT WOMANTHOLOGY:
They also ensured that publishers got just the right amount of money to put out their book.

Even when we start out with the best of intentions, sometimes we make a mess of things. Renae De Liz is awesome for putting the book together & doing all the work on getting the word out, etc. Her project earned over four times what it asked for. $109,301, 2001 backers, which is STAGGERING. It is great to see the support. For $16,000 more, she could reprint the giant KRAMERS. For “a 300 page, 9×12, hardcover, full-color book,” with now 5500 copies, Renae has more than enough cash, and I hope the project is successful for her. I also hope she considers doing the following:

1.) Getting a new quote from some different printers. (This is just prudent, that price seems way high, even for color.)
2.) Using media mail when possible for backers.
3.) Offering an honorarium to the contributors.

On number 3, there are people who are entirely okay with their share going to charity. I also have no doubts that at least some of them really could use a little extra cash, but won’t comment on anyone’s blog. Let them replace the bristol they used, or pay their phone bill. Being in the book will get them a little attention from those that read it, but money ACTUALLY HELPS them. Offer them like $50, for 140 creators that won’t even dip the total under $100k, or make it $100 for their submissions, and they can actually do something with it. And don’t stigmatize anyone who asks for it or needs it. If they’d just met their fundraising goal, this would not be an issue, but they have quadrupled it. The stakes have changed. There is room in that budget to cover the costs, pay the ladies something for their work, and still donate money to charity.

I am convinced that this money could better benefit these artists. It will be a lovely book, no doubt, and it’s a nice gesture to support ladies in the industry in a time when that’s a concern. As someone who’s put out an anthology of women cartoonists, I have some knowledge of the marketplace’s interest in anthologies of women cartoonists, or any cartoonists. Someone might get their first comics gig out of it, like Raina Telgemeier did nearly a decade ago when Scholastic saw her piece in the Friends of Lulu’s second anthology, BROAD APPEAL. Mostly anthologies are ignored. Occasionally, there’s FLIGHT or something with a strong theme that resonates with readers, but usually anthologies aren’t big sellers. Because unless you’re a scout who reads everything to learn where new talent is coming from, if a book isn’t ABOUT something, it’s difficult to get someone to pick it up. You can pretty much give it away, but beyond a seriously devoted core audience, there’s no demand.

It’s nice to be printed, but if you’re starting out, more people will see your work on the web where it’s free than in a bound dead tree version they have to go find and pay for. All you need to get going is some retweets on an awesome link. This money could be split up into 10-20 chunks of a couple thousand dollars, and some talented ladies could buy a few months to work on a masterpiece, promote it through the web, and see who comes calling. I got a break like this through the PAPERCUTTER anthology, and it changed my life. (Granted, that was print & but also 4 years ago & a different market.) Anyhow, I got a more talented artist to illustrate the story while my art was still developing, and a little money so I could buy some time to focus on working on my comic instead of working for crap wages and being exhausted constantly doing everything on my own. This is the path to success walked by every woman and man working in the industry today.

If you want to support some young budding creators of either gender, buy a book from that creator. Buy it from them, donate to their webcomic, help them pay rent and buy food so they can sit at their desks and make something new and wonderful for you. Buy it in your local comic shop so they stay in business and don’t fuck them over to save three dollars with Amazon, Destroyer of Jobs.

The last problem I have with Kickstarter for this part is with Amazon taking a cut of Kickstarter projects. I lost a job in the height of the recession, like thousands of others are to this day, in part because of people that would come to browse in the store I worked in, would even ask for help from the staff, and tell us when we were done telling them about how cool this comic is, “Awesome, but I’m gonna go buy it on Amazon because it’s cheaper.” Amazon prevents money from entering your local economy. It deprives your state and city of sales tax. It bullies the publishing industry if it doesn’t get what it wants. It kills jobs. And it’s made somewhere from $2.4 to 4 million from Kickstarter account fees. Awesome. I get that it’s a business and they’re not obligated to do anything for anyone. But I have a personal rule not to buy anything from them, and it sucks to see them getting a piece of projects that could go to actually support artists.

Part 2: why Kickstarter isn’t a substitute for the old ways

Comments

  1. Jackie says:

    Love this article, and agree for the most part. The only part I disagree with is the responsibility of the fundraiser to do anything with extra funds raised. Kickstarter shows people who view the site how much is raised. THEY know they’re putting extra money into something that already is fully funded, and choose to do so ANYway. Shouldn’t then determine what the fundraiser does with those extra funds. I agree as an artist that it would be nice to see $ go to the artists, but it’s silly to put that as a problem with Kickstarter when it’s more of a moral position toward the fundraiser rather than the system in question.

  2. These are some very good points.

    I tend to be be supportive of Womanthology because they have been very open and transparent throughout.

    While they had a “wishful thinking” plan in place in case they had a huge response (the extra unlocked rewards) I don’t think that they were seriously expecting to raise more than $100,000.00

    Your suggestions seem smart and certainly in what she has put on line, Renae De Liz knows that she is overestimating some costs. This is smart. But she has also acknowledged that she is overestimating the amounts deliberately and will adjust. Again, that’s smart and better than underestimating and running out of money.

    The remarks about Amazon are just silly. They built a better mouse-trap; they are making something that was impossible, possible. Begrudging them for the relatively small percentage that they charge for that is unreasonable.

    (My biggest gripe with KickStarter is that they should accept Paypal donations.)

  3. legitsquare says:

    You lost me at the end with the Amazon part.

    that seems like you’re dealing with your own personal issues/gripes but I fail to see how it’s a legitimate flaw with Kickstarer.

  4. Justin H. says:

    No one is a bad person for using Amazon.

  5. Agree on Amazon. They are offering a competitive service and I assume kickstarter looked at all providers and the fees involved.

    Google, Paypal, and Square (i think that’s the name) all offer similar service and all charge fees.

    You can’t expect a for-profit business to underwrite a business like kickstarter unless kickstarter were a 501-3(c), and they aren’t afaik. I’m pretty sure kickstarter gets a cut, so they are not altruistic in this either.

  6. I ran a successful Kickstart campaign a few months ago– successful in the sense that it was funded, tragic in how far it set back my project. What isn’t mentioned is that running a Kickstarter campaign is a lot like doing wind sprints right before a marathon. When you’re trying to get a comic published, you have to take a long view and be steady, calm, and persistent. When you’re running a Kickstarter, you have to be overly-enthusiastic and constantly working your social networks. That is simply exhausting.

    On the other hand: I was recently picked up by a publisher. Would I have anything to show them if I didn’t get self published? Keep in mind I live well below the poverty level and have no credit, so it was simply the only way I’d ever get published.

  7. jaroslav hasek says:

    amazon is great. why should you or the store you worked in get any money for selling a book instead of the author? amazon helps squeeze out middlemen, which sucks for the middlemen but is good for the consumer and the creators. more people should use amazon instead of going to book stores. it would help more artists.

    and if amazon was getting rich of kickstarter i can guarantee there would be scores of competitors out there. whats the barriers to entry for making kickstarter clones on the internet? my guess is amazon is subsidizing the operation.

    interesting opinion and i dont mean to dump on you but there really is nothing wrong with amazon or any other online retailer. and i neither work nor am invested in amazon the company in any way shape or form (besides being a amazon prime subscriber).

  8. This money could be split up into 10-20 chunks of a couple thousand dollars, and some talented ladies could buy a few months to work on a masterpiece, promote it through the web, and see who comes calling.

    Or the money could be used to set up a stable and lasting company that these creators could use to publish their master pieces without having to wait for anyone to come a calling, maybe?

    Not trying to cause trouble. I did donate to the project and I think there is a lot of unnecessary snark aimed at Renae De Liz over this, like she should have known she was going to raise over a $100,000 with this project. But I believe she is trying to think of the best ways to use this money properly and to best serve female creators. Sure, who couldn’t use a couple of thousand in this economy. But if the end goal is being a publish comic book creator (which might not apply to everyone on the creator list, I know)having an imprint all their own that circumvent other publishers who wrongly think they aren’t “the best talent” might suit them better in the long run. Just throwing that out there as something to think about.

    Also, yeah, your Amazon rant was a little bitter. Understandably bitter, but bitter nonetheless. One correction though, Amazon does charge tax if you live in certain states, such as New York. Just an FYI.

  9. This article is fantastic.

    Amazon pays ZERO dollars in taxes and skirts around state sales taxes, so not only are they undercutting artists and publishers they are screwing over your country and your state. If you are defending Amazon you are defending the exploitation of your community and supporting the recession that is going on right now, laughing at our current unemployment situation. “Competitive?” please. Maybe their puppeteering hand has a pleasant tickling effect in your neck. Enjoy sitting isolated in a room clicking away your life.

    BUT this article is about kickstarter and it’s right on the money. These three suggestions are simple, easy and would be great for everyone involved.

    Despite all the kickstarter dust kicked up around this anthology, it is sure to be fantastic and I can’t wait for it. I’d feel so much better buying it knowing that everyone involved was truly appreciated. The artists agreed to do it for free in the first place and I trust their judgment and dedication

  10. Travis says:

    So I should feel bad about buying an HDMI cable on Amazon for less than 5 bucks when Best Buy wants to charge like $40? Hey I don’t.

  11. legitsquare says:

    Sabin you’re a nut job. Go peddle your crap elsewhere. We’ll still be here when you get back to the real world.

  12. Great column. I occasionally shop on Amazon and always feel guilty about it. Sure the prices are great … but this is money that I once spent in my community at local comic and bookstores.

    What happens when you start sending more and more money to an out-of-state corporation? Your local businesses suffer. Stores close downtown. These aren’t rich, successful business people we’re talking about; they are middle-class members of your community.

    And, yes, Amazon does not pay sales tax at all on the items they sell and this has resulted in states (I’ve seen it happen here in Vermont) getting less revenue because this corporate giant falls in a legal grey area. Less revenue from sales taxes means reduction in state services (less people getting health care, less money for state colleges, less money to get food and other services to needy residents) or an increase in other taxes to make up the differences.

    So, please … continue shopping at Amazon if you want. But be aware that, until these issues are addressed, each purchase damages your community.

  13. I buy a lot of things from Amazon, but if I go to a local business, am exposed to something I wouldn’t have known about otherwise thanks to the efforts of their employees, I’ll buy the product from the local business. They are providing a service, and should be rewarded for their efforts.

    I recently bought new speakers for my home stereo system. I did a lot of research online, determined which models I was interested in, but still faced a decision. I was able to go to a local dealer and listen to the various models in person. Now, I could have left the store and ordered them from Amazon, and saved a bit of money. But, if not for the presence of the local store, I could never have listened to the speakers before I bought them, and that sort of service was worth paying for.

  14. Not here to pile on Renae. But that is more money that I earned in the whole decade of my 20’s. Offering a tiny sum of money as a token gesture seems like the right thing to do.

    Travis, Best Buy is the same beast, f’em. You might actually get a better deal on cables at B&H Photo though.

    Jaroslav, When I asked someone about their tastes, picked a book off the shelf, told someone how great it was and why they would like it, and got them really excited about something they had no idea existed prior to me doing that? I did that every ten minutes at my job, for authors people hadn’t heard of yet. Everybody in my store did. There are thousand of books that you hear about because booksellers read them, love them, recommend them, or just put them face out somewhere, and they build steam before they become top Amazon picks.

    No one’s a bad person for using Amazon. You’re entitled to shop wherever you please and they have enticing deals so it’s easy to see the lure. But Amazon is a really destructive company for real-world booksellers, especially small operations.

  15. “legitsquare” Thanks for the personal attack. Way to class up the joint.

  16. Torsten Adair says:

    1) Amazon is actively fighting paying all sales taxes. They’ve used shell companies to avoid taxation.

    “New York holds no special sway over the world’s largest online retailer. Amazon is following the state’s tax collection law, the first in the nation, for one reason only — so it can challenge the validity of the statute in court.”
    http://articles.latimes.com/2011/jul/19/business/la-fi-amazon-taxes-20110719

    They have shut down their associates programs in states with online sales tax laws, even famous associates like Roger Ebert.

    Two possible solutions:
    * there’s a national tax. (Yeah, a national sales tax just like Canada and Europe. The Tea Party will describe it as a socialist plot and eviscerate it before it gets out of committee.)

    * Communities get smart and tax the delivery companies, all of whom have a physical presence where they deliver. That tax would then flow backwards, getting tacked/taxed on to the shipping cost calculated at the payment screen.

    2) “They built a better mouse-trap”… and you’re the mouse. “Look, here’s some tasty cheese! It’s free!” With less sales tax collected, your local government either cuts back on services (such as fire and police protection, libraries, and schools), or they find things to tax which cannot be bought online, like the house you live in, the gasoline you buy, or personal income. Or find new items to tax.

    3) “why should you or the store you worked in get any money for selling a book instead of the author?” The author gets royalties from the wholesale sales, not from the sales from stores or online sites. Same goes for the publisher. It doesn’t matter what the customer pays, the publisher and creator(s) have gotten paid. You steal a book from a store, they still get paid.

    By supporting the store, you support the comics community in your locale.
    It might be nothing more than a place for fans to get together and talk.
    Or that store might host a weekly jam session allowing amateur creators to learn from more talented individuals.
    Or they might host workshops, or store signings.
    Or that store owner might be a resource for the local media, who can evangelize over the latest comics zeitgeist.
    Which in turn creates more comics fans.
    You’ve seen how much press Free Comic Book Day generates.
    Remove those stores, and how much coverage does the local media give comics?
    How much exposure do potential fans get to comics?
    Who mentors and cultivates those new fans, suggesting titles to read? (Yeah, sure, chat rooms… have you seen how judgmental and intolerant fanboys can be? Newbies will run screaming from the medium!)

    4) And what affect do those empty storefronts have on the local community? We’ve already seen the havoc Wal*Mart wrecked on small town Main Street. The same thing will happen to big city real estate. The creative class views the city as backward or offering less opportunity, and the best and brightest move elsewhere, taking their entrepreneurial spirit elsewhere.

    And no store means:
    no sales tax
    no payroll tax
    no property tax
    no growth
    more unemployment or underemployment
    less disposable income
    which creates less sales tax revenue…

    (Yes, I shop on Amazon. But not stuff I can get here in New York. Usually it’s a used book, and most of that money is going to a local retailer somewhere.)

  17. legitsquare says:

    See, by evening mentioning Amazon, which had nothing to do with your initial thesis you’ve let the conversation totally get away from you.

    Bizarrely it’s morphing into an “I’m more liberal and better than you cause I don’t shop on Amazon” pissing contest.

  18. Hi MK–I agree on subjective grounds with some of your complaints, but they’re subjective complaints. As you say, Kickstarter is a tool–when someone starts banging on nails at 7 in the morning, do you blame the hammer? Or do you blame the person using the hammer?

    It makes sense that as Kickstarter–and funding platforms like it–become more ubiquitous, there’ll be more backlash, but your post seems to presuppose a lack of sophistication on the part of the backers. I’ve backed campaigns before, and I knew going in that I was taking a risk. I chose to take that risk because either a) I believed in the work, or b) I believed in the person doing the work. It’s true that people do bad things, or set up vanity projects that seem ridiculous, but you know what, I don’t fund those. I look at the information, weigh the risk, make an informed decision.

    I’ve benefited from Kickstarter, both as a past user and a funder, and I plan to use it again. I would suggest it to other people, depending on their needs and expectations. And when someone I know successfully funds a project, I’m excited for them. When dumb projects get funded, sure it’s a waste of someone’s money, but it’s not my money. People buy dumb stuff all the time. People buy fancy cars and bling and Kenny G CD’s every day that I might think they don’t need, but it’s not my business what they need.

    I guess when people go out of their way to decry Kickstarter–as Johanna did last year, and to which I was part of the outcry against, rude or not: http://comicsworthreading.com/2010/06/22/why-i-wont-be-giving-to-kickstarter-projects/ , I have to wonder why? Is it adherence to established models in comics? I definitely agree that a Xeric would be much better, and Peter Laird has an impeccable reputation not only for picking good projects, but as you say, picking projects in NEED. But isn’t that what we’re doing when we fund a Kickstarter? Isn’t that what the people donating to the Womanthology project were doing? Didn’t they see a need that they wanted to address? We lack Peter Laird’s resources, training, and acumen, but we can do something, can’t we?

    Or is it, as Johanna suggested in her post, that Kickstarter exists without the framework of “gatekeepers” our industry has? Thus allowing potentially below-par work to be published? She’s right, it does go outside of that system, but so does most of the internet, and our industry is not exactly famous for its sterling “no crap” record of published, even popular, work. I think it’s great that you have a book published by First Second, but not all of us have that opportunity, and there are less book deals all the time for comics–is it wrong to use other tools besides the established publishing industry?

    To be fair to Johanna, she did publish a followup post in which she more or less recanted her position: http://comicsworthreading.com/2010/06/24/more-on-kickstarter-i-was-wrong/

    I just don’t get what the hubbub is about–your points seem to add up to “Kickstarter is annoying,” which is fair. I definitely get annoyed having to hear about someone’s campaign 3 times a day on Twitter, but then again I can just unfollow that person and the noise immediately stops. I think it’s easy to find things wrong with something like Kickstarter and the whole idea of “crowdfunding”, and there are a lot of things wrong, too. But there are also a lot of things RIGHT, and there are a lot of people right now making and publishing comics right now that might not be able to otherwise. Do we have to throw out the baby with the bathwater?

  19. No, anonymous “legitsquare” it has resulted in you making personal attacks in lieu of any semblance of a well-formed argument. This has nothing to do with politics, this has to do with the way comics are funded and the changing business models that are being implemented online.

    You’ve degraded any legitimate point you may have had with cowardly name-calling and illegitimate, anonymous attacks. This discussion is about WOMANTHOLOGY and its fund-raising so quit trolling, leave your personal attacks and flacid political whining where it belongs.

    If you’re thinking about Womanthology than say something about the article. Quit trolling for political banality.

  20. The Beat says:

    Sabin and Legitsquare, take it to the schoolyard.

  21. Heidi, you mean Peter Laird, not Kevin Laird. You’re confusing him with his erstwhile TMNT collaborator Kevin Eastman.

  22. The Beat says:

    And Dustin: re your comments. I do agree the crowdfunding aspect of Kickstarter is here to stay, but I think the current flowing coffers are also more of a trend. The bottom line is that like everything else it will evolve.

  23. Dustin, I think what the Xeric grant did that kickstarter can never replace is give money to creators who wouldn’t get the exposure that a kickstarter campaign necessitates. I don’t know too much about the ins and outs (and it ultimately does seem like a great idea) but I think it would be awesome for kickstarter to champion things much like the Xeric grant did. Perhaps pick a project of the month that they would promote gratis.

    I don’t think we should throw the baby out at all, as many awesome things get funded on kickstarter… but when huge sums of money get injected into projects, the prospects change. And I think kickstarter is only going to get bigger as successes like this happen.

  24. @The Beat: I definitely agree that there’s a Kickstarter “bubble” in effect.

    @Sabin: Kickstarter already does spotlight certain projects, although from what I hear maybe you’re more likely to get spotlighted if you’re getting a ton of donations, or maybe a high percentage over your initial goal? But that’s total hearsay, from a Kickstarter panel I moderated at HeroesCon in June.

    I definitely DEFINITELY agree that there are potential problems with Kickstarter, but there are similar problems with lots of things. And there are lots of problems with publishers as well — I think in comics our industry seems bent somewhat toward the idea of “breaking in”, and it blinds us sometimes to the idea that getting a book published is not the end, and often not even much of a beginning. Look at the Tokyopop contracts, the OEL artists who have their books tied up with a company that never published them and then went out of business.

    I’m much more afraid of signing a bad contract with a Tokyopop, or having my Image book get published to crickets because they’re busy promoting the new Robert Kirkman book, than I am trying and failing, or having my $20 pledge wasted on a bad project, with Kickstarter. And I’m speaking as someone who is VERY lucky, not only in terms of industry contacts and know-how, but in having a force like Anne Koyama in my life.

  25. jaroslav hasek says:

    amazon definitely pays federal corporate tax. there’s no legal no way to avoid that. they pay very little state sales tax though, which i think is great. if you feel bad about not paying more taxes to your state, all governments accept donations, so feel free to make up for any lost tax revenue that way.

    amazon also does way more propping up fringe interests and the ‘long tail’ merchandise then any brick and mortar retailer ever did. that’s practically their reason for existing.

    you can rail away on amazon but they are one company that is part of a technologically driven trend. if its not them its someone else. and the trend is a more direct route from consumer to creator, which means less dollars for retail stores, publishers and everyone else in between.

    apologies for contributing to the threadjack, but you’re not fucking over anyone by buying something from amazon, destroyer of retail ales clerk jobs and buggy whip manufacturers.

  26. Yes, Anne Koyama solves everything!

    We need to clone her immediately!

  27. Great article MK, both parts. Thank you for taking the time to write it. I wish there was something constructive I felt like I could offer here beyond gratitude, but I’m coming up empty.

  28. I guess when people go out of their way to decry Kickstarter–as Johanna did last year, and to which I was part of the outcry against, rude or not: http://comicsworthreading.com/2010/06/22/why-i-wont-be-giving-to-kickstarter-projects/ , I have to wonder why? Is it adherence to established models in comics?

    Thats it exactly.

    None of them seem to think, “I’m talented and saavy enough, and the tools exist, that I don’t need to let any company, be it Amazon or Oni, get a financial cut of my hard work.”

    But let’s face it: 90% of “indy” comics are just resumes for a Spider Man caretaking job.

  29. Dustin, Kickstarter is good for paying for one-off projects, and as a preorders mechanism, fine. But because I would like to see more creators have publishing opportunities like I’ve had, I’d rather see more investment in a system that benefits a lot of people and gives them genuine help from voices of experience, rather than vanity projects. Even if they’re good, well-intentioned vanity projects from nice people. I’ve done my own vanity project. If I could do it over, I’d do a smaller run and keep most of the money I spent.

    They don’t always, but when publishers do it right, like Koyama Press or Secret Acres, we get some awesome comics. They know the process, unlike a newbie, and they risk something putting out the work. The no-risks thing is really a big deal, risks make you evaluate your decisions. I’m really glad you’ll have the opportunity to work with Anne, I think it will push your work in a great direction, and possibly in four years I’ll be congratulating you for your awesome graphic novel.

    Part of my beef is that in the excitement to try and grab some money, people are putting their energies into publishing projects that are better off printed as a mini or just thrown up on the internet. What a few years ago someone would have been content to do as a mini now gets overproduced, because free money! And whatever, like you said, people can buy whatever stupid shit they want, but if they put more time into making awesome comics, and refining their work until it’s absolutely killer, it’s the most productive thing they can do to improve their career.

  30. I don’t think that Kickstarter as a tool to fund projects replaces publishers though–I print my own comics, I use Kickstarter, and I have a publishing relationship with Anne for certain projects, based on whether or not they fit in with her overall direction and aesthetic or not.

    Getting something published after a lot of hard work is great, and working with an editor is great, but those things can also be terrible. There are prestigious publishers with talented staffs that put out terrible, dull, trifling books alongside their really amazing books. We live in a marketplace where people are doing it themselves more and more — you’re absolutely right that these “vanity projects” (super loaded term) can occasionally be terrible, but the marketplace is sophisticated enough to make that choice itself. People choosing to fund projects they want to support or would like to see is the natural evolution of a market that’s more interconnected than ever, with more connections than ever. Next year maybe it’ll be something else–we’ve certainly seen the big publishing boom of a few years ago peter off.. maybe these big publishing houses aren’t always the best fit for every project. Maybe these “vanity projects” (terrible term) are interesting enough to a segment of the market that they choose to help bring them to fruition.

    Take Etsy, for example — a place where you can sell your handmade earrings, or your fancy journals, or your prints or your whatever.. your small-market item, your “vanity project.” If you buy a fancy necklace and it breaks, or the seller never ships it to you, or whatever, that doesn’t mean that the well is poisoned. Etsy is a middleman, the same as 80% of the internet — it’s a device that’s there to connect people, and it derives income from facilitating that connection. So is Ebay. So is Kickstarter. So is Indiegogo, Amazon, etc.

    So is this site. The fact that that Womanthology thing could potentially go in a weird direction, given all that money and the danger that money brings with it, is definitely a place where we’re seeing the edges of Kickstarter’s most efficient, and maybe most appropriate use. But again, it’s just the middleman — Renae De Liz posted all the parameters, made her video, got celebrity supporters, she did the work, and it exploded. The various funders looked over all that material and decided “yes, okay, here’s my money.”

    I guess I just wonder why? Like, why does this bother you? As stated, it seems more like you find Kickstarter, and crowdfunding in general, objectionable on a mostly aesthetic level. Or maybe it’s a freebie for people who’ve not put in the YEARS of hard work you have to get Americus published with a reputable company, and probably the best possible company to bring that book to market. But Kickstarter is no different than Greg Means publishing people that he likes in Papercutter, or Anne Koyama publishing me — all three cases are examples of people committing their own resources because they feel a connection to a creator or to work; it’s just that with Kickstarter, there are many many “publishers.”

  31. Thinking about it while making dinner, I want to be clear that I’m a fan of you and your work of course MK; I worry that I’m coming off a little stridently here. I just feel like Kickstarter and the specter of “bad” or “vanity” Kickstarters get lumped together and hated on, usually by people who aren’t using it or don’t need it.

  32. Seriously, for me it’s just my petty jealousy that bothers me about Kickstarter. I wish I had more fans, a “cult of personality,” i.e. art patrons, that would help me fund my projects. I agree that some of what’s funded by Kickstarter isn’t great, but at least these folks are able to get people excited enough to be interested in their projects! It gives artists the opportunity to learn more about publishing, much like what Xeric did.
    Comics is a teeny world. There are very few readers interested in paying for a comic, even if Fantagraphics or D&Q is behind it. It’s not like artists published by the even smaller presses are making money to brag home about, and it’s not like the small presses are making the big bucks. 10 more publishers with good taste aren’t going to appear overnight. To get a couple hundred bucks that allows you to pay some bills, to see a couple dozen people have a little faith in your project…I think that’s a very valuable moment for a cartoonist.

  33. Greg didn’t just publish me, he put in two or three years of work revising the script and reviewing the pages. He didn’t hold back when he thought something was weak, and he’d tell me. It made the book stronger. And it made me a better writer. And I see it now when work hasn’t gone through this process. It’s weak. I think a long term extrapolation of that would be damaging for our community, because we need to expand beyond the current audience to thrive financially, and that won’t happen with a bunch of stunted creators.

    I wish there were more editing in corporate publishing too, and that they treated everyone right, but I can’t really plan Scholastic’s budget for them. But literally anyone can do Kickstarter. That doesn’t mean they’re ready for it. This is something that they should hear, because not getting your financial support sucks, but getting it without the support you need the most bungles a potentially great opportunity.

    Unlike other fundraising platforms, there’s a faddish aspect to Kickstarter. And it’s a little too easy for someone who’s not ready to pick up the tools without a teacher.

    AND there’s this shouting down each time Kickstarter gets brought up like this. Some of us have Kickstarter fatigue, and have had it for awhile. I would not have written this for the Beat if I hadn’t had this conversation a dozen times in the past month alone & suspected that a lot of people feel the same way but don’t want to talk about it. Why do I have to love it?

    I’m glad when I see people funding smaller projects like Anita’s (http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1266444946/syndicate-product-zine-20-the-meta-comics-issue) because I know she’d do it anyway out of love. She’s also doing it at a scale that’s completely reasonable. But that’s something that should be considered carefully by people thinking of doing larger projects, and that won’t happen when every time someone offers a valid criticism it gets shouted down. Let people judge based on the good AND the bad, and stop demanding that the bad parts be overlooked. They’re just as much a part of it as the good.

  34. I don’t think you’re being shouted down, MK. It sounds like your objections are “I’m tired of hearing about Kickstarter” and “everyone needs to approach publishing the way I do.” I’m sure there’s more, but that’s what sticks out in your post, and in your follow up comments. While the Kickstarter fatigue is understandable, it’s your implication that artists need the approval and grooming of a publisher that I find troubling, almost to the point of being mildly offensive. That’s not to say a person couldn’t BENEFIT from that attention, but not everyone will. Not everyone NEEDS it, not everyone wants it, and it seems like a myopic position to take.

    It’s worth mentioning that there are a lot of people who’ve done transformative work in comics without the benefit of a publisher. Dave Sim, Jeff Smith, Terry Moore, etc. etc. They just did it, although with their own money and their own time and hard work. Is Jeff Smith a stunted artist because he didn’t have the benefit of publishing Bone with a big publisher and working with an editor?

    I get that you have Kickstarter fatigue, and that you’re bored with this fad, and you have the right to complain about it, for sure. But when you complain in a public forum, and from a rhetorical position that’s not far from “enough about Kickstarter, I’ve got a real publisher now” it invites disagreement. I think there are a lot of problematic things about Kickstarter, but your essay comes off more as hating than anything, disclaimer or no.

  35. You are overlooking one detail; on Womanthology young artists get a chance to work with industry veterans!

    I would pay to be allowed to collaborate on that. An internship of sorts.

  36. first: who is this mysterious Anne Koyama that’s supposed to be the big saint for publishing artists? What has she done to merit this? Serious question.

    second: I hate AMazon’s involvement in this because it means I, as a non-American artist cannot start a Kickstarter project.

    Third: the great thing about Amazon? They have everything I want to buy in stock. Even back catalogue stuff! Try finding a good book store who can match that.

  37. Mario Boon here’s an answer to “who is Annie Koyama?”
    “In addition to publishing books, Koyama Press funds such diverse projects as zines, comics, artist designed t-shirts, installations, photo montage work, print folios, letterpress cards and more.”
    http://koyamapress.com/

    Bottom line, she’s good people.

  38. Dustin, I think another way to think about this is that Kickstarter is focused on singular projects whereas publishers (loosely) maintain a stable of artists. Publishers of comics are not in it for the money (or else they’d go into something lucrative) they are in it primarily for their love of comics. They do, however need to make a profit to survive. Most successful publishers are able to have at least one project that brings in the revenue to publish other less successful works. There are projects that publishers love and want to foster but may not be lucrative. Maybe something off the beaten path, or a little too arty for the casual fan. Occasionally these are runaway hits but publishers can’t be speculators. They do what they can to put out what they love and struggle to survive.

    Since kickstarter is in its infancy, this hasn’t happened… but with the success of Womanthology I think it is headed in this direction: the more popular artists can raise more money, or say even popular projects or books that aren’t necessarily done by popular artists. This means the project is a guaranteed money maker if successful and if it’s not being put out by a publisher, then that money isn’t going to help other projects that might fail on kickstarter.

    This bottom-up approach seems great in theory. But with success being determined outside of the publisher/consumer sphere publishers are going to have to focus more on projects that will make money. Amazing works and works that make money are not mutually exclusive by any means… I think they actually have more cross over in comics than in any other medium (it used to be film).

    People vote with their pocketbooks, true. But I’ve read some amazing comics that deserve a chance to exist even without turning a profit. I strongly feel that Kickstarter will destroy that chance. Perhaps not today or tomorrow, but in a climate where publishers can’t afford to take any risks, I feel as though it will in fact happen.

    Also Dave Sim DID have an editor; Diana Schutz as well as his ex-wife Deni who published the comic. Diana stuck around until the infamous tangents (but didn’t leave necessarily because of his writing but his behavior around this time towards friends of hers). I don’t know about Jeff Smith, he’s a comics genius so all bets are off!

    I just see real repercussions to the continuing success of Kickstarter, and this piece as much more than a case of simple “sour grapes”. Thanks for all your thoughts though! I really appreciate it.

  39. “Publishers of comics are not in it for the money (or else they’d go into something lucrative) they are in it primarily for their love of comics.”

    Respectfully, I disagree. Any for-profit publisher, by definition, is in it “for the money.” Whether or not money is their prime motivator will vary, and for some publishers it is way down on the list after work they feel compelled to promote and support–Dylan Williams, Anne Koyama, and Chris Pitzer all spring to mind right away.

    I think you have it backwards–I think Kickstarter is there FOR those projects that deserve to exist without turning a profit, and publishers are there for larger or meatier projects. For instance, my Kickstarter was for an 8-page newspaper, which cost about $1000 to make after fees and everything, and which I sold for $1 apiece. It was something I never could have afforded by myself, and for which making a profit from has never been a priority. I have given hundreds away to shops to sell for their own profit, or to readers as part of a larger purchase–essentially it’s an 8-page calling card/introduction to my work. It’s exactly the sort of thing that a publisher wouldn’t do, at least not for a buck a pop–but because of Kickstarter and the support of people who wanted to help bring it to fruition, I made something that brought me to the attention of Anne Koyama, who later that same year published the first volume of my Diary Comics collections.

    So in my case Kickstarter gave me a means to attract the attention of a publisher. That’s my own experience, and others will differ.

  40. Sabin, Thank you, that’s a good way to put it.

    Dustin, Jeff Smith has let some of the Bone strips he did in college float around, and they do not look like the first issue of Bone. He took a decade to get good to tell the story he would devote a chunk of his life to telling so that it’d be as awesome as possible. He also has a wife Vijaya that you’ll see credited in the issues & books, though I can’t find a copy here, but as I recall, the books weren’t just dedicated to her, she got credit for either editing or layout, some kind of supporting role in Jeff’s career. Dave Sim started out the same with his wife & got Gerhard when he realized he couldn’t even do the art all on his own, David Lapham had help from his wife with Stray Bullets. Los Bros. had each other. Eddie Campbell had the Man at the Crossroads. Criticism and support, all the way!

    None of them did it with Kickstarter either. They saved up their cash to take a risk on themselves, but taking that time to save up also gave them a chance to reflect on what they wanted, and made them do it in a manageable chunk they built on. Thinking improves things, especially over a few months. It’s great to get money right when you want it, but Kickstart rushes past the thinking process. And Kickstarter and self-publishing aren’t the same thing.

    The trendiness part I see as a problem because it creates a gold rush mentality. “Get on it now! It doesn’t matter why! Figure out some reason and go go go!” Some projects seem rushed to market, which never helps. Use the tool when you’re ready for it. That part IS Kickstarter’s flaw, if not fault.

    Another thing, which I haven’t touched on before: It’s not really good for everyone to know how much money you make. No one would have an issue if Womanthology if they’d just said, “We made more than enough! Hooray!” Instead, knowing how much they made has caused a lot of jealousy and resentment, as it has for basically everyone before them. And that is built into the Kickstarter system, it’s at the top of every page. No one does themselves a favor by creating ill-will along with their success. I’ve seen the same thing happen in publishing when advance numbers get leaked, and I could interpret some of your comments that way. But if you look for things to get pissed about, you’ll find them, even if they aren’t there.

    The inherent text-based interaction of the internet deprive a lot inflection, context and subtext from discussions, so it’s easier to get pissed about things that aren’t being said. It also makes it difficult to impart constructive criticism, because it can come off as mean where it isn’t meant to. And while getting a lot of “likes” feels good, someone who has the guts to says “This is looks good but why am I reading this?” is really valuable. I do not see the feedback going to artists that helps them grow. That’s not specifically a problem of Kickstarter, but it is a part of the rush to print.

    You’re missing my larger argument by getting a little personally offended about Kickstarter: constructive criticism helps you improve. Traditional publishing has that support built into it. If you can’t do it that way, you at least need someone with publishing experience, even if it’s another cartoonist at the same level as you with a critical eye, or a friend with good taste who will be upfront about how you can improve. Before Greg ever saw any comics I did, when Papercutter didn’t even exist, I had friends who also did comics that would point out my weak spots, and hand my pages back & say, “Make it better.” It’s foolish to take the tack that you can’t improve on your natural greatness. Dave Sim does not look back at Cerebus #1 and think “I rocked that!” He says “This is kind of idiotic. Please skip to High Society, I swear that’s when the story starts coming together.” Jeff Smith spent 25 years dreaming up Bone.

    I didn’t get my opportunity by thinking I did everything right, I didn’t even draw the book that’s being published, because it wouldn’t have been picked up. The books I’ve drawn myself have not been hugely successful, and I printed up a book before I was ready. I would like others to be able to learn from my mistakes. When I printed up my own books, I worked on them with Robin Enrico, but I wish I’d shown a print out to Liz Baillie earlier, because she immediately gave me good criticisms when she first saw it, after it was too late. A fresh pair of eyes is usually helpful, and I want other people to reach out for help when they need it.

    Self-publishing also takes a lot of effort, and books on the subject don’t go into overcoming fatigue from your day job to mail out your orders on time. It’s made to look much easier than it is, which is dangerous if you don’t have enough commitment, or time to commit. It’s a lottery, free money, and it’s too tempting to reach into the pot because you can for a project that might not warrant it. No one’s a bad person for trying, but it’s too easy to go for the money, get the support on Kickstarter, and then not have your product succeed in the real world because it’s flawed in a way that might have been prevented if you’d had the assistance you needed. It can be crushing for artists to go through this process, and end up being a setback. I’ve seen it happen with seasoned comics vets. I’d like someone to say it to the kids graduating SVA so that they grow into some great talents and don’t try it and get demoralized before they’ve gotten good. Learn fundamentals, learn to pass a ball, then you get dunk for the pros; no one’s going to draft the kid who keeps traveling to get to the hoop.

    Kickstarter doesn’t ask you if you should do you your on a smaller scale, or if you’ve ever laid out a book before. It asks you how much money you want. Then, it gives it to you if you make it through the fund raising process, which is labor in itself. Then you’re on your own, unless you have the sense to ask around.

    When it works, it’s fantastic. Meredith Gran, on her most recent book, asked for advice about potential titles, got feedback on the cover design, and I’m guessing had a lot of conversation with her roommates and studio-mates. She’s smart enough to do that, and she’s been at it for years. She’s put out other books before, and she still asked. She’s also proved that self-publishing is the best choice for her, and that she can put out an awesome book on her own, and has hundred if not thousands of happy customers she’s gotten books to. She was more than ready to do it. And she would have done it anyway, without Kickstarter if it didn’t exist.

    If you’re dead set on doing everything on your own, fine, free country. I don’t think that’s your best option, because I don’t think that’s anyone’s best option. If you would like some constructive criticism, send me an email or let’s talk at SPX.

  41. Criticism does not make a book better; it only pushes the book to be more like what the critic would like to read.

    Seth has been very outspoken about never showing his work to people early or caring what an editor would change, and I think we can all agree that approach has worked very well for him. I shudder to think of Pynchon or Joyce asking for everyone’s opinions, or if Picasso didn’t have the guts to just say screw it, I’ll paint it how I want. Joseph Cornell wouldn’t have made a damn thing if he had to constantly seek out approval. Why in God’s name should Dustin EVER care what you would change about his stuff, MK? Only the artist knows what they are really trying to accomplish, what inexplicable feeling and ideas they are trying to impart. Unless your sole objective is to entertain the absolute most amount of people you can (good luck with that!), any advice would be completely useless.

  42. Dan, Dustin isn’t Seth. Also, Seth didn’t leap out a vacuum. He went to art school and put in a decade or so getting good. He’s honed his instincts & earned the right to stop listening. Those authors had editors who got what they were going for. Picasso went to art school, then he fucking pushed it, then he got patrons who supported his art career. He spent his whole life evolving.

    If Dustin doesn’t care about my opinions, fine. But if he doesn’t care about improving, it will hurt him. He might be able to reach a wider audience, and while his work might not be for everyone, I’m sure he would also like to reach more people. Listening to criticism can help him or ANYONE improve. And I don’t say it to rag on Dustin like his work sucks or something, he’s a good artist and a fantastic draftsman. I say it because he’s got the talent to make something really beautiful and moving if he tries. Maybe he’s got the next Blankets or Asterios Polyp in him. Don’t encourage him to hold back.

  43. MK, I’m not sure what you’re arguing anymore. Showing your friends your work for feedback is not the same as getting published. Even getting feedback from well-placed, knowledgeable, talented people isn’t the same as getting published. Even a Vijaya Iyer, who absolutely was a huge part of Bone, and is probably one of the most savvy businesspeople in our industry, if not THE most: still not the same as working with an established publisher, editorial team, etc. And DEFINITELY not the same as meeting a publisher’s bar for quality and thus earning publication.

    I’m a little lost. I haven’t said that I think publishers are bad, or that I should do everything all by myself. You seem to be saying that, by NOT agreeing that Kickstarter is stunting the growth of cartoonists by providing a publishing outlet not controlled by editors and gatekeepers of some kind, that I think ALL publishing is bad and that I don’t want to improve as an artist.

    You said: “You’re missing my larger argument by getting a little personally offended about Kickstarter: constructive criticism helps you improve. Traditional publishing has that support built into it. ” You’re right that I’m getting a little personally offended, especially when you put words in my mouth and suggest I don’t want to improve as an artist. It’s gallingly presumptuous. Constructive criticism IS good, yes, but constructive criticism and working with a publisher aren’t the same thing.

    “Before Greg ever saw any comics I did, when Papercutter didn’t even exist, I had friends who also did comics that would point out my weak spots, and hand my pages back & say, “Make it better.” It’s foolish to take the tack that you can’t improve on your natural greatness.”

    What does this mean? It’s wonderful that you are part of a network of talented people who can give each other feedback, even tough feedback. I’m also part of a network like that — but that’s not the same as working with a publisher! Conflating the two is convenient but misleading, and didn’t you earlier point out that you can’t get good feedback from friends anyway, since they love you and don’t want to hurt your feelings?

    Your main point seems to be that (besides being super boring and can we all quit talking about Kickstarter jeez) Kickstarter is stunting the growth of artists… by giving them outlets to publish their own work? And that working with publishers is better because you have to work harder to get something published? Why can’t there be both? You also point out that it’s great that people are doing good things with Kickstarter–can’t they both be true? Can’t someone do a Kickstarter for a small project or a project that might not be workable for a publisher, and another person, or heck EVEN THE SAME PERSON, also work with a publisher to bring a different work to fruition? Is there enough room in the marketplace for both works? I think so.

    And aren’t we both, besides being friends and peers, a part of the same comics industry that has a strong self-published element running through it? It’s true that less people per capita than ever are working with editors, and it’s true that there are more bad comics than ever. But good lord, there are also like 1000X more COMICS than ever; just the world of webcomics alone is a wonderland of formal invention, genre-bending romps through, and that rarest of creatures, the cartoonist that is earning a living as a cartoonist. Is that cartoonist working with an editor? Did someone deem them of a high enough quality to “attain” publication? Sure — their readers did.

    I have no problem with the idea of working with publishers and editors — they can be invaluable in helping creators hone their voices, and help craft works that have real polish and professional acumen. I also think that publishers don’t publish all the good things out there waiting to find space on shelves, and they DO publish a lot of the bad things taking up that same shelf space. I’m glad that you’ve had a great experience with your publisher and editors, and I look forward to reading what I’m sure is a really beautiful book in Americus. But it is not the only book in the world, and how you make good comics is not the only way to make good comics.

    My problem with your position is not so much that it’s wrong, although I do disagree with it. It’s that it seems petty, it seems beneath you, MK. It seems frankly like a vanity piece. It’s not much better than a 2-part piece on why you hate hipsters, or why they should stop making Transformers movies. You have all the right in the world to be miffed about Kickstarter, and to think that it promotes sub-par work and is just generally irritating. But I think a person of your intelligence and erudition could have done a lot better than this. I think someone should have handed this back and said “make it better.”

  44. I’m Canadian, so I can’t use kickstarter.

    I was, however, involved in a very successful campaign on IndieGoGo to help print the latest anthology of a non-profit I’m part of called Cloudscape Comics. It was no amateur project, either, we have supported comic artists from British Columbia with 5 anthologies and promotion of their work. Our regular members include Angela Melick from Wasted Talent, Jonathon Dalton from A Mad Tea Party, Camilla D’Errico from Tanpopo and over 60 other members. Three of our members, Jonathon Dalton, Wei Li and Steve LeCouilliard have received Xeric grants in the last two years.

    We do good work. We help keep artists going, give them a support network. Without my weekly Cloudscape meeting, I would go insane from not talking comics with other artists.

    My point is that these services are not a business plan, as you said. They are an irreplaceable resource for groups like Cloudscape, which has no mission more important than supporting their members in anyway they can. We’re not a publisher, but we also can’t operate without money. IndieGoGo helped us with that.

  45. Synsidar says:

    I have no problem with the idea of working with publishers and editors — they can be invaluable in helping creators hone their voices, and help craft works that have real polish and professional acumen. I also think that publishers don’t publish all the good things out there waiting to find space on shelves, and they DO publish a lot of the bad things taking up that same shelf space.

    There is a tremendous difference between creating material to entertain or to impress other people, and creating material to satisfy yourself. If you’re the only audience that matters, practically all criticism can be dismissed. If you’re creating for others — reaching them is why publishers exist.

    Editors are most useful when they point out specific weaknesses. Poor spelling, poor grammar, poor organization — repetitious phrasing. reliance on weak plot devices, overuse of similar plot material or themes — if friends and readers criticize such weaknesses, that’s fine, but editors are (should be) trained and obligated to criticize them.

    One critique of a story from a professional editor could do more for a creator than a hundred-plus comments from readers and friends on how much they liked or disliked a story. The editor’s tastes aren’t necessarily those of the audience, though, and if the publisher is concerned largely with profits, and catering to fetishists yields more profits, then fetishists’ tastes will rule.

    SRS

  46. Laroquod says:

    If the editor’s tastes aren’t those of the audience, what’s the point? The whole point of an editor is to make those two ends meet — not to add a third, probably irrelevant opinion to the mix.

    Editors are providing a service to the author, not to themselves. If that service is to make the author more like themselves, then it’s a useless service that should be dispensed with.

  47. Synsidar says:

    If the editor’s tastes aren’t those of the audience, what’s the point?

    The events at Marvel and DC might be examples of that. I’d guess that at least some of the editors would prefer not doing events and prefer reading other material; given a choice, they’d prefer character-driven stories to the plot-driven events. The companies have revenue targets and other corporate goals to meet, though, and they can’t make a business case for going back to individual series or switching to OGNs, so events it is.

    SRS

  48. Chris Hero says:

    Totally anecdotal, but from kicking around Columbus and Ohio for a while, I can tell you everyone who knows Jeff Smith says the same thing: he’s extremely nice, he’s extremely talented, and he’s always been open to constructive feedback. By the time he published Bone with Cartoon Books, he had received all sorts of editorial direction from his college professors and newspaper editor and the animation people he worked with.

    It’s beside the point, but there it is….

    Also, rehashing an old argument…I love using Amazon. The only bookstore around me is Barnes & Noble and I’m tired of going to comic shops and having some condescending guy try selling me on getting a subscription for Green Lantern started when I’m trying to buy a Roger Landridge or Chris Ware book. I’m not saying there aren’t good book stores or comic stores out there, just that I’ve been burned too much to keep looking….

  49. Torsten Adair says:

    Jeff Smith has publicly stated that he created a business plan before he started Cartoon Books. He then presented the business plan to a bank for a small business loan.

    I know the Small Business Administration (your tax dollars at work!) do offer loans to comics shops. They do the same for new publishers. Lots of information and resources available at http://www.sba.gov

    Take some college courses as well. (Most states will allow you to claim the tuition on your income tax return.)

    Talk with everyone else about the business. What tools work best for them? There are a lot of hammers, but there’s a big difference between a trip hammer and a carpenter’s hammer (and even then, there’s a difference between a framing hammer and a claw hammer). You might not even need a hammer… glue might work better than nails.

  50. The reality is, crowdfunding is here to stay, not just for comics publishing, but theatre, film, fashion, et al. I agree that crowdfunding can work for a project that has a finite lifespan; and if there is a real need for money, if the traditional methods of getting your work out there are not working for one reason or another, then by all means crowdfund. See how it works for you. However, if one is going to crowdfund for their project I strongly suggest that research be done as what funding sites are available – or in other words, what else is out there.

    Kickstarter seems to get the most amount of press on comic news sites and blogs, including Stately Beat Manor because of the number of comics professionals using the site to fund projects. The AudioComics Company has a funding campaign going on right now: we’re raising money for production costs on one of our next comics-to-audio drama projects, Archaia Entertainment’s “Titanium Rain.” Yes yes, shameless plug. Here is the link if you’re so inclined:

    http://www.indiegogo.com/Titanium-Rain-The-Audio-Drama

    You will note we’re not using Kickstarter.

    The Amazon situation was not what kept us away, but the simple fact that if you don’t reach your goal, you lose everything. Like Anise, we chose IndieGoGo. Which is not as popular as Kickstarter is for comic-related projects, unfortunately, but has other benefits:

    – They don’t work with Amazon
    – They have a Paypal option, as well as personal checks, so you have a variety of payment options
    – They work with not-for-profits
    – They accept contributions from outside of the United States (we’ve received contributions from Canada and the UK)
    – You keep what you make regardless of whether or not you hit your goal (if you do, 4% fees are subtracted; if you don’t, it’s 9%)

    Yes, it is a marathon. Yes, I’m probably driving people crazy bringing up the campaign on Twitter and Facebook, but the truth is you have to. We’re a short attention span society, what you announce today can be forgotten tomorrow. And to kick the dead horse, no, these services are not a sustainable business plan. But if absolutely necessary for a short term goal, and for spreading the word about that goal and possibly finding new audiences, crowdfunding can be an invaluable tool.

    But there’s more out there than just Kickstarter, and I wish/would hope that more people investigate them.

    One last thing: hearing about the creators shirking their backers by not sending them their perks is what irritates me. Once the pledge is, well, pledged, there’s an element of trust in play between creator and contributor. The community is supporting the creator, who has motivated them to support their endeavor regardless of what it is, and to essentially turn on them by not sending them their perks or cutting off contact is a violation of that trust, and to me, inexcusable.

    Lance Roger Axt
    The AudioComics Company

  51. The most compelling and candid account of someone’s experience during a Kickstarter project is the one posted about the Man Greater Than Money font.

    http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/2112689177/man-greater-than-money/posts/198412

    The complete email exchanges between the project creator and Kickstarter are posted and let’s just say that things were going bad.

    You should definitely read it before you start a fundraising project.

Trackbacks

  1. […] with our iPad, giggling over Dan Nadel’s TCJ blog post and arguing with each other over MK Reed’s Beat post and the value of Kickstarter. Then we saw Tom Spurgeon’s “All Of These Things That Have […]

  2. […] is not affiliated with any of the kickstarter projects it features and recognizes the risks as well as the benefits associated with Kickstarter.com. The Kickstarter […]

  3. […] with our iPad, giggling over Dan Nadel’s TCJ blog post and arguing with each other over MK Reed’s Beat post and the value of Kickstarter. Then we saw Tom Spurgeon’s “All Of These Things That Have […]

  4. […] attend Angouleme. Meanwhile back in the US, there’s a raging debate about whether it’s a bad trend for consumers to voluntarily give money to beginning cartoonists to print their […]

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