Womanthology: $100k may go to help start a new comics imprint — UPDATED

jeankangwomantologytee-1313197010.jpgAnytime someone comes into a big sum of money, people will start asking what they’re going to do with it, whether it’s go to Disneyland or start a publishing company.

So when WOMANTHOLOGY, the all-woman anthology started by artist Renae De Liz raised an unprecedented $109,000 on Kickstarter — the biggest comics project ever and the 25th biggest overall –it was inevitable that people would be asking a lot of questions. Especially since, as I learned myself, the contributors would not be paid. Which led Warren Ellis to tweet

Wondering if the Womanthology project, which quadrupled its Kickstarter goal, is paying its contributors now? Anyone know?


Which led to a huge Twitter stream with lots of questions going back and forth about the charitable nature of the project.

However, it seems that De Liz has already answered most of the questions, in this blog post, starting with the fact that the project was always a volunteer-only charity. All proceeds will go to Global Giving, an umbrella charity that gives money to lots of causes.

ALL profits from the book after it’s produced go to Charity. Profits go directly from IDW to GlobalGiving when the times comes. IDW is making no money from helping us.
ALL work is volunteered Even my around the clock efforts. ALL work is given freely, and everyone owns their creations completely. Ladies are free to leave the project any time and no one is obligated. Women on this book are only on to help others, not for financial gain.


De Liz breaks down the costs as follows:

$109,000 Kickstarter Final

$6,000 Kickstarter “errors” such as bad card numbers, faulty pledges
$9,000 Fees (Kickstarter is %5, Amazon takes another %3 – %5)
$40,000 Printing for around 5,5000 Womanthology books (may change)
$20,000 Postage for 2,000 books (overest.of labor, postage is at least $5 a book/ may change)
$3,000 Printing/postage of 1000 Sketchbooks
$2,000 Postage of other rewards
$20,000 Taxes, for me, a self employed person, overestimate, may change


Some commentary on that: IDW is NOT paying to print the book but simply distributing it. Profits from sales will go to charity. I’m not sure why De Liz is mailing out the book herself when it’s being distributed through IDW, but hopefully answers will be forthcoming (see below). Okay asked and answered in the comments: there are over 2000 Kickstarter backers so this is to mail out their copies (as well as contributors). Kickstarter funds are counted as income by the IRS, but costs like printing and postage would also be counted as business expenses, so that amount could vary quite a bit. De Liz is smart to include the taxman however.

So…there may be quite a bit of money left over. And some people have rightly asked if some of that should go to creators. Again, De Liz has also listed her plans beyond WOMANTHOLOGY and they are pretty ambitious:

IF there ends up being $20,000 left, I’d like to take that opportunity to extend Womanthology’s purpose to help more people. I have been very honest & upfront of my intentions from the very beginning, and you can check out the Kickstarter’s updates for what they are. But essentially, they are Womanthology in slightly different models, all geared to help give a hand up to comics creators who need it.


On the Kickstarter update page, De Liz expands on what she hopes to do, including plans for an imprint:

I wanted to elaborate on one of my ideas if there are excess funds. I mentioned I wanted to work with publishers to get more creator owned books out there, here is my idea for that;

Basically I’ll be working with publishers to create a CHANCE label. For instance if IDW were interested, the label would be “IDWchance” or if DC were interested it’d be “DCchance”. These are books that we and the companies hand pick, I pay for creation & printing, they are printed under that label, and upon seeing the sales of that issue the publisher can either then pick it up from there, or if not then the creative teams at least have an AWESOME book by a big publisher to help further their careers from there! Profits from that one issue would go back into the process to hopefully continue doing this for as long as possible.

This whole idea is centered on getting more creator owned books out there ( or maybe people that want to try their hand at already established characters!), giving creators chances to show the publishers what they’ve got. And of course it would be entirely equal between male & female creators! When you are someone with an idea that wants to create a comic, you are faced with either self publishing, which is incredibly expensive and tough to handle, or have the hope of a publisher picking the title up. However most publishers can’t afford to do that often, so I feel this is a way to bridge that gap! Even just for a few people, it would mean a lot.

Of course it’s not for sure, but I’ve asked around a little with publishers and was met with open minds, so I am optimistic this can work. If we get to $100,000 I think I can do a few of these books. If I can get to $200,000 I can do a LOT of these books for all publishers who want to join in the fun. But I’m happy if I can help fund just one creator’s book to be made! And I’m sure everyone would help me pick who would get that chance? ;) There are a ton of women on Womanthology alone that could use these opportunities!


Obviously an ambitious plan, and one that invites much discussion.

A couple of observations here: I’ve never been superpsyched about volunteer/charity anthologies, and Meredith Gran wrote eloquently yesterday about why paying creators is so essential. However, much of the inspiration behind WOMANTHOLOGY is part of the whole DeviantArt/Tumblr/diy community where the rules are a little different. Contributors like Cat Staggs and CK Russell and many more have been vocal defending the book and De Liz on Twitter. The overall message is that this was always going to be a charity/volunteer project and everyone went in knowing that.

De Liz and company definitely tapped into a zeitgeisty moment with the support for this project. Their plans for the future are still a bit vague, but they definitely have plans — I think questions will continue to be raised about this project, but thus far, information has been readily available.

I’ve emailed De Liz for further comment and I’ll pass it along as soon as I get it.

Comments

  1. Joanne says:

    $40,000 for printing is an insane figure.

  2. Regarding “why De Liz is mailing out the book herself when it’s being distributed through IDW”:

    As I understand it, the book will be solicited through Diamond and IDW will distribute those orders to comic shops that way. However, many Kickstarter backers selected “get a book” as their reward for donating to the project, and De Liz needs to get those backers their books.

  3. “Some commentary on that: IDW is NOT paying to print the book but simply distributing it. Profits from sales will go to charity. I’m not sure why De Liz is mailing out the book herself when it’s being distributed through IDW, but hopefully answers will be forthcoming (see below).”

    If I had to hazard a guess, it’s because IDW signed on to distribute the book to comic book stores for those who order it through Diamond. De Liz still has to mail out copies of the book to everyone who, as part of their pledge, is getting a copy of the anthology.

    While IDW does have an online store, I suspect that if De Liz wanted IDW to mail it out, the money that she’d have spent on postage would just go to IDW. Except of course IDW would need to also cover the cost/salary of whomever’s job it is to handle their online sales, and it would end up costing more. So (and this is all just guesswork) presumably De Liz is mailing them out herself because it costs less than to have IDW do so.

  4. …or what JCP said in a much shorter response than I did, while I was still typing mine in. :)

  5. The people who are asking, “where’s MY money?” now that Womanthology has raised over 100K are thankfully small in number. Those that are however are going into my memory banks with a note not to buy their work in the future.

    I’ve been a fan and supporter of this project since I think it only had like a thousand dollars in donations. Everyone went into this knowing it was as a volunteer. If that is a problem for them, they can take their work and walk away.

  6. Roger Hammerstein says:

    The printing figure is ridiculous.

  7. Synsidar says:

    Re paying contributors:

    That might be a moot issue, since it’s a charity effort, but how many pages does each contributor have in WOMANTHOLOGY? Anywhere from one to three or four? If they don’t have existing page rates, how would the proper pay be determined? Or if they were all paid the same (nominal) fee per page, how would that be determined? Since it is a charity effort, it’s simpler not to pay them anything, or to use the old method of paying them with copies of the publication.

    SRS

  8. Al™ says:

    Yes, pay the artists. But maybe they would settle for a package of printed copies instead.

    And, oh, do the creative people maintain the right to submit their same work elsewhere for money later (Womanthology granted first publication rights only)?

  9. Tom Spurgeon says:

    I don’t think any of this is a big deal. She’s obviously free to do whatever she wants according to the compact she formed with the people donating, and people are equally free to disagree with her. I’m sure that some comics fans will interpret the whole matter as people wanting to be paid now that it’s successful and I haven’t read or heard of a single creator doing that. It’s just a principled discussion of strategies and concepts, and the comics culture should be able to do that every once in a while without shrieking at each other.

    I’m still a bit confused over how all profits go to charity but there might be a comics imprint, and while this is way out of my depth, I’m not sure what she’s planning on paying $20,000 in taxes for if the money is going directly to the costs of conducting business and/or to charity. But that’s just rubbernecking, it’s not really important I know.

    Good luck to all involved.

  10. Re: The Cost of Printing.

    The price is definitely off but after chewing on it here goes.

    That’s a breakdown of around 7.30$ a unit.

    When the kickstarter was first opened the plan was to do 1500 copies of the book, not 5500.

    I doubt anyone working on the project was a professional print buyer, so with that in mind if they had only initially quoted out 1000 or 2000 copies of a 300 page hardcover full color book at 9×12 then yes, I could see that being the per unit cost a printer would give them.

    However once you get to 3k, 4k, 5k the prices per unit drop dramatically. As Renae says, the price may change, and it will, because she’s obviously basing that cost off of a per unit cost given for a lower print run.

    So yeah, the price is off but I’m willing to bet the estimate is based off of a smaller print run’s cost rather than a current quote for the current quantity.

  11. Trevor says:

    Are we sure that Renae said portion of Kickstarter proceeds would go to charity?

    If so, it seems to be against the Kickstarter Guidelines.

    From: http://www.kickstarter.com/help/guidelines

    “No charity or cause funding. Examples of prohibited use include raising money for the Red Cross, funding an awareness campaign, funding a scholarship, or donating a portion of funds raised on Kickstarter to a charity or cause. ”

    In all honesty, I wouldn’t be put off if Renae pocketed the $ from the successful campaign. It is not like the people who posted pledges after the goal was reached didn’t realilze the project was already fully funded (kickstarter clearly shows you how well a project is doing before you contribute). They likely paid their $ simply to get a copy of the book and/or incentives, not for charity. So, kudos to Renae!

  12. When will publishers, no matter how well intentioned, begin paying the people that make them money?

    Since the money is already raised, why not have the PROFIT that will be made from this book go to charity and give the creators their due.

    They AT LEAST paid for materials, just as postage AT LEAST needs to be covered. You are essentially asking them for labor/creativity/time and not providing material/essentially asking them for money on top of that.

    I’m sick of artists being screwed out of money. Repeatedly and continuously.

    Yes, they agreed to do it for free. Awesome. Now, use that same spirit to do something unexpected for the people eeking out a living making other people money.

    PAY YOUR ARTISTS! SERIOUSLY!

    Still an awesome anthology, despite all these shenanigans… I will still buy it!

  13. Trevor:

    Quoting the original post here, we have “ALL profits from the book after it’s produced go to Charity”

    This is NOT money people have pledged to Kickstarter going to charity, then, but instead (I gather) the profit that would accrue after selling copies of the anthology to comics shops.

    There doesn’t seem to be anything against this in the guidelines.

  14. I agree with Sabin, it seems like supporting the artists on her current project would be a better choice than a vaguely outlined, if good intentioned, creator-owned future line of comics. Do a second kickstarter for that, if you have exceeded your goals by $70,000. A token payment, even like $50 for their submission, for the hours of labor these ladies have put in to each page is just the right thing to do with that much money.

    It’s not greed, it’s a fair business model. If you’re promoting the work of these women, you’ll do them a much bigger favor to give them actual dollars than just a pat on the back.

  15. Just want to add that my wife & Womanthology project manager, Renae De Liz, is a great person who has only ever wanted to do great things for people and that is exactly what she’s going to do.

    The book is going to be amazing and thankfully with so much money behind it it’ll be a lot more than the original 1,500 they hoped for! There are also sketchbooks and all sorts of great things to go along with it.

    Thank you so much to everyone who has been supportive.

    ~Ray

  16. X-fan says:

    I’d say bugger the charity and start your own publishing company. I wonder why people are trying to dissect this before it’s begun. Let them get off Twitter and Facebook long enough to produce the material which I for one will gladly purchase.

  17. No point in really questioning the numbers –there will always be unexpected costs popping up and will eat through the budget of a book this size in no time at all.

    Also, I’ve no problem with the person who’s done all the coordination and will continue to do so possibly getting a few dollars left over in her pockets for her efforts. The contributors may do a few days work, but this massive book will be months in the making.

    Just because the end result will raise funds for a charity while raising the profile of the contributors, doesn’t mean de Liz needs to be a slave to the project for the duration.

  18. I am a Womanthology contributor. This was something I agreed to be a part of for free because it was an exciting concept and something for charity. I never expected to see any profit from it. Renae has now said we may each get a copy of the book. That’s great! I already donated to the Kickstarter and will be getting one from that because I wanted to see this project happen and the fact that we raised much more than expected and can have a larger print run means we’ll make that much more for charity. We’ll also be able to give copies to libraries. I don’t see anything wrong with this. As soon as more money began to be raised, Renae immediately came up with great ideas where it could go. I had no reason to think, nor do I want it to go to my pocket.

  19. Sidewalk Cipher says:

    She should NOT use the money to go into business for herself, that is ridiculous. The money is for this project and was solicited for this project, no matter what loophole there might be.

    Considering that the book obviously tapped into a fair bit of zeitgeist regarding woman’s place in comics, the way the Womanthology team has treated it’s creators is really stunning.

    The amount of spin being put on this is utterly disgusting. If you want respect, own up to your mistakes. Admit you didn’t *guarantee* contributor copies, or outline the money breakdown in depth, UNTIL a furor was let loose on the internet. Admit you didn’t do this because you were: overwhelmed, under-qualified, whatever, but admit it. Don’t accuse people of being jealous, greedy trolls because they ask serious questions. Don’t sick women and artists on one another to protect your fragile feelings.

  20. So is Warren Ellis also on the forefront of the movement for Marvel, having profited far beyond what could be expected from the work of their 1960s freelancers, to cut in those original creators in on the proceeds?

    No, wait, he’s the guy who wrote an article insulting Jack Kirby shortly after Kirby passed away…

  21. Renae De Liz says:

    I am not going into business, I have no idea where that even came from!

    I had *ideas* for things that I’ve been completely up front with since the beginning that are intended to HELP people in the same way Womanthology did, in which, again, no one makes profits. There was such an overflow of people that didn’t get on this book that really would have liked on, that I wanted to help them too. But I have no idea if these things can even happen or not until Womanthology is all taken care of. That is my focus right now. Afterwards if there’s something left I’ll discuss options with the ladies.

    As per mailing: At the beginning I was going to mail the pledge rewards (at the time only 300 Kickstarter books) myself because I was trying to save money for everyone. Now with up to 2000 books to mail (1200 on Kickstarter, maybe 800 contributor/library copies) I need to possibly hire a mailing company. Still have to see how much that is too, but postage is A LOT.

    There is no scandal here. I have had all info up front on the internet for people to see from the very beginning, and no one has ever said a thing until it was successful. I and the project are exactly the same it’s been since the beginning. Nothing has changed, and as always I am here all over the internet if people have questions & concerns they want to ask me about

    Hi Amanda & Ray! *waves* ;D

  22. Renae De Liz says:

    Ha! I mean Jill :) Hello Jill!

  23. Dreamer says:

    Dear Renae, I think people who have supported this cause did it particularly as a venue for women comics creators to get some work published and showcased. I was surprised to see that you were planning on supporting other projects with the extra amount of money that was raised from the donations. You claim that other projects are similar (i.e. providing a venue for starting up comic creators) but I do disagree. The possibility of supporting other projects was not announced at the beginning, but rather, later on; when the funds exceeded what you needed for the project.

    Wouldn’t it be more fair to the people who have backed the project that the extra funds would be diverted towards a womantology vol.2; perhaps this time the profits from the book, or the second round of fund raising aimed at the new projects that you are interested in?

    By the way; once again, congratulations on such a successful project.

    Sincerely,
    Kaan

  24. Tom Spurgeon says:

    Here’s some commentary from Dan Nadel, a longtime comics publisher with experience doing high-end anthologies:

    http://www.tcj.com/spilling/

    I don’t think he caught that shipping people a copy is a premium/have to do it thing, but the rest seems worth noting.

  25. I’m rather shocked that the possibility of paying the creators for their time and work evidently isn’t even deemed worthy of discussion by the initiator.

  26. Synsidar says:

    I’m surprised that paying the contributors something is such a concern. Given that the profits are going to charity anyway, how is providing material for WOMANTHOLOGY different from providing baked goods for a bake sale, pitching in on a charitable construction project, participating in a benefit for a cancer patient, or doing something else? The exposure in WOMANTHOLOGY is arguably payment enough. If making money from writing/drawing is a concern before a person has even established oneself as a creator, there will be a lot of disappointments ahead.

    SRS

  27. Torsten Adair says:

    An amazing project!

    Some suggestions:
    1) Start the business with a new Kickstarter project. Tie up all the lose ends with this one, then create a new business plan for the ongoing imprints or whatever the next project is.

    2) Budget money for tables at various regional comic book conventions, so that the creators (and any future projects) can get even more exposure. If a contributor does a signing, “pay” them with five complimentary copies which they can then market at their own tables in the future. (Also, sell them copies at cost.)

    3) IMPORTANT QUESTION: Will IDW donate one of their EANs to the book, so that librarians and booksellers can order it?

  28. As a backer from early on, I understood the plan – as it was very clearly laid out and anyone that has been on the internet for a DAY would both be able to see that and be able to get in touch with De Liz directly should they have had questions – rather than blasting out questions – some which have been legitimate and some of which have absolutely not been legitimate. The methods used to ask these questions – legitimate or otherwise – have been pretty abhorrent.

    As a backer, despite all these pleas of “please think of the women!” “Please pay the women!”…I think it would be unwise and likely unethical to try to change gears and start paying the volunteers for this project now because it would be changing the terms of the project that backers chose to fund. I’m sure that De Liz had no idea this was going to be funded to this degree…had she known, perhaps she would have opted to pay the volunteers, but she stuck with the plan, which was to create opportunities for women in comics…as a backer I think she has absolutely made the correct (and ethical) call whether someone has a philosophical difference over artists choosing to volunteer their time and talent, or concerns about kickstarter, etc. those are separate conversations.

    As a person who was lucky enough to get to be a contributor. I count myself incredibly fortunate to be involved. I also understood from the outset that I was volunteering my work and time, and that my volunteer work would raise my profile, connect me to other creators, give me a legitimate publishing credit and just be incredibly good for me at the same time that I was doing good things for charity. To me there was no downside to this and there still isn’t, no matter how much money the project raised. Do I want a couple hundred bucks thrown my way for my work that I volunteered to do and counted myself lucky to get to do? Hell to the no. Also, while being paid for work is an important factor for artists everywhere and a legitimate discussion, in a case like this, where the rules and guidelines and purpose were clear from the outset, even if there WAS money for contributors to be paid some small amount, I personally would rather it go to a large pot to do better community minded comics things, rather than just pay my credit card bill for one measly month or some such.

    Given the attitude of the contributors (and backers) that I’ve encountered this is by and large the resounding opinion. That we’re a part of something very special, and that we’re excited by the opportunities, both for ourselves, and to do something legitimately good.

  29. I’d like Sidewalk Cipher to step up and stop hiding behind an anonymous alias.

    Let us know who you are, loudmouth.

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