Tag Archives: kickstarter

Shelly Bond, Kristy Miller, and Brian Miller talk Femme Magnifique


Femme Magnifique is a recent  successful Kickstarter campaign that raised $97,447 to publish an anthology of comics about inspirational women from history and the contemporary world. The Kickstarter was run by Kristy Miller, the VP of Development at Hi-Fi Colour Design; Brian Miller, a comic book colorist and the founder of Hi-Fi Colour Design; and Shelly Bond, the former executive editor at Vertigo and the current editor of the Black Crown imprint at IDW. Hi-Fi has colored many bestselling comic books, like Harley Quinn, Batman: The Dark Knight, and various Doctor Who comics for Titan ,and Bond has been the editor or assistant editor on such comics classics as SandmanLucifer, Fables, and iZombie.

A couple big reasons for Femme Magnifique’s appeal as a KickStarter is the all-star lineup of comic book creators, like Marguerite Bennett, Kelly Sue DeConnick, Gerard Way, Kieron Gillen, Annie Wu, Mags Visaggio, and many more. There is also the variety of women featured in the book from historical figures, like Harriet Tubman, Ada Lovelace, and Hatshepsut to more modern women, like Broad City‘s Ilana Glazer and Abbi Jacobson, Michelle Obama, and Bjork. Actors, musicians, scientists, politicians, writers, astronauts, and even cartoonists are represented in the pages of Femme Magnifique. A few I personally am looking forward to are Gail Simone and Marguerite Sauvage‘s Kate Bush story, Gerard Way and Marley Zarcone‘s (Shade the Changing Girl) Joan of Arc comic, Chynna Clugston Flores‘ (Blue Monday) story about Rumiko Takahashi, the creator of the manga Inuyasha, and Tini Howard (Skeptics) and Ming Doyle‘s comic about the Beat poet and artist Diane di Prima.

I had the opportunity to chat with Kristy MillerBrian Miller, and Shelly Bond via email about the inspiration for the Femme Magnifique Kickstarter, switching from creating fiction to non-fiction comics, the role of the anthology in the current American political climate, and most of all, about the amazing women whose stories will be told in this anthology.

First, I asked Shelly Bond about the inception of the Femme Magnifique project.

Shelly Bond: The idea for Femme Magnifique was simmering for a while, but crystallized in early November thanks to two quite disparate events that occurred back-to-back.

Of course, the first one is obvious: discovering the outcome of the US presidential election.  I had just returned from a convention in the U.K. We sleep with the TV on so while I was enjoying (?) a fitful slumber I was rudely awaken from my jet-lagged haze by what I thought was a Black Mirror version of the news. I couldn’t believe my eyes or ears. Clearly, it was a devastating, missed opportunity for women.

The second event occurred on the following night.  I had a ticket to finally see Roisin Murphy, my favorite female frontwoman, perform live — at LA’s legendary El Rey Theatre no less. There’s no magic quite like a seeing a singer/performance artist whose lyrics are clever and insightful, replete with poetry and bombast. Bowie would have applauded her seamless, onstage costume changes, with resplendent masks that would look at home on a  Dave McKean comic-book cover. The show was at once mesmerizing, decadent, discordant — but it was the crush of the enraptured dance crowd that ultimately sold me on bringing Femme Magnifique to life: A group of people coming together in art and appreciation.

I couldn’t wait to put out a call-to-arms within the comic book community, to turn the onslaught of anger about the Trump election results into positivity. So, we could become a fortress of knowledge. And change.

The following day I reached out to fellow comics pros Brian and Kristy Miller of Hi-Fi Colour Design, and we agreed to put our skills to good use and turn this social and political firecracker into Femme Magnifique, which is nothing but a celebration of women. Dreamers, achievers, glass ceiling crackers, fearless innovators of our history.

Next, I asked Kristy Miller and Brian Miller several questions about the role they played in Femme Magnifique.

Graphic Policy: How did you all get involved in the Femme Magnifique Kickstarter, and what day to day role do you play in the project?

Brian Miller: The election result came as a shock. I didn’t know what it would mean for my friends in the LGBT community and for women’s rights, but like many I was concerned. Frustration and anger weren’t the answer, and I was wondering how I could use my talents to effect change in a positive way. When Kristy and I spoke with Shelly, we knew Femme Magnifique could be the voice of positivity for women, who are feeling threatened or oppressed by the incoming administration.

In addition to coloring some of the stories in Femme Magnifique, I’m also helping with the layout and design of the book and much of the behind the scenes work on the Kickstarter campaign. When you are crowdfunding a graphic novel anthology, like Femme Magnifique, the Kickstarter campaign can become a second full time job. I’m so thankful for the fans and contributing creators who have helped get the message out about the campaign. If it were not for their tweets, Facebook posts, and helping to keep Femme Magnifique at the forefront, I don’t think we would be as far along as we are today. It’s been thrilling to see the outpouring of support so far.

Kristy Miller: Shelly was the driving force of starting this project.  She came to Brian and me with the idea, and we immediately jumped on board.

I joke that my role is the voice of reason. Shelly and Brian are visionaries and artists, who want to do as much as they possibly can creatively.  I want to know how much is it going to cost, what are the deadlines, is that even possible? I am handling the back-end business aspects and things like contracts, money, trafficking the art etc.  The not-so-glamourous-but-keep-eveything-in-order side of things.

GP: Why should comic book fans pick up Femme Magnifique, and what can they expect from the book?

BM:I hope many comic books fans will take a look at Femme Magnifique. There are incredible stories in the book written and drawn by fan favorite creators. I believe if you enjoy Michael and Laura Allred on Batman ’66 and Art Ops, you will love their story about Jane Fonda in Femme Magnifique. Fan favorite writers, like Kelly Sue DeConnick, Alisa Kwitney, Matt Wagner, Gerard Way, and others, are each contributing unique stories about women, who inspired their lives and enhanced their journeys.

Anyone who is a fan of Gail Simone’s writing for Red Sonja, Deadpool, and Batgirl will be delighted with her story about Kate Bush in the book.  Bringing the visuals to these stories is a roster of artists including Brian Stelfreeze, Marley Zarcone, Tess Fowler, Elsa Charretier, and Sanford Greene just to name a few. There are so many talented creators contributing to this graphic novel anthology, and I believe all comic book fans will be thrilled to own a copy.

GP: Kristy, how did your background as an archaeologist and anthropologist inform your work on Femme Magnifique?

KM: I have taught a variety of college classes on women in history and women in other cultures. I am always amazed when my students have never heard of women I think of as household names. Women, like Hatshepsut (Egyptian Pharaoh,) Pauline Cushman (American Civil War spy), and Margaret Mead (Cultural anthropologist), should be role models for everyone, yet many have not heard of them.

I ask my students to compile a list of their favorite/most inspirational woman in politics, music, science, history, the women’s movement, their family etc. There are a lot of blank lists. Why can you think of 20 men in those roles, but are hard-pressed to think of one woman?  I am also a PhD candidate in Education, and I created the Teacher’s Packet reward level for the Kickstarter. I will be writing curriculum based on Femme Magnifique that can be used in a variety of classes and for a variety of ages.

Femme Magnifique will showcase women as the role models they have always been. Hopefully, we will share the lives of some women that you may not have known about before. Not only are we spreading the stories of these women, but we are also sharing the medium of comics. Comics can be a hard sell, not fine art, not literature, but in Femme Magnifique, we will show you that comics are indeed both.

GP: Brian, how did your background as a comic book colorist inform your work on Femme Magnifique?

BM: Shelly, Kristy, and I all agreed color should be an important aspect of Femme Magnifique. Part of that meant inviting a handful of other colorists to join Hi-Fi on this project. While Hi-Fi is comprised of female and male flatters and colorists, we wanted to be inclusive and bring in some talented people who we had not had the opportunity to work with one-on-one previously. I’m proud to say colorists Tamra Bonvillain, Kelly Fitzpatrick, and Rick Taylor will be joining Femme Magnifique along with Hi-Fi to color these inspiring stories based on real women.

When it comes to coloring the individual stories, our goal is always to serve the story the writer has crafted and complement the artwork. In my mind, the color should never distract from the story or overwhelm the art. When we get it right, the color is good, but also subtle. It doesn’t shout unless needed, for a special moment in the story, or perhaps an effect like a flashback. I also believe it will be key for each story to have a color palette that suits the subject of the story and the time period. The color choices for the story of Brenda Starr creator Dale Messick set in the 1940s will be unique when compared with the color selections for Joan of Arc. When the book is complete, the stories should flow from one to another naturally, without shocking the reader, yet each have their own distinct flavor. This is the challenge we attempt to answer when coloring a large graphic novel anthology like Femme Magnifique.

GP: For the most part, Hi-Fi Colour Design works on superhero comics. What have been some of the challenges and rewards of switching from telling the stories of masked heroes and Timelords to depicting real people?

BM: Hi-Fi has been fortunate to color a variety of super-hero, independent, and alternative comics over the years. We love coloring the Justice League, The Flash, or Spider-Man, just as much as we enjoy working on Doctor Who, The X-Files, and G.I. Joe. At the end of the day, our focus is on great visual storytelling, and being able to apply those storytelling skills to stories based on real people is incredibly rewarding.


As an example, while I was reading Cecil Castellucci’s script for “The Right Stuff”, featuring real-life astronaut Sally Ride, I was inspired to research more about NASA’s space shuttle missions than I ever knew before. Artist Philip Bond shared information about various women astronauts and the different space suits they wore in flight. This motivated me to dive deeper and look through hundreds of reference photos to see the colors and materials used in the space suits and read more about women astronauts. All of this information informs the storytelling in the colors for the story. It also allows me to better complement the words written by Cecil and the artwork drawn by Philip. Plus I discovered more about space exploration than I knew before.

This sense of discovery and being inspired to learn more about the amazing women in Femme Magnifique is one of the reasons I enjoy this graphic novel anthology so much. Coloring one story changed my life and inspired me to get outside my comfort zone and learn something new. I can only imagine how I’ll feel after I’ve colored 20 or more of these stories.

GP: Since Femme Magnifique is all about shining a light on inspirational women, what are some women that have personally inspired you in your own lives?


An example of Adrienne Roy’s colors.

BM: I did not grow up with very many strong female role models in my life, but fortunately I have met many in the comic book industry, who have inspired me and and led by example. First is comic book colorist Adrienne Roy, who passed away in 2010. Her coloring work inspired me as a child and continues to influence me to this day. Her use of warm and cool colors for visual storytelling remains the gold standard for all colorists.

Cartoonist Paige Braddock inspires me with her strength and vision. She works in a corporate environment by day and creates amazing comics like Jane’s World and Stinky Cecil after hours. She’s a true role model for our industry. I had the pleasure to work with writer Gail Simone on Birds of Prey for several years at DC, and she set the bar for putting female heroes at the forefront in comic books. She showed readers the characters could be strong, smart, and sexy without being sexualized. Gail broke down barriers and opened a lot of doors in the industry. Readers and creators owe her a debt of gratitude for dragging the comic book industry kicking and screaming into this century.

Shelly Bond is more than a super-editor, she is a visionary. When you look back on her body of work, you see brilliance at every turn. I’m so grateful she has shared this with me on projects like Bite Club, My Faith in Frankie, American Virgin, and New Romancer. Read one of these stories, and you will understand how she sees the world, why she makes the creative decisions she makes, and why she keeps pushing for greatness and never stops. When you see the big name comic creators associated with Femme Magnifique, that’s all Shelly. She doesn’t have to convince, cajole, or beg anyone to be here creating this graphic novel anthology… We all want to do this, we all want to work with her again and again!

This list would not be complete without including my partner in Hi-Fi, and in life, Kristy Miller. She commands respect in our industry. Everyone in the industry wants to work with Hi-Fi because they know, with Kristy in charge, their comic will exceed expectations and meet the deadline.

KM: I’m lucky to have had many strong women in my life.  My grandmother was a librarian and my mother was a teacher, both went to college and always told me I could be anything and do anything I wanted in life.  I knew at an early age I wanted to be an archaeologist, but most people didn’t even know what that meant.  The only role models they could come up with were Indiana Jones, and that guy who found King Tut.  When I went to college, one of my advisors told me I should probably switch majors to history or mythology so I could stay home and maybe teach.  That just made me try harder to become an archaeologist. I was on my first dig in the Middle East by age 22.  There were a few mentions of women in my textbooks, but nothing substantial.

I will never forget, in 1994, a book came out called Women in Archaeology. It covered women working in various parts of the world and even the pitfalls of being a female archaeologist.  I read that book cover to cover and wondered why no one ever told me about these women before. I want Femme Magnifique to be a book that girls and women can turn to and say , “See, I can do that.” or even better find that their career path isn’t mentioned in one of our stories but still be inspired enough by other women to know she can make it on her own.

Stay tuned for part 2 of this interview featuring some of the creators of Femme Magnifique!


Listen to Shelly Bond Discuss Femme Magnifique on Demand

On demand: iTunes ¦ Sound Cloud ¦ Stitcher ¦ Listed on podcastdirectory.com

Comic-book stories celebrate women who crack ceilings, take names, and change the game. That’s Femme Magnifique, the comic anthology that salutes 30 female trailblazers of yesterday and today currently being Kickstarted featuring a who’s who of comic creators. That’s at least 30 stories from over 50 creators.

From astronauts and abolitionists to computer coders and crack journalists, these fearless women have paved the way for equal rights in science, politics and the arts. What better way to celebrate their achievements than in Femme Magnifique, a book that can live on in teenage bedrooms, corporate boardrooms and libraries around the world?

Joining Graphic Policy Radio to discuss this comic project is the legendary Shelly Bond who will be editing the stories featured.

Shelly Bond has been driven to edit, crush deadlines and innovate since 1988. To date she has edited 950+ comic books and graphic novels by international superstars and novices. One of the most respected and admired editors among her peers, Bond previously served as VP-Executive Editor of DC Comics’ Vertigo imprint. She wields red pens and tap shoes with equal aplomb.

Shelly Bond Discusses Femme Magnifique LIVE this Monday

femme-magnifique-1Comic-book stories celebrate women who crack ceilings, take names, and change the game. That’s Femme Magnifique, the comic anthology that salutes 30 female trailblazers of yesterday and today currently being Kickstarted featuring a who’s who of comic creators. That’s at least 30 stories from over 50 creators.

From astronauts and abolitionists to computer coders and crack journalists, these fearless women have paved the way for equal rights in science, politics and the arts. What better way to celebrate their achievements than in Femme Magnifique, a book that can live on in teenage bedrooms, corporate boardrooms and libraries around the world?

Joining Graphic Policy Radio to discuss this comic project is the legendary Shelly Bond who will be editing the stories featured.

The show airs LIVE this Monday at 10pm ET.

Shelly Bond has been driven to edit, crush deadlines and innovate since 1988. To date she has edited 950+ comic books and graphic novels by international superstars and novices. One of the most respected and admired editors among her peers, Bond previously served as VP-Executive Editor of DC Comics’ Vertigo imprint. She wields red pens and tap shoes with equal aplomb.

Join us Monday and Tweet us questions @graphicpolicy.

Listen to the show when it airs LIVE this Monday.

Monolith’s Next Board Game is Based on Batman

Monolith, the French game publisher, has teased its next tabletop project: Batman: The Board Game. The company who has successfully Kickstarted games such as Conan and Mythic Battles: Pantheon, showed off a teaser on its Facebook page.

Little is actually known, but the picture shared is of the company’s booth at the International Games Festival in Cannes where a prototype will be demoed.

The art of the Joker art is by the artist Jock, but not sure on the Batman and Catwoman art. The image also says “Coming on Kickstarter.”

The company raised $3.3 million for their Conan game and $2.7 million for Mythic Battles (of which I was a backer). The company has said this won’t launch until after Mythic Battles is delivered which isn’t listed until December 2017. Expect this game in 2018.

New Publisher Offers Readers the Chance to Buy Comics for Local Libraries

Heroes of Homeroom C is one week into their Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign and they have reached the 25% funded mark! That means almost $4,000 of their stated $15,000 CDN goal (approx. $11,500 USD) has already been raised. The book, by Aristocrats Comics, is set to be the first of many such comic books from the newly-formed publishing company that promotes ethnic diversity in both its characters and its creators.

Heroes of Homeroom C tells the story of Albert and Nicola Hathaway, twin 12-year-old African-American superheroes who lose their powers and are sent back to public school to try and have a “normal life.”  But even seventh grade can’t stop our heroes from getting wrapped up in action and excitement.

Created by Aristocrats publisher Anthony Ruttgaizer, a Toronto-based writer of mixed Caribbean and European descent, with art by Carlos Granda, a native of Colombia, Heroes of Homeroom C is a 74-page, all-original graphic novel. Funds raised via the Kickstarter campaign will go towards printing and shipping the book, the crowdfunding website’s processing fees and paying the art team of Granda and letterer/colorist Fred C. Stresing for their hard work.

For $65 CDN (approx. $50 USD), “backers” will receive a copy of Heroes of Homeroom C for themselves while TWO copies will be donated to local libraries in their name. At the end of the campaign, supporters will have the chance to choose a library to receive this gift.

Kickstarter’s “all-or-nothing” funding model means that Aristocrats Comics MUST raise their stated goal of $15,000 CDN by March 2nd or they will receive nothing.


Dark Beach Creators Open Up

OneSheet_NEWTo paraphrase Big Daddy Kane, “Making comics ain’t easy.” It takes a tireless creative engine on top of a relentless marketing machine. Many of the people we discuss only need to have one or the other. Some people need to be both to realize their dreams.

Michael Ruiz-Unger and Tucker Tota are that rare kind, capable of pushing their dreams into reality without the benefit of an establish publisher or marketing agency getting them out there. They turned to Kickstarter to get the first issue of their book Dark Breach made and are about to conclude a new Kickstarter for the second issue. In fact, you should take moment to check out the incredible art their new book is sporting here.

In an effort to enlighten us about an experience most of have (so far) only dreamed of, these writers are taking a moment to tell us about their book and the experience of making their dream a reality.

Graphic Policy: Do us a favor and tell us a little bit about Dark Beach and what people will love about it?

Michael Ruiz-Unger: Dark Beach is a story about a crime scene photographer who lives in a future world where Earth has drifted away from the Sun. Gordo, our main character, gets mixed up in a murder conspiracy that is fueled by his obsession with the Old Sun.

GP: How did you originally come up with this idea?

MRU: It was a mesh of ideas that collided together over a week or two during a heavy New York City winter. I had rented out a shitty apartment, which had only one window and a tiny heater. It felt like the sun didn’t exist. At the same time, I was reading about 1940’s crime scene photographer WeeGee. Everything about him was fascinating to me (the photos and the police radio he had in his car). The two ideas just seemed perfect together.

GP: How long were you working with it before it was ready to be set in motion?

MRU: It took about three years before I actually started cranking the wheels. I wrote a quick treatment for it with a friend, then Tucker and I rounded it off and made it comic book ready. I would say, as a film director, that being frustrated at not having the budget to film something of this magnitude really pushed me to make it into a comic.

GP: What percentage of the book is finished before you begin designing a Kickstarter?

MRU: I would say the book is about 99% done. The rest are little things we find here and there that get changed. We want to make sure that it is absolutely perfect before sending off to our printers. We also want it done because we only want to focus on the Kickstarter and push it as much as we can. You can’t just throw it up and let it go. You have to promote the hell out of it.

GP: You’ve finished your second successful Kickstarter. What is it about Dark Beach that you think really connects with people in a way gets them to invest before they have ever even read it?

Tucker Tota: A lot of that credit goes to the comics community. There aren’t many art forms where people are taking chances on indie creators. There is more than enough great content coming from the big publishers, so it’s really amazing that readers are willing to look to Kickstarter for new and original stories. That said, I think Dark Beach is an indie comic but feels like something you could pick up at your comic shop, mostly because we made sure to work with great artists and use high quality printing. We also spend a lot of time on our design and marketing, so it feels as professional as the big guys.

GP: When undertaking an endeavor like this for the first time, you learn so many “unknown unknowns”. What did you learn while making issue one that allowed you to be better prepared  issue two?

TT: The very first steps, finding your art team, figuring out how to tell your story in panels and pages, getting all that figured out for issue #1 made making #2 way easier. But we’re still learning and as we work on issue #3 I think we’re finally getting really comfortable with the process and telling the story as best we can.

GP: What did you find to be the best way to get people involved in the project?

TT: I think you’d have to ask Sebastian and Ray why they continue to work with us, but I think we all work together really well and I’m super happy to have found them. We have a group chat as a team and we constantly share ideas for the story so it feels like everyone is contributing and it’s not just us telling them what to do. We also send each other comics or movies we’ve been digging, so it’s a very positive and friendly experience.

GP: When you first started working on Dark Beach, did you create a proposal and shop it around? Who did you send it to?

MRU: We created a two-page sample, which we sent with a synopsis and an entire outline of the story and sent it to all the publishers. After months waiting for a response we realized what a giant waste of time that was. Those publishers don’t want to read a 10-page word document. So we said screw it, lets do this issue ourselves. Around that time we noticed how big Kickstarter was getting and how it was morphing into a place to not only jump-start your project but also sell finished products. I think we made the right move. The response has been great and even Guillermo del Toro pitched in to the Kickstarter.

GP: What made you decide to self-publish?

TT: If a big publisher had wanted to publish our book we probably would have taken the offer. But doing it ourselves has been a really great experience too. Interacting with the audience that we’re building from scratch is so rewarding and meaningful to us. And having full creative control over the project is priceless. It’s very encouraging to know that we don’t need someone to give us permission to make a comic.

GP: What were your backgrounds in writing/illustration that you felt comfortable taking on such a large endeavor?

TT: Mike has been making films for a long time and I write songs for my band Bad Wave, so story-telling is something we’ve been doing for a while. We definitely felt like outsiders when starting this comic, but really once you learn the technical aspects of telling a story through pages and panels, it’s all the same thing really. Characters, plots, settings, it’s all about a compelling story, the format is secondary.

GP: What’s your plan for distributing the book?

MRU: We plan on continuing the distribution ourselves. It’s tough when you only have one book out. People think you’re a one-time deal, that you don’t have it in you to make a whole series, but that’s not the case with us. We’re going the whole way. Surprisingly, some comic book stores that we’ve encountered don’t really care to feature independent comics books. To me, the most interesting stuff was in the indie section! Like when I found Justin Madson’s Breathers series. That was a game changer for me, not what the factories were pumping out weekly. But I get it, people have to make money. Also, we’re on Comixology!

GP: If you were approached by a publisher who wanted to pick up the book and get it out there for you, what would you be looking for before agreeing to that?

TT: I would want to know what we’re getting in exchange for giving up our intellectual property. If they can get our story out to a much larger audience, more than we could on our own, we would certainly consider that. But giving up the rights to something you create is a big deal to us, so it would have to be worth it.

Having read the first two issues, be assured Dark Beach is an awesome read that manages to thrive outside of any one particular genre. Their Kickstarter is ending in a few days so jump on board and be a part of making great, new comics!

Patrick Healy is a writer and artist, making pins and taking names. Check out his latest Kickstarter here!

The Comics Are All Right: Break the Marketing Mold

sink-1While many are discussing the spiral death of the comic industry excuses as to the cause seem to vary depending on the position the person is in. Store owners often blame publishers for putting out too much, not marketing enough, incorrect pricing, lackluster product, a broken preordering system, and more. Indie creators focus on an antiquated distribution system, a market too focused on a few publishers, fans unwilling to take a chance. Fans blame stores for not reading their minds and ordering what they want, publishers for the product, creators who fight with fans.

In reality, it’s not one thing, it’s many that lead to the ups and downs of the comic industry.

But, there are some who are bucking the system. Creators who are talking directly to fans. Publishers who are going around the current distribution system. Stores who are finding customers and building their own communities.

There are roughly 284,163,264 individuals interested in comics according to Facebook demographics. That’s a large group of folks to advertise directly to. Stores, like Third Eye Comics in Maryland, are doing just that with engaging advertising to get folks to come to their store. Three years since I first covered Third Eye’s fantastic ad program they’re still going strong, so it must be working for them, right?

When I started these columns, I didn’t just want to highlight problems of the industry, I wanted to spotlight those who are doing things that go around the system and pave their own path like Third Eye Comics.

A prime example of this entrepreneurial attitude is ComixTribe headed up by Tyler James who recently spoke to us about Kickstarter and the things the publisher is doing there. The publisher definitely is blazing their own path working within and outside of the current system to create their own corner of comicdom and doing so by building a community.

Their latest project to break the mold is Sink. The series by writer John Lees, artist Alex Cormack, letterer Colin Bell has done its own thing to build its audience.

First: A series of emails to the ComixTribe list teased the new series

Second: After a series of teasers the comic’s first issue was given away for FREE to the dedicated email list. ComixTribe often gives away free first issues to incentivize individuals to join their list.

Third: A limited amount of print copies were released primarily at conventions.

Fourth: A Kickstarter has been launched to fund an offset printing for the comic before it’s released to mass markets later this year.

330 individuals, and $3,300 above the goal raised as of this article being published, the Kickstarter and marketing plan is a success.

But, the email list could have been it to build a promotion. ComixTribe has gone an extra step with what I see as a rarity this day, a physical mailing. It feels like far to few publishers and creators take advantage of a cheap communication platform like email, but to see one send out a physical mailing is impressive, to say the least.

comixtribe-1 comixtribe-2

You think this is would be a pretty big outlay right? Some Google search has each postcard pegged at about 30 cents a piece. A 5,000 person mailing would cost about $1,500. With the postcards just hitting mailboxes, the return on investment most likely hasn’t been seen… yet, but the project is already above its goal.

If 5,000 individuals seems like too few individuals for your $1,500 investment, that same amount of money on Facebook gets you about 63,000,000 views of individuals who said they are interested in comics. If 1% of 1% of those views take action, that’s 630 new Kickstarter pledges, almost double the current amount of individuals pledged for this project.

With ComixTribe, what we’re seeing is a new type of marketing being used, one that bucks the press release, blog, individual, shop, dynamic that’s dominated the industry. And by doing this sort of hard work, ComixTribe is building their own community, one that will follow them through ups and downs and the market and most importantly, they can talk to directly.

ComixTribe might be a small publisher, but their ideas are pretty big, and they’re showing the industry you don’t have to beholden to the current paradigm, you can create your own and find success.

Andre Frattino and Jesse Lee talk Simon Says: Nazi Hunter

simon-saysSimon Says: Nazi Hunter tells the story of Simon Wiesenthal, a Holocaust survivor-turned Nazi Hunter. The comic is on Kickstarter, where creative team Andre Frattino and Jesse Lee are hoping to fund the printing and production of the first issue and expand the comic into a graphic novel-length story. We chatted with them about their project, and what we can learn from this politically relevant story.

Graphic Policy: Hi! Firstly, thank you for taking the time to chat with us about your Kickstarter for Simon Says: Nazi Hunter. Would you like to introduce the creative team and tell us a little about yourselves?

Andre Frattino: Hi, I’m Andre Frattino, and I’m the writer of Simon Says: Nazi Hunter.

Jesse Lee: Hello! My name is Jesse Lee and I’m the artist for Simon Says. I’m a recent graduate who’s working on starting my professional career as an artist. Right now, I sling coffee at a local cafe. I like coffee. Like… a lot.

GP: Simon Says is live on Kickstarter right now. Could you describe the project?

AF: Simon Says is a comic inspired by famed Nazi Hunter, Simon Wiesenthal. Wiesenthal was an Austrian of Jewish descent, who survived the war when the Nazi put him to work as an artist painting swastikas on train cars. Through hardship and torture, he survived, but unfortunately, most of his family did not. Wiesenthal spent the rest of his life devoted to hunting down Nazis who escaped prosecution after the war. Some called him the “Jewish James Bond” and I think that nickname fits the idea of our comic nicely.

JL: It’s a story about vengeance and justice, loss, and absolution. It’s about how one man decided to take a stand against individuals responsible for the genocide of millions. 

GP: Based on the Kickstarter previews, the art and storytelling vibe really well. How did this creative team come together?

AF: I’ve been mulling over this idea for years, and initially had in mind to illustrate it myself. However, I wasn’t convinced my style fit the level of precision and detail a project of this magnitude demands. Jesse and I had met a few years ago and discussed the idea of a collaboration. With his style, it felt like a no-brainer to get him on it, and I was very fortunate that he said “yes.”

JL: Actually, it was completely by chance. I met Andre working a night shift at the cafe. He was sitting by himself with his laptop and there wasn’t anybody else inside. I saw him drawing on a tablet and I asked him if he was working on anything. After chatting a bit, he tells me he works for SCAD (Savannah College of Art and Design) and that he also writes and produces comics. He gave me his card and I gave him my Tumblr to look at my art. Fast forward a few months later, Andre contacts me about a project he’s working on and asked if I would be interested in being his artist. Believe it or not, I wasn’t the first artist to work on this project. Andre had another guy working with him, but for reasons unknown, he left and Andre asked me to hop on the project. The rest is history.

GP: You mentioned that Simon Says is influenced by noir and pulp fiction and films like Schindler’s List and Inglorious Bastards. Were there any comics that had an influence on Simon Says?

AF: If I had to choose a couple that mostly influenced my storytelling, it would have to be Art Spiegelman’s MAUS and Frank Miller’s Sin City. Spiegelman had a very forward and frank way of putting his story. There was no glitz and glamour to his storytelling. He told it as it needed to be told. From Miller’s Sin City, I think the biggest influence is in Simon’s inner monologuing, which Sin City’s Frank did such a great job of doing.

JL: For me, I’d have to say Art Spiegelman’s Maus. I’ve always had it set in the back of my head while working on the pages. It’s raw, emotional, and dauntingly haunting. With an atrocity such as the Holocaust, everyone has the sensibility to empathize with an event so devastating and tragic. But, when you’re witnessing the horrors through the eyes of somebody who’s actually been through it, your senses are on an entirely different scale. 

GP: What would you say your biggest comic influences are as creators, and what sets your story apart from others?

AF: Quite by accident, most of my previous works are heavy handed in their pull from history. I think that I excel in storytelling that is grounded in historical roots and tries to educate while entertaining. I think that comics have a relatively untapped talent at that. Some of the best comics I know are based in reality (with a bit of a spin) and don’t rely on capes and masks. Don’t get me wrong, I love superheroes, but I think it’s something that’s widely overdone, and there’s too much great material in our own world that doesn’t get utilized.

JL: Too many to list but these guys really know how to lay the ink down and they’re just some that come to mind: John Paul Leon, Borislav Mitkov, Marcos Mateu-Mestre, Andrew Mar, and Jorge Zaffino. Aside from there not ever being a comic about Simon Wiesenthal, this project stands out among a saturated market of superheroes and muscle heads. While I thoroughly enjoy mainstream comics, this is a story about a hero without a skin-tight suit.

GP: This comic is based on the life of Simon Wiesenthal, a Holocaust survivor and Nazi hunter. Could you tell us a little about Simon’s story and how this impacted you as creators and how it has guided the direction of your project?

AF: Simon’s story, like everyone who survived the Holocaust, is a story of immense sorrow and heartache. It’s absolute hell on Earth, and anyone who hasn’t lived it (including, obviously, myself), could never seek to imagine what it was actually like. All we can say with certainty is that it changed people. In Simon’s case, it transformed him into a crusader for justice, as it did many who decided to take up the role of Nazi Hunter. This story aims to spark the recognition of those heroes in the next generation and the next generation. The farther we grow from the generation that actually experienced the war, the more likely people will forget, or start seeing it as “an unfortunate part of history.” I’m not talking about Jewish descendants, I’m talking about EVERYONE. We can’t let society forget that people who suffered didn’t fade into obscurity afterwards, they fought.

JL: I really admire the fact that Simon didn’t just seek revenge, he sought justice. He never killed any of the Nazi war criminals he captured. Instead, he made sure they stood trial for their crimes. That speaks volumes of his character and his code. Essentially, he was a real-life Bruce Wayne. It’s cool to know that you get to work on a story of a man who is pretty much Batman!

GP: Comics have always been decidedly political, and Simon Says is no exception. Was its development reactionary to current politics?

AF: Like I said, I actually came up with this idea back in 2008. I think that the current political environment is frighteningly coincidental, but also frighteningly similar to what happened to Simon Wiesenthal and millions of people. Part of me wonders how I held onto this project for so long and how RIGHT NOW, became the time we acted on it. Jesse and I have actually been collaborating since early last year, so the timing…it’s scary, but it makes our project 100x more potent and necessary.

JL: As much as I’d love to say we planned this all around the current state of affairs, this project was in development a significant time before any of the chaos here in the U.S. started breaking out. That’s not to say that it isn’t any less pertinent. I find this project incredibly relevant as it connects readers personally to a victim of Xenophobia, which is so prevalent in our country today. We can’t ever forget the past and the lessons it’s entailed. Hopefully, this project can remind us of that. 

GP: This Kickstarter is for the production of issue one, and it’s clear that this is a passion project. What led you to develop Simon Wiesenthal’s story?

AF: I quite honestly cannot tell you. I rack my brain trying to remember how I learned about Simon Wiesenthal. I know it happened sometime in 2008, but I can’t remember how. I have been fascinated by World War II and the Holocaust since I was in high school, since I read Elie Wiesel’s Night. How could there be a scarier series of crimes and events against humanity by a people who claimed to be pure and superior? Only to transform themselves into the monsters of legend?

JL: I’ll let Andre answer that one!

GP: That being said, what do you hope readers take away from Simon Says?

AF: To quote Simon Wiesenthal: “For your benefit, learn from our tragedy. It is not written law that the next victims must be Jews.”

JL: History must not repeat itself. It’s like Simon’s famous quote, “For evil to flourish, it only requires good men to do nothing.”

GP: Is there anything else you would like to discuss that I didn’t ask?

AF: Roughly 500,000 Holocaust survivors are still alive today. Most of that number lives below the poverty line. We want to exceed our fundraising goal of $5,000, and if we do, we’ll donate a portion of that excess to charities that support and care for survivors who still need help. I never knew him, but I honestly believe that’s something Simon Wiesenthal would’ve wanted us to do.

JL: Thanks for your questions! You guys rock!

GP: Again, thank you so much for your time!

This project is up for funding on Kickstarter until February 28.

Francis Ford Coppola’s American Zoetrope To Bring Apocalypse Now into the Realm of Videogames

apocalypse_nowApocalypse Now – The Game’s Kickstarter went live on January 25th and has already gained $52,000 during the first day. The game is set to be in early access by 2019 to coincide with the 40th anniversary of the Oscar-winning film.

This would not be the first time Apocalypse Now has inspired a major videogame. In 2012 Yager Development and 2K Games released Spec Ops: The Line, the controversial third person shooter that drew heavily from Apocalypse Now. Moreover both Spec Ops: The Line and Apocalypse Now used the novella Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad as a primary source of inspiration. Similarly to Spec Ops: The Line, the developers intend for Apocalypse Now to put on full display “the unspeakable horrors of the Vietnam War” in order to highlight war isn’t a game or meant to be enjoyable. Furthermore, the player’s “reactions to each situation will result in consequences that will alter their journey as the story unfolds. Every decision matters and each player will tell their own story.”

Apocalypse Now is being developed by a new team of game industry leaders, in conjunction with American Zoetrope. The team includes: Rob Auten, a lead writer on multiple billion-dollar gaming franchises including Gears of War, Battlefield, and Far Cry; Lawrence Liberty, whose executive producer and director credits include Fallout: New Vegas, The Witcher, and DC Universe Online; Montgomery Markland, who was the lead producer on two of the most successful crowdfunding titles of all time: Wasteland 2 and Torment: Tides of Numenera; in a special advisory capacity, Obsidian Entertainment’s Design Director Josh Sawyer, who directed Fallout: New Vegas and Pillars of Eternity, and many more game luminaries to come.

Francis Ford Coppola said in the press release:

Forty years ago, I set out to make a personal art picture that could hopefully influence generations of viewers for years to come. Today, I’m joined by new daredevils, a team who want to make an interactive version of Apocalypse Now, where you are Captain Benjamin Willard amidst the harsh backdrop of the Vietnam War. I’ve been watching videogames grow into a meaningful way to tell stories, and I’m excited to explore the possibilities for Apocalypse Now for a new platform and a new generation.

“We will create a game that challenges what an interactive experience can be; just as the original motion picture challenged the concept of cinema,” said Montgomery Markland, game director. “We are making a game that we are excited to play. We will deliver a greater variety of experience and interaction than is currently available within the the relatively static industry.”

The Kickstarter is set to end on February 24th and needs to meet a goal of $900,000 in order to be funded. Check out their Kickstarter page for a prototype trailer of what the game can be as well as a message from Francis Ford Coppola about his vision for the game.

Tyler James of ComixTribe and ComixLaunch talks Kickstarter

comixlaunchAs the start of our Kickstarter coverage, I kicked off the year by interviewing Tyler James, who is a publisher at ComixTribe and host of the ComixLaunch podcast. As a successful project manager on Kickstarter, he graciously shared some of his knowledge on the makings of strong Kickstarter campaigns.

Graphic Policy: First, can you give us a little bit of background on how you first got involved in Kickstarter Projects? Were you skeptical at first or did you dive right in?

Tyler James: When I look back, I sat on the sidelines. I didn’t launch my first campaign until mid-2012 and it seems like it had already been here forever. But if you think about it, Kickstarter would only be in like, first grade if it was a human. It really was a game-changer in a lot of ways. I remember the first four projects I backed didn’t get funded, so it wasn’t until early 2012 that I started following projects that were doing really well.

I originally had a misconception or a mindset issue that really held me back with Kickstarter because I was looking at Kickstarter as a non-renewable resource. Like, you got your one Kickstarter card that you could play, and so I was like, “I’ve got to wait for the perfect project to launch Kickstarter” because I thought, “maybe you get one shot to go to the well on that.”

What I didn’t realize was that whether Kickstarter was a finite resource or a renewable resource depends on how well you run your campaign. If you run a kickass campaign, you’re going to excite the fans you already have, you’re going to draw new fans, and if you treat them well and treat your backers well, they’re going to be asking you when the next campaign is.

comixtribe-logoI studied the platform for about a year, year and a half and sat on the sidelines for a while before actually pulling the trigger. When I launched, I launched with a pretty cool anthology project and it did great. It was our first hardcover project that we did, and we shot for an $8,500 goal and raised $26,000 which was, at the time more than I had made in the previous four years of making comics.

It really ignited the growth of ComixTribe from there. That first Kickstarter really did kickstart things not only on Kickstarter, but for ComixTribe. It helped us get off the ground and put us on the map. I look at the growth and the things we’ve been able to do since and a lot of that goes to the initial success we had on Kickstarter.

GP: So, how many projects have you had on Kickstarter so far?

TJ: I’ve managed nine projects between me and my collaborators, and that’s across a couple of different Kickstarter profiles. I’ve managed my projects, I’ve worked with Joe Mulvey, who is a ComixTribe creator for his Scam Ultimate Collection hardcover and John Lees on his Standard hardcover. That’s one of the things we at ComixTribe realized. We can put out hardcover collections that are as good or better than any publisher on the planet can do, but the only way we can do that is with the support on Kickstarter.

The Diamond model for those oversize hardcovers, for what get ordered in the shop, that would never happen. The awesome thing about a platform like Kickstarter is that we can actually compete with the support of our small but dedicated fanbase and then make really great books. Kickstarter has enabled us to make awesome products, which is cool.

I also, working with Jason Ciaramella and Greg Murphy, started a new brand for children’s books that adults actually want to read, and that became the C is for Cthulhu brand. That’s the first book we did, and so I’ve managed three projects with that and I think those have done over $100,000 in funding just for the Cthulhu stuff.

All in all, I’ve managed nine projects that have raised over $220,000 with the support of 5,000+ backers. It’s been a lot of experience.

GP: It sure sounds like it! And now you’re holding Kickstarter workshops and challenges. Since the most recent one just ended, can you talk a little bit about the 6 Day Kickstarter Challenge?

TJ: Certainly. So in the middle of 2015, I launched a podcast called ComixLaunch. With ComixTribe, since the very beginning, we’ve always been doing two things. Sort of putting out our own books, under the ComixTribe label, and sharing what we know and what we were learning in the process, from going to complete unknowns to building a small press from the ground up. We earned a lot of goodwill doing that and a lot of our articles have been shared across–we’ve gone back and forth with Graphic Policy several times and had good relations with the folks over there.

As I was sort of paying attention and as I was continuing with Kickstarter and looking at the ComixTribe stats, the questions that were coming up the most and the articles that were getting the most traffic and uptake, the things I was hearing most about and the questions I was getting most at conventions and in emails were all around Kickstarter. I’d found a couple of kickstarter podcasts that I really liked that I got a ton of value on and good ideas from and one of my favorites stopped putting out new podcast episodes.

I’d started getting the podcast bug myself and was listening to a bunch of podcasts and in early 2015 and I thought, “you know what, there’s a need for this, there’s a need for a show that will go really deep and focus on mindset strategies and tactics for crowdfunding,” specifically for comics and graphic novels, but so many of the principles can be applied to any genre.

The idea was that being that focused and niche, it’s not going to be a blockbuster podcast, but there will be some creators out there who absolutely need it. That was what I launched ComixLaunch with.

In mid 2015, a little less than half of all comics projects got funded on kickstarter when we launched the podcast. I know how much ink, sweat and tears goes into launching, and dreams, creative aspirations and emotions go into launching a Kickstarter. The fact that it’s such a coin flip for creators was gutting to me, and that’s why I launched the podcast initially.

The podcast has been running weekly since we launched, which has been really great and it’s been a tremendous experience for me. As we’ve continued, to see and say, alright, how can we continue to add value and give creators a nudge? One cool thing, statistically, since I know Graphic Policy loves statistics, when I started tracking the comics success rate on Kickstarter, it was 49.95 percent, and since comixlaunch launched,t he overall kickstarter success rate has gone down 2.5 percent and comics have gone up 2.2 percent, so comics are trending in the right direction.

Obviously, ComixLaunch can’t take all or most of the credit for that and the creators out there and the community are pretty special when it comes to Kickstarter, but I think we’re helping. Our reviews and the feedback we get from creators are making an impact, but I think we can continue to do better. One of the things I found, because I try to survey and talk to my audience all the time, one thing that’s a little disheartening or points to the challenges, 70 percent of my audience haven’t launched projects on Kickstarter. There are a lot of reasons for that–creative inertia is one of them, you’ve got to get moving to keep moving and once you’re stuck, it’s hard to get unstuck.

I think a lot of creators don’t know what they don’t know, and so the challenge is the idea of “let’s try to do it at the beginning of the year, let’s get creators moving and if they’re already planning their Kickstarter, let’s make them better, and if they’re just getting started, let’s get them started on a good footing.” That was the big idea behind the challenge. Let’s spend six days, and each day there will be a lesson and a challenge activity associated with it.

This is something I could have done myself and put together the challenge and the lessons, between ComixLaunch and last year, when I decided to put together a full course called the ComixLaunch Course, which is basically a step-by-step system. Now that i’ve done nine projects I don’t recreate the wheel every time, I actually have a set system that i put in place to plan and launch and execute and fulfill my Kickstarters. So in January of last year I did a pilot program and took eight creators under my wing and taught them the strategies and tactics and systems that I use, and had a lot of success.

That was the pilot version of the ComixLaunch course, so I could have taken some of those lessons and done the challenges myself, but I thought it would be more fun and more of an event to reach out to some of my past ComixLaunch guests and people that have had success on the Kickstarter platform and who have the heart of a teach and like sharing what they know with other creators. I reached out to five other creators and asked them if they want to participate in the challenge and everybody said yes, so I taught day one and then I had five other creators–Dirk Manning of Nightmare World, Ryan K. Lindsay, Russell Nohelty of Wannabe Press, the folks from KrakenPrint, and Madeleine Holly-Rosing who’s the author of Kickstarter for the Independent Creator.

A great collection of guest instructors, and I’d set an initial goal of getting about a hundred creators and a stretch goal of about 250, and last I checked we had about 270 that actually registered for the challenge. It was definitely a big success and something that went from idea to “hey, this is a real thing that’s happening” in about two and a half weeks.

GP: With that success, do you think you’ll be holding future Kickstarter challenges?

TJ: Yeah. Right now I’m still sort of in–this is a big experiment, right?–so I’m getting some lessons learned and feedback from creators. Over the next week, we’re going to leave the challenge open, all the activities and lessons and challenges and resources were housed within a private Facebook group so people could register and get in. We’re going to keep it open for a couple of weeks, so if somebody hears about it and wants to hop in, it’s still open and they can go to comixlaunch.com/challenge and they will get started on day one and can do it on their own time.

I’ll be getting feedback and seeing what people liked, what can be improved and doing some debriefs and we’ll likely run it again. By and large I think it was a big success–a lot of work, because it was the first time doing it, and it’s kind of par for the course–whatever you think something’s going to take to get done, plan on it taking ten times as much work to get done. That’s a lesson most Kickstarter creators will find out, so be careful of those great ideas. But it’s been a great experience.

It’s great because there’s a range of teaching styles and approaches from creators, and different creators resonated more, some less, but it was a good cross-section. I’ll probably survey the challenge group and get some feedback and suggestions going forward, but it’s something I plan on holding again.

Right now, for the next couple of days enrollment is open and will soon close for the next section of the ComixLaunch Course. I’ve got a new batch of creators I’ll be working with starting in the next couple of days and we’re going to be working together to plan and execute and launch their Kickstarter projects using my system. A bunch of the creators in the challenge will be upgrading to the ComixLaunch Course and working with me.

I think the great thing is that everyone who participated in the challenge got something out of it and I know I did, as well. One of the things I think is very important, especially in the winter when conventions are fewer and farther between, is keeping that community going. Within the challenge group, people were signing up for each other’s emails, sharing their Facebook pages and backing each other’s Kickstarters for the folks who have Kickstarters going right now. So much of a successful career is having a network, and anytime i can help facilitate connecting creators with other creators doing cool stuff is definitely a valid and worthwhile use of my time.

GP: Why do you think–I’m sure part of it is because ComixLaunch has given creators a resource on how to build up their Kickstarter skills and whatnot–but what else do you think has been a factor in the growth of comics project success rates on Kickstarter?

TJ: I think there’s a few things going on. I think comics creators, probably more than a lot of categories, set more attainable goals. You look at the success rate for tech projects and it’s something like, sub-20 percent. I think it’s like 18 percent, and a lot of that is because just to get those things off the ground, they need forty thousand, eighty thousand dollars, just to make a prototype.

With comics, most of us are used to putting some skin in the game, rolling up our sleeves, doing it for the love and really, a lot of the time, comics creators are just going to Kickstarter with help printing and maybe some colors, or to recoup some of that stuff. We’re not always going to Kickstarter and saying, “We need to raise ten, twenty, fifty thousand dollars,” especially if we don’t have a big audience. I also think, more so than most industries, there’s a lot of mutual support–creators supporting other creators. I feel like we do have a good community where people are more likely to share what other people are doing, and I think that’s a good thing.

There’s a lot of negativity that you’ll see if you’re on quote-unquote Comics Twitter, but I feel like you get so much of what you focus on.

Every year, if you look at any year-end recap, “what do you want to see in comics?” article, diversity in comics is a thing. If you look at Kickstarter right now, you’ll get all the diversity in comics you could ever want. And you’ll also see a lot of creators sharing each other’s stuff.

I think we have a community that, by and large, a lot of good information gets shared. I don’t know that it’s all that cutthroat. I hope that over time, the message of ComixLaunch is that Kickstarter is not a zero-sum game, and that my success on the platform does not mean your success is less likely. That was a big thing behind the Six Day Challenge. One of my most recent podcasts was about your mission, your impact, and your legacy.

I sort of threw down the gauntlet and said, “The goal for ComixLaunch and everything we do going forward is to make comics the category that has the highest success rate on Kickstarter.” To do that, that means better projects and better prepared creators. I don’t think every project deserves to fund on the Kickstarter platform if the project is not well thought out–Kickstarter should never be looked at as an ATM or a given, but there’s no reason that only 5 out of 10 need to fund. Why not 6 out of 10? 7 out of 10? So a big part of the ComixLaunch challenge was how can we best impact that? Right now comics is the third highest category on Kickstarter, but we can do better.

I have some other things I’ll be putting out over the next year. I have a book on Kickstarter page design that will be coming out later next year, which is another thing I can add to the mix and help make better projects and get more funded and help make an impact.

GP: You kind of touched on something I was going to ask you about as well, which was are there things that crowdfunding allows authors and artists to do that they wouldn’t get to do otherwise?

TJ: Oh yeah, definitely. There are so many creators out there on Kickstarter that have been able to have tremendous impact. You look at some of the stuff that Spike Trotman does; I don’t know that there’s many quote-unquote big or standard publishers that would jump at what she puts out, but there’s definitely a big audience that she has built for herself, and Kickstarter allows her to go directly to that audience and do it in a way that really magnifies the audience she does have and allows her to put out great books and great projects. There’s so many examples of that–just about everybody is an example of that.

A creator that I work with that was a creator in the pilot version of the ComixLaunch course is a guy named Joshua James, and he’s a very talented artist who has been working for other people’s projects forever but has always been pushing his own creator-owned stuff to the side. What Kickstarter allows him to do is not just get his book out there, but he was able to get it funded, his first project, and carve out a little bit of time for himself to do his own project. That’s exciting, too.

It’s been talked about, but Kickstarter does invert the funnel where it puts funds directly into the creators’ control first, where in the publishing model creators are often the last to get funds. It always seems a little bit backwards, though having done the publisher side as well, I know why that is, especially when you’re talking smaller books, smaller projects, and smaller print runs.

GP: And I would think it allows each member of the audience to ensure they get something out of the Kickstarter as well, instead of going to a store and finding that the first, second, and third printing of something is sold out.

TJ: The ability to have your favorite author know that you backed him or that you bought his book, that wasn’t possible really prior to Kickstarter in a lot of cases, right? You buy a book off a shelf and no one knows that, but here you have a direct connection to some of your favorite creators and support them directly. A lot of creators get super creative with rewards–from original art, to original stories, to getting your name or message in a book. There’s so much cool stuff you can do with Kickstarter.

There’s a quote by a guy named Jeff Walker, who’s a master of launches and has been doing it for years that’s like, “If you can turn your marketing into an event, you’re going to transform your results” and that’s really what Kickstarter does. Kickstarter campaigns, when done well, they’re events, and events get people fired up, and when people are fired up, good things happen.

GP: It’s nice that it also gives people a way to directly support creators instead of other publishing models, which don’t necessarily do that.

TJ: And you get that direct, instant feedback, too. I go in and back a book for ten dollars and immediately see that I just made him ten dollars closer to his goal. And even those little psychological triggers all contribute to the special sauce that is Kickstarter. It’s pretty amazing.

GP: What would you say is your best single piece of advice for someone looking to launch a Kickstarter?

TJ: Well, besides listening to ComixLaunch, my best piece of advice would be to go to comixlaunch.com/session050 and listen to ComixLaunch Episode 50, because I asked that same question to fifty creators, and so fifty successful Kickstarter creators shared their number one tip.

My Number One Tip A would be to do that and my Number One Tip B would be that you don’t have to launch alone. You should be rallying a support team, because one of the things in surveying and talking to so many creators about their kickstarter process was that for veteran Kickstarters, one of the things that just kept coming up and coming up was the emotional rollercoaster that is running a Kickstarter campaign and the loneliness of running a Kickstarter campaign.

It might sound a little weird but in every Kickstarter campaign there’s the high of launching and the high of finishing, if you’re successful. But in every campaign, and it’s happened to me for every single campaign, there’s a low in the middle. I call it the “dead zone” where you’re not sure if you’re ever going to get another backer or you might, in some cases, backers drop off and your totals go down, and it’s an emotional thing to go through as a creator. You really do feel like your work is out on display and there’s a judgment thing.

That’s why so much of what I try to do with ComixLaunch is try to make it feel like there’s such a community, to make it feel like when somebody who’s a ComixLaunch listener is launching, they’re not launching alone and they’ve got people rooting for them. That’s really where the value came in with the ComixLaunch course. In the first version we had eight creators, and we’ll probably have a lot more in the next one we’ve got going on in this next January version, but those are all creators who are rooting for this person. They’ve watched this person build their campaign alongside your campaign and it’s impossible not to root for them and share strategies and provide real-time feedback.

People that want to work with me in the course, that’s great, but if not, find somebody else that’s launching or working on a Kickstarter and buddy up, be an accountability partner. I tell most people, if you can think of the time in your life when you were in the best shape, you probably had a coach or a workout partner or a team that you were working out with. Same goes for doing something that’s a big event like a Kickstarter. You want to team up, put together your Justice League, and don’t launch alone if you don’t have to.

GP: And on the flip side of that, what do you think is the biggest mistake you see people make when they launch a campaign?

TJ: There’s a reason it’s called “crowdfunding” and that’s because the crowd is always going to come before the funding. Seth Godin, who is one of my favorite authors, says that Kickstarter looks like a shortcut, but it’s not, it’s simply a profit maximizer. It’s a maximizer of the audience you already have, and so if you don’t have an audience, your first job, before you start trying to film a video, or craft a great Kickstarter page or dream up rewards, is you have to build that audience.

I have a workshop I do–a free workshop–called Ready for Launch, which is basically how to get a Kickstarter funded even if you don’t have a big social media following. I’ll be doing a few more of those this year–comixlaunch.com/ready is where people can sign up for that. Basically, your job number one is to energize and excite a crowd before your project. Too many creators make the mistake of going away and working in their basement in solitude for weeks, months, years, and then they launch to crickets. That can be completely avoidable but you can’t work in the dark and you need to build and audience. The good news is, there are strategies that we talk about that help you do that.

GP: Yeah. Like, Beyonce can just drop an album because she’s Beyonce, but that doesn’t just work for everybody…

TJ: Yeah. Everybody’s going to talk about that. So many creators, I think, don’t want to market themselves and they don’t want to market their work and they want their work to speak for itself but the problem is, your work will never speak for itself if nobody’s reading it. More often than not, people aren’t going to read your work until they know, trust, respect you.

That’s one of the challenges inside the challenge by Dirk Manning that was very well received, and it was all about building a more professional brand for you as a creator and one that’s going to help sustain you and support you. Dirk has had more than $100,000 worth of projects on Kickstarter over the past few years, and it’s a testament to the personal brand that he’s built. Somebody that built most of that without the support of giant publishers and it’s great to see.

GP: Last question for you: Do you think there are any downsides to Kickstarter?

TJ: Here’s the downside of Kickstarter: Creators don’t have a beyond Kickstarter strategy. Kickstarter works so darn well, but the reality is, you can only run so many Kickstarters, and if Kickstarter becomes your sole channel and you only run one or maybe two Kickstarters a year, what are you doing the other ten months to build a brand, to make sales, to grow an audience, to energize your audience? That’s definitely something a lot of creators struggle with. Kickstarter does work so awesomely but you need to have a beyond Kickstarter strategy as well. Because Kickstarter can work so well, I think it can make creators a little bit lazy about some of the other stuff like building an audience year round and finding ways to sell products and books.

That’s one downside. There’s lots of little nits I have about the Kickstarter platform, but one of the questions I ask all of my guests on the podcast is, if the powers that be at Kickstarter were listening, what’s one thing you would improve about the platform? So we’ve got a whole laundry list of things–better management for add-ons, better ability to see in real time what the actual profitability is of your campaign outside of the gaudy funding number because that funding number looks great, but 20-30 percent is already allocated toward shipping and isn’t available to spend. There are little things here and there, but by and large I think that Kickstarter keeps getting better and better. I think Kickstarter Live will really get going in 2017, it’ll basically let anyone turn their own Kickstarter page into a live telethon, which I think some savvy creators are really going to run with, and I’m excited to get my hooks on it.

Another thing I think Kickstarter is doing–and my most recent podcast was on this–I think Kickstarter sort of realized one of the problems they are having is the perception of a Kickstarter project is this huge, gigantic undertaking, and for some creators, they’re ready for that, but a lot of creators aren’t.

I think Kickstarter is realizing, oh crap, we’ve got a lot of creators who have logged on, hit “Start Project” and then never started it. I’m willing to bet that for every project that’s launched, there are four or five projects sitting not launched, and many of those–most of those–never get launched. I think Kickstarter has noticed those, because this month they’ve started a Make 100 initiative, where they’re basically encouraging creators to launch a project where they’re going to make a hundred of something.

A hundred isn’t a huge number, most people can do a hundred of something and everybody knows a hundred people, but it’s not a small number either. If you sell a hundred books at a convention, you had a great convention. What that tells me is that Kickstarter is trying to make it so that people understand that hey, you don’t have to make $50,000 or $100,000 to make it worth your time.

That’s a trend I think we might see a little bit more, with Kickstarter encouraging people to get off the fence and maybe not go for a huge project, just tone them down a little bit.

GP: That’s a good way to get your feet without having to go all in on something, because it is daunting. I took a class where we had to make a fake Kickstarter and it was so much work! I don’t know if people realize how much goes into it.

TJ: One of the things I concluded the challenge with was I put together a Kickstarter self-assessment. You can go to comixlaunch.com/assessment and take this, but basically what the assessment is, is it asks you 16 questions and asks you to rate yourself on 16 different elements of running a Kickstarter. I was just crunching some numbers–we’ve had over 100 people take the assessment now–and I asked people to identify themselves as “never launched a Kickstarter” and “have launched a Kickstarter.”

What’s kind of interesting is when you average out everybody’s overall Kickstarter self-assessment score, the people who have launched a Kickstarter and the people who haven’t, I don’t know what you would think, but I would think that the people who’ve launched, their scores on things like “how prepared are you to make a Kickstarter video?” and “do you think you’d survive the Kickstarter dead zone?” or “how confident are you that you could make a page that would be compelling?”–I would think the scores for people who have launched would be higher than people who have never launched. But actually, they were within .1 percent of each other, with creators who have never launched a Kickstarter rating themselves higher in confidence than people who have.

That actually doesn’t surprise me too much, once I think about it, because you don’t know what you don’t’ know. Something similar like that happened–I asked the same question to people that I’ve worked with and asked them to rate themselves on skill. And people with no comic book credits to their names tend to rate themselves 3-4 points higher in skill than people with actual books with big name publishers. You don’t know what you don’t know. I just thought that stat was a little interesting.

GP: Thank you so much for taking the time to speak to us!

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