Tag Archives: kickstarter

Welcome to Quickstarter, Your Source for Comics Crowdfunding Coverage

As crowdfunding sites become an increasingly popular and accessible option for independent creators looking to launch their next big project, the absence of consistent coverage of crowdfunding projects becomes even more glaring.

Big name projects may pick up an interview or a write up here and there, but if you’re a creator looking to promote your work, or even a reader looking for interesting books to back, where can you turn for a round-up of interesting projects, reports on campaign fulfillment progress, interviews with creators, or even information on how to launch a campaign of your own down the line?

Starting today, we want it to be Graphic Policy.

Quickstarter will feature a regular round-up of current projects, progress reports, and down the line, interviews with creators both about their current campaigns and about how they make their campaigns a success. Creators interested in a review of their campaign can e-mail CK Stewart at quickstarter [at] ckstewart [dot] com.

For curious minds, here’s what we’re looking for beyond just a compelling story concept:

How reasonable is the goal? If this is a creator’s first crowdfunding campaign and they’re asking for upwards of $25,000, we’ll check into their previous work and only recommend it if they seem to have a big enough audience to meet the goal.

What’s the best pledge tier? Are digital deliveries of the completed book only starting at $25? With so many excellent campaigns running, we bet we can find you two future digital books for $30. Is a campaign promising extra cute add-ons for just a dollar or two more than the pdf? We’ll give you a heads up.

What is their track record? If the team’s past campaigns are consistently late, or they have outstanding items undelivered after a year past the promised date, it might be worth giving the campaign a pass.

Quickstarter will begin with at least a monthly round-up, but ideally offer round-ups of campaigns on the first and second Friday of each month. Currently the focus is exclusively on comics, but as time allows we may also try to feature campaigns for other media.

Crowdfunding has been a vital path to publishing for creators from marginalized communities in particular, and has produced incredible works like The Other Side anthology or the beautiful print edition of Sophie Campbell’s Shadoweyes through Iron Circus.

But it can be hard to keep up with all of the new projects cropping up each day — and that’s where Graphic Policy wants to help potential backers find new creators to support, or help creators find a potential new audience. Creators, send information about your projects to quickstarter [at] ckstewart [dot] com — we look forward to sharing the first round up soon!

The Forbidden Chamber: An Interview with Sarah Searle About Gothic Tales of Haunted Love

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cover art by Leslie Doyle, logo by Dylan Todd

Sarah Searle brings a new twist to the gothic genre and an old tale in her story for Bedside Pressanthology Gothic Tales of Haunted Love. A fundraising campaign is currently running on Kickstarter and you can read more about it in this previous article.

Searle’s story, “Ladies of the Lake”, is Searle’s “spin on the classic Bluebeard tale, incorporating some Arthurian themes over a setting of spooky 1920s Wales.”

The new themes and setting is one twist Searle gives this source material, but this story is even a slight departure for Searle herself. “I’ve done a good amount of historical fiction at this point, but I’m allowing myself to stylize it and go a bit darker this time, which sets it apart from my past works that focus more on research.”

Although Searle hasn’t “read anything from that time period [the 1970s gothic romance comics that inspired this anthology]”, she is “a great lover of gothic literature and romance comics, so it was a natural fit!”

It was such a good fit, in fact, that she “had this story already written, just waiting for the perfect home. ‘Ladies of the Lake’ references some of [her] favorite books, including Northanger Abbey, so [she pays] homage to [her] own inspirations as well.”

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“Ladies of the Lake” by Searle

Searle elaborates on her love of Northanger Abbey: “Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey is a delightful play on the gothic romance genre back when it was much fresher, which is an enjoyable read.”

But Northanger Abbey isn’t her only gothic inspiration, as Searle explains: “I also love Terry Pratchett’s Carpe Jugulum for a healthy dose of vampire romance. I suppose I’m drawn more toward humorous, satirical approaches these days, but I can’t help but love taking it seriously sometimes, too.”

And Searle doesn’t just create and read gothic stories–she plays them too, as she explains: “My D&D group recently finished the Curse of Strahd campaign and I really enjoyed seeing the romance and drama unfold amongst the NPCs.”  

When discussing Hope Nicholson and Sam Beiko, the two editors in charge of the anthology, Searle had nothing but good things to say: “I haven’t worked directly with Sam before but she’s had great feedback for my script, and Hope is always super on top of the business side.”

Having worked with NIcholson on The Secret Loves of Geek Girls, Searle had already experienced Nicholson’s business acumen.  In particular, she commented on how “everyone in publishing is so busy all the time, which often means (understandably) long waits on emails, so [she] extra appreciate[s] how quick they’ve been with communication.”

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The Secret Loves of Geek Girls Kickstarter Edition Art by Gisele Lagace and Shouri

Searle offers one last word on the Gothic Tales anthology itself: “I’m especially excited for the comic my friend Hien Pham is working on, about a man who gets help from a friendly ghost during the Vietnam War”, a comic covered in this interview with Pham.

But this anthology isn’t the only place to see Searle’s work.  Much of her work can be seen on her website, www.swinsea.com.  Searle is passionate about her site, putting in the same effort in designing it as she would her comics, saying, “I started it back when I was a new media major learning coding and web design, and I don’t know if I could ever leave it behind. It’s like I’ve built this time capsule that tracks my whole career.”

She continues to express her passion for her site: “I keep it mostly for myself, but I do see that it gets regular traffic, and I like knowing people can get a taste of my work even while I’m toiling away on books that won’t see the light of day for years to come. Plus the accessibility of webcomics has been so important to me, I try to put as much out there as possible.

As seen in the images above, both the anthology piece and the pieces posted on her website, Searle avoids extensive cross hatching and weighing her work down with unnecessary details.  

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Searle’s “Ruined” from Oni Press/Rosy Press’s Fresh Romance

Part of this comes from her many inspirations.  While “it changes all the time,” Searle lately has “been studying the works of Hayao Miyazaki and Jillian Tamaki in particular”, artists known for conveying much emotion and story in few lines.

As Searle herself says, “’I’m very story-focused so my art ends up on the minimalist side, and I want to learn from artists like [Miyazaki and Tamaki] who seem to really understand just how much detail is needed in a character design or environment to convey meaningful nuance.”

Reflecting on “Ladies of Lake” and her other work Searle concludes, “I’m proud of all the comics I’ve made for various reasons, but I’m also generally pretty happy to leave them in the past. I learn so much from every project I do, even the small ones. Even if I don’t feel confident about the quality of story or art anymore, I’m proud of myself from making them so I could grow into the better storyteller that I am today –– and still growing, I hope!”

Anyone interested in more of Searle’s work can follow her on Twitter and study her online portfolio while waiting for Gothic Tales to release!

 

CJ Standal is no stranger to Kickstarter, having run a successful Kickstarter for his comic Rebirth of the Gangster, for sale as a print copy or an ebook now!  Find out more about him at cjstandalproductions.com.

Advent Comics’ Titan the Ultra Man #2 Kickstarter Launches

That’s right, Titan the Ultra Man is back in Titan the Ultra Man #2! But Titan needs your help to get into print. Advent Comics has launched a Kickstarter to cover the expense of getting the book printed. They’re trying to raise $1,000.00 which will cover the cost of printing the book.

Titan the Ultra Man #2 picks up where the first issue left off with Titan defending Sky City from harm. In this issue, Titan encounters brand new allies (such as Giant and Porcelain Doll) and dangerous new villains like the evil Corporate Raiders, powerful Atom Smasher and brutal Mauler. And if that isn’t enough, Titan debuts his NEW COSTUME!

Even if you can’t suppor the Kickstarter, help spread the word. Reward packages are from $1 to $50. As little as ONE DOLLAR can help.

Stephan Franck’s Silver Kickstarter Gets a Second Comic

It’s been over 30 years since Professor Abraham Van Helsing visited Dracula’s castle. Now his descendent, the mysterious vampire hunter Rosalind Van Helsing, is teaming up with a ragtag group of con men for a high stakes heist to rob Europe’s richest vampires. Welcome to the world of Stephan Franck’s Silver, a globe-trotting graphic novel series that mashes up the world of Bram Stoker’s classic novel Dracula with action, adventure, humor, pulp storytelling and modern sensibilities.

Having previously funded the first two volumes of Silver via Kickstarter, Franck and his company Dark Planet Comics has about a week left in its Kickstarter campaign to fund the third volume of Silver and help bring the first two volumes to a wider audience.

Sometimes, a story just wants to be told. It doesn’t care if you have other plans or an already busy schedule. It burns its way through your psyche until you have no choice but to just let it out into the world. And thus, this Kickstarter adds a new wrinkle (or comic in reality), Rosalynd. The graphic novel is a 244-page Hard cover one-shot which dives deeper into the Silver Universe.

Rosalynd is meta fiction not only expanding Franck’s world but also reflecting his family and its history, “wandering Jews” from Bessarabia–the East just beyond the East that Bram Stoker writes about—who fled across Europe.

 

Rosalynd is available in a couple of ways.

  • As its own pledge level $22 – Rosalynd (HC)
  • Part of a new bundle pledge $57 – Rosalynd (HC) + Silver Vol 1,2 & 3 (TPB)
  • As and add-on at survey time: TO ADD ROSALYND TO AN EXISTING PLEDGE, INCREASE YOUR EXISTING PLEDGE BY 21.99$ AND SELECT ROSALYND AS AN ADD-ON AT SURVEY TIME (additional shipping will apply at survey time–$6 domestic, $25 international

And check out some images below!

 

 

 

A Ghost of a Chance: An Interview with Hien Pham About Gothic Tales of Haunted Love

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Hien Pham brings a new twist to an old genre in his story for Bedside Pressanthology Gothic Tales of Haunted Love — an anthology and Kickstarter that you can find more information on in this previous article.

Pham’s story, “Minefield”, concerns “a young ghost in love with a young farmer whose home is under attack by a foreign troop during the later stages of the Vietnam war.”

Part of what makes this story unique, however, is that it draws on stories Pham’s parents–who grew up in Vietnam–would tell him. According to Pham, “This is the first time I have directly tapped into my parents’ war stories I grew up on. There has always been some sort of war-like, bigger forces and conflicts in my stories, but I haven’t done anything so close to the source material.“

Pham elaborates on this inspiration for “Minefield”:

The story that inspired Minefield was actually a precautionary myth of sorts: back then, if you weren’t conscripted into the American army in the day, and you weren’t conscripted into the Vietnamese army in the night, the next morning you’ll find your head on a spike. ‘Minefield’ originally was written to directly reference this ‘rock and a hard place’ position Vietnamese folks had to live through. After rewrites, the comic has lost some of this resemblance, but hopefully it’s still a good gothic romance nonetheless!”

Gothic Tales of Haunted Love draws inspiration from 1970s gothic romance comics, but Pham “wasn’t too familiar with the genre until [he] did [his] research to write [his] anthology submission!”

But perhaps this lack of familiarity is what led Pham to take such a personal and unique approach with his story:

“The stories from that era that I’m used to are simply horror stories from my parents who lived through the war. These stories are always human stories, myths, rumours, and precautions that were either passed down to my parents or actual life experiences they have lived through. Growing up in the Vietnamese culture has made me entirely too aware of the pain and horror their generation suffered. I wanted to take this chance to put a sweeter slightly-less-bitter spin to that.”

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Image Credit: from “Minefield” by Hien Pham (told entirely in Vietnamese)

In creating this story and trying to make it as authentic as possible, Pham decided to use Vietnamese instead of English (as seen in the above image).  

To explain this choice–telling a story in a different language than the one the target audience speaks and reads–Pham said,

This is a Vietnamese story. These are Vietnamese characters and for them to speak Vietnamese just rings true to me. In the process of writing the story. I made two different scripts: one with the dialogues in Vietnamese and one in English. There are tiny subtleties and nuances in the way they speak that scream Southern Vietnamese that are lost in translation. Some parts of the story change ever so slightly and feel less interesting when I have them speak English. To me, there’s just something that’s slightly more genuine and authentic when I let them speak Vietnamese.”

Pham adds in his trademark self-deprecating way, however, that he has “no idea if it works better or worse on the comic page, ahaha! That’s my challenge to solve!

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Image Credit: Hien Pham’s“The Young Giant” promo picture on Supanova Comic Con page

He elaborates on these concerns–and the second guessing almost any artist experiences in creating something new and personal:

“I am downright terrified, ahaha! I’m quite afraid of the fact that the readers can’t understand what the characters are saying which might put them off finishing the story altogether. I’m afraid that they can’t connect to the characters and find the story boorish and boring. I’m afraid that Vietnamese readers might read it and say I didn’t do it justice and they would rather read it in English anyway! I’m quite the paranoid person so I have millions and millions of worries in my head.”

Despite all these worries, though, Pham insists he is making the right choice:

“What makes it worth it is that it might just work as I intend it to. The language barrier emphasizes that this is specifically a Vietnamese story, not a romanticized vision told by anyone who hasn’t been on excursions to actual prisons where people were tortured and murdered since first grade. I wanted these Vietnamese characters to speak Vietnamese as a way to reclaim a tiny bit of my culture from everything that’s used it as exotic backdrop or tragedy porn. I’m hoping the the audience would be firmly aware of the cultural differences, yet still be able to emotionally invest in these characters, and find love, lost, hope, and dreams within them.”

Another benefit, he adds, is that creating the story this way presents a unique artistic challenge: “the classic ‘show don’t tell’. The story is practically wordless, so I will need to flex my storytelling muscles to get the emotive language across. I’m very excited to give it a good shot!”

Pham expressed his working relationship with Hope Nicholson and Sam Beiko the editors of the Gothic Tales anthology as very rewarding:

 

“I am a new face to the comic-making community in general and haven’t had much experience working with editors. They were very open to my ideas and gave me great advice and direction to go with the story. I wholly appreciate their trust in letting me do a foreign-language story and believing that I’ll have the skill to deliver it.”

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Image Credit: from Hien Pham’s “Float”

Nicholson is also well known for working with diverse creators on diverse stories, and there is one more part of Pham’s “Minefield” that aligns with this diversity: “Minefield” is also a love story between two men, something not frequently seen in mainstream comics.

And this focus on homosexuality is something Pham is looking to explore more of with Pham’s future work, It Will Be Hard, which has no release date yet–Pham says it will be coming out soon though.  Pham describes it is as a “lite choose-your-own gentle smut adventure about two men’s relationships with their bodies and with each other.”

He adds that he’s “still got a long way to go with [his] drawing skills and drawing this comics has been practically doing anatomy aerobatics!”

Other than improving his anatomy skills, Pham has found that working on It Will Be Hard has carried other benefits: “Making this comic has also made me look more into my own sexuality and the different ways I feel about my body and myself. It’s given me a lot to think about and a lot still to process but I can feel myself being more confident in my own skin the more I work on the comic.”

Anyone interested in Pham’s work can follow him on Twitter and his online portfolio!

 

CJ Standal is no stranger to Kickstarter, having run a successful Kickstarter for his comic Rebirth of the Gangster, for sale as a print copy or an ebook now!  Find out more about him at cjstandalproductions.com.

Hope Nicholson and Bedside Press: A Dream Realized

Bedside Beginnings

Last Saturday, July 15, marked the beginning of another Hope Nicholson Kickstarter, Gothic Tales of Haunted Love–a Kickstarter discussed more throughly here Nicholson has been publishing comics under the Bedside Press imprint and running successful Kickstarter campaigns for years.   
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At first, Nicholson didn’t expect Bedside Press to become as big of a part of her life as it is now.  

In fact, when she started the imprint in 2014, she “just wanted to do this one reprint book because [she] didn’t see it in the market! But what [she] learned about the process is not only did [she] really, really enjoy it but [she] had the seeds to be good at it too. Ever since Nelvana of the Northern Lights [she has] been trying to nurture these seeds and grow as a publisher.”

nelvana of northern lights

Her “first project was a reprint, but after [she] caught the publishing bug from Nelvana [she] knew that [she] wanted to do new content too. Getting the pinups for Nelvana and Brok was [her] first experience with working with artists and it was a rush.”

Working on Brok didn’t only just become a fun experience because of working with the artists. In fact, “Brok Windsor is [her] pride and joy”, the comic she’s proudest of so far.

Nicholson holds this comic in a special place in her heart, because it’s “a beautiful comic, so iconic of Canadian history, and of [her] own city Winnipeg in particular, and completely forgotten.”

brok windsor

As mentioned before, “that project really was [her[ first solo outing, and it was a joy to be able to reach out and see what [she] was capable of in all avenues. Discovering the real Brok Windsor, finding ALL of these lost 1940s comics to reprint, hiring a new artist to reinvision a comic only available as a text script and reaching out to over 30 artists to draw pinups of Brok made [her] really proud of my abilities.”

And it seems like she was onto something–since starting Bedside Press, Nicholson has published 11 books, sometimes graphic novels and sometimes a mix of traditional text and comics. As the Kickstarter shows too, she’s only getting started.

Refreshingly, Nicholson seems to enjoy “the feeling of satisfaction in producing books and working with really talented creators”, and focus on that feeling more than trying to be a publisher only focused on the bottom line.

“Plus,” Nicholson adds “all the readers seem really happy!”

A Diverse Touch

Maybe the reason the readers seem happy stems from that personal touch and from a focus on producing a wide range of texts from a wide range of creators.

Early on, she knew “that [she] wanted to focus on diverse content” although that focus is still on hiring “people who tell good stories”.

However, Nicholson noted that when a publisher focuses on good stories, they’ll find that “people who tell good stories come from everywhere. It’s important to tell their stories”.

And one of those stories is making it’s way into Gothic Tales of Haunted Love:

One [story] really caught [her] eye, so much so that [she] had to hire a restorationist so [she] could reprint it in this collection…[that story] was Sanho Kim’s ‘The Promise’. It’s an exceptional gothic romance, set in Korea, created by a Korean artist, and lettered in both Korean and English. It’s proof that there are always resistance and exceptions to dominant genres and [she’s] really excited to showcase it.”

sanho kims the promise

This is just one of many diverse stories, however, both in Gothic Tales of Haunted Love and in the rest of Bedside’s publishing catalog.

Nicholson attributes her success at attracting diverse voices to a few things:

At first when [she] did open calls, [she] didn’t have as far of a reach, so a lot of creators outside of [her] immediate circle never even heard of [her] projects, let alone could apply for them. But over the years [she has] had more and more standing in the industry and since [she] promote[s] a lot of different creators…people who aren’t white, who aren’t straight, who aren’t binary gender.. [diverse creators] are now within [her] social sphere.”

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But she knew she had to do more than just rely on her social sphere:

“[She had] to put the work into research and asking for specific recommendations in order to compensate for [a social sphere’s] limitation. For example when [she] did The Secret Loves of Geeks, it was a bit of an attempt to fix an issue that feminism has with binary gender. [She] didn’t want just stories from men, just stories from women–[she] wanted stories from people where the gender binary just wasn’t accurate for them. So [she] asked specifically for stories from nonbinary creators, and received several!”

 

Bedside Bumps

 

Although Nicholson has been successful in her publishing experience so far, she does admit that there have been a few bumps in the road, mainly stemming from her steadfast commitment to publish stories she loves instead of only pursuing commercially successful stories.

Distribution and finances are the biggest bumps she’s experienced so far:

“In Canada because of our sparse population base most publishers exist on grants, and grant eligibility is restricted to very strict criteria. [Because of this limited funding, she] fund[s] most of [her] projects through Kickstarters, but this only reaches an audience of usually 400-3,000 funders, and is usually only done two-three times a year.“

She adds that “distributors don’t want niche projects for the most part, so it limits [her] reach to what [she] can hand-sell. That’s tough”.

It’s so tough that Nicholson has had to adjust her life a little. “Because [she uses] almost all of [her] freelance income to put into new projects, it also means [she has] had to cut personal costs as much as [she] can” so she lives with her parents.
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On the bright side, though, she’s “had better luck licensing the projects to publishers later (like with The Secret Loves of Geek Girls through Dark Horse), and using all [her] freelance payments from other projects (like writing The Spectacular Sisterhood of Superwomen for Quirk Books) to fund additional books.”

For example, “The Spectacular Sisterhood paid for all the production and printing fees for Love Beyond Body, Space, and Time!”
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Kickstarter Boost

Part of her success as a publisher comes from running successful Kickstarters; Nicholson has run six successful Kickstarter campaigns and is looking to add a seventh.  In fact, she’s been so successful in this area that Kickstarter has made her one of their Thought Leaders, an honor only bestowed on seven creators so far.

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When describing this experience and honor, Nicholson says that “ it’s been nice!”

But she adds that, “not too much has changed for [her], since unofficially [she] was already giving a lot of advice and panels and seminars on how to use Kickstarter and tips on how to succeed. It’s basically just given [her] a degree of legitimacy when [she says she’s] an expert!”

Nicholson was more than happy to share some of those Kickstarter tips in this interview.

One of her biggest pieces of advice is to “keep a lot of spreadsheets of lists! It’s tough to re-do all your research from scratch for each campaign.”

While Nicholson has raised enough funds with all of her Kickstarters, she does offer some light for those who don’t have her track record.  She reminds them that “failure is OK.”

Not only is it OK, it’s so much a part of life that she prepares “as much for the failure of a campaign as [she does] for its success.”

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Sometimes this means asking the right questions, such as “at what point would [she] be comfortable making a personal investment in the project if funding doesn’t push [her] over the edge”?

Does she think that she would “try the project again at a later date or through a different method”?

“Would [she] approach a publisher with the project instead, or would [she] let the project die and encourage the creators to apply with their story for other projects?”

Even though she prepares for failure, she hasn’t had to answer those questions outside of the abstract yet.

And she attributes that success to many things:

“[A big part of success is] putting the work in. And that goes from every aspect. It includes having and maintaining a newsletter, having an active social media life (yes, life not just promotion! People want to know who you are before they feel connected), chatting to press and journalists like they are human beings (so many creators treat press like a necessary evil which is ridiculous. We’re all in this equally together!), identifying your weak spots ([hers] is design) and hiring appropriately (S.M. Beiko did all the amazing design for the kickstarter!)”

Despite this success, she made a point to say that she is ”always learning, and anything outside of comics kickstart-ing is still a bit foreign to” her”.

*Note* All quoted material is from Hope Nicholson.

 

Stephan Franck’s Silver Returns!

It’s been over 30 years since Professor Abraham Van Helsing visited Dracula’s castle. Now his descendent, the mysterious vampire hunter Rosalind Van Helsing, is teaming up with a ragtag group of con men for a high stakes heist to rob Europe’s richest vampires. Welcome to the world of Stephan Franck’s Silver, a globe-trotting graphic novel series that mashes up the world of Bram Stoker’s classic novel Dracula with action, adventure, humor, pulp storytelling and modern sensibilities.

Having previously funded the first two volumes of Silver via Kickstarter, Franck and his company Dark Planet Comics are launching a Kickstarter campaign to fund the third volume of Silver and help bring the first two volumes to a wider audience.

In Silver, a group of cons discover the late Jonathan Harker’s secret ledger, which discloses the existence of an exotic treasure of silver hidden in Dracula’s castle. Finnigan, the group’s leader, may be ethically challenged, but he knows a retirement plan when he sees it. He’s willing to do whatever it takes to pull off the heist of the last ten centuries, even if it means allying with a beautiful, sword wielding vampire hunter…. who just happens to be a descendent of Van Helsing.

If funded through Kickstarter, pledges will be delivered to backers this fall. The Silver Volume 3 Kickstarter campaign is live as of July 10th and runs for 30 days.

Creators Corner: Running a Successful Kickstarter Part 4: Promoting Your Campaign

Now that you’ve done your research,  brainstormed rewards, and created the campaign page (video and all), you’re ready to start doing the most fun part of the Kickstarter: begging people for money. That’s right, I’m talking about promoting your campaign to anyone willing to support you, which is always barrels of fun. It’s not quite the hoot that soliciting for reviews is, but it’s pretty close.

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In all seriousness, though, most creators view this as the worst part about running a Kickstarter, and I can’t really blame them: it’s practically impossible to stand out in the midst of so many other campaigns being advertised online. And if you’re even able to stand out, you have to make the pitch and possible rewards memorable enough for people to click on that link to your Kickstarter page. And even if all this aligns perfectly, you’ll probably still feel a little shady to be hitting up friends, family and strangers for money. But, despite the drawbacks to this stage, you can still have fun with it and–most importantly–use it to to reach that end goal: campaign completion.

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Building that Base

The first step of promoting a campaign starts before you’ve even created it. Essentially, you need to build a base for you and your work first, and you also need to preview the Kickstarter for at least the month leading up to the actual campaign. Building a base–and connections–helps make it more likely that others will promote your campaign; after all, if they already like what you’ve been doing, chances are they’re going to want to help you even more. I did this in many ways: writing guest posts on others’ sites, getting reviewed, giving the first issue away for free, getting on podcasts (shout-out to This Freakin’ Show, my first and most faithful podcast so far!), and more.

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And as far as previewing the Kickstarter before it even launches, it helps to give people a heads up to plan for a possible budget item. You don’t want to have a friend who would’ve donated a few hundred dollars donate five bucks simply because they didn’t have enough notice to make that cash available. Even better, announcing the Kickstarter in advance and giving away a free excerpt/issue is one way to make sure that possible backers have the needed knowledge and excitement to support you when the Kickstarter launches.

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Should I Pay (for tweet splashes/PR from an agency) or No?

The next step on this seemingly endless journey is to decide if you want to shell out money to an agency for their expertise and PR machine. Before I dove in, I dipped my toe in the water and just ordered a 24-hour tweet splash to coincide with the first week of launching the campaign for Rebirth of the Gangster. I got some retweets, but to be quite honest, it was a waste of my money. That doesn’t mean a big agency would be a waste of money, but it does heavily suggest that tweet splashes are a waste of money. Yeah, they might have more followers than you, but (being a follower of those accounts myself), those followers won’t actually pay close attention to their tweets.  So the question remains: should you enlist the aid of an expert agency in the hopes of either completing your goal or even exceeding it?

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Initially I decided not to, but a few things happened that made me start to reconsider that position. First, after a week of the campaign being live, I wasn’t receiving the level of response I’d hoped for (or in other words, I wasn’t getting enough of that cash money!). Secondly, I started to get a lot of emails from agencies like the one above, telling me that my Kickstarter had strong appeal and only needed the boost of an agency to propel it in the atmosphere.

funding progress and pledge sources Kickstarterpic

I was really close to giving in and signing with one of these agencies about halfway through the campaign when the miraculous happened: I started getting more and more donations, and it looked pretty feasible that I was going to reach my goal. Seeing that, I started re-evaluating how much I was leaning towards these companies.  

Given that I didn’t have a big goal ($1000, which isn’t that high of a goal compared to other Kickstarter campaigns), I didn’t think that paying hundreds of dollars to maybe hit that goal and maybe exceed it was worth it.  If I had a bigger goal (like the $3000+ I was thinking of to print the graphic novel of the first story arc), it would make sense to me to enlist their help, but with such a small goal, it didn’t seem worth it to me. And to make that decision even easier, I saw that a lot of my friends and family were donating and donating big (I’m lucky in that I have friends and family who are pretty affluent), so it didn’t seem like I needed even more support. There is no right answer, just a careful consideration of all these variables and costs. And besides, I found another, cheaper way to garner support from others versed in Kickstarter: other campaign creators like myself.

 

Kickstarter Creator Solidarity

Once I launched my Kickstarter campaign, my inbox started piling up with messages from other Kickstarter creators, asking if I was interested in backing their project in return for them backing mine. Now, we’re only talking about a $1-$5 pledge, so it’s not that much money for either of us, which might make it seem like it wouldn’t be worth it.  

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However, Kickstarter–like so much of the internet and life in general–favors the popular, which in the Kickstarter world means that projects with more money donated will appear higher on searches and be more likely to get pledges (it’s kind of like that old cliche when applying for a job: “You don’t have enough experience” to get the job so those who already have the experience will be more likely to be hired instead). So, that’s one benefit of donating to other campaigns and getting others to donate to you, all for the temporary cost of a few bucks that will be “rebated” to you when they donate to your pledge too. Even better, those creators I backed were more likely to publicize my Kickstarter on Twitter, Facebook, etc…!  

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So, after being contacted myself, I started contacting others for this support: after all indie authors love sticking together. And even though, I only had about 5% of creators I contacted agree to this support, that’s still better than nothing and still free publicity.

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(above, a pic shared with me by someone I backed)

Stretch Goals

Even with all of these supports and keys to success, you might see your Kickstarter lagging after a few weeks, and that’s when you need to think of greater incentives to meet the goal and keep your campaign in the public eye (after all, according to recent studies, humans now have an attention span of 8 seconds, shorter than a goldfish’s). Some of these stretch goals can be expanding a reward you already have, but since it had a limited number of pledges it’s already full. I did this by adding one more cameo to my project–at first I’d had 2 cameos in the campaign, but since those were snatched pretty quickly, I added another one.  

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It also makes sense to add goals similar to ones that have been successful: since the cameo was so successful, but since I wanted it to still be special and since I wanted to save Juan time looking at photos to add new characters, I added something kind of like a cameo: naming a character after the backer or anyone they wanted.  This isn’t quite the same as a cameo, so I made it less expensive, but like the cameo, it was very popular. That’s how I got the Lil’ Jimbo name, and that’s why I sent out the following tweet of appreciation:

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And that brings me to something I’ve almost overlooked, something that is actually incredibly important for every step of the process: publicizing your thanks, both for your backers and for those spreading the word. People pledge support for a Kickstarter for two reasons:

  1. They want to support art
  2. They want others to know they’re the type of person to support art.

So, you should be tweeting, Facebook-ing, and spreading your thanks anywhere you can, even in the work itself.  I could post a bunch of pics of me doing that, but you don’t need to see 100+ messages of me thanking my supporters (I know that’s more than I had backers, but I would thank backers multiple times and thank people who spread the word about my campaign).

If you do all these things, you should be able to get a variety of backers who found your campaign in a variety of ways, like mine did:

Referrers kickstarter campaign

But there’s still one last thing to consider, and that’s the final push.

 

Last Call and the Big Finish

In the last week–whether you’ve hit your goal or not–it’s still important to keep getting the word out, especially to family and friends. I know it seems weird that you have to remind those closest to you to support you quickly in this campaign, but this campaign isn’t nearly as big of a deal to them as it is to you.  

Perhaps surprisingly, many of them might have forgotten about it (yes, even those who are true friends), so continuing to put it on their radar makes it much more likely they’ll offer a pledge.  In fact, the pledge that made it so I met my goal was from a friend in the last week and a half, something he only did because I texted him a reminder.  As this post has no doubt shown, your job as a promoter for the Kickstarter is never done, and your audience for this promotion only continues to widen. If you keep these ideas in mind, you should be on your way to Kickstarter success!

After that, the only step left is finishing the dang project and fulfilling the pledges, which I’ll cover in my next–and last–installment on running a successful Kickstarter.

Retail Shops in The Age of the Direct Market: Visionary Comics New Kickstarter

by Jazmine Joyner
Co-Owner
Visionary Comics, LLC

Running a small comic shop in the age of the Direct Market is not an easy task. It’s especially challenging as a Black disabled woman in the white-male-dominated world of comics.

My name is Jazmine Joyner, and I am co-owner of Visionary Comics in Downtown Riverside, California.

We set out to open this shop in 2016. Bright-eyed and bushy tailed, filled with hope and purpose. Mine and my partner’s dream is to have a comic shop that is an all inclusive accessible community space. Where people can feel welcome and feel like they are apart of a community and not just in a retail space.

The harsh reality of opening a business hit us quickly. The fact that we are both minorities (my fiance and co-owner Nestor Gomez is Mexican) and in our mid-twenties, made it almost impossible to find realtors willing to take us seriously. Armed with a business plan and good credit we were still unable to have our find someone willing to respect our vision.

The building we are in now took us two months to lock down. With our realtor going back and forth with us coming up with arbitrary forms and proof of income to prove that we could afford the space. Going far enough as to losing all our paperwork making us have to resend everything. We were told the only available space was a 200 sq ft store.  We later found out that there was in fact a 500+sq ft space available that they had never mentioned. Though that slight stung we had our space finally, and we were determined to make it work.

Opening a comic shop is no easy task. In no other business do you have to spend tons of money on inventory weekly to survive? And at times you’re taking a gamble by ordering titles you’re not sure are going to sell. That’s why most shops take out a business loan. We didn’t have this luxury. After finding our live/work space, we went out and tried to find a loan for our business. To no avail, we couldn’t find the backing.

We are in a prime location with no immediate competition, have a strong business plan, and already acquired the retail space. Yet not one bank wanted to invest in our dream. So we did what everybody tells you not too when you start a business. We dove into our own personal capital to fund our business. Every penny we have has gone into to Visionary Comics. We bought books, furniture, all the bells and whistles you need when setting up a comic book shop, we made sure we had it.

The direct market is a fickle beast. With the one defining part of comics retail being that the books are non returnable so every order is at risk of becoming essentially dead stock. One week we can have books flying off the shelves, orders flooding in, and people coming in for all the events. Then the next week we will be lucky to make our quota and be able to afford next weeks books. It’s the nature of the beast, and with the rising prices of Marvel’s single issues and the lackluster storylines coming out of the big two, the waning interest of customers is visible. Particularly with the rise of digital comics.  It’s up to us to fill in those gaps and find stories they not only want to invest in but love enough to read the next issue.

Being a woman in this business is difficult. I have to regularly pass strange quizzes on obscure comic characters, deal with the nuances of mansplaining topics like “Batman and The Jokers symbiotic relationship.” Or my favorite “The who would beat Superman in a fight game” Pro-tip: If you don’t pick Superman every time during this game, you’re a noob. No matter how logical your reasoning is.

I get talked down to, asked to speak with “the manager” (and that’s code for can I talk to the man in charge), or completely ignored. The reverse is I get called “Sweetheart,” “Baby,” “Beautiful,” and had men trying to flex their comics knowledge out like an awkward mating dance. Hoping their expansive knowledge of the Watchmen Universe would woo me off my feet.

But once all the problematic people are weeded out we are left with the fantastic loyal customer base we have now. They have made it possible for us to consider expanding our shop into a larger space.

We have succeeded in making a completely inclusive space where people feel comfortable hanging out, buying and talking about their favorite books. We have movie nights where the all the kids and their parents can come and watch family friendly movies for free. We often hold gaming nights on weekends. Tabletop games, video games, and card games, all games are welcome on our game nights.This close connection with the community and positive impact has been one of the best parts of opening visionary and now we want to expand so we can do even more for our customers and our shop.

To move our store we needed to have some extra funding. We of course once again were denied backing by the banks after having more experience and breaking even our first year. We decided to go to the people we serve, our customers. So we created a Kickstarter in hopes to reach our goal of $6,000 to fund our move to a larger retail space. So we could have the shop we dreamt of when we opened in May of 2016.

We have come up against many obstacles and faced so many challenges, but creating Visionary Comics and making it the inclusive fun community space, it has become is well worth any hardship we had to push through to bring it to fruition. We now hope that we can expand and become an even better shop.

House of Fear: The Grumpledowns Gang – It’s Kids vs Lovecraftian Horrors in a new, all-ages comic now on Kickstarter!

by Brandon Barrows
writer

THE House of Fear: The Grumpledowns Gang and the Case of the Mail-Order Shoggoths, published by Ten31 Publishing, is a comic I’m exceptionally proud of. You may have read my detective series Jack Hammer (Action Lab) or my horror graphic novel Mythos (Caliber Comics), or maybe not.  Those are, after all, both books targeted at specific audiences. But I’ve wanted to do something that appeals to the widest possible audience, something truly all-ages for a long time. Something anyone can pick up and enjoy, whether they’re long-time comics fans or just getting into them.

Why? Because I read a lot of all-ages comics myself, comics that are supposed to be fun and accessible to anyone. And while there are a lot of comics out there that claim to be just that, many aren’t. Too often, unfortunately, “all-ages” translates to “kids’ comics” in the minds of publishers and fans. Don’t get me wrong, a lot of what’s out there is perfectly fine for beginning readers, but kids confident in their reading and adults won’t find much to enjoy in them.

Truly all-ages books like Spongebob Comics, Mouseguard, The Stuff of Legend, and the Adventure Time comic, when it was written by Ryan North, are all-ages books that are not only that, but series I really enjoy. They’re fun, action- and story-packed comics that work on multiple levels directed at multiple audience so well that it almost seems effortless. They are also stories that meant something. They aren’t just fluff meant to fill pages and be forgotten once you’ve finished reading.

And that’s what I wanted to create, too. Targeting audiences is perfectly fine, and often a smart thing to do, but I wanted to do something different with my next project – something everyone can enjoy, regardless of age. Something an adult or a kid can read and enjoy on their own or that they can enjoy together.

When Ten31’s publisher, James W. Powell, gave me the chance to do exactly that, I had an idea, but wasn’t sure if I was up to the task of creating something on the level of what I was hoping for. Despite those misgivings, I took the idea I had and wrote a comic from it and, while it was pretty decent, James then helped me tweak and refine that script until it truly became one of the best I’ve ever written.

James then did an amazing job (seriously, he’s a fantastic editor and publisher) of finding the best artistic talent to bring it to life.

The Grumpledowns Gang are kids, but theirs is a fun story that kids or adults or anyone in between can enjoy and get their fill of scary fun and action – and maybe even take note of a little life lesson tucked in there somewhere. And the art is just amazing. It’s beautiful, but more than that, it’s incredible to me that it’s virtually exactly what I saw in my head. Artists Rafael Loureiro and Josh Jensen make a powerful team on the interior art, James Hislope’s front- and back-cover pieces are creepily gorgeous and Matt Krotzer’s letters are some of my favorite in the business.

If you like comics, horror fiction or have a kid who likes either, if you’ve ever read any of my comics work or if you haven’t, but want to give it a shot, please check out the Kickstarter campaign Ten31 is currently running,  pledge your support and share the word. This is a very important book to me, with characters I care deeply about, and if it’s successful, I’ll do my best to bring even more of their stories into the world.

Check out the Kickstarter campaign here (including a fourteen page preview!)

And keep up with updates at www.ten31publishing.com and www.brandonbarrowscomics.com

Follow us on twitter @Ten31Publishing and @BrandonBarrows


House of Fear: The Grumpledowns Gang and the Case of the Mail-Order Shoggoths

Written by Brandon Barrows
Art by Rafael Loureiro and James Hislope
Colors by Josh Jensen
Letters by Matt Krotzer
Edited by James W. Powell
Kickstarter opened 5/16/17, closes 6/17/17. Expected to ship to backers July, 2017.

Fourth-grader Ben Grumpledowns has sent away for a package of grow-your-own monsters… just add water! But when his science teacher accidentally flushes them down the toilet, the school is overrun with huge, tentacled creatures! Ben and his friends must find a way to defeat the beasts before they destroy the school or worse – ruin the Halloween carnival! It’s kids vs. shoggoths in this all-new, all-ages, Lovecraftian horror comic!

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