For some independent comic book creators, Kickstarter is the way to fund their comics. Typically, Kickstarters have thirty days to reach their funding goal. If they fail, the creators heads back to the drawing board (but not to draw comics). With so much riding on those thirty days, how intense is it for the creators when campaigns do not reach their goal until the last three days? Or even the last day? What’s it like to have a Kickstarter photo finish?
To find out, I spoke with four comic book creators who had Kickstarters fund near the end of the cycle – Karl Kesel, Stephen Kok, Michael Phillips, and Pat Shand. They shared what they did to push the campaigns and reach their goal in the end.
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Karl Kesel is a writer, inker, nice guy, and the co-creator of the 1990’s Superboy among many other accomplishments. He shares his experience with the Section Zero Kickstarter, which reached its funding goal with just hours to go.
Stephen Kok is a writer who has several comic book one-shots, all funded via Kickstarter, including Word Smith. He talks about the 5 Seconds Kickstarter that reached its goal with 3 days to spare.
Michael Phillips is the publisher of, and writer for, The Draconis Project and Grond and he discusses the path he took to fund the second issue of Grond.
Pat Shand is the writer responsible for the novel Guardians of the Galaxy: Space Riot as well as comics like Destiny NY, and Robyn Hood. He talks about his and Amy Shand’s Kickstarter for Clonsters.
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Questions and answers from the frontlines of comic book crowdfunding
Q: What steps did you take to secure the pledges that put you over the top in the final day(s) of the campaign?
Pat Shand [referring to the Clonsters Kickstarter]: “You can expect big surges of support at the beginning and the end of the campaign so, to me, the way to secure yourself in the end is to keep support coming in during the middle of the campaign. If you’re near the finish line before the final day, you’re pretty much guaranteed to make it. To keep the campaign going and avoid slow periods, I consistently added new pledge levels and added freebies. I reached out to artists and other creators and, exchange for my support on their books, they offered me content I was able to give as extra incentive to backers. That way, even a low-level pledge of $15 would offer backers over $50 worth of content. It’s difficult for independent creators to compete with multi-million/billion dollar corporate publishers with market, but as far as content and value, the onus is on us to earn that support.”
Karl Kesel [referring to the Section Zero Kickstarter]: “HA! I did virtually NOTHING! The social media beast suddenly came alive and noticed us in the last 24 hours! I can’t explain it, really. The only thing I did was make sure to post a “countdown to zero” every hour so people knew time was running out (which I’m sure helped to some degree). But it wasn’t until I noticed the building momentum and thought “Hey! We might actually reach our goal!” that I offered some extra Superboy art as additional, high-end rewards. But really: I was trying to keep up with events, I wasn’t leading the way.”
Stephen Kok [referring to the 5 Seconds Kickstarter]: “I did another personal appeal to my mailing list. I knew quite a few people who were interested but have been too busy to do a pledge. It’s a reminder that there’s not too much time left. As Kickstarter is an all or nothing scenario, a last minute pledge could make the difference of whether a project goes ahead.”
Michael Phillips [referring to the Grond Book Two Kickstarter]: “I was always in contact with my backers and sent many updates to let them know how the campaign was going.”
Q: Hindsight being what it is, what would you do differently if you could redo the campaign?
Karl Kesel: “Two things:
- A VAST majority of our supporters simply wanted The Book. The high-end rewards (art, appearing in the book) did very well (and were essential in us reaching our goal) but the mid-level rewards made very little difference. Next time (and there will be a next time) I will run a much more streamlined campaign.
- When you’re doing Countdown posts, nothing makes you panic more than seeing people share things that say “7 Hours Left” when there’s only 3 hours! Or 2!!! Next time my “Countdown” posts will clearly state the exact time the campaign ends.”
Pat Shand: “Honestly, nothing. It was successful, and I learned a lot, which will make me more prepared for the next campaign. The thing about Kickstarter campaigns for independent comics is that every campaign is entirely different. You can ask for advice, you can learn all there is to learn, but the most important thing to understand is that you can never be fully prepared. Instead, you learn during the campaign and adapt to what you’re seeing every day. I would’ve loved to get funded 200% or 500% or some huge number like that, but I’m content with our 110% funding and learning what I did.”
Michael Phillips: “I would push for more time on social media websites. And I would also communicate with more creators and learn of new avenues to take to try to spread the word about my new campaign and how to get more backers.”
Stephen Kok: “There’s nothing I would redo but something I would add and do more things (launch party maybe?) to hype up the start of the Kickstarter. The beginning of a campaign is the key, a big start (lots of backers) will help push out the Kickstarter popularity ranking. It also takes the stress off the middle and end of the campaign if the target is on track early!”
Q: Since the campaign has ended, did you set up a Backerkit or webstore to continue to collect pre-orders? What are you working on now?
Michael Phillips: “I made sure that I had all of my stretch goals in place and utilized the MAILCHIMP email system to better communicate with my backers from my earlier campaigns and customers from the conventions that I have attended the past few years.”
[EDITOR’S NOTE – Michaels’s GROND “Oublar’s Revenge” Book Three is currently running on Kickstarter. It ends on .
Karl Kesel: “We are in the process of setting up a webstore at panicbuttonpress.com. I imagine we won’t be up-and-operational until mid-July, but if people keep an eye on the Section Zero Comic Facebook page, they’ll get the news as soon as the site goes live.”
Pat Shand: “On the independent side, I’m going on a book tour to support the publication of Destiny, NY Volume One this summer while working on production for Clonsters, which will be out in the fall. September 1st, I’m launching the Kickstarter for Destiny, NY Volume Two and will be pushing that hard. We’ll be publishing all of our Kickstarter books through my company, Continuity Entertainment, which I’m looking to expand on in big ways. We have a bunch of great books we’d like to publish, so the second half of 2017 will be focused on building that slate. On the freelancing side, my first novel Guardians of the Galaxy: Space Riot came out last month. In July, two more – Iron Man: Mutually Assured Destruction and Avengers: The Serpent Society – will be in bookstores everywhere.”
Stephen Kok: “I currently have a steampunk fantasy adventure currently on Kickstarter! I hope you have the time to check it out as well.”
[EDITOR’S NOTE – Stephen’s Word Smith – A Steampunk Fantasy Adventure is currently running on Kickstarter. It ends on .
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In their own words, there is no single path to reach the finish line. Despite that, each of them achieved their goal and are able to make these amazing comic books! I appreciate them for taking the time to answer my questions. You can find out more about them at:
Stephen Kok has a Kickstarter going right now for his new comic, Word Smith – A Steampunk Fantasy Adventure
Michael Phillips has a Kickstarter for the third issue in his Grond series, GROND “Oublar’s Revenge” Book Three
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Are you trying to visualize the Kickstarter finish line? No need! Kicktraq provided these charts that show the last 10 days of these campaigns, their goals, and when they crossed them.
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[Editor’s Note – Updated the information about PanicButtonPress to mid-July.]
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Egg Embry, Wanna-lancer™
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Egg Embry wrote comic book short stories, edited comic book series, wrote and drew a webcomic, and contributed to comic book journalism across the 2000s. Now, he buys the opportunity to write for a variety of tabletop role-playing games in the tradition of vanity press. His purchases have been published by:
- Sasquatch Game Studio’s Primeval Thule for 5e available at DriveThruRPG.com – Writer
- Ember Design Studios’ Yrisa’s Nightmare for 5e and Pathfinder available at DriveThurRPG.com – Writer
- Ember Design Studios’ Rats in the Street for 5e and Pathfinder available at DriveThurRPG.com – Writer & Artist
- Kobold Press’ Tome of Beasts for 5e available at KoboldPress.com – Playtester
- Kobold Press’ Deep Magic 9: Ring Magic (5e) available at KoboldPress.com – Playtester
- EN World’ Gaming at the Kids’ Table Column – Journalist
- Total Party Kill Games’ Slaughter at Splinterfang Gorge – Writer
- Total Party Kill Games’ Fifth Edition Fighter Folio – Writer
- MidCity Comics’ Soon-to-be-Announced Comic Book Mini-Series – Writer