Kickstarter

Crowd-sourced funding is the heart and soul of indie comics. A professionally-printed comic costs a few hundred dollars, which is not much to a lucky few, but can be insurmountable to others! Still, Kickstarter is not a magic bullet. It's your responsibility to present your project professionally.

Apart from this guide, Kickstarter itself offers a ton educational resources to walk you through the process. One of the magical aspects of crowd funding is that Kickstarter only gets paid if you do, so they have every reason to enable your success.

Q. Why Kickstarter? Other services let me keep a part of the funding, even if the campaign fails!

A. While this is true, partial funding can actually do more harm than good. If your project will cost $500 but you only raise $200, your backers still expect you to see it through so they can get their rewards! My advice is if you truly need the funding, go with something like Kickstarter, but if you have enough money to fund the project yourself, you can run an Indiegogo campaign that might only partially fund the project.

Q. What if my Kickstarter fails?

A. Try, try again. Never fear making a mistake. Go in knowing you may succeed or fail but you will learn either way. If your first Kickstarter fails, clean it up, make more friends and give it a second shot. The only downside is the delay, but that's why you're starting early.

While your campaign will only run for a couple weeks, you will actually be involved with Kickstarter for about three months. You should begin setting up your campaign at least a month before it begins. After the campaign is successful, you will be waiting about an additional month before the "check clears" - the actual payment will be delayed for security. There's always the chance your campaign won't be successful, so you'll need time to try again. There are many potential delays, so plan for them well! Start planning your campaign as early as you can.

Most of the classic Kickstarter failures have been for projects that had no chance of being completed. You'll notice I had you finish your artwork before this. You've gotten through the hard part now, so your backers can have confidence that you'll see it through. Plus, all that beautiful artwork will look great in your Kickstarter video!

Plan Your Budget

This part is going to be easy if you're sticking to the Finch Quest plan (30 pages, 6"x9", B/W, Perfect Bound, 50 count printed with Gorham Printing). If you're working with your own schematics, you've got some math to do. Either way, I'll help you figure it out with this totally sweet Kickstarter budget calculator!

Kickstarter Budget Calculator

It's always best to guess high when dealing with money. Shipping a 6" x 9" book will cost about $2 a piece through media mail. You'll need to get some shipping envelopes. Uline has lots of great options. The cheapest I've found is the 6.5" x 9.5" Self Seal. Whatever you choose, pick envelopes larger than 6" x 9" or else the book wont fit! A great cost-saving plan would be to split the bill on a case with one or two other Finch Questers. Swing by a few Sicaga events or any other comic club and see if you can find someone to split an order with.

ISBNs are tricky. A single ISBN costs a whopping $125 but if you buy ten at once the price per each drops to $30 a piece ($300 total). We'll go into this in more detail in Step 6.

The price you set for your Kickstarter is entirely up to you! We're going to proceed with the guide aiming a little higher than the bare minimum at $325. That's a pretty fair amount to ask for your first book and it's not too tough of a goal to reach.

Plan Your Rewards

There's a lot of mistakes to make in this stage, alongside a plethora of conflicting strategies. I'll walk you through what I've learned but don't be afraid to take alternate advice or trust your gut.

There are a few of pitfalls we're looking to avoid. Be careful not to offer rewards that take too much work to deliver. My own Kickstarter was four months ago as of writing and I still owe five pieces of custom artwork! There's nothing wrong with custom rewards but you want the majority of your rewards to be as simple as shipping. Shipping costs can catch you off guard as well. We noted postage and envelopes in our price chart above, so you should be covered for that one. Be careful of writing your rewards too "witty" or "clever." Be concise and clear about what you're offering. Finally, know what you're worth! If you don't have a huge following or if this is your first Kickstarter, keep the prices low. If you've had your work out there and you've got experience delivering commissions, I highly encourage charging a little more for rewards that include custom art or doodles.

Q. What am I worth?

A. Artist suffer from chronically weak ego, so we constantly undersell ourselves. Here's a simple trick to remember what a piece of original artwork is worth. Yes, we're doing algebra. Buckle up.

1. How many hours does it take for you to make a piece of art? This is "A."
2. How much do you think you should make per hour as an artist? This is "B."
3. A x B = the price of original art by you.

Here is what I suggest for your Kickstarter rewards.

  • $5 - Digital copy of the book. Backers get a PDF of your comic.
  • $10 - The Book Itself. Backers get your beautiful, shiny printed comic.
  • $20 - Personalized Copy. Backers get a signed and personalized copy of the book.
  • $35 - Thank You Link. If you've got a blog or tumblr, you can publish the names and links to your best backers.
  • $50 - Signed Print. Design an 8.5" x 11" art print for your characters. It's a great bonus reward that's easy to print-on-demand.
  • $75 - Name in Book. There's a reason we're running your kickstarter so early. You have a chance to put your top backers' names in the book itself.
  • ($75 + your commission price) - Original Artwork. You can offer doodles of your book's characters or take requests. This should be your top reward because it's going to take you the most work.

Most of your kicks are going to come from the $5 to $20 range. If this is your first project, chances are anyone pledging more is someone you know personally. To reach your $325 goal, you'll need 33 people to kick you for just the printed book. 33 really isn't that many! Since we're still in the planning stages, you should hit up Twitter, Tumblr, DeviantArt and Facebook ahead of time to make sure you've got your 33 kicks. Start getting people excited before you push start!

Set Up Your Campaign

Kickstarter's own instructions are outstanding. Once you get started, they will walk you through everything. I'll focus on a few of the additional details, little things you might not realize going in.

You can set your campaign up well before you start it. I honestly recommend doing it right now. There's really no reason to procrastinate.

There's a few things you're going to need. Kickstarter will need you to connect to a bank account so they can send you money. You can use your regular bank account but it might be a good idea to start a business savings account. You'll be making a payments account on Amazon, who handles the money for Kickstarter. Setting up your Amazon account and linking it to your bank account will take at least one week. As I mentioned in the budget, Kickstarter and Amazon take about 5% each out of your campaign goal. We added 10% to the budget, so you're ready for this.

You need to make a video. Kickstarter emphasizes not stressing this. Watch a few other folks' videos to see what they do right and wrong. Scopophobia is a thing, but you're getting to be a pro at facing anxiety by now. Relax. You're just saying hi to 33 people, most of whom you know personally and are pretty much going to kick your project anyway.

Once your campaign is successful, you will not get paid right away. Amazon holds the funds for about a month after the campaign ends for various legal and security reasons. This is yet another reason we're getting the ball rolling as early as possible.

You are responsible for filing taxes on the money you earn through Kickstarter. We'll talk about that more in Step 12.

Launch Your Campaign

You've set it up. You've told your fans. The day is here. The campaign is active.

Your first supporters will be your friends, your family and people who knew your campaign was coming. If you're lucky, that adds up to the 33 kicks you needed to fund the project, and you can relax and enjoy the rest of the trip!

Next we need to find new backers. Getting people who've never heard of you to kick you takes a lot of work. They need to hear about your campaign, follow a link to it, discover your artwork resonates them, decide they like you enough to support you and finally, actually push the support button. It will happen, but you've got an uphill struggle. You've already polished your art and made your best pitch. At this point all there is to do is get as many people as possible to see it.

  1. Friends of Friends. Your friends already backed you, that was easy. Now you need to ask more of them. You need to ask them to tell their friends to back you. You're going to owe some folks some favors, but this is the only hope you have of going viral.
  2. Blogger Friends. If you know someone with a few followers, talk to them well before your campaign. A single link is gracious, but easily overlooked. The most amazingly generous and effective thing they can do for you is make precisely three targeted posts: first: when you start your campaign, second: somewhere in the middle and finally: 24 hours before the final bell.
  3. Advertise. Remember, this comes out of your budget! The return on advertisement for a Kickstarter is pretty slim, but it can return a few kicks. Project Wonderful is a pretty good bet. Google and Facebook can be good if you're savvy. Nothing is a guarantee though, so think of it a bit like gambling, only spend what you're willing to lose.
  4. Multiple Chanels. Whatever social media you spend most of your time on is going to be tapped out in the first few days. You need to hit everything. Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, DeviantArt, Reddit, 4chan, absolutely everything you can think of. If you only talk to one community, your voice won't go far at all.
  5. Relevant Communities. Your comic is about something, right? You will always be a small-fry to "comic" centered communities, but if your comic is fantasy, post on a "fantasy" board. Horror, post to "Horror," Sci-fi post to "Sci-fi." Find your fandom and engage them directly.
  6. Around Town. Talk to the comic shops around town, see if they'll put up a poster or mention you on their twitter\. Hang out with the staff and see what advice they have for who you can pester for kicks.
  7. Sicaga. Did I mention (Facebook Reddit Twitter DeviantArt) WE ARE TOTALLY HERE FOR YOU! There's other clubs and groups, too. Make sure you read their posting rules so you don't aggravate the community. Be polite, play by the rules and POST EVERYWHERE.

Probably the most important mid-campaign advice is what Jake Richmond told me. Talk about your Kickstarter every day. Keep it in everyone's minds.

The final 24 hours of your first kickstarter is an experience like no other. There's really nothing I can say to prepare you for it. The best advice I can give is make sure you take the day off of work. You're going to be busy.

I made it!

Congratulations!

I didn't make it...

It happens. Don't stress it. Clean it up, polish your pitch, try again.

From setup to payday, running your Kickstarter will take around three months. Patience is utterly required. Let's keep working in the meantime.

Next Step: Get an ISBN home

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