Ruben Bolling, aka Ken Fisher, is much loved in most quarters for Tom the Dancing Bug, his long-running, surgical strike weekly political comic. Of course, the field for weekly political comics is not exactly busting at the seams with dough. So recently Bolling came up with a new idea, called The Inner Hive, which would offer a subscription model for goodies to readers:
What I offer to members of the INNER HIVE is special access to Tom the Dancing Bug: a private email of the weekly comic, a day (or more) before it appears anywhere publicly, plus some contests / giveaways, as well as occasionally some other content, such as sketches and unused drafts of comics.
(For example, this week’s comic was written in a totally different way until at the last moment I came upon the premise that I ended up using — I might have included that first draft in the INNER HIVE emailing of the comic.)
The cost will be $9.99 per six months. For less than the cost of a movie, members will be getting early and extra “content” (as the kids say), and the satisfaction that they’re contributing to the existence of Tom the Dancing Bug.
So basically, an ongoing one-man Kickstarter program. Support this comic and you get exclusive stuff! Crazy, right?
Well, it worked, he now reports:
So, how did it go? Really, really well. The number of subscribers exceeded my expectations, and the INNER HIVE is now my largest single source of revenue. Wow.
I also think it’s terrific that other cartoonists have seen me make this model succeed and are looking at it as a way to enhance the viability of their own comic strips. My friend Tom Tomorrow has already used the INNER HIVE model to launch a subscription service, and I know others are looking into it as well.
I’m especially glad that INNER HIVE subscribers seem genuinely and enthusiastically happy with their membership.
This whole micro/crowdfunding model for comics seems to be a much accepted one for readers: pay a little extra to support something you like and get access in return. Will it become even more popular? Wait and see.
Heidi MacDonald is the founder and editor in chief of The Beat. In the past, she worked for Disney, DC Comics, Fox and Publishers Weekly. She can be heard regularly on the More To Come Podcast. She likes coffee, cats and noble struggle.