Have you ever noticed how no one has been saying that the ongoing worldwide pandemic will kill comics crowdfunding ? (Or webcomics but that’s another article.)
Perhaps if a deep economic depression saps the world’s economies and sends millions to breadlines (a possibility), crowdfunding may waver, but so far, it seems to be holding its own…at least as far as SUPPORT goes.
The news out of Kickstarter isn’t all that great – they have announced layoffs of 40% of staff. The good news is that Kickstarter’s new union negotiated a very generous severance package – which is what unions are good for. But the bad news is 40% layoffs is a lot.
The reason goes back to a post from Kickstarter about a month ago: campaigns are down. The piece was entitled, odd enough Are People Still Supporting Projects? Our Data Says Yes.
Backers are showing support for creators who are going ahead with their launches. The number of visitors to project pages, and the percentage of visitors who pledge, are in line with what we saw before COVID-19. The funding success rate for projects has remained steady at about 45%.
Because creators are launching fewer projects, and some have decided to cancel them, the number of live projects on Kickstarter is down about 25% from this time last year.
However since that was written, campaigns dropped by 35% and the layoffs were announced, as reported in this story at The Verge:
The union for Kickstarter employees reached an agreement with management on Friday which provides protections for laid-off workers, the union said in a press release. The crowdfunding company announced in an internal memo April 20th it would likely seek layoffs, along with other cost-cutting measures. CEO Aziz Hasan wrote in the memo that Kickstarter had seen a 35 percent drop in new crowdfunding projects on the site in the past several weeks, with “no clear sign of rebound.”
However, judging by recent campaigns, people are continuing to support crowdfunding efforts. Spike Trotman’s recent campaign for an animated Lackadaisy film was her most successful, raising $330,256. Other campaigns have had similar levels of success.
For instance, just yesterday afternoon the Kickstarter campaign for Cosmic Detective by Jeff Lemire, Matt Kindt and David Rubin was announced. Within 24 hours it had already doubled its $35,000 ask with $71,000 pledged. I’m sure by the time you click on this link it will be even more – every time I check on it its more money pledged.
Lemire, Kindt and Rubin are an all-star team, so no wonder the campaign is doing so well. As for why they are going solo as opposed to with a publisher, I’m told this project was always meant to be a Kickstarter. But given the timing, mailing out books direct to consumers – even worldwide – seems like a much safer bet these days than dealing with Byzantine distribution scenarios. Provided the Post Office survives.
I’m hearing a lot of buzz about creators going straight to Kickstarter for their new projects, as opposed to publishers. A lot of this has to do with Image’s issues during Diamond’s shut down. Not only did they lose their periodical distributor, but their bookstore distribution as well, meaning even if a shop was selling a lot of Walking Deads Vol. 1s, they might not be able to get more copies. Several staffers have been let go, and creators were told they wouldn’t be paid royalties for a while.
Even before this, Image seemed to have plateaued – something that happens periodically at a company that is really just a loose confederation of creators. After a spectacular run that defined a lot of the past decide of comics, things had quieted down even before the pandemic.
I don’t doubt that Image will bounce back from this – they always do – but the time frame might be longer than anyone would like.
One other little anomaly I noticed looking at the Cosmic Detective kickstarter page – actually while I was pondering what edition I should get (because I’m not going to sleep on a new Lemire, Kindt, Rubin comic!).
The digital edition – which my small book-stuffed apartment would like – 1s a mere $10 – such a bargain! This level has 156 backers.
The next level up is a deluxe $40 hardcover with fold-outs, bells and possibly even whistles. Shipping is extra. This edition already has 913 backers.
A $48 level with an extra set of Rubin-designed playing cards has 683 backers.
Print wins again! Look, no one ever backs a Kickstarter for the digital edition unless, like me, you’re starved for space. But I’m going for the $48 edition all the way. I need more cool stuff! There can never be enough cool stuff.
But doesn’t this reinforce yet again that digital comics aren’t going to kill print comics? I mean webcomics will survive even a depression….but so will print. If digital comics were going to kill print comics, it would already have happened.
Getting back to the overall comics crowdfunding picture, Several projects launched during the early part of the pandemic show similar or even more spectacular levels; Jim Starlin’s return to drawing with a new Dreadstar is at over $100,000. The new indie-centric Short Box was funded on Day 1, and is $12,000 over goal with half the campaign to go.
I’m not even getting into gaming and animated projects which have hit seven figures.
Comics projects’ 59% success rate remains the #3 category on the entire Kickstarter platform (after dance and theater) although it’s ninth in total dollars at $111 million. Still, it’s fifth in live dollars (current campaigns) and I suspect it will stay strong.
Btw if you’re wondering what the LEAST successful categories on Kickstarter are, at the bottom its Tech at 21% followed by….journalism at 23%. Yuck. Turn off those ad blockers, folks!