If current projections hold, by July Stickney will have raised more than $100,000 to produce four White Ash comics as well as a forthcoming hardcover that compiles them all into one volume. The book—drawn by Conor Hughes and colored by Fin Cramb—has also attracted attention from three publishers. None of this, obviously, would be happening without Stickney’s use of the crowdfunding platform.
Stickney is one of an increasing number of comics creators who have been able to build fanbases, make comics, and just generally share storytelling visions with a growing audience via crowdfunding, while at the same time mitigating the personal cost it takes to pay collaborators. At a panel Friday at WonderCon, Stickney and six other creators discussed their experiences during the “Kickstarting Your Comic” panel.
While the panel did cover some specifics for developing a campaign (more on that below), the focus of much of the discussion was just how viable an option for publishing success the platform has now become. Indeed, the creators on the panel painted a picture of a future wherein crowdfunding is vital to creator-owned comics, with some saying it might already be here.
“Kickstarter is a platform that a lot of publishers now use to track new books they might be interested in,” said Russell Nohelty, who himself has raised more than $100,000 for titles such as Ichabod Jones: Monster Hunter, Cthulhu is Hard to Spell, and more.
So many comics have started to be made through Kickstarter, the panelists noted, that the platform actually has an employee—Camilla Zhang—heading up comics outreach and offering would-be crowdfund creators advice. There are also cold hard numbers to back up the increased prevalence of the platform, with Kickstarter reporting a record $16 million in pledges in 2018, which represents a 26 percent increase over 2017.
The panelists Friday described using Kickstarter as betting on yourself, putting in the time and hardwork to demonstrate to the wider market that your ideas can find an audience. Gone are the days of a publisher saying something like, This will never work, chomping on a cigar, and that being the end of it. Panelists also praised Kickstarter for helping to foster relationships with collaborators and for enabling more creative freedom. Rounding out the group on stage were Christie Shinn (Demon Bitch), Terry Mayo (The Wicked Righteous), Jeff Leeds (the Not Forgotten Anthology), and David Shrader (Baby Badass), with moderator Ryeland Grant (Aberrant).
But what about the good stuff? You know, the actionable advice for aspiring creators who want to get themselves some of that sweet sweet Kickstarter money? Well brace yourself because here it comes.
Being an active part of the Kickstarter community, the panelists said, is key. It’s easy to see what Kickstarters a user has backed, and a good approach is to back many before you start asking people for something yourself.
Another key is delivering what you say you will and doing it on time. Nobody likes paying for things that never arrive, and the nature of Kickstarter is such that delayed product is a very public thing. Also important, they said, is interacting with one’s backers, letting them know an actual human being is on the other side of the Kickstarter.
Anyway, I hope this has been helpful. I’m off myself to go back some Kickstarters before tinkering with some of my own scripts, dreams of crowdfunded comics solvency dancing behind my eyes…