Saturday, September 17, 2011

I Don't Get KickStarter

Sorry, I don't get it. As a model for publishing, I don't get KickStarter. Here's an example. This is a successful KickStarter fund raising effort. The dude needed to raise $2,000 and he raised 3.5 times that for a 160-page graphic novel about an anime rabbit that fights crime (not my cup of tea but that's beside the point). I just have some questions...

- Why is it that if I donate less than $25 (say $24), I don't even get a copy of the book? Ideally, there should be a minimun pledge amount, say $15, which gets you a book shipped to the backer. $15 may sound cheap for a shipped graphic novel, but this should be at cost since the backer is prepaying sight unseen.

- If you only needed $2,000, why couldn't you just raise that yourself? $2,000 isn't a lot of money. Really, it isn't.

- If the book never gets produced or published, do I get my money back? For a backer, this seems like a bad investment especially if the creator has never been published, which I believe is the case here.

- Are you going to see it through? Okay, you've raised the money, but will the book be completed? Will it be printed? Will it be distributed? When? Can I get a copy of your production schedule? Hey! I'm a backer - I wanna know all this crap!

- Did you factor in shipping when calculating your costs? Because $2,000 is barely enough to even print a 1,000 run of a 160-page B&W perfect bound book. What about money to promote the book? And I mean more than just doing Twitter and Facebook posts.

- If you look at the backers' donations, most are between $25 and $100. For that, all you get is a copy of the book, maybe a sketch and a "working copy of the script". Why, why would anyone pay that much money for what you're getting? Why? (This is my biggest question obviously).

- Oh, and by the way, what's the cover price of the book? If it's cheaper than $25, which it should be for a 160-page B&W, why shouldn't I just wait until after it's on the stands and buy it then? Why prepay more? Is this supporting the arts or patronizing it?

- If the original intent was to just cover print costs, why not just publish an ebook and call it a day? Why go through all this rigamaroo? Hell, charge $25 per ebook, sell 150 copies (for each backer) and bam! Almost $4,000 and no printing costs (or shipping, handling, headaches, hassles, etc.). This makes even more sense here since the creator has never been published before.

- At what point did readers become "backers?"

- Will Diamond distribute the book? What if they don't? What if they say, this is crap (not that I'm saying it is) and we're not going to put it in Previews? What if there aren't enough orders from retailers to make it into Previews? If I was a backer, I would want to know stuff like this.

If you look at the list of backers, there are four that accounted for at least $1,000, which is half of what he needed. I would suspect that those are people that he knows (don't know, just assuming - I mean who else would throw out that kind of money). So, assuming that, couldn't he have made more of an individual effort to secure backers without even using KickStarter? How about selling advertising? Five ads at $200 a pop would raise the other $1,000.

It just seems strange to me to just randomly ask strangers for money to support the production of a comic. It all feels like pan handling, or like comic creator welfare. Will comic creators now be issued EBT cards by the government so that they can produce their comics without the "headache" of having to fend for themselves in the marketplace? This is all backasswards. Whatever happen to scratchin and clawin your way to the top? Now, it's "Hey, gimme some money so I can do a comic" and "If I ever finish it and manage to get it printed and distributed, you may just get to read it". It's almost criminal.

- Good Lord. Can you imagine if this had been available during the Black & White Explosion in the '80's??? It would have literally been a shit storm.

Where's the risk taking? If you truly believe in a project, then take the risk. Go out and borrow the money. Act like any small business just starting out. Sink or swim! It's that yoke of possible failure which drives art. Not trolling the internet for sugar daddys to support your drawing and writing endeavors.

I've heard the argument that KickStarter helps weed out the good and the bad because if a project isn't worthy, it won't meet it's pledge total. What's forgotten is that if you're going through the regular distribution channels (Diamond essentially), it's the retailers who are actually and ultimately doing the "weeding". They're the one's placing the orders, and if there's not enough orders, Diamond won't distribute it. If retailers feel they've got enough graphic novels about anime crime-fighting rabbits, then too bad.

Notice how I haven't said anything yet about Kickstarter's or Amazon's fees. That's a sham in itself and not really what I'm concerned about. However, if you think it's good business to share 10% of the proceeds with them, then I leave you to your own stupidity.

Update: A final thought... why didn't the pledges stop when the requested amount was reached? Only $2,000 was needed, why was over $7,000 allowed to be raised (other than the fact that KickStarter and Amazon's fees would increase)? Sure doesn't smell ethical to me.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I googled Ralph Snart and was glad to find out you still make comics! I only owned one issue of Ralph Snart comics, when it was published by Now. It was the one with the Red Cabbage! I was eleven or twelve when I first read it, but I would memorize all the dialogue and looked forward to being old enough to drink my first beer. (Don't worry. I turned out all right. I'm an English teacher now.) I'm glad I can contact you and let you know that I used to practice reading that comic aloud in my room. "It's gonna be warm and stale, but it's gonna be BEEEEER!" I lost the comic many years ago, but I still remember the lines. Thanks!


9/20/2011 12:50 AM  
Blogger FJ said...

good analysis, Mark. i wouldn't throw $25 to a stranger for a comic book for many of the issues you mentioned, but in my mind it would be rationalized as, "Screw you, good luck", rather than the thoughtful analysis you provide here. :)

9/26/2011 1:25 PM  
Blogger Marc Hansen said...

Check out what Mark Martin is trying to do
He used KickStarter on his first book but is now trying to go it alone with his second book. He at least gives substantial value per pledge. I couldn't talk him into just doing an ebook - he's a diehard slave to print. Why do you think we've come to this point where people are begging for money? Print is obsolete! I swear, it's almost as bad as the metric system.

9/26/2011 1:40 PM  
Blogger Boost Ventilator said...

I see Kickstarter as an opportunity for creatives that are operating in an experimental niche or maybe even outside of their comfort zone. Yes, there are fees and percentages, but then again the real world of publishing and creating is full of people getting a cut of the profits, from interest on loans to managers and accountants.

I'm not saying that is what people are using Kickstarter for, but I have personally pledged and followed a few campaigns when I thought that my money could make a small difference in getting something made that traditional publishers or financial backers would ignore.

Marc Hansen publishing another printed volume might not catch my eye but if, for some reason, you were creating a Ralph Snart radio play I might be interested or limited edition stuffed dolls, I would think of tossing in a couple of bucks.

9/27/2011 2:06 PM  
Blogger Marc Hansen said...

I appreciate your comment, BV. However, each of the projects I've pointed out could've released their endeavor on the web with no "cuts or percentages" and next to no cost. It would expose themselves to a potentially much, much larger audience and they wouldn't have to beg for money like common low-lifes. If I sound crass, it's not because I'm trying to be crass, it's because I am crass (by nature).

Each of the projects had hardly any backers (the most being a mere 661). What's the point of exposing yourself to such a small audience especially when there are better alternatives? And such low numbers of backers reeks of futility and vanity. My advice to these fellers would be to build an audience on the web first (and legitimize themselves) then move to a big print project. Here's a good blog post to read.

And don't mention niche to me. Niche markets mean nothing. NOTHING! I'd much rather have high readership and low margins than low readership with high margins. High readership has far more power!

Besides, that's what every creator wants is an audience, and I just don't see KickStarter as the means for doing that.

9/27/2011 3:05 PM  
Blogger steininger said...

Totally agree, Marc.

10/07/2011 4:52 PM  

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