Creating comics isn’t easy. Sure, it’s fulfilling, but anyone who struggles to get their work on the shelves has their share of horror stories. And for a long time now, one of the greatest hurdles to overcome has been the sheer cost of getting these full-color pamphlets produced.
But folks, I have good news. Thanks to a website called Kickstarter.com, funding your comic just might be within your reach.
The circumstances that brought us to Kickstarter began a couple years ago, when my friend Mervyn Mckoy and I developed the idea for a comic called Giant Robot Warrior Maintenance Crew (GRWMC for short). It’s a sci-fi comedy tale about the people working inside of a giant robot, and struggle to keep it from breaking down. Basically, they’re the guys who keep the plumbing intact while the robot beats up space monsters.
Other projects came and went, but GRWMC was an idea we kept coming back to. When we were finally ready to start work on it, our original plan was a typical one; we’d produce enough of the comic to submit to small publishers, and post it online if no one picked it up.
Then Mervyn learned about Kickstarter.com. Which has proven itself a God-send for anyone trying to work in a creative medium, let alone comics.
The way Kickstarter works is that you set up a project page on the website. This involves a written proposal, a video to pitch your work, and a series of rewards offered for monetary pledges given. So if you wanted to, say, start a custom t-shirt company, you could offer t-shirts in exchange for different pledges. One t-shirt could be awarded for a ten dollar pledge, three t-shirts could be awarded for a thirty dollar pledge, five for fifty . . . you get the idea.
Of course, there are no guarantees your project will succeed. The way Kickstarter works, if you fail to reach your funding goal by the established deadline, you won’t receive any of the funds at all. But then again, this also works as a good proving ground for your comic. If no one considers it worth donating money to, then maybe you’re better off developing something else.
That being said, there are a couple things I’d recommend to improve your chances.
Study the projects that succeed, and study the projects that fail. Learn from those who have gone before, and try to apply those lessons to your own presentation. Plus, it’ll help you be more accurate about what to expect from the fund-raising. Don’t go into this thinking you’ll get $10,000 to publish your 10-page, black-and-white mini-comic.
Yes, you do need to post up a video. While there are projects that try to get by without one, I wouldn’t count on them doing well. The video doesn’t have to be elaborate, it just needs to be clear about what you’re trying to accomplish. And if you’re shy, you don’t even need to appear in it. In the case of Giant Robot Warrior Maintenance Crew, Mervyn animated some graphics and artwork, while a friend of ours narrated from a script. Our faces only appear briefly as loose caricatures. Which frankly was for the best. Like many comic book creators, we aren’t exactly known for our good looks.
Be realistic about the rewards you offer for the pledges. If someone wants to give you $25 to help your project, make sure they’re getting something back that’s close to a $25 value. If all you’re offering for that amount is a postcard and thank-you note, don’t expect many $25 pledges. Or any, for that matter.
People love to see themselves drawn. That’s probably obvious to any artist reading this column, but I didn’t know how true it was until we started this project. You see, for one of the rewards we offer, Mervyn will draw the donator’s face into the comic. That’s listed as an expensive pledge, but it still proved to be pretty popular. So if you’re able to offer it, I would suggest doing something similar.
Network, network, network. Don’t just rely on normal Kickstarter traffic to raise your funds. Get yourself in gear, and post your project’s link on Facebook and any other website, message board, and twitter account you can access. I’d also recommend creating a promo flyer and leaving it at every comic book shop, coffeehouse, and college campus you can reach. Obviously, the more places your project is seen, the better off you’ll be.
Be professional about your project. Before you activate your fundraising page, be certain that everything is clear and understandable. Ask a third party to double-check and look everything over. Especially the pledge-section, that part can easily get confusing. And make sure every potential backer knows you’re serious about completing your comic, and you won’t waste their money.
As for Giant Robot Warrior Maintenance Crew, things have so far gone pretty well. When Mervyn and I first activated the Kickstarter page, we weren’t sure if anyone would pay attention to it, let alone pledge enough to help get it published. But we reached our funding goal about two weeks before the project deadline. There’s still plenty to do before everything’s finished, but now we have the resources to get there. And we plan to have a lot of fun in the process.
Keep well and keep creating,
Nathan Hill has written comic book scripts for Terminus Media, Atlantis Studios, World Financial Group, and Galactic Press. He lives, works, and reads too much in Atlanta, Ga. For more about Giant Robot Warrior Maintenance Crew, check out the Kickstarter page here.
Mervyn Mckoy is a freelance artist whose passion for art lead him to earn a bachelors in Media Arts and Animation. He is skilled in 3D and 2D animation, and has worked in many fields ranging from building rendering, to game concept design and asset creation. Whether it’s a character sheet or a t shirt design, with his 7+ years of experience he is always up to the task.