Running a Kickstarter campaign is no small undertaking. It’s time consuming and emotionally draining. I can’t tell you how relieved I was as soon at my Oxymoron Hardcover campaign hit it’s goal. A great proverbial weight was lifted off my shoulders. Thankfully, my project enjoyed a lot of advantages that not all campaigns have. For one, the book was nearly complete, which gave me a ton of material to use to help promote the project. And let’s not forget that with more than 20 creators on the project, I’ve had a ton of support in getting the word out about it.
I’m going to be writing more about my lessons learned from Kickstarter when this thing is all said and done, but I figured I’d reach out to some of my pals who are also in the midst of the Kickstarter Crucible this month. I talked to creator and publisher Joe Martino (The Mighty Titan, $10,550 goal, currently 53% funded, 13 days left), writer Mike Raicht (Wild Blue Yonder, $12K goal, currently 75% funded, 8 days left), writer Joey Esposito (Pawn Shop, $7K goal, currently 82% funded, 21 days to go), and artist/creator Clint Hilinski (Pirate Queen of the Star Raider, $9K goal, currently 38% funded, 18 days to go) to get their take on what it’s like being in the middle of the Kickstarter gauntlet
1) Hey guys, thanks for talking to me. All of you have a number of books under your belt, published in a variety of ways. Why Kickstarter for this project?
Joe Martino: I’ve been funding my own comics since 1996. This seemed like a great idea to get my newest book out there in a big way without taking food out of my kid’s mouths. I am a big fan of crowdfunding and I think it is a great way to get pre-orders and give people some great rewards.
Joey Esposito: Pawn Shop doesn’t have tights, flights, or any other sort of high-concept genre hook. It’s a story about a real city and real people, which for whatever reason, makes it a harder sell in comics. But these are the kinds of stories that I love and that made me want to write in the first place, and I think there are readers that want this kind of content but don’t know where to find it. That’s what I’m hoping this Kickstarter can do for us; not only make our comic book a reality but maybe help people discover that comics has much more to offer than what blows up at the box office.
Clint Hilinski: I’ve been a freelance artist for many years and along the way I’ve come up with plenty of my own ideas I’ve always wanted to work on, but the trouble has always been time and funding. You need the funding to have the time, basically. Kickstarter is the opportunity I’d been looking for to get one of my projects off the ground. Many times at conventions selling my original art at the show I’ve thought, if there was just a way to sell my art up front and use the money to create the book, in a way that’s what Kickstarter is letting you do.
Mike Raicht: This is a project Zach and I have been trying to get off the ground for awhile. Almost four years, I think, ever since we worked on the Exiles one-shot together. What we began to realize is that it was going to be tough to ever actually devote full time effort to a five issue limited series. Even part time was going to be tough because Zach puts so much energy into each project. Zach is about a 2 month an issue artist when he inks himself. If you’ve ever seen his work you can tell why. It’s insane. When we saw Kickstarter, and talked about the possibilities, the three of us thought that raising money this way would be a great way to give Zach time to devote his full efforts to the series and for us to be able to take more control of our own property. It would also be an amazing way to connect fans with rewards we think they might really dig.
2) What did you do to prepare for your Kickstarter?
Martino: I did a ton of research on successful and unsuccessful campaigns. I tried to give people what I would want when I back a project. I also tried to do a bunch of promotion beforehand. But most of my success has been during the campaign, and the great people I’ve met.
Esposito: Talked a lot with Sean, the artist on the book. Since a lot of the higher reward levels involve artwork and the like on his end, I wanted to be sure he wouldn’t get overloaded. We made up a google doc that listed our planned rewards and tweaked them until we were satisfied. More importantly, I got printing quotes for the final product so I could gauge what price levels would be fair — a number I admittedly miscalculated during the last Kickstarter I ran, so I’m happy to say that our numbers will be much more spot on this time. I also assured myself of the printer I’ll be using to avoid any intensive delays like Footprints suffered.
Hilinski: I checked out the other projects, as many as I could, ones I was interested in, ones that seemed to do well. That helped, and then a buddy of mine had recently done a Kickstarter project so I talked to him and he gave me some great advice, but looking back on it, I should have done more research. So a lot of it, like most things, you just learn by doing and making mistakes and trying to fix them.
Raicht: We talked with our co-creator Austin Harrison and really tried to come up with ways to make our kickstarter stand out. We developed a list of incentives we thought would appeal to our readers and to readers who had never heard of us before. We looked over all of the different books and tried to find things that we thought were cool. There are so many great ideas on there. The big thing we worked on was giving people a sense of the world we were trying to create and the story that was going to be unfolding in it. Zach and Austin called in some favors in order to develop our video. Zach nailed those opening pages, our colorist Nelson Daniel colored the heck out of them, and then Austin really put a ton of time into developing that into our video. He was editing it right up until the hours we put it up. He might still be editing it. Then Zach did the amazing voice over and we were on our way.
3) What has surprised you during this campaign?
Esposito: I was surprised at the reaction it’s gotten and how quickly we’ve gotten funding. After a week, we’re at 80% with just under $1500 left to go until we’ve hit our goal of $7,000. Compared to the last campaign I did, this is near miraculous. I’m very excited that people have gotten behind this project and I’m hoping that we’ll hit our goal within the next week so we can start talking about stretch goals!
Hilinski: No huge surprises, it’s kind of went how I was hoping it would. It’s been fun interacting with fans interested in the project. Apparently comic fans love comic art of topless hot chicks! Although I’m not surprised by that either.
Raicht: The first thing is that Kickstarting a project is no easy thing. There are a ton of nuances to the process. You have to be on top of things and pushing your project all of the time… while also trying not to be horribly annoying. It’s a fine line. The pleasant surprise part has been how great people are. Not only by supporting us and buying rewards, but by spreading the word and just generally being interested and excited about the project and the world we’re trying to create. This process has really allowed us to get to know our readers in a way I’ve never been able to interact with them before.
4) What scares you the most about this process?
Martino: As trite as it may sound, not hitting the goal. I’ve been blessed with a group of individuals that I have dubbed #TeamMightyTitan and they are amazing, supportive and they put their money where their mouth is. They not only shared a project from someone they didn’t know, they back it and they continue to share and support me and others. I am humbled and have made new friends that I hope can last a long time.
Esposito: I mean, not reaching our goal I guess would be tops. I’m pretty confident that we’ll hit it, but still, using Kickstarter is sort of like a month-long anxiety attack. Crowdfunding is done for a purpose — because you can’t afford a dream project on your own — so if that craps out too, you’re probably out of luck. I’m not saying that Pawn Shop would cease to exist if we don’t reach our goal, but the road to making it a physical reality would be a hell of a lot longer.
Hilinski: Nothing really scares me about it, even if I don’t reach my goal, I’ll take what I’ve learned and retool the project into something more likely to work. But I’m not scared of that, this was my first time on Kickstarter and like I said, I should’ve done more research. But I’ve learned a lot and I’ll take that with me, either way.
Raicht: I’m not sure if any of it really scares us. I know I’m always anxious about pushing people too much.
5) When (not if) you hit your goal, how are you going to celebrate?
Martino: I might just sleep! But after that I am going to help the people that helped me. I am a big fan of helping people that went out of their way for me. People that give with no care of return. I have learned a lot from these people and I hope that we can all make each other’s dreams come true. This has been a tough road for me. Only a cancer screening has been more stressful…and that is debatable! I am certainly going to pay it forward.
Esposito: Write more comics! And then, figure out the next stage of the book. Meaning, reaching our goal is really just the beginning. After that comes production, editing, marketing, tweaking, conventions, etc. There’s so, so much more that goes beyond the Kickstarter campaign. Kickstarter gives you the resources you need to devote the next months of your life to this project, so to celebrate, perhaps I’ll take a week off the grid to prepare for the onslaught of self-promotion that never seems to end when you work in comics.
Hilinski: I do a fair amount of ‘celebrating’ on a regular basic. People can check out my signature ‘Superman’ martini on my Facebook page, if they don’t know what I mean. But when I hit my goal, it’s straight to work, which will be celebrating for me. The funding will allow me to sit at my drawing board and concentrate on the art and story for the project, without all of life’s other distractions. And that’s something I very much look forward to!
Raicht: We’ll probably all get on the phone and give ourselves a celebratory high five and then we’ll be off to finish the limited series.
In the interest of full disclosure, I am backing all of these projects and hope they are successful. (Among others, here’s my Kickstarter profile if you’d like to connect there.) I hope this discussion helps you get a better sense of what it’s like to be in the midst of a Kickstarter campaign where the outcome is still in question (although I have a good feeling all of these guys will pull it out in the end.) I leave you with these words from Joe Martino:
I knew it would be tough. I just didn’t realize HOW tough!
And folks, that’s coming from a guy who has beaten cancer…twice!