Of Kickstarter, IndieGoGo, Womanthology, Retrofit and Hairy Steve……

Published On July 24, 2011 | By Richard Bruton | Comics

Jamie Smart announced this week that he’s trying to get an old, much loved project off the ground via crowd funding at IndieGoGo – Hairy Steve.

“Some people reading this may remember Hairy Steve, a tooth-and-fur comic about blood, swearing and nazis that I was writing about five years ago with the superb artist Steve Bright illustrating. I wrote about it on my journal and we showed a lot of the development art. Well it kinda fell by the wayside, both me and Steve had to get on with rent-paying work and leave Hairy Steve as a whim, a nice idea we’d one day like to return to. This year, the idea of internet funding occurred. Comic artists asking for contributions to help them finish their comic, in return offering incentives to everyone who contributes, seems to me like a really organic way of producing art (and, more than that, free art). Being someone who puts most of his work online for free (and by god there’s a lot of it on here now), I find this idea intriguing and want to see if it works.
So far it has, in the first half an hour we had a flurry of very generous contributions. All the money earned will go towards printing a limited-run of this comic (only available to contributors), the rest going to pay Steve a wage. I take no profits. In return for contributing, you can get everything from signed comics to original sketches, even a zombie drawing of yourself.”

And at the time of writing this, with $1450 raised of the $2000 total and 90 days to go, it seems highly likely that Hairy Steve will be produced. Which, seeing how much fun most of Jamie Smart’s stuff is, sounds like a damn fine thing to me.

Another interesting Kickstarter project is the RetroFit Comics project. Their Kickstarter has $9699 of a $9000 target.

“Retrofit Comics aims to publish 17 32-page floppy-style comics by 17 of the best comic artists in the business. Why 17 artists? Originally it was going to be one year’s worth of comics, but too many amazing artists wanted in. Far be it from me to deny these artists their right to work! I am all too envious of fans of superhero-style comics. Every week they get to go into a comic shop and for a couple of bucks get some new comics to read. Alternative comic fans don’t have that luxury anymore. Graphic novels have taken over the alt-comics industry as a natural progression. It’s worked out well for fans and publishers, but the floppy comic has fallen by the wayside. Drawn and Quarterly, Top Shelf, and Fantagraphics used to publish lots of floppy comics but now, for a variety of reasons, they do not. Retrofit aims to highlight the importance of the floppy comic to retailers, fans, and the industry.”

Currently they’re talking of comic work by James KochalkaColleen FrakesPat AulisioJosh BayerCorinne MuchaJoe DecieTom HartLiz BaillieChuck ForsmanJohn MartzL. Nichols, Nathan SchreiberNoah Van SciverIan HarkerJason TurnerSally Madden, and Brendan Leach.

Joe covered the Womanthology Kickstarter project a while back, and they currently have $64,622 in the pot (the target was $25,000, passed just 24 hours after launch)

Heidi at The Comics Beat covered Womanthology very well, with a good kick at Marvel and DC in the process, with their seeming determination to ignore a female readership, despite millions of $ worth of sales to be made.

Even my anecdotal evidence at a primary school level shows me that my 5-11 year olds, boys and girls, are more into graphic novels like Smile, Bone, Glister, Oz and the rest than they are into the various superhero graphic novels we have in the library. More thoughts on that when I analyse the ream of paper spewed out in reports from the library software.

But the current vogue for crowd sourcing funds – is it really a good thing? Okay I’ll play devil’s advocate here…. Could it be that a reliance on crowd sourcing will lead to a shrinking of funds, a lack of publishers for new artists, a reliance on crowd sourcing to get all new material off the ground? And what happens when the crowd sourcing vogue goes a little stale, and there are too many projects going on to raise money from the limited readership involved?

There’s a little nagging doubt in my mind about this – the problem is with Womathology already having a publisher attached – IDW. Yet still they use Kickstarter to fund the project? IDW wants the project but wants it paid for by the fans beforehand? Does that seem a little off to anyone else?

Or maybe I should take the opposing view (my head is full of arguments – whatever that says about me)…. and crowd sourcing allows us to see projects that short sighted publishers haven’t the foresight to publish ? (back to Heidi’s piece here about the big comic publishers ignoring a female market they don’t seem to even understand). Is it the next stage of evolution in comic publishing? A way to bring the innovation we see so often on the smaller self published scale to a wider audience?

The one thing I can say definitively about Kickstarter is that it’s innovative, and has captured something of a spirit of doing things independently. For the time being, as long as it keeps providing books I want to read, interesting and innovative things that somehow can’t find publishers I’m going with it as a good thing.

But what about you?

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About The Author

Richard Bruton

– Started in comics retail aged 16 at Nostalgia & Comics, Birmingham. Now located in Yorkshire, he’s written for the Forbidden Planet International Blog since 2007. Specialising in UK Comics and All-Ages comics, Richard’s day job in a primary school allowed him to build the best children’s graphic novel library in the country.

8 Responses to Of Kickstarter, IndieGoGo, Womanthology, Retrofit and Hairy Steve……

  1. Alexa D. says:

    If I understand correctly, IDW is being used more as a distributor than an actual publisher, while also giving the project some legitimacy which will look good on the CVs of many of the up-and-coming creators involved in the project.

    Also, all the profits are going to charity, so I don’t blame IDW for wanting it paid for all up front.

  2. Neila says:

    You were curious as to why Womanthology requires a funraiser while it has IDW attached as publisher. The reason is the proceeds from Womanthology sales go to charity, specifically Golbal Giving : http://womanthology.blogspot.com/p/our-charity-gobalgiving.html

    To my knowledge IDW won’t be profiting from the book, other than gaining access to a large pool of new artist and writers.

  3. Rachel Pandich says:

    Sir, did you miss the part of the Kickstarter where it says ALL proceeds from the Womanthology project go to charity? No one is getting paid. IDW agreed to have it under its name to help get it out there. Having Womanthology under an umbrella of a company as revered as IDW will give it more spotlight. The more spotlight it has the more it can sell. The more it can sell the more money that will go to charity. IDW is not making a single coin off this.

  4. Jody Houser says:

    I just wanted to clarify on the reason behind the Kickstarter for Womanthology. It was decided from the beginning that all proceeds from the book would be going to charity, even before there was a publisher attached. So while IDW agreed to print it under their name, they won’t be seeing any profit from it. Thus, the printing expenses needed to be raised up front. I hope that clears things up!

  5. Rebecca says:

    To be realistic, we knew we were not going to find anybody who would do it for free so. We have to have an alternate plan because we had to be realistic. You don’t know anything, you have not talked to Renae or frankly anybody else who know what they are getting into.

  6. Richard says:

    Thanks for all those comments everyone. I know IDW and Womanthology is a special case, with the proceeds going to charity etc etc.

    But the basic point of the article is merely to throw open the debate on crowd funding in general, and question whether it’s something that will allow publishers to opt out of the publishers role of funding a project, of having confidence in the project.

    As for IDW having a role and not making a cent off the project other than covering their printing and other costs – that’s fair enough, but there are many, many instances of publishers in the past stepping up to support a charity project, at the moment the highest profile one I can think of being Nelson from Blank Slate.

    Rebecca, it wasn’t meant to cause offence, which you seem to have taken. It was genuinely a case of playing devil’s advocate, and vocalising views I’ve heard about crowd funding. And reading through the piece I think it’s frankly obvious by my conclusion that I’m not objecting to crowd funding, and certainly not attacking any of the individual projects involved.

    Like I said in the piece:

    “crowd sourcing allows us to see projects that short sighted publishers haven’t the foresight to publish. Is it the next stage of evolution in comic publishing? A way to bring the innovation we see so often on the smaller self published scale to a wider audience?
    The one thing I can say definitively about Kickstarter is that it’s innovative, and has captured something of a spirit of doing things independently. For the time being, as long as it keeps providing books I want to read, interesting and innovative things that somehow can’t find publishers I’m going with it as a good thing.”

    I think that’s a positive end to this. Again, thanks for clarifying certain points.

  7. Neila says:

    Richard, I think Kickstarter and sites like it, as well as crowd funding comic projects, will help Publishers that could otherwise not fun new projects and thus have more confidence in new projects. A number of times I have seen small publishers requesting submissions, but then not wanting to take on new talent and their original works because they’re “unknown” or “don’t have the means to publish at this time”, which I took as “we don’t have the funding for this”. So in many ways, being able to raise that print cost before hand should save small publishers from disappearing. 😀
    I did overall like your article, but you did seem a bit confused about Womanthology. I’m glad everything is sorted out and you’ve started this dialog. 😀

  8. Kenny says:

    I have done an almost complete about face on this. Initially my position was pretty much yours – questioning the commitment of publishers who basically can be seen to be going begging bowl in hand to fund something they are meant to have faith in. Now i’m starting to see it another way – purely from the publishers POV – I still see some projects which seem insane. I don’t really run Blank Slate to make a profit for myself – Iz and I take no salary, only people getting paid are those doing technical stuff and Martin who’s our marketing guy. I usually pay advances to artists but they aren’t ever really enough to pay them any sort of page rate in advance. it’s a long slog then to get the book earning money where it will have covered its print and distribution costs – and even further until I’m making profit and the artists is getting royalties. the profit I make on any book gets ploughed straight back into the next one. That’s fine when you are producing 2-5 books a year. The slow flow of revenues can hopefully self sustain (more or less) the whole thing. When you start to get more ambitious and are doing say 10 – 14 books – as we are this year – suddenly the print cost strain of putting those books into print can be enormous. Even if the books do well you in effect have to stop at some points to let revenues build to advance the next project – or put your hand in your own pocket if you’re in a position to do so.

    The main reason for this is that so little of the money from the sale of a book comes back to the publisher. This isn’t meant to be a sob story just some idea of the facts. After distribution we are left with a max of 35% of the cover price – if it’s gone to people like Amazon that might be as little as 25%. Out of that we have paid an advance to the creator in many cases – and have to pay the print bill. We’re also still on the hook for returns charges at a point sometime in the future. If you think of a £10 book you can see that the margins are pretty wafer thin. We probably make as little as a £1 a copy – for a risk of around £2K (often more) per title on simple black and white – the equation gets even more weighted when you are printing colour.

    It seems to me that the main thing that kickstarter can do is actually just change the arithmetic of how the pie is divided. If you can get readers to commit to the book in advance and pay what they would anyhow at retail later you can probably sell 70% less and cover your print run. In our case that would mean more artists getting more books out much more quickly. The scottish protestant in me still thinks this feels a bit like turning water into wine but in the end, if you think of what it does, it simply empowers the publisher to limit his potential loss by servicing legitimate, real customers. Of course I’m not advocating it not being distributed through other channels but i can see a very real future for it with small publishers who always have financial liquidity issues due to the nature of the current distro system.