Minicomics on Kickstarter?
I’ve done a few comics fundraisers on Kickstarter now. The first one – I lost money on it in the end. The second one – still in sort of limbo but was only barely – financially speaking successful. But with ERAS: Parrish, while it didn’t pull in as much money as I’d have liked – it got the formula down for The Tomb of Naomi which has been a success so far and that is an important thing!
To a degree all it takes to run a successful Kickstarter minicomic are three things; the ability to do math, the ability to make quality products and the ability to call in an audience who supports you. After the jump I’ll go into each part and talk about what worked for me.
What Is A Minicomic?
Minicomics, unlike much larger projects are easier to construct, cheaper to make, cost less to the audience and require a smaller time investment than, say graphic novels or apps. By my definition, a minicomic is usually about 10-20 pages of comics – as opposed to pieces of paper and typically cost $3-5 for a standard version, minus shipping costs.
Math Is Hard But Oh So Important
Part of the issues that I had with the first two Kickstarters was that I was printing way too many pages for the price. I hadn’t precalculated correctly and that came back to bite me. When we collected Changeling Vol 1 that was about 8 sheets of paper and Socialfist was about 12 or so, both double sided. These comics ended up costing about $2.5 to print one comic and $3 for mailing and packaging. I hadn’t shopped around, I was printing a small number and the end result was not that good which is a danger of packaging comics together. With the second Kickstarter for just the one Changeling book, the issue came from offering a lot of print options. They became costly because we had too many rewards that only a single user ordered so they ended up costing us more.
So to avoid this, the first step is to figure out the per unit cost – how many pages will the comic be printed on, color or not, what kind of paper and how will the number of units reduce the prices? With the particularly financially successful Tomb of Naomi – it requires 4 sheets of paper to print one 10 page comic with covers. Since we raised enough money – we upgraded everything to color – cutting on printing costs for 2 jobs (larger discount) – and the per comic price – not including shipping became less than $.70 for 400 comics. I personally like to hand construct my books so that also keeps prices down – but get a good stapler for the job.
I’ve used DocuCopies for almost all of these projects. They have had quick turn around times, they have been happy to work with me and the only issues I’ve had have been my own fault (such as misprinting Socialfist so it read two ways). Plus I’ve usually ended up with extra copies of the comics that I print out which is nice.
For supplies, I’ve tried using Staples and other local stores but the costs have been too high. When I got a long reach stapler (key for stapling minicomics – don’t staple from the outside on the fold) Shoplet has a really good long reach stapler for $6 – Staples offered one for $40. I also got free 1 day shipping for mine! (Though I have received a large number of emails asking for feedback which I was not a fan of.) If you don’t want to invest in your own $6 stapler, most libraries have long reach staplers. And for envelopes, Envelopes.com has 6×9 ones that should fit your mini-comics if you print them on 8.5×11 sheets.
Shipping is still an issue though that requires a lot of preplanning – if you don’t prepurchase envelopes and you wait till you reach the post office, it can add up to $1 per envelope comic you are sending out. For The Tomb of Naomi, I used Envelopes.com where I got enough envelops for all of the single comics I’d need to send for a rate of $.25 per item – with free shipping. While I haven’t figured it I can send them by normal mail or parcel post (since envelope weight ads on) it will most likely max up at about $2.50 to print and mail a comic. That means if I sell the comic for $5, after the transfer fee I get about $2.30 left over to print more which means with each $5 comic sold – I can print about 3 extra copies!
Offering Quality Products
Henry Ford once wrote “Any customer can have a car painted any colour that he wants so long as it is black.” This idea of giving the customer what they want, that you will give them, is important. Finding the simplest rewards is vital since if you offer too many reward tiers, you end up being screwed over due to printing costs.
For the second Changeling Kickstarter I offered a lot of rewards that ultimately went nowhere. I had 15 levels of rewards and only 3 of them had two or more supporters. This meant that we had to print a lot of 1 time materials for people who ordered books. Were I to do this today – I’d cut those special tiers out and add them as stretch goals. That way the audience would want to invite new people to order the comic so they could get the rewards – but I digress.
Starting with ERAS: Parrish I’ve offered a list of rewards that are simple – but I’ve built onto them as demand dictated. For The Tomb of Naomi I essentially used this list.
The Digital Only – Sell it for pure funds for $1-2, lets people who are interested check out the comic for less.
The Black and White Copy and Digital – The lower end copy that most people will go for to save money. Aim for $5 or so.
The Signed Black and White Copy and Digital – Add $2 onto this for additional time and postage and you make slightly more while offering something more personal.
The Color Copy and Digital – The big goal – depending on where you go printing may or may not be a lot more for color printing. Shoot for about $10. The price for this drops substantially when doing larger orders.
The Signed Color Copy and Digital – A frill added onto the standard. Add $5 as usual. Use this as the point though where you start adding stretch goals that require additional printing.
The Sketched Color Copy and Digital – Offer a limited number of these for somewhere between $20-30 depending on the time it takes.
The Print And Signed Color Copy And Digital – Prints can be testy things to work out but adding $5 usually takes care of the price to print and for the additional weight in the envelope – though you will need new envelopes for these orders.
The Cameo Level And Print And Signed Color Copy And Digital – This is my normally final tier. Figure out how many background roles of value you can fit in and put them in at a rate starting around $50 or so.
The Retail Level – There are stores on Kickstarter who are willing to support your comics – but Kickstarter will limit what you can sell – no more than 10 of an object. Offer the comics for $1 an issue plus shipping costs. They can then sell them for what they want – but you reach a new audience. It is a bit of a toss up but I’d recommend for it more than against it.
One final warning – Put in international shipping prices or limit yourself to just the United States. If you are solely sending out comics $5 usually makes up for the shipping and time involved.
I normally aim for $100 with the comic Kickstarters. $100 means if 10 people buy the comic, I can print an extra 20 copies or so – minimum. But I want to go beyond that so I offer stretch goals. Here is what I used for The Tomb of Naomi.
- $100 – Goal!
- $200 – Add in art pages to each book
- $300 – Add in digital sketchbook
- $400 – All books come with color covers on coverstock.
- $500 – The comic will be posted online! Also upgraded paper stock for every comic order!
- $600 – Add in art mini sketchbook to every $15 order
- $700 – Free bookmarks with every physical order
- $800 – Every order upgraded to color! Color orders receive access to the script collection and a bonus print!
The first things that required extra money was at the $400 where we upgraded the paper stock. The extra sketchbooks – those will be basically adding on a smaller book to print. Nothing too expensive here and everything is within the budget especially since each $5 book order pays for another order right then and there.
Calling On People
With Tomb of Naomi – about $300 of my sales were from people I directly know. Make sure to get the word out there – Twitter, Tumblr, Facebook and any other networks are important. But be polite about it, don’t overload them and make sure they’d actually like the comic.
With The Tomb of Naomi it looks like the artist and I will have 175 copies or so each from what we printed which means that if I sold 50 of them for $5 – that would be $250 which isn’t a bad deal at all since it is pure profit. The extra stock can be sent to reviewers, to stores or taken to shows. You aren’t making lots of money but you are turning out something you can be proud of that won’t cost you money.
If you have any questions feel free to let know!