Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Points to consider before you launch your Kickstarter comic book campaign! (26 and counting...)

Hey guys! I´m JL Giles, artist of the independent comic Under The Flesh. I´m here to talk about my research previous to the launching of our current Kickstarter campaign last July 6th, and the experience Gilbert Deltres, the creator, and I have been getting during its course. Still working hard to get it funded. Anyways, I thought I could share some of the information we´ve got accumulated, which could make your life easier in case you decide to launch a Kickstarter comic book project. ;)

To be prepared for the challenge you MUST listen to the advice of experienced and successful kickstarters...something that I am not. ;) Though I hope to be someday! I´m not claiming to know a lot. I´m not even a good writer...(on top of that, English is not my first language, so luckily I´ll just be able to make all of this make some sense.) This is just my way of giving back a little bit of what many others have given me. Sharing some of this insight might help you in the fight to START-KICKING some butt. :P


Experiencing a Kickstarter campaign from the inside is like being in the middle of some kind of warzone. You´ve spent months making a great product, and you think everyone around you will be interested in knowing more about it. Wrong! There comes the first clash. Resistance. People ignore you, don´t take you seriously. Some may look you with suspicion...like you are some kind of quack trying to get a buck without having to sweat. You start wondering if your product is as great as you originally thought. You struggle! You fight for Facebook "likes". ("Grrr...Not even Mommy is liking this!!") You fight for retweets. You fight against the pain in your butt for spending 12+ hours of daily tweeting. You are sore. You fight for reviews, to get an interview... You fight to get a chance to appear on CBR. "Hey! It´s me here! Look at this cool thing I´ve made!" Everywhere you look there is more apathy than you expected, and you feel the tension... Only the arrival of new backers can soothe the stress. "How am I gonna impress next door Sarah with this kind of crappy fiasco!?", you lament. It can be an nightmare...a long 30 days nightmare. Welcome to the Kickstarter Battlefield, where the worst enemy can be yourself!

Here are some things you can consider before entering the war:

1) "Who the hell are you to ask me to buy your stuff??!" That´s what the public is gonna ask when they see your amateur face for the first time. You don´t want that. You want them to be "WOW!! How cool that book looks! I think I want one!" So lubricate the pitch, man! Build a fanbase! Spend a minimum of 3-6 months (the more the better) showing your content to others online. Let your creation speak for you. Consider making a webcomic as a promotion platform! Give time for people to get to know your work. You need an audience before you launch the crowdfunding campaign! Don´t expect KS to do the work for you.

2) Open a Kickstarter account two or three months before you plan to launch the campaign. Get approved by Kickstarter. Get the bank account link ready. Get to know the platform. Back other projects. Be generous. And start tweaking with your project site. Upload images, videos, etc. KS allows you to create a preview. Once you have something decent, share that preview page with others, asking for feedback. Many of those preview visitors may ask Kickstarter to inform them when the campaign starts, so the moment you launch they will be the first to know!  This process takes time, so don´t wait until the last minute to start working on it. And don´t worry if it all looks like crap. Be honest. Tell them you are just working on it. You don´t want to be fake-humble asking for feedback just so you can pitch them the damn book!! You REALLY need the feedback, cuz your KS preview surely sucks bad!

3) That´s why you need a good graphic designer, or someone with good Photoshop knowledge. You may need constant and fast image changes on the KS site, probably on a daily basis. So if you don´t have someone to do this for you, get to learn some Photoshop. It will save you tons of headaches!

4) Have a decent video ready at least 3 weeks before launch, and upload it to the preview site. Imagine what would happen if you wait for the day before launch to upload the video, and something horrible happens, like KS not accepting the video format, or a lightning storm melting your logic board...or whatever nightmare you can imagine. So have this set up in advance. Without a video you are doomed! And remember to keep it simple and short 1.5 minutes average. You don´t need a Hollywood production! Just get the message out, straight to the point, and speak from the heart: "This is what I have done. This is why I need your help. This is what you´ll get!"

5) Calculate, calculate, calculate. You suck at math! I know you suck, I also do...but life doesn´t care! Take into consideration the cost of the product and how much it will cost to ship it nationally and internationally. Be honest about his. Don´t try to fool people asking for ridiculous shipping fees. Go to your Postal Service office and ask. Check out how much the handling will be, polybags, boxes, reward prints, etc. Then calculate again when it comes to profits. Comic fans know independent comics are priced higher than standard comics, because it just costs a lot to produce them without having huge multinational publishers behind. But be rational...Don´t try to become a millionaire with a single comic book. So be careful with the final goal you set. You don´t wanna look greedy arrogant trying to get rich fast asking for hundreds of thousands of dollars for 22 pages...and you don´t wanna underprice your work either.

The money you assign to each pledge level includes the shipping for US orders. So for example, if you offer your printed comic copy on a $10 pledge tier, that means the US backer only has to pledge $10 in total. If the order comes from outside the US, Kickstarter will tell the backer how much money they have to add for that pledge. Before you must tell Kickstarter how much that international shipping extra cost will be for each tier. There might be some international backers that forget to add that quantity, and that is something you should deal with before the project ends. So, do some research on shipping costs in general. It could make the difference between success and total disaster.

6) Don´t play the poor victim card. People don´t care if you can´t pay the rent or feed the baby! They wanna back WINNERS, not losers. Everybody wants to bet on the winning horse!

7) Instead of focusing on whatever you need (some cash, fame, Mommy´s approval, etc.), focus on the quality of your project, and what makes it special! One of the things frequent KS backers look for are trustworthy creators. So instead of being "If you give me your money, I will do this...", show them what you have already DONE! "Hey, see this? It is complete....smoky oven hot, you can smell it! It´s ready to deliver!" 

8) Writers. You need an artist. Your pockets are empty. So what is the first thing that crosses your mind? What is that bright idea? "I´ll ask the artist to work for free!" Yeah! Bravo! So you go and ask a complete stranger: "Hey man, can you do me some sample pages? If we get funded I´ll pay you good!"... Are you crazy, dude? What do you expect the artist to eat, Corn Flakes all year long? If your car gets broken, do you tell the mechanic that you´ll pay him after you get your check? When you go to the supermarket, you take some ham and cheese, and tell the cashier "hey i don´t have a buck...but when I get paid I´ll come back and pay you"? Do you go to the doctor and say "Hey doc, cure my Twitter-hemorrhoids, I´m dying! I´ll see if I have some cash to pay you next week"? You don´t do that, right? Then, don´t treat an artist like he is some kind of exception to this rule. RESPECT him, and you will be respected. Do yourself a favor: If you don´t have the money, go get it. Use a credit card, ask your grandpa! If you wanna have a complete decent comic book to show, you´ll have to PAY decently for a good artist. Don´t expect to be taken seriously and considered a professional, if you aren´t willing to treat artists as professionals in the first place. And understand that paying for art doesn´t mean exploiting someone. "Well...do me some inks, colors and drop some letters over there...Are $15 good for ya?"  NO!

9) What does paying an artist mean? "You draw this today, I pay you today." :D See the happy face? "Today" means: lightning fast! Simple process. There is no way to get confused here: The artists draws. You pay. The artist draws. You pay. See the cycle? See how simple it is? You´ll love it when you see how this can make your machine run fast like a Ferrari and smooth like a Mercedes! Don´t forget this. If you don´t pay on time, the artist WILL BE pissed off (even if he doesn´t tell you). If that becomes standard procedure, you are dead. No comic. No Kickstarter! No excuse during the Paypal era, pal! So leave no room for misunderstandings. Be happy. Just pay on time. You want the artist to be like this :D   Remember that face!! That is the "paying-on-time-we-are-all-happy face!" And you CAN negotiate a rate!! Most artists are willing to discuss that subject. They know you aren´t rich, and they need some work too. So find a happy medium, and stick to the contract!

10) Do not underestimate the power of Twitter. That is the platform that makes it the easiest to contact reviewers, podcasters, bloggers. But do this in advance! Give them time to help you. They also have a schedule, and you aren´t John Byrne! Follow people with similar interests, and it is likely they will follow you back. So prepare that Twitter profile with the best project-related images you can get, and put your updated links on it too. (Did I said you should open a separate Twitter account for your comic?)

11) Facebook can bring you tons of visits! But first make sure you are part of many comic related groups. And "being part" means participating on the forums. Don´t push your KS on them! Be nice, ask them for feedback. Don´t force it. (i know i know...we´ve all done that...). (Did I say you should open a FB page for your comic too?)

12) Don´t go hardcore sales pitching "Buy THIS!, or you´ll just get ignored!  People will be more likely to help you if they feel part of your project. How can you make them feel that way? Ask them a couple of months before to check your art or story. Then when you launch, contact them again and say "hey! remember me...the guy that sent you that link? Well, I finally started a KS!!" And they will be like "Yeahh i remember you, let me check it out and shout out!"  If you are nice, people will be nice. Act like there is a human being behind your product, not just a sales R2D2!

13) Don´t expect your Facebook friend list or your family to save your butt! Hard lesson learned. I created a Facebook event, where I invited all my contacts with a very well thought written message. Out of almost 400 only 10 replied, including my wife...and Gilbert. From those 10, only one friend backed the project. It was pathetic. Not even my cousins! "How could they ignore me so bad?! Don´t they remember when we were kids and used to play with those GI JOEs??"....Well....don´t count exclusively on your family. If they help, then great. But most of them may not take your work seriously enough. "Bahh...just a geek comic there." Or maybe they don´t know how KS works, or don´t wanna risk using their credit card on "online information superhighway website pages." You know what I mean. (Did I tell you Kickstarter only accepts payments through Amazon?...NO PAYPAL, guys!)

14) Forget about the damn Stretcher Goals!!! Why are you focusing on a goal behind a goal...when you still haven´t met THE goal in first place?? FOCUS on the MAIN DISH! And offer incentives! "Hey, if we get 10 new backers today, we will send you this gift!" Those are called Milestone goals. Why offer gigantic stretcher goals that will take you long months to finish, when you can just send them the star product, and build a great reputation of fast deliverer!!

15) Don´t get obsessed with the money you are raising. Instead focus on the backers. Get more backers, instead of more money. Backers are human beings. So getting more backers mean giving other human beings what they need. What do they need? First, quality. Second, connection with the creators. Third, respect. Can you give them that? Are you willing to TALK to all of them, and reply to all their questions and messages? Deliver the product as promised? That´s what they need.

16) Make the backers feel good while they support you. Write them personalized thank you notes! Make them feel part of a community that is working towards the same goal!

17) Ask backers to leave comments on your KS site! There is nothing more sad than landing on a KS page that says "ZERO COMMENTS"...Is your KS an energy driven fiesta or a funeral???

18) Updates! Update the KS page. Your backers and the public will get an email with your updates. Some may not read the whole email, so think of clever titles for them! Cuz the subject line is all they might read.

19) Kicktraq is of the devil. If you don´t wanna lose your sanity, forget about Kicktraq. The first day it will tell you sweet things that you´ll love listening to...like you´ll be swimming in a pool of millions of dollars, meeting the Monopoly guy, getting your star in Hollywood Walk of Fame, and dating Beyonce. Four days later, when the initial backer rush ends, you´ll be taking anti-depressant pills. Don´t listen to Kicktraq...Check it out once a week, or just laugh at it when you see it.

20) Don´t get desperate during the Dead Zone days (The Dead Zone is basically your whole Kickstarter campaing except for the first four days and last four days...Instead keep on contacting comic fans and geeks through Twitter, socializing on FB, etc. Dead zone days are always full of happy surprises! ;)

21) Ignore the trolls. For each 1000 positive comments you get, you´ll also get at least one that is a negative spiral of dark cosmic energy. Focusing on it will only turn that insecure attention-seeking whiner into a little stone inside your shoe. Breathe deep. It´s all in your perspective. You ignore it, it ceases to exist. You pay attention, it grows. So forget about that pain in the rear, and generate positive energy for the ones that appreciate your work! (Anecdote: A couple of days ago I posted some artwork of mine on Facebook. One guy didn´t like it, and replied on the thread with a long negative message, finishing with "I´ve made zombie stories ten times better! Get out of here..." I simply said "Ok, cool!"  What happened? He started sending me private messages!! LONG messages!! Why? Cuz for this kinda troll "Ok, cool!" is just an invitation to fight. You can´t be "cool" with them. You just have to act like they don´t exist, which means not answering their provocations. They want blood...and the only blood they can get is the one you are willing to give them. Be wiser than that. Remember that "Rocky" guy bullying Clark at a bar in Superman 2? Well, you aren´t Superman, but online "enemies" can disappear in a blink!)

22) Follow Jamey Stegmaier and Richard A. Bliss. Who are they? Have you heard of Master Splinter and Mr. Miyagi?...Well, they are to kickstarters like us what Yoda was to Luke!

23) Once you end the campaign, remember that people are all excited expecting to get your comic soon! If instead you spend a hundred years creating those stretcher goals bonus rewards, and you fail to meet their expectations, next time they´ll remember. So try to deliver as FAST as you can. You reputation is as stake here. If you deliver fast, they´ll trust you in the future, and talk to others about how good you treated them. Sounds good?

Extra points (stuff that i initiatly missed and remembered later...):

24) Prepare a well written press release about your Kickstarter launch. You will use this when you contact possible reviewers. If you don´t know how to write one, search on Google.

25) If you have a comic, be prepared to SHOW it to reviewers. It can be a PDF. And hey, please don´t go like "But they might send the PDF to other people and it could get pirated!!" Man...your comic WILL BE pirated whatever you do! So just give those reviewers good material to work with. And you don´t need a server to host that PDF. Try Dropbox. Works wonderfully!

26) When contacting a reviewer for the first time, don´t send all your stuff on the first email. First, introduce yourself. Then ask: "Hey, is it ok if I send you some samples of my work, and a press release?" You know, be gentle, have some manners, my friend....And avoid huge attachments!!! (Dropbox again.)

27) If your project gets funded, don´t go dead silent with your backers....They will think you took the money and ran away! First, thank them for the support, and then explain to them what you will be doing in the following weeks, and how you plan to fulfill all your promises. If you have some trouble, or you think you won´t be able to deliver on time, TELL THEM! Explain what is going on. If you are sincere and transparent, they will understand. Indie creators constantly encounter new unexpected challenges, so it´s normal if you find yourself facing problems. After the campaing is over, you can still use the KS page to update your backers, and all messages will be delivered to their email accounts. So you have no excuse. Communication is the key. If you screw this up, don´t expect them to take you seriously on later campaigns.

Some may say these points are just pure common sense. But I´ve learned that Kickstarter doesn´t necessarily follow the laws of logic...They involve a lot of psychology that I simply ignore...and prefer to stay away from for sanity´s sake. So just try to concentrate on doing this the best you can. Don´t try to justify a possible failure blaming others. Every step you take is an opportunity to learn more and do things better. If you fail, you can stand up, gather the troops, try again later, returning to the battlefield with a vengeance! ;)
I hope you find this list helpful...Now I gotta go, still need to get our project funded! ;)

Best of luck!

JL Giles

Artist of Under The Flesh

Wanna ask me anything? Don´t be shy!

Twitter: @JLGiles
Facebook: facebook.com/gilesrivera

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