Johanna Draper Carlson had a thought-provoking post on Kickstarter a few weeks ago. Thought-provoking to me, anyway, because I never thought of Kickstarter in those terms or took them into account when I decided to back something.
In her post she talks about the recent Garlicks project that Lea Hernandez ran via Kickstarter, where Hernandez was seeking to raise funds not only for production costs, but also to pay herself $125 per page. “Wrapped up in that is writing, painting, lettering, sketching in books, administration, production work, mailing out rewards, and making my own coffee, all while I make YOU a great new book. I’m a bargain!”
I am more comfortable funding a project where the work already exists, one where the creator needs print costs. This doesn’t apply to Lea’s case, but one of the reasons why is that, if rewards deliver within a couple of months, I’m protected if something happens and I don’t get what’s promised. Within 3-6 months, I have the ability to do a credit card chargeback in the worst case, if the provider flakes out. On a more personal level, it’s more rewarding to get a book or other rewards within a couple of months, as though it was similar to a preorder. Otherwise, it feels like throwing money into the wind.
I don’t disagree with Johanna’s views on the types of projects she decides to fund or not to fund, because in the end it’s a personal choice for anybody where they want to spend their money. But like I said, it’s not anything I’ve ever taken into consideration when I decided to back something, and I started thinking about why I back the projects I do.
I guess some folks back Kickstarter projects because they like the feeling of backing creators directly or helping the arts. That’s a side benefit to me. It’s a nice side benefit for sure, but I’ll admit I pledge for selfish reasons—in every case of me backing a project, I’ve gotten or will be getting something to read and enjoy out of it. Most projects do have a “Give me $1/$5/whatever and I’ll give you my thanks or good karma” option in their prize list, but I haven’t ever gone that route. If I pledge, it’s because I want to see the final product. I also skip those lower level “I’ll send you some stickers” rewards as well … I’m in it for reading material.
For grins, I went back to take a look at the projects I have backed. So far I’ve backed 17 projects, including the above-mentioned Garlicks … the only one I’ve backed that so far hasn’t been successful. I’m backing another one that still has 15 days to go, The Cabinet; it’s one of three I’m backing that are still “in play,” but the other two have hit their goals. I guess I should also note that every project I’ve backed has been comics related; all but one were straight up comics, while one was a prose project by an author with comic connections.
So here’s a breakdown of why I’ve backed what I’ve backed:
1) It’s a sequel or offshoot or continuation of something I’ve already read: Four of my backed projects fall into this category: Giant-Sized Tales to Suffice, Ashes, Robot 13 and Guerillas. Tales to Suffice was an anthology comic by Kenny Keil that was first published by SLG Publishing, I believe; they put out one issue and Keil had plans for more, but apparently things fell through. So he used Kickstarter to do a collection of the previously published issue and the unpublished stuff. I liked what I saw in that first issue enough to come back and buy the whole package. Incidentally, it was my first Kickstarter project to back, and I remember some trepidation when I first entered my info into the system … you know, the same trepidation you probably feel the first time you use anything on the internet you aren’t real familiar with. There was the (crazy and completely unfounded) fear that I was going to somehow get ripped off. It was a very small, in-the-back-of-my-mind thing, honestly, and it wasn’t Kenny I was worried about. I’d interviewed Kenny before about the book when the first issue came out, so I at least had some sort of contact with him in the past and knew he was a real person, not some made-up name by some Eastern European syndicate that was going to use Kickstarter to rip people off. I guess it was the idea of Kickstarter that was the issue—here’s my credit card number, charge me if this hits its goal, nevermind that there was some hidden fine print that gives Kickstarter access to my checking account. Completely unfounded, of course, but hey, it’s the internet, and we’re trained not to click links in emails because it means people are gonna take over our computer and access all our passwords and money, y’know?
Backing Guerillas by Brahm Revel, my second Kickstarter, was easier. Guerillas is an interesting book that bounced from Image, I think, over to Oni Press. It’s a goofy, way-to-obvious-to-be-any-good concept on the surface—using Gorillas to fight the Vietnam war. You know, gorillas as Guerillas? Get it? But it was very well executed and just works. I don’t think I ever bought all the issues of the first series, and I’m not even sure how many were published, but via Kickstarter I was able to pledge funds to get both the first trade and the second unpublished one (which is what Revel was raising funds to create). Like Hernandez, he was upfront that he was doing this to raise the money to create it, not just publish it. And it would take awhile; it’s the second project I ever funded, back in July of last year, and the reward still isn’t here yet. But he was also clear that I wouldn’t get it until July of this year, so I’m cool with that. I’m patient, as long as I know when it’s coming.
Ashes is also a sequel, to Alex de Campi’s Smoke. It’s had its issues and has been covered on the internet to death, so I won’t go into it too much here. I will say that when the creative partnership between de Campi and artist Jimmy Broxton broke down, de Campi offered everyone their money back if they wanted it, but I didn’t take her up on that—I backed it because I wanted the book, and I’m ok with the lemonade she’s making with the artists she recruited when Broxton left the project. More than ok, actually, as I like a lot of the artists she’s working with.
Lastly, Robot 13 … I read the first issue but never saw subsequent issues anywhere again where I could buy it, so seeing a trade being offered via Kickstarter was a nice surprise.
So, I was familiar with all these projects in some form or fashion, and pretty much knew what I was getting when I made my pledge. They all fall into the “no-brainer” category.
2) I’m familiar with the creator and wanted to see more of their work: I’m not sure if this is really that different than the first category. I guess the distinction is that instead of a creator I’m familiar with continuing a series or project I already knew I liked, they’re creating something new.
There isn’t much of a distinction in my mind between this and item #1; in the great “do I buy comics based on the characters/concepts or based on the creators?” debate, I’m firmly in the camp of the creator. If Becky Cloonan is drawing, I don’t know, let’s say Forbush Man, I’m there for Becky Cloonan. If Robert Kirkman left Walking Dead in the hands of some hack writer I hated, I’d be gone, despite the fact that I’ve read the previous 100 issues. So backing creators I like on Kickstarter is an easy way to ensure I get their next project.
Projects I’ve supported that would fall into this category include Halloween Eve, mostly because of Amy Reeder’s art, but I think I’ve mentioned on Robot 6 that Brandon Montclare’s Fearsome Four miniseries was enough of a hot mess that I couldn’t help but love it. Also The Only Living Boy by David Gallaher and Steve Ellis; in addition to loving their previous work together, I actually have met these guys. Sullivan’s Sluggers by Mark Andrew Smith and James Stokoe … c’mon, James Stokoe. Mark Andrew Smith. I pre-ordered this when Image was gonna published and was kinda annoyed when it was canceled. The Garlicks falls into this category; Lea used to blog at The Great Curve back in the day. I was thinking that may be its own category or subcategory—people I’ve actually met in person, like David and Lea, which does add some comfort to knowing that I’ll get what I paid for. It’s easier to make a pledge to a real person I’ve seen with my own eyes. The Girl Who Would Be King I guess falls into this category as well. Even though I’ve never read Kelly Thompson’s fiction, I know her stuff on Comics Should Be Good and Comic Book Resources. We’ve never met or even really interacted much, but I like her writing enough in those venues to support her project.
Then there are the anthologies, like Occupy Comics, Womanthology and Digestate. I didn’t know much about the folks actually putting them together, but they had plenty of creators working on stories who I do know of.
3) I saw the project while cruising around Kickstarter itself, and thought it looked good: This hasn’t happened often, and I probably should be doing it more, but my bank account is thankful I don’t. Two projects fall into this category, Oceanverse and Gather. Even though Oceanverse is a webcomic, I wasn’t familiar with it before I saw it pop up on Kickstarter; I checked it out online and decided I wanted it. Gather, meanwhile, mostly won me over just by the promotional drawing that was showing up in that little box on the “comics” page on Kickstarter.
I used to spend a bunch of time on Kickstarter looking for projects to blog about, but since I moved to weekend duty on Robot 6 I don’t do it as much. But it has happened.
4) And the rest: The last three projects I’ve backed for reasons that don’t really fall into any of these categories. Rub the Blood had me at the concept—alt.comix types paying tribute to 1990s Image. It helped that I interviewed these guy and they were cool. Kingdom of Loathing is an online game I’ve been playing for quite awhile, so when they decided to make a comic book I supported it. It probably isn’t anything that would appeal to anyone who wasn’t already a fan of the game, and it’s the kind of project that probably wouldn’t have gotten made without some sort of crowdsourcing model in place. Lastly, The Cabinet is the most recent project I’ve backed, and most of my decision to back it came after reading a post Christian Sager wrote in response to Johanna’s piece I mentioned up top. He won me over, I guess you could say, and I figured that was worth checking out his project and supporting it.
So yeah, that’s it; I don’t know if I have a point or came to any great revelation, but it did give me a reason to checked to see if every project I’ve supported has come when they said it would. So far, that’s been the case for everything that I should have received by now.
I also realized that I tend to support projects I already have some familiarity with. That isn’t always the case, but it was in the vast majority of projects I’ve supported, and maybe it’s given me the drive to go try something new.