Tagged: crowdfunding

Michael Davis: Dream Killer 4 – Publish or Perish

dreamkiller4From last week:

That, boys and girl, is called knowing the game. Those who don’t shouldn’t play. So despite being blackballed by one of the big two how was I able to thrive?

Alternative means of finding distribution, budget and happiness.

The vast majority of top tier creators in the industry use one option.

There are numerous more, and I’ll touch on those next time.

As well I will break down what option was preferred and why for the project I’m using for this series. I’ve been in the game for a long time. What I use as examples are not intended as a ‘how to’ to get into the comics biz. If so the series would be named ‘how to ruin your career.’

The underlying point is to look at the big picture when entering this field. I believe with every fiber of my being one should always look to do the right thing. Comics are a very small industry and to have a real shot, it’s counterproductive working on how well you write or draw without working on your relationships skills.

Put another way, when people tell who they are and what they are about, trust but verify.

“The vast majority of top tier creators in the industry use one option.There are numerous more, and I’ll touch on those next time.”

It’s next time.

When I wrote about numerous other options, there certainly are. The four I list are ones I can speak about from a personal perspective.

Publishing Options:

  1. Find a major publisher
  2. Crowd Fund
  3. Fund Yourself
  4. Go outside the box.

The vast majority of top tier creators in the industry use option number one. Presentation to publishers differs from creator to creator. My process varies depending on the entity I’m pitching to.

The Comic Book Companies: Who & Why?

I’m not an idiot. This is a pop culture site heavy into comics. As such a significant amount of this, many readers will know. That’s great, but those who know will be surprised to learn many and by many a mean most of the newbies looking to get into the business have clue zero regarding the publishers in the industry.

There are well over two hundred publishers in the United States and thousands worldwide. For our purposes, we should know the players that meet your criteria for your project. The competitive rules are distribution, brand recognition, and marketing clout. What follows are the current major power brokers of the industry in my opinion.

Marvel Comics

Marvel Comics is one of the big two. Marvel has a lineup of some of the world’s greatest comics. They include The X-Men, Fantastic Four, The Hulk, and of course, Spider-Man. When Disney acquired Marvel, the industry thought the mouse would destroy Marvel. Nope Marvel did change but for the better. Marvel is the undisputed superhero king in the mainstream because of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. DC has yet to catch the kind of fire Marvel has on the screen.

DC Comics

DC Comics is the other half of the big two and despite my rocky history with them still my choice universe. Time/Warner owns DC, but as of this writing, the noise is AT&T is about to buy Time Warner.

When Disney purchased Marvel, I was one of the few voices that thought this was a good thing and it was. They were smart enough to let Axel Alonzo and other key playa’s stay and soon fear turned into faith. I also correctly predicted DC would oust Paul Levitz and move operations to the West Coast. This is not to say Paul was an obstacle to DC; he wasn’t. He was problematic. His influence spanned three decades and for better or worse Time Warner knew for DC to compete with Marvel Paul had to go.

In my opinion, and I do so hope I am wrong, if AT&T buys Time Warner and DC Comics is part of that deal (it may not be) then DC Comics may be fucked.

Disney is in the content creation business, and even James Bond can tell you nobody does it better. AT&T is in the telecommunication business and realizes within the high stake arena of telecommunication, they are far from the only game in town. What AT&T has is the ability to deliver content better than anyone. What they don’t have is content they own outright. If they buy Time Warner, they get the mother of all content and instantly become the biggest pimp in town. So big Comcast becomes their bitch, and even Disney had better recognize.

As most of you know, the DC lineup includes Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman and the Flash. DC further has a mature reader line of books called Vertigo. The Vertigo books have a suspense and horror tilt. Recently DC entirely rebooted their entire 78-year continuity with a revamping and retelling of all their major characters twice. The New 52 did not do the kind of numbers DC was hoping for but Rebirth is very strong and the talk of the industry. Outside comics Marvel may be king in the movies, but on TV it’s all DC.

All good right? No. Not really. If this deal happens all it takes is one high powered mofo to say; “What do we need comic books for?” Remember Disney got Marvel because of its superheroes.

Look at all AT&T gets:




Cartoon Network

Adult Swim


The CW

Warner Bros. Pictures

DC Entertainment

New Line Cinema

Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment

You see comics on that list? Nope. DC Entertainment, yes. Comics, nope. You don’t need comics if you own the property already. Far-fetched? Maybe, but so was AT&T buying Time Warner a month ago.

Image Comics

Image Comics started in the early nineties. They quickly rose to the number three position in the industry. They have a consortium of studios that all contribute to the publishing line. Many creators do creator owned books under the Image banner. Their publishing deal is as follows authors deliver the book Image manages the publishing distribution and marketing.

When I ran Motown Animation & Filmworks, my comic book division had its publishing deal with Image.

Dark Horse Comics

Dark Horse Comics have lots of success with taking their comics to movies. The Mask, Time Cop, Barb Wire, Mystery Men, and Hellboy to name a few. All of those movies were Dark Horse comics first. Their CEO and publisher also owns a chain of comic book stores. They have the most “Hollywood” take on the comic book business. Dark Horse has a history of working with maverick creators and Mike Richardson publisher is one of the smartest men in the industry.

IDW Publishing

Idea + Design Works (IDW) was formed in 1999 by four entertainment executives and artists, Ted Adams, Alex Garner, Kris Oprisko and Robbie Robbins. They decided to create a company that would allow them to work with a variety of clients on the things they liked: video games, movies, TV, collectible card games, comic books and trading cards. They have produced some of the best-looking books in comics.

NBM Publishing

NBM is a graphic album publisher. They rarely do superheroes but do science fiction, fantasy, horror and what they call Eurotica. They are more of a mainline publisher in the way they conduct business. NBM has published many graphic novels in comics stores with a second window in mainstream bookstores such as Barnes and Noble. Smart people run NBM, and they don’t suffer fools on any level so before you pitch to them, or any publisher make it a point to know what they do.

Dynamite Entertainment

Dynamite Entertainment focuses primarily on comic book adaptations of existing properties, with most of their original holdings being new interpretations of the classics. They hold or have held the rights to publish titles based on films (Army of Darkness, Darkman, The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, RoboCop, and Highlander), television series (Xena: Warrior Princess) and literature (Sherlock Holmes, Alice in Wonderland, Dracula, and Zorro). Other properties include Buck Rogers and Sherlock Holmes.

Lion Forge Comics

When Lion Forge added Joe Illidge as senior editor they changed the game. That move should put a certain landmark publisher on notice. Or put another way, you slow you blow.


Crowd funding the second option was at one time something I was not at all interested in attempting. I thought there was no formula to speak of and I don’t do maybe or hit and miss in business.

What many people fail to realize is once funded they assume all the roles that go along with a crowdfunding gig. It’s true that some notable people (Spike Lee for one) have crowd funded projects. It’s easy with that kind of name recognition and people at that level have an existing infrastructure.

Funding must cover marketing creative, printing, and fulfillment of whatever incentives promised those who chip in. That alone is a massive undertaking. To reach a mass market would in my estimate take funding of between $30,000-$70.000.

There is a growing number of companies that will handle the undertaking for you. Some for a small fee some for a huge stake in your creation. I’m rethinking crowd funding mainly because I found a gem of a project which wasn’t moving. Taking a chance, I funded it all myself then brokered a deal for the property at a mainstream publisher. I don’t own it, didn’t create it but the creator can now think about just doing the work and let someone else do the heavy lifting selling.

What do I get? Right now nothing but the future isn’t built on right now.

Next week I’ll break down funding yourself and try and get you out of the box.


Joe Corallo: The Other Side of Crowdfunding


This week I want to touch on a topic I haven’t addressed yet: crowdfunding. It’s been around for years now and has been a consistently used means to help fund projects and inventions ever since. Shortly after crowdfunding began to gain popularity with sites like Kickstarter and Indiegogo, many in and around the comics community flocked to crowdfunding as a means to fund creator-owned projects. It mostly started with indie comic creators trying to break in, but as time went on more established creators used crowdfunding as a way to fund passion comic projects and small publishers used it to start funding projects to lower their financial risks. Lowering financial risks for publishers to try putting out new kinds of comics has also been a boon for diversity in comics.

Just to get this out of the way before I dive right in, yes, sometimes crowdfunding goes wrong. The overwhelming majority of projects move along just fine, but there are exceptions. Don’t let reports of those discourage you from considering supporting projects you love that sound feasible. As crowdfunding has become a larger and larger phenomenon, different sites have been requiring projects to provide more information including timelines on when to expect progress on the project in question and risks the project will face. Don’t be discouraged, but don’t not read the fine print either.

I started using Kickstarter in 2012. The first comic project I donated to was Giant Robot Warrior Maintenance Crew. The premise was what if a Voltron type team had pilots that were total divas and the real heroes were their maintenance crew repairing the giant robot warriors during combat. It was a successfully funded and after a while I got my copies of the comic as part of my pledge. Sometime later, Giant Robot Warrior Maintenance Crew would be available through Diamond. Ideas like that would not have gotten much traction prior to crowdfunding, at least enough to print physical copies.

Not only has crowdfunding helped with the diversity of ideas in comics, but with representation on the page and off the page. One of the first projects on Kickstarter I backed like that was Liberator by Matt Miner and Javier Sanchez Aranda, a groundbreaking comic about fighting to end animal cruelty at a high cost. This four issue limited comic series has diversity on the page with both its protagonists and off the page with talent like Javier Sanchez Aranda bringing the story to life with his illustrations. Liberator also broke new ground in comics by having 30% of its profits go to animal rescue efforts, a rare find in comics.

Crowdfunding, particularly Kickstarter in this case, was a crucial part of how Liberator happened. Not only were they able to get the word out in advance of this comic’s release through social media, it helped to get a small publisher, Black Mask Studios, to publish Liberator, making it a flagship title for the fledgling publisher at the time and a cornerstone of its shared universe. Without crowdfunding, we could have been deprived of this original, positive, and powerful comic.

Sites like Kickstarter have been helping women in comics too, both up and comers and established. Smut Peddler is a successful, multi volume series of adult themed comics made largely by women (all stories written and/or drawn by women to get the female perspective), and for women (and the forward thinking gentleman). Books like this often have a difficult time finding a publisher and even a printer because of the content and a place like Kickstarter greatly helps in making a project like Smut Peddler a reality. I would absolutely love to address why often we see publishers and printers having less of a moral dilemma in picking up and publishing a story about hate and extreme violence than they do about a story of love and sex, but I’d hate to derail my own conversation and really that topic is worth dedicating a whole column to.

Queer focused comics have been seeing a new Renaissance with crowdfunding campaigns too. Comics like Beyond, a queer fantasy anthology, have not only been published through Kickstarter funds, but were so successful that a sequel to Beyond is currently in the works. Even Flame Con, NYC’s first LGBTQ focused comic convention, is in part a result of a successful crowdfunding campaign. That’s not to say that the only reason these things happen are because of crowdfunding, but it’s certainly a huge help.

The queer comic on Kickstarter I most recently backed is titled The Other Side. It’s a queer paranormal romance comic anthology. You read that correctly. No, honestly you did. I wouldn’t joke about something like that.

The Other Side is a wonderful example of how far crowdfunding can take us. I could never imagine any large or medium sized publisher taking on a project like this. Even the tiny publishers. It’s such an interesting and unique idea and exactly the kind of idea that the comics industry needs to have coming out to show that in fact not every single idea has been done before. And hey, it’s another chance to get a comic with Fyodor Pavlov’s art in it.

The Kickstarter for The Other Side has been up for a couple of weeks and at the time I’m writing this has already made it to over $20,000 from nearly 700 backers with a goal of $23,000. By the time this column goes up there will be two weeks left to pledge. I strongly urge anyone with an interest in queer comics and seeing them continue to succeed in 2016 or knows someone who does to please pledge if they can or at very least spread the word.

Marc Alan Fishman: Crowdsourcing All My Fears

blogpostcrowdsourcingimageOh what an age we live in! Marvel banks billions at the box office. DC hits homerun after homerun on the silver screen. And Boom!, Avatar, IDW, and Image continue to stretch the boundaries of the original source medium like no one before them. Yet, it’s we, the lil’ indie folks that are living in the most golden of ages. Why? Because the marketplace has found a way to make us matter; to give us a national (if not international) fanbase all at the click of the mouse. And now, before any art is ever born (outside some sizzling promotional pieces) whole projects can be given birth at only the pitch level. Rao bless you, Crowdsourcing.

Of course… they say the Devil is in the details. Right? Back in 2011, when Unshaven Comics was nothing but a lowly anthology series and an educational graphic novel, we opted to use Kickstarter to fund a dream – the creation of a cosplay suit of armor for our Samurnauts series. We had high hopes that if we really stretched out our arms and begged every single person we knew, we could raise the necessary funds (A whopping $1100 to cover the design, materials, and labor to produce a very high quality suit by some great artisans, Malmey Studios). Well, after an agonizing month of hustling? We succeeded. And in funding the suit, and sending out the prizes? We were left in the hole. When the magnificent suit arrived, we couldn’t be happier. And the joy that our live model (both in the suit and in the book, natch) brought to the kids at various cons over the next 2-3 years? It was well worth the effort.

What tickles me to no end is that what we raised then is a mere pittance in comparison to what our compatriots are pulling down today. And to be honest? It scares the poop right outta my colon for our chances, now that we ourselves are considering returning to crowdfunded-fracas. Even funnier? When Unshaven Comics needs 250 people to vote for them, for free, we’re still having trouble. But I digress.

I look no further than my northernly neighbors Tom Stillwell or Gene Ha, and marvel at their recent successes. Stillwell’s Fangirl garnered over 300 backers, and tipped the scales at over $12,000 to help him produce his excellent story of a murder mystery taking place at the largest comic con in the nation. And hey, if that sounds like you want a copy, look no further for a pre-order. And ole’ Gene? Well, not that long ago, he was begging Unshaven Comics for tips on attending a comic con successfully (no lie! He wrote about it here). And now? He’s proven how much of a powerhouse he is, with his Mae graphic novel project boasting over 1,300 backers, and more money than I’d like to type out. Girl power, indeed.

It would appear perhaps these successes are a boon; that finding a fanbase is totally doable, and with the right moxey, the money needed to see our dreams become reality is just a little elbow grease away. But alas, that’s the kind of fluffy talk that sounds wonderful until you try it. Back in October, my Unshaven cohort, Kyle Gnepper, sought backing for his project Toolbox. It’s a strong concept, paired with a wonderful artist (and no, I’m not talking about me, or the other Unshaven guy). But with all his gumption, moxie, and lucky rabbits feet in tow, Kyle was only able to see close to half his needed goal. In the fallout, he’s been paying for the project anyways, a page at a time. His passion – no different than Tom’s, Gene’s, or any of the other successes we know – wasn’t the key to success.

As it were, name recognition matters. The time you debut your campaign matters. The time you promise it takes to bring the completed project to market matters. The price-points of your wares matters. I could go on. What was once a breezy and open marketplace is now its own economic ecosphere, held in place by unseen forces and unknown rules. Where promotion was once tethered to your facebook fan page, a few reddit groups, and maybe your dusty e-mail newsletter list… is now a fully-developed campaign where updates are a necessary evil, along with stretch goals, and swag far beyond the standard tee-shirt or sketch promise. Heck, in the successful campaign for Albert the Alien, I paid a handsome fee to ensure Unshaven Comics be drawn into the book. Why? Because my money was burning a hole in my pocket, and the guy running the show, Trevor Mueller, is too damned nice.

So, here I sit, with a litany of burning questions broiling in my draft folder for those smarter than myself (it’s a long list, trust me). Does Unshaven Comics actually have a shot at seeing several thousand dollars for a graphic novel of our Samurnauts series? If so, should we be launching it before all the material is done, to ensure we’re far enough away from the holidays so-as to attract wandering buyers? Do we go with IndieGoGo where failure is far harder to achieve (with a lower bar to victory), or go all-in with Kickstarter? Do we seek way-out-of-the-box merch tie-ins for bigger backers? Do we offer wacky and wild limited prizes? Do we call in every favor owed to us by known names in an attempt to garner attention from those who likely don’t know or care to know us? Do we plan a staged coup at a big-time comic con in hopes of being written about on CBR, Newsarama, Bleeding Cool, or Ain’t It Cool News?

The answers, my friend, are all yes. Stay tuned for my greatest leap of faith, perhaps ever, in comics.

Marc Alan Fishman: The Mystery of Crowdfunding

First thing is first: I hope you had a most festive holiday – be it Chanukah, Christmas, Festivus, Kwanza, or the Winter Solstice. Second thing is second (geez, now I sound like a Katie Cook Facebook post…): I’m truly perplexed over crowdfunding these days.

Recently I’ve backed a pair of Michigan-based Kickstarter campaigns that were right up my alley. The first was for a table at the upcoming Detroit Fanfare  comic book and pop culture convention. Unshaven Comics has attended this show several times, and we’re big fans. The show-runners are nice, honest, and bring a solid block of comic-focused attendees every year. But, as it would seem, their show is under some kind of duress. With a shorter runway then I’ve been privy to seeing prior, they launched a campaign seeking $10,000. The rewards range from tickets to the show for attendees (with optional collectible artwork, etc.), tables for creators, and then tables for vendors. As of my writing of this article, they are still about $4,000 shy of reaching their goal, with less than a week to go.

Note: Right prior to Christmas, the managing team behind Fanfare closed down their Kickstarter campaign. With only a few days to go, and thousands away from reaching their goal… they opted to simply end things, sadly.

The second project, The Luminous Firefly is a little indie book being put out some passionate fans-turned-creators. The fact that the creative team behind the book – Rapid Fire Entertainment – are big supporters of Unshaven Comics made my backing a no-brainer. Their concept is pretty straight forward, straight out of the Stan Lee-meets-Milestone playbook. They’ve spent considerable time and effort perfecting a memorable costume for their titular hero. Suffice to say, for what little they were seeking from the campaign – $2,000 – I figured supporting them would be a no-brainer. For such a little amount being sought after, all things considered, I’m apt to join the rank and file of those who support the arts and artists who are trying to succeed and do so modestly. Sadly, they too are not close to completion of their goal. With about two weeks left, they are still shy upwards of $1500.

What has me confused, to a point, is how crowdfunding seems easy-peasy one minute, and dreadfully impossible the next. In the day and age where a person selling potato salad can see over 6,000 backers, and a check upwards of $50,000 – all when the initial project was literally meant as a joke… and legit creators and passionate artisans can’t scratch the surface with actual projects? It’s enough to cross the eyes of any Gen Xer (or am I a millennial?).

As a point of reference, my own brother-from-another-mother, Kyle Gnepper, is set to launch his own campaign for an upcoming project. He was all set to go, and then opted to wait until the new year – citing several sources that proved December crowd-sourced projects are less-likely to succeed due to people using their disposable income on holiday related purchases. Obviously, come January, we’ll see how good that knowledge is. Even more obviously, I’ll be likely to pimp Kyle’s project to see his success. But I digress. Actually kiddos, I don’t!

You see, that to me is exactly where I was headed when this piece began. Crowdfunding in the modern era (as opposed to what era, I don’t know) is really just an ongoing marketing experiment. How one chooses to shape their projects – from the goal amount, to the backer prizes, all the way through to the day-to-day promotion of the campaign – all becomes a massive undertaking that literally makes or breaks a creator’s livelihood.

I did my due-diligence and took Wesley Sun (a multiple Kickstarter funded creator) out to a nice dinner to pick his brain. Over sumptuous Chinese food, Wes was quick to point out all the common sense tactics I myself largely considered must be par for the course these days. Creating a pre-launch marketing plan. Building backer prize packs that are both affordable, and often built to up-sell to the next price point. Setting a goal that isn’t insurmountable, but does absolutely cover the costs necessary to complete the project… and to shamelessly promote it as if your life depended on it.

Of course, when one does all of these things and one still comes up short? That leads to sobering conclusions. Especially when Wes’s biggest successes came in part to being promoted by Kickstarter itself, in “picks of the week” e-mail blasts. How one gets on said blasts? To quote Two-Face from the absurd comedy that was Batman Forever: “Blind, stupid, doo-dah lllllllluck.”

Crowdfunding largely remains a mystery in my mind. How success can be earned versus hitting the lottery is seemingly becoming a business unto itself. A new marketplace of analysts and marketers sprout up weekly boasting their ability to turn your campaign into a success. And my initial reaction to most of their pitches is akin to those attempting to sell me diets and exercise equipment at two or three in the morning: I don’t buy it, even if it sells me in my most desperate of moments. Seeing my Motor City cohorts grasping at air in the dead of December only compounds the feeling. Because at the end of the day, how often do people put aside money they don’t have to launch a successful crowd-funding campaign in the first place? The old adage of spending money to make money seems oddly inappropriate given the very nature of crowd-funding. But I could be wrong.

At the end of the day, the best chance one has at succeeding at crowd-funding is inherently tied to the ability to reach out in every possible direction with as succinct a pitch as possible. Much like selling at a comic-con, I’m apt to believe that creators only have 30 seconds to really grab someone by the brainstem, and make them pay attention. After that, they have minutes at most to then convince the would-be backer that they create a worthy product, can deliver said product on-time, and with proper quality for the price asked.

Beyond that, the project has to feel like it’s something someone won’t get otherwise. In few other cases could I say that part of what must make a crowd-funded campaign successful is the je ne sais quoi of the project itself. And even having to type that confounds me. I’m open to you, my faithful friends and readers… what your take is on all of this.

And in the mean time, I’m going to dump some potato salad down the garbage as a precaution.


On The Economics Of Digital Comics

economics card

Have you been noticing that the digital comics scene is a little… active… these days? You’ve got the market getting estimated at $90M for 2013. There are a lot of different reports about how many copies the same day digital editions sell. I’ve heard anywhere from 10% to 25% of the print sales. It seems to vary from title to title and by publisher.

Amazon bought Comixology and it looks like that sale has been completed. Marvel’s announced they’re going to be selling current issues on their Marvel Comics Unlimited app, but nobody is quite sure what that means for Comixology and Amazon. Diamond is bringing back their digital initiative with new partner, Trajectory, after shutting down the old version earlier in the year. It looks like they’re going to be having DC on board with new version.

The money in digital comics in increasing. The distribution contracts are moving around like pieces on a chess board. We’re still largely stuck with DRM – partially at the insistence of publishers and the corporations they license properties from. The formats are anything but standard and the lessons of digital music seem lost on publishing, particularly comics publishing.

Over on the webcomics side of the world, crowdfunding is the new new thing. Oh, Kickstarter’s been a tool of the trade for a while, and an effective tool for pre-orders and financing color print runs. The new kid on the block is Patreon. Where Kickstarter and its class of crowdfunding sites tend to focus on the creation of an object, like a graphic novel or reprint collection, Patreon is more like a monthly subscription. SMBC (the webcomic sometimes known as Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal) is over $8500/month in Patreon pledges. That projects as over $100K/year in crowdfunding income with no books to ship. OK, Zach Weinersmith (the man behind SMBC) might be a bit ahead of curve on this, but there seems to be an increasing amount of money flowing in this direction and the revenue mix is changing for a lot of people.

The digital comics world continues to evolve and we really have two schools right now: an eBook school that’s from the comic book/graphic novel tradition and a webcomic school that’s from the newspaper strip tradition. There’s a little crossover between the two and the world of print. A whole lot of cartoonists see a print book as one of the endgames for making money no matter whether the initial publishing is done on paper or with pixels.

If you’re interested the world of digital comics and how the money flows through it, I’m Kickstarting a book on the subject… through this afternoon. Time’s almost up on that. Feel free to pop on over to https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1524990961/the-economics-of-digital-comics and have a look.