Marc Alan Fishman: How Kickstarter Will Shorten Your Life

Orange Man Kicking BallIn case you’ve not been reading my articles religiously – and if you’re not, why aren’t you? – you know my li’l studio has launched our second Kickstarter campaign. The first time around, in 2011, we asked for a little cash to make a cosplay suit. We succeeded. It was a small goal, and it took every day of the campaign for us to eek out the victory. On Thursday evening, we launched again, asking for a lot more money, with a much bigger goal in mind. This time, we want to take over the world.

I kid, I kid. Actually, we’re just looking to be able to fund the printing of our very first graphic novel. With almost four years of work under our belts on the eventual collection, it was time we took the leap from floppy issues sold at comic conventions to big-boy-books.

And ever since launch, I personally feel like I’m losing years off my life with each successive day.

Why the consternation? Well, I’ve long held out from launching a crowd-funded campaign to cover the costs of being a business. When Kickstarter first became en vogue I’d associated it with funding fleets of fancy that otherwise wouldn’t be business-savvy. See: funding the creation of a suit of cosplay armor. But over time, crowd-funding has become the marketplace by which the indie creator is able to connect to the largest base of online business. Launch your book on ComiXology, and you are a pebble thrown into the ocean. Launch a Kickstarter, and for a short time you actually matter. And when your own ComicMix colleague successfully launches his own pet project, suddenly the notion of mattering for that short time feels like something worth being a part of. The shifting sands of the online economy successfully showed its evil greedy light to me. And now I’m right in the middle of it.

For months leading up to the launch, I built our campaign with a breezy confidence. “It’s a book about a Kung-Fu Monkey. Everyone will love it.” “We’ve been successfully selling individual issues of this for four years, and each year we sell more than the last. How could this not be an epic win?” “We’re gonna stuff 50 pages of bonus material in it, so old fans will come back, even if they own the issues already!” I have great friends who helped us make a video. I found a 3D artist to help make our first Samurnaut toy as a limited edition reward. I found great artists who agreed to make pin-ups for the book. It was all coming together with ease.

And then I sent out the preview to a few friends in-the-know. I expected nothing but a love-in for the work I’d completed.

The feedback I’d received a week to launch was critical but fair. I took every constructive criticism to heart, and did what I could to adjust as needed. I added as much art to the campaign as I could design. I  tweaked, retweaked our video. I made a second video. I added add-on rewards. I noodled over stretch goals. I got sage advice from fellow successful Kickstarter compatriots about potential pitfalls. I read over two dozen blogs on running proper campaigns. I nervously scratched a bald patch through the middle of my beard. I grew a dozen new gray hairs. I think I passed a kidney stone.

And soon enough, the anxiety attacks began. It got so bad, I called my studio mate at 11:30 PM this past Wednesday when I hit the “Submit to Kickstarter” button, and it immediately told me I was ready to launch. “Tell me to hit the button”, I stammered. Matt – my Unshaven brother-from-another-mother moaned in the most banal tone he could muster… “Just f’n push the button.” But what if people don’t get what we’re doing? What if we’ve already sold to everyone who actually cares? What if we timed this out wrong? What if our video accidentally offends someone? What if people don’t actually like Kung-Fu Monkeys and Zombie-Cyborg Space Pirates?!

But we launched anyways. And we’ve have a slow-but-steady stream of backers support us every day since launch. I’ve seen over 100 shares on Facebook alone in the first day. It allowed me to breathe.

I know the next month will be a visceral roller-coaster ride as I monitor and market myself raw. But the plan has been in place for months. My friends here at ComicMix told me they have my back. My wife told me she’d tweet Neil Patrick Harris about it. My son actually said “Samurnauts Are Go!” for the first time. There’s nothing more I needed to hear, kiddos.

So… it begs me to ask you:

Can I tell you about my graphic novel?