Tagged: Saumurnauts

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?



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.