The largest book project in the history of Kickstarter is also the third project to crack the $1 million barrier.A month ago, cartoonist Rich Burlew set up a project on Kickstarter with the goal of raising $57,500 to reprint one of the out-of-print books collecting strips from his “Order of the Stick” webcomic.He reached his initial goal in 48 hours. Today, the final total pledged was $1,254,120.Burlew is having a good month.
Websites like Kickstarter are part of a trend called “crowdfunding,” a process that functions in a similar manner to a PBS or NPR pledge drive.“Backers” (in the case of Burlew, his readers and fans) will pledge money towards the completion of the project.They get premium prizes for pledging certain levels, just like that DVD set your PBS station will send you for a $125 pledge.Crowdfunding comes in different flavors.Kickstarter only charges the backers if the financial goal is met.Other crowdfunding sites, like Indiegogo, are straight donations/purchases, regardless of the amount raised.Crowdfunding started out centered more in the area of independent music, but has quickly become a source of financing for independent publishing in general and comics in particular.
At one point Burlew's campaign was projected to be the first to raise $600,000 on Kickstarter for a comic, but the campaign blew past that number late last week. Burlew’s genius lies in how he adapted to the sudden popularity of his pledge drive.At final count, he had 64 separate pledge-level based premium packages.Every time the drive would meet a new goal, he would set another one, offering new incentives like a sticker set or more installments of the webcomic.With every new goal came a sales chart illustrated with his characters.Very large sales charts.
The Order of the Stick campaign is the third Kickstarter project to raise over a $1 million (the other two are a videogame and iPhone dock projects) and it is the only book project to raise that much money.
At the end of the campaign, Burlew received pledges from 14,952 people.That’s a larger circulation than many DC or Marvel comics.He’s sold over 25,000 books reprinting his webcomic as part of the pledge packages.He plans to print at least 14,000 more books to replenish his inventory, the original goal of the project.That’s not counting the stickers, patches or coloring books thrown in as the overall total grew.
Burlew won’t end up with $1 million in the bank.Roughly 8%-10% goes to Kickstarter and Amazon (for payment processing).Adding in the coloring books, he’s easily committed to printing over 60,000 books.He’s also in for a very large shipping bill.Kickstarter funds are also taxable by the IRS.Still, he should have a nice nest egg left over and at least a year’s worth of inventory pre-paid, once the last pledge premium has shipped.
The best part of the story?Just like the PBS/NPR pledge drive crowdfunding mimics, this entire process was driven by the Order of the Stick fanbase.Yes, Burlew did an excellent job of communicating with them, bringing them to the Kickstarter site and turning the project’s journey towards the $1 million mark into a spectator sport, something similar to a baseball pennant race—but none of this works without the support of his audience.