Last summer, we asked if Kickstarter was really the third largest independent publisher of graphic novels, based on volume. In the last year, crowdfunding (the technical term for Kickstarter’s business model) has increased in popularity and the crowdfunding of comics has become much more accepted. Kickstarter now generates so much funding for graphic novels, its place in the industry needs to be discussed in terms of revenue, not pieces published, and there’s an argument that it might effectively be the #2 graphic novel publisher in the U.S..
Looking at the 3 month period from February to April for graphic novel sales estimates , Kickstarter has seen a project hit break the $1 million barrier, 7 projects beat $40K and 25 of the 115 successfully funded projects have earned 5 figures.
Comparing Kickstarter to actual graphic novel sales is an apples to oranges exercise that will yield more trends than absolute truths, but the trend is striking. To obtain sales information for graphic novels, the sales estimates for the “Top 300” graphic novels from Diamond (the distributor with a near-monopoly on the Direct Market) were obtained from The Comics Chronicles website for the same period. Gross revenues were calculated as suggested retail price multiplied by orders. Kickstarter revenues were calculated by tabulated the successful projects that closed in a given month.
On a monthly basis, Kickstarter finished as the #2 publisher on a revenue basis in February (behind that million dollar project), #4 in March, and #5 in April. On a gross revenue basis for the three month period of February 2012 to April 2012, the top 5 publishers are ranked as follows:
1. Marvel, $6,911,068.88
2. DC, $4,296,916.96
3. Image, $2,976,007.95
4. Kickstarter, $2,209,342.00
5. Dark Horse $1,061,354.83
That’s gross revenues. In terms of the revenue a publisher receives, there is a large difference between Kickstarter and a distributor. Depending on the size of the pledge, Kickstarter will keep 8%-10%, with 90-92% going to the creators/publisher. For a “regular” publisher, Diamond will require a 60% discount with the publisher keeping 40% of the list price. The top four publishers above are part of Diamond’s “Premiere” program and will have a brokerage relationship with the distributor. It will be a slightly better deal that a regular publisher gets. For the purpose of comparing ballpark net revenue flows to the publisher, the publisher totals were multiplied by 40% and the Kickstarter total by 90%, which yields:
1. Marvel, $2,764,427.55
2. Kickstarter, $1,988,407.80
3. DC, $1,718,766.78
4. Image, $1,190,403.18
5. Dark Horse $424,541.93
In terms of fairness, those publishers will have more titles sold on a given month than are listed in the Top 300. They’ll have a little better revenue percentage than 40%. Not all of Kickstarter’s comics projects are graphic novels, but the majority are. Even with these caveats, Kickstarter is in the conversation for the #2 publisher of graphic novels. Clearly, crowdfunding is making a huge impact in the graphic novel market.