Crowdfunding was good to comics in 2012. Kickstarter reports 542 projects were funded out of 1,170 launched, for a success rate of 46.3%—that’s middle of the road, but the fifth highest category in terms of successful funding on Kickstarter. 34 of the top 35 most funded comics projects on Kickstarter were run from May through the end of the year. 35 Kickstarter projects had pledges of $50K or greater in 2012.
What’s big in the Kickstarter Comics category? Webcomics (Order of the Stick - $1.25M, Penny Arcade - $528K, Twokinds - $197K) are right at the top of the list. Traditional print creators looking to do their own projects without a publisher already lined up rate highly (“Leaving Megalopolis” by Gail Simone and Jim Calafiore - $117K; the now-troubled “Sullivan’s Sluggers” by Mark Andrew Smith and James Stokoe - $97K; “Fairy Quest” by Paul Jenkins and Humberto Ramos - $95). There are even a few cases of a comic that already has a publisher (Top Cow’s free Cyberforce experiment - $117K, “Molly Danger” by Jamal Igle for Action Lab Entertainment - $50K; “Carbon Grey” by Hoang Nguyen for Image Comics - $45K).
Can a person run a successful Kickstarter for their first comic? Sure. It depends on what kind of a goal they’re looking for and how well they can promote it. The big money is going to people with track records, be it in webcomics, print or (in some cases) animation. In general, the independent creators tend to do a little better than the creators who run a project that already has a publisher associated with it, although the circumstances vary from project to project.
Kickstarter isn’t the only crowdfunding site, though it has been the home to the largest projects. Indiegogo has increased the size of projects being funded on its site. It’s a little harder to define “success” on Indiegogo, since it allows “Flexible Funding Campaigns”—campaigns where the pledges are paid out regardless of whether the goal is met, but with a 5% penalty for not meeting the goal. A cartoonist can miss their goal and still proceed with funding.
The big success at Indiegogo’s comics category was $51K for a print edition of the “Romantically Apocalyptic” webcomic. An Italian graphic novel project, “Magpies” had an uncommonly high total for a first time cartoonist with $30K. There were also two projects, based out of Germany, reprinting Don Rosa comics and exceeding $20K each.
Joe Frankenstein, a project by Chuck Dixon and Graham Nolan, is an interesting example of some crowdfunding trends. It was originally set up as a Kickstarter project for a mini-series, stating “We have had several publishers willing to publish our project, but none of them will advance the money to pay for the up front, labor intensive costs that go into producing story and art, coloring and lettering. On average it takes $12,000-$15,000 to produce the story and art for a SINGLE comic book.” No publisher was specified and they asked for $30K. $1,155 was pledged.
After the Kickstarter project failed, Joe Frankenstein was moved over to IndieGoGo, this time billed as “This project will be the first in a series of 120 page, full color graphic novels to be published by IDW Publishing in 2013.” Still looking for working capital, since they weren’t getting an advance, the goal was raised to $55K. They received $4,598 in pledges, but having set it up as a “Flexible Funding Campaign,” Dixon and Nolan were still paid. Getting crowdfunding for a project that already has a publisher can be a tricky thing, but in this instance, there was marked improvement in pledges when a publisher was associated with the project. However
Chart of the % of successfully funded projects in each category in 2012