Cartoonist turned publisher C. Spike Trotman has raised $65,000 on Kickstarter to publish The less Than Epic Adventures of TJ and Amal, a 520-page omnibus collection of E. K. Weaver’s queer romance web comic. The book should be available to purchase in May.
The TJ and Amal graphic novel compilation is the first single creator-owned title published by Iron Circus, Trotman’s Chicago-based publishing house. Trotman has become adept at integrating Kickstarter into her publishing plans, creating a blueprint for crowdfunding self-published projects, having previously raised more than $400,000 to publish five anthologies, including two volumes of Smutt Peddler, a “lady-friendly” sex-positive anthology of erotic comics by a variety of artists.
"I still consider myself a creator. I'd actually characterize my ventures into anthology coordination and so forth as an extension of my creativity,” Trotman said. “I was forced to figure out the unexciting, tedious parts of publishing. Prepress, mailing lists, promotion. And now I have this skillset and these resources that aren't necessarily creative, but are definitely useful to creatives.”
Trotman said the new book represents what she wants Iron Circus to be: “an inclusive publisher, putting out work that people are hungry for, by creators traditionally underrepresented or ignored by mainstream comics”
Using a Kickstarter campaign that ended March 26, Trotman raised $65,601 (the original goal was $18,000) to publish TJ and Amal. Trotman will handle distribution of rewards to the project’s Kickstarter backers and make arrangements for selling the book directly to her mailing list of retailers. She'll also submit the book to Diamond Comics Distributors for sale to the public via the comic book store marketplace.
Iron Circus will take a share of the funds raised for operating and printing costs, and "after expenses are covered, the vast, vast majority will get piped over to E.K., because that's how it should be," Trotman said. Weaver will use her share of the funding to illustrate a three-part epilogue to TJ and Amal.
Written and drawn by E.K. Weaver, TJ and Amal ran as a webcomic from 2009 to 2014, attracting about 5,000 unique readers a month. Weaver self-published three print volumes of the series, which chronicles a road trip by two young men who fall in love and much more as they travel across the country. Iron Circus will publish an omnibus hardcover and softcover edition collecting the entire series in one volume as well as offering a variety of bonus content.
Trotman wanted to publish the book because of the “flawed” characters in Weaver’s queer love story—“one of the strengths of E.K.'s work is how human it is”—and because of “the general amount of chatter I saw about TJ and Amal online.” At comic conventions, Trotman said, “E.K. would sell out of books on Saturday, sometimes early Saturday. The demand was crazy.”
As TJ and Amal moves to print, Iron Circus will be working toward new creator-owned projects. Trotman said she is also planning to publish a full-color collection of Sophie Campbell's crime webcomic Shadoweyes in the fall 2015. Despite the sizeable amounts of money she’s raised on Kickstarter, Trotman described her publishing house as “a rinky-dink operation.” She emphasized that Kickstarter allows small publishers to use fundraising to gauge consumer demand for a project
"I can't afford to overprint a run,” she said. “I can't afford the cost, or the space for storing dead stock. Knowing how popular a book is before it even hits the printing press is too convenient for words."
Update: The book will be released in May.