I’ve had a few people ask me the same few questions over the last few years. Most come from people who aren’t that familiar with Kickstarter or indie comics, but I thought the answers may be interesting enough that others may glean some information or help from them.
My name is Jim Stimpson, and I’m the writer and co-creator of The List, a comic about a Santa who saves children every Christmas instead of delivering presents, and I’m currently running my fourth Kickstarter.
Disclaimer: These answers are from my experience of Kickstarter, it doesn’t mean it’s the same for everyone. So please don’t contact me saying how wrong I am (like has happened in the past) – experiences may vary.
Is Alina (a character in The List) an anagram of Liana (The List’s co-creator & artist) on purpose?
Pure coincidence, but a wonderful one. Alina was named before Liana was part of the project.
What's the best part about running a Kickstarter?
Getting messages of encouragement. I always message each backer individually to say thanks. I think I read somewhere before my first Kickstarter that it’s a good thing to do and I’ve just kept doing it. When people have reached out to me to say thank you for backing their Kickstarter, I’ve always really liked it. Now [that] we’re on the fourth campaign, people are replying to these messages saying really nice things, like “I’ve been looking forward to the next installment since the last campaign,” which really gives you a boost.
What's the most frustrating part about running a Kickstarter?
Canceled pledges are tough, but are part of running a Kickstarter. But it’s the ones that are targeted that hurt creators the most. There are good reasons to cancel a pledge; I reached out to one guy, and he said he’d come into money troubles so couldn’t afford it anymore. I definitely don’t begrudge this kind of cancellation. It’s best not to take cancellations personally. However...
In my last campaign, someone was going around backing projects at their highest tier and then canceling last minute. Other creators tweeted about it happening to them, so I reached out to find out the “backer's” name. This person had just backed one of my appearance rewards, the highest tier I had. It’s pretty difficult to deal with one of your top tiers being blocked by someone who had no intention of backing at all then only having a couple of hours to try and fill it. Sadly there’s not a lot that you can do about this, and hopefully, it’s not something that happens often. So far, it’s happened once out of four campaigns. Luckily, someone jumped in to replace them for me.
You must have made loads of money!
Far from it, I’m actually in debt. Comics cost a lot of money to make. I always set the campaign goal to be lower than I need, because I want to make the comic. This is a passion project for me rather than something I’m doing to try and make money from, although it would be nice to break even...
Of course, if you are trying to make money from a Kickstarter, then you need to be on the ball with how much everything costs. Paying your artist is going to take a large chunk of change, then printing, postage and packaging, any advertising you want to do. It can soon add up.
You’ll also want to put a lot of effort into getting the word out. Creating a marketing plan and reaching out to websites beforehand is a good move. Be prepared to offer something to websites rather than expecting coverage for free. Write an article for them (Editor's Note: This is a great idea and I highly recommend it), offer to do an interview, or something else that works for them. There are a lot of indies out there fighting for the spotlight, so you have to be prepared to go the extra mile.
What's your biggest mistake or lesson learned?
Be careful when calculating postage and packaging. Kickstarter takes 8% of postage costs, and this can be a real killer.
Be accurate with how much your comic/book weighs. Find a comic or book that weighs a similar amount (based on page count) and weigh that WITH the packaging you’re going to send it in. I got it slightly wrong after my third campaign and things weighed just over the threshold for the next price bracket (I added in extra backing boards to protect things going abroad – we’re talking a few extra grams), it ended up costing me extra money I hadn’t accounted for.
Have you tried Indiegogo?
It’s something I’ll probably look to do in the future. Running a Kickstarter is hard enough, let alone running an Indiegogo at the same time. Although, it is tempting in order to reach a wider audience. I may run one next year when things are a bit calmer and see if I can reach anyone new over there.
I complete my Kickstarters, print, and post as fast as I can (in time for Christmas). If you have a longer gap between your Kickstarter ending and posting things out, then you could try doing an Indiegogo to try and raise more funds, because why not? A quick Google and I’m sure there will be some good advice out there.
Have you got any advice on running a Kickstarter campaign?
Listen to people with much more experience than me. Look at the most successful Kickstarters – what do their pages have in common? There’s plenty of information out there for you to find out how to build a great page and run a campaign. ComixLaunch is a fantastic place to go for good information.
I’m also a big proponent of promoting other Kickstarters. If I back something on Kickstarter, I’ll try and tweet about it to get them some extra attention. You’ll also probably notice that some Kickstarters recommend other campaigns in their updates, which is something I do, too. This lets others know about interesting Kickstarters currently running and is a great way for indie creators to help each other out.
Another good idea is to have an A-list celebrity or comic legend be involved with your project…
Before I go I want to give a shout-out to Comic Printing UK. If you’re looking to print your comic and you’re in the UK, I’d highly recommend this company. They’ve been an absolute rock while dealing with a n00b like me, offering advice and guiding me through the process of printing a comic, and now a graphic novel.
The List – Volume 1 is currently fundraising on Kickstarter until October 14th. You can check it out here.
If you have any questions you think I might be able to answer then you can contact me on Twitter @TheList_Comic