Let’s Plan a Comic Kickstarter!

If you’re thinking of planning a Kickstarter to bring your webcomic into the print world, things can be fun and exciting and terrifying. But once you’ve decided that you’re ready for a book and for the you have the audience and drive to attempt a Kickstarter campaign, you need a plan of attack.

Format your book for print and get quotes from your printer.

For most professional printers, you will need to provide 300dpi CMYK print layouts in PDF format to your printer. These are best created via software like Adobe InDesign. You can check out Robin’s great post about preparing books for print, but suffice to say, you’re not going to be able to throw the JPGs you made for your website at a printer and say “MAKE A BOOK” (or if you can, you’ll be paying a price for their layout designers to do it for you). Don’t forget things like title pages and front/back covers and spines, too.

Information a printer needs to give you a quote:

  • Paper quality for the pages: Most of us want glossy text stock of some sort (unless you want it to be matte like a manga or something). Paper thickness is measured in pounds. Print Ninja has a great breakdown of what all the numbers mean.
  • Paper quality for the cover: If you’re making a floppy 24-pager, this will probably be the same as your pages. If you’re doing a graphic novel, you want a matte or glossy cover stock.
  • Binding type: Your most common options here are case binding (hardcover), perfect binding (softcover), or saddlestitched (staple in the middle, the number of pages has to be a multiple of four).
  • Size: Some printers have specific sizes they print at, but many will do custom sizes if you really need it.
  • Colors: Your options here are one-color (black ink only) or CMYK (full color). If you CAN print black and white only, it’s gonna be cheaper!
  • Number of pages: Make sure you count the title page too!
  • Special fancy things: Gold foil, spot UV gloss, and dust covers are some common ones.
  • Quantity: All right, so this one’s a big pain because YOU HAVEN’T RUN THE KICKSTARTER YET, HOW ARE YOU SUPPOSED TO KNOW? Ask your printer what their minimum run is (note that some printers won’t do fewer than 250 books, so you might talk to more than one printer at once). I recommend printing a run of at least 100 if you’re considering stocking these in a store or for conventions, though there are print-on-demand places that will print fewer. But the more books you can order, the cheaper they’ll be per book, so you can ask for quotes of 250, 500, and 1000, depending on the turnout you’re expecting.

    Quote everything else.

    Once you have the quote from your printer you’ll have a starting number for figuring out your Kickstarter goal. Now you have to do some more calculating for:

    • Packaging I recommend buying corrugated book mailers in bulk and a couple rolls of packing tape. Mailing labels/black markers are also handy.
    • Other potential rewards and stretch goals: Brainstorm things you can print at your local printer like postcards, prints or bookmarks (pro tip: Find printers on Yelp near you with good reviews. You can save on shipping that way!). Brainstorm things that you can commission from other artists and maybe collaborate in a cross-promotion way. Brainstorm things that you can make yourself. And maybe one or two things you’ve always wanted.

      Now if you’re like me, you have a MILLION ideas about sweet merch. But as you brainstorm, remember that you have to keep things:

      Legal: Logos that aren’t yours, music that you aren’t licensed to resell, or items that Kickstarter disallows can bite you in the butt. Beware.
      Profitable: If you’re spending $20 to make a reward that people are only paying $10 for, that’s not going to get you closer to the funds you need. Crunch the numbers, yo.
      Simple: If you have too many options/addons/offers, people get very confused very fast. If you MUST make more merch, one neat option is Backerkit, which (for a fee) lets you manage your pledges and offer a selection of store items later when people are confirming their shipping addresses.

    • Shipping: Put together groups of things roughly the same size and weight as the rewards you’re offering, and weigh them on a food scale or at a post office. Then (assuming this is an English language book) look up addresses for the farthest city in the United States from you, an address in Canada, an address in England, an address in Australia and ask someone at the counter how much it would cost to send to those four addresses. You can now add those shipping breakdowns right into Kickstarter on each reward, which is pretty sweet. The most expensive one of these is going to be your “everywhere else” price.

    Make a marketing plan.

    Make a plan to let your fans and internet colleagues know what you’re raising funds for, where to be and when to be there. List out all the places you can potentially mention it, including:

    • People you should email
    • Every social media account you own
    • Comic-friendly Facebook groups
    • Your website and every place you mirror your comic
    • Comic-friendly forums you frequent
    • Comic-friendly news outlets that might be interested in writing about it
    • Comic-friendly podcasts that might interview you
    • Project Wonderful/TopWebComic ad buys

    Especially for the news outlets, you should plan to reach to them at least 3-4 weeks before and during the Kickstarter with a short solid pitch and firm dates so they have time to schedule you into their lineup.

    Also take some care to craft your messages so you’re highlighting different aspects of the Kickstarter to keep the messages fresh. Dropping the link is great, but how about a livestream where you draw the characters? Talking about your inspiration? Highlighting different tier rewards? There’s lots of ways to remind people the Kickstarter is out there without becoming a broken record. Map as many of those as you can out now so when you’re exhausted mid-campaign, you won’t draw a blank on what to say.

    Price your rewards

    Now everyone is different, but my rough recommendations for people doing a graphic-novel style book are as follows:

    TIER ONE (usually $1) – Something simple. A digital wallpaper is fine, but even their name on the thank you page or a make-believe high five is perfectly appropriate.

    TIER TWO (usually $5 or $10) – A PDF version of the book you’re selling. This is easy and cheap.

    TIER THREE (usually $15 to $25, make sure you get a quote from your printer before you set this price) – The book and nothing else. There is a SIGNIFICANT portion of your audience that will just consider anything other than the book clutter. Give ’em what they want.

    TIER FOUR (tier 3 + $10 to $20) – The SIGNED book and an easy flat reward that will not increase the shipping cost. Bookmark, postcards, prints, quick sketch, bookplate, stickers, a keychain… you can get creative here, but my recommendation is just ONE thing make sure it’s not something you mind doing at least 30 of.

    TIER FIVE AND UP ($50, $60, $75, $100 are good price points) – This is where custom art, apparel, mugs, tote bags, sculptures, plushies, cameos, lapel pins, or other stuff for the super-fans can come in if you want. Play to your strengths and the strengths of your story here.

    STRETCH GOALS – Bonus content is a nice idea here because you can add it to digital and print versions for not too much cost, but other flat things or your artist cross-promo items work nicely here. Remember that these should go to almost everyone, so something easy to scale is essential here.

    Remember as you go that you want to illustrate these on your Kickstarter page. Would you buy a shirt online without seeing a picture of it first? Of course not. Words are boring. When building your Kickstarter page, use good design sense and hierarchy (or bribe a graphic designer) to make your milestone maps clear and concise and your graphic callouts clean. Which brings us to….

    Prepare your graphic library and video.

    On the Kickstarter page itself, you’ll want an appealing shot of the cover of your book, samples from the comic, pictures of every reward you’re going to offer, and maybe some header graphics to add some flavor to the text descriptions.

    You’ll also want to adapt some of this for social media use too, as well as graphics to announce milestones and drum up interest on social media or via banner ads. Yeah. It’s a lot.

    Make a schedule detailing what banners and images you’re going to use where, and make different sizes if you want your images to look good everywhere (here’s a masterlist of current specs for social media if you want specific sizes, but if you’re busy, a 1000px by 1000px square image works almost everywhere these days).

    Kickstarter backers love videos, and for webcomic artists especially, our fans don’t really get to see the creators behind the comics they love very often. Use your Kickstarter video as an opportunity not only to show off your cool rewards, but to make a heartfelt, human appeal about how much you appreciate them, how much you enjoy making your comic, and how happy it would make you to see your dream come true.

    Build out your Kickstarter project and get peer review.

    There are so many little bits and pieces to a Kickstarter, and you absolutely need to call on other professional comic artists, people who are familiar with Kickstarters, and maybe a few accountant friends in to look at your preview link once you get everything in place for launch. They’ll be able to give you honest objective views:

    • Do you sound professional?
    • Are your rewards interesting and easy to understand?
    • Are your goals clear?
    • Are you biting off more than you can chew fulfillment-wise?
    • Is the pricing weird?

    While it may take months, building the right framework for your Kickstarter is a worthwhile expenditure of your time. It will give you the information and confidence in your project to run a strong campaign and put your best efforts into it. And hey, it might be fun, too!

    Have you run a Kickstarter for your comic? What are your tips? Share them in the comments!

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