Opinion: Crowdfunding your comic

Unless you are backed by the big boys at DC or Marvel, getting your comic to market can be almost as hard as coming up with the idea in the first place. Small press print runs still cost money, even if you run your new mag off and staple it yourself — and then you have to add distribution costs, marketing costs and everything else. Even with a dedicated bunch of friends, you still need funding from somewhere if you are to have any chance of real success
So where do you get that money from? If you’re really dedicated and truly believe in your product, you’ll probably be prepared to back it with some of your own cash. You could even sell everything you own and put it all on red at the roulette table in the hopes of doubling your money. It’s a strategy that famously worked for Ashley Revel, but there are no guarantees.
Using your own cash is all very well, but that means that you are taking on both the creative and the financial risk and you could lose everything, from your home to your reputation. A far better way to progress with publishing your comic is to use other people’s money, and the easiest way to do that is via crowdfunding.

The idea of crowdfunding has been around in publishing for centuries, with authors persuading publishers to take a risk on their book by drumming up support from subscribers who would promise to buy it. Of course, today most people will associate the idea of crowdfunding with social media and the internet.

Crowdfunding was made for arts projects, financing everything from new albums by unknown artists, to a full US tour by the band Marillion in 1997. Star Citizen, an online space game, is the current record holder, having raised a mighty $158m by the start of September 2017. Musician Amanda Palmer, raised $1.2m for her new album, and a new fridge concept, the “Coolest Cooler”, raised a whopping $13m with a staggering 62,000 backers.

Of course, most comic crowdfunding projects don’t need anything like this amount. For example, the Nottingham Comic Con Anthology asked investors for just £500 towards its costs. At the time of this writing, they have exceeded this by £108, with 82 backers and over a week to spare.

There are many different sites you can use to raise money towards publishing your new comic, with Kickstarter being perhaps the most famous. Other sites include Microventures and IndieGoGo, which has its own  comic section. Each has its different merits and drawbacks, and you should check the small print on each one carefully before you make your choice.

Once you have decided on your site, you need to set a target amount and a timeframe within which you want to raise that cash. With most sites, it is an all or nothing deal, so if you don’t get the full amount within the allotted time, you probably won’t get anything at all, so you need to be reasonable and realistic in setting both your cash and time targets.

Next, you need to decide on the rewards you will give to your potential backers. This should be stack-pitched to give would-be investors something at every level, from a token thank you in exchange for a small donation, to a unique gift for the biggest backers. For example, the Nottingham Comic Con page offers a digital comic for £2, a printed copy for £5 and a printed copy plus a print of the front cover for £10. Similarly, the British singer, Leda Chapman, crowdfunded her latest album by offering everything from a pre-release copy for around the price of the finished album, to a private concert at home for you and your friends for the largest donations.

A simple thank you is often all it takes to attract crowdfunding investors, with the chance of getting their name in the cover of your comic or in the sleeve notes of your album being reward enough to get their support. However, the more personal you can make your offering, the greater chance you have to get the backing you need.

Simply offering the comic itself does not really encourage anyone to risk their cash, given that they can keep their powder dry and decide whether or not to buy it once they’ve seen the finished product. You need to appeal to the collector in them and offer them something that other indie comic fans won’t be able to get ahold of in the future, such as personal etchings, limited edition prints or pre-production drawings.

Finally, perhaps the most important thing of all is to raise awareness of your crowdfunding campaign on social media. Even the best-constructed and most rewarding crowdfunding campaign will remain dormant if no one knows about it. Start spreading the word via Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, and get your friends and loved ones to make some donations to ‘kickstart’ your campaign and create some initial momentum. Get in touch with all of your comic contacts and ask for their support, and always be ready with your ‘elevator pitch’ – that two-minute compelling presentation that you can roll out whenever an opportunity presents itself to push your project.

Never underestimate the power of social media in boosting your new comic crowdfunding campaign. Zack Brown, an American student, began a campaign to raise just $10 to make a potato salad in 2014. His appeal went viral and he ended up raising $55,000 with almost 7,000 investors. Good to his word, he made a massive 3,000lb potato salad and had everyone over to join the party.

For a great example of how crowdfunding can work for comics, including one of the best stacked reward schemes you’ll ever see, check out the  Cartozia Tales pages. They’ve had 763 backers, pledging $44,151 to help bring this imaginative project to life.

So, if you’ve got a great idea for a new indie comic, and don’t fancy your chances at the roulette wheel, take a look at crowdfunding. Not only could it give you the cash you need to get published, it could also generate vital publicity as well, creating a buzz around your new issue that no marketing budget can buy.