Robot 6

Could Kickstarter be the third largest indie GN publisher?

At Publishers Weekly, Todd Allen crunches some numbers and points out that if you look strictly at the number of books solicited per month, you could argue that Kickstarter is the third largest indie graphic novel publisher in the U.S. In May, Allen points out, 10 graphic novels and 5 single-issue comics were pitched on Kickstarter. Looking strictly at graphic novels, more books were solicited on Kickstarter than by Image, Boom, or even Vertigo.

Allen admits he is comparing apples and oranges:

It perhaps isn’t natural to look at Kickstarter as a publisher. Functionally, it exists somewhere between a direct-to-consumer pre-sales program and a PBS/NPR pledge drive. Consumers are pledging money to projects they’d like to see completed and if they pledge in sufficient amounts (in most cases) they get a copy of the finished work.

Indeed, as the name implies, Kickstarter is mostly used to get a project off the ground, either to help fund a self-published work or pay an artist to work on a book that will be published by a traditional publisher. It’s one-time money; you don’t fund a monthly comic on Kickstarter, you fund your first issue or two. Traditional publishers build a brand—Kickstarter will publish 10 or 15 different comics every month, never repeating itself, while Vertigo will publish issue after issue of Fables and American Vampire. The other major difference is that Kickstarter is just a storefront. The artist does all the work of creation, promotion, and distribution. There is no editor, no marketer, no sales person (unless the artist hires them). Kickstarter may help fund and publicize a project, but it won’t get the completed work into comics shops or bookstores.

Allen envisions an expansion of the model in which creators use Kickstarter to pay themselves and the cost of printing a small run, say 2,000 to 3,000 copies of a comic or graphic novel, and then selling it both through Kickstarter and in the direct market. The snag here is getting it to the direct market: Diamond doesn’t generally take chances on small comics, although the interest generated through Kickstarter might change that. Furthermore, as many comics creators have learned, promoting and marketing your comic is a lot of work, and doing it all yourself takes time away from the drawing board. That’s not a sustainable model in the long run for most creators. While it’s a great incubator for new projects, Kickstarter is not likely to upend traditional comics publishing anytime soon.

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3 Comments

Although I wouldn’t view Kickstarter as a publisher just yet, I cannot deny that it is an incredibly effective fundraiser and patron for graphic novels/books. I put my science fiction book (http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/conordempsey/the-exiles-of-the-new-world) up on kickstarter recently and had it funded within two days. I also started getting interest from publishers within the first week of having it up on the site. It surpassed my wildest dreams. It will be interesting to see how Kickstarter evolves and what role they will play in publishing in the future.

I think you are going to find a lot of the future Grant Morrissons/Brian Woods/Gail Simones getting their starts omn something like kickstarter.com, or even these luminaries finding their way there to support a passion project of their own.

Kickstarter may help a lot of folks out, but they are not a publisher. They’re a facilitator, but strictly on the money side, unless they’ve offered print brokering and distributor placement and advertising and promotion.

That aside, that’s an impressive number, and kind of a stark statement as to capital levels in the business overall, once you get outside the safe harbor of the Big Two.

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