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It has been two years since Jon Rosenberg announced that he was giving up on Goats, his long-running webcomic, because, basically, the webcomics medium doesn’t seem to be a good fit for long-form stories. He might be right. Webcomics are very good for engaging readers and getting them involved in an ongoing storyline, but it’s hard to read a long story one bite at a time, and flipping through the archives can be tiresome. As Rosenberg put it at the time:
While I’m happy with what I’ve done creatively, the webcomics medium rewards quick, easy updates with traffic. Long, continuity-filled stories like Goats that take a long time between updates tend to stagnate, although there are certainly folks more talented than I who can pull off this difficult feat.
And because he had other obligations, he decided to stop working on Goats even though he had a definite end in mind for the story that was about a year away. Instead, he started a new webcomic Scenes from a Multiverse, which delivers a gag a day, no continuity required.
Then came Kickstarter, which effectively allows a creator to ask readers, “Would you like this comic?” In this case, Rosenberg asked if people wanted him to finish Goats, the readers roared back with a resounding “Yes!” and he raised a total of $55,000, which will allow him to finish the story, set up a dedicated Goats website, and publish sundry other comics. The initial goal was simply to publish Book IV, but as the pledges flowed in, he upped the ante, promising to resume work on Goats with one new page a month at the $35,000 mark, and increasing the planned frequency to once a week (at $40,000). There’s all kinds of other stuff, digital comics and bookplates and such, but what really happened here is that readers brought back a comic from the dead by agreeing to pay for it upfront.
There has been an interesting shift in this regard; while Kickstarter originally seemed to be mostly new projects, more and more creators are turning to it to continue or complete an existing comic: The Abaddon and Go Home Paddy are two other recent examples.
For those who like to think about numbers, Gary Tyrrell has looked at the four top-grossing Kickstarter comics drives, and while the sample size is admittedly small, he has come up with some interesting correlations. The short version: Success seems to lie in those middle-rank pledges, unless your small pledges are absolutely free to you and insanely popular with the public.