Robot 6

Quote of the Day | Kickstarter success doesn’t equal retail success

kickstarterbadge“Speaking as a retailer, there is not a single book that has been ‘kickstarted’ yet that went on to sell a meaningful number of copies at retail for me.”

– retailer Brian Hibbs, describing a troubling relationship between Kickstarter success and retail success.

He sees two reasons for this. I’m sort of putting words into his mouth, but I think I’m close to his first point by saying that once the book comes out in stores, everyone’s tired of hearing about it. He notes that it’s not impossible to get a second wave of attention going, but it’s tough to do.

His second reason is that once Kickstarter serves the needs of a comic’s most passionate readers, the only people left to buy it are –by definition — the less-passionate ones. Again, that doesn’t spell instant doom, especially for someone who’s able to overcome Hibbs’ first observation and successfully launch a second round of publicity, but it’s still a stark warning. There’s more to long-term success than just having a great Kickstarter.

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It’s going to take a retail marketing campaign – with corresponding differences of focus – to generate the same fervor for the product in that marketplace as was generated for the Kickstarter campaign. Our Kickstarter campaigns are very modest in goals and backer census compared to many, but we’ve been able to turn the books produced into sales for the few retailers willing to give us a shot, by intefacing directly with their shoppers via social media, direct appearances and participation in the larger store culture.

Or perhaps the projects themselves aren’t notable or striking enough as products to attract an audience more extensive than that serviced by the funding campaign. How often with comics has the promise of a comic seemed far more exciting than the actuality?

“Speaking as a retailer…” Well that’s pretty much the point isn’t it? There’s a certain hubris or naiveté thinking that a creator with a successful KIckstarter campaign even desires his or her product to ultimately end up in the hands of a retailer to sell that product to the public. For years creators lamented over the distribution cycle of their products and the cuts taken from the top. Now there exists a mechanism where the creator can cut out both the distributer and the retailer alike and deal directly with the consumer. It’s important to be aware the reasons many projects found their way to Kickstarter in the first place. A small devoted fan base willing to purchase a product that may not have had enough viable followers for a publisher to get behind, or if it did get lost in the crowd with hundreds of titles with a limited shelf life from a retailer perspective. Or if a creator even had the funds to self publish through Diamond or have enough orders through Diamond to even make it worth it’s while to distribute. Kickstarter simultaneously kills two birds with one stone. If the product is solid, that small but loyal fan base with a personal vested interest insures the product gets produced and the creator bypasses both distributer and retailer alike. What gets me is why should a retailer even care? Is this the kind of commodity a retailer would get behind in the first place instead of promoting product from top publishers at the top of the food chain?

I think the reason some Kickstarted books do not sell well at retail is because the campaigns pretty much fulfill the entire demand for these books. Recently an artist I once published Kickstarted a book that raised $22,000. The number of backers was just over 500 people, which is just about what his last book with us sold.

By Kickstarter standards that was pretty good, but by our standards that book would have been a money loser and in his specific case I initially was not going to print his book.

So the great thing about a Kickstarter it would seem is the aility to wrap all aspects of publishing, the book, the merch and the promotion, all into one little campaign. The artists I mentioned above sold shirts, stickers odd personalized stuff and even books I published (which I sold to him for less than cost) and stuffed it all into one promotional campaign. The end result was a number of backers not much higher than the number of people who might ordinarily buy hi book in a store or on Amazon.

So, is it then even that important for an artist to sell books in a retail market? At this juncture I would have to say no becuase Kickstarter seems capable of fulfilling a creators short and maybe even long term distribution goals. So not only is a retailer not needed, even a publisher like SLG is no longer needed, making companies like mine pretty much the biggest casualty of a Kickstarter era.

“Speaking as a middleman, there has not been a single book that I have been able to make more profit from than its creator.”

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