Robot 6

Fantagraphics surpasses its $150,000 Kickstarter goal

young romance 2With 23 days left in a Kickstarter campaign to fund its spring/summer season of books, Fantagraphics has already surpassed its initial $150,000 goal.

“We literally are stunned by the support you have shown in less than four days,” Publisher Gary Groth wrote Monday in a Kickstarter update, “it’s incredible and we humbly thank you.”

As he explained last week to Comic Book Resources, the effort came in the wake of the illness and death earlier this year of co-founder Kim Thompson, which led 13 of the books he edited to be canceled or postponed. That amounted to the loss of about one-third of the spring/summer season, and a significant financial blow to the publisher. The Kickstarter is designed to help Fantagraphics finance the next season of books — 39 in all.

With that $150,000 goal now met, Fantagraphics is expanding the number of premiums. The campaign ends Dec. 5.

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16 Comments

I said it when I saw this originally; Im not a fan of companies using Kickstarter to bail them out of their problems. I have nothing but sympathy for the folks at Fantagraphics loosing a cornerstone like Kim, and my heart goes out to them on a personal level.

But how did Fanta as a company allow it to go so long with out someone picking up the editorial duties that Kim was no longer able to perform while he fought cancer? Wouldnt any halfway decently run business recognize the fact that “no product = no revenue” so the books still needed to move forward?

So 5 months after Kim’s passing Fanta comes to the realization that it doesnt have the funds to get into their 2014 printing schedule and puts the call out?

All that aside, if they had said “we need the additional funds to pay for an additional editor to get caught up so we can publish the 13 books that were under Kim’s direction” I would have understood it. But $150k? Thats certainly not a 1/2 year salary for an editor at Fanta (or if it is, I need to know, are you taking applications?).

Read further and we see that the $150k isnt the cost to get those 13 books published in an effort to recoup the revenue it lose when Kim fell ill and passed away, its to just help fund their Spring line (assumedly some of those 13 lost books would be pushed into this spring line).

Im all in favor of funding an independent creator to get their book published. But putting money behind a company (all be it a smaller one) just so they can stay in business? They get to avoid paying interest on this $150k loan (cause that’s what it kind of is, only repayment is made in terms of premiums like books and donated art/time by their creators, and they come out ahead on the balance… $40 donation gets you a $30 book, So thats a $10 donation on top of whatever small percentage they already make on the book ).

I do applaud the creators who are donating their time/talent/product to help fund/support the premiums. They benefit from Fantagraphics being around, so it makes sense that they step up, and good on them for doing so.

I’d say in the future, if Fantagraphics survives this, they need to take a hard look at how they got into this predicament, cause laying it all at the feet of Kim Thompson’s passing gives them way to much of a pass on being bad businessmen and women.

It’s probably 150k because holy shit it costs a lot to print books. 13 of them. And to ship them.

I’d rather bail out Fantagraphics via Kickstarter instead of some massive corporation that doesn’t pay its taxes.

Fanta has had a few fiscal predicaments before this, none of which had anything to do with the illness of a key employee. The likelihood is that there have been flaws in Fanta’s business plans for some time now, though outsiders can’t do more than speculate on what those flaws might be.

Velda its not choosing between Fanta and Citibank (the federal government got to make that bailout decision).

Its about choosing between funding Fanta’s bailout or putting that $40 towards an independent creator looking to get his/her passion project funded. Like Carl Watkin’s TELM, or Derelict from Nothing Personal Comics, put your money towards true independent publishing.

Completely relieved about the generous response to this campaign.The comics industry without Fantagraphics Books would make me despair really.

I’m stoked this was successful, but I’m kinda with charlie on this. The fact that a big company like fantagraphics has to use Kickstarter is weird. Just kinda feels like a big company coming in on the Lil guys who don’t have publishers to help them out and taking potential donations away. Like I said though, I have nothing but love for fanta, just kinda rubs me the wrong way.

Just curious: why did it take a full week before the Fantagraphics Kickstarter was even mentioned on Robot 6? I know the word got out in plenty of other forums (including on the CBR homepage), but it seems like a glaring oversight that the CBR blog that concentrates on general comics news didn’t so much as mention one of the biggest comics news stories of the year for a full week.

The only reason I even mention it is because this is the second huge comics news story that Robot 6 dropped the ball on recently: the move of DC’s offices to Burbank wasn’t mentioned for 6 days, either. And yeah, I get that this information was covered on the CBR main page, but if that’s the case, you would think at least a one sentence mention in Comics A.M. would be warranted, a sort of “Hey, this is happening, get the full scoop here.” Believe me, I don’t mean to sound nitpicky, but with The Beat and Comics Reporter blocked by my work’s IT software, Robot 6 is my primary outlet for comics news, and when the hugest of the huge news stories drop through the cracks, it makes me as a reader worried what else I’m missing.

Fantagraphics isn’t really taking donations away from the other projects. There are plenty of people who spend a lot on different projects. Here’s some recently funded examples that exceeded more than their goal: http://www.kickstarter.com/discover/categories/comics/successful?ref=more#p1

Derelict has 28 days to go and already raised 3000+ already. (It’s a project that literally launched *yesterday*.) I’m pretty sure the people who aren’t interested in Fanta could easily go to Derelict and decide if they’re interested themselves. That’s what Kickstarter is about.

Jason: We typically try not to duplicate CBR’s coverage. The Fantagraphics campaign was announced on the homepage, and CBR thoroughly reported the news of DC’s move.

I don’t really see what the problem is. I donated, will get a product in exchange for my donation and I get to see Fantagraphics survive and continue to produce work that I enjoy. If Fantagraphics screws up and has to ask for more money again due to some other reason, they’ll probably find less willing donors in the future. Who knows? But I don’t see the problem with this Kickstarter….it’s much better than the alternative.

There is a reason comics fans are looked down on, and this is one of them. A company that treats creators well is having financial trouble after one of the main people dies, and what happens? “Fans” speculate on the hows and whys, and then give the company grief. No wonder comics fans get kicked around as kids.

Hey Charlie,

Just a few questions….

1: What’s the number of the print run for each of those 13 books?

2: How much does it cost to print each of those books (and have them shipped in from overseas and please include any required customs costs)?

3: If Fantagraphics ceases to exist, then who will publish the work of the creators currently being published by them?
And if there ARE indeed other publishers out there willing to do just that, then why aren’t these creators currently with them instead of Fantagraphics?
Could it be that being published by Fantagraphics is better for these guys than being published elsewhere? And therefore, would it not hurt these creators if Fantagraphics closed shop?

Please don’t take this message the wrong way, as me being snarky or something as that’s not the case.
I’m an independant creator myself and have been looking into self publishing my work and you seem to know a bit about the costs of publishing so I thought I’d ask.

Ben,
No one’s trying to crap on a publisher after someone dies. It’s a matter of observing that the company has had other financial crises before, a fact that Gary Groth himself has admitted.

Now is it just that Fanta publishes so many abstruse books that none has proved a “cash cow?” That’s a possible scenario, and a lot of publishers of “mainstream” works have gone under for lack of such a pecuniary bovine. But it’s legitimate to raise the question.

Well I’m pleased to see there’s some discussion around this (from both the pro and con side of the topic).
I have Fantagraphic’s books on my shelf at home. Tardi, Barks’ Ducks, EC, and Wolverton to name a few. I want to see them succeed both for my own interest as a reader, and my interest in their close ties to the creator community at large. But I want to see them succeed thru a successful business model.

Velda: I understand your thought, and odds are that most of the Fanta donations were by people driven to Kickstarter with the intent to fund Fanta. So for those donations, you’re right its no money lost to other possible projects. But there are also some people who are intermittently putting $20 into various Kickstarters, and those donors (if they are on any sort of budget for how much they can donate) would be making a decision to donate to Kickstarter over another project.

TheCloser: I can see your reasoning. But why not just pre-order or buy the book you are getting in return for the kickstarter funding? Some are already available or will be soon (are currently on pre-order)? There are the perks of getting a signed copy vs a non-signed. But here’s my larger question. Why do this thru Kickstarter at all? Why arent they just running a Bailout promotion on their own site? I dont know if there is a financial benefit to them running this as a kickstarter funding vs just running it as a straight sale/promotion. I dont know if the revenue gets recognized differently, or is taxed differently. I just dont understand why a business would use this avenue when they already have a place in the market, their own website for taking orders and have a history of selling premiums (signed copies, prints,etc) thru their site.

Ben: Fanta had financial problems before Kim’s passing. My concern is how a business could “get in the position” of being revenue deficient due to one person being gone, and how they could allow this situation to go on for months and months and not address it (as far as I know). A smaller investment 10 months ago to bring in an editor to help shepard the 13 books that were languishing would have solved this problem. Unless the problem was bigger than just the 13 books not getting published (which I am assuming is the actual truth). I dont think taking a critical look at a company’s practices is “kids” stuff. In fact I think it is the opposite. I think blindly supporting a company (financially even!) that has shown a history of revenue shortfalls (as they mention on their own site) is maybe the more innocent and/or childish avenue (if I had to ascribe it to one or the other, I think its neither). When a company comes to it’s market, hat in hand, and gets a kickstarter funded as a bailout, then I think asking the “hows” and “whys” is reasonable.

LBM: I give everyone the benefit of the doubt when it comes to internet comments. I assume no snark, until it becomes impossible to ignore. In answer to your question.

1 & 2. I dont know publishing outside if what I see, hear, and read about the comic publishing world. So I cant answer that question. I know just from reading the Fanta site that the $150k kickstarter is just a partial funding to support the spring line. Looking online elsewhere I’ve seen estimates for overseas printing starting around $10k for 2000 copies of a hardcover, with a 3-6 month lead time (and this doesn’t include shipping/customs)

3. I dont know how Fanta pitches itself to creators to convince them to work thru the Fantagraphics imprint. I assume its a combination of creative freedom and appealing profit sharing on book sales. They are the #1 book right now for “cool” creators, and that becomes somewhat self-fulfilling. They get one or two big names like Clowes & Bagge, and then it’s easier to add other big names (Hernandez bros,Jason, etc) to the prestige of the publisher.

As far as other publishers? Image certainly has cornered the market on creator owned “mainstream” comics. They could start a more “indie” imprint to appeal to the non-mainstream more “art-house type” creators. Archaia seems to have righted their ship after being acquired by Boom and could expand their library. IDW has certainly created a niche with their Artist Editions and treasuries that might be appealing to some of the artistic talent at Fanta. I think Fanta houses some of the top indie comic talent, and some of the most desired reprint licenses in the industry and I dont think any of them would have trouble finding a new publishing home should Fanta cease to be. Im not wishing them ill, but it might even be good for comics if “art house” comic reading wasnt all housed in the one stop shopping that is Fantagraphics.

In the end its all a moot point, the Kickstarter is funded, and those who are supporting Fanta by this method are happy, Fanta is happy, and hopefully the spring line is a success and we dont see this sort of “revenue help” request in the future. I personally am off to support Fanta in the way I always have. By preordering their books. I think there is a Barks Duck pre-order I need to submit.

forgive any typos or grammatical errors.

To a certain extent, I am with Charlie on this. It does feel slightly uncomfortable that a ‘big’ publisher is having to resort to Kickstarter for funds. One would think they’ve been around long enough now that they should be able to have a solid business plan that allows them to ride out rough periods.

I’m glad they’ve succeeded, though, even if I haven’t kicked in any money myself – like Charlie I’ll support them the same way I always have, by buying lots of their books. I’ll also be hoping that, having funded this patch, they’ll be able to get back on a normal path going forwards. If they have to go back to the Kickstarter well in 2014 to fund their 2015 slate, that will be very disappointing.

One thing I have to correct, though; I very much doubt that Fantagraphics is hoovering up money that could’ve gone on other Kickstarters. There have been a lot of ‘big name’ Kickstarters now, and studies have shown that they have a positive net effect on Kickstarter; they introduce new people to Kickstarter, and an appreciable number of them kick in for other projects after discovering the site too. It’s like the saying, “a rising tide lifts all boats.”

I do think that while there are other publishers, there are still some things that would end up falling through the net if Fantagraphics were to go under. The translated stuff, primarily; I can’t see any other manga publisher picking up Wandering Son, as so-called ‘license rescues’ are rarely successful, and there’s definitely no publisher that would put it out in the same trim as Fantagraphics. Likewise, books like the Tardi books may struggle to find a new home.

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