INTERVIEW: DiDio & Lee on "Dark Knight 3," Vertigo's Future & DC's Evolving Readership
After about five years of slowly building momentum, the crowd-funding sector of comics may be nearly 2 percent the size of the direct market. Based on analysis of the past three months of campaigns, funds generated through Kickstarter and Indiegogo would be roughly the equivalent of the sixth- or seventh-largest publisher distributing to specialty shops in North America.
While crowd-funded comics haven’t seen as brisk of an increase as digital comics, it’s a sector of the industry that’s undeniably growing. As more established creators and publishers experiment with running campaigns, they have pulled in their readers, increasing the awareness, and even the legitimacy, of the platforms. I’ve found this area to be under-studied, and I was curious to see just how economically significant crowd-funding is becoming to the comics industry. So I have collected data on every campaign that successfully raised funds through Kickstarter and Indiegogo from October 2013 to December 2013. I’m actually going further back than that, but that data isn’t ready yet; I’m still digging through the numbers, as data collecting, sorting and number-crunching can be challenging due to the different platforms and currencies. But I wanted to make public what I have so far because as we head into 2014, following Fantagraphics’ amazing Kickstarter campaign (as just one example), I believe we’re going to be seeing the industry embrace crowd-funding more and more, and there’s a lot we can still learn about how it works and how it affects comics.
Over the past year or two, the buzzword for digital comics was “additive” to win the hearts and minds of retailers and others worried about digital cannibalizing print. We’ve since seen that it’s true, and that both digital and print have excelled. It’s worth noting that in October 2013, Kickstarter and Indiegogo campaigns surpassed $1 million raised. For some campaigns, they are additive in more ways than one, as many books and products that was financed by backers are later distributed to and sold at comic book stores, generating more funds.
Crowd-funding may share something else with comic book stores: Similar to the direct market’s slower holiday months, November and December didn’t generate as much; funds raised through campaigns decreased to slightly more than $850,000 and $750,000, respectively. However, the average amount raised per campaign and the average number of backers per campaign increased by the end of the year. In October, each campaign raised an average of $11,379, but in December, that amount increased to $15,862 per campaign. To look at it another way, October saw each campaign have an average of 218 people each give $52.20. In December, each campaign averaged 263 backers pledging $60.25 each. This could show that while the number of people who ran campaigns decreased in the holiday months, the number of people participating in campaigns is increasing. What’s more, they may be gaining confidence in giving more. If that analysis is correct, that’s an excellent indicator for a building momentum. However, November’s averages saw a dip in comparison to October and December, so more data will be needed to better track the progress.
As mentioned above, the crowd-funding sector appears to be almost 2 percent the size of the direct market; that’s based on the monthly sales estimates of the direct market as provided by John Jackson Miller’s Comichron.com. In October, the direct market moved about $50.32 million. Crowd-funding campaigns raised approximately $1,001,310, about 1.99 percent the size of the direct market. In November, crowd-funding’s $856,364 was 1.80 percent of the direct market’s $42.24 million. If Kickstarter and Indiegogo were a comics publisher delivering comics to the direct market, and they were collectively doing those kinds of numbers, they would be just slightly larger in market share than BOOM! Studios and Valiant Entertainment. Crowd-funding campaigns raised $761,382 in December; however, December numbers for the direct market haven’t been released. It could end up about 1.90 percent, but we will see in a couple weeks how it shakes out. Based on the numbers I have for earlier in 2013 and how they’ve tracked, I expect 2014 will surpass 2 percent fairly soon.
It’s worth taking a moment to compare the performance of Kickstarter and Indiegogo. It’s no surprise that Kickstarter is the leader here. However, in the raw numbers below, note Kickstarter’s relative stability over the three months; it’s always in the $700,000 range. Indiegogo’s fluctuation is what causes the dip during the holidays. It’s also possible that Indiegogo’s decrease over the past three months isn’t due to the holidays, but due to abandonment. If so, it doesn’t appear to be abandonment in favor of Kickstarter, at least not yet. Whatever the reason, without a blockbuster campaign like DC Entertainment’s We Can Be Heroes, the numbers on Indiegogo appear to plummet.
Just like with estimates of the North American direct market through Diamond Comic Distributors, there are caveats galore here as well. Most notably, while the amount pledged by backers is public knowledge, the final amount fulfilled for each campaign is not. Anecdotally, people running campaigns have sometimes said a surprisingly significant amount was never paid, while some seem to consider it negligible. It’s also worth noting this only includes Kickstarter and Indiegogo. These are far and away the most used and most successful platforms for comics, but there are others with a number of relevant campaigns that likely add an as-yet-unaccounted long tail to these numbers.
Finally, because I know we all love lists, I’ve included the Top 40 fundraising campaigns for each of the three months I’ve discussed here. Sometimes the blockbusters may surprise you. You’ll notice some entries have two amounts. That is due to the campaign being run in a different currency. I converted those to U.S. dollars, but it is an approximation due to the fluctuating dollar, euro, pound or what have you. I’ve also included the Top 10 campaigns with the most backers, as I think it’s interesting to see where the people flock. You’ll see that sometimes projects have a larger following that maybe can’t spend as much, and some have fewer fans with bigger pocketbooks. But first, here are the totals for each month, and divided by platform.
October 2013/November 2013/December 2013
Total Raised on Kickstarter: $757,258 / $734,232 / $721,260
Total Raised on Indiegogo: $244,052 / $122,132 / $40,121
Total Funding: $1,001,310 / $856,364 / $761,382
Total Backers on Kickstarter: 15,259 / 16,160 / 11,984
Total Backers on Indiegogo: 3,922 / 2,330 / 652
Total Backers: 19,181 / 18,490 / 12,636
Total Campaigns Funded on Kickstarter: 72 / 64 / 35
Total Campaigns Funded on Indiegogo: 16 / 17 / 13
Total Campaigns Funded: 88 / 81 / 48
Average Raised per Campaign on Kickstarter: $10,517 / $11,472 / $20,607
Average Raised per Campaign on Indiegogo: $15,253 / $7,184 / $3,086
Combined Average Raised per Campaign: $11,379 / $10,572 / $15,862
Average Backers per Campaign on Kickstarter: 212 / 253 / 342
Average Backers per Campaign on Indiegogo: 245 / 137 / 50
Combined Average Backers per Campaign: 218 / 228 / 263
Average Donation on Kickstarter: $49.63 / $45.44 / $60.19
Average Donation on Indiegogo: $62.23 / $52.42 / $61.54
Average Donation: $52.20 / $46.32 / $60.25
Top 40 Campaigns – Most Funded – October 2013
Top 10 Campaigns – Most Backers – October 2013
Top 40 Campaigns – Most Funded – November 2013
Top 10 Campaigns – Most Backers – November 2013
Top 40 Campaigns – Most Funded – December 2013
Top 10 Campaigns – Most Backers – December 2013