PRO TIPS: Stephen Kok

PRO TIPS is a rotating guest column that features in-depth insight into the creative process of making comics. Learning from one’s mistakes, discovering new techniques and developing a more efficient process – all essential elements to becoming a better artist.
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Stephen Kok is the Australian creator of Tabby, Tabby Sketchbook, 5 Seconds, Blue and Word Smith. All my graphic novels are fully distributed and in book stores and libraries through out Australia and New Zealand. Tabby is currently in over 180+ public libraries. (If you ever in Australia or New Zealand, please check out your local library for a copy of one of my works!)

 

I have used Kickstarter as a way to help get the initial sales to bring each of the graphic novels to life, and honestly it’s a humbling experience when someone supports your work.

Crowdfunding has opened up an avenue for independent comic creators to fund their publication of their works. Before I decided to kickstart my first project, two questions came to mind:

  1. What are my chances of success?
  2. How much can I expect to raise?

Kickstarter has provided interesting statistics with over 50% of launched comic projects reaching their target. This is compared with 35.94% across all other categories. (Woohoo go comics!) The average funded comic project raised between $1000 to $9999.

There are lots of great Kickstarter advice and resources available around the internet. It’s worth your while to do investigate additional resources and pick which advice best suits your circumstances. My thoughts here are based on my personal experience on running a campaign.

 

Start Early

Kickstarter is an amazing platform to allow your supporters an easy way to pledge towards your work. However it is NOT a marketing tool. A lot of the hard work will need to be done prior, getting exposure done before the campaign, building up the hype so there’s a sense of anticipation when your project finally launches.

Before my Tabby Kickstarter launch, I was sharing preliminary sketches of the Tabby pages. In total I had around 50+ pages of sketches and artwork up BEFORE the Kickstarter was launched. Each post on my website and share to social media helped generate exposure and build towards the launch!

Time

If you have never run a campaign before, it does take quite a lot of your time. The constant push during the campaign, replying to questions from potential backers, getting your project reviewed on blogs, podcasts etc. When you decide the length of the project (statistically speaking 30 days projects are the most successful), it’s good to have a high level plan for each day.

I had articles planned for my website and a few interviews / write ups all ready to go for my Tabby Kickstarter! In hindsight, more planning would have helped but it was definitely a learning experience!

Have a hook!

It’s key to have that one (or 2 line) hook. Especially if you are planning to use social media, you don’t have the luxury of a few paragraphs to describe your epic creation. My first project was Tabby and I described it as “Romeo & Juliet but with CATS!”. The right hook will draw a prospective backer to check out your project.

Product

There’s some debate on this point but I think there is a bigger appeal to a project that’s almost finished and perhaps needs the funding for printing. There is an approach to use Kickstarter as a pitch (e.g. have only the first 5 pages ready) and try and get the monies to complete the project. On a personal note, I have seen so many funded projects go off the rails as the creator gets busy and the works never get completed.

For Tabby, I had everything completed EXCEPT for lettering and printing. This helped with a faster turnaround after the Kickstarter was finished to getting the graphic novel out. It builds trust with your audience that you deliver and that encourages them to potentially support future projects.

Post Kickstarter

It’s important to have a plan post Kickstarter. How are you going to ship your works? Where are you going to get your printing done? I had never really been involved with logistics and distributions and it was a steep learning curve after the project was completed! Some prior planning would have alleviated a lot of the panic. There are fulfilment companies that specialise in this area and it’s always good to know about them (and maybe get a quote?) before having to print and ship.

As Tabby was my first Kickstarter, I was not prepared for this! I agreed to personalise the graphic novels but that takes times and packing had to be individualised. Initially, I was so scared about making a mistake with a signature or comment that I practised once before signing. That doubled the time it to took to get a graphic novel ready! I was also not used to shipping and each parcel took a while to get around. I now have an internal process down to get each package ready. (Even to the point of having a mini production line in place with all items (e.g. stamps) ready to go!)

Initially this article was meant to be a “Do’s and Don’ts of Kickstarter” but there really aren’t any hard and fast rules on crowdfunding. As much as you can plan and prepare, there is a boldness and strength in taking the plunge. You have time during the campaign to tweak your project and adjust as required. Experience is a better teacher than any guide can be so even if unsure, take the risk!

About Darren Close

Darren Close
Darren is the creator and publisher of the KILLEROO series, and also the creator of the OzComics website and subsequent drawing challenge on Facebook. He's been around the local comic scene for far too long for many people's liking. Gary Chaloner was foolish enough to make him the new Managing Editor of AustralianComicsJournal.com

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