For the sake of this blog post and for everyone’s sanity, I’m going to refrain from making any more jokes about how our guest on the latest episode of The Hyphen-Tanner Comics Podcast also has “Tanner” for a last name. Instead, I’ll stay focused on the reason we invited Jamie onto the show, which is that he’s a Project Specialist for Kickstarter and Ryan and I really wanted to get an inside perspective on how things work and the best way to launch a campaign.
The interview was a lot of fun and most importantly, very insightful. I want to thank Jamie for taking the time out of his busy day to be a guest on our podcast. Everyone should go listen to the episode, but I’ve also written this blog post for the sake of having some of the more useful information in print.
One of the reasons Jamie Tanner was an excellent candidate to become a project specialist at Kickstarter was that he ran one of the very first successful campaigns on it for a graphic novel. In fact, it was through Jamie’s campaign that I first heard about Kickstarter way back in 2009.
Jamie had already published a graphic novel, The Aviary (Eisner nominated), in 2008. He was looking to use this new crowd-funding platform to support the creation of his next project. His campaign was successful and was able to create the graphic novel, The Black Well. And it was through this experience that Jamie began speaking about Kickstarter on panels at conventions and this would lead to his job as project coordinator at the company.
So what advice does Jamie have for creators hoping to run their own successful campaign? He said the most important thing for them to remember is to be as clear as possible. Make sure potential backers understand what it is you want to create, where exactly the money will go, and to be as specific as possible about what backers will get in return for their pledge.
Also, the more a creator can show of the project, the better. And if there isn’t much to show yet, compensate for that by showing past work of the creators involved, such as samples of their artwork or works that’ve already been published.
It was at this point that Ryan asked Jamie if he thought it hindered the chance of success if a creator was asking for money to support their living expenses while finishing the project rather than for specific costs such as paying for a print run. Jamie felt that it could work either way as long as the creator made this clear and based the rewards around it.
As an example, Jamie’s own campaign was for a future graphic novel, which didn’t even have a name for yet. But the rewards centered around getting a copy of The Aviary as well as offering art commissions and prints. This allowed him to deliver many of the rewards before having to finish the project.
One final issue I brought up was my displeasure in going to a project page where I would normally support the project, but just couldn’t find a reward that offered me any value. I don’t mind putting some money down in advance to help a creator, but I don’t see any reason to pay a premium. What I’m talking about here is when a pdf is $20 and the printed (regular sized) book is $50, and so on. By contrast, my favorite projects are those that initially hook me in with great value and each subsequent reward seems to be an even greater bargain. Before I know it, I’ve pledged for the book, the t-shirt, the print and my name in that back of the book, all for one great price.
Jamie concluded the interview by saying that he thought the future of Kickstarter would be determined by how creators continued to use it. There’s still so much potential for different types of projects and unique forms of rewards. Kickstarter has already had such a monumental impact on the comic & graphic novel industry, there’s no reason for us to slow down now.
Jamie’s also provided us with some additional resources:
Here’s a link to some recommended Comics Projects.
Here’s Jamie’s profile on Kickstarter so you can see what projects he’s backed.
And lastly, a link to Kickstarter School, which has some very useful tips.