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Thread: How Kickstarter Changed Arsenic Lullaby - And Everything Else

  1. #1
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    Default How Kickstarter Changed Arsenic Lullaby - And Everything Else

    Douglas Alexander of Arsenic Lullaby writes for Bleeding Cool;

    The worm has turned

    Four weeks ago the independent comic book Arsenic Lullaby was facing extinction; it went to Kickstarter and rose from the ashes.

    Here is why this is important. Arsenic Lullaby is not a book that grew out of the internet, autonomous of the comic book industry. Arsenic Lullaby had gained some success through normal channels. It was nominated for the Harvey Award, and the Eisner award. It lasted over ten years under the old system, no small accomplishment. It is a book that made money for stores, and made money for the distributor. It was forced to leave that system... secede, and it made sixteen thousand dollars in 28 days after it did. Sixteen Thousand dollars that stores, and the distributor will never see a percentage of. Arsenic Lullaby was not an online comic, or a comic whose Kickstarter success can be attributed to the zeitgeist, or a one time wave of curiosity. Nor was this a book that was a simple side project of creators of books for major labels who were able to cull pledges from the belly of Marvel or DC's limitless readership. This was a stalwart Indy book that went as far as it could through the old system. The system was not changing to meet the times so Arsenic Lullaby sought out a new system.

    After seeing orders continue to slide through the normal distribution chain that puts publishers fate in the hands of store owners who often balk at anything without capes and tights, instead of relying on the curiosity of the readers, Arsenic Lullaby Publishing cancelled the orders and put all its chips on red. "Red", being Kickstarter. In 28 days Arsenic Lullaby acquired over sixteen thousand dollars worth of orders. A total that equals about three orders through Diamond Comics distributors, after 60% is taken off the top to split with stores and the distributor itself. This is a torpedo across the hull of a system generally unfriendly to indy comics. The readers are out there, the money is out there. In the past that money would be left on the table if stores didn't take the risk on one indy book or the other. After Arsenic Lullaby's Kickstarter campaign however, the options are dramatically different. That money will NOT be left on the table. It WILL go into the pockets of Indy publishers, the only question is, will stores will get any percentage for themselves? They can either start supporting these books, or have their customers find them online, and have one less reason to go to their stores.

    A.L. has left the door wide open for others to follow. Diamond distributions catalogue is roughly 20% indy publishers. Depending on the store, that is 10% to 20% of their business. One book leaving for greener pastures perhaps can be replaced. The watershed part of all this is that because Arsenic Lullaby had clout, proved it could survive for a time under the old system, it is a title that is watched by many, not just readers, but other publishers. Its success with Kickstarter is an example to other creators. If the stores refuse to back them, they can connect with their readers anyway, leaving the stores empty handed. Stores cannot survive on indy books alone, but can they survive with no indy books? By and large, super hero titles serve children, and adults who read them for the sake of nostalgia. The age group in between however are kept in the habit of coming to comic book stores via indy books. The college kids who have temporarily out grown super heroes and want something new and unusual, girls who have no interest in reading thinly veiled literary devices that always lead to a fist fight, adults who want something smarter...they HAD been kept in the habit of going to stores with indy books. Should the majority of those readers get into the habit of getting their books online through sites like Kickstarter, stores may see the next generation of kids who outgrow superheroes never come back.The great danger for the distributor will be not only losing 20% of their catalogue, but the inevitability of larger publishers like Image, Dark Horse, and Top Shelf deciding to launch their smaller projects on Kickstarter...then larger projects on Kickstarter...eventually Marvel and DC could test their more experimental books there as well. Arsenic Lullaby could have created the crack in the dam. If this was an online web comic, independent of the industry, it's Kickstarter success could be ignored, but one of the few independent success stories of the last decade leaving the old system, and being able to triple its revenue, that may well signal the changing of the guard.

    Douglas Paszkiewicz Eisner and Harvey award nominee Mad Magazine Arsenic Lullaby

  2. #2
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    Congratulations on making money once. Now try doing that every month for the rest of your life.
    Howard likes this.

  3. #3
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    Congratulations on making money once. Now try doing that every month for the rest of your life.
    Every month? Probably not. Once every six or twelve months for a collected edition? Why not?

    Seriously: would that not work?

    (Full disclosure: I contributed to this Kickstarter.)

  4. #4
    AGH
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    AL is a classic example of yet another artist who has no conception of marketing or customer skills and who I am apparently supposed to root for because the evil comic industry has somehow screwed him over...email him and see how quickly he responds (I've sent him three and never gotten an answer)...it's lovely that his Kickstarter succeeded and I wish him well but I am weary of the idea that being nominated for an award is somehow enough...I have bookcases full of signed graphic novels and can tell you quite literally hundreds of horror stories regarding artists who don't respond to email, can't ship in less than a month, think a paper envelop is somehow appropriate for either artwork or books and on and on...maybe a failing comic artist needs to look beyond "I was nominated for an award" and look at how guys like Rich Burlew of OOTS responds to email/customers etc...etc...
    Howard likes this.

  5. #5
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    Default This retailer loves what Doug has done

    As for retailers not seeing a share, this is the first Kickstarter I have seen that offered a bunch of copies for retailers, and did so in a number of rewards packages. It is also the option I chose when I backed it, since my store has always carried Arsenic Lullaby in some form or another. As for Doug getting the money, yeah, 90% of it, since Amazon and Kickstarter take roughly a 10% cut. So as a retailer I support this option, since Diamond always struggles to keep smaller press books available for order. Put titles like Pizzeria Kamikaze, Leviathan, and Satchel Paige in their creators hands and see how many more copies find their ways to the comic shops that give a shit about the art of making good comics, and thus into fans hands. Also, as a reference, the recent Sullivan's Sluggers that failed to get picked up through Image and Diamond was a massive success on Kickstarter, and its owners are going to have the power to sell books directly and also at wholesale.

    Also, AGH is a wanker. I've met Doug a handful of times, he has always been nice to me, and responded to emails fairly quickly. Arsenic Lullaby has made the rounds in the underground for years, and seeing it get new life when Dark Horse or IDW clearly wouldn't be the ones to save it is great.

    Now, if only we can get Dave Lapham to publish more Stray Bullets and get the old stuff back in print, we may solve one of the comic industry's great failings.

  6. #6
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    I think this is clearly a good thing, I support the Kickstarter method of getting projects done all around. However I think the real revolution will hapeen once there is a "bandcamp.com" type site for independent comic creators. Once that happens I think there will be an indie boom bolstered by the ability to sell low overhead digital copies direct to consumers.
    ME! and Cavemold like this.

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    Where's the hate coming from? An indy writer made good on the promise of the Internet. Whether he's a dickhead or not isn't really the issue.
    mquitney and ME! like this.

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by Arcadian Comics View Post
    As for retailers not seeing a share, this is the first Kickstarter I have seen that offered a bunch of copies for retailers, and did so in a number of rewards packages. It is also the option I chose when I backed it, since my store has always carried Arsenic Lullaby in some form or another. As for Doug getting the money, yeah, 90% of it, since Amazon and Kickstarter take roughly a 10% cut. So as a retailer I support this option, since Diamond always struggles to keep smaller press books available for order. Put titles like Pizzeria Kamikaze, Leviathan, and Satchel Paige in their creators hands and see how many more copies find their ways to the comic shops that give a shit about the art of making good comics, and thus into fans hands. Also, as a reference, the recent Sullivan's Sluggers that failed to get picked up through Image and Diamond was a massive success on Kickstarter, and its owners are going to have the power to sell books directly and also at wholesale.

    Also, AGH is a wanker. I've met Doug a handful of times, he has always been nice to me, and responded to emails fairly quickly. Arsenic Lullaby has made the rounds in the underground for years, and seeing it get new life when Dark Horse or IDW clearly wouldn't be the ones to save it is great.

    Now, if only we can get Dave Lapham to publish more Stray Bullets and get the old stuff back in print, we may solve one of the comic industry's great failings.
    And if we could get Paul grist to make more Kane stories.

  9. #9
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    It isnít so much hate, but it is his romanticized idea of what Diamond and the direct market should be. He, as a publisher (i.e. a business) should have been looking and exploring all new sales options whenever they presented themselves. His expectation that Diamond was going to magically upsell his book to all outlets is ludicrous, that just isnít what they do.

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by Douglas Paszkiewicz View Post
    In 28 days Arsenic Lullaby acquired over sixteen thousand dollars worth of orders. A total that equals about three orders through Diamond Comics distributors, after 60% is taken off the top to split with stores and the distributor itself.
    Now THIS might very well be the reason it had problems. 16,000 dollars equalling about 3 copies. That waaay too expensive for most comic book fans

    Anyway, congrats on the good Kickstarter result.

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