Last year, co-founder of Fantagraphics Kim Thompson died, and many books and publications had to be cancelled as a result, something that hit the publisher’s bottom line considerably. And now, with cash-flow biting, they have turned to their readers to see if they can pay it forward a little and fund the publication of their April-to-August 2014 publishing line.
Some will see this as weakness. Admitting the flaw in Fantagraphics publishing operation, and exposing the possibility that it might not be around much longer. I prefer to see it as honest, as exploiting the changing publishing environment for the better rather than acting like King Canute.
But then, I guess, I’ve always liked Gary Groth. Their press release states;
Ours is and always has been an intrinsically difficult commercial enterprise, and we have survived due to a combination of great taste, sheer will, good luck, and reasonable business acumen. Still, it has never been easy. Fantagraphics has always been a guerilla publisher — lean and mean. In order to do what we do, we have always kept our overhead low and our lifestyle modest. We publish about 100 books a year with a staff of less then 20 — a level of efficiency unheard of in corporate publishing. We pride ourselves on taking risks, publishing work based on merit, and a commitment to serious artistic standards.
Fantagraphics has never existed comfortably within the traditional capitalist model — ruthlessly competitive, obsessed with growth, and the endless accumulation of surplus money. Our artistic values have always tempered our profitability. Fantagraphics has managed to scrape by, but we realized that with the advent of crowd funding, we are in a position to make an end-run around the most brutish strictures of the marketplace and appeal directly to our readers through Kickstarter. We are asking the public to help us continue this quixotic enterprise. At the end of the day, we cannot rely on anyone but our readers.
Fantagraphics have a Kickstarter goal of $150,000 to fund 39 graphic novels for the season. High ticket items include $2000 for a set of every book for a year, $1750 for all 39 books of the season signed by the creators and editors, $1250 for a job shadow for a day at Fantagraphics, $1000 for a warehouse shopping spree, $500 for a tour of the publisher and dinner with Gary Groth and Eric Reynolds.
Just don’t make them eat crow, okay?