Mike McCubbins writes for Bleeding Cool:
In February of 2013 I ran a Kickstarter for a graphic novel, Book of Da. My illustrator, Matt Bryan and I needed $3000 to create a special edition clothbound version of our offbeat b/w undersea adventure story. Nearly a year prior, we had sent off a grant application to Xeric (the now dormant comics self-publishing foundation set up by TMNT co-creator Peter Laird), and had been rebuffed for having our graphic novel only 75% complete (Though the guidelines for the application did allow for incomplete works.) To top it off, Xeric announced this would be the last year for the grant! We tried to contest our disqualification. In the end, there would be no Xeric for Book of Da.
That year Matt and I made the trip from St. Louis to S.P.A.C.E. indie comic con in Columbus Ohio for our third year in a row where we tried to put aside our Xeric let down in order to celebrate that two of our favorite female graphic novelists and fellow S.P.A.C.E. alums had, in fact, won Xeric grants: Marnie Galloway for In the Sounds and Seas and M Young for Wild Child. During the con I attended a panel discussion on this big new thing “Kickstarter.” Up until that point, the most I knew about crowdfunding was that it had not worked to keep Weezer from recording more albums. I left the panel inspired and empowered to bring Book of Da to the people.
Late in 2012, Matt and I stood in front of a camera, calling forth all the earnestness we could muster, and told folks why our book was so damn special. We had put together posters, fold-up toys, and gathered up all the original art for the campaign. We launched the Kickstarter a few days earlier than planned in late January, because why not? By February 1st, with a month left in the campaign, we had been selected as Project of the Day, had already surpassed our goal, and were on our way to totalling over 700 backers and over $17,000 to self-publish Book of Da. We were f&*$ing floored! Yes, there was a way to do this, and to do it exactly how we wanted.
Two years later, after extensive tabling at conventions to sell off all the extra books we were able to print, we began work on our next graphic novel Anasazi, with the intent to fund and self-publish another hardbound book on Kickstarter. Matt had since run another KS for a unicorn themed calendar, and I had run a campaign for alien landscape themed postcards. Though these projects were successful, we found that the neighborhood had changed quite a bit since we’d been away. The first day of running my new campaign, I received messages from half a dozen “companies” willing to spread the word of my campaign, for a fee of course. This was something I hadn’t seen at all during the Book of Da campaign, though its visibility had been much higher. In addition, I received just as many emails from creators of other campaigns asking me for a little “You back me, and I’ll back you” action.
Right now, I’m funding Floating Head. It’s an open format graphic science fiction quarterly magazine. I’ve been wanting to do something like this for a long time, and it’s a way for me serialize Anasazi as Matt and I complete it, as well as my own graphic novel SWAP, and the works of many of my friends and favorite artists. It’s also a way for me to experiment new ways of printing and assembling books.
Since I launched the campaign not only have I received a dozen solicitations to buy myself some visibility and a handful of folks wanting some kind of mutual backing situation, but now spammers are tracing the campaign back to my Facebook, and contacting me there. I’ve even had a couple people comment on my FB posts to let me know to check my messages so I can get in on that sweet marketing action!
The vultures have descended on Kickstarter. What once was excitement when I got a message on KS, has turned to the disappointment of knowing most times it’s just gonna be some scammy marketing solicitation. This isn’t entirely KS’s fault either. You can report the spammers, and I assume something is being done. But, they’re really messing up the vibe of the place. Kickstarter is at its best an empowering boost for little artists with big ideas. The marketing bottom feeders make the place seem like just another traditional marketing shit-show. And, if the marketers are doing their job as assumed, then backers are being spammed with ads on behalf of creators too fearful to let the thing work organically. Where’s the thrill in that?
Matt and I want to eventually bring Anasazi to Kickstarter as a graphic novel. Our Book of Da campaign really helped us have the courage to go even bigger and more experimental with our newer projects. And the fact that we’re working directly with our audience without some gatekeeper putting the brakes on our dreams is a big deal for us, and feels like it should be a big deal for artists everywhere. But, I can’t help thinking that with the sneaky presence of traditional marketing finding its way into the mix, Kickstarter will move away from being about those little artists with big ideas. If that happens, we’ll have lost something pretty special.