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Guest Post-Travis Hanson-Understanding Kickstarter

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Travis Hanson is a professional fantasy artist and creator of  the Eisner Award nominated Webcomic, “the Bean”.

He stops in today to tell us about Kickstarter.  How he has used it successfully in his career and how much of an integral part he sees it playing in the future of publishing. Travis has had three Kickstarter projects and one that is currently in progress.   Check at bottom of post for more info on his current campaign.) All of them were not only funded successfully but went over the allotted amounts by at least 50% (one even went as far as 229% over it’s goal!) He obviously knows what he’s talking about!

So take notes and enjoy! Then be sure to visit his current Kickstarter campaign to help support him in his efforts.

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Understanding Kickstarter and why small press thrives off it (especially webcomics)

I want to talk about Kickstarter. Why I am for it and how people can make it work for them… I realize that a lot of you might not know me or my comic. You probably wondering where I get off talking about Kickstarter and why I think it is fantastic for the industry or how to make it work?

My name is Travis Hanson. I am a fantasy illustrator. I write and illustrate a webcomic called Bean, which was nominated for an Eisner in 2011, it is a black and white epic fantasy tale of a dishwasher. I also do fantasy illustrations that focus on the power of imagination. I have been for 15 years. Now, what does that have to do with Kickstarter? Well, in the last two years I have put together three successful Kickstarter campaigns for the bean and now I am working on 4th campaign, which reached it’s target goal in 4 days of 11k.

So how does small press, unknown, indy creator able to make Kickstarter work? Why do thrive off of it?

Well that is because I understand what Kickstarter really is. It is a funding platform for projects of creators who want control over their works. Anyone can use it and it doesn’t matter who it is, as long as you follow their guidelines. They encourage you to do as many projects as you want… yet you can only do one at a time…. which is cool. So with the understanding of what it really is, it’s hard for me to get upset at the movies, big games or big that want to fund their works. Kickstarter actually allows them to connect with their fans, produce work they want full control  and to me this important and crucial to making this platform work. It is important to note, its not a publishing house, distribution center or marketing firm. That is the sole responsibility of the creator.
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A fan, or pledge, chooses for themselves if they will back a project or not. There is no force and if you don’t like a certain project, for whatever reason, than you don’t have to back it. That means if people want to support indy guys, like me, and small press, or maybe their favorite artist they can find us and back us. Honestly I can’t blame the million dollar campaigns because they have an established fan base… all I can do is find a way to make it work best for me.

What Kickstarter has done as a funding platform is made it possible for creative people to get their works out there and get their dreams a start. Not all projects will fund and most of it deal with rushing the project out there without preparing on how you the creator will market it to your fan base. Some projects catch fire and shoot the moon and some, like mine and many others make our goals and allows us to follow our dreams. There are people uncomfortable with this work model. Established artist and designers that are afraid that the market will be flooded with subpar work, maybe the true fear is they are afraid their own fan base will diminish. I doubt it. In fact I have found that some incredible work is being produced and that I am finding a lot of hidden talent that needs to be noticed through the world of Kickstarter

So in reality I am writing this for the indy creator, the one that has a dream and wants to see that dream become a reality. I hope that you take to heart what I say. It could probably save you some time and money and a little heartache. I hope you realize that all Kickstarter is is a way to crowd fund your books and that you have to do the rest, which can be a lot of hard work, but in the end so worth it…  Now if your planning one, here are some guidelines that have worked for me.

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1. READ and LEARN all about Kickstarter. A lot of people talk about this crowd funding platform and have no idea how it works. Kickstarter has a very easy question and answer system.  They lay it all out there and remind you it’s an all or nothing platform. You either make the goal or not.

2. Plan it out. Don’t just jump into it thinking your idea is so fantastic, that people are going to leap at the chance to fund you. This is why people fail. They jump in without preparing. They have no fan base, or trust that social media will do the job. It helps, but you can’t rely on it. FB alone will only allow about 7% of your following to see your posts. When I did my first Kickstarter the book was all drawn, and it had been online as a webcomic for almost two years before I even started. I planed it out and made sure that I could deliver what I promised.

Creating the fan base was crucial. The webcomic allowed for that, as well as going to cons, and constantly posting art. People new it was coming and were look out. At the end in my questionnaire I asked if they would be willing to support another one and 98% said yes. So in 8 months when we did 2nd one, I prepared it like the first one. If you want to have a successful Kickstarter make sure you are prepared.

Webcomic creators get this. We know the audience builds over time and if you look a lot of very successful Kickstarters were webcomics.

Understand your audience… some audiences have a very narrow appeal, while others have mass appeal. Zombie eating cheerleaders work well for some but probably don’t work for people wanting a book for their 4 year old. Figure your audience out and market to them.

3. Make it look presentable. Take time in the design. Be upfront and make the updates worth it. Look at other successful Kickstarters and see what they did to make the goal. Look at their layout on their pages. They took the time to make it visually appealing. I back projects that take the effort to make it look nice, interesting and clean.  Make it clear on your dates and make sure you are upfront about everything that involves this project. Your fans and pledges are supporting this and want to feel that they are apart of it as well. Be open about struggles and timetable. For an indy the more info you give, the more people are likely to support you.

4. Make a realistic goal. If you can get your book printed for 5k and shipped for another 1.5 k than ask for 8k (covers the Fees you pay as well) and not for 30k. This is to fund your project not a lifestyle. If you make your goal that is awesome, if you blow it out of the water that is fantastic. Only look at stretch goals once you achieved your initial goal. Seriously, don’t get greedy when you plan it out. If it goes viral that is an added bonus… but look at funding your project first.

5. Honesty- It’s all about honesty…. Your pledges come first. Not second after you get it into book stores. Your backers are the most important thing about your project. One of the reasons I have had four good projects fund, is because I am upfront and my backers know they will always be first. I understand they are taking a risk and so I make sure I honor that risk.

6. Prepare yourself for an emotional roller coaster and if it doesn’t fund how to get back up and try again. It’s one wild ride and not all projects fund, so be ready for it.  If it doesn’t fund revaluate, how do I tweak the idea, refocus the presentation or fix the reward system. Just because it fails, dose not mean it is a bad idea. It means it just needs to be reworked.

7. Remember – Kickstarter is a platform for crowd funding. It’s not a publisher, not a warehouse, not a production house, not a marketing firm,  it is just a platform. You are all of those. You are using Kickstarter to see if there is enough support to help get an idea off the ground.

8. You are the marketer. Blog it, Share it, Tweet it… you are the one responsible to letting people know that it is out there. You will be up against a lot of of projects trying to do the same thing. Enjoy their success and support them. Supporting others is good karma and don’t beg for successful projects to promote yours while theirs is still going. They are focuses on trying to make theirs work. Ask them after theirs is done to promote yours. You are the one at the end of the day that will push you project. If you find champions, they will help. Also if your project is appealing enough, it begins to push itself.
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Kickstarter is a great program. It really does give small press, indys, creators, pros, a chance to do their own ideas and follow their own dreams and stories. It opens doors and makes creates artistic freedom and ownership to those designers that feel that it has been taken away from them or that might not have had the opportunity to succeed.

It’s not for everyone. It scares some people and companies so they try to discredit it. Yet it also empowers and like I said before I have found some of the most incredible stories, incredible projects, and incredible dreams being accomplished through this platform. Not by seasoned pros but small press and indy/webcomic creators. Some great projects are out there. I would encourage you to search through them. Find ones you like, find new talent out there waiting to be discovered and most importantly support them.

Sure big name artists and companies will be there, but  if you look a little you will find what really makes Kickstarter special and will be pleasantly surprised.

Keep creating.
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To see more of Travis’ work you can visit his website here.

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To see my Kickstarter go to TRAVIS ADVENTURE KICKSTARTER PROJECT!

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3 Comments

  1. Karin Mesa

    Thanks for all this info. It’s exciting and I’ll put more attention on it as I finish the drawings for my 2nd book! This doesn’t sound easy but it’s really interesting to me!

    Reply
  2. Neil Jorge

    Thanks for this… it was really informative and helpful and I will be taking your advice in all steps of the process… thanks and I hope you look me up :).
    Neil Jorge

    Reply

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