Taking on a different part of the internet’s Kickstarter kerfuffle, we’ll start with this. The end result of Kickstarter is that cool cartoonists whose work we personally admire (and possibly some other people too) are getting money to do projects that they really want to do. How neat is that? We approve of people getting money to make great comics 100%. Money + comics is like mocha + nutella, two great tastes that taste great together but are rarely seen in proximity for unknown reasons.
For graphic novelists, the thing that I feel that Kickstarter is particularly useful for is continual fan maintenance. Because, guys, graphic novels take forever to draw, and then they take forever to get through production and be printed in China and published, and by the time you’re done with that, two years have gone by where you haven’t done anything else and everyone who liked your work before forgot who you were. Possibly.
But! With Kickstarter, you can do a high-end art book, or even publish the first chapter of your graphic novel as a mini-comic, and publish it right between the time you started a graphic novel and the time you’re planning to finish and all your fans who are also fans of the internet will be like, ‘THAT girl, I remember her, let me buy her amazing wares, also I am excited about this upcoming book she talks about and shall remember to buy that in the future as well.’ Awesomeness victory!
The thing I see on Kickstarter that I am confused by is the only-published-through-Kickstarter graphic novel.
Sometimes there pops up a project on Kickstarter where an author’s like, ‘okay, I’m publishing an original graphic novel, it’s 200 pages long and it will take me two more years to complete after this point and you should all support it!’ And sometimes I’m like, ‘huh, that looks like something that we wouldn’t publish at all because the zombies are exploding whilst having sex,’ and sometimes I’m like, ‘huh, we didn’t get this charming and interesting project in our submissions inbox.’
And for that second category of projects, I wonder, why not? I mean, I know that publishers are terribly frightening and occasionally mean, but sometimes it’s just like, ‘Kickstarter creator, didn’t you at least want to check to see if someone would flat out GIVE you $20,000.00 to publish that book and then you wouldn’t have to worry about printing or mailing your graphic novel to 1,500 people?’
The format of Kickstarter seems to heavily weight the promotion and availability of the book to the front end, rather than the back end — something I find problematic for these books that people say, ‘we’ll have this done in two years — or a year — or even eight months.’ Because what happens when your book is available — and then a school in Kansas wants to use it in their class and needs 40 copies . . . and then the New York Public Library system wants to carry it and needs 80 copies . . . and then BoingBoing reviews it and a few hundred people want to order the book? (We are not even hypothesizing the scenario where in the two years you spend finishing your Kickstarter graphic novel you become a semi-regular NPR commentator and some alt weeklies pick up a weekly comic strip by you and then everyone wants your book.) Unless you have a distribution system set up (and this is a complicated thing), most of these people are just not going to be able to get copies of your book.
That may be 100% fine with you — and publishing for your established fanbase is a perfectly reasonable business model. But from the perspective of a publisher whose purpose is to bring great graphic novels to the general public — so graphic novelists can make new fans, and find new readers — well, it’s a shame that a lot of the Kickstarter books won’t be able to do that.