Update: Take a look at the comments for further clarification from the creators on a variety of issues.
It takes a lot for a Kickstarter to really irritate me these days. Projects that ask for too much, that or poorly executed, or that have unrealistic goals have become pretty common; they’re worth talking about as examples of what not to do, but not worth getting worked up about. I almost got there with Star Citizen, in that they were trawling for extra cash, but it wasn’t immoral, merely disappointing.
I pledged to a project pretty late Tuesday night that crossed the line. When I first saw it before bed time, I thought it looked great – so I tossed it $20 without really thinking about it. Big mistake. The next morning while waiting at the airport on my way to Thanksgiving festivities, I stopped by to take another look. What I found made me furious.
Why not tell me if I’m over reacting?
What I found was a great looking product, that wanted (and will probably get) $48,000 to make the first of a three part Peter Pan graphic novel series. Ambitious – sure, but it reeks of quality so I’m okay with it.
You can get the PDF of this book for $20 and a physical copy for $35. Okay so they are indie producers, and they deserve a little slack on their excessive price points. Except they aren’t, and they don’t. A Kickstarter, to my mind, is to cover the costs of the project – and in this case the creators are the artists so they are proposing to pay this money to themselves at a rate in the neighborhood of $350 a page, saying:
We are in need of these funds to complete production of Volume 1. It may seem like a large number to raise, but in truth, we are paying ourselves our fair comic production rates, and for the rest, well, Kickstarter Campaigns are expensive to fulfill! 🙂 There’s a large cost for printing, shipping of rewards, fees, taxes, and other costs that happen with Kickstarter Campaigns that many might not think of.
That doesn’t sound like someone who needs the money to make a project a reality, it sounds like someone who wants to get paid. This husband and wife team could draw the whole book for free if they wanted to. Sure they deserve compensation for their obviois talent, but the lack of funding wouldn’t stop them from making the project a reality.
I’m a bit jaded, but If that was the worst part though, I could let them slide – I really could. It’s tacky and maybe tone-deaf, but hardly immoral. But then the project goes on to offer this little nugget:
IDW Publishing has already approved us for publishing, but we are still in need of funding to complete Volume 1. This is mostly because the preliminary groundwork for the Volume 1 (research, development, planning) require more time and money than the rest of the series. The funding also allows us (Ray and I, a married creative team with 2 children who work from home) to be able to take the time and care a story like Peter Pan deserves.
First note: this project is being published – why do they need Kickstarter?
Second note: They are a creative team that works from home (and has been previously published) What does this make them if not professionals?
I’m no industry veteran, but I thought that the way a project like this goes, is that if you are writing something for a publisher, and they give you a cut of what they sell. I was unaware that you could add the additional step of “get strangers on the Internet to give you money to make it” in front of “get large company to sell it for you.”
The creator goes on to offer the fig leaf, that “Even though IDW will be publishing later on, it is my goal to make the Kickstarter copies available sooner than regular distribution, also I intend to make Kickstarter a little special from other versions.”
I suspect the answer from the publisher will be that they can’t fulfill the project before it launches, that IDW will sell it for $20 in paperback and $6 on Comixology, and that they only specialization likely to occur is that they will remove the Kickstarter credits to bring it in line with their publishing standards.
So am I way off base on this? Am I making a mountain out of a molehill? Because to me this feels like a slick project is going to soak the Kickstarter user base when they don’t even really need the funding.
I’m with you, David. As I read their project brief, I got this cold feeling in my gut. It feels somehow duplicitous–or at least contrary to the spirit of the system. And it also runs right up against Kickstarter’s prohibited uses: “No fund my life projects.” Kickstarter isn’t a mechanism for them to draw a salary while they do the work that they’re already obliged to do by agreement with IDW. Kickstarter is there to help them fund the project–which they patently don’t need.
But lets be honest, they’ll probably get their money. Kickstarter will get their piece. And fuck the rules.
I agree totally. I would love to hear an explanation about how this project is not a “Fund my Life” affair. I am also sure that it will fund; it is a beautiful project that deserves to get published, Just not like this.
Well, I think after the responses from the creators here, it can be reasonably said that they’re not asking to be funded at the beginning and then paid at the end by IDW. It sounds like the same basic comic pitch we’ve seen in other projects, albeit with a layer of confusion that hopefully has been removed.
You are always the voice of moderation Brian, and it is appreciated.
I appreciate the creators’ participation in the dialog, and an ernest desire to clear the air, but I don’t feel my original concerns have been addressed.
The original stance of this project, was that “IDW Publishing has already approved us for publishing.” This morphed into “The details with IDW aren’t fully worked out,” to all mention of IDW being stricken from the current project page. Likewise, the wording about fulfillment went from “we’ll try to get the Kickstarter books fulfilled first” to “fulfillment will be in September.”
I’m still pretty conflicted on this issue, and will have to think on it further. What do you think about the morphing project description? Clarification or obfuscation?
“What do you think about the morphing project description? Clarification or obfuscation?” I think that, given the discussion here between you and Ray, it would be far more surprising if it hadn’t been changed. It says to me that he’s listening to you.
We took IDW off because clearly it was confusing people. But the fact is, Ryall at IDW said (this is paraphrasing) “We’ll publish it and you can say IDW is on board if that helps your Kickstarter.” It seems to have confused people. You’re the second person to say “If IDW is publishing, why do they need money.” But IDW isn’t paying for the book to be created or for printing and shipping of the Kickstarter copies, so maybe it’s better just to leave them off the Kickstarter to keep things simple? That was our thinking, anyway. And when I said “The details with IDW haven’t been worked out.” It’s because they haven’t. They’d be happy to publish it, but we haven’t sat down and worked out a specific agreement or anything because they aren’t publishing it right now. We are.
As for the fulfillment time, that has always been September 2013 on the Kickstarter.
Any other issues that need addressed?
No – not really. I mean, have some questions about price points and such, but that’s more of a ‘how you run a Kickstarter’ and less of a ‘should you run a Kickstarter’ which is beyond the scope of this article.
I’m not going to take this post down,as I think that its lessons and discussions apply in a broader way, but I will add a note suggesting that people take a look at the comments for further clarification from the creators.
I think before we can decide that they’re trying to put one over on the Kickstarter community, we need to know what IDW’s publishing process is. If they’re like Image’s, then this might not be the worst thing ever.
I’m working from memory, which is questionable at best, but I seem to recall that Image makes the creators pay all the up-front costs, and then publishes the book for them. If IDW does the same, then publishing royalties becomes a sort of “stretch goal” for creators.
As for them paying themselves a reasonable page rate, well, have you ever backed a project where they said they were going to pay someone for their work? I have, many times. The fact that they’re paying themselves for the writing and art rather than a third party shouldn’t make that much of a difference.
I decided to ask them directly:
“I had a question or two about the funds you’re requesting for publishing the books. If IDW is publishing your book, do they not pay you a page rate for art? And do they not pay for any production costs? If they pay for neither of these, then what is IDW bringing to the table for you? This looks like a fascinating project, and I’m definitely considering backing. I just want to make sure my money isn’t going to cover something that’s already covered.”
I’ll let you know if they respond.
Fair points Brian, but consider the counter argument. The creators have already obligated themselves to create this for IDW, in a deal that they must have considered worthwhile (or else why agree to it).
In the event the Kickstarter fails to fund, it seems unlikely they will go back to IDW and say “never mind – it isn’t worth it after all.” You mention that publishing under Image is not terribly worthwhile – but people do it all the time, and presumably make money in the process.
You also fail to address my points about delivery timelines and costs. I encourage you to take a look at IDW’s catalog (particularly their previous project, The Last Unicorn,) and compare prices. The creator has already changed their verbiage from the mushy statement about trying to get backers the book first, to a specific date (likely the IDW launch date.)
How is paying $35 for a $25 comic to get it the same day as a big name publisher hardly seems like what Kickstarter exists for. There are a couple assumptions in that last statement, but I feel there are reasonable ones.
This is Ray Dillon, Renae’s husband and inker/colorist/letterer/designer/etc. 🙂
We appreciate your pledge and concerns, but I really would have appreciated you asking us rather than taking it to the public in a negative way without knowing the whole story. We really are just regular people trying to do something we love and we’re happy to talk with you about it.
I’ll try to address your thoughts here. Let me know if I miss anything. You can even email me at RayDillonGGS@gmail.com if you’d like to chat more.
IDW: First, IDW is not publishing the Kickstarter books. We are! The funds from the Kickstarter are for giving us the time to create the book to give directly to Kickstarter backers. Art pays our bills. If we didn’t get paid to create this, we just couldn’t do it. We’d have to take other work-for-hire jobs. We’ve been working work-for-hire for years and years. This is our chance to work on our own full-production project without being just a hired artists. We’ll control the pace, creative direction, length, and everything and be connected to the project forever, rather than getting our paycheck and that’s that.
When we work for IDW it’s their book. Through Kickstarter it’s OUR book. And the Kickstarter edition is exclusive to Kickstarter only.
The details with IDW aren’t fully worked out, but from past experience they like to do monthly floppies and then when the whole series is done collect it. But they won’t be doing this until AFTER the Kickstarter is full-filled and you have your rewards in hand. Could be well over a year before monthlies started coming out. You’re welcome to wait, but if you’d like to get it sooner and in a special format then that’s available to you. It’s also more than getting a book, it’s helping my wife and I create something we love!
FUND MY LIFE: No, we’re not being paid to live our life, do our laundry, wash our dishes, etc. We’re paying the creative team to create the book. We just happen to BE the creative team. If we weren’t creative and went on Kickstarter with a project idea and said, “the funds are to pay our writer, artist, inker, colorist, letterer, production designer, web designer, motion comics developer, promotional agent, social networking team, packager, shipper, accountant, public speaker, communications person, etc. etc.) you’d totally understand that those things need to be paid for, but when it’s us doing all the work the viewpoint gets skewed. We’re going to be working on this for 10-20 hours a day for months and months. For us to be able to own this book requires us to control the funding. Again if IDW pays us to create the book, it’s IDW’s book. And typically they send our page rate paycheck and that’s the end of it. We don’t get sales. We don’t own rights or have future control over other publishing ventures for the book (digital sales, etc). It’s just work-for-hire.
Have we been published before? Absolutely! But what does that mean? It means we got a paycheck for making art and the company took it and printed it and made continual money on it. We don’t own or control any books of our own creation. That’s what this would be. And we want it to be the start of many creator-owned projects as well.
Things is kinda long-winded now, but I hope you’ll consider what I’m saying here and if you have any other questions or concerns, please ask! 🙂
Oh, a point I left out of about us publishing. The Kickstarter funds pay for US to publish, not IDW. We pay for the book to be created, as well as printed, and shipped around the world. IDW would come later.
We also want to be able to control the portion of profits that go to the Great Ormond Street Hospital (the children’s hospital that JM Barrie originally left the rights to Peter Pan to so that they could benefit from it). If we essentially own this book, own the rights and control the destiny of it, we can do that ourselves.
Wasn’t the bit about IDW included to enhance the credibility and perceived prestige of the project, though? A good way to ablate many of my criticisms would have been to frame the project as a way to become more independent, allowing you to own your own projects rather than selling them by the page.
Saying this in addition to, the bit about IDW would have made the whole issue more grey for me at least.
Yes, it’s both a way to have more creator control/be more independent/own a project while working with a well-known and respected publisher. Image Comics is a good example of that. Same thing. We’re just doing it through IDW because we have more of a relationship with them. If we come to them with a finished book, we control it while they help us get it out to a larger audience in a much easier way (kind of explained that in the other reply I just sent, too.) Better listing, book store deals, deal with digital publishers, etc. They have all that ready to go, but if they pay us to create the book it’s their book. If we pay ourselves to create the book it’s ours and we also get the benefits of working with a major publisher.
I can see how having IDW on board could have been confusing. If I would have said Image Comics was going to publish I don’t think it would have been so confusing because that’s what they’re known for, y’know? Creator-owned stuff.
Okay, sorry, too many comments now. 🙂
The other point I should clarify is that the Kickstarter does pay for the labor to create the book, months and months of work, and later on if IDW does publish future copies (not related to the copies we’re publishing for Kickstarter) they will NOT be paying us our page rates, they’ll just be taking the files and printing and shipping them, but we would own the project and be able to control how it’s handled. That’s you’re helping us with.
Thank you for responding Ray, I think you have a great product, and you seem like reliable people. If you take any of this as a personal attack on you or your wife, you have my sincerest apologies.
I just have two questions:
1) If the Kickstarter fails to fund, are you still going to make the book?
2) If this Kickstarter funds your project, and then IDW distributes the book you own, they’ll be paying you a cut of the sales, right? If this was your only funding source would the project still be worthwhile?
Hey, quick reply! Thank you! And thanks for the apology, though not really needed as we didn’t feel attacked as much as misunderstood and misrepresented by this blogpost and to your followers.
1) If Kickstarter fails we might be able to get IDW to pick up the idea of the book and pay us our work-for-hire rates, one-time only paycheck for each issue. They would also control all aspects of the creation of the book. They’re great for that, but having worked with them before we’ve had experiences where we felt a seen needed an extra page or two but they have their set way of doing things and couldn’t allow it. Or they change a logo or whatever. And after we get our check, that’s the end of our involvement in that project. It’s theirs, not ours. And after that project it’s back to the drawing board. Where is our money coming from? What random thing are we going to work on?
2) Yes, after the Kickstarter is fulfilled and we make a deal with IDW to print and distribute the book we would get a portion of the sales as it would be OUR project. Which will be a wonderful thing for us and our family as we’ve been working paycheck-to-paycheck forever and need something where we’re paid for the creation on the long-term to ease things up for us day-to-day. We’ve struggled a LOT over the years.
— If this was our only source of funding, the project just wouldn’t work. Imagine it this way: You work at McDonald’s full-time for 1 year getting no paychecks. After that year, you start getting tiny residual paychecks that fluctuate. In the long-term it might add up to a good amount, but… how did you pay your bills for that year of work?? For us to be able to create the book we need page rates to pay our bills, for us to control the direction and future of the book we need to pay for publishing and pay those page rates ourselves.
Make sense? If we had the money and/or time to pull this off and control it without Kickstarter, we totally wouldn’t be putting ourselves through this! 😀
Feel free to ask any more questions. And if it makes better sense now we’d REALLY appreciate some positive promotion. This really is very important to us and our family and how next year is for us. And I promise we’re not sailing a Kickstarter yacht. We’re just trying to get our book made! 🙂
Oh, and we could totally have said we’re going to publish this ourselves under … I dunno Renae & Ray Publishing or Peter Pan Comics, Inc. or some thing, but in the long-term with IDW we’ll have a better smoother course to publish and distribute. Rather than being in the back of Previews catalogue and trying to get noticed, we’d be on a big page in the front of the catalogue. Rather than cold-calling book stores around the country to try to get them to carry it, we’d have that ready to go from the beginning.
But, again, the Kickstarter is for the Kickstarter and our deal with IDW would be for the long-term.
Seems to me they don’t really need the money.
Why do you think that? I’d be happy to discuss it with you.
We have a general bad approach in our views of Kickstarter. People on looking for funding are asking you to provide venture capital and they can do whatever they want once they get the money, they can even flee to somewhere in the world and never give any follow ups.
In exchange of you venture capital, they give you some goodies which is you equity,
Kickstarter is just a place for creators of products (some good, some bad and most discutable) and get away with a low return for equity. With real venture funding compagnies, they would have the reimburse all the provided capital + somewhere from 5% to 50% of the initial cash provided to finally get their whole company/project back
Well, the difference here is that they aren’t just giving money and expecting to get their money back with a little interest, they’re pre-ordering a book.
There is, of course, an element of investing in something you believe in, but the point is to invest in those creators, then also get the return of a project turned real.
And with the Kickstarter campaign backers getting an exclusive version of the book it will also grow in value as a collectors item. I mean in the end of this campaign we’re talking maybe a few hundred copies or 1,000. That’s a very limited number. Yes, more will be printed later, but not the same edition. Kickstarter will have the first edition of the first straight-forward comics adaptation of this classic novel.
And they are also a part of the book, being listed as backers in the book forever. That’s not something the average consumer can say about things they buy. There are fun benefits like that, but essentially it is pre-ordering a book, not really venture capital.
I doubt it’s any surprise that I don’t exactly approve of this, and the comments here haven’t helped. This is a passion project that they want to be paid for as if they were doing work for someone else. You work to pay the bills, and if instead of working for someone, you want other people to fund YOUR project, then yes, you are asking them to fund your life, because that’s why people work. I know it’s the cynical way to look at it, but that doesn’t mean you should act like it’s not true.
The point of publishers is that someone else is taking a risk funding your work. Now these people want to do their own work, but not take any of the risk, putting it all on the backers. And they’re not just covering the cost of production, which makes sense for Kickstarter, but they’re asking to be paid the same wage they’d make with a publisher, treating the backers like a publisher that you have no real responsibility to. For example, if IDW funds it, it’s IDW’s book. If the backers fund it, do they own any rights? Nope! They want to take all the cash they’d get from IDW without giving anything back except some novelty items, and taking no financial risks of their own. That’s fine if you’re just covering production, not if you’re asking for a paycheck on top of that.
But that’s just cynical old me passing the time on a long car ride ranting. I’m sure their work is worth the donation, I just think that they should be putting the project first, and their own financial security second. That’s easier to say when you don’t have kids, but it’s also just what you do when you have a passion project. Asking people to help realize your dreams is great, asking them to pay you to do it is greedy.
How did I get through this whole comment without swearing?
I appreciate your thoughts.
Kickstarter is basically just pre-orders.
If you’ve ever filled out a Previews Catalogue comics form, those comics are not completed yet. You’re ordering them 2-4 months in advance (sometimes more) and the way it’s set up is that if pre-orders don’t fund the book (like for Image Comics) that book doesn’t get green-lit. Or if you have a subscription, same thing. Or if you’ve ever pre-ordered a video game or movie. The Kickstarter backers are pre-ordering the book. And the fact that we’ve done professional books for publishers and have a proven track record makes it a safer bet for Kickstarter backers who have a choice between us and someone who has never produced a real book and doesn’t know what all that requires.
As for “paying ourselves” again we’re paying to have the book produced.
If we were paying someone else to do it would you care?
And we’re paying ourselves LESS than our industry rates, but just enough to pay for our time, 10-20 hours a day for 9 months. Would you be able to work on something for 10-20 hours a day for 9 months without it paying your bills? Or would it take you 10 years to find the time to complete it? This isn’t a leisure project, this is a full-time project. We haven’t had leisure time … ever. We have to keep working to pay the bills. This is our chance to work on something that we control and can be attached to for the long-term rather than just a one-time work-for-hire project.
I’ll say again, we are not profiting off of the Kickstarter campaign. We are paying for production.
You raise an interesting point. I recently completed my own Kickstarter project. I hired two artists to do the art for the comic book because I have no talent in that arena; the pay for said artists was a part of the project budget for sure, but I worked for free – I imagine that if I had told my backers that I needed to raise 2k to pay myself for the time I was worth, some would have reacted in a similar way to this.
Asking for money to live/being paid for the pages you draw makes a kind of sense, if you intend to do it instead of accepting paying work. But why do you deserve to be paid for the time writing and adapting. Surely this is something that could or should be done on your own time and dime while you pursue commercial work.
So my question: if you were just paying yourself for the theoretical page rate (never mind my original concerns with that for now) wouldn’t that lower your budget as the production period shrank from 9 months to something more conventional?
I don’t want to pick on you on this point – but it still seems like you are trying to have this both ways, post Kickstarter profits from IDW aside.
First, I absolutely feel you should have paid yourself for your hard work, just as you did the other creators. People undervalue their own work as a creative person.
And I feel that anyone, including us or you, should be paid for that time. Writing is a job too.
Now, with that said, we’re not really being paid for that. The rate is below our normal page rate just for art. When I say the money is paying for writing, penciling, inking, coloring, lettering, design, web design, social networking, communications, printing, packaging, shipping, blah, blah, blah. All of those things are real things that have to be done to create this project. They’re all jobs that have to be done and that you would hire someone for on a project. We’re essentially doing WAY more work here, but asking for just enough to cover our bills during the time we’re producing the book. Just like a full-time job would.
HOWEVER, we don’t really consider those paid jobs here because the rate is low for even just the art creation. I just want you and everyone to consider that we’re doing all of those real things, but being paid less than we normally would for art alone.
If Peter Pan is funded, it will be our full-time (and overtime) job for the next 9 months and we’ll probably be doing a lot after the book is done and shipped that we won’t be paid for.
Having talked a lot with the Kickstarter creators, when they say “Funding your life” they mean “Funding your life.” We’re funding a project. They are fine with people being paid for the time and work to create the project. If we weren’t creating anything and asking people to pay our water bill that would be against the rules and the Kickstarter wouldn’t be approved.
Instead Peter Pan is not only a Staff Pick, but one of the directors of Kickstarter backed it herself! I think they’re okay with us. 😉
We (myself and my partner Chris) are nobodies that want to be somebodies, and we accept that. Doing all the leg work to get our Kickstarter funded, even though we are not being paid a dime up front (when all is said and done, I think we’ll be in the negative $500-$1000 once we fulfill) was and will be a totally worthwhile experience.
I have a day job, and it pays the bills, as does Chris. At the end of the day, we haven’t made a cent, but we did get one very important thing: a completed work. The value of this is hard to overstate. Not only is deeply fulfilling to me on an emotional level, but it also represents the first step in a journey that could lead anywhere, and it is in itself valuable.
Once printed there are many ways to make money off the book: we can take it to a con of six, we can get it listed in previews, we can sell it on Amazon, or any of a thousand other things. I expect that the project will prove financially worthwhile eventually – that is why we worked so hard to do it.
You obviously feel that owning your book is a worthwhile thing too (and certainly have many more connections than I when it comes to selling the thing,) but you fail to see or acknowledge that the very value you are trying to hold on to is worth something – hence the thesis of my post: you want to be paid to make the thing and then you want to be paid to sell it after the fact.
You are a professional, so I am more likely to believe that you deserve to be paid for your time, than I in this regard. I am a professional too, but not a professional writer; if you expected me to come over and troubleshoot a complex-electro-mechanical-whatever, then I would certainly expect to be paid for my time, because that is what I do.
You are going through this whole process, because you want more than a page rate for the rest of your life, an admirable desire. I’m sure you have stopped to figure out what the value of creating a project all your own is worth.
I respect your effort very much. When I started, I was paying into an anthology just to get 5 pages published. I’m with ya. Good job getting a book completed!
We have to pay the creators in order to have the book produced or it can’t be produced.
After the Kickstarter is fullfilled we will be selling it in all the venues you mentioned as any creator would.
We’ll be donating a portion of sales to Great Ormond Street Hospital.
I once worked 20 hour days. I lasted about two weeks. And the impact it had on my health was DEVASTATING. Like, permanent disabling shit.
9 months of it? Really?
@Clint: I’ve been working 20+ hour days for over a decade. No weekends. No evenings off to sit in front of the tube. A week off for Christmas. Partial days off for birthdays, Thanksgiving, etc.
And, yes, we will be putting in 10-20 hour days on this. Art doesn’t just happen.
My dad did 15-20 hour days for 50 years, but that was manual labor.
All nighters and many nighters are also common for artists to meet deadlines.
I always appreciate your input, David, and in this case I admire your self-restraint and civility. You did a great job of emphasizing some of the problems I have with the creators of some projects.
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