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Interview: Jimmy Palmiotti on How to Have a Successful Kickstarter Campaign

More people are turning to Kickstarter to get their comics made but it's not as easy as you might think.

Kickstarter has been showing us a variety of great potential projects from talented creators that might not have the chance to make their comics on their own. Many have the dream of seeing their creation come to live in the printed format. Kickstarter is a way to get your project funded and isn't just for comics. Kickstarter can also be used for films, games and technology related projects. But there are many things to consider before jumping in and declaring your project to the world.

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Jimmy Palmiotti has worked on several comic book series at the major publishers but trying to launch a creator-owned comic isn't an easy feat. With a few successful Kickstarter projects under his belt, we asked him a few questions on the do's and don't's in trying to launch a successful Kickstarter campaign.

Comic Vine: How many Kickstarter projects have you done and what's your track record now?

Jimmy Palmiotti: I have done 3 successfully and the latest one is up with a few weeks still to go on it. The first three were QUEEN CRAB, RETROVIRUS and SEX AND VIOLENCE, Volume 1. The new Kickstarter is WEAPON OF GOD. They are all self-contained graphic novels featuring some wonderful art and this new one is PRINT ON DEMAND. You cannot get the book outside the Kickstarter. We like to keep things interesting.

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CV: What exactly does someone need in order to successfully start a Kickstarter? How much of the comic should they have finished in order have something to show?

JP: Opinions will differ on that, but for me, I need to have most of the book done already to show the art to the people who pledge the project. As a rule, I like to deliver the final products and pledge rewards within 3 months of the Kickstarter listing. I think the people that deliver the best product and on time have a better track record overall and people come back. I have two I pledge for that I have not received a thing for and it’s been a year. I will never pledge to anything else they do because of that. People want things quicker. I think you have to have as much done as possible. The more they see, the more they believe it will happen and be glad to get behind it.

Amanda Conner cover, black and white, censored
Amanda Conner cover, black and white, censored

CV: Is there a way to stand out from the numerous projects that get started each day?

JP: I do it by delivering the most professional looking book I can and we try to bring people really interesting ideas and stories that they cannot easily find somewhere else. Most of the ones we have done have had adult content and this seems to get peoples interest. Interaction is also the key to keep connected to your audience. Listen to them, post updates and interact as much as you can. The people that do not do this usually have projects that fail.

CV: Do the incentives play a big role? Have you noticed more going for the bigger rewards or just paying to 'pre-order' the book?

JP: After having a good product presented in an easy to understand way, the incentives are key to your success. The listings are your “store” where you offer things they cannot ever get anywhere else and this alone makes some kickstarters unique. For the ones we do, we offer signed limited edition Kickstarter product an this is what people seem to want. We also offer scripts, limited edition prints, original art, Skype sessions and so on. These offerings are unique to the Kickstarter campaign and people wanting them will always go for whatever interests them the most. My higher prices ones always go first.

CV: What things should someone try to avoid in their Kickstarter?

JP: The first thing I see is that people tend to set unrealistic goal amounts. Think really hard about how much you need and to go from there. People can smell greed. The other problem I see is offering things that you cannot really deliver and offering pledge bonuses for ridiculous amounts of money. Try to have all different rewards in low and high price ranges to get a variety of people interested. If only high, you can alienate a decent amount of customers that want to support the project.

CV: Is Kickstarter the way to go for indie books these days? Do you see more creators going this route?

JP: It is one thing to do, but I only see the really aggressive taking it on. It is a ton of work and although it is great to have a successful Kickstarter, there is printing, production, art, lettering, design, shipping, correspondence, paying taxes on the project and so on that people forget the money they pledge goes towards these things and not directly into the persons pocket. As well, if it makes more money, remember, its more packages and books and time. I think a lot of people will try and fail at their kickstarters and even more will succeed, see how much work it is and never go back again. I get 3 e–mails a day with questions and I always try to give people realistic feedback.

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CV: What about distribution? Is that something that should be considered and factored into the cost of the project?

JP: You mean shipping? If so, it is a huge part of a Kickstarter since about 1/3 of the people I deal with are outside the United States. These costs are figured out based on size and weight and filling out a ton of custom forms. This cost, the envelopes, backing boards, packing and delivery are an expense all their own and have to be factored in. I just finished mailing over 800 packages and it took me an entire month total.

CV: Any tips or suggestions in how to get the completed books out to the public besides mail order?

JP: Digital packages are some that I offer as incentives. PDF’S of the finished books are available as well as actual scripts and other things that can be delivered digitally. This last one I did I brought a lot of peoples packages to the cons I was going to and that was a blast-handing them out to everyone and making their day.

Even after the Kickstarter, I offer the digital books at PAPERFILMS.COM, but they are always a few bucks more than the Kickstarter pledge, so that’s one reason to get them there. Shipping is so much money these days, the digital copies make total sense.

CV: What are the risks of using Kickstarter to try to fund a project? Are there any?

JP: It is all risk. All the money and time is on you. A project has to be started and pitched, the page nurtured and the commitments filled. It is time consuming and can be very stressful at first. I am still learning things and this is number 4. If a project fails to be funded and there is no publisher interested in it, you have spent time and money for nothing. Everything worth having has risk involved. Play it safe and fade away.

CV: If a project fails to meet the goal, can it be re-listed?

JP: Yes it can, and you can take an assessment of the reasons why it failed and apply it to the new campaign.

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CV: What's the best advice you have for upcoming creators trying to go the Kickstarter route?

JP: Plan ahead, do your research and math and be realistic with your goal, treat the incentives as if they are a store, and be exclusive with some of your content. Give the people something a bigger publisher cannot and make it personal. Make a connection with your audience, because without them, you are nothing.

You can check out Jimmy's current Kickstarter, WEAPON OF GOD, by clicking HERE.