Within minutes of launching the Kickstarter campaign for Milky #1, our first backer notification blinked onto the screen.
And not just any backer, but an unknown backer that messaged right away to ask for a signed copy.
“You are now basically Jay-Z,” whispered my brain, before realising it had never bothered to come up with a grown-up signature in 32 years.
Then before I knew it, more backers started rolling in. Generous pledges from family and friends, but also people I didn’t know who’d discovered the comic through Kickstarter.
Things were looking great! And then… nothing. After a spurry of early backers, the Milky #1 Kickstarter campaign finished its rounds with just 8% of its total goal.
Before I launched, I thought there was an outside chance I’d written The Matrix of milk-based comic books. Perhaps the very second I hit that launch button, Marvel would bring production to a grinding halt for a reshuffle that would make way for a milkman with self-esteem issues to join The Avengers…
I’d never launched a Kickstarter campaign before. I suppose I assumed the platform had some kind of magical powers that would fully fund my comic book in no time (magic is a search option on the site…) There are stories of creators raising thousands after just a few days, like The Order of the Stick which made over $1 million from one campaign.
But despite not hitting the goal, I did manage to attract something arguably more valuable than funding: useful feedback and constructive criticism (although Kickstarter success would have had the benefit of not sometimes feeling like a swift kick to the dick).
And armed with said feedback, Milky #1 is back on Kickstarter for another swing on November 1. We have a more realistic objective, better value rewards, specific printing and shipping plans, social media presence…
But before you sign up for the fresh campaign alert (we’ll be doing a 24-hour only 50% off digital deal), here’s a few takeaways from our first attempt which will hopefully serve as a cautionary tale for other first-time Kickstarter comic book creators…
Find out what people are willing to pay for your comic book
A lot of people said they liked the look of the book, but the 10€ price tag was a dealbreaker.
While it did include shipping to anywhere in the world, UK and Europe backers would have been paying too much for a 22-page print issue.
I had looked at what other Kickstarters were charging, but these were tried and true creators with a higher page count. And frankly, I’d heard horror stories of creators actually finding themselves out of pocket due to spiralling printing and shipping costs, so I overestimated out of last-minute nerves.
But after securing external funding to cover production costs, print copies of Milky issue #1 will be available for the more reasonable price of €5 (about £4.42/$5.70) + plus postage (based on specific quotes from the post office). Problem solved!
Set an ambitious but realistic funding goal
Further feedback said the Kickstarter goal was too high. This figure was calculated based on production costs and estimated printing and shipping fees. There were spreadsheets involved and everything.
In retrospect, it was a bit too ambitious for a first-time creator to attempt to recover 100% of production costs through Kickstarter instead of focusing on just getting the project off the ground and building a fanbase.
This time, our goal is to get the book into the hands of people that dig the story and based on data we’ve collected, the number of backers we received last time and general feedback, we’re pretty confident we can hit it.
Plan your Kickstarter marketing campaign ahead of time
To achieve such a high funding goal, I would have needed to dedicate every waking minute to spreading the word about the comic and chasing backers.
I enjoy marketing – particularly content marketing – but I also have a full-time job and other commitments that simply limit the amount of time I had to do it.
To build awareness and interest in your Kickstarter comic book, you’re going to want a decent social media presence throughout your campaign.
It might seem easy enough to fire off a post or two a day, but it takes way more time than you might think. Planning a social media and content plan before hitting that launch button is definitely the way to go (and ideally, schedule a few days ahead with tools like Hootsuite or Buffer).
Build a mailing list before you launch your campaign
With this being my first Kickstarter campaign (and in fact my first comic book), my following prior to launch was pretty much just my mum and girlfriend telling me I’m cool and awesome (thanks guys, I appreciate you). But if you want your comic book to get funded, you’re going to need to build that fanbase a bit more.
It seems email is still the most effective tool you can have when marketing a comic book, so building that list by offering discounted (or ideally free) stuff, content or whatever else you can think of to add value is the way to go.
You may need to invest a little in advertising and you’ll probably want a landing page (here’s what we came up with), but services like Mailchimp and Unbounce can help take care of the techie stuff if you’d rather not do it yourself from scratch.
Get ready for an emotional rollercoaster
I was prepared to fail. I half expected the target was a bit on the high side and that without an established following, I’d have my work cut out if I wanted to hit it.
But I wasn’t quite ready for the criticism I got right when I was feeling most vulnerable.
Don’t get me wrong, most of this feedback is super useful – especially when it’s coming from people who actively support Kickstarter comic books.
But when you’ve worked hard on a comic book project, your feelings are wide open. What in reality is just a Twitter comment might feel like a super Hadouken to the face.
Just remember, most people aren’t trying to hurt you, want to help you succeed by offering their perspective.
If it’s clear that’s not their intent, they may just be dicks and should be ignored as intensely as an email from a Nigerian Prince offering to fully fund your Kickstarter campaign if you just send your bank account and PIN number.
I hope this is useful for anyone looking to launch a Kickstarter comic book for the first time.
If you supported Milky before, we’d love to know what you think of the new-look campaign and if you’re going to stick with us.
And if you’re planning on launching your own Kickstarter comic book, make sure you do your research, learn from others’ mistakes and, most importantly, just get on with it and make some mistakes of your own.
By Joshua Saxon.
Join the adventure at milkycomic.com and stay tuned to Kickstarter for the November 1 relaunch.