A Pair of Kickstarter Case Studies

By | Friday, November 29, 2013 Leave a Comment
Despite people seeming to really get into Kickstarter enough to have multiple successes and pass along their learnings to others, it's still a venue that is new enough that we're still trying to figure it out. I've had two projects fly into my radar recently and it's interesting to me to compare the two. Both are by creators who've had successful Kickstarters in the past and, having contributed to both of them, I can attest to them both following through on delivery in a timely manner. We're talking about professionals here, who know what they're getting into.

First we have Frank Beddor, who's launched a project to complete his fifth and final Hatter M graphic novel, a spin-off from his successful Looking Glass Wars prose trilogy. Beddor's books have been primarily self-funded, I believe, and his previous Kickstarter for the fourth Hatter M graphic novel was his first attempt at crowd-funding things. Many of his rewards are enticing, including not only original art and a promise of getting written into future stories but also unusual items like a custom milliner's hat like the one used in the story and a Princess Alyss maquette prototype. Beddor also established the series several years before Kickstarter and is coming to the table with a decent fan-base, both of his material as well as the original Alice in Wonderland stories it's derived from.

Probably the biggest challenge he faces is that his reward tiers tend to heavily favor higher backers. This project includes four new books in total (one graphic novel, one prose novel, an art book and a "Millinery Academy Handbook") but the only way to get both the graphic novel and, say, the Handbook is to pledge $110 so you also get the art book and the prose novel. And while you can get a paperback version of the graphic novel at $21, the prose book is only available in hardcover starting at the $35 level. I don't know Beddor's costs on any of this, obviously, but it seems that he's setting the project up geared towards existing, fairly devoted fans. It doesn't strike me as conducive to folks with anything resembling a casual interest, or first-time backers.

Our second example is Ryan Estrada, whose project is based around a story he's been trying to get together for several years now. It's a series of stories he's written in which the villain of one story becomes the hero of the next. It sounds like an interesting take on the "everybody is the hero of their own story" idea, but spelled out through 18 different people. And while Estrada has written the whole thing himself, he's enlisted a cadre of talented artists to illustrate the different stories. Folks like Amy T. Falcone, Brittney Sabo and Carolyn Nowak to name a few. Estrada's also made something of a name for himself, although more for his own personal style and mission than with a single character or intellectual property, so he's got a fan-base to work from as well.

My guess is Estrada's biggest challenge lies in the opposite end of the spectrum. You can give him one dollar, and receive all 18 stories in a digital DRM-free format. So while Estrada's project has over twice as many backers as Beddor's, he's raised about $7000 less (as of this writing). His lower threshold for entry is apparently making it more difficult to raise enough to reach his $25000 goal, even as he attracts more attention and interest. The other aspect working against Estrada, it seems to me, is the focus on digital rewards; he's providing a lot of stories at lower tier levels but they're primarily available electronically with little in the way of tangible print items. In particular absence is the main Broken Telephone story itself; it's not available in print format at any level. So while people might be willing to drop a dollar or twenty for a digital set of comics, the project really has little to appeal to folks who have no interest in digital delivery comics.

That Beddor and Estrada are coming at their respective projects from two different angles, and are facing pretty much diametrically opposed challenges, strikes me as a fascinating study in how Kickstarters work. Beddor is looking at a smaller audience but one from a vigorously devoted fan-base, while Estrada seems to be banking on his own personality and word of mouth to win over enough casual readers. He's not going for fans as much as he's just setting the barriers so low that it's easy to reach the masses at large. But they're both about half-way through their campaigns and have each raised over half of what they're aiming for.

I suspect both will achieve their goals, although not with some of those spectacular 1000% results. But I think we should keep an eye on them to see just how well they do in these campaigns. Maybe we should check back in a few weeks to do some follow-up when they're both done.
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