On Business: Bringing the Audience in Deeper

By | Monday, January 25, 2016 Leave a Comment
I think there's an old adage about being able to get whatever you want, but at a cost. The idea being that, if you shell out enough cash, somebody is going to be willing to take that to make whatever it is you're looking for. But today, here in the 21st century, that cost is so insanely low that it's almost laughable. I mean, we're not quite to Star Trek replicator technology yet, but as a comics owner/creator/publisher, you can still get what you want at a fairly reasonable price.

I was thinking about this while I've been watching the Tuskegee Heirs Kickstarter. Their basic project is a graphic novel. Nothing particularly unusual about that, right? They calculated they could do that for $10,000 and hit that goal pretty easily. Some of the rewards at various tiers include stickers and prints beyond the graphic novel. At higher tiers, there are t-shirts. Also not unusual, and I suspect most people are familiar enough with print-on-demand services that they don't even blink at this. They have dog tags available -- not terribly common, but not so outlandish that it would surprise anyone.

What stands out to me, though, is that beginning at the $125 pledge level, they have five inch tall, 3D printed figurines of their characters. That's not the sole reward, mind you. That's on top of the graphic novel, a t-shirt, the dog tags, some prints, and a sticker. A second graphic novel has since been included because they hit their $25,000 stretch goal. As of this writing, it looks like they'll need to make fifteen figurines in total.

I have on my desk an officially licensed Judge Dredd badge. Except it says KLEEFELD instead of DREDD. I have a prop replica of the knife used by Catfoot Crogan in Chris Schweizer's Crogan Adventures. I have a statue of Red and Mr. Woof from Fairy Quest by Paul Jenkins and Huberto Ramos. These aren't items that have wide availability. Heck, I know of only about a dozen people for whom that specific Judge's badge is even applicable, and maybe only three of whom would actually recognize what it is! All of these things have probably fewer than 100 people as a potential purchasing audience. And yet the costs for producing them are easily affordable -- well, I'm assuming they're easily affordable because I didn't pay more than $100 for any of them.

Where I'm going with all of this is that we're increasingly becoming a society where there's a greater value on the experience than a tangible object. And while what I've been talking about are tangible objects, they're virtually unique and come directly from the sources in question. That statue came signed by Jenkins and Ramos. That knife was sent from Schweizer's home address. They had a very direct hand in their manufacture, and my connection with the stories they're from is deeper because of the personal interactions I had with them. I have a personal story to go along with the stories in those comics.

So my thinking is that, while a creator is often focused on the comics or the graphic novels, maybe we're at a stage where more options need to be thought of. I looked at various webcomics who used to have plush toys or statues, but eventually sold out and discontinued them because (presumably) they didn't sell very quickly. But I wonder if we're far enough along, these several years later, where it's more viable to do more and different things. It's insanely difficult to stand out these days with just a comic; having unusual "trophies" that are unique to the comic might be a positive way to stand out and make your existing fans get a little more deeply involved emotionally. It's no longer just a comic, but an experience.
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