In my previous post about what it’s been like to create, produce, publish, and fund the Code 45 comic book on Kickstarter during a pandemic I talked about how the coronavirus caught us—like the rest of the world—completely off-guard. In the midst of our campaign the entire world was thrown into chaos, and there’s no way we could have planned for how that affected the flow of our project.
When we launched our second Kickstarter later that summer, the impact of COVD-19 was inescapable and omnipresent. All around the world thousands of people were dying, millions more were out of work, lockdowns and closed borders were a regular part of daily life, and everyone one we knew was under an incredible strain unlike anything they’d ever before experienced.
Re-read the previous paragraph and you’ll gain insight into just how nervous we were about pushing forward with our campaign for Code 45. The sheer uncertainty surrounding everything at that point seemingly made for a terrible environment in which to try to get people to care about our graphic novel.
Don’t Give Up
Ultimately there were three things that saw us persevere. The first was we had worked incredibly hard on Code 45 for the past 18 months. Our story deserved a chance to be judged not by our fears about the future, but rather by our audience. We shouldn’t make the decision for them as to whether they wanted to back our project or not.
Next, there was our publishing contract with Scout Comics to consider. Both sides had signed that agreement in good faith, and we weren’t about to let either ourselves or Scout down by failing to deliver on our half of the bargain. Regardless of whether Code 45 found success for a second time on Kickstarter, we were going to forge ahead with each subsequent issue.
Finally, conversations with friends, other comic book creators, and readers, brought up a point we hadn’t initially considered. In a time when many people were stuck at home, they were turning to all sorts of entertainment in order to distract themselves from the stress of everyday living. Those dollars were going to be spent somewhere, and as it was pointed out, why not have them flow towards independent writers, artists, and designers rather than the media mega-corps that already dominated the landscape?
We decided to launch our second Kickstarter campaign in early July, nearly three months after the end of our first, and more than a month past all of our original backers having received their books and rewards.
Not only did we go ahead with our plan, but we doubled-down by doubling-up on the issue count. We offered both Code 45 #2 and Code 45 #3 together in a single ‘megaissue,’ and while I plan on explaining that details behind that decision in an upcoming post, the key takeaway here is that it meant all of our production costs were multiplied by two. This in turn led to us setting our Kickstarter goal almost twice as high as we had for the first issue (although not nearly as much as our actual investment—again, fodder for a future post).
Backer Numbers Go Up, But Funding Dollars Drop
Our first day of funding for campaign number two looked nothing like that of our first. Instead of killing our funding goal in less than 24 hours, we instead witnessed a slow and steady climb up that took 18 days for us to hit our much loftier number.
Looking past the funding figures to examine backer numbers revealed a very interesting divergence between our two campaigns. On the first day of the Issue 1 Kickstarter, we had 84 supporters pledge a total of $6,911. For Code 45 Issue 1, we actually beat that number by two additional backers for a total of 86, but with a lower overall dollar amount of $4,643.
The reason for this is an obvious one, and we had prepared for it. Although we had asked the same set of early backers to once again help us early on with funding so that we could jump-start the Kickstarter algorithm into sharing our project more effectively on the site, it’s important to remember that this group was largely made up of friends and family. They rallied to our cause a second time, but not at the same financial level, which makes total sense.
When you have no track record on a crowdsourcing platform, your personal network is going to be your biggest source of initial funding. This is important for anyone planning a series of Kickstarters to understand. You will be shocked and awed by the level of generosity from those closest to you the first time you launch a campaign. You should still be humbled by the support your receive the second time around, too, even though it’s unlikely to match the same heights.
The second time around you need a strategy for making up the difference, and ours appeared to be working. We had invested significantly in continuing to build our Code 45 social media presence on Facebook, publishing content every single day leading up to our second launch for a solid month, and running ads aimed squarely at those who had joined our community to remind them that the project was now live on Kickstarter.
Still, we weren’t prepared for the twist that would see our second pandemic campaign become such a success: the vast majority of our backers weren’t returning for their subsequent Code 45 fix, but were instead newcomers snapping up all three issues at once. Surprisingly, as I’ll explain in my next post, this was a direct result of the pandemic fears that had nearly kept us from launching in the first place.