I’ve been radio silent over the last few weeks as I recover from (and scramble to prep the fulfillment of) the Dead Air #1 Kickstarter campaign.
None of us at Studio Alpaca knew what to expect when we hit the launch button on the project. It had been two years since our last crowdfunding campaign for Code 45, and that felt like forever in terms of the trends that had come and gone both in terms of Kickstarter’s changes and updates, but also the promotional methods we’d used to help ensure the success of our first book.
Another big unknown? How much of our previous audience would follow us over from Code 45 and take a chance on Dead Air, a book that had the same creative team (myself, Joe Ng as the artist, and Angela Hodge as the designer), but also a few new additions (Maja Opacic as colorist, Reed Hinckley-Barnes on letters). The Dead Air story was set both five years before and nine years after the Code 45 era (due to the two time periods the narrative is constructed around), and it moved further away from our urban fantasy niche into a more sci-fi / 90’s story. This made is difficult to predict what kind of a response we’d have.
We had similar worries about our social media presence. Code 45 had a strong Facebook following of about 5,000 people, but again that audience was based on readers who were into dance music, the Montreal metro, and large-scale reptiles, so it wasn’t a given that they’d be amenable to seeing ads, posts, and other content about Dead Air. We also rebranded our social media to Studio Alpaca to reflect the fact that we were now promoting not just Code 45 (in stores) but also Dead Air and any future projects we decided to go forward with as a comics collective.
It turns out that we were right to be concerned. About a quarter of our past Code 45 Kickstarter supporters were cool with moving from dragons and raves to college radio and talking to the dead, which translated into significant support but meant we’d still have to work to draw in the number of backers we needed to make the campaign a success. Facebook ads helped us pick up some of the slack, but where our book really took off was on the Kickstarter platform itself.
We were badged as a “Project We Love” within just a few hours of launching, which was the fastest we’d ever achieved that level of recognition from the site. It had an immediate effect in terms of boosting our profile and getting us in front of a bunch more eyeballs, which helped us to a very strong first day. At the very end of our campaign, in the last 48 hours, we were also the “Project of the Day” in the Comics category, which had never happened for us before (and also made a big ripple in terms of support).
One major difference between Dead Air and Code 45’s Kickstarter performance, however, was how long it took us to reach each respective goal—and the way we eventually got there. While we had our most support for Dead Air on Day One, there were several days throughout the entire campaign that matched or exceeded Day Two in terms of number of backers / amount of funds raised. Our biggest lulls were actually in the second week, with the third and fourth being surprisingly strong. We also only had a small spike over the course o the last few days financially, although we did pick up a lot of backers in that same period.
Overall, the entire Dead Air campaign was consistent, building gradually to its goal and then surpassing it with about six days left in the campaign. This contrasted against our previous campaigns that had taken between 10 and 17 days to fund (and in the case of the last two, majorly over-fund). I can think of several reasons to explain why this happened.
Since this was Issue #1, we were limited in terms of the rewards and pricing we could offer. There’s just the one book to kick things off, plus rewards that we felt were representative of cool, in-world, behind-the-scenes stuff that animated the spirit of 90’s college radio, and of course Joe’s amazing sketches and original art. In our second and third Code 45 campaigns—our most recent forays into crowdfunding—we were offering not just mega-issues with double the page count of Dead Air #1, but also bundles to catch everyone up with the story, and even a trade paperback collection of the entire series. All of this made for higher rewards pricing across the board.
Then there’s the funding goal that we set. One Code 45 #1, we asked for about $7,500 USD, as it was our first-ever attempt at a Kickstarter and we wanted to balance being new with being able to successful fund. Later campaigns had higher goals that built on the success and audience of the preceding books. For Dead Air, I split the difference and set it just under $10,000 USD, as the majority of campaigns that stay under that amount end up successfully funding on the site. So a higher overall goal meant a longer wait until we made our funding.
I also want to note that when we choose funding goals at Studio Alpaca, it’s not necessarily an amount that will cover the full costs of production for the book we have on offer. It’s intended to balance the chances of achieving the funding we need and being able to pay for as much of the art, printing, editing, and design costs as possible .Even after over-funding, we didn’t break even of Dead Air #1, but that’s ok because I see it as the first step in building an audience for the series over the long term. I always pay everyone involved in our comic book projects regardless of our Kickstarter success, and I’m happy to cover any shortfalls knowing that over time, we’ll make it back as more and more readers discover the book.
Finally, we had a ton of digital supporters on this book, more than any other up until now. This is very cool, since digital copies of the book are available well before the print editions, and they are simple to send out into the world for people to enjoy. We decided to offer more interesting digital rewards this time around too that focused on the process of creating Dead Air, and they proved to be quite popular. Much of our final day funding came in the form of digital backers, which explains the high number of supporters with a more modest funding total as it was our most affordable rewards tier.
That’s the analysis I’ve been mulling over for the past couple of weeks as we finish up the artwork for the issue and get it ready to send to the printer. Kickstarter has of course changed since the Code 45 days, but we were still able to out-perform the previous Issue #1 in terms of backer support, which was amazing. The reception for the book couldn’t have been better. I’ve got a lot to consider when it comes to putting together the campaign for Dead Air #2, but most of all I’m excited that so many people are as interested to find out what happens to our new characters and the mystery that confronts them as I am.