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Speaking Of Kickstarters And Chooseable-Path Books

So Ryan North continues to make all of the money, as To Be Or Not To Be: A Choice-Filled Adventure By Ryan North And Also William Shakespeare Too has, as of this writing, passed the US$132,000 mark, and is rapidly driving the continued economic recovery by itself.

Personally, I’m hoping North will pass the dollars/word ratio of 3.0, which would make the past year’s effort of coming up with some 80,000 words pretty darn worthwhile especially considering that freelance writing gigs are normally measured in pennies per word. Naturally, North doesn’t get to pocket all of the money raised, what with having to produce the books and pay his artists, but it would still be a nice, round target for him.

  • Speaking of Kickstartings, this page has had the opportunity in the past to mention the campaigns of one Mr Darren “Dern” Gendron, who doesn’t usually work within the comics sphere on Kickstarter, but who has run some darn successful campaigns, considering that his least overfunded project raised 108% of goal. The others have done, respectively, 117% of goal, a staggering 5015% of goal, and 3385% of goal with about two and a half days to go.

    Big numbers, although to be fair it helps when your goal is in the US$500 to US$1000 range to hit huge percentages like that. But! — and this is a big but — does this mean that Gendron is sitting pretty from the (approximately) US$101,000 he’s raised since September of last year? Funny you should ask, as Gendron’s thrown open his metaphorical kimono to share some numbers on his latest project:

    Right now [approximately three days ago as of this writing — Gary], we’re at 1,101 backers and $32,807.

    After the Kickstarter and Amazon fees, that’s $29,854.

    We have a chart tracking how much has been collected for international shipping fees. That’s a 0-profit area, because every dollar brought in for that goes right back out. Currently, that fund is taking out $3,615. So we’re at $26,239. We’re also budgeting in another $3,888 in current domestic shipping orders, so our subtotal drops to $22,351.

    So then the next big check is production. And lumping together the cards, the chips and the dice, we’re at $19,006 in costs.

    That leaves O [Gendron’s artistic partner, O Abnormal — Gary] and I with $3,345 currently.

    So to round off the numbers somewhat, out of about US$33,000, the creators are left with about US$3300, or ten percent. That number put me in mind of something that Howard Tayler said at SDCC years and years back when this page was just a lil’ baby blog, about how 90% of a book’s cost was going to end up in pockets other than the creator’s; Tayler’s point was to get more of the percentage by taking over other jobs, and on the surface it appears that Gendron’s experience is disproving Tayler’s thesis. Read on, though, and learn about economies of scale:

    We’re pushing to hit $40,000. Because almost all of the high-ticket production items are covered, we’ll probably pull in about $6,000 more from that final $7,200. And we’ll have a good supply of playing cards to sell for the next couple years.

    Catch that? If the high-ticket items are covered and the incremental costs on the lower-priced items come down, you’d get a return of (very roughly) US$9300 out of US$40,000, or comfortably in the 20-25% range for rate of return. One may also note that Gendron includes in those numbers stocking up for future sales, which doesn’t show up as immediate benefit.

    It’s a nice reality check for those considering Kickstarter, seeing one of the repeat users of the platform lay out exactly what the expected return will be (and honestly, I know a lot of small businesses that would be thrilled with a 10% margin). I’m wondering if anybody would be willing to run a Kickstarter with these numbers laid out from the beginning — here’s what I’m asking for, here’s what it will cost, here’s what we’re left with — and update those numbers (as closely as can be approximated) during the run of the project. I think it would serve to demystify the platform a great deal, remove some scales from eyes, and perhaps also to change a few minds about how “rich” project owners are getting from their runaway-success campaigns. In almost all cases, I’m betting it’s a lot closer to break even than to Kiss my ass, bitch! I’ll be at Duane’s!¹.

  • It’s more than a year since Rebecca Clements did a charming 24 hour comic/chooseable-path story called Come Inside My Body, and with her recent return to comickin’, Clements has put the you-decide guided tour of her own interior spaces up as a you-decide-on-a-price e-book for instant download.

    Guys, if you’ve ever wondered what all those squishy, squirmy, goopy organs do, this is the ideal time to find out. If you have a gross anatomy exam coming up, this is the best way to study and if your teacher tells you that your views on the spleen are incorrect, you can point out that they are entirely correct and who would know about a Clementine spleen better than Clements anyway? It’s less than any of those human anatomy coloring books and far more amusing.

¹ In this analogy, everybody wondering where their Kickstarter reward is “bitch” and a bottle-service cabana in Vegas is “Duane’s”.

I don’t really think this disproves anything I’ve said (not even things I said back in 2006).

It actually makes my point: As a publisher of printed things that must be shipped, you depend upon scale. SCALE baby. This project hasn’t scaled yet, but when it does, it’ll profit the creators quite handily.

I don’t think I failed to make mention of scale, or that Gendron’s experience isn’t actually in conflict with your points (from 2006 or otherwise).

PS: Want to know something hilarious? WordPress puts my own comments into moderation and requires that I confirm that I am not spamming my blog.

I should clarify, the profit from the Kickstarter doesn’t include future sales. If we go pure wholesale, that’s about $27,000 more. Pure direct sales is around $60K. But it’s a very long timeframe on that.

I would say that it has scaled now. :-)

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