Oh, Ryan North, you lovable (and enormous) scamp, you know that somebody is now going to take this suggestion from T-Rex completely to heart, and very possibly to upper arm. I love it.
Know what else I love? The uncanny ability of Fleen Senior French Correspondent Pierre Lebeaupin to somehow just know when I’m going to be tight on time (today because of an impending flight and a rental car with a dead battery) and to drop some sweet bande desinée information, for your edification¹.
A while back, he introduced us to Maliki, which is both a magical-realist² (as all the best ones are) autobio webcomic and the quasipseudonymous creator of same, in the context of monetizing with the Eurofunding site Tipeee. Today, he sends an interview with Maliki about how the funding is going some three months in; note that the interview was conducted in French via email, and translated by Lebeaupin.
Take it away, FSFCPL!
Fleen: Hello Maliki, and congratulations on your successful Tipeee campaign. It was one thing for it to start high, but now in the third month it doesn’t appear to be really dropping off so far. Were you expecting this?
Maliki: We were expecting (or at least hoping) a positive response from our readers, but we weren’t expecting so big a success. We were also picturing a significant dropoff the following months, which has not occurred so far. So we’re cruising in uncharted waters!
Fleen: In fact, many of your tipers were not even registered on Tipeee before you opened your page; you provided an avatar pack on your page so that they wouldn’t remain with the default Tipeee avatar, for instance. Were there other consequences to so many people having your page as their first Tipeee experience? For instance, did you have to expend time at the beginning answering questions from tippers on how Tipeee works?
Maliki: Yes, since the concept is not widespread yet, we had to explain the differences, compared to classical crowdfunding in particular.
Fleen: Have you noticed pledges being cancelled just before the end of the month or other such anomalies? Such a ghost pledging phenomenon is a problem on some Patreons, for instance.
Maliki: We have only had a limited number of cancellations or payment failures. So far people appear to be willing to play by the rules, but I hope this question won’t give anyone ideas!
Fleen: Promise, it’ll remain between us :). On that subject, you provided a remarkable transparency effort by publishing the timetable of what a tipper can expect as rewards over the month when he supports and over the following one, after his tip has cleared.
Maliki: Thanks. That was really the goal. We want everything to be perfectly clear and for no one to be disappointed or get unpleasantly surprised.
Fleen: I noticed that at the start of each month the total starts lower and limited rewards are reset. How does it work? Does it mean you have to each month start over the recruitment of tippers past a certain pledge or reward level?
Maliki: On Tipeee people can choose between making a monthly contribution or a one-off one. At the end of each month, the counter is automatically reset, and only the people who have set up a monthly contribution remain. Over the course of the month, new one-off contributions are added, as well as newly set up monthly commitments.
As for limited rewards, monthly contributors keep their spot, while the spots previously taken by one-off contributions are freed … but they generally don’t stay that way for long. In a matter of minutes after the counters are reset, they’ve been taken over.
Fleen: I also noticed the stretch goals structure changing each month (bonus points, from a software developer, for making each level of July be the double of the previous one: 500€, 1000€, 2000€, etc.); it is standard to Tipeee or something you came up with yourself?
Maliki: We defined these goals ourselves, based on levels that felt coherent AND realistic (except for the last one which is a kind of ludicrous level since we know we won’t reach it). And yes, I imagine it’s my logical mind who liked to speak in term of doubles, even if we slightly changed it since then.
Fleen: The Tipeee rewards imply an additional workload for you and Becky. After almost three months, have you found your stride?
Maliki: Not yet! The most complicated is physical rewards (the artwork). For the Tipeee we had to set up a lot of things very quickly, like the radio, the chat, the questions and answers, the lottery broadcast, the mailings, the monthly ex-libris. All that added to the weekly strips and peripheral projects represent a significant workload, not to mention we had to set up a small legal entity to be able to receive the Tipeee income. In short, we still need to optimize all that, but it’s already better than when we started.
Fleen: “Independent Maliki” is a long-term project, and it’s still early a bit early to discuss outcomes. But did the Tipeee page already allow you to reduce your reliance on freelance work? I am referring for instance to the illustrations you sometimes provide for youth magazines (Okapi, Science et Vie Junior, etc.).
Maliki: Let’s say that even if I wanted to take on more freelance work, I couldn’t :) But anyway, that’s not what interests me most, I much prefer to work on my own universes thanks to Tipeee.
Fleen: What kind of feedback or reactions did you get from your fellow comics authors (and other comics professionals)?
Maliki: In the end I didn’t get a lot of reactions. Hearty support from some authors, publishers or booksellers, MANY questions … I think most of them are waiting to see how this is going to play out in the long run. At any rate, I know we are being watched in silence ;)
Fleen: And I have to ask: any plans for English-language collections?
Maliki: Unfortunately no … Previously published Maliki books likely never will. My publisher has been talking about it for years and it never happened. Anyway, I think it’s too late now and it wouldn’t be relevant to launch Maliki by starting with volume 1, without first recreating the phenomenon that occurred in France with comic blogs at the time. So, not possible.
With our first self-published collection, we could consider it. But there again, our English community on the blog is tiny, and we’d need quite a tsunami of new English-speaking visitors for it to be worth considering an English language collection. [Editor’s note: see concluding thoughts below.]
Fleen: Lastly, a question closer to home, since one half of my family is from Nantes and I love Brittany. While your influences lie closer to Japan than to, say, the Pont-Aven School, have you considered taking advantage of being a “local artist”, for instance by trying to have your self-published books be regionally distributed if you can’t get France-wide distribution for them?
Maliki: The local artist is unfortunately not the status taken most seriously. Look at comic shows, regional authors are always consigned away in a corner … If my comic at least dealt with Britanny a lot, but it could take place mostly anywhere. Anyway, I am not necessarily looking to get distributed everywhere, but only by motivated booksellers. Other than that, it will occur through direct sales, by mail order.
Fleen: You’re obviously busy, so we will be leaving you to tend to your fans. Any last words?
Maliki: Thanks for covering us in English, you are the only ones who pay as much attention to our new independence venture so … THANKS!
Okay, minions, it’s clear what needs to happen — if you’ve been over to Maliki and like what you see, drop an email (or better yet, some remote coin) towards the site, and maybe we’ll get an English collection some day. Thanks to Pierre Lebeaupin for following up, and for his single-minded devotion to the idea that the French webcomics scene deserves coverage in English. I learn something cool every time he emails.
Spam of the day:
legal update on vaginal mesh implants
Nope. Nope, nope, nope, nopers. Not touching this one.
¹ Also, for a very light editing pass for English spellings and formatting.
² But not Mexican magical-realist.