Frank Forte writes:
This is a documentation of my Kickstarter journey to fund Billy Boy Comics #3. Billy Boy is a passion project of mine and the character was created while I was in college and first appeared in my self-published comic anthology From Beyonde #1 published in 1991. From Beyonde #1 also featured the debut comic work of Mike Bliss, Scott DiAngelis, and Al Columbia (then going by his pseudonym Lucien).
It was a great time being 19, still optimistic about the comics industry, and working together with a group of people who were young and full of fire. From Beyonde lasted four issues, but I kept Billy Boy alive by publishing issues 1 and 2 of the self-titled comic in the early 2000s. Orders were modest, but fans seemed to love the book. Never having completed what was to be a three-issue limited series, I finally got around to thinking Kickstarter would be a great way to fund the book and offer some great rewards including original art, sketches, commission drawings, original signed copies of From Beyonde and Billy Boy, as well as some secret stretch goals and add-ons.
As I come to the last day of the campaign (ending June 17th), I'm finding myself having $1541 pledged of a $2000 goal.
Now, I read many books on how to fund a successful Kickstarter and felt I followed these rules as best I could. For about four weeks before the Kickstarter was launched, I alerted all my followers on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook that the Billy Boy Kickstarter was launching soon. I also announced this on my newsletter using Mail Chimp. I attempted to get some web coverage on comics news sites and blogs by searching what comic sites had covered Kickstarters that featured comics. I sent out a pre-press release and art to over 30 sites with a letter explaining what I was attempting to do. I really only got a response from about two that were interested in writing about it.
It took me about a week to build the Kickstarter, and once I did I sent a preview to backers, friends and comic industry people to try and get some feedback. The industry colleagues who looked it over felt it looked great and should fund by the first day. After some great notes, I changed a few things and felt I was ready to launch.
On May 17th I launched Billy Boy Comics and Stories, a Kickstarter to raise a modest $2000 for art and printing.
Once launched, I added a Google analytics code to the page so I could track where hits came from. I changed my Instagram web links to the KS landing page. On my personal and Asylum Press Instagram, I posted at least three times per day for the next month about the campaign with relevant hashtags. My personal Facebook pages were also updated frequently. Twitter was updated less frequently. Backers of previous Kickstarters were the first to pledge, but I had a hard time finding new backers. I printed some promotional postcards, which I handed out at Phoenix Comic fest and Alien Con (Pasadena). I figured good ole' guerilla marketing can't hurt.
I also sent mailers out to previous Asylum Press customers, as well as dropping off postcards at local Los Angeles comic stores. I also sent packs of postcards to other west coast and mid-western comic stores that were "indie-friendly".
At the cons, I had Billy Boy #1 and #2 for sale and always gave the pitch for the "Live Now" Kickstarter. Many people said they would pledge and said they loved the book, but it seems only a very small percentage did.
Throughout the campaign, I approached comic book news sites, but either got no response or the frequent "Sorry, we don't cover Kickstarters anymore." I found this a little odd, like if you're a Kickstarter looking for funding, you're not a valid comic book creator. "How is this any different from asking for preorder through the Diamond Previews catalog?" I asked myself. Comic news sites constantly report on what's in Previews or have "new Solicitations" pages, but for some reason a "new Kickstarter" gets blacklisted?
I realized that some of the most successful comic book Kickstarters are those that come from webcomics. Maybe this was a little too late, but mid-Kickstarter I launched a Billy Boy webcomic.
I then approached some webcomics Facebook groups, websites, and review sites to try to get some coverage for the web comic. I didn't get much of a response.
Yes, I realize this should have been launched six months ago. I did have a Billy Boy webcomic launched two years ago, but the WordPress site got infiltrated with Malware and I took it down. I just never got around to rebuilding it.
I also tried some targeted Facebook and Instagram promoted posts, but those didn't seem to bring in any new backers either, according to Google Analytics.
The lesson learned is you have to build your fanbase through any means necessary, collecting emails at conventions, building a webcomic fanbase, or finding fans through social media. Your fans are the ones who will support you in the end. Maybe you will find new backers once launched, but you really need everyone you know to share the campaign with their friends.
So after a little over 30 days, I'm finding myself about $500 short of my $2000 goal. I'm almost there and these next hours will be me trying desperately to find new fans or coax old ones into pledging as little as $5.
I'm doing this for the love of comics. The money will help me print and promote the books, but after all is said and done, I don't think any of it will end up in my pocket. Comics have always been my first love and always will be.
About Frank Forte:
Frank Forte is an artist, writer and storyboard artist. His credits include Bob's Burgers, 3 Below (Trollhunters spin-off), Truth or Dare, Insidious: The Last Key, Despicable Me 2, The Emoji Movie, LEGO Guardians of the Galaxy, LEGO Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Out, The Super Hero Squad Show, Heavy Metal Magazine and more. His paintings have been exhibited at La Luz de Jesus Gallery, CASS Contemporary, Copro Gallery and Arch Enemy Arts among others. Frank is also the publisher at Asylum Press (www.asylumpress.com), an indy graphic novel and comic book publisher. Frank's website is www.frankforte.com.