February comics overdrive

Well, February is shaping up to be one of the busiest comics months for me this year. Yes, I know it’s a bit soon to say that, but just look at what I have on the go.

Heads! Into The Vortex is up on Kickstarter until 15 February (in case you hadn’t seen me plugging it to death). I’m proud to say it has hit its funding target so it’s all systems go on getting it ready for all you lovely backers. Now is the best time to back the comic, as all rewards are guaranteed to be fulfilled. There are comic universe bundles, print and digital editions, original art packages and commissions available, so go fill your boots! If you aren’t able to back the campaign I’d massively appreciate you sharing the link with your friends and followers. This will help new people discover my work and is a great way to reach potential new readers. Big thanks to everyone who has backed it, shared it or a bit of both already.

In preparation for the campaign I did an interview with the mighty Richard Sheaf of Boys Adventure Comics. Richard is a huge supporter of the indie comics scene, so it’s a privilege to have him take such an interest in my work. You can read the interview on his blog. While you are there I urge you to check out his other articles and subscribe, as it’s an excellent source of comics news and info.

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When talking to Richard, he asked me about the piece I’m producing for Little Heroes Comics new anthology. If you haven’t heard of them, Little Heroes is a charity which makes comic creation kits for kids staying in hospital. This is such a fantastic cause and I’m a big supporter of what they do. Each year they produce a themed anthology and this year’s theme is science. As comics fans and science fans, me and my son Dylan heard this news and immediately set about working on a short comic together. The submission date is 28 February, so we haven’t got long to pull it off. Dylan wrote the script and I am drawing it, plus we have the help of designer extraordinaire Ken Reynolds on lettering duties. I’ll post a separate article about our creative process soon, but in the meantime, here’s a sneak peek at the work in progress.

As if all this wasn’t enough, I’m finishing off art for the third Heads! comic, which will be out later this year. Plus, I’ve already made a start on the script for the fourth one! I’m having an absolute blast creating Heads! and I just want to get more and more of it out there.

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Finally, I’m prepping for ICECOMICCON in Brighton on 9 March. The line-up is stellar and I’m looking forward to catching up with David Broughton and meeting loads of other fellow comics creators. So yeah, February is pretty mental. I’ll need a pint by the time I get to ICE so if you see me at the bar afterwards feel free to join me!

Plots, Bones and print

It’s been a week of frantic Heads! drawing for me. I’ve got myself all inspired by the great responses I’ve had from the webcomic pages released so far, that I have ploughed on with getting a load more of it drawn. The story so far has been piquing the interest of lots of people, and I’ve had requests for advance previews of the rest of the first issue from excitable fans. 

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I really want to get Heads! out as a print edition. The gritty black and white feel that I have gone for would look great as a pulp-style comic. I was going to let things run for a bit longer before I jumped into this, but I am thinking of launching a Kickstart or pre-order to get it out there. What you guys think? Would you like to have a copy of Heads! rolled up in your back pocket, or do you like it just fine as digital for now? 

I watched a ton of Bones recently, and I am still re-watching season 8. As influences go, Bones isn’t really something I refer to, but I’ve been quite intrigued by the plot balancing. Each season of Bones has a single, long running plot which either resolves by the end of reaches a cliff hanger to lead you into the next season. Some are more effective than others, with the Gormogon plot in season three being one of the strongest. But rather than the whole season be focused on that one plot, there are incidental plots each episode, to keep things interesting.

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Loads of shows do this, so it’s not unique to Bones. However, I particularly like the way they often tie the incidentals to the long plot. It gives the opportunity to bring new or supporting characters into something which may reveal them to be of more importance. Mostly, I like how it can be used to divert from things in the main plot and to add red herrings. In writing Heads! I want to be able to throw readers off the scent and lead them to conclusions that are false. I want to be able to drop some surprises along the way too.  

 

 

Kickstarter article

I wrote this article for the December issue of Popcorn Horror magazine, who just so happen to publish Rock In Purgatory. If you are considering crowd funding a creative project heres a few things to think about…

Anyone who has ever tried to get their art, project, or grand plan for world domination off the ground will have come across one obstacle or another. Most often it can be summarised in a simple question:

Where am I going to get the money to do this?

Every venture we undertake costs us money. Even if we are not looking to put ourselves into the public domain, we have to pay to do the things we are passionate about doing. So when it comes to taking a risk and going public, the advent of crowd funding platforms such as Kickstarter have suddenly made it incredibly easy to take that next step. I used Kickstarter last year to launch my debut horror comic Brutal Bombshells. Though I am pleased to say my campaign was successfully funded and that I did not experience as much stress as is often reported when running a campaign, it was no easy journey.

For those who are unfamiliar with the term, crowd funding refers to the process of seeking investment in your venture from willing members of the public. People can offer to help fund your project and come away with an exclusive product if they make a financial contribution. Often a variety of products are available at different price levels. If you think of it as a way for fans to safely invest in something creative, it is easy to see why crowd funding is moving into the mainstream more and more. Pledge Music has been helping bands get albums released for years now, and Rob Zombie just used crowd funding to get his latest horror flick, 31, off the ground. As most crowd funding relies on hitting a minimum target, unless that target is reached nobody has to fork out cash for something they may not get. However, there are often risks on both sides as contributions may not truly meet the goal required. There are many sad tales of false promises and backers left empty handed. These range from individual people offering more than they can deliver, all the way to larger ventures overspending to the point of going out of business.

When I made the decision to pursue crowd funding as a way to launch my comic, I researched the platforms and processes to better understand what I was getting myself into. Crowd funding gives creatives the opportunity to have guaranteed funding for their project up front. The risk is, in theory, low – if you don’t hit your funding target you do not have to deliver on anything. It’s free to set up a campaign, with the platform only taking a cut if you fund. So again, low risk. Plus, I was pleasantly surprised to find there is a community of users on Kickstarter. These are people keen to get involved in new things which are exclusively available through crowd funding. Roughly 65% of my backers were Kickstarter regulars who had no interaction with me until I launched the campaign. Considering the amount of effort I put into digital marketing and social media activity, this was a revelation to me.

This was all fantastic news for me and my comic. I spent a long time comparing other campaigns and backing a few myself  to experience how it worked from both sides before deciding on my plan of action. Seeing similar projects to mine seeking thousands of pounds and offering many outlandish rewards, I chose to keep my first campaign simple. I opted to treat my campaign as a pre-order promotion. I had sought printing costs already and knew how much producing the comic would set me back. Rather than factor in time and materials for the art and writing, I just went for actual expenditure. I created this comic because I wanted to and I was happy not to be paid for the work this time. As a new face on Kickstarter, I felt that humbly asking people to pre-order copies was the best way to go about it.

One big attraction to using a digital platform such as Kickstarter is its ability to help you reach a potentially global audience. But if you are not prepared for this it can be very hard to fulfil all you have set out to do. I was ecstatic to find I had contributors from across the world. Most were purchasing a digital copy of the comic, but I still had a lot of physical sales to Europe and the US, and one person in central America buying an original piece of art. I was not aware that the postage costs I was charging contributed to target amount and not collected separately, which nearly caused me a lot of trouble. This was my own mistake, but it was one of many things that were not clear when setting up my campaign that could have tripped me up considerably.

On top of this I had a rather nerve wracking three weeks with that piece of original art being lost by the US postal service! The piece was priced high, so if it disappeared I would have been liable to refund the backer. This would have been disastrous for me – by this point the comic had been printed and paid for, so the money had been spent. Any refund would have to come out of my own wallet. I couldn’t help but smell a rat and was convinced that either the buyer was trying to pull a fast one or it had been stolen by an opportunistic postie.

Luckily, after weeks of chasing the buyer I got an email from him to say it had finally arrived safely.

It is worth pointing out that financial and logistical mishaps are not isolated to crowd funding. No matter how you try to fund and deliver a project, something will always go wrong. In a past life I ran my own company promoting live music events. Even for the low cost / low risk shows, there was always a chance I could lose money or have an awful situation on my hands. Things are never totally within our control. So, if you are considering a crowd funding campaign, here are a few things to always keep in mind.

Communication and honesty are key to everything. People are committing to pay you money for something, so you need to tell them what is going on. If it is still in production when you launch the campaign, say so. If it runs late, let them know. If you can’t get to the post office because you have too much to do, apologise and let them know when you’ll have time. People hate being lied to (don’t you?) so avoid giving them excuses and fob offs. Most people are totally fine with things changing as long as they are kept in the loop.

Do your maths – then do your maths again! If you hit your target you’ll be charged a fee or two as the money gets processed. It is hard to fully anticipate this, so do your maths well and consider a number of different outcomes. Don’t get caught out. If you have something to physically post to people, take it to the post office and note down all the postage charges you can so you know how to set these costs. Get all your production costs worked out and then add a bit more, just in case. However……

Don’t get greedy. Setting contribution tiers too high will put people off, and setting the target amount too high will make it harder to reach. Be fair, but if you are in it to make a profit, make it a reasonable one. If you are using crowd funding it is likely you do not have the money to invest in your project already. If you make your primary goal to deliver a cost neutral project then any over funding can start to contribute to profits. Once you’ve delivered the best crowd funding campaign ever, you can think about clawing in the cash on the next venture.

I would recommend that creatives considering crowd funding take the plunge and give it a go, but I urge you to keep your wits about you and be prepared to put effort into it. A great campaign needs to be engaging and informative if it is to stand a chance. Make it as awesome as you can. And one last piece of advice: don’t bother with the Kickstarter trope of rewarding a £1 pledge with “your eternal thanks”. Spoiler alert – nobody bothers backing that!