Kickstarter vs Crowdfundr: A Breakdown

For years, I ran campaigns on KickStarter. All to make comics and merchandise like buttons a reality.

Then KickStarter started getting into Blockchain. And I wrote my piece on THAT decision (in that I thought – and still think – it’s a BAD IDEA).

But where could I find a substitute for Kickstarter?

Enter: Crowdfundr.

They not only sponsored the Small Press Expo in 2022.

They NOT ONLY have campaign links that are easier to share than KickStarter campaigns.

They had a representative reach out to me AND CHAT WITH ME to answer questions I had about the platform.

AND…Crowdfundr built their site with comics creators in mind.

That said…is Crowdfundr the complete replacement we need?

Let’s break it down: Kickstarter vs Crowdfundr

To run a crowdfunding campaign of any sort, you need these key things:

  • Easy-to-share URLs.
  • A clear funding goal.
  • A set timeline to get funded.
  • An audience of any size.
  • A simple way to customize your campaign to make it easy for fans to back you.
  • Minimal fees.

So how do these two platforms size up with these keys?

Easy to share URLs

First off – KickStarter has a tendency to make their URLs extra long. It makes it a pain in the ass to share their links.

I’m not the only creator who has resorted to using TinyURL or Bitly to shorten a KickStarter link. Some creators will even buy a domain name just to make sharing a link easier. (I don’t recommend this. Domain names are an annual fee and you only run your campaign once.)

With Crowdfundr, you can set the URL yourself.

I have run one campaign on there so far but I can STILL tell you, without looking it up, that you can find it at crowdfundr.com/dragon-baby.

Braindead-simple.

A Clear Funding Goal and A Set Timeline to Get Funded

These two tie in together. I’ll get into why in a second.

If you run a campaign on KickStarter, you need a set amount of money to raise and a deadline to get that funding.

But KickStarter runs on all-or-nothing funding. If you don’t meet your funding goal by the deadline, you lose any money raised up to that point.

This is meant to be a fail-safe for backers. The idea is that they won’t be charged for a campaign that failed to meet a funding goal. Nobody wants to waste their money on a project that fails out of the gate…right?

I’m sure a lot of people who backed “successfully funded” campaigns on KickStarter have a LOT to say about this. Looking at you, Mighty No. 9.

And I’ll be upfront – there are KickStarters I have backed that met their funding goal…and then nothing came of the project. They got their funding, and then all I heard were crickets. Just because a project got its funding doesn’t mean they follow through on making said project real.

But maybe the asking goal wasn’t enough to fund the project. What then? Run a second Kickstarter? How would that look to backers of the first campaign?

Here’s where Crowdfundr has a leg up, in my opinion.

Crowdfundr lets you choose: all-or-nothing, or get paid immediately.

When I ran the Crowdfundr for the Dragon Babies keychains, I chose the get paid immediately option. What that does is this: when a pledge comes in, the payment is processed immediately.

No waiting period. The payment just showed up. And payments went directly to me. (I kept getting PayPal notifications when a new backer backed the Crowdfundr).

Whichever option you pick, you have another Crowdfundr tool to use: changing the campaign deadline and asking goals AFTER launch.

I actually did this with the Dragon Babies campaign because of Small Press Expo promotional reasons. Basically, if Crowdfundr wanted to help boost my campaign, I had to have the campaign run DURING Small Press Expo.

Anyway, let’s say you run a campaign on Crowdfundr to get a comic to print. You meet your goal (great!). But then shipping books to backers costs more than you expected. It quickly becomes apparent that you have no money left after printing the books to actually SHIP them.

(This has happened to too many creators on KickStarter.)

Crowdfundr can let you update the asking goal and post an update to your backers explaining the change.

If you keep your backers in the loop on the regular, they will support you. ESPECIALLY if you have to ask for a little more help.

“But what about payment processing fees?”

We’ll get to that.

An Audience of Any Size

Unfortunately, KickStarter has a leg up on this one over Crowdfundr, at least for now.

KickStarter has an algorithm for potential backers to browse campaigns based on: projects they’ve backed previously, favorite categories, and favorite creators. It functions a little like YouTube in that way.

Because of this, it’s easy for potential backers to find a creator they have never heard of.

This makes it easier for a newbie creator to post their campaign on KickStarter and get entirely new customers. That’s how beginners can start a reader/fan base.

With Crowdfundr – at least for now – you have to drive traffic to your page yourself. Crowdfundr does not have a built-in search engine or algorithm to find random campaigns based on your likes.

Because of that, Crowdfundr makes more sense for people who have a fan base already built outside of KickStarter.

A Simple Way to Customize Your Campaign So Fans Back You

I really want to rant about add-ons right now but I gotta build up to this.

First: both platforms are comparable for writing your About page. When writing your campaign pitch, KickStarter and Crowdfundr have the same formatting tools.

They also have the same Risks and FAQ sections. Again, minimal differences.

Setting up rewards?

OH BOY, TIME TO RANT.

When setting up rewards, you want to make them relevant to your campaign. You also want to keep your options simple, so backers aren’t overwhelmed with decision paralysis.

To that end, KickStarter implemented a two-step system: Base Rewards, and Add-On Rewards.

Base Rewards are what the backer sees immediately on the campaign page. Ideally, you only have 3 or 4 options, plus or minus an Early Bird tier or a Limited Edition reward.

Once you pick a Base Reward, you get taken to the Add-ons page. Here, you choose extra rewards to get bundled with your Base Rewards.

KickStarter sucks at add-ons.

There. I said it.

Digital add-ons? Fine. Because shipping costs aren’t involved.

Physical add-ons? Good luck figuring out additional shipping for THAT.

Because here’s the thing: when you choose physical add-ons with KickStarter, they stack on top of the Base Rewards.

Meaning shipping costs ALSO stack.

It’s VERY easy to overcharge on shipping with the add-on system on KickStarter. And that sucks for the backer.

Not only that, but I’ve had it happen where a backer wants just one element of a reward bundle, but can’t get it unless they pledge to that tier.

It’s like saying, “Oh, I just want the comic and the sticker. But the only reward tier you have is for a comic, a sticker, and a print. I don’t want the print. Just the other two.” How do you fix that? By making another new tier?

Crowdfundr, on the other hand, is way more intuitive.

Their rewards are all a la carte.

Meaning: you can list out the reward components individually. And then backers can make their OWN reward bundles.

When I ran the Dragon Babies Crowdfundr, I got SO MANY variations of rewards. Two keychains to one backer? Done. A keychain, sticker, and zine? Done! A keychain and a commission? Done! Just a sticker! You bet it’s done!

Not only that, but Crowdfundr will simplify shipping costs: when a backer picks multiple physical rewards, the system chooses the more costly shipping price, and makes shipping free on the other items. It’s a simpler way to bundle shipping.

Minimal Fees

KickStarter charges a 5 to 10 percent fee for running a campaign on their platform. And that’s on top of credit card and payment processing fees.

So when you raise funding on KickStarter, you have to budget losing up to 10 percent of your funding to fees and upcharge your asking goal to compensate.

Crowdfundr as a no-fee option.

…I know what I said. They have an explainer breaking it down.

BONUS

Did you know Crowdfundr can turn your post-campaign page into a store?

Well, they can! That way, your easy-to-share URL can still be put to use after you wrap up the campaign.

Because of ALL of that…

My next crowdfunding campaign will be on Crowdfundr.

I hope you found this helpful. Let me know if you still have questions or concerns.

That’s all for now. Thank you for reading!

You. Are. Awesome.

Thoughts on Instagram’s Latest Shift

Maybe you saw this petition circulating, maybe you haven’t. If you missed the news lately, a LOT of folks are enraged at Instagram for turning itself more into TikTok. And, to be fair, I and many others miss the days when Instagram shared photos and art over videos.

However, I have a lot of other thoughts on Instagram’s latest shift. So let’s share those thoughts here.

First, my opinion has shifted since my original Instagram account got hacked by a crypto-bro. If you asked me about this petition BEFORE the hack, my thoughts would be very different than they are now.

As of now, here are the bullet points I want to hit…

Instagram (and Facebook) Are In Crisis

Oh wow, what a shock, a company that’s losing members every day is trying desperately to change its platform by copying what the new big boys are doing.

Let’s face it – the most significant reason Instagram is changing its algorithm to favor videos is that people, especially young people whom these businesses want to cater to – are switching away.

And I don’t blame them! I left Facebook in 2019 because I saw what its algorithm did to radicalize the politics of older people, and its algorithm was draining my business. I left Facebook with the thought, “Screw it! Let the boomers wank among themselves and scream their politics into the void. I’m going other places to protect my art and space.”

Instagram had not been too big of a leap to make, though. Most people who followed my old Facebook page moved to Instagram to keep up with me. That, or they just fell out of touch because they didn’t use any other platform.

EVEN THOUGH MY BLOG IS FREE TO READ.

Excuse me, I had to get that off my chest.

But yes, Instagram was not an enormous change at the time. I had been using the platform since before my Facebook exodus, and just kept using it.

Then my Instagram account got hacked.

Thankfully I had backup accounts. And I was able to recover half of my old following within a week. (If you’re interested, I can write a post about that experience for anyone who might find themselves in a similar pickle in the future).

But that hack was a wake-up call. Up until then, I saw slow, if any, growth on my page.

And the wild thing is – when I reposted some art from the old account onto my new page – the posts on the new page got more traction!

This tells me that Instagram’s algorithm – however it’s structured now – does not care what time you post or what hashtags you use, or what your follower count is!

This revelation should not have taken me getting my old account hacked to come to this. But it did.

However, I did notice something else when I began posting on the new account, and that is…

Instagram REALLY Wants To Be TikTok Now

I think this is a stupid idea. Because if all apps look and operate the same way, then what would make customers want to use them? And if your answer is “well the people who use the apps make them different!” That’s wrong. The audience who uses TikTok wants TikTok functions. They deliberately use TikTok because it’s not Instagram.

Likewise, people use Instagram because it’s not TikTok. They use Instagram for the features that make it Instagram.

I got on Instagram way back in 2018 to post my art. Not videos. Instagram didn’t have the capability to handle videos at the time. So I posted photos of my sketchbook drawings, paintings, table set-ups at comic conventions, and photos of new books I made.

And guess what? People LOVE that stuff!

But now, Instagram is having an identity crisis. Why? I think it’s for a few reasons.

  1. Instagram wants to be a shopping network. Why else would they focus so hard on business features, making you buy ads, and showing you businesses you’re not following?
  2. Its parent company is freaking the f**k out. Turns out that pivoting really hard into the metaverse when the tech is not there yet is a really bad move. And so they’re trying to salvage themselves by making Instagram more like its competitor, TikTok, to draw in the crowd that left their bread-and-butter platform, Facebook.
  3. “If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em.” Which is exceptionally stupid and something a window-licking business major would say as part of their finals project. Again, if all apps looked and operated the same way, what would make a person want to use them?

So What Can Be Done?

Well, there IS that petition demanding that Instagram return to its old days of chronological feeds and photos. To be honest, I would LOVE it if Instagram did that. I think that would be more of a creative challenge than making videos.

Plus, not all artists want their faces on their profiles. For a lot of reasons. I learned this morning that deepfake porn is a thing, and – surprise surprise – the people who get deepfaked into porn are women who don’t consent to it. I DO have the concern that if more social media platforms are demanding people show their faces in videos, then deepfake programmers will start exploiting people more frequently. And knowing that Instagram’s parent company is vying for metaverse tech, it’s a hop, skip, and a jump to conclude, “Oh! Maybe this company wants Instagram to be more video-oriented to make face recognition and deepfaking easier in the metaverse!”

We already know that Mark Zuckerberg’s ethics are garbage. So I wouldn’t be surprised if this “face recognition into the metaverse” train of thought is something he wants to use and exploit for profit.

To that end, I can’t tell you what to do with your Instagram account. But here’s what I will do.

I’m Going to Slowly Transition Away from Instagram

What will I use as a substitute?

…What is this blog? Chopped liver?

I will be posting here more frequently. And if you miss posts here, I’m posting on Ko-Fi and Patreon, as well. I DO have a TikTok, but I don’t post on there as much as I post YouTube or Twitch streams.

I am sad and disappointed that it’s come to this with Instagram. And yet, who knows what will happen in the future?

That’s all for now. Thank you for reading.

You. Are. Awesome.

On Colonialism and The Legend of Jamie Roberts

The other day, I got on Twitter, because I’m back on that platform for the fun of it. (Follow me for RPG content and hot takes). While scrolling, I spotted a Critical Role fanart piece. For folks not in the know, Critical Role is a show where nerdy voice actors sit around and play Dungeons & Dragons. In the fanart, The Dungeon Master sits at a table with miniatures scattered across it. The miniatures, of course, are the players’ characters.

One of the responses to this fanart said, “Hey! This is so good! Shout this out to Crit Role so they can use this into their intro sequence instead of using colonialism!”

Did that make you scratch your head? Here’s the missing piece:

Critical Role’s intro reel shows the cast in explorer costumes, poking around fantasy ruins. This is a callback to fiction like Edgar Rice Burroughs (Tarzan) and H. Rider Haggard (King Solomon’s Mines). You know…fiction where rich white explorers poke around “lost continents” (read: Africa and India) to search for treasure.

Burroughs and Haggard wrote in a time when this narrative was seen as “romantic” and “adventurous.” Nowadays, this isn’t as good – it’s seen as exploitative of the native people. (Because it is).

Thing is, this Twitter commenter got me thinking about my own comic, The Legend of Jamie Roberts. It’s about a genderqueer pirate and their two best friends treasure-hunting in a land full of dragons. This is true – but it also leaves out the Indigenous people I have in the story. Put a pin in that for a second.

One of the works that inspired this comic is the Dreamworks movie The Road to El Dorado. It’s no joke that this movie is a foundational piece of who I am as a person. A LOT of my humor and sensibilities stem from this movie. (And The Emperor’s New Groove, but that’s for a different time).

Here’s a secret about The Road to El Dorado, though…

When the movie came out, the ads declared that this movie would have a “respectful presentation” of Central American history. Why? Because the art and animation teams went on location to do research. So imagine the backlash the movie got when people watched it and said, “ah shit, of COURSE the Indigenous people think the two white guys are gods.”

Now, Breadsword on YouTube already did a fantastic video on the history behind The Road to El Dorado. So watch that for more context. But the reality is: The Road to El Dorado is a callback NOT to Indigenous Central Americans. It’s a callback to Bob Hope and Bing Crosby comedies. The Road to El Dorado’s twist was that not everyone believed the two protagonists were gods. But the doubters kept up the charade for the sake of the people.

When I rewatched this movie for roughly the 187th time, I thought, “What if white people came to a new land… and actually INTEGRATED instead of raiding?”

That’s how I started writing The Legend of Jamie Roberts. At least…one of the previous drafts.

Now, The Legend of Jamie Roberts DOES have three white people plotting to rob Indigenous people. I’m not going to sugarcoat that. They’re pirates, after all. So what’s my twist?

Well, in Chapter 6, Jamie Roberts is going to do something that has lasting consequences. And they destroy something. And for the rest of the story, they have to deal with the consequences of their actions… and the reactions of the Indigenous people.

In Chapters 7 and 8, the story is going to shift from “I’m seeking treasure” to “I’m seeking redemption.”

That’s right – I’m going to subvert the White Explorer narrative.

The trajectory of “I’m seeking redemption” has been at the core of the story since the start. It took several drafts and many years of writing to figure out WHY. But I’m confident in this final draft of the story.

I hope you stick with me. Because The Legend of Jamie Roberts is about to get REALLY juicy.

That’s all for now. Thank you for reading.

You. Are. Awesome.

Why (I Think) KickStarter Adopting Blockchain Tech is a BAD Idea

This is a repost of a KickStarter update. I’m sharing this here just in case.

Anybody who’s been following my work for a while knows that KickStarter is how I fund most of my work. I’ve run over 10 campaigns on the platform, nearly all of them successful. It’s because of KickStarter support that I can have any kind of living making comics – what I LOVE to do.

But this does not mean that KickStarter is perfect. Or immune to criticism. It’s because I’m grateful to KickStarter that I feel this post needs to be shared.

First, however, I gotta go into blockchain.

For folks who are unaware, blockchain technology is what cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin are made by. Blockchain is a kind of programming, usually open-source, that houses information and makes it visible to everyone. This quality is handy for cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin. Because then, programmers can look at the code to see if anyone has tried to artificially inflate or deflate the crypto’s worth. The intent of blockchain technology is to make it so cryptocurrencies’ worth is visible to anyone who has access to the code.

Did you notice how I said the technology is supposed to be visible? Put a pin in that – we’ll circle back to it.

Now, evangelists will try to tell you that blockchain tech is “immune,” or at least resistant, to man-in-the-middle attack attempts. Man-in-the-middle is when someone or something gets between point A and point B and muddles up communication. Gaston Means did this to con the English and Germans during World War 1 and make millions of dollars off of both sides while doing it. (Put a pin in that, too).

Believe it or not, Bitcoin has already been hit by a man-in-the-middle attack. The only way to resolve it in blockchain tech is to make a fork in the code. This way, one prong goes off the directive that the attack caused. Meanwhile, the other fork is supposed to fix the damage. There’s a bit of a war going on with Bitcoin because of this.

Did you notice how Bitcoin can’t just go back into the code and rewrite it so the man-in-the-middle attack never happened? That’s on purpose. Blockchain tech is not built to FIX hacks. Blockchain tech is not built to rewrite itself. That’s by design. It is purposefully built this way. The intent is so people are not “supposed to” rewrite codes in the middle to change Bitcoin’s quality.

This doesn’t stop con artists from trying this with other cryptocurrencies, though.

In fact, right now, there’s a glut of fraud happening. Scammers are going into codes and inputting commands so that customers’ crypto wallets either fork for the scammers’ benefit. Or the scammer will input a command saying, “By the way, funnel your NFTs and wallet into this other account.” This issue is RAMPANT in blockchain tech. I’m convinced that half of all tweets on Twitter in the crypto-sphere are people bitching about how their wallets got hacked into and “won’t somebody please do something?!”

By the way, none of this is FDIC-insured. So people are funneling real-world money – often by the tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars – into digital currencies. Which are, btw, massive bulls-eyes for scammers to go into and rewrite code for their own benefit. There’s already one high-profile case of a YouTuber who laundered Bitcoin. In fact, it’s really easy to use Bitcoin for money-laundering schemes.

If you need more rage-inducing facts about crypto, blockchain, and NFTs (or non-fungible tokens, the digital version of COVID-19), then grab a sandwich and check out Dan Olson’s video on the topic. It’s a feature-length film on YouTube, but he explains everything better than me.

And here’s the kick in the teeth – KickStarter wants to adopt blockchain technology into their platform.

I think this is a PHENOMENALLY bad idea for security reasons.

Blockchain tech, despite what the evangelists say, is not safe to use. It’s actually very easy to go into the chain, find information on the account holders, and scam them out of their money.

There are evangelists who want to put credit card info, bank account info, and even MEDICAL RECORDS on the blockchain. All of this is terrible and a massive security risk.

Look – the readership I have is very important to me. A solid one-third of them are transgender or nonbinary. Some are out of the closet, some are not. But maintaining the privacy of my readership is hugely important to me. I don’t want anybody who supports my work to be subjected to harassment.

If KickStarter is serious about adopting blockchain technology, that means all of that information is visible to ANYBODY… whether they are working for KickStarter or not. Blockchain is not immune to man-in-the-middle attacks or any other form of scam. Blockchain tech, as it exists currently, is ready to bring harassment campaigns to a brand new level.

“But wait!” I can hear the evangelists say. “We wanted KickStarter to adopt the technology so we can use cryptocurrencies to support projects we love!”

Remember how I mentioned that Bitcoin has a fork in it now? Because someone got into the code to alter its value? That’s a serious problem that blockchain technology is not built to fix. It’s not even built to address this issue. And this doesn’t even go into how the value of a cryptocurrency fluctuates from hour to hour, much less week to week.

Why does anyone want to accept a currency that’s worth $10,000 today, but could be worth $0.01 tomorrow? Nothing is stopping crypto from fluctuating like this. And fluctuations like this happen so frequently that some folks don’t even bother tracking them.

Nobody accepts crypto as payment for food or rent – and I argue that’s a good thing.

KickStarter, I love you. And it’s because I love you that I urge you to leave blockchain technology off your table. It is not safe on any level. And no amount of patching will fix it.

I hope there’s enough public pressure about this issue that it will change the minds of folks at KickStarter HQ. After all, it was public pressure that made them accept that their workforce wanted to unionize.

But here’s the thing – crypto bros want you to be confused about the tech. They want to make sure you don’t know how it works or what exactly it does. They want this so they can get your information and make themselves richer. “Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain,” as it were.

Do I know everything about blockchain and crypto? No. But I know enough to know that it’s a bad idea. KickStarter needs to abandon it for the safety of backers and creators alike.

Will I run another campaign on KickStarter? I don’t know yet. I’m looking into alternatives if KickStarter refuses to budge about this. I’d rather not change platforms – but if I must, I will. Iron Circus has already moved off the platform because of this issue… and Iron Circus is one of the biggest comics publishers who’s used KickStarter the longest.

Whatever decision I make, it’s with my readership in mind. I’m not risking their personal information for anyone else’s financial gain.

That’s all I have for now. Thank you for sticking with me in this overly long post.

You. Are. Awesome.

Why Make Art Your Job?

art versus artist meme featuring art made in 2020 by kelci d crawford

I got this question a lot (surprisingly) in the before times. The people who asked this the most were either teenagers trying to pick a career path, or concerned parents asking on behalf of their teenagers. The thing they asked the most was, “Why make drawing your job?”

“Wouldn’t you get tired of drawing then? I thought the reason you make art was for the joy of it? Why take out the joy and make it a job?”

In the past, I would use an argument from Elizabeth Gilbert’s book “Big Fear.” In one chapter she says that every job has a unique flavor of “shit sandwich.” It’s just a matter of what flavor of shit you want to put up with.

But I have to walk back this assessment. (Even though it is a very good book).

It seems to me that the real problem here is how you – the person – choose to approach how you view work. By work, I mean the job that you do.

Some folks see work as a means to an end.

They’re there for the paycheck. They may not get a sense of accomplishment or fulfillment from it – or if there ARE those feelings, they’re short-lived. Those feelings are not why the person does the work. For these folks, they find fulfillment elsewhere. At least, I HOPE they do.

But some people (like me) want to work in jobs where our skills can shine.

We want to work in a path where our effort goes appreciated by people. We don’t want to work at any other job, especially jobs where we feel like just another cog in the machine.

I know I’M not keen on working at a job just for the paycheck. I want to put my skills to use. And I want to really polish up the skills I have.

And yes, one of those skills is drawing. And I LIKE making money with drawing. It feels good to know that my training and practice have a (usually literal) payoff.

For me, it brings me joy to know that I can use my skills to make art and get paid for it. I don’t mind monetizing my ability to make art because I GET TO MAKE ART AND FEED MYSELF WITH MY SKILL. WITHOUT having to work at a job just for the paycheck.

I’ve had to supplement my paychecks in the past, but I make it a point to make sure the work I do is work I enjoy. And I enjoy work that puts my skills to use, and that make me improve.

I hope this gives some clarity for the young folks out there.

Thank you for reading. Keep making art.

You. Are. Awesome.