We Need to Support Black Creators Working in Comics

Y’all. I wanted to make a blog post about my favorite comics by black creators. Until I realized I know so few of them.

First, I’ll say that C. Spike Trotman and Taneka Stotts are my favorite black creators who have edited for the Beyond anthologies and My Monster Boyfriend (among other works). And yes, both ladies have written and drawn great comics of their own!

But very few comics I read are written and illustrated by black creators.

At least, not artists working recently.

I have a soft spot in my heart for Jackie Ormes and Richard “Grass” Green. Look up their work, they are AWESOME.

That said, I can do better to support black comics creators working today. I will do my part to seek them out and read their work. (I think I’ll start with Prince of Cats by Ronald Wimberly, because I follow him on Instagram.) (And also this list from Book Riot.)

Part of the reason why I think it’s hard to find comics by black creators is because…well…

Here’s the Secret.

It’s an uphill battle to HAVE black creators working in comics, particularly “mainstream” comics. They want to work, but industry leaders and execs will not hire them. This prejudice in hiring practices is so intense that CB and I wrote about it in Validation a long while ago, and the topics discussed in that arc are STILL relevant today. (The strips at the top of this post are some highlights from that arc.)

There are more black creators in indie comics because until recently, no one in “mainstream” comics wanted to hire them. Often for not-great reasons.

But then, I’ve never been a big supporter of “mainstream” comics. It was an all-white-boys club in the 80s and 90s, and in so many ways, it still is. “Mainstream” comics regard minority groups as subject matter to highlight their “otherness,” not as a target audience to make comics for.

I know that opinion is contentious. But I’ve come to this conclusion after making comics and attending conventions over the last 7 years. I’ve seen and heard the arguments all around. And I could write a whole other blog post about “the industry,” but that’s for another day.

Long story short: “mainstream” comics has a representation problem with hiring black creators. So much so that many black creators go indie and have immense success on KickStarter.

Am I going to let “mainstream” comics’ allergies to hiring black creators get in the way of seeking them out? No. I will go find a creator on KickStarter, do my research, and if their story tickles my fancy, SUPPORT THEM. And I hope you do the same.

And if you missed it, here’s a list of some of my favorite black creators. Some of them DO make comics in the indie sphere.

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

You. Are. Awesome.

How I’ve Run 11 Successful KickStarter Campaigns

Hold on to your seats, because I’m about to reveal how I have run 11 Successful KickStarter campaigns.

And unlike some folks, who put these kinds of secrets behind a pay wall, I’m sharing this learning for free in today’s post.

I started running campaigns specifically for comics way back in 2013. And I’ve averaged 2 or 3 campaigns per year since.

Now, here’s the thing: if you’re looking to raise millions of dollars, these tips COULD still help you. But keep in mind these things…

The most I have raised in one campaign is a little over $2,000, for Validation’s Final Push. This is still 419% of the asking goal. That said, I HAVE run one campaign that raised 800% over the asking goal.

How did I do it? Well here are my tips:

Know your BARE MINIMUM that you need to make a project happen.

Do the math. Factor in costs to print, shipping orders, KickStarter and credit card fees. Add up anything that could cost you money for the project. Know the bare minimum amount that you need to make your project come to life.

This is NOT the time for bells and whistles. If you’re raising funding to get a book printed, know the minimum you need to get JUST the book printed. And ONLY the book.

Often when I see first-time KickStarter campaigns launch, the asking goals are $3k or more – and yet the audience for it cannot raise that much.

And the asking goal is set so high so often because the math is just inaccurate. Because these folks ignore the next point…

Set the rewards to be easy on the budget – and related to the project.

Most of my campaigns are to get a specific product printed. Usually a book. So my rewards are copies of the book, MORE copies of the book, other books I have excess stock of, and something easy I can fulfill with little cost to make. Like commissions!

Often, when I see an unsuccessful KickStarter – and yes, this includes one failed campaign I have under my belt – the campaign fails because of one thing… The rewards offered cost extra to make. And the creator tries to tack on the cost of making those extra rewards onto the overall asking goal.

So for example: a creator may only need $600 to get a book to print…but they think “I could offer stickers! I’ll offer 3 different designs!” But those stickers cost an extra $500 to print. So they add it up and ask for $1100 on the campaign as the initial goal. But wait, there’s t-shirts they wanna make! And those cost $500 more to print, so they add it on and –

You see where this is going. Eventually there are so many rewards offered that the creator THINKS are essential. But they are stretch goals.

Offer stretch goals for after your bare minimum is met.

Stretch goals are goals to make when your campaign raises extra money past the initial asking goal.

Stretch goals are THE THING TO USE when you have extra products you could make, but are not considered essential to make it happen.

For example: if you want to get a book printed, stickers and T-shirts are NOT essential to make it happen. Make those your stretch goals.

Whether you succeed or not – POST. UPDATES.

I’m speaking here as both someone with successful campaigns AND as someone who has backed other campaigns. A creator who posts updates on the KickStarter page, before AND after the campaign ends, is a good creator.

I can count on one hand the number of people I have backed on KickStarter who have not posted updates. And those are the same number of people I would not support again if they launched another campaign.

Posting updates, even irregularly scheduled ones, is still better than dropping off the face of the earth.

And yes – you need to post these updates on the KickStarter page. There’s a link in the creator menu called “Post Update.” USE THAT FEATURE.

Updates can be little things or big things. Just keep your backers in the loop regarding the progress of the project they helped you launch.

Hopefully, with these tips, you can launch your own successful KickStarter, and make your project happen. I believe in you.

If you have any other questions, leave a comment below!

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

You. Are. Awesome.

Things I (Re)Learned in Promoting My KickStarter Campaign

By the way, The Legend of Jamie Roberts, Chapter 2’s KickStarter IS STILL GOING. You have until 11:59 pm EST on Feb 21 to back this project.

Not gonna lie – I’ve had 11 successful KickStarter campaigns. Once you’ve had so much success, you fall into a rhythm.

But I HAVE had one KickStarter campaign fail. I learned a lot from that failure, which makes it true that you learn more from your failures than your successes. Because when you’re successful, you develop a groove.

The thing about grooves, though, is that it’s easy to get comfortable inside of those grooves. It’s like when you walk in circles in the dirt – after a while, there’s an obvious path of where you’ve tread.

And if you want to grow, you have to take a step outside of that dirt circle.

I’ve re-learned a few things in promoting the KickStarter for The Legend of Jamie Roberts, Chapter 2 (which is STILL GOING until Feb 21 at 11:59 pm EST). Here’s what I’ve re-learned:

Make Use of Empty Space on Your Blog Sites

Ever since the demise of Project Wonderful, I’ve written off the power of ad spots on blog sites and webcomic sites. It’s easy to write it off, since it can be difficult to make money from posting ads in this era of ad-blockers.

Yet the original reason these became ads were to signal-boost SOMETHING. Someone wanted their product known, so they made a promotional image and paid someone to post it.

Well, I don’t (yet) have a network of peeps to reach out to and ask about posting an ad on their site and paying them for it.

But I DO have sites of my own. Sites for Johnson & Sir, Charlie & Clow, The Legend of Jamie Roberts, and THIS site. AND I have space on these sites that isn’t used yet.

So I made a button to promote the KickStarter, posted it on the sites, and VOILA – insta-ad. I’m still getting traffic on these sites, so the ad spots are seen by the peeps who go to these sites.

Reach Out to Folks Who Are Adjacent To What You Do

I have to thank Jamie (no relation to Jamie Roberts) for this one. I had almost written off this particular tactic.

The Legend of Jamie Roberts is about a genderqueer pirate. So Jamie (no relation) suggested I reach out to LGBTQ centers, and ask for their help promoting this KickStarter campaign. He sent me a list of LGBTQ centers in Ohio (which you can find here). This resource includes contact information for these sites.

I also had a flier for another LGBTQ center, from when I went to Flaming River Con. (One of the few positive things to come out of that show). So I reached out to this center, as well.

All told, I reached out to 5 or so of these centers, and only heard back from 1: the center whom I had a flier for. I think it helped that the contact spoke with me at the show, so they had a face to connect to the email.

So while perhaps blind contacting doesn’t work – what DOES help is keeping your rolodex of peeps you meet at comicons, festivals, and other shows. Reach out to those who are adjacent to what you do and ask if they can help signal-boost you.

Don’t Underestimate the Power of Fliers

I made a flier for my local comic shop to promote my KickStarter campaign. Then I sent it shortly after launch. I asked if they could print up copies and set them with their other fliers, and make a social media post, as well. And they agreed to help (I’m very fortunate that the folks at my local comic shop are cool dudes).

I DID notice that a few days after I did that, the number of backers and money raised went up a good 20-25%. Pretty dang good!

So don’t underestimate the power of fliers. Share them with comic shops. They’re usually more than happy to help indie comic creators succeed. If not? Find someone else who’d be happy to share your flier.

Those are what I’ve re-learned in promoting a KickStarter campaign into success. Next time I’ll make a post about how to run a successful campaign. I just realized I don’t have a post about that (yet).

Thank you for reading!

You. Are. Awesome.

What Does a KickStarter Scam Email Look Like? Well…

You come across a LOT of junk mail and bull-crap whenever you run a KickStarter campaign, whether it’s your first time or your tenth.

As it turns out, The Legend of Jamie Roberts, Chapter 1 is my tenth campaign on KickStarter. And, true to form, I’ve been getting messages from total strangers saying that they “can help boost this campaign to millions of people” and that they know “the best outlets to promote this KickStarter to” so I should “reply to this email ASAP to jump on this unique opportunity.”

But there was ONE email that I got recently that stood out to me… for all the wrong reasons.

First, this is not the first time this guy emailed me. He had sent a previous email starting with, “I get it. You’ve seen thousands of messages from people saying they can help your campaign” (which I have). But the difference was this NEW guy emailing me called himself “a guru in crowdfunding.”

Pro tip: never call yourself a guru of anything. You sound pretentious and it’s step number 1 of making sure I delete your email.

But shortly after that one, he sent me a NEW email.

Here, I’ll show you a screencap of this thing. Don’t worry, I’ll censor out the guy’s email, name, and face. Just pay attention to the email text:

In case you can’t see it, the email says, “we’ve chosen The Legend of Jamie Roberts, Chapter 1 as our weekly “what could this campaign be doing better?” round table discussion.”

Already off to a bad start. I know what I can do better. This is my TENTH campaign. And I already made the fixes before this dude sent me this message.

And he adds, “We choose one very lucky campaign and go through it top-to-bottom to see what you can do better.”

This is the most slimy sentence I’ve come across.

And I’m saying this as someone who’s sat through brutal art class critiques and read thousands of pages of copy other people have written to promote their work.

I’m saying this as someone who studied marketing and promotional materials during college AND after. That sentence is slimy.

Why is this sentence slimy? Because it is preying on the email recipient’s insecurity about their campaign.

Whether you’re running your first campaign or your hundredth, there will always be a bit of insecurity that you feel when you launch. Will this thumbnail stand out? Did I make enough rewards? Did I overprice one of these tiers? Etc.

That sentence in that email is designed to snag onto that insecurity and make the email recipient feel like they NEED help.

Trust me: you do not need help from a guy like this.

I’ve had better luck getting help from ComixLaunch, and I found that program to be very hit and miss for me. Again, I’ve run ten successful KickStarter campaigns, and The Legend of Jamie Roberts, Chapter 1 is looking to be my eleventh successful one.

Never trust a dude who would use sentences like that, no matter how professional or “well-meaning” the rest of the email sounds.

I hope this helps you if you’re looking to start crowdfunding – or even if it helps you spot similar emails in the future. I hope this blog post has helped you spot what kind of language to watch out for and what to avoid.

Best of luck to you, and thank you for reading.

You. Are. Awesome.

NOW ON KICKSTARTER: The Legend of Jamie Roberts, Chapter 1

HOLY BANANA PANTS, it’s finally here – The Legend of Jamie Roberts, Chapter 1 is now on KickStarter, looking for funding to get to print!

Patreon support has helped make the production of each individual page possible. But KickStarter will help cover the gap to get this first issue to print.

The book will include a never-before-published short comic about Captain O’Malley (just how DID she lose her arm?). Plus there will be behind-the-scenes sketches showing how pages for the comic are made.

Among the rewards available for backers, there’s commissions, WANTED poster-style mini-prints, and even a new 11 x 17 inch print!

So if you can back this KickStarter campaign, please do so BEFORE JUNE 20.

Broke? Share this campaign with your friends. Every share helps.

Want to back the campaign, but don’t see a reward you like? Hit me up via email at kelci(at)kelcidcrawford.com and I’ll work with you.

That’s all for now. Thank you for your support!

You. Are. Awesome.