First, a quick update on yesterday’s Webcomics Folks and Where to Find Them at EmCity posting: Kel McDonald was kind enough to let us know that her booth (number 1008, for those playing at home) will, in addition to herself, Kory Bing, and Magnolia Porter, also be hosting Meredith McClaren, David Willis, and Tyler Crook. Keep the updates coming, people.
Okay. To my knowledge, the greatest overfunding of a webcomic-related Kickstarter on a percentage basis is not Homestuck (which achieved a relatively modest 355% of goal), Smut Peddler (415%), Diesel Sweeties (2006%, now we’re talking), or even the vaunted Order of the Stick (2171%), but Darren Gendron’s Monster Alphabet board book, which scored a funding rate of 5015%. Granted, the goal was only US$500, but a fifty times overfunding is pretty damn impressive.
I mention all this because Howard Tayler¹ launched a Kickstarter for a collectible last night at 10:00pm EST and had funded less than four minutes later. As of this writing (just over 13 hours into a 30 day campaign), Tayler sits at just under US$40,000 on a US$1800 goal, putting him at 2214% of goal, putting him past Order of the Stick and coming up on halfway to Gendron’s achievement.
Again, low funding goals make overfunding percentages easy to hit², but take a look at the projection on Tayler’s project, which is on track for an unreal 34,286%. Yes, yes, I know — Kicktraq projections never come true, or Ryan North would have cleared US$1.7 million and Andrew Hussie’s Homestuck more ten times that. But! Look at the initial Kicktraq projected values vs actual funding and take them as a ratio and you’ll get a fairly narrow range³:
- Homestuck: 5.75
- Smut Peddler: 5.17
- Diesel Sweeties: insufficient data (only last four days shown)
- Monster Alphabet: insufficient data (dates don’t correlate with campaign)
- Hamlet: 2.92
Across a wide range of initial goals (US$500 to US$700,000) and a wide range of overfundings (355% to 5015%), the ratio of initial projection to final funding runs between about 3:1 to 6:1. If these are representative, Tayler can expect to take in somewhere in the range of US$100,000 to US$200,000 (as of today, since the projection has gone up since yesterday, probably because it launched so late in the day), with a percentage funding of somewhere between 5500% and 11,100%. Of course, my sample size is so small as to make predictions laughably inaccurate, thus the very wide ranges given.
And you know what’s weird? That’s not even the oddest thing about this campaign. The oddest thing (apart from the fact that Tayler, who’s self-funded all his rather pricey books, is Kickstarting at all, especially for such a low-total item) is that Tayler opted to make something that has such a tenuous connection to his core IP.
The challenge coin (or “coins”, thanks to stretch goals being obliterated almost immediately) has never appeared in Schlock Mercenary. He had to explain what challenge coins are in the opening paragraphs of his Kickstarter description, and yet he’s hit upon something that his readership simply cannot live without.
Furthermore, this I didn’t know about these things existed but it must be mine is priced above the usual impulse buy for an unknown quantity4. The challenge coins are related to Schlock Mercenary (two of them, at least; the stretch goal “Not my circus, not my monkey” coin is Howard trying to import a Polish aphorism) but not as directly as a book, and they’re an unfamiliar type of item.
That’s the key takeaway today — your fans may not know what they want and a sufficiently unique item (don’t bother with challenge coins, that’s been done now) may just take off into the stratosphere. If you’ve got an item that can be produced in a wide range of quantities at decent margins to yourself, Kickstarter means there’s no reason not to try.
¹ My evil twin. Happy eleven-and-a-quarterth Birthday next week, Howard.
² As in so many things, Rich Burlew’s Kickstarter was an anomaly, being both massively overfunded on a percentage basis and having a very high initial goal of nearly US$58,000. To a lesser degree, Ryan North’s Choose Your Own Hamlet is also a trendbreaker, with a higher-than-normal goal of US$20,000 and an achievement of more than 2900%.
³ Again, Order of the Stick is an anomaly, as the initial projected total wound up less than the actual total, giving a ratio of 0.718 which just doesn’t ever happen in nature.
However! From my many hours assisting at booths at various conventions, I can tell you that quantum unit holds for something that fans recognize, like a t-shirt. I know what a t-shirt is, and it features a design related to something I like is the situation that leads to that twenty changing hands.
Odder items are more likely to follow the rules for impulse purchases, whereby somebody that isn’t a fan is willing to drop money on something they don’t know, or actual fans are willing to drop on something that isn’t represented in whatever they’re a fan of.
Impulse buys max out at five bucks. Anything more and you can see the gears turning in their heads — I don’t know this thing, so I’m not willing to risk a great deal of money against the possibility that I may not derive as much utility or enjoyment from it in the future as I suspect I might at this very moment. I really have to stop listening to the Freakonomics podcast, it’s rubbing off on me.