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Feature Fri Sep 17 2010
Around this time last year, I talked with Gordon McAlpin about plans to turn his online comic, Multiplex, "a comic strip about life at a movie theater", into a book. Working with Kickstarter to raise the funds, the project was a success: Multiplex: Enjoy Your Show (Book 1) debuts this Saturday at Third Coast Comics. It is also available for pre-order through the site.
The book collects the first 102 strips from the archives (July 2005 - November 2006), and features over 30 bonus comics, as well as an exclusive prequel story. Getting to the point of physical pages was a process. Gordon reflected on his experience with Kickstarter, self-publishing, and his plans for Multiplex's future.
Name: Gordon McAlpin
Job: Freelance cartoonist, print production artist, retoucher, writer, whatever
Education: BA in English (Writing), BS in Art (Drawing and Graphic Design)
Location : Roscoe Village
Hometown: Peoria, IL
Favorite place in Chicago: Third Coast Comics
What do you feel you've learned about book publishing through doing this? What have you taken away from Book 1?
I've learned that publishing books is expensive as hell. As prepared as I thought I was going into the whole situation, printing the actual books is the largest single expense of publishing -- it's all the little shit that adds up to another three, four, five thousand dollars, that really starts to eat away at your dubious lifestyle. It was tough -- it also takes me longer to work on the comic than I thought, because I had set aside about two months to finish up the new material that I was going to do for the book, and it ended up taking me about four months.
What expenses didn't you anticipate?
It's not so much that I didn't anticipate particular expenses, it's that I underestimated almost every single one of them.
The amount of time that it ended up taking to do all of the extra rewards for the Kickstarter program, I felt ate into -- well, a lot of time that I could've been financially recovering from taking four months off from freelance work. Not to say anything bad about Kickstarter that way, it's just that I underestimated how long it would take me to do a lot of that stuff.
What were some of the rewards that you ended up doing?
At the lowest level, you could get the eBooks. Then at the $30 level, it was the actual book itself, and I signed that. Then there was an exclusive (almost-exclusive) t-shirt. Beyond that, there were hand-drawn sketches, and vector portraits.
Custom sketches (Jason as gangster, Becky at Hogwarts)
What were some of the custom things that people asked for? How does that happen?
It just came up -- they just e-mailed me and asked for something different than what I was offering. There was a cameo appearance too that went along with having your vector portrait -- actually the vector portrait was secondary to having the cameo, I forgot about that. Because the cameos themselves are kind of small in some cases, I also threw in a little vector portrait with the same artwork as their cameo appearance.
Most people had a short one-panel or two-panel cameo, but a couple of the really high-level backers, they didn't specifically buy this, but I chose to give the largest single backer a pretty meaty cameo, they're on three or four pages. They have dialogue, that sort of thing. It's not even just a cameo, it's an actual appearance.
The Kickstarter backer in question's request was that "all the Multiplex girls fawn over him"
The character of Max (shown here in an Inception-like parody) was based on a real Kickstarter backer, Maximiliano Cardeñas III
If you had to give advice to someone going into Kickstarter, what would you tell them?
Partly I would say definitely ask for more than the minimum you think you'll need. For instance, if I had only gotten $7,500, what I think was my original goal, I would've been screwed financially -- by myself. It would've been my fault. The other thing that I think a lot of people have misunderstood about Kickstarter is that it's not much of a community. There are people that kind of troll the site and donate the projects, and the owners are great and they promote themselves a little bit, but they do cherry-pick their favorite projects. I feel like you need to have a pre-existing audience before you can expect to get any amount of money via Kickstarter as opposed to from Kickstarter.
If I didn't have the readership that I already have, I definitely wouldn't have succeeded. There were a few people that found Multiplex through Kickstarter, but I would say well over 3/4 of the people that pledged any amount of money, and certainly anyone that pledged $30 or more, was already familiar with the comic.
Would you use Kickstarter again?
Because of you or because of Kickstarter?
Because of me. All of the rewards that you need to do to offer in order to entice people to basically preorder a book a year in advance, they eat into the amount of money that you need. And the money equals time, and so the next time around, I would like to be able to finish the book on my own time and put it up for pre-order a month before it's gonna be out. If I have as many people ordering the pre-order for Book 2 as I did through Kickstarter, I'd actually come out a lot more ahead.
Do you think it was helpful in getting the first book off the ground?
I do -- I feel like it was such a question mark -- I didn't even know whether I could get to $7,500, let alone all the way to $12,000 dollars. I wasn't sure if it was going to work.
If in a year I still have 800 copies sitting in a storage unit, then i might rethink whether or not Book 2 needs to exist. As much as I want it to exist, and as much as I know that there are a lot of people that do want it to exist....
We'll see? To be continued?
To be continued.