Serializing his comic, BULLET ADVENTURES, on Kickstarter was a constant juggling act.
Social media posts, always trying to reach a wider audience, balancing family life with two young kids and a full time job outside of comics... it never felt like he had enough time to put into promoting his projects.
And with only so much time on the clock, and so many hours in the day, Randy was left wondering…
“How can I do it all?”
Despite the stress, Randy was keenly aware of the benefits of serializing his comic through crowdfunding.
“One big benefit is that you start to build a back catalogue where people can add-on previous issues (or back catch up tiers). We thankfully see a lot of return customers, so it’s rewarding to think we’re putting out a series that people are enjoying.”
Randy made sure to give his backers a reason to return. He credits two things for his success: quality and consistency.
“Pound for pound, the books I publish are as good as the best out there, and I deliver. Even one of my earliest Kickstarters, which had printer delays, shipping issues, you name it, was in backers’ hands within a few months. I usually pre-fund production so stories are 99% done before launch, which really limits delays. I feel backer confidence is everything.
“To date, I’ve never wanted to ask a backer to pledge on a new project if they haven’t received past rewards. With printing and shipping times, that can mean running them with a clear two month break in between. That’s a good time to recharge, but really drags out the ongoing series in particular.”
But Randy knew he couldn’t just rely on making his past backers happy. If BULLET ADVENTURES was going to thrive, he'd need to bring new fans into the fold.
Randy’s audience had been steadily growing over the four years he’s been Kickstarting comics, mostly through social media posts.
But with all the volatility in social media lately, he’s learning the value of having a dedicated list and not relying on someone else’s platform to get the word out.
“It feels like a weird time because so much of my audience has come from Twitter (I’m never going to call it X). My mailing list is about 500 strong, but I lean so much on other people’s networks when they share my campaign. I hope Blue Sky will provide the same, but it’s such a daunting task starting from scratch again.”
So Randy recently pivoted to teaming up with other creators to help spread the word. By engaging with other creators and appearing on livestreams with them, he was able to tap into a new audience.
One creator he calls out specifically is Travis Gibb.
“He’s super supportive of other creators and projects and there have been a few times where he brought me onto his indie creator stream, which directly benefited my projects.”
Another idea he had to bring in new readers was a little more ambitious.
“I recently had Lainie from BULLET ADVENTURES team up with Mark Stack’s The Relentless Lark for a campaign he just wrapped. A lot of his backers were exposed to my book and I expect some will follow her back to future Bullet campaigns. There are some other really great indie capes books that would make for a good crossover (which is the ultimate cross promo). I’d love to do more like that and benefit both books.”
With a strategy in place to spread the word, Randy still had to face his biggest devil: time.
So far, time management has been the toughest aspect of the Kickstarter experience for Randy.
“This is definitely the hardest thing for me because I have such little time to put into comics (trading sleep for productivity after the kids go to bed). Not that I’m always successful, but I think the best way to deal with this is to plan out my tasks and give myself about twice as long as I think it should take to complete, knowing that other things will always get in the way.”
But when you’re running a Kickstarter and creating a comic, yours is not the only time you have to consider.
“Being a project lead in comics is tricky because it’s not just your own time you’re managing. If anyone else in the creative team is delayed, even the best laid plans are thrown out the window. I tend to be pretty relaxed and give collaborators space, but I’m definitely working on keeping the communication going."
With so much to juggle, Randy decided to radically rethink his approach to Kickstarter.
“Kickstarter can really take over your life, and it’s constant mental battle between ‘if I just send out one more email or social media post, etc., then it could get me another pledge’ versus ‘is one more pledge really worth missing out on time with the family?’ I’ve felt that struggle at times and come to accept that I’ll do my best, but that might not always be as much as I would like.”
And that mindset shift regarding his priorities allowed him to relax a bit.
And it led him to change how he approached another aspect of the crowdfunding experience…
Kickstarter creators tend to be obsessed with data. When is the best time to launch a campaign? What’s the best day?
But for Randy, his newfound approach to time management led him to ask: when’s the best time to end it?
“I had previously been ending my campaigns late at night, to try to get the most out of the final day, but being on the west coast, I felt like the project would be reaching the top of the ‘ending soon’ after east coasters had gone to bed already! So I found a decent middle ground by ending in the evening, allowing me to finish a bit stronger.”
Not only does he believe this led to a stronger finish this time, Randy found another side benefit to ending earlier in the day. One that aligned with his family priorities:
“Personally, it’s kind of nice to see it wrap while the kids are still up. It’s such a big part of life for 3-4 weeks, so they’re just as invested as I am and it’s nice to be able to have that final total by 8 or 9pm.”
Celebrating with family. The perfect way to end a stressful campaign.
In the end, BULLET ADVENTURES #4 had a higher funding and backer total than #1, and it completed the first arc, which he’ll be able to collect as a trade. Randy feels like that will be more attractive than single issues at conventions.
And now that he's rethought his approach to campaigns, he has some decisions to make.
“I have several projects on the go, so I'm finding it difficult wanting to schedule campaigns more rapidly (which could lead to backer fatigue or burnout on my part) and choosing what to Kickstart next. I may try staggering projects so those totally different from BULLET ADVENTURES (horror, crime, etc.) could slot in between issues.”
Finding balance between wanting to do more and accepting that you can't do it all is the never-ending battle.
"I guess if I could go back in time, I would tell myself to dive in a bit sooner. I’m sure there are a thousand little things that I could do better, but I’d just want to push myself to get going on more, if possible.”
The struggle is real, Randy.
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