So you want to publish a comic anthology? Planning and preparation – part 1

This is our first anthology project so we are not claiming to be experts by any means. However, seeing Incoming! through to this point – which is probably not even 25% of the total work required – has taught us plenty of lessons and insights already.

We decided early on to keep a log of these lessons and insights with a view to helping other people who want to publish an anthology.

At Incoming! we very much have a ‘feast’ mindset and hope that sharing our successes and failures will help to contribute to the comic world.

We’ll publish a blog post only when we have garnered enough knowledge to do so in an interesting and informative manner. This means there may be significant gaps between each post.

If you’ve not done so already, check out our previous blog post, Submissions closed – the judges’ thoughts.

Let’s begin with Planning and preparation – part 1

We’re pretty sure that everybody who is reading this has an interest in comics, and probably in science fiction, too. We therefore won’t waste your time writing why we decided to give Incoming! a go.

Instead let’s jump straight into the first difficulty we came across – the payment structure. This also ties into the reason why we didn’t launch this project a few years ago.

Writing as the editor of Incoming! I have often dipped a toe into the creative industries and worked alongside them in my corporate guise.

The lack of understanding of how much hard work is involved in design and artwork, and the assumption that the ‘starving artist in the tower’ is a genuine motivation for artists from the corporate side of things has always astonished and upset me.

I would never work for somebody else for free and so I would never ask somebody to do this for me, either.

Added to this is the fact that in publishing an anthology, I wanted to take on all the financial and opportunity cost risk myself, meaning that the comic creators would be free to worry only about their creative work.

Therefore, only one financial model made sense – to pay the creators no matter if the Kickstarter succeeded or failed.

It took a while to settle on the final amount of £800 per creative team and, granted, it isn’t a vast amount when the cost per page is considered (hence the idea to pay each creator 10% of any money made over the fundraising target), but what guaranteeing the payment did do was essentially buy peace of mind for the creators and the team behind Incoming!

And getting myself into a comfortable enough financial position to do this is why it took a few years to get this project started.

The reason I’m sharing this is because I have found that this payment model cuts down on an enormous amount of stress early on in the project and when communicating with creative teams, and I believe it’s worth seriously considering for anybody thinking of starting an anthology project. It settles nerves early on.

The second big event we ran into was the budget.

One lesson learned quickly on was: however many items you believe you’ll have to budget for – double them.

The amount of things you hadn’t thought about that need to be figured out (such as purchasing ISBN codes, shipping costs from the printer to your fulfilment centre/house, website hosting, padded envelopes…) will boggle your mind.

And keep in mind the approximately 10% fee that Kickstarter asks for plus the fact that any profit you make will be subject to tax.

The costs quickly add up, and the numbers that floated through your head the night before in bed quickly look naive.

The two most difficult things we found in making the budget are shipping costs and projected income.

Shipping costs are difficult. If you don’t use third-party applications that allow you to add shipping costs after the fundraise has closed, you will have to use the method Kickstarter has thought up: to estimate shipping costs for each physical reward.

We didn’t use a third-party application because we wanted the cost of each pledge to be the absolute and final cost. In our own online shopping experiences we find any other solution frustrating.

This means a lot of work simulating fantasy fulfilments online to see what you have to charge. There is no easy way to do this. It will cause a lot of stress. And this ties into…

Projecting income. Simulating said fantasy fulfilments online would be easy enough if you knew how many people you were shipping to and their location. But you don’t.

We looked for similar Kickstarters to Incoming! and found ones that had succeeded, were succeeding, had failed, and were failing.

We looked at the numbers of pledges underneath each reward type and tried to form an idea of the likely appetite for each type of reward (physical or virtual at its most simple) in the best case scenario – the Incoming! project succeeding (any other speculation leads to extreme self-doubt).

Working from here in a spreadsheet will provide the amount you hope to raise. Then it’s a case of reworking your initial budget to make it all fit.

Most likely you had some great ideas but you’ll have to ditch them because of the cost. This is what happened to us. The hope is that we can incorporate the ideas into a future issue of Incoming!

So ends our first blog in this series. We’re currently just a few days into our Kickstarter so will have plenty more to share soon.

You can check out our Kickstarter here. Remember to pass the link around to any friends or family you think might be interested in it!

Succeed or fail, we will log our thoughts.

The Incoming! team.

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