Fantagraphics is looking to crowdfund its spring season books. The move is in response to a cash flow crunch that more and more book and comic book publishers are getting squeezed by. (Just look at book publishing, where venerable small houses are closing, merging, and holding fire sales for their backlists.)
Publishers tend to run on thin margins. Few have the reserves to shore them up in times of internal crisis–corporate publishers, mainly, and star fundraisers. And unfortunately for Fantagraphics, it has been dealt some body blows recently. Kim Thompson, founding Fantagraphics partner and editor of their European comics, died this past June after a struggle with cancer. Not only did this cause a staffing gap–difficult enough to contend with at a small house–but it threw their publishing schedule into disarray.
At a bigger publisher, like Marvel, losing one talented editor and having to shuffle some books wouldn’t be so dire. At Fantagraphics it’s much more serious. When Kim’s books didn’t ship on time, they weren’t being sold–obviously. If a publishing house is thin on reserve cash, it needs to be extra risk averse. And outside of the hit-based model so much of big publishing operates on, books live and die on their own artistic and financial merit; enough appeal, at least, to recoup their costs or not incur prohibitive losses. No money in, means no comics out.
The crowdfunding campaign is a savvy move to cushion the blow, and to raise funds to cover book-specific costs like design, marketing and production. And importantly, it frees them from the song and dance of drumming up investment.
Fantagraphics is clear: they don’t want to rely on investors. Investors mean influence, mean attention paid, mean a different kind of bottom line. Kickstarter allows Fantragraphics to appeal directly to its readers, and to anyone who believes in what they do, and bypass both the old patronage model, and the capital-stripping model of new investment. Kickstarter is pretty great that way.
So. The campaign. They’re looking to put out a whopping 39 books by some very talented cartoonists. You can find a detailed listing of the season in their catalogue. Your options are diverse: for $1, Gary Groth will include you in his prayers; for $25 you can pre-order one of several Fantagraphics books, signed; for $150 you can get an original, limited edition print, or have dinner with Groth et al. At $83k pledged of $150k goal, they’ve still got a ways to go, but I expect to see the project fully funded in short order. So get in while you still can–that’s 29 days, if you were wondering.
Go on and fund some beautiful, thought-provoking comics.