So you’ve launched your Kickstarter and now you realize you need to calculate shipping as well as the logistics of sending out the comics to all your backers. Who’s going to print your comics? Are you really planning on addressing hundreds of envelopes yourself? What about the add ons? The bookmarks, the art prints, and trading cards? What are you going to do about them? If you are in the planning stage of your Kickstarter or you have already started your Kickstarter, you need to meet Barry Gregory, owner of Ka-Blam. Barry was nice enough to stop by First Comics News and tell our readers all about proper planning for Kickstarter and what it’s actually like to fulfill a successful campaign.
First Comics News: What attracted you to comics?
Barry Gregory: I grew up in a place that was literally twenty miles from a stoplight. On a clear day, we had two TV channels. From the age of three or four, I was fascinated by comics. I had older cousins who read comics and gave me theirs when they were done with them. Comics were everything to me as a kid.
1st: What makes indy comics special to you?
Barry: I love seeing and reading what creators come up with when there’s no gatekeeper, no one to tell them “you can’t do that” or “this will never sell” or “people won’t ‘get’ it”. There’s a kind of punk-rock integrity to indy comics that you don’t always get from corporate comics.
1st: How long have you been in the comic business?
Barry: A little over twenty-five years. I sold a couple of stories to Malibu Comics when I was in college. This would have been the very early 90s, before the Ultraverse and back when they were publishing a lot of anthology titles.
1st: It’s a tough business, how have you been able to survive over the years?
Barry: I freelanced for about a decade after my first sale –taking any job that came my way and then going out of my way to find them when they stopped coming to me. I worked as an editor for a few years, then after that, I took a break for a couple of years (from the comics business, that is, not from comics themselves) Then I started Ka-Blam in 2005.
1st: What is Digital Printing?
Barry: Digital Printing –at least how we do it at Ka-Blam– is print-on-demand using high-end, heat-fusion presses instead of four-color offset presses as have been traditionally used to produce comics. Without getting too into the weeds on this, a commercial offset press uses a four-color printing process wherein four inks –Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, and Black– are printed on top of each other to create full color. Our digital presses use fine polymers instead of ink and the colors are applied in one pass, then heat-fused to the paper.
With a traditional offset press, the setup is the lion’s share of the expense. That’s why they have minimum print runs. The setup for us is as simple as clicking a mouse button. This allows us to offer true print-on-demand with no minimums.
Barry: We can tell them upfront what their printing costs will be, as well as what it will cost to get their rewards to any address worldwide.
1st: What about fulfillment. Does Ka-Blam do the individual shipping for the campaign?
Barry: We do. And at no extra cost. The customer pays the printing and the shipping costs and we’ll pack and ship it wherever they want at no additional charge.
1st: What about international customers?
1st: What about the stretch goal rewards, can Ka-Blam help produce them?
Barry: It all depends on what they want. If it’s another comic or something like that, sure. By design though, Ka-Blam offers a limited number of products and options. We’re not a big print bureau that will print any size, shape, or configuration you can imagine. That’s not us. We’re a comics printer. We have a set “menu”. We do this to keep our prices as low as possible. By knowing what papers we use and in what quantities we use them, we don’t have to stock a lot of papers that are seldom used. We can buy in bulk and keep our costs down.
Barry: Sure. If a customer offers a Kickstarter reward that they had produced elsewhere — like toys or enamel pins, etc — they can send those to us and we’ll include them in the package with the comics. Again, no extra charge for that. Though it may increase the shipping charges if the size of the added item forces us to use a non-standard sized box for shipping.
1st: What if the creators want variant covers is there an extra charge for that?
Barry: No problem. It’s just another item. They’d pay only the printing.
1st: If a creator chooses Indiegogo instead of Kickstarter so they can capture partial funding, how small a print run can you get from Ka-Blam?
1st: What other services does Ka-Blam offer the independent creator?
Barry: IndyPlanet is the big one. IndyPlanet.com is an online print-on-demand (and digital download) comics shop. Anyone who prints a comic at Ka-Blam has a standing invitation to offer their books for sale at IndyPlanet. You set your price and when a sale is made, we subtract the printing cost and you get 100% of the difference between the printing cost and the price you set. So if your cover price is $4 and the print cost is $2, then you get $2 on every sale. On digital downloads at IndyPlanet, we subtract the transaction costs and then split the sale 70/30.
Barry: They’re both owned by the same company and operate out of the same offices.
1st: Is it possible for the creators to continue selling their comic through Indy Planet after the Kickstarter is over?
Barry: Of course. Once your comic is up at IndyPlanet it stays there until you tell us to take it down (which you can do at any time.)
1st: Is there a way to link the Indy Plant ordering directly to the creator’s website or Facebook page?
Barry: We provide the creators with a direct link to their comics at IndyPlanet which they can post wherever they choose.
1st: In addition to printing you are also a publisher, what type of comics does Gallant Comics produce?
Barry: Gallant Comics is a passion project of mine. It’s my love letter to the Bronze Age comics I grew up reading — especially the Marvel Comics of the mid-1970s. With Gallant Comics, I’m trying to capture the same energy and vibe that those had. I’m not doing ‘70s comics though. The stories have a contemporary setting and I’m shying away from some of the conventions of 1970s comics — editorial captions, thought balloons, hyperbolic prose, etc. –because I was afraid that doing all of that might make them come off as parody. But what I am trying to do with Gallant is make those inspirations resonate, make you feel the way you felt when you read those Bronze Age books.
Barry: Steven and I were born a few days and a few dozen miles apart, but we didn’t meet until after college. We’ve been friends since the early 90s.
1st: What attracted you to Steven’s art?
Barry: He’s the best pure superhero artist I’ve ever known. I was thrilled when he agreed to work on the comics with me.
Barry: It’s the same thing that makes for a good story in any medium. Characters you care about and root for (or root against), compelling questions you must have answered, and an ending that delivers closure and catharsis.
1st: Who is the target demographic for Golden Age public domain characters?
Barry: I think if you market it as “Golden Age Public Domain Characters” then you’re limiting your audience to the people who know Golden Age characters. I wanted something that felt fresh, but I also wanted to be able to say “Classic Characters! New Stories!” I made the conscious choice to use PD characters because I like to play in that sandbox, so to speak. I like to take something that has some history and some backstory, many created by the legends of the industry and spin it into something new and fresh. We could have created new characters for Gallant Comics, but new superheroes, to me at least, are hard to introduce. Many of them just come off as derivatives. The PD characters seem to have more heft –more gravitas– and that appeals to me. And they were created by the legends of our industry. Our flagship character, John Aman, was created by Bill Everett who also created The Sub-Mariner. We have other characters created by Will Eisner and George Tuska and a villain created by Jack Kirby.
Barry: Everything. Crowdfunding is a hard slog. It’s pitching and pleading and begging for people to check out your campaign day after day after day. It’s exhausting.
1st: Why do you use Kickstarter instead of Indiegogo?
Barry: I’ve got nothing against Indiegogo. I may use them at some point. I like how they charge your card at the time you pledge. I wish Kickstarter did that. Canceled pledges are a real drag. But I think Indiegogo’s model actually creates a disincentive to potential backers. If as a backer or potential backer you know the creator is going to get whatever is pledged regardless of whether they meet the goal, then you have no incentive to up your pledge in the closing days of the campaign. You’re less likely to share the campaign on your social media or bug your friends to pledge and help the creator meet the goal if you know the goal isn’t so important to the ultimate funding.
Barry: Five. My first one failed, but the last four have been successful.
1st: What is the difference between realistic funding goals and stretch goals?
Barry: I guess it depends on the creator. For me, I set the goal at the bare minimum I need to make the project happen.
1st: How fast does a Kickstarter need to get to 25% funded to know it’s going to be successful?
Barry: I’m not sure that’s a sound metric. You don’t know you’re going to be successful until you get to 100% funded. In my experience, I’ve found that I need to be over 50% funded before I hit what I call “the lull.” There’s always a rush of excitement when you launch and then after a few days to a week, you hit a lull. This is the hard slog that you have to keep working through. You’ve got to keep plugging away and get eyeballs on your campaign page so that –hopefully– in the last few days of the campaign you’re able to close strong and reach the goal. My first campaign didn’t get to 50% before the lull and it failed. Everyone since has been over 50% before I hit the slowdown. Only once did I hit the goal within a few days. Every other time has followed the pattern of rush — lull — rush.
Barry: Comics are what we do. It’s the only thing we do. It’s our passion. We think of ourselves as a comics company that prints, not a print company that makes comics. With the technology we have behind us, we can give creators a high-quality product that’s as professionally produced as anything they see on the racks at their local comics shop. And with the business model we’ve built, they can order in small quantities whenever they need the books. Got a convention coming up in a few weeks? Great! With our no minimums policy, you can order what you think you can sell. If you need more for another show a few weeks after that, then reorder at your convenience.