By Jonathan Segura
The DIY and maker ethic runs through much of this year’s SXSW Interactive, including a panel called “Publishing Graphic Novels in the Kickstarter Era,” moderated by PW senior news editor Calvin Reid.
Comics have evolved from pulpy super hero books to supremely glossy long-form graphic novels often bankrolled by readers instead of publishers. Kickstarter has raised over $12 million to fund graphic novels (depending on how you crunch the numbers, Kickstarter is the country’s second largest publisher of graphic novels), and graphic novels published outside of the traditional model are garnering big sales and acclaim, Reid said.
Stevens and Frankel took remarkably different paths on their way to becoming publishers. Stevens drained his savings to fund the publication of The Lodger and isn’t well-versed in the business end of publishing. “I’m definitely someone who needs a publisher to take me by the hand and show me what to do,” he said. He also had a successful Kickstarter campaign recently, more than doubling his fundraising goal of $2,500 to help support his current project, “Imitating Life.”
Frankel, meanwhile, partners with “a Wall Street guy” and offers creators flexible contracts and profit-sharing options. He hasn’t yet dabbled in Kickstarter — “I think it’s kind of weird to use Kickstarter” as a publisher, he said — but thought it could possibly be used to help underwrite the distribution for certain projects.
But the common thread, no matter where a graphic novel comes from, independent publishers and innovative new funding options have upended the traditional comics and graphic novel model, which is a victory for creators, Reid said.
“Artists can step up to the plate and take their destinies in their hands,” he said.