You want to know what the most astounding thing is about the ongoing Order of the Stick Kickstarter? It’s not the sheer amount of money raised – over half a million and still going strong. It’s the fact that this is a reprint drive.
All six of the books being reprinted as part of this drive have seen print before; in fact, two of them weren’t even out of print before this drive spurred a run on copies. Most of the hardcore OOTS fans that would ever want copies of the books likely already got them when they originally came out, so they are likely to gain nothing as a result of this drive. The primary beneficiaries of this drive are probably people like me, who were late enough in coming to OOTS and/or in deciding to get books – perhaps people who hadn’t even heard of the comic, at least before all the attention this drive is getting – that some of those books were out of print by the time they decided to do so.
In my case, I almost wouldn’t have contributed because I’m lacking for money, I wasn’t interested at the start of the drive because I would rather get the second book before I ever get the third that was trying to be reprinted at the start, and (dirty little secret time) most of the books are more expensive if picked up through the drive than if they were just ordered through the Web site. The book I mentioned in my last post is an exception, as that pledge level is roughly equivalent to ordering the book through the Web site plus the $10 to get the PDF stories, and I eventually decided I could spare the expense to get that. If I’d had money a year ago (and I almost did) when about 75 copies of that book were found in the back of a warehouse and sold over 24 hours, I’d have picked up a copy then, then pledged to get the third book now (if I still had money). If I couldn’t get the second book then and had the money now, though, I’d just be pissed that Rich counted that 24-hour period as when the second book went out of print and waited to pledge anything until it was going towards reprinting the second book.
The point is, the majority of OOTS fans weren’t benefiting directly from this drive, and a portion of those who did probably wouldn’t be able to contribute meaningfully if their financial situation had something to do with their lack of the books. So how did Rich get them all on board to get those books back in print in such a way that it stunned even him?
I think an underrated aspect of the drive’s success is that, several weeks before it started, Rich hinted that getting the third book back in print would take “the full support of everyone who wants to have the book in their hands, and maybe even a little bit more than that.” Before anyone even knew what that was, it psyched everyone up to give their support to the drive if it was necessary. That got people who wouldn’t otherwise have cared in the mindset that they might want to contribute to the drive. Beyond that, however, much of the drive’s momentum at first probably didn’t stem from the prospect of getting the books reprinted, but by what else Rich was selling – namely, a brand new canonical story (for the low low price of $10!) starring one of the most memetic characters in the entire strip. Even if I had money but no second book, I might have begrudgingly pledged $10 to get that and hope that third-bookers getting their way would help me get my way. That suggestion is also raised in Rich’s recent interview with ComicAlliance, where Rich also indicates that people with a complete collection still wanted to contribute to the drive, but evidently, only once it started to pick up steam. (And Rich’s advice to comic creators looking to start a Kickstarter almost amounts to “start a webcomic”, which makes it a potentially ideal segue to my Future of Content series.)
Given the circumstances, I’m not sure I agree with whatever point El Santo is trying to make about what this means for webcomic creators trying to make money. He can’t be trying to say that you can simply start up a Kickstarter to get paid to work on your webcomic, because that seems to me to be akin to getting paid to goof off, or no different than setting up a PayPal donation box. If he means setting up a Kickstarter to pay for other merchandise, it’s unlikely he means any sort of merchandise that hasn’t been done by webcomic creators in the past – in fact, selling copies of his first book was what allowed Rich to call himself a full-time cartoonist. But if he means that a popular webcomic creator can fund some sort of project that he wouldn’t otherwise be able to make the numbers work out on before the fact? That’s a lesson I’d already taken to heart before I wrote my last post.
(And I still can’t get over all this happening while the actual comic is reaching a peak in the action, which has now gotten to the point of attracting the renewed attention of Tangents, giving newcomers an ideal jumping-on point to become addicted.)