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Cartoonist Raises $1.25 Million–How? By Offering Stories People Love


One of my favorite Web comics (and I only follow a few) recently ran a Kickstarter project hoping to raise $57,750 to reprint some collections of the comic. The Order of the Stick author/artist/genius Rich Burlew did a little better than that: the final total was $1.25 million dollars, the third biggest Kickstarter ever. You can read about it here on Publishers Weekly, among other places. Note that the majority of the money will probably go to getting the premiums printed and shipped.

I’m sure this will energize a lot of people to try Kickstarter for their own project, but I doubt any of them will have the huge and motivated fan base Burlew has. His series, which is about a set of Dungeons and Dragons characters on a quest to save the universe from an evil undead wizard, has adventure, surprises, good characterization, and a ton of humor. I don’t know if it would be of any interest to a person who’s never played D&D, as I did when I was young. You can read the series here: .

I think the lesson to take away here is not so much that it’s time to rush to Kickstarter, or that successful Kickstarter projects have to be managed as masterfully as Burlew managed his (the charts showing progress each day were OOTS comics, for instance, and he kept adding new premiums every time a new goal was hit), but that the key to success as a creator of stories is to find a sweet spot where your storytelling turns a lot of people on (in the non-kinky way) (unless you write erotica, in which case knock yourself out) (not literally) (except who am I to tell you what to write in your erotica)?

Burlew champions the approach of building an audience through offering free material: “if you give it away first, people will form their opinion of you and your work before you ask them for money. And readers are a lot more likely to spend money on things they know they like than things they hope they will like. People want to own what they love, so rather than selling access to the content, sell the permanent incarnation of it – be that a book or an ebook or a DVD or whatever. The best thing about giving away your content first is that when it comes time to sell the final product, you’re going to have almost 100% customer satisfaction. No one is going to complain that they didn’t like the story they bought, because every one of your customers knew they liked it before paying.”

There’s a list of media mentions of Burlew’s feat on his site. It was covered by Publisher’s Weekly, Forbes, The Guardian, etc.

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