Welcome back to another Kickstarter Conversation! Today I am joined by Bardsworth creator Peter Tarkulich whom I’ve had the pleasure of knowing for more years than I think either of us will admit to. He’s here to talk to us about his first trip to Kickstarter to print up the second volume of Bardsworth. Thank you for joining us today Peter!
Thank you for interviewing me, sir! I knew back when you were known as “Gozer the Carpathian” and you had a webcomic of your own! Good times.
Indeed! Though my comic failed your’s continues. Why don’t you start off by telling us about your cookie loving friend and his adventures in his closet that you’ve been telling for years now?
The simplest and shortest description of Bardsworth is: It’s like Harry Potter, but more fun.
The story chronicles the adventures of Mike Cosley, a high school nobody who graduates with no idea of what to do with his life… until he finds a mysterious door in the back of his closet. The door leads to another world, wherein there is a college called Bardsworth University that teaches magic. Mike enrolls and soon finds himself in the midst of magical pranks, killer hugs, and the awful truth that magic isn’t just waving a wand and saying “Abracadabra.”
I remember back in 2008 you coming out with a print collection for Bardsworth, what’s taken you so long to try and print a second volume?
It’s been a number of things. Back then, I had the time to put into both the comic and putting the book together. My wife was in grad school at all hours of the day, so after work I was left on my own a lot of the time. I could crank out the comic and at the same time I was able to crank out the first book.
However, around the time when the first book was released, my day job had become about a thousand times more stressful, and I had just moved and was making about an hour commute to and from work. It left me exhausted and with less time to work on stuff, and because of that my update schedule went from three times a week to two times a week. Since then, things continued to be crazy - we moved back to the east coast (as well as moving several times since then), my son was born in 2011, I’ve been cycling through other jobs to maintain our income, I’ve been working on other creative projects… the book just had to take a back seat to everything else.
And the reason it’s taking so long to produce the book is because when I started doing Bardsworth, I didn’t know anything about preparing my artwork for print. I was just putting it up online. So all of my early stuff is very low resolution, and the only way to circumvent that is to go back to the original scanned line art, clean it up, and color it (which not only makes it look better, but makes it easier to sell the book). And because the artwork is so crude, just the coloring itself takes quite a bit of time.
Every creative person I know has problems putting their work “out there” for people to see, let alone comment on. How have you been able to constantly put out your work for so long? What’s your advice to other artists who want to start a webcomic or get paid for their art?
Like I said, back in the day it was more due to the free time I had. Not to mention the crudeness of the artwork; I was just inking, doing a little bit of shading, and that was that. As I began to do more detailed artwork and added color, it became more difficult to keep up. But by that point I had amassed a fair number of readers who loved the comic, and so consistent updates became more and more important. I dedicate a large portion of my time to Bardsworth; I don’t schedule my work time around TV shows, I don’t go out very often, and I make sacrifices when necessary to make sure my updates happen.
As far as advice goes, I can give it on starting a webcomic, but as someone who still doesn’t really “get paid” for his art, my advice on that is limited. Starting a webcomic is easy - come up with your idea and characters, come up with a realistic update schedule, draw up about three months worth of updates (more if possible) before posting anything online, then get yourself a website and start posting. After that comes the hard parts - keeping up with the schedule, gathering an audience, and (if you aren’t just doing it as a hobby) monetizing it. I’m still working on that last part. I do get donations from loyal readers from time to time, and I make enough off of ads on the site to pay for the hosting fees and such, but I’m still not making much of a profit off of it. The “why” of that is a whole other discussion.
But the bottom line is if you want to do it, do it. Just do your research, find out what others have done before you, figure out if it’ll work for you, and plow forward. Most of all, don’t get discouraged by detractors and negative comments, or the lack of readers, or anything else negative. If you’re happy doing it, keep doing it.
How will working on the second volume affect the current update schedule? I mean regular readers want the story to keep updating you know.
Well, as of my answering this question, my current update schedule has officially changed. Since about 2009, I’ve been updating only once a week. It’s been killing me because I want the story to move forward as much as the readers do. So, finally, I’ve managed to get into a life routine that allows me to pump out two comics a week (switching from hand-lettering to a type font helps, too). I’ve squeezed out about a month’s worth of buffer strips, and as of November 7, 2013 (the seven year anniversary of the comic) Bardsworth is going back to two strips a week.
That being said, it explains the portion of my Kickstarter goal labeled “living expenses”. I’m shooting for about two months worth of income so that I don’t have divide my time between the comic, the book, and paid work. With that money as padding, I can knuckle down and focus on the book, while still getting the comic out there twice a week.
I’m glad you put a budget breakdown as it saves me the effort of asking about it. I do wonder why only 200 books? Is that the amount you expect to be able to sell in a year?
While I’m an optimistic person, I’m also a realistic person. When I did the print run of the first book, I only did 200 because that was all I could afford (and that was all on a credit card with an insane APR). Even though the count was low, however, I still have a good number of those books in my possession, which leads me to believe that I won’t be selling through the whole 200 copies of the second book very quickly.
If that does happen, it’s a problem I will gladly take on.
I always like looking at the top tier rewards and thinking, “what if?” Your $1000 sponsorship reward tier is interesting because I was wondering what kind of traffic levels do you get on those sites? Would it replace your normal banner advertising?
Bardsworth is the biggest of the three sites, averaging about 3500 visits a day. Fairy Magik doesn’t get a lot of promotion, mostly because we’re still in the process of building it back up from scratch, but averages about 200-300 visits a day (we’re hoping to increase that in next few months). And my author blog site doesn’t get a large amount of hits, but it’s easier to promote since it’s a part of the Wordpress network (tagging is a wonderful thing).
I would be replacing the top banner ad with my sponsor’s ad for the six months. I’m also considering a sidebar ad as well, but that might take some finagling, as I’m already pretty cramped on that side.
Scented oils? Is this something you guys do with your fairy themed crafts normally?
Actually, the scented oils were for Bardsworth exclusively! It was just something I wanted to try for the convention and craft show season a couple of years ago. It got a mild response, but that was mostly due to the poor turnout of the conventions and shows I went to. The people who have sampled them love them, though. I have a friend who runs a scented oil store and she makes them for us. I would love to expand the line to incorporate scents like Kris (the smell of books) and Francis (baked goods).
How did you discover Kickstarter?
Back when I worked day jobs, I spent quite a bit of time keeping up with the webcomic world when I should have been working, so I would see Kickstarter’s name cropping up in blog and news posts. It seemed that a lot of webcomic creators were turning to them to raise funds for print runs of their comics. I’ve long considered doing a Kickstarter project, but never felt that the time was right (for me, anyway) until now. To date, I have only backed one project, but I wish I could back projects on a regular basis. There are some amazing things out there and as an entrepreneur it makes me feel good to help out others achieve their goals.
A key part of successful Kickstarters is backer participation and how to convert a potential backer into a full backer. How are you engaging your backers? What kinds of things do you have planned for updates to give notice to those who just hit the “remind me” button and surf on? Interviews? Videos? Stories from the project?
I hadn’t even thought that far ahead… which is why I’m glad I’m friends with you! (laughs) I’m pretty active on my social media accounts - Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, soon-to-be on Google+ - so I have that going for me. If I can find more people to interview me I’ll gladly do it (as you can see, I like talking). Videos… I dunno, we’ll see. I still have to pump out my video for the Kickstarter and I’m not sure how good that’ll come out using my laptop camera. But anything I can do, I’ll do it.
What kind of media attention have you received with your project? How are you spreading the word? Facebook? Twitter? Google+? Youtube? Advertising? Are you using Kicktraq to track your progress?
I only just announced the launch date as of my typing this, so there hasn’t been any media attention to speak of. As stated in the previous answer, I’ll be social mediaing it up as much as I can. I wrote up a press release last night that I plan on sending first to blogs that specialize in webcomics, comics, and Kickstarter campaigns; then I plan on sending it out to local media outlets. Not really expecting much from the latter, but you never know.
I have no idea what Kicktraq is… I guess I’ll look into it!
Do you have any tips/advice would you give to anyone looking to start a Kickstarter?
Yeah - plan it about five months before you intend to launch it! (laughs) I waited until way too close to the time when I wanted to launch it and I’ve been running myself ragged. For example, I realized that I was doing this for the second book and that I didn’t even have a cover design to display! So I had to find the time to come up with a design and actually draw it (haven’t colored it yet) so that the project has some amount of tangibility.
Other than that, talk with other people who have run Kickstarter campaigns and ask for their advice (and feedback). Also, browse the projects in the category that your project will go into, both successful and unsuccessful, and take notes.
Finally, get Gozer (I mean James) to interview you! ;-)
*Chuckles* Always glad to help. Thank you for spending your time with us! Do you have any final thoughts for our readers?
Just some shameless self-promotion! If you think you know someone who might be interested in my campaign, please spread the word! I’ve always been a firm believer in the power of word of mouth. That’s basically how my comic got off the ground in the first place.
Thanks again and I hope to hear good things from your Kickstarter!
Thank you, James!