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Sparkler Monthly Kickstarts Year Three Campaign

Sparkler Kickstarter

I’ve made no bones about my support for Sparkler Monthly, the online monthly female-gaze magazine that started two years ago. I loved the idea of getting books, comics and audio dramas that were marketed directly for me, and I’ve been a subscriber since the 4th issue. Sparkler Monthly is a subscriber supported magazine, and for Year Two, they did a subscription drive to try to up membership to increase material in the magazine as well as advances to the creators. The drive is currently at 231 members, having made it past the first two tiers. But for the magazine to really be self-sustaining, a minimum of 1000 subscribers were needed for Year Three to go forward. While the move to 231 was quite an improvement, it wasn’t really enough. But instead of throwing in the towel or downsizing, the resourceful women at Chromatic Press, the publisher of Sparkler Monthly, have put together a Kickstarter campaign to help fund Year Three.

Over 40 days, Chromatic Press is looking to raise $15,000 to put out 12 issues of the magazine as well as new surprises in bonus content, as well as experimenting with different formats and distribution. There are plenty of reward tiers, most of them relating to the magazine. Basically, a pledge to the Kickstarter is like paying a subscription, but with a few more benefits. They are set up in groups, letting backers choose how they want their content; serial, eBooks, or print. The lower tiers feature eBooks and/or paperbacks of the backers choice. At the $50 tier, the magazine subscriptions kick in, with eBooks and download access to the previous two years, as well as their adult line Cherry Bomb becoming available.

For fans of either the stories or creators, there are also special tiers that include commissions by the creators. Starting at the $170 tier, backers get all the benefits of a VIP subscriber, as well as a commission from the following creators: Kaiju (Art; The Ring of Saturn, Mahou Josei Chimaka), Alexis Cooke (Art; Dinner Ditz, For Peace), Onorobo (Art; Dusk in Kalevia), Jen Lee Quick (Art; Off*Beat, Gatesmith), Jenn Grunigen (Story; Skyglass), Lianne Sentar (Story; Tokyo Demons, Shut In, Shut Out), Romy-Chan (Art; Tokyo Demons). All of the creators have volunteered to make these tiers possible. There is also one tier that is sponsored by a fan of the magazine.

The people behind Sparkler Magazine are really amazing, and I’m glad to see them continuing to push to keep the magazine going. They are great with their time, willing to interact with both fans and prospective creators not only through the forums, but in social media as well. To be honest, I was a little worried when I saw how slow the subscription drive was going, and that things might get cut back. If I was better off financially, I would totally go in for the $165 I WANNA READ THIS AS A MAGAZINE: YEAR 1-3 COMPLETE VIP TIER so I could get eBooks of the stories that started before the magazine. I don’t mind reading on a computer screen, but I don’t want to be restricted to being online. Let me download them and read them at my own pace! But for now, I will have to suffice with being a monthly subscriber and show my support as one of the 231.

I recommend people check out the Kickstarter and pledge if they’re interested. All of the back issues are available to read for free at Sparklermonthly.com, so you can try before you buy. I’ve read all of the comics that have run so far, but have fallen behind on the novels and audio dramas. It just means I always have something to look forward to. I highly recommend Orange Junk, a recent comic addition. I also really enjoyed the short comic Shut In, Shut Out. Knights-Errant, Witch’s Quarry and Windrose have been great reads as well. As of this writing, the project is at 30% after only 3 days, with several of the commission tiers already gone, or nearly gone. Hopefully this bodes well for the project and the magazine reaches new audiences.

DMP Goes for Shojo for Next Tezuka Kickstarter

Storm Fairy KickstarterIt’s been just over a month since DMP ended their last Tezuka Kickstarter project, the printing of Clockwork Apple, with the stretch goals of printing Brave Dan, and reprinting of Barbara and Swallowing the Earth. On June 16, they launched the next project, to print the shojo short story title Storm Fairy. After 4 days, the project is $823 shy of hitting its base goal of $14, 200.

Storm Fairy is a collection of the 3 short stories. “Storm Fairy,” or “Fairy of Storms,” is the main story that the collection is named after. An Empress fleeing her burning castle and meets a wood fairy. In exchange for the fairy’s favor, the must give up the face of her next born child. That is Princess Ruri, who must wear a mask to hide her disfigured face. Ruri is usurped when an unscrupulous man learns her secret and steal her mask for his daughter. On the run, Ruri meets the samurai Tonosuke who takes her in, and the fairy Hanoke, who unknowingly has Ruri’s face.

The second story, “Kokeshi Detective Agency,” is described as having a similar tone to the Encyclopedia Brown detective stories. Paco is not afraid of things that go bump in the night, so she not bothered by the spooky mysteries she solves with Waco, her dog friend protects her. In the “Pink Angel,” the fair Pink from the realm of beautiful sunsets tries to make people happy and in need by morphing into what it is they need while King Brown and Sepia, from the realm of Thunderstorms, try their best to make people miserable.

I think this is the first title DMP has kickstarted that has me tempted to back. While all three stories sound appealing, I’m really interested in “Kokeshi Detective Agency.” I have a fondness for detective stories and a nostalgia for Encyclopedia Brown, so getting a taste of both is a boon for me. The rewards structure is pretty sound, with the first tier to get the book digitally being at $10, a reasonable amount for a kickstarter, and $20 for in print. Some new rewards are t-shirts, a dress, and a tote bag, all actual useful items that let people show off their Tezuka love.

There are two stretch goals set on this project. At $26,000, Unico will get a reprint run, but for an addition $1000, it will get a reprint run with higher quality colors. For another $5,500, or a total of $32, 500, the previously digital-only title Crime and Punishment will get a print run. I’m not too big on the Unico reprint, but I’m always for giving a digital-only series a print run, even if it’s one I’m not interested in. Though considering the subject of this project, I think another shojo-y title would have been more appropriate.

Considering DMP still has 25 days to hit its goal, there is little doubt Storm Fairy will be funded. What it’s going to come down to once again is if the stretch goals are hit. Clockwork Apple went down to the wire to get all its stretch goals, but it did make it. It will be interesting to see if this, the first Tezuka shojo to kickstart will do as well as its shonen and seinen siblings.

Here We Go Again

Clockwork Apple KickstarterOn Thursday, Digital Manga Publishing announced their next Tezuka-in-Print kickstarter. They are being modest again, with a single series anthology, Clockwork Apple. It features 8 short stories of speculative fiction that were written between 1968 – 1973.  DMP describes the volume as such:

In this collection of speculative fiction a man finds a wonder drug, a robot has a baby, a town is subjected to control by substance, a robber runs away from murder, a man searches for his mysterious love, American school kids are kidnapped, an activist takes part in political intrigue, and space hippies defy peace conventions.

It is recommended to fans of the TV show The Twilight Zone and the comics Creepy and Eerie, due to similar tone and themes. Considering what a classic those titles are, that is high praise for this volume.

DMP is looking for $13,500 to publish the book with the digital tier hitting at $15, and the print tier at $20. The book will be a little thicker than most manga volumes, coming in at 284 pages, and DMP is saying they will use heavier stock paper, which is what probably puts the print book at the near MSRP of $19.99. There are of course plenty of rewards, including a digital companion, bookmarks, wooden coins, a cabby hat, moleskin journal, tote bag, and pins. They have also brought back their Library tier, were 5 volumes of the book will be sent to the library of your choice.

There are also stretch goals planned, with the first hitting at $18,200, what will put the currently digital only title Brave Dan into print. This is a good strategy for DMP to take. The work for Brave Dan has already been done. It was translated as a DMG title and is available on eManga. Kickstarting every Tezuka is untenable, but making them stretch goals for already available digital titles will put them much more into reach. There are five other titles available; Age of Adventure, Crime and Punishment, Mr. Cactus, New Treasure Island, and The Castle at Dawn.

As of this writing, the Kickstarter is at $12,096 with 328 backers with 25 days to go. It is nearly funded after 5 days with only $1404 left to go. Hitting that first stretch goal is very doable, and I rather hope it does make it. I would love to see the stretch goals include printing digital only titles. I think DMP’s goal to get Tezuka library in print is a good one and this is may be the way they were looking for to do it.

DMP Kickstarts Tezuka’s Alabaster

AlabasterDigital Manga Publishing has announced the next Osamu Tezuka Kickstarter. It’s been a month since the last Kickstarter for Ludwig B ended. It’s another two volume series, and was featured as a stretch goal in the failed Tezuka World Kickstater; Alabaster.

The story follows former athlete James Block, now a famous villain who is out for revenge against all things “beautiful.” While in prison, he learns of a weapon, the F-Laser, that can turn any carbon based organism invisible. When he gets out, he steals it, and tries it on himself. Instead of turning invisible, only his skin is affected. He then takes on the name Alabaster, and is joined by Ami, the granddaughter of the scientist who invented the laser, who is also completely invisible thanks to experiments her grandfather did on her mother while she was pregnant. They go on a vicious revenge spree, pulling off several heists, but Ami’s innocents could be Alabaster’s downfall.

This Kickstarter is a little more than Ludwig B. Digital copies of Alabaster are $8 each. For an additional $11 you can get the digital companion. To get print copies you need to pay $36, or $18 a volume. The reason of for this higher price seems to be for better paper quality. It sounds like this came up in the survey they did after the Tezuka World Kickstarter failed. What seems odd is that this puts the print books $6 above the reported MSRP, which for both volumes is only $29.90. If you look at this tier as a pre-order, it seems DMP is making you pay for the privilege of pre-ordering or their Free Shipping is built into it.

Once again there are plenty of incentives for the higher tiers with more Tezuka goodies, including Black Jack toilet paper, an Astro Boy tote bag, and wooden coins commemorating Alabaster‘s printing. The tiers I really like though, are the ones that donate sets to a library of the backers choice. If you’re going to spread the Tezuka love, there is no better way!

There is one stretch goal on this Kickstarter. For an additional $9,800 DMP is looking to reprint Swallowing the Earth on the same better stock paper. No rewards this haven’t been announced yet other than a color wallpaper for backers. I have doubts about this stretch goal being met. The number of people who want to see Swallowing the Earth on higher grade paper probably aren’t $9800 worth. Ludwig B didn’t go very far past its initial goal, and it took to the last 4 hours to get there. These Tezuka Kickstarters seem to be about Tezuka fans getting books, not subsidizing DMP’s print runs.

After only a day, the Kickstarter is already at $8,455, with 165 backers. Both pledges and backers are up from Ludwig’s start. Most of the backers are on the pre-order print tier. But it’s kind of surprising that two of the limited tiers over $100 are already gone, but they were very limited, only needing 6 backers to get them. Still, Alabaster seems to be off to a good start. Fans really do seem to be looking forward to this series. We’ll see how consistent the backers keep pouring in.


DMP’s Latest Tezuka Kickstarter Succeeds

Ludwig B kickstarterIt came down to the wire again. Digital Manga Publishing, after the failure of their ambitious Kickstarter to publish 31 volumes of Osamu Tezuka’s manga, tried again with a more traditional model of a complete two-volume series. It began at the end of November, just before Black Friday, and ended the day after Christmas. A difficult time to be asking for money to be sure, as people are out preparing for the holidays and buying gifts.

It started out well, hitting 20% of their goal after only a few days. They kept the pricing in line with what fans expected to pay for books, and had several digital and print options to satisfy most desires. To keep the campaign alive, they would add new tiers, and in the last week offered a special high-end tier that included a trip to Japan for $4000. This seemed to be the spur it needed to get over the lull it had fallen into that made some declare it would fail. As is usual for most Kickstarters, it came down to the wire on the last day, but it did make its goal with $1000 to spare.

When you look at how the pledges broke down, it’s easy to see what people want from Tezuka kickstarters. They want the books; physical books. The tier with the most backers, 189, was for both volumes in print. Print and digital only got 19, while digital only got 18. DMP threw up plenty of bells and whistles any Tezuka fan would love, and they got backs on nearly every tier, but it seems the meat and bones of the fans, the ones they really need to make this work just want the print books at what they consider a reasonable price, which in this case was an MSRP of $15.95.

If DMP and/or Tezuka Productions can be a little patient, I think they can get through this. Fans of these works want the books, but those that want them ALL I think is smaller than those who want certain titles. Breaking the titles up into smaller, more individual runs will make it easier for the more casual fans to get just the specific titles they are interested in while the super fan can get them all on a budget they can justify.

Congratulations to Digital Manga Publishing for a successful Kickstarter to end the year, and a wish for more in the coming new year.

Alive and Kicking

Ludwig B kickstarterIt’s been less than a week since Digital Manga Publishing’s Tezuka’s World Release kickstarter ended, failing to meet its $380K minimum funding goal. But, like the proverbial good man, DMP is not staying down. Six days later they are back with a smaller, more modest kickstarter, and a completely different series.

Ludwig B is a two-volume series, and one of the last three series’ Tezuka worked on before his death. It is about the famous composer, Ludwig Beethoven. It looks at his younger years, as he struggles with being used and abused by aristocrats and his pushy alcoholic father. Charged with watching his younger brothers during a French war, Ludwig deals with his conflicted thoughts the only way he knows how; through his music.

The goal for this kickstarter is back in line with previous DMP Tezuka kickstarters, at $21,600. The reward tiers are also more like previous kickstarters, with digital only copies of the books starting at $15, and print copies at $32. They are also offering tiers what allow backers to get two copies of the first volume to share. There are only 20 tiers, so multiple spreadsheet are not needed to track them this time. Also included is some hard to get merchandise like trading cards and bookmarks that were only published in Japan.

After only one day, they are at 93 backers and over $5200 in pledges. That’s ~20% of the goal after only one day. A much better statistic than the 7% they got at the end of the last one. With Black Friday this week and Christmas coming up, these may not skyrocket up, but as people finish shopping, extra money may end up here. It will be interesting to see how it does on the last day, December 26. Will Christmas money end up here?

It was good to see DMP admit to being too ambitious, and that they listened to the comment and suggestions from their backers on the last campaign. It was a lofty goal to want to publish the remaining Tezuka catalog in 5-6 years, but just not one backers could or would bear. And at least they are warning that these campaigns will come out more often with only a few weeks break in between, so keep that in mind as they start rolling out, especially if you are on a budget. Looking at the tiers people are pledging at, it’s obvious that backers do still want to support getting Tezuka manga published. Several of the higher end tiers, $89 and up, have backers, so it was never about people not wanting to support the initiative. It just needed to be done in a more reasonable and sustainable manner. Hopefully, DMP has struck that balance now.

No Such Thing as a Sure Thing

Tezuka World KickstarterIt seems like the impossible, but it happened. The Digital Manga Kickstarter campaign, Tezuka’s World Release failed to meet its goal of $380,000 in 30 days. It was an ambition project. The entire kickstarter consisted of 6 series’ totaling 31 volumes to be published all at once. But it was a little too ambitious. The $380,000 as the initial goal only covered 2 titles totaling 20 volumes. Two more titles totaling an additional 5 volumes would become available at $475,000 and the final two titles totaling the last 6 volumes would become available at $589,000. That’s a lot of money, over half a million dollars for fans to pony up for just six titles.

Controversy surrounded this project right from the start. The cost and the levels needed to pledge just to get print copies of books was the first and foremost concern of many supporters. At the beginning, backers had to pledge at the $750 level to get copies of the books. That’s a lot of money for 31 books. There was a lot of questions about the tiers, mostly filled with promotional items and why getting books, the reason most people were looking to support the project, were at such a high price. Alex Hoffman of Sequential State did a 3 part post analyzing the project and discussing the issues he saw with it.

Not everyone saw the project as a negative. The Tezuka in English tumblr posted a defense of the kickstarter, asking people to not look at the project as a way to preorder books, but as an investment in DMP and their vision. DMP president Hikaru Sasahara seemed to think the same as a message from him in video and text was posted to the kickstarter page as updates. In his message, he explained why the cost of the kickstarted needed to be so high and what were the company’s ultimate goals. His message still wasn’t enough for backers, and a FAQ page was posted to answer further questions.

Ultimately, all of these explanation weren’t enough. It really appeared that DMP was asking Tezuka fans to fund, not just the project, but the operating expenses of the company. This isn’t what Tezuka fans were used to being asked, or were expecting. Past kickstarters run by DMP were about getting a few books out and fans were happy to fund them. But what DMP tried to do with this project was an entirely different animal and the backers made it very clear that they weren’t interested. In the end, only 115 people backed the project which raised $26,971.00, or 7% of the first goal.

With the information that has come out of this project, I do wonder what DMP said to Tezuka Pro to get them to hand over the license of 500 volumes and what they expected. Was part of DMP’s pitch the numbers from their kickstarter, and other successfully funded Tezuka kickstarters? It does seem that Tezuka was the one creator that you could put up a kickstarter for and people would just throw money at it. But it’s now apparent that even die-hard fans have limits. In DMP’s follow-up answers, it was implied that kickstarter was integral to the success of the license. Possibly even in them getting it. DMP was vastly overestimating western fans means and desire for Tezuka titles if they were counting on them to fund the entire project.

The thing I found most troubling was the expectation that backers would pay for DMP’s operating expenses. They should have had that all planned out and funded before even taking on such a monumental project. Kickstarter has been and continues to be about funding a project. Backers fund projects. Investors fund companies. Maybe DMP should look into Patreon if it’s going to be that much of a hardship on them.

I do hope DMP does try another, more modest kickstarter. There are still plenty of Tezuka titles that western fans want and will fund. They just need to find that balance between what fans want and what they will pay for. As DMP found out the hard way, this wasn’t it. Osamu Tezuka may be the God of Manga, but even with a god, there’s no such thing as a sure thing.

Manga Dome Podcast Episode 22: Alice in the Country of Hearts

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This week I check out a new manga kickstarter from Manga Reborn, what’s up at Vizmanga, and review the last two volumes of Alice in the Country of Hearts.

Continue reading Manga Dome Podcast Episode 22: Alice in the Country of Hearts