In his latest update, Burlew gave some insight into the hard numbers: $1,254,120 was pledged from 14,952 backers, about 0.32% (less than $4000) was not received due to errors on the part of backers, and $106,800 was given to Amazon Payments and Kickstarter in fees. That leaves Burlew with about $1,142,000 for the reprints and all the new goals he has for his webcomic.
SH: Has this fundraiser altered your business model or were pre-orders for the books (through the reward system) so dominant that you’re in the same model, just on a larger scale?
RB: Definitely the latter. The fundraiser has been incredibly successful in generating sales (as well as wider interest in the comic) but ultimately, I can’t run one of these every few months and expect to get another million dollars each time. The likelihood of me ever getting anything close to this response again is very low, so I’m treating it as a one-time opportunity. That’s the main reason why I’m trying to use as much of the excess funding to make permanent improvements to my business—buying new equipment, upgrading the server, and so on. That way, when the attention dies down and I’m back to doing things the way I’ve always done them, there will be concrete long-term benefits to me and the readers.
SH: What was the secret to your success on Kickstarter, and how much do you think can be repeated by other projects in the future?
RB: The most obvious secret is to already have an audience to sell to. The best way to get that audience is to put out a product of reliable quality over a long enough period of time that potential backers have no doubts about your ability to pull off whatever it is you’re promising to pull off. I’ve been drawing The Order of the Stick for almost nine years, and I’ve already printed and delivered seven books in that time. While some of them have had the sort of production delays you would expect from a small business, the fact is that I had a pretty good track record when it comes to self-publishing. So when I went out and said, “Hey, I need some funds up front if you want to get more books,” no one thought that I wasn’t capable of actually turning those funds into books. And because I’ve drawn well over a thousand pages of comics, most of them viewable for free, they also knew the exact quality level to expect for any additional stories that I threw in to sweeten the deal. That level of confidence is essential if you want a lot of people to give you money for something that doesn’t exist yet.