"Build something, Victor. Contribute."
The latest title from Kinetic Press, Westward is a new steampunk mystery series from Ken Krekeler, writer and illustrator of The Colodin Project and Dry Spell. Played against a semi-Victorian background of corporate espionage and technological revolution, Westward follows the ongoing themes of individual achievement and the essence of human happiness.
Victor West did not ask to be born into wealth. He did not seek out the titans of industry that surround him, that pressure and push him toward a life of grand production and unending work. Heir to the fortune of Westward Enterprises, Victor has never had to try for anything; he has never had to strive or conquer or build. But all that is about to change.
Westward: Volume 1
The first two issues of Westward sold out within the first month
of their release. While this might seem like a huge success, it means that new readership is now almost impossible; no one wants to start a story in the middle of its arch. But reprints of each issue would costs thousands of dollars. Since
Kinetic Press is essentially a one-man enterprise, shouldering that
expense can be pretty near-impossible. That's why Westward has turned to
Kickstarter for help.
Westward: Volume 1 will allow new readers the opportunity to start at the beginning of the series, while offering something extra to more familiar fans.
Westward: Volume 1 will be 132 pages, collecting the first three chapters into one perfect-bound, high-gloss trade paperback. The book will appear under the listing for "Tool Publications" in the March 2013 issue of Previews and see global distribution the following May, appearing on the shelves of comic book retailers everywhere.
The book includes several never-before-seen bonus materials, including:
- Concept art
- Early sketches and plot notes
- Character designs
- Reference photographs
- Script pages
- "Fallible," an all-new short story by Ken Krekeler, set in the Westward universe
Rewards - Original Artwork
This campaign features a unique and creative rewards system for potential backers, including the chance to score original artwork. Some of these paintings were conceptual pieces; the first renderings of Westward characters like Penelope West.
I have tried to keep the goal as realistic as possible. If this Kickstarter campaign is successful, any contributions will be put toward printing printing costs; I will take care of shipping and advertising costs myself.
The expenses involved in producing even a standard 32-page bi-monthly black and white comic book ranges between $2,000 and $3,000 per issue. The first two issues of Westward were funded entirely by myself; I made many personal and professional sacrifices to see each issue through to the end.
In October of 2012, I turned to Kickstarter for help with Westward #3. My goal was $2,000, which wouldn't cover the entire cost of production, but would certainly help me counter the debt accumulated from consistently publishing the book in high-quality and on schedule. I threw up a few reward tiers, pasted a trailer from the Westward website as the project video, hoped for the best, expected nothing.
It worked. The goal was met. Westward #3 was released with the help of my first-ever Kickstarter campaign.
That experience changed something in me. My perceptions of artistic causes, crowd-funding, and the Kickstarter community have never been the same.
The campaign for Westward: Volume 1 campaign is far larger in scope and size. Nearly 4 times the length of Westward #3, this perfect-bound graphic novel will contain 114 pages of story and 18 pages of extra bonus material. A great deal of time has been put into the reward system in an effort to make each reward a rare and worthwhile opportunity, ranging from signed copies of the book to original artwork to the production of your own full-color 8-page comic pitch with artwork, layouts, dialogue balloons, and even a list of contact information for big-name publishers.
Exclusive Kickstarter Rewards
Here are just a few of the awards available; check out the full tier spectrum on the right-hand column for more details.
Supporting Westward - Beyond Kickstarter
Maybe you don't have the money to pledge right now. Maybe you've already pledged, but you're a fan, and you want to do more. In either case, there are a number of ways you can help Westward's success outside of contributing to the Kickstarter fund.
The best way to support Westward is to boost what we call "pre-orders." This involves getting comic stores to order something that essentially doesn't exist yet (which, as you might imagine, can prove to be very difficult). To boost pre-orders, there has to be demand... Buzz, hype, online postings. To generate demand, one must first raise awareness.
So how can you help? It's simple: Tell your friends. Link them to the Westward website. "LIKE" the Westward Facebook page, or share updates from that page on your own FB wall. Post the trailer on a comic fan's Facebook wall. Let them know about the Kickstarter project. Comment on blog posts. Follow the Twitter feed. But above all: Tell your store to order Westward: Volume 1 during the month of March, 2013.
A very special thanks for the prop work of the extremely talented Josh Hamman of ClothedEye.com; visit his store online for goggles and all your other steampunk needs. Thank you to Justin Mysza, Hannah Shepard, Katie Kremhelmer, Inga Wilson, Andrew Jaworski, Melissa Knisely and John Hett for their contributions in making the Westward Kickstarter video possible.
Risks and challenges
The biggest challenge in the success of this campaign is the same challenge I face with every comic I've ever produced: marketing, exposure, and awareness. Every artist has their weaknesses; mine has always been publicity. Outside of animated trailers, preview pages and comic cons, I've always lacked the salesmanship necessary to communicate my ideas properly in a way that catches the public eye.
With only 30 days to maximize the campaign's potential, I have a number of supplemental opportunities planned, designed to help generate interest in the project. Videos of original artwork as it is produced, interviews with the cast of Westward, frequent Facebook/Twitter updates and an ongoing blog. I am also open to any suggestions, so if you have an idea on how to help Westward succeed, don't hesitate to leave a comment or email me directly.
Westward is the most popular title I've had to date, which means an added potential pitfall, a sort of double-edged sword: It is possible that pre-orders for Westward: Volume 1 will exceed all expectations, and that I will need to print more books than I've budgeted into the Kickstarter goal. While this would mean great things for exposure, circulation and popularity, it means I must be prepared to cover the extra cost of double, even triple the original number of books needed for printing, which of course drastically inflates the projected budget. At this time, short of maxing out my credit cards, I'm not sure how I'll handle that dilemma. I feel this is a "cross-that-bridge-when-we-come-to-it" situation. I'll receive my purchase order from Diamond in early April, and I'll keep the campaign updated with all progress.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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