thINK- a book of incendiary cartoon skepticism – the crowdfunding story so far
56 pages of satire-coated ammunition, waiting to be loaded and aimed at superstition, irrationality and anti-science delusions.
A crowdfunding campaign on Kickstarter by Polyp (Paul Fitzgerald), a friend of mine from Manchester. I’ve always though the Polyp books are perfect for crowdfunding – visual, funny, radical and he has an engaged and enthusiastic following.
He’s had work published by New Internationalist (my favourite is Starve Trek which was given a whole issue of the magazine) and Friends of the Earth –Rat Race – an animation. His book Big Bad World for New Internationalist has been well received. Reviewed on Good Reads and Peace News said “Definitely one to keep everyone on the political straight and narrow.” He’s also published Speechless world history without words and Fight the Power: a visual history of protest.
He’s always found a publisher for his work – so why crowdfunding for his new one?
I interviewed him about his campaign, which is a third of the way through and already 50% funded. I was particularly interested in how he had prepared the campaign and what he was doing to get the word out.
What are you crowdfunding?
‘thINK’– a book of my cartoons ridiculing fundamentalism, superstition, climate change denial, conspiracy paranoia and anti science nonsense… essentially it’s aimed at the skeptics movement.
Why crowdfund it?
Well – I need the money, but I also think of it, like all my work, as a campaigning effort. The world needs more rationality, critical thinking and scientific literacy. There’s a ton of harmful nonsense out there, and it’s a bubble that needs popping with some sharp humour.A load of publishers and agents have turned it down – maybe because they’re afraid of controversy, or even being sued coz it has a cartoon ridiculing Scientology? Or perhaps because they’re simply bluffing about their ‘special powers’ of being able to tell what people will or won’t buy? So crowdfunding is of huge benefit in that it allows me to just gleefully run round them towards the goal.
To that end, the emphasis isn’t on ‘begging with gifts’, eg offering an absurd package of t-shirts, mugs, towels etc etc… We think people will want to fund it for the same reasons we want to create it – it’s the right thing to do! So the gifts we DO give will be ones you can use as campaign tools – ‘No Brain Needed’ stickers, a witty pro evolution fish sticker, etc etc…
Everyone who backs it gets the book – and they can have the original artwork, rough drawings or a personalised caricature with the rise/accessory of their choice. AND three quotes from backers will be used in the book!
How have you planned the campaign. How much time are you spending each day?
We timed it as carefully as we could to allow us to prepare, e.g. attracting people to a ‘holding’ website to register their email months in advance, doing talks to groups, plugging it on other websites that we control… and then we waited until after the Xmas frenzy to launch on 13th Jan. It’s pretty much all day every day at the moment, so it was important to choose a quiet period, work wise, to do this.
We were already very active in the community we’re aiming at, so none of it is totally cold selling.
What online and offline promotion have you done? Which has been the most successful?
Offline promotion was talks to groups we knew were full of people who might want to back us – though it’s hard to tell if these have paid off yet coz we wouldn’t recognise people’s names when we see their bid!
Online – firstly involved writing to magazines, blogs, Facebook pages of people who might want to cover us once we’d launched. We often offered them barter deals, e.g. free cartoons in return for publicity. Some haven’t plugged us yet, as agreed, but it’s early days…
We also tapped a friendly celeb or two, one of whom owed me a favour, another we just chatted to at a conference and got a review quote.
Of the backers so far – how many (%) do you know very well, % known to you and % not known at all?
We can only guess, but about 20% of people we ‘know’- either direct friends or those who know our work from Facebook and elsewhere. Naturally we asked direct friends to chip in early during a ‘soft launch’! That’s crucial! 6% has come direct from Kickstarter itself to date.
How are you using social media – is it translating to pledges?
We’ve been absolutely hammering it on Facebook, trying to find every group in the world who has a page relevant to our bid, and then joining and posting there. Tone is crucial – it’s a pushy, edging-on-spam thing to do, but our first sentence says ‘Scuze the ruthless plug, but this is very, very on theme…’
We’re lucky and in a unique position, because the project is a cartoon book, and we can just post ‘taster’ cartoons with the plug, which makes the recipient warm to you, even though you’re being a bit intrusive. We can then also post to those pages later, with cartoon ‘comments’ that are relevant to their other posts.
The Kickstarter dashboard says 36% are coming in through Facebook, though we’ve the impression it was more through tweeting..? Again, with tweeting, we’re always tweeting a relevant cartoon at someone else’s tweet, so we’re entertaining them at the same time as plugging it by adding our URL. (Get a shortened URL for Twitter! Kickstarter URL’s are really long!)
Sometimes there’s a ‘time delay’ with a someone picks up on it later, retweets it, then a friend of theirs who runs a blog picks it up…
They’ve attracted support and publicity from The Cartoon Movement, Skeptic Magazine, Lawrence Krauss (lot of interesting discussion following the post), Ethical Consumer Magazine, International Skeptics and The Richard Dawkins Foundation. Any surplus funds are being donated to the RD Foundation.
In Paul’s words “Fighting irrationality, superstition and pseudo science is one of the most crucial yet underestimated tasks facing us today. Humour is a potent weapon.” He adds that he hopes to “encourage critical thinking by laughing at its enemies. Mockery has been a powerful political tool throughout history as sceptics it’s one we need to pick up and use.”
So have a look. His work is not for the faint-hearted liberal. I’ve backed it and encourage you to do the same