Comics publisher 2dcloud has had a pretty great year for 2016 — their catalog includes the critically acclaimed Turning Japanese by MariNaomi and Someone Please Have Sex with Me by Gina Wynbrandt, and 2017 looks to be full of promise too. Their Fall 2016 Kickstarter wraps in 3 days — three books, three zines, and some extras. Since they’ve been in the Kickstarter game for a long while now (since 2010!), I reached out to Raighne, a member of the publishing team at 2dcloud, to ask about crowdfunding and the future of small press publishers.
2dcloud has been doing Kickstarters for years — what are some lessons you’ve learned? What have you changed? I noticed this year you have one exclusive book for a particular funding tier — have you done that in past?
Crowdfunding is like a crash course in how to run a business — it’s like a basic business starter kit. For us, it was having product and finding enough of an audience to cover basic costs. It’s an amazingly empowering tool that goes hand in hand with social media platforms.
So I guess the main way in which this has changed, has been that we do more of them, running them more akin to how large cable companies bundle channels together at a discount. It’s a successful model that indie games have aped for years via things like Humble Bundle. And it’s like, cable companies seem to be doing fine by it, indie game companies as well — so why not use this model? Combining it with our usage of crowdfunding platforms seemed like a no-brainer.
Oh, right — as to the exclusive book at one tier — yah I don’t think we’ve done that before. Trying something new!
It seems like a smooth operation at this point – do you think you’ll stick with Kickstarter for up-coming years?
Do you think Kickstarter is a way to reach new audience members (or is it more about sustaining returning readers)? How do you think that contrasts with something like in-store distribution?
I’d say it’s a bit of both. It forcefully grows your audience in a way that strengthens your current base. I mean, the main thing this industry needs to broaden its appeal, to grow into a sustainable industry, is having people talk about it. Talking about artists, books, labels, work they love, why it matters. If we can do that, we can continue to exist. Crowdfunding allows for a greater level of transparency when done right — putting your narrative out there, your life on the line — being vulnerable. I think a lot of this does not come across in normal channels like the in-store market. We still need those markets, they remain vital to our bottom line. But they’re not connected in the same way, no. The larger plan is to connect these audiences, and to grow them.
You have a continually interesting stable of artists — any insight in how you find them? What do you look for in particular when you’re looking for books to distribute?
I’m very interested in peer groups. Two labels/collectives that I find very intriguing right now are Awful Records and Letter Racer. There are just such obvious connections between music and zine spaces right now. These sort of peer driven, collective focused labels are very exciting and their models offer very obvious appeal.
It’s continued to be rather organic, with many of the artists we work with or people on our team suggesting other artists, or just seeing artists who are friends and peers with whomever.
As far as what I am looking for, it’s multilayered. I want to publish people and work that I love. Artists with skill sets that are complementary to what we are trying to build here. I want to publish artists with different and sometimes challenging perspectives. And as a part of that, publishing artists from marginalized communities. Which is maybe a challenging thing to address, at least for me, because I do not want this to be or come off like something that is tokenizing. I don’t pick artists arbitrarily. And I am not trying to do this as some PC gesture for allyship points. I fucking hate allyshit. It just feels like it’s a thing for white media to feel good about themselves. Pat themselves on the back. And that’s not what I am after. It’s hard because I see that that is more the narrative that white media wants and if you carry yourself with that — I don’t know.
I was listening to NPR the other day (it was on in a car I had rented to run some errands). They were reviewing recent films and one of them that they were talking about was Moonlight, which I have not seen, but it looks incredible. They described the film as “being absolutely for a niche audience.” Something like that. And I was astounded. As far as I can tell the film is about love, about identity, finding yourself in a complex world. How in the hell are these not universal themes? Is it because the people in the film are black? That it’s coming to terms with being queer? Like — this is insane. What’s more relatable for these people, explosions and capes, spandex?
Very frustrating. I feel like these people pretend like they are upset by the current political climate but they are also the same people that are nervous to ride a city bus because they might run into poor people or mentally ill people or people of color — and I don’t know, I just hate that.
I feel like these feel good channels and spaces are ultimately toxic and normalizing racism, sexism — basically fucking reprehensible behavior — in a way that is far more damaging and, I think, sinister than if these people were out-and-out racists.
And I guess my goal, as a white person, as a publisher, as an artist is to work counter to that in ways that make sense to me. You know, to work counter to this type of bullshit. I think as individuals the very least we can do is find ways to curate our lives that expose us to the larger and more complex world. For artists that I work with I just want there to be a space where they can be encouraged, where they can express themselves. And a space that best allows for this is one where they have trusted peers, people that they can bring creative and individual problems to. With 2dcloud as a vehicle, this is what I’m trying to address. Ultimately I’m talking about terraforming. I want to transform this space into something that is sustainable in all senses of the word.
In short, I’m not looking for books to distribute. I’m looking for artists to build lasting relationships with.
Where do you see the future of small press — funding-wise, anything wise?
I see this space in the future being far more stable and sustainable. To get there will require us to treat this more like an industry, and everything that entails. At its simplest level, just having people talk about things that matter to them — and having this be something that matters to them being key.
I think more labels will pop up and more labels will die. Circle of life and all that. I think a lot of people don’t really understand where this industry is at. For most us as artists and publishers — if money is your only motive, this is probably not the right place for you. There is a tremendous amount of work involved and very very little financial incentive to keep at it.
Funding — I’d like to see more grants and awards with a financial component. Ideally it would be nice to see these coming from institutions that do the research to find gifted people, where the reward doesn’t just go to the most popular or vocal person on social media or something. Like, integrity — more of that please.
If you’re looking for new perspectives, writers, or artists to check out, hurry to the 2dcloud Kickstarter, featuring creators Sab Meynert, Tommi Parrish, Jake Terrell, Carta Monir, Simon Hanselmann, and others.