TSC.NS.2 :: TSC #1 Kickstarter Post Mortem Part One ::

ascertain the cause of death :: cast blame

Welcome to Nervous System, where you can learn more about - and get additional content like news, sneak previews, process and behind-the-scenes material (and an occasional complete short story) from ThoughtScape Comics and Lifeformed, the two comic series I write (if you have no idea what these are, click here). I’ll also highlight work that has influenced and inspired me.
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Greetings, all! Did you know…

The rewards for ThoughtScape Comics #1 Kickstarter have shipped?!

It’s true! So, now it’s time to see how it went down. Join us, won’t you, for…

… the ThoughtScape Comics #1 Kickstarter: Post-Mortem, Part One.

A project post-mortem, also called a project retrospective, is a process for evaluating the success (or failure) of a project's ability to meet business goals. A typical post-mortem meeting begins with a restatement of the project's scope.

- TechTarget.com

I was always a bit creeped out by the use of the term post-mortem in a corporate/business context back in the day (the day being the early 2000s when I had an old-school, 9-to-5 day job). Maybe because, with the term itself evoking death, it seemed to imply to me that the project had failed, or worse, that the project had failed and now we were all going to sit around and attempt to ascertain the cause of death and cast blame.

But, as ThoughtScape Comics is a business of one as far as the management aspect goes (not the creative of course, there I have a whole slew of amazing partners), if anything goes awry, I have no one to blame but myself. With blame itself thus nullified/known - and/or because finding problems and blaming myself for them all day long is one of my hobbies anyway - I feel like I can simply evaluate the project based on its goals and how those goals were met. Plus, in this case, I am actually happy with how things turned out, which of course helps quite a bit. And most importantly, maybe this post-mortem process will be helpful both to me (as I plan subsequent ThoughtScape Comics Kickstarters) and to you (as possibly a comics creator), and at least semi-interesting to non-creator outside observers.

Finally, LifeTech, ThoughtScape Comics’ resident corporate overlords, would MOST DEFINITELY hold epically long post-mortem meetings during which every team member would be accused of somehow failing in their role and contributing to the failure of the project, and that person would be in the hot seat until they were able to shift the blame to another, and on and on into infinity.

Which is all to say, it’s on-brand for LifeTech, and by extension ThoughtScape Comics, to explore the dark corners of the CorpoCapitalist death march culture and delve into its strange rituals. So let’s get to it. I’ll use a handy post-mortem template from SmartSheet.com to give us some real verisimilitude here.

Project Overview

What were the original goals and objectives of the project?

The original goal of the ThoughtScape Comics #1 Kickstarter was to create and fund the printing and the release of the first issue of a series with stories written by me and drawn by a variety of artists.

What was the original criteria for project success?

  • To package up a solid first issue of comics using stories already created or in production at the time of KS launch

  • A successful Kickstarter campaign

  • The swift and successful shipping of the campaign rewards

Was the project completed according to the original expectation?

Yes.

Additional Comments

As the project evolved, I realized the physical presentation/production of the comic was a big deal to me. If I was going to put all this work in, this thing needed to feel like a comic. And not just a comic, but one like those I read growing up, when I fell in love with it all. We’re talking mid-to-late 80s. We’re talking DC’s fancy format pre-Vertigo. The Question. Green Arrow, etc. I actually just picked up a Grant/Wagner/Kennedy book from this era, and in this format, off of Ebay. OUTCASTS. I was amazed and pleased to see, when I opened up the first issue, that the pages were in REALLY GOOD condition all these years later, as if they had just been printed…

So, anyway, THIS is what I wanted. Old school and vibe-y but sturdy and ready to stand the test of time. A HIGH QUALITY PRODUCTION. I dove into all manner of printer/paper/coating, etc. research and solicited samples from many companies. Ultimately, PrintNinja offered the best options for what I was after, and my initial experiences with the company were really pleasant. More on this later.

Project Highlights

What were the major accomplishments?

  • Creating/designing a package that the artists involved were all very pleased with (thanks in large part to TSC brand designer John Larsen)

  • Acquiring advance blurbs from comics folks I really admire

  • Achieving full funding for the Kickstarter

What methods worked well?

Feels like this could sprawl, so I’m going to break things into silos a bit here to keep organized and call out creation-related methods/items and KS campaign-related methods/items. Plus, we’re sitting in a conference room, in theory, someone had to say “silo” at least once.

  • Creation: Bringing in John Larsen to do the design at the outset of the project was huge. I would still be spinning on the brand design and never would have gotten this far without it

  • Creation: Hiring great artists who will deliver for the stories and the cover

  • Creation: Stockpiling the produced work ahead of time, rather than having to manage any of that process during the campaign itself

  • KS Campaign: CONSTANT social media posting. No, really. CONSTANT. See more below in the “what was useful” section

  • KS Campaign: Video/trailers - bigger response rate to videos than static posts

  • KS Campaign: Cross-promotion

What was found to be particularly useful to accomplish the project?

Creation-wise: I’m a UX designer and a layout guy, but as mentioned, I would still be trying to figure out a logo if not for bringing John, a GRAPHIC designer, in. So, some advice: if you are engaging in a similar endeavor and can afford it, hire experts, esp. if you can employ experts of even small niche aspects of something you have an eye for, but which would take you a lot time to execute. You can then direct these expert folks to help you execute your vision, while they also add something to it that you could not because it’s what they specialize in and do and think about all day long.

Creation-wise: Mock ups! More advice: Especially if you might need to bring in the aforementioned outside assistance, anything you can mock up to help convey your intentions will benefit everyone involved. For example, here’s a one sheet promo deal I started comping together as soon as John sent me branding materials. At the time (this was done almost exactly a year ago) I had plans to release the comic all on my own, no Kickstarter, etc. so I was thinking this piece might eventually go to retailers to persuade them to stock the comic. The one sheet itself never went much further, but it DID help me refine my presentation of the concept, including the development of messaging and copy (note in the text of it how hard I am leaning on the backstory of LifeTech, vs. the simplified Kickstarter message of this is a sci-fi anthology series with stories written by me and with art from… in the tradition of… I was making it all too complicated, too big a pill to swallow, sort of like this ridiculously long parenthetical).

Anyway, in addition to helping me really crystalize the message later on, it enabled me to see that my visuals were looking pro/solid. The art in this mockup was existing, copped from the talented John Lê (by permission… hopefully we’ll have a cover from him at some point in the future).

KS Campaign-wise: Tweeting/posting relentlessly worked. Like WAY MORE than you think you should or feel comfortable doing. In fact, if you’re doing it right you will feel unclean, as if you need to scour your psyche with a washcloth or possibly a pumice stone. But for real, it’s okay. Even folks who follow you aren’t seeing all your posts, and sometimes $ follows posting so closely it is like you are tweeting for dollars. Just like with all of the rest of comics, no one else is going to promote you anywhere near enough, even a publisher. It’s up to you.

Alright, that’s a lot. Let’s take a breather. Get up and stretch, grab a donut, and then join me next week for Post-mortem Part 2! Project challenges! Future considerations! Much more!

TSC.FLASH FORWARD

A quick glimpse into the ThoughtScape future: some wonderful art from Lane Lloyd for our possibly ongoing series THE UPDATE!

NS.PLAYLIST #1!

Some of the fall-vibes songs in rotation here at TSC HQ…

Now go read a Cam Kennedy comic and have a great weekend!
Matt