It was the night of July 4, and Tom Tomorrow (the pen name of cartoonist Dan Perkins) was dreading the start of his Kickstarter campaign the next morning. Despite assurances from friends, he still had doubts that he could get people to donate.
Tomorrow's weekly comic strip, This Modern World, was about to celebrate 25 years of biting political commentary. The artist knew he wanted to do something big to celebrate the milestone. His goal: to publish two volumes of his work, featuring every cartoon he's ever done.
But a 15-pound, 1,000-page project doesn't come to life easily. When he privately pitched the idea of the book to several of his friends in publishing last year, they confirmed his suspicions: that no publishing house would take on such an extensive, niche project. So Tomorrow turned to Kickstarter in the hope that by reaching out directly to his fans, he could find a way to make the book a reality.
He set the intial fundraising goal at $87,000--just enough to cover production costs. The project hit that mark in less than a day. A single fan even donated $10,000. As of the publication of this article, Tomorrow had raised $132,863, with 26 days still left to go in his campaign.
Tomorrow spoke with Inc. about his Kickstarter campaign, the future of media, and how to survive in an industry that is constantly described as "dying." Below are edited excerpts from the interview:
Why he decided to set a fundraising goal that would barely cover his costs:
With Kickstarters, people think you're raising all this money, so you must be swimming in a pool full of money. The reason we're asking for a lot of money is we're putting out something that costs a lot of money. ...I kind of insisted that we cut our margins as close as possible. I wasn’t sure we were even going to hit the goal, so I am entirely blown away by this still. One of my friends said to me, "you’ve built a lot of good work over the years," and I didn’t know if I could believe that.
On whether his campaign's success indicates a continuing demand for print:
It's difficult because my project is an artisanal print product, very specific, and hopefully will be very well-produced. But I do think the death of print is a little overrated. I still go down to the bookstore and there are always a lot of people shopping for books. So Kindles and e-books haven’t completely destroyed the demand for books. There was a time when they said TV was going to destroy radio--things change and people adapt.
Why people shouldn't write off the comic strip just yet:
I have so much gratitude to the [publications] that have continued to run my work, like The Nation and Daily Kos, but a lot of publications are poor stewards of this art form. There's this narrative about cartoons that there's nowhere to go--the best we were doing was hanging on by our fingernails. This has kind of blown that narrative out of the water. There are people who like my work, and people still want some cartoons like this. The editors that are dropping these cartoons are just making a terrible mistake.
How people who work in print can survive in a digital world:
You have to stay hungry and keep trying a lot of different things. It's not like I have a sort of game plan in mind. What I've been trying to do for 25 years is just meet the next deadline, have a few days off, let my brain recharge, and start again. I hope I continue to connect with the audience. I can be kind of negative and cynical about the industry, but this is a moment that I’m being forced to come out of my negativity and accept the fact that I have this enormous audience support, for which I have overwhelming gratitude.