Summing up the OOTS Kickstarter

When the book is written and the legacy and history of OOTS is summarized, it will be noted that in early 2012, the comic’s fans took a donation drive with a goal of barely over fifty thousand dollars and raised one and a quarter million dollars by the time it was over. With the improvements to the site and comic likely to come, the demonstrated devotion of the fans, and the increased popularity of the comic both as a result of the Kickstarter itself and with the books restocked on store shelves, I’d argue it’s as big a milestone in the history of the comic as anything that’s occured in the comic itself.

To gain some perspective on just how much OOTS’ fans have done over the past month:

  • The initial goal was broken in barely over twenty-four hours.
  • Within 48 hours, the drive was the highest-earning in the history of the Comics category, a record it has now broken ten times over.
  • By the time the drive was three days old, it had already succeeded beyond Rich’s wildest expectations (he only ever expected two books to be reprinted from the drive).
  • Within nine days, the drive had paid for reprinting every book that needed to be reprinted going in, cracked the top ten drives in Kickstarter history the next day, and reprinted every single book in the series the day after that, with two-thirds of the drive still to go.
  • Thirteen days into the drive, Rich was able to realize a longtime dream to print an OOTS coloring book, a dream he couldn’t make work until the sudden influx of cash caused by the drive.
  • What started as a fairly standard chart for the progress of the drive turned into a 26-part mini-epic, complete with dragon fight, that in many ways was a microcosm of the progress of OOTS itself (which may foreshadow something about how the comic will end).
  • At no point in the drive did its progress really slow down in any substantive way, with the only possible exceptions coming over weekends.
  • With a week left in the drive, Rich had basically paid for everything he could have dreamed of paying for (with most of the money raised in the preceding week going towards paying for additional costs incurred as a result of the drive’s success), and the drive essentially ran on fumes (and Rich’s continuing to put up new goals and rewards regardless) the rest of the way, with much of the remaining money going into a general operating fund, including sprucing up the site and getting new drawing tools. The wild success of the drive will end up giving all OOTS’ fans “more OOTS, better OOTS, and…faster OOTS” for years to come.
  • During the last week, Rich also attempted to put up a new OOTS comic every day for eight days, but wound up late by a missed day. Rich has also committed to another stretch of nine comics in a row later in the year.
  • OOTS is the third drive in Kickstarter history to raise over a million dollars. The drive finishes as the #2 project in Kickstarter history until the Double Fine drive (which just crossed two million) knocks it down a notch in a month or so. The drive raised nearly ten times the initial goal just in the final push.
  • When all was said and done, nearly 15,000 fans raised $1,254,120, for an average of nearly $84 per donor – an average of two books per order. Some fans have taken this high average as a sign of how “devoted” OOTS fans are, to which I ask: are they really more devoted than other fans, or just richer?
  • As the drive became more and more successful, it attracted attention from all over the Internet, not only from the webcomics community, not only from the comics blogosphere, not even only from the halo surrounding Kickstarter, but from sites as high-profile as Boing Boing.
  • For just ten dollars, over 14,000 OOTS fans will receive a book’s worth of new stories in PDF form: a new tale of O-Chul’s past, a new tale of Elan’s past, three prequel or interquel stories on characters decided by fans, two stories following up on tales in a limited-edition book published last year including a parody of Romeo and Juliet, and a parody of a D&D setting, plus four sheets of cut-out monster miniatures drawn in the OOTS style for use in D&D games and a magnet with Roy on it. Only the magnet and O-Chul story were planned at the beginning of the drive.
  • In addition to the above, Yours Truly will be getting the aforementioned limited-edition book (one of over 25,000 books to be sent out as a result of the drive), the aforementioned coloring book, a sheet of stickers with OOTS characters on them, and a notepad primarily for use in D&D games. Others will be receiving an art print with the entire cast on it, a “mini-expansion” for the OOTS Adventure Game (with quite a few getting the game itself), crayon drawings of them and their characters, and commemorative patches.
  • Many rewards won’t be sent to people until possibly as late as June, and a few that became available late in the drive will only be done after the others, so they could arrive at any point in the remainder of the year, meaning this drive will effectively define all of 2012 for OOTS.

It’s all quite astounding, really, and somewhat humbling for me. Although OOTS is one of the most popular webcomics on the Internet, it doesn’t normally get the sort of press as a Penny Arcade, xkcd, or Girl Genius, nor is it the same sort of critical darling within the community as a Questionable Content, Schlock Mercenary, or Gunnerkrigg Court (or the last two of the “gets more press” group, for that matter). It can feel like OOTS is still kind of a niche comic that only me and Robert A. “Tangents” Howard (and a little bit of Eric Burns(-White), back in Websnark’s heyday) are really paying that much attention to. So for a comic that I happen to have as my personal favorite and all of its fans to do something this huge… I mean, it’s kind of hard to put into words.

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