It’s been a time of change as of late in the comics world. Creators flocking to Substack. Creator deals with digital platforms like ComiXology. Publishers like DC taking their talents (or at least IP) to Webtoon. The merging of digital and print is becoming even more of a thing, an overlapping of a Venn diagram long perceived as separate. It’s not everything, but it’s undeniably the latter half of that word.
Other fusions are happening as well. Take Zoop, for example. This new platform reminds me of how the robots in The Mitchells vs. The Machines perceived the dog: it’s not exclusively traditional crowd-funding, it’s not quite publishing…but is it a loaf of bread? 2 Its pairing of two common ideas in the comic world, one that attempted to bring the best elements of each into one new idea, made me intrigued when the platform’s founder and CEO Jordan Plosky reached out to me about this.
It helps that Plosky is a veteran of this world. Formerly of digital platform ComicBlitz, the guy’s consistently looking for new angles at this whole comic thing. Zoop is definitely the most curious effort yet, and so far, it’s generated several successful campaigns. With all of that in mind, I thought having a conversation with Plosky would be a worthwhile endeavor, if only because a) I am interested and b) I am also uncertain about the necessary fit of this in the larger world of comics. So over the last while, that’s what we did over email. You can read that interview in full below, with it being slightly edited for clarity.
Zoop is a crowd-funding platform specifically for comics. Some might argue that comics are already superserved in the comics space between more specifically similar platforms like Kickstarter and Indiegogo, as well as other platforms that are utilized in a different way like Patreon and Ko-fi. So I guess the question is, what made a new platform like Zoop necessary in your mind, and what differentiates it from others in the space?
Jordan Plosky: David, this is a great question. Precisely BECAUSE of the boom in crowdfunding is why we’re entering the space. More creators than ever before are looking at it as a viable option. However, crowdfunding a campaign is hard, and takes a ton of time, months in most cases, with some very full-time work during the heart of the campaign. That makes it not feasible for many creators who may have other commitments, whether with other comic work, or other obligations.
Zoop is not just a platform, but also a suite of services all under one roof. We save creators months of time of researching, sourcing, vetting and negotiating with anywhere from three to seven service providers to help them with their campaigns. We handle budgets, and strategy, campaign management, pledge management, marketing, and act as a client representative to 3rd party vendors for printing, manufacturing and fulfillment. We also handle customer support, video editing, and more. So, instead of having to figure out who to go to for any or all of those services, they are streamlined in one place with Zoop.
Our first target creators are those with at least some professional credits, and social media followers under their belts. No matter where you run a campaign, it is your own network that will generate the largest impact on the campaign.
For fans/supporters, we have simplified the process of purchasing. On other platforms, you can only purchase 1 reward, no matter how many you may want. Then, you have to wait for the “add-ons” campaign, and see if what you wanted is still available, then make that 2nd purchase. With Zoop, you add as many rewards to our cart system as you want and check out. No secondary campaign, which makes it easier for supporters, and takes at least another month of time and dealing with yet another service off the creator’s plate as well.
We’re appealing to creators who potentially would never have done a campaign because of how overbearing it seems, having to learn a new system, technology, handle all the admin, etc. But, we’re also working with crowdfunding veterans who just don’t want to do the heavy lift anymore, and are happy to pass it off to us.
As far as the difference with Patreon, I don’t believe they will hook you up with a printer, or manufacturer for physical goods, and they certainly don’t help fulfill. Mostly (maybe not 100%), Patreon creators provide their backers with more bite sized digital content, on a regular basis, whereas Zoop provides that larger scale, physical product on more of a one and done. They are two complimentary revenue streams, that any creator should be looking at seriously.
Zoop’s differentiator is you’re handing infrastructure for making comics, helping get comics printed, marketed, and distributed to readers, effectively. When I heard about Zoop, my first question wasn’t actually, “Why not just go with Kickstarter?” as I actually started with, effectively. It was, “Wait, isn’t this basically a comic publisher, except one that purely operates through crowd-funding?!” On the flip side of the last question, then, why does Zoop make more sense for creators than going through a publisher, at least in your mind?
JP: Well, we do share some similarities with publishers, but there are differences as well. We’re kind of a pseudo publisher, pseudo crowdfunding, pseudo e-commerce hybrid mashup!
Publishers provide editorial guidance and assistance. They maybe help find creative team members, take a pitch and go from there. They might even provide an advance, or budget for the book. Finally, a publisher has a relationship with Diamond, or now possibly another distributor and their end customer is the retailer. They may also take a piece of ownership of the IP as part of the deal.
Zoop doesn’t do any of those things.
With Zoop, the creator retains 100% ownership of their IP, and since we provide no editorial, the creative is totally in the hands of the creator, meaning they can do things they might not be able to when dealing with a publisher, a distributor, or retailers. I’m not saying all our books have adult material, but creators can push the boundaries in a way they can’t when they have to serve so many different masters. As long as it’s not filled with hate speech, bigotry, racism, homophobia, misogyny or harmful material at any group, we’re good with it.
Also, we don’t provide any deadlines, or schedule constraints. When a creator is ready, we’ll get things going forward. Campaigns have started with projects at various levels of completion, but we are transparent about that on the campaign page, and haven’t run into a problem yet.
Also, Zoop is direct to consumer. So, a creator needs to sell a whole lot less of a book in order to make the same profit as selling thousands, or tens of thousands through the direct market, as we eliminate a few of the steps. That being said, we are finding success with individual retailers who are interested in retailer exclusive variant covers, as well as wholesale priced retailer bundles. So, while we may not go directly to retailers we are more than happy to service the ones that are interested in the products we are selling. And while that may not make us different than a publisher, that at least helps us stand out from our crowdfunding competitors.
Zoop, or crowdfunding in general, can be seen as a proof of concept for a creator, who can later potentially have the same property repackaged, and picked up by a publisher for re-release. I don’t think it’s necessarily “crowdfunding OR a publisher.” It might be one at a time but (it) can certainly be both.
All that being said, we are actively speaking with publishers too, as there is a need for crowdfunding. With many projects potentially shelved, or cut due to the pandemic, publishers are also looking for ways to de-risk putting new content out, re-releasing out of print books, or special editions, etc. Crowdfunding is preferable to spending up front money on a project they aren’t quite sure will do the numbers they are looking for. For those publishers that already have relationships with printers, or have their own marketing, we’ll just act as an extension of their team to fill in any gaps necessary and reduce our fees accordingly.