Successful Crowdfunding for Comics: Interview with Zach Weinersmith of Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal

Hey Welcome today to our interview with Zach Weinersmith, creator of Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal!

Zach makes over $8,000 a month with Patreon and draws a comic called Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal. Today we’re asking him how he did it, and hopefully giving you some tools and ideas you can use as you fundraise for your nonprofit!

Mazarine Treyz: Zach, for my readers, what is your comic about and why did you start it?

Zach Weinersmith: Its kinda about everything. we usually bill it as a general nerd comic. Math jokes, linux jokes, philsophy jokes, also stupid jokes. i started it in high school for cuteness-. I started in earnest when i was working in entertainment, I had a miserable job, comics was a way to escape financially, mentally too. I started doing it every day around 2005 and a couple years later I was able to make enough money to quit my job.

Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal by Zach Weinersmith

MT: How did you get started fundraising for your comic? This isn’t your first effort at fundraising, right?

ZW: We’re a bit new to the fundraising stuff. We’ve done ad revenue foryears, and then we added in merchandise, but I don’t count that as fundraising. The first fundraising project we did was a kickstarter in 2011. It went very well, much better than expectation, so I put out two books self publishing, and then one through kickstarter, the revenue difference was HUGE so now how it’s working, we’re planning on keeping launching books through kickstarter.


MT: What do you wish you had known when you started your Patreon? Any mistakes you’d like to share from when you were first starting out?

ZW: Sure- one valuable insight about patreon- which is, I had a few other people try this and I won’t say who, but I think I over-promised when i first started-I didn’t promise that much, but I have a live draw session that I do, and I have around 350 $5/month for that reward. That reward is that you get to go to a live-draw session. Typically less than 10 people show up to the live draw session and twice no one has showed up.

To me that’s a good thing, it means most people just want to give money, they just want to support the project. My advice-comic artists think they have to put themselves out, but most people just want to support what you’re doing and just pay for it. I’ve had people say this is nice because I don’t want to buy your merchandise, I just want to support what you’re doing. Most people who support you on patreon are doing it because they want to support you. My advice for Patreon is don’t go crazy with your rewards.

MT: Versus, this is very different from Kickstarter where people do want the swag.

ZW: Right exactly. kickstarter everything we do, execpt for ultra mega premium levels, we straight up price it like we’re selling products. We might price it up just a little to contain the uncertainty in the production costs. That’s more like shopping-it might be the same set of people, but I actually don’t know. But it’s a different behavior let’s say.

Saturday morning breakfast cereal

MT: How did you decide what prizes to offer? Any tips on prizes that people seem to like? Patreon on Kickstarter

ZW: You don’t want to promise too much. I’ve talked to a few people who say, “if you do X large amount of dollars I’ll do a personal chat for you” But personal chats can be really awkward, that’s just been my experience. Most people who want to supprot me are doing it because they like the writing I do. if i were known as a good artist then the artwork based rewards might be more exciting for other people

MT: Did you find with kickstarter t-shirts were popular or buttons?

ZW: The thing about kickstarter is not just about popular, it is about profit margins how much of a pain will it be to send out?

The last Kickstarter we did not do t-shirts because t-shirts are a big pain to ship. For each t-shirt you have to have 12-13 sizes and query each buyer which size you want whereas if you do a paper product like a stickers or poster, there are relatively high profit margins. We try on every project to come up with something that hasn’t been done or that is a little unusual- our kid’s book project, we offered traditional stuff, like a bookmark, etc one thing that we did that was a little unusual is that we have a limited edition cover cloth with foil stamp on front- so it’s not just shopping, it’s kind of special.

MT: So it’s really about how much of a pain in the butt is it going to be to send something out

ZW: It’s not just about the personal strife, although that is a factor, but in shipping time really is money. I talked to a friend, I won’t say who, but his kickstarter it went wild, blew up like crazy and he raised half a million dollars. I talked with him two years later, he said I’m still working off that Kickstarter, I’m still doing stuff I promised for it. I think he promised artwork or something.

What I do now, when you do a Kickstarter it’s kind of like being drunk you’re like, you want to send out everything so you can get that number higher, but you want to know your limits beforehand.

MT: Well I’m glad he raised that money, but it’s hard when you’re fundraising to say ok I’m going to fundraise again if you haven’t sent out all of your prizes yet.

ZW: Right. We’ve settled into a routine and we know each one does not need to be huge in terms of prizes.

SMBC comics

MT: Do you have an email list that you send updates to? If so, how do you grow your list?

ZW:We don’t actually use an email list- we do Facebook and twitter and we have ability to ping people from Kickstarter but we use that sparingly. We never use an email list, we probably should. I know other people who do and it works reasonably well for them. Somehow it seems old fashioned, we really should get into it

MT: Do you use Twitter or Facebook as a fundraising tool? Are most people on twitter and Facebook?

ZW: I don’t know actually, I can make that assumption, Twitter is not a great place to get sales, people don’t tend to click stuff very often. You tweet and then it disappears. Facebook has been very good for driving sales to Kickstarters for us. But it’s probably not quite as good as having a proper spam list I guess. I don’t know.

MT: I know when I send an email out, it generally works a lot better than when I just tweet about it. But when you have a Kickstarter and a Patreon, the best thing is you make a banner on your website because you have a lot of traffic?

ZW: Yes, what we usually do when we have one of these big projects or a big launch. i will occupy the space of the comic for the day.

The last two I drew a little comic about the kickstarter-that seemed to work really well. I worry that people will be annoyed with you, so on that day I double update, so hopefully that offsets a little of the irritation.

SMBC t-shirt

MT: Are there any other techniques have worked well for you when you’re doing a fundraising campaign?

ZW: A couple best practices we do- you never know if you had done something else. One of our rules, with Kickstarter, we set the initial goal as low as possible- zero profit. the logic of it is, and there is now some evidence that this is true, that once you’ve reached a goal, people tend to spend more readily, because it’s more like buying something you’re sure you’re going to get it. Our goal on day 1 is to get to the goal as fast as possible.

Another thing I recommend if we have favors we can call in media wise or get press on the first day, we try to do that.

If you can drive up that media high enough, then you can attract even more media attention because that’s a high number, then the more you can make a splash very quickly the better off you are.

MT: Anything else you’d like to add?

ZW: Nah that’s it

MT: So, you have a new Kickstarter happening, can you tell us a little about that?

ZW: Yeah, It’s a really unusual Kickstarter and I have no idea how well it will do, but for a joke product called The Gentleman’s Single Use Monocle. It in a package that makes it look like a condom but it’s a monocle.

MT: (Laughs)

ZW: This is a good reaction! It’s a single monocle complete with a little metal chain on it in a little wrapper and so it looks like you’re pulling out a condom and then you open it and it’s a monocle. We have put a surprisingly large amount of work into this. We’ve only made books in the past so we knew that supply chain pretty well, and this is totally different. We’ve had an engineer, we own a cast for the lens for injection molds- we’ve really designed this to be a cool novelty project. It’s gonna be a stripped down project for the Kickstarter prizes too. We’ll have a one pack, a three pack and a twenty pack and a 1,000 pack as well for very busy people. That’s the latest project. I have no idea what the reaction will be but it amuses me a lot so I’m glad we’re doing it.

(ED: Looks like they have well over $95,000 pledged of a $25,000 goal! Talk about putting these good fundraising principles in action!)

MT: I’m glad you’re doing that because there’s this thing called Monocle magazine, have you heard of it?

ZW: No, I haven’t!

monocle magazine

MT: Well, it’s a magazine about economics, and I always look at it, and there are NO MONOCLES IN IT ANYWHERE! And I’m like, come on you guys! Where are the monocles? It really gets my goat. So you should send them some monocles and tell them to promote your project! They are such false advertising!

ZW: Good idea!

MT: If people would like to learn more about you, and your hilarious project and comic, where can they go?

ZW: Check out You can check out the patreon here and Saturday morning breakfast cereal comics here. And check out the kickstarter here.

MT: Thank you so much for your time today Zach! We really appreciate it! I hope you all go check out Zach’s comic, and I hope you can use these tips for your nonprofit!

If you’d like to learn more about Crowdfunding, check out our newest course, The Ultimate 2015 Guide to Online Giving and Crowdfunding.

Nonprofit online giving, nonprofit crowdfunding

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