I'm running a brand new Kickstarter project; you may have heard of it. But, at the same time, you may have no clue I'm doing anything at all. Sometimes communication can be like two ships passing in the night. You think your message is getting through, but you never know.
When I left Facebook in 2020, I did so abruptly. So I want to add some perspective. There are a lot of questions, and the answers are there, but they're unorganized and scattered across three different platforms. You deserve to know the truth, unfiltered, and you should hear it from me.
Sometime during 2017, I was promoting the idea of "How to Draw Black People" in art groups on Facebook. I can't remember which group, but I remember a woman criticizing me. She pointed out several crucial things I was lacking in my campaign.
"You have no editor, no marketing team; who is in charge of your logistics?"
It wasn't enjoyable. Somewhere in my mind, her words registered as truthful. At the time, I had a single Kickstarter under my belt, and what started with simple intentions ballooned into delusions of grandeur by the end of the campaign.
Jack of All Trades. Master of one.
I'm a talented artist, but my plans are often more extensive than I can achieve alone. I have the vision and follow through, but I lack the means and people power. I did not, however, set out on this endeavor alone. Before I launched HTDBP, I reached out to several friends I had made online who agreed to help me produce the book. Still, they could not assist me for whatever reason (it was never clearly explained to me). I don't hold it against them because I've always worked with working-class people. Their lives, like my own, can be thrown into upheaval quarterly, if not weekly.
While the campaign's success was a career win, it came with many asterisks. I didn't realize at the time that my backer-to-dollar ratio was lopsided. We raised a little over 20k; however, there were nearly 600 backers. It can be challenging to imagine the volume if you've never had that many orders to fill; next to impossible if you've never launched a campaign. Suffice it to say; that it was more labor than a single person should be responsible for.
Then, of course, there was the cost. I intended to print How To Draw Black People through the company I'd used for my comics. But unfortunately, my printer was bought and shut down by its expensive competitor, Vistaprint, sometime in 2018. Damningly, this happened while I was creating the book, and I didn't find out until it was time to print. So now, instead of $10-12 per book, I was looking at $17-19. I don't know if I could have returned to Kickstarter and raised the additional funds. Still, I decided against it because, ironically, I didn't want to appear like a scammer.
"That book you ordered a year ago? Guess what? I'll need an extra $20 to send it to you!"
It didn't sound like a convincing pitch then and even less so now.
Wild New Territory
My best selling point was being the first to make a book on drawing Afrocentric features, which presented an unforeseen obstacle. There was not a template in place that I could follow. There were how to draw the marvel way or dynamic way or the insert random artist's name here way; but no one I could model the book after given its subject matter.
And finally, the book's purpose kept expanding with every new backer. I needed to read up on history and culture to answer my potential readers' logical questions. Like, why are black characters so politically volatile? Or, Why hasn't anyone made a book like this until now?
So, in short:
I raised less money than I needed.
As a result, the cost of production doubled before the release date.
I replaced the original artists with those I'd never worked with before.
Designed the book from scratch.
Despite the obstacles, I didn't feel right just throwing my hands up and being done with it. My intentions were never aligned with a permanent move to teaching. The book was to be a slight detour, but it turned into dead ends and heavy traffic. At some point, however, I decided something was better than nothing.
The Climb Back
So, I did my best to put together a finished draft. I started driving for Lyft and Uber and used the money I earned to make up the difference in the cost of the books. I used the money I raised to pay the artists I contracted with, purchase new equipment and research material and repay outstanding balances for the ads purchased during the campaign.
I connected with a reliable drop shipper that handled the fulfillment of non-book items and began shipping books through a new company.
When the project began, I promised to deliver the book by January 2019. Despite everything, I released the book 11 months late, and you haven't been reading if you think the release went smoothly.
A new printing company meant a new interface, levels of service, and dependability. While I could send books out faster, I encountered several issues that impeded my ability o send books. This was also during the first stages of the pandemic and what would later become the shipping crisis of 2020. After getting a steady stream of returned packages, I switched my fulfillment method to a claimed method that allowed me to ship books to those who had been waiting for the longest or their book returned to me.
This method had mixed results. I can only assume that many books and rewards were lost. Unfortunately, I don't have an accurate number of how many rewards were sent after the initial 150+ started coming back. To make matters worse, the printing company canceled my book without my consent after they made changes to it and refused to send me a draft. After I filed a complaint with the BBB, I can only assume the cancelation was in retaliation.
In any case, it was a source of income taken from my family and me. I was still recovering from personal issues; I didn't have it in me to fight a battle with a company in a different state. I announced what happened on my blog, which led me to launch the second Kickstarter. In many ways, I wanted to compensate for the lack of planning and uneven communication. I wanted to give you the book I felt you deserved. The shutdown and quarantine allowed me to work on the book with my full attention. As the book developed, my life started to piece itself back together. Reformatting the book allowed me to address issues I had with the final draft, and the changes evolved into How To Draw Black People Volume 2.
The planning was great, the execution was much better than the first campaign, and we could raise funds very efficiently. However, the campaign never made it further than the halfway mark.
I put the book out anyway. Rather than relaunching and gathering what we did raise, I choose to release it. Why? Because the book was never mine, to begin with. I made it for you. I had other options, creative avenues, and offers from people that shocked me. I put those options on the back burner to finish the second volume of How To Draw Black People.
Because I believe in what we accomplished.
Before how to draw black people, there were no books like it. Now there are nearly a dozen. When you see comics, animation, and video games with Black characters, look at their palms. You don't always see it consistently; even if the people involved never read our book, they reacted to it. That is change. I may have been the instrument, but you breathed life into the kind of subtle change so powerful that people don't know when it happened or how it started.
And it's so Fucking Beautiful That I'd Be a Fool to Take Credit.
I played a small part in something significant that will outlive me and my work, and you chose me to do it, and for that, I will always be grateful. As you can see, I am not perfect; I made all the mistakes a person could make and then made more. I should have come to you for more help, but I felt ashamed. Artistically I felt I could've done better, and I've proven that to be true. That doesn't excuse my neglect of duties and responsibility; I only want you to have the full context so you can have closure.
Communication is a skill I am still learning, and I apologize for my inconsistency. This may be new information to you, and although I felt I was being transparent, I can see the difference now. I understand how, objectively, my actions could be perceived negatively without the context of what was happening behind the scenes. I also owe you an explanation because my departure was abrupt, and I've returned to Kickstarter practically riding the elephant rather than ignoring its presence in the room. So, again, I apologize for my lack of communication and absence. However, I continue to offer store credit for what I can't replace that was lost, and I've been holding onto these unclaimed copies for nearly three years. How To Draw Black People Volume 2 is out, and I am still working on reformatting the first book for re-release. Between my current project and the lack of personnel, I can't give you a timetable on when the rerelease will happen, but when it does, trust me, you'll be first to know.
I need your support for my new project, but I understand if you no longer want to help me. If my apology doesn't cut it, I can accept that. Any frustration you have over the HTDBP, I would love to hear it directly from you. Most importantly, I want you to feel free to move on when you're ready. You have the full true story; please use it to judge me as you will.
We did something great together; that can be enough.