The Finer Details with Rene Pfitzner – ‘Sneaky Goblins at College’

The Finer Details

We’re back again with another interview with another amazing creator discussing their Kickstarter projects, this time its Rene Pfitzner and his highly arresting comic ‘Sneaky Goblins at College.’ In this interview we talk everything that is the comic, how he managed his Kickstarter campaign, and why over 180 people loved this idea! You don’t want to miss these useful insights if you’re interested in creating your own projects!

Ten Questions about Sneaky Goblins at College

1. In a few sentences, can you explain what the comic is about and why you needed to bring it to life?

RENE: “Absolutely. Sneaky Goblins is about a young goblin who is thrown in the deep end, and spends most of the adventure struggling to stay afloat. This reflects some of my personal struggles over the last 10 years. I’ve dealt with changing careers and the unpredictability that comes with that. I’ve been in bad work environments where I came face-to-face with anxiety-depression. This was an especially low point in my life. I had a young family, and I felt like I was letting them down when I felt I had no choice but to quit.

The hardest part was not even knowing if it would all work out- I didn’t know if I would be able to persist and come out the other side with my life as I knew it still intact. I wanted the hero (anti-hero?) in Sneaky Goblins to face all kinds of challenges, with no obvious way through them. He has to dive in and figure it out one step at a time.”

2. How long have you been working on this project?

RENE: “I wrote the story for Sneaky Goblins at the end of 2014 and started making the pages at the beginning of 2015. I had just turned 39 and I realised I didn’t have a book with my name on the cover and my art on the inside.

In 2014 I had drawn a couple of short comics for a friend, who was getting a comics anthology together, which she successfully crowd-funded. I really liked the process of making comics and I was ready to tackle something bigger. So I wrote a script for 150 pages, and started drawing!

3. In bringing this comic to life what, for you, was the most important thing to focus on?

RENE: “Artwork has always been a big factor in my love for comics. I wanted this to be a project where I levelled up my skills in drawing, colouring and the craft of sequential art. At the same time, I don’t write a lot of fiction, so I wanted to get some skills under my belt in that department as well. I took an online course in writing for visual stories and I read some great books on the craft: Save the Cat, Invisible Ink, Stephen King’s On Writing.

4. Where did the premise for this idea come from?

RENE: “I distinctly remember coming up with the idea and writing it down in my sketchbook on a holiday in 2014: A small goblin tricks a larger creature (an orc?) into helping him out of a tight spot. The story evolved from there. I like to think of cool scenes that I want to include in my book, and then figure out how they could fit into the story: how they aid the character’s development, how they fit the themes of the story.”

5. What would you say was the biggest change you had from your original idea to what the comic has become now?

RENE: “I actually didn’t change a lot about a story once I have it written: I’m not very good at making drafts. I don’t like the ambiguity of having something not tied down. That said, if I want to improve as a writer, I should probably try to get comfortable with that liquid stage before the story is set and I start drawing.

I guess the biggest difference was how the friendship between Bog and Dank evolved over the course of the story, despite everything. I was thinking of calling the comic Bog and Dank, but Sneaky Goblins is more descriptive for people who haven’t read it yet. It’s a better hook to get you in the story.”

6. What would you say was your greatest obstacle in bringing the comic to life?

RENE: “The biggest obstacle was time! It took me three years to finish all 150 pages. I was really worried at the start that I’d lose momentum and the comic wouldn’t get finished- because it was so ambitious- I’d never done anything of this scale before. My longest story prior to this was only 8 pages long.

That caused me to rush over some of the art and story in the first 40 pages or so. I wanted to get as far into the book as possible, to make it more real in my mind. After that I relaxed a bit, and completing the pages became more of an inevitability: as long as I continued on that trajectory. Now I feel comfortable spending more time on the art and giving the story a bit more breathing room, I don’t feel the pressure of forcing it to life.”

7. How long did it take to write the script for Sneaky Goblins at College, and how did you approach writing that?

RENE: “Because I’m writing for myself, and not for another artist, my script is pretty scanty. There’s a lot still in my head when I start drawing. Sometimes I’ll just write an outline of a scene, and I’ll add dialogue once I get to drawing it. Mostly though, I’ll write down full dialogue and make notes to myself about how I want the scene to play out, expression, significant close-ups, establishing shots, etc. However, I always want to have the script finished (in whatever state that happens to be) before I start drawing. I want to know exactly where the story is going and how we’ll get there. I didn’t want to be the web comic that meanders around and wastes reader’s time before getting to the point.”

8. What was the process of getting all of the pages together from conceptual to competed, and how long did it take to do each one?

RENE: “I spend about 7 or 8 hours on each page, from thumbnailing to pencils to inks and colouring and lettering. There’s a blog post on my Patreon where I talk a bit more about this: https://www.patreon.com/posts/27449544

9. Sneaky Goblins at College is, of course, based around characters we’ve seen in the original Sneaky Goblins, how did you find exploring these characters?

RENE: “Their back stories were always in my mind as I made the original graphic novel, in fact they’re implied at several points in the story! So it wasn’t too hard to come up with stories that make their origins more explicit. I love it when you get to find out more about characters you’re already familiar with.”

10. What pearls of wisdom would you give to any writers and artists out there that are trying to be successful in the current comics landscape?

RENE: “You have to figure out what your definition of success is. It’s difficult to make work that is entirely your vision and also pays your bills.

In my case, I have a half-time job which takes the pressure off needing my comics to support me, because that would be totally unrealistic! At the same time, I’m always learning more about selling my work and getting better at that. However, when you’re starting out you need to work out what your goal is, and stick to that. If your aim is to level up your craft and get some exposure for your creations, it’s hard to go past a weekly updating web comic. But eventually, you need to learn some of the skills for promoting your work as well, which is a whole different toolbox.

Ten Questions about how the creator found the Kickstarter Process

1. Why did you choose to bring Sneaky Goblins at College to Kickstarter, instead of approaching a comics publisher?

RENE: “I’ve actually approached a couple of publishers with Sneaky Goblins. I would be totally up for that! My goal was always to have the collected story as a book, so I knew I couldn’t just sit around waiting for someone to offer to print my book, I had to make it happen.

2. How did you find the Kickstarter process, and what challenges were there along the way?

RENE: “I actually wrote some blog posts about this as well:

The main thing was to start thinking about the campaign early: I gave myself 6 months to prepare, including building a mailing list of readers and supporters, so they’d be ready to support the campaign when I launched.”

3. Did you have any doubts that your campaign would be successful, or was it a crowd-pleaser straight away?

RENE: “For my 2018 campaign, I was so anxious that it wouldn’t fund. It was an ambitious goal for my first Kickstarter, and I’d put in too much work to see it fail now: both in making and promoting the book itself, and then all the preparation for the campaign. It had to work! Fortunately, there was a strong showing on day one of the campaign, and it was funded in 5 days.

Because last year’s campaign was a success, I was confident about my new campaign. Even if only half of the people came back to support it, it would still have funded.

My web comic doesn’t have a massive audience, I maybe get around 100 – 300 readers hitting the site each week. I think that goes to show that it’s more about the trust and the relationship you build with your supporters than the raw number of hits on your site. You can still fund a Kickstarter even if you only have a small audience.

4. At the end, your campaign boasted over 180 backers, how do you think you managed to get so many people on board?

RENE: “It was about building trust and showing that I could deliver on my promised. Also, it was only a year since my last campaign, so there wasn’t a lot of time for people to cool off. There was still a bit of momentum there.

5. What preparation did you do leading up to the release of your Kickstarter Comic?

RENE: “Last year I enrolled in a course called Comixlaunch Pro. I subscribed for about 5 months. It was worth every cent! You get a complete game-plan for getting your campaign ready and executing on it. If you’re serious about getting your comics Kickstarter funded, you should definitely check out Tyler’s podcast: https://pro.comixlaunch.com/

6. For you, what was the most important thing to get across to any potential backers?

RENE: “When people land on a Kickstarter page, they want to see a few things in play:

  • A good product, obviously.
  • A clear plan: this comic is inevitable, the creator knows what they’re doing.
  • Linked to this is early support: you want to be around 30% funded after the first 48 hours. That way a new supporter knows they’ve joined a winning team. That’s why it’s so critical to have a mailing list of people who are ready to support you on day one.
  • Communication: update your campaign- make it obvious that you enjoy communicating with your supporters! I started a daily sketch request challenge to keep up the interaction during the Kickstarter.

7. After your Kickstarter had been funded, how did you find the process of giving the backers their rewards?

RENE: “There will always be hiccups. Give yourself plenty of time for fulfilment. For last year’s Kickstarter I added an extra month as buffer, but still the delivery to US addresses was delayed by 2 months! (I live in Australia) For my new campaign I have a plan to make sure that doesn’t happen to my Kickstarter backers this time.

8. If you were to give advice to someone starting their own Kickstarter Comic Book Project, what would it be?

RENE: “Build a mailing list and send them emails! Talk about your process, your story, why it’s important to you. You might think you’re annoying people or being boring, but you’re not. You’re making worlds come alive with your art and story. As creators, we get used to that, but for people who aren’t comics creators, it’s all fascinating! They want to know how you’re making your book, what your plan is and why you’re doing it. That would be my advice.

9. What is next for you after the kickstarter?

RENE: “I just launched my new webcomic: Mythic Creature Trainer. It’s set in the same world as Sneaky Goblins, so we’ll still have elves, goblins, and magical creatures, but now there’s trouble stirring between humans and orcs. This story will be around 120 pages long, so I want to crowdfund that as a graphic novel when it’s finished.

Check it out: www.mythiccreaturetrainer.com

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That’s all we have! I want to give a MASSIVE thank you to Rene for answering a few questions about his project and sharing his insights! I can’t wait to read Sneaky Goblins at College! Pre-orders of the comic are available on IndieGoGo – just follow this link – https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/sneaky-goblins-at-college-a-fast-fantasy-comic#/

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