This email went out to creators I worked with on Oath on March 15th, and lays out more details about the fulfillment and scheduling problems I had with the campaign at the time than I've shared publicly before.
I'm working on reaching out to backers to find those remaining who don't have their books, which will hopefully be a very small minority.
This week and last a few of you spoke with me about your feelings with regards to Oath and my communication, and I’m incredibly grateful that you did. I am so sorry for the mistakes I made and that I carried on.
When I first started making Oath, I was eighteen years old and newly excited about comics, their potential, and transitioning from just running a twitter feed about promoting queer comics to the idea of actually making them and participating in the industry.
That you all put your trust in me at the point in my life and throughout the next year has always meant a great deal to me. Many of you are webcomic creators I’ve looked up to since I was in middle school, and everyone who came on is someone I admire deeply. The project had a lot of problems: from an over-broad theme and a slightly shorter cover to page length ratio a printer convinced me was normal, to the more serious timeline stretches and fulfillment problems that keep reappearing years later. I’ve grown a lot since Oath, but I’ve carried on one mistake with this team continually: in trying to handle problems on my own, I haven’t committed to the transparency for problems that I expect and respect in other projects and that you likely would have understood at the time. I am very sorry for neglecting your trust. Since it’s long overdue, I’m going to explain.
Conceptualizing Oath, I was naive enough to think that with no previous experience in fulfillment and publishing outside of a few premature years in ghostwriting I would be able to run and fulfill a significantly large kickstarter by myself. Since I had the advice of a few friends with experience and I followed the example of a few great books like a template, I was mistakenly confident that I could do a project like Oath entirely solo but keep it at the scale of projects run by teams and creators with a decade of books at their feet.
I realized that was a mistake as soon as we overfunded and I had no plan in place for that eventuality. I hadn’t accurately calculated our budget, so when the books ended up cheaper and we had more wiggle room before shipping, I spent it on increasing the budget for creator bonuses and was convinced to try a fulfillment service I’d never heard of but had been used by other creators.
If I’d spoken to the creators of those comics directly instead of their management, or read the comments on those campaigns, I would’ve realized that they’d suffered from lost and damaged packages for years at numbers completely baffling and unacceptable. Something that, obviously, would come back to haunt Oath. Ultimately, the fulfillment service charged me much more than I had budgeted for shipping and an unreasonable amount per package and I covered it from my savings and from my monthly pay.
Moving forward the fulfillment company would not report back to me when a package was returned undelivered, not sent, had an address or customs issue, or when they were contacted for customer support through their direct line. Because of that, I have no doubt that there are people frustrated who I have just never heard of and have no way of knowing if they received their rewards: a flaw that is untenable for an active kickstarter. I had inherited the service from my job, and while I didn’t get reports of bad packages regularly for Oath at the start, I’d started getting regular emails while working about other creators’ misprints and missing packages and shipments lost forever to DHL that neither party would claim ownership of.
I was already committed, and they had all of the books. It was at this point that I should’ve warned you all, but I was easily convinced that changes would go smoothly and I was scared of letting you down. While I haven’t heard from backers in a long while, I know also (and have done this myself) that you can forget you haven’t received something from a kickstarter you backed until its in front of you again, so I’m emailing my tiers this weekend to find any remaining lost books. I’ll update you all with a quick newsletter after I do. When I sent out the new free comps in January and the moving sale info, I also emailed any creators I heard hadn’t received their copies from the center a code to get them and the extras shipped for free through the same form. If you didn’t get that and still need your original comps, please let me know so I can send them to you. Since I’ve ended my contract with the fulfillment agency, I’ll be hand shipping any remaining books with a friend and closing the fulfillment out for good with final warnings to anyone who never filled out a survey.
In this fulfillment process, I had taken on two full time clients, and one that evolved very quickly into a 7 day a week job with near 24-hour availability. I was at my wits end for a very long time, and creative projects started and faded away and emails got lost in the sudden responsibility of 200 new ones every single day. As time passed, I didn’t recognize the damaged trust that wouldn’t fade without a conversation. I also didn’t set an explicit timeline for bonuses timed nebulously “after or during fulfillment” and after the page rates for the comics, which would have eased creator stress. Without thinking, I took care of the concerns of creators I spoke most regularly with, and let others go too long without attention.
I saw these problems, but I was exhausted, and I felt confident that by offering more comps, increasing the artist budget from the original plan, and dropping the exclusivity for the comics with my apologies it all might even out. Maybe it could have if books from the warehouse wouldn’t still go AWOL, I had addressed emails sooner, and I’d worked harder to reach out to those of you too uncomfortable to voice your concerns with me, but ultimately closure can’t come from anything but communication.
Once I’ve reached out to backers and started that close out again, I’ll be making a spreadsheet sharing the original and final budget, a timeline, and some of the mistakes I struggled with with this project with you all. After that, I’ll probably post the whole thing (anonymizing creator and backer data) on my website.
You don’t owe me anything, but if you would like to talk with me one on one sometime this month or next, I’d really love to make this right. My discord is ---------, and I am always available to talk on the phone. If there’s anything I can share to begin rebuilding trust with those of you who were damaged in this process, I’d like to do it. I'm very sorry this project has not been something you can all be consistently proud of, and for making it that way.
call me/beep me: --------
if you wanna reach me: firstname.lastname@example.org