You get: high-resolution archives, ad-free site while logged in, access to the Toolbox, Tool site badge, 5 Shmuckers per pledge
You get: all previous tier rewards + art blog access, 10 Shmuckers per pledge
You get: all previous tier rewards + exclusive pin-up postcard every month, 30 Shmuckers per pledge
You get: all previous tier rewards + permatweet on the sidebar + postcard will be signed by Xin and Rob, 50 Shmuckers per pledge
You get: all previous tier rewards + Ruler of Erfworld site badge + your official Erf name and caricature, 100 Shmuckers per pledge
You get: all previous tier rewards + 300 x 200 graphical ad for your project/company/charity/cause, 200 Shmuckers per pledge
All levels get Shmuckers
Level 2 & up get access to Xin's pin-ups and art blog
Levels 3 & up get a post card of the pin-up art every month!
Level 6 gets a Graphical Ad on the Erfworld sidebar!
What is the Toolshed?
The Toolshed is our new subscriber program. It's a way for you to help Erfworld stay afloat and get some fun site perks and bonuses, including a new pin-ups & art blog by Xin Ye!
Oh? What about the Toolbox?
Erfworld started in 2006 on Giant in the Playground's website, then in May 2009 we launched on our own site. That launch included a subscriber program we called "the Toolbox."
Our supporters pledged $3 a month for an equivalent amount in store credit plus access to the Toolbox (a collection of bonus content such as lost art, scripts, and desktop wallpaper).
That $3 a month has been a backbone of our business model ever since. But in 2013, Patreon launched as an outstanding platform for all kinds of creators to do that same kind of thing. They also showed the value of having different pledge levels and rewards.
In December of that year, Patreon contacted me about setting up a project page. But we weren't ready yet. We were still building the new website, and it was going to be too difficult to integrate Patreon with the Toolbox. So we made plans to do that after the new site's launch.
In November of 2014, we were ready to start a Patreon page. But the more we looked at it, the more it seemed that integrating with Patreon would be almost as technically challenging as just building out the Toolbox to work more like a Patreon page.
So that's what we did. With the "Toolshed" (it's much bigger than the Toolbox), we have exactly the custom tiers we wanted, fully integrated with our website, and nobody takes a cut of your donation except for PayPal or Stripe.
What do I do if I am a Tool already?
Well, first of all, thank you! On launch day, we awarded all active Tools in the Toolbox an Old School Tool site badge.
If you want to keep the same deal you've always had at $3/month or $33/year for Toolbox access, then you don't have to do anything at all. This is equivalent to a Level 1 pledge, but with 30 Shmuckers a month instead of 5 per on-time update.
No new Tools will be signed up under that plan, and if your subscription is cancelled (as PayPal sometimes does automatically when your payment methods change or expire), then you will not be able to renew under the old plan.
If you would like to pledge at any of the new levels in the Toolshed, go ahead and sign up now. We will take care of cancelling your old plan through PayPal. You will keep all the Shmuckers you currently have, and start earning new ones through the Toolshed. If you are a yearly subscriber, your remaining months of Toolbox access will continue if and when you cancel your new subscription.
So, I'm pledging per on-time update. What's an "on-time update?"
The update schedule for Erfworld's main books is Mondays & Fridays. Comic pages and texts that will go in the main book count as "updates." An update is considered on-time if it is posted by 11:59 pm eastern time (Rob's time zone) on the day it is due. Whether an update counts as on time or not is at our sole discretion, but there shouldn't be any confusion. We will continue to aim to have the pages up just after midnight eastern, but any time within the 24 hours still counts. (There will be no "filler" updates just to collect your pledge, only story content that is intended to be in the printed book.)
We are also doing the Kickstarter backer stories on some Wednesdays. Eventually, we'll begin the final part of Book 0: Inner Peace Through Superior Firepower, and those will go up on Wednesdays as well. We make no promises about updating or not updating on any given Wednesday, but you can add the Wednesday updates to your pledge if you'd like to express your support for those, too.
Wait, so every time you update, I'll get billed? That's going to get spammy...
No, your pledges will be added up and you'll be billed on or about the 14th of each month. PayPal isn't very good about micro-transactions, so that will keep our fees down and your email box quiet. And if you change your pledge level in the middle of the month, updates that happen after the change will reflect your new level.
And now, for some realtalk from Rob...
On our finances, the Toolshed and Kickstarter
So you may well be saying, "Why are you asking for more support now? Where is all of that Kickstarter money?"
The answer is that the money from Kickstarter has already gone to exactly what I said it was for: printing books, making figurines and other rewards, packing/shipping/handling the rewards, and paying David to draw Book 3 (and also the small matter of the "magnets" and Xin's hospital bills).
Yes, $146,000 is an eye-popping number, but the amount we were dealing with after Kickstarter, Amazon Payments, Uncle Sam and the USPS all took their chunks was already down well below five figures. Printing hardcovers and making custom figurines burns cash by the tens of thousands of dollars. The remaining balance is in reserve for paying David to draw the rest of Book 3.
That is how David makes a living from Erfworld, but you'll notice that not one dollar of what was raised through Kickstarter was ever slated to put a roof over my head or gas in my tank. "Pay Rob's health insurance" was never a stretch goal.
But I do need health insurance.
So I'll have to be able to make my living in other ways. Store sales, convention sales and site ads are turning out not to be quite enough, which is where the Toolshed comes in. By pledging dollars for Shmuckers, you'll essentially be pledging to pre-buy enough merch to pay me what I need to live on, pay Linda to handle the orders, shipping, and customer service work, and keep Erfworld going as a business.
On David's move, and the 2 month break in Book 3
In the first couple of months of this year, when we were only updating Forecastle, I saw a few posts along the lines of, "how long does it take someone to move? Come on!"
Well, if you've ever sold a house and had everything go wrong with it, the answer might be a little clearer. David has now emerged from a fairly awful ordeal with that and has moved halfway across the country. But even now (March 2015), he is not completely situated. My feeling on it was that when something extraordinarily awful is happening in the artist's life, then they should take as much time as they need to deal with it.
And yes, they do get to keep the details private. When something like that happens, I can't post to tell you when we'll return, because I don't know. When Xin's mom was sick in 2011, Xin didn't know when or if she would recover, and neither did I. All I could do was to start writing Book 0 and hope for the best. But I will not make news updates with promises I can't keep, and I will not share the details of my collaborators' private lives with the internet.
David, Xin, and Jamie have all understood the importance of keeping Erfworld to a schedule. But sometimes that's just impossible. And sometimes it's my fault, too, if I'm fighting with writer's block or crushed by time pressure. Everybody's human, including everybody here.
So I'm hoping that by tying your support to our delivery of on-time updates, it will take some of the sting out of it when we inevitably miss some. And I hope everyone will understand that we are always trying our best, even if we don't share all the ugly details of our personal struggles. Thanks for understanding.
On the website
I've also seen some comments along the lines of, "How hard can it be to build a website? Lots of comics do that without raising money for it."
Well, that's kind of an apples to Apples comparison. If you remember, for five years we had a WordPress site built on a volunteer basis for us by Harknell. It wasn't bad, but it wasn't anything like what I wanted an Erfworld website to do. The new site is much more sophisticated, code-wise, and mostly custom coded. And it's still in beta. A lot of what we hope to do with it hasn't been rolled out yet.
We started the website project in 2012. It hasn't gone well at all. I'd say my experience with trying to get it built has been somewhere between the Book of Job and this scene from the Simpsons.
But progress is progress. The site is live, and now the Toolshed is, too. We're getting there. I finally have a team that's getting the job done. Going forward, we'll clean up a lot of loose ends, add new features, and see how far we can get with things.
A lot of that will depend on the response to the Toolshed. These web developers are all Erfworld fans, who care and want to see it succeed. I'm not taking advantage of that; they still deserve to be paid for all their hard work. They've deferred a lot of their compensation until after the Toolshed is up and running, so a significant percent of what you pledge will be going to them.
And they have done a lot of work. I will do right by them, even if it takes a while, and I could use your help with it.
On the free content model, and being a patron of what you love
It's a weird time to be a writer or an artist or a musician or a voice personality or an animator or a filmmaker, at least if you're trying to make that your job. Almost every creative field used to follow a model where you'd have to "break in" with some kind of label or publisher or radio station, sign a contract, and just get paid to do what you do.
Now, a lot of us are using technology to reach our audience directly, which is incredibly empowering for the artist but also confusing and scary. We have to figure out a way to run it as a business and make it pay. That's not something that comes naturally to creative types.
It's also a weird time to be in the audience. Readers, listeners and viewers have access to much more stuff now. Most of it is free, and some of it is even stranger than Erfworld.
More and more, you're seeing the creators of the stuff you enjoy put our hands out to say, "Please donate. Help us make more of this."
It's getting noisy. It's maybe not so fun anymore. There are a few too many of us on the sidewalk now, holding up cardboard signs saying "please help."
You can't (and shouldn't) empty your wallet by throwing bucks into every open guitar case you pass. But still, it's important to support a few of the things you truly do care about. Because those things may go away if you don't.
You're the only one who can make that decision about who to support. You can cast your vote for the best stuff, with a few dollar bills pledged here and there. I really hope that what we're doing here means enough to you that you will choose to pledge something to Erfworld.
From Rob, David, Xin, Linda, John, Red, Steve, Brendan and the rest of Team Erfworld, thank you very much!