Zoop is a new crowdfunding website that's launching its first campaign today. This new crowdfunding platform is boasting a series of services that longstanding crowdfunding platforms like Kickstarter and Indiegogo don't; from the earliest stages of pre-campaign all the way through fulfillment, Zoop plans to assist creators to ensure that campaigns are a success and that the backers receive what they paid for. Zoop is founded by Jordan Plosky (founder of ComicBlitz) and Eric Moss (former head of Business Development at IDW Publishing). Both are no stranger to the crowdfunding process and so believed they'd be able to create a new platform that would alleviate pain points that many creators are likely familiar with.
TechRaptor was able to sit down and talk with Plosky last week and get a bit more information on what Zoop is, what kind of projects they already have in the wings, and why Zoop's process should not only help creators but also backers to ensure complication-free crowdfunding process. To start with, Plosky explained that Zoop is "mostly focused in the world of comics to start, but with plans to get into gaming like tabletop gaming, card games, board games, high-end collectibles toys, statues, figurines, and other things like that." If you're not as much into comics but enjoy backing products from a variety of other resources this might mean that initially, Zoop isn't for you, but will be worth keeping an eye on them.
Zoop for Creators
The offering Zoop is putting out there is to assist with a campaign from start to finish. Their service includes administration, pre-order, production, fulfillment, and marketing. "Zoop is its own platform, but we also offer things like campaign management, marketing. In the world of comics we act as a client representative to third-party vendors such as printers, also fulfillment houses, so people don’t want to be packaging 500 to 5,000 packages of something themselves, we’ll take care of the research it takes, the sourcing, and the vetting and negotiating with different companies so you can figure out who you want to work with," Plosky said. "That goes for all of those categories, category management, marketing, shipping, printing, fulfillment, that takes a ton of time and work."
For those reading who have crowdfunded projects in the past, you won't have to wait for the campaign to be over, then get a Backer Kit from a separate company where you specify any addons, that will then be given to a different fulfillment company. Not only is this easier for the customer wanting to get a product, but this means that creators don't need to worry about getting their entire customer list from one platform to another.
At the moment, Zoop is beginning its lifecycle as a curated platform, so don't expect to apply immediately. There are plans in the future to grow out and allow anyone to pitch a campaign to be worked on by the Zoop team. From the beginning of each project's lifecycle, Zoop is involved with strategy meetings, educating creators about vendors and fulfillment so that they can get clear estimates in their minds.
"[Zoop] helps the creator figure out what their budget is," Plosky said. "We’re going to cover the cost of shipping, the cost of fulfillment, the Zoop fees, and then we’re going to let them know, 'This is what you’re left with profit-wise.'"
With the founders' history in comics and crowdfunding, they also plan to make sure creators are aware of the differences of printing things like 750 copies vs 1,000 copies and how that might then get them into the next bulk price break, which creators might not know about. Using the vendors they already have, Zoop is able to plan out all of the costs and reverse engineer from there to be able to tell the creator what they should make with a success, and then allow them to go straight to working on what's next for them.
Offering so much though, I had to ask what the fee was for all of these services. Plosky responded that including platform fee, credit card processing, and all of the marketing, campaign management, and fulfillment fees, that Zoop takes 25% of the campaign earnings. This is a stark difference to Kickstarter and Indiegogo taking 5% of the fees, but Plosky explained more thoroughly why despite how that sounds bad at first glance, it might be the cheaper option when you break it down.
"The time and energy it takes for you to figure out who you’re going to use as a printer, fulfillment house, to do your own marketing and everything like that. By that point, and you’re going to have to come out of pocket for those services, all of our fees are on the back end so if we are not successful then we don’t get paid," he said. "It’s also kind of the best deal that you’re going to get as a creator when it comes to the time, the value proposition that we have, and even just the distribution method. If you’re going to go to Comixology, depending on who you are, you’re going to pay 30-50% to Comixology. If you go to a publisher, they’re going to take a piece of ownership in your property and you’re going to have a split with them on sales. You probably have the largest profit margin on the books sold through Zoop than you would through any other channel." That the fees are tied to a successful campaign also greatly decreases the kinds of risk that a creator has putting funds out of pocket into campaign managers and lining up marketing only to have a campaign fall through.
Through the entire conversation with Plosky, there seemed to be a consistent message not only detailing how aware of the issues Zoop was and the experience the team had, but also the importance of taking all of this administrative work off the shoulders of the creatives so that they can immediately get started on their next project. Plosky also highlighted Zoop's plan to drop that barrier to entry for people intimidated by the thought of their first campaign. From Zoop's experience so far with the project it's launching with, Slow City Blues, to others they have lined up, their experience hasn't just been a creator liking their Zoop pitch but then connecting Zoop to other comic book creators. Plosky shared that he and the team felt really reassured with what they've been doing knowing that it's not only a service that creators want, but one that they see as a good enough deal that they're wanting to get their friends and colleagues involved in as well.
Zoop for Backers
Zoop plans to handle its sales as an a-la-cart system, as opposed to the kinds of tiers that you'll find on Kickstarter. This was planned as a way to ensure that the backer can get just the book if they want the minimum amount, but then that opens up the options of other add-ons.
"We find that sometimes you go on a Kickstarter and you’ve got like six items in a tier, but you’re thinking, 'Well I only want one item in this tier, but I can’t get it any other way.' So we have your tiers which is basically the different iterations of the book at this point," he said. "Then we have add-ons but they’re all in the same campaign, and the difference between the tiers and the addons is that you have to purchase at least one tier of the book to unlock the addons if that makes sense. Some of the addons can be a T-shirt, or a pin, or a print, or even some of the original art. The point here is that these creators want to get their book out there. In order to unlock purchasing a piece of original art, you have to first buy at least a single issue or the trade paperback or something like that of the book, and we just think that’s the best way to go about it because realistically, why would you want a piece of original art if you don’t even want to read the story?"
Transparency is also a big part of what Zoop wants with the different project backers. For projects that are completed but maybe fall a bit behind schedule, knowing how the printing of comics works and the distribution process, they plan to be really clear with customers by letting them know, “Hey, we’re halfway done creating this book so our projected end date is here, and then we can go straight into production and it takes three months for printing and two months for fulfillment.” It's understandable that in the real world, deadlines can sometimes slip, but at Zoop, they feel that "as long as backers know and they don’t feel like they’re being swindled or bamboozled or hoodwinked or whatever, they’re going to be cool with it as long as we’re transparent." By handling fulfillment themselves and coaching/assisting creators through the process, it's Zoop's goal to reduce the number of campaigns that don't deliver. Just how low that number will be there's no way of knowing, but it makes sense in the hands of those who have done it before it should be a less volatile process.
Who is Behind Zoop?
So who are the people behind Zoop, and what kinds of experience do they have in this industry? Founders Plosky and Moss met through previous business relationships as Plosky would license content from Moss at IDW for ComicBlitz (a Netflix-like subscription service for comics). Moss is also known for being the campaign manager behind the best comic Kickstarter of all time for BRZRKR, a comic by Keanu Reeves, Matt Kindt, and Ron Garney. Plosky explained that during Covid, they saw the shifting of the comic landscape and how the global pandemic was accelerating these changes. Seeing so many pain points for publishers and creators, they decided they'd take the time to create a new service to improve the crowdfunding process. Through dealing with Kickstarter projects professionally, as well as fans of creators themselves, they were familiar with all parts of the process and found where they felt they could improve it. While Zoop still has growing to do, the founders feel extremely confident in "phase one of Zoop." Brett Shanker, founder of GraphicPolicy.com, is also part of Zoop, planning on assisting with campaign marketing. Recently Camilla Zhang has joined Zoop as an advisor as well, again with a deep knowledge of crowdfunding and comics. Zhang was previously Kickstarter's comics outreach lead.
The brain trust we have very much understands every aspect from the marketing which is what Brett is handling, to the campaign management, and then of course the relationships with printers and fulfillment centers and just having a network of creators to go to and reach out to from our past experiences.
What Projects Does Zoop Have Coming Up?
Zoop's first campaign is the Slow City Blues comic series. This one is already up and available to get more information on their website. For the rest of June, Zoop has two other comic campaigns lined up as well. The next campaign will be a Volume 2 of Scarlett Couture from Des Taylor, a U.K.-based artist, and Resolution from Ron Marz, Andy Lanning, and Rick Leonardi. Every writer and artist has incredible credits to their names across the well-known DC and Marvel universes as well as Doctor Who, and their own lists of creations. If you're interested in comics from high-quality creators, then Zoop will have a lot to offer.
One of the things that I like to point out is that Ron Marz has done multiple crowdfunding campaigns and I think it speaks to what we offer and bring to the table that he’s choosing to forego doing all of that work, knows what a headache all of that is, and is looking to Zoop to unload all of that work.
Zoop also has a number of campaigns lined up into July and August, ensuring that there's a continual chain of projects to make sure all eyes are on them.
It was fantastic having the chance to talk with Plosky and not just see the excitement that he has for Zoop and all of the projects they have lined up, but also the knowledge and confidence in the service that they're able to provide and how others are also reacting to it. TechRaptor wants to thank Plosky for his time, and I'll be keeping my fingers crossed that everything runs smoothly.