Last Gasp Books, a San Francisco-based publisher and distributor of comics and art books, recently found itself in a precarious financial situation. But instead of taking its last gasp, it followed in the footsteps of other indie publishers and launched a Kickstarter campaign, raising more than $83,000.
Even though Last Gasp has, over the last four decades, published work by acclaimed artists such as R. Crumb, Todd Schorr, Robert Williams, and Junko Mizuno, it suffered in the sluggish economy of recent years. Colin Turner, associate publisher and son of Last Gasp founder Ron Turner, explained that the cash crunch was due, in part, to the fact that many bookstores were taking a cautious approach to buying. “A lot of our books have high retail prices, so it’s hard for them to stock. That conservative stance [on the part of bookstores] put us in a difficult position.” This, in turn, forced Last Gasp to think of alternative ways to print the high-quality books for which it is known.
The founder of Last Gasp, Ron Turner.
Last Gasp has turned to Kickstarter to support a range of projects, including one-off titles and entire lists. Turner said he believes crowdfunding will become a fixture in the independent publishing scene. “Right now it’s in the back of my mind, as I’m mulling over different ideas for the future. Whether it will be a larger Kickstarter for specific titles or reprinting backlists, I don’t know, but I’m sure that we will do some sort of crowdfunding in the future—there’s no doubt about it.”
Turner also said he would love to collaborate with an indie bookstore on a Kickstarter campaign, noting that it would be the “missing link” bringing together indie publishing and independent bookselling. “If there’s a way to figure out how to bring bookstores into [our Kickstarter campaigns], so that it helps everyone, that would be the ultimate win for us.”
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