Dinosaur Comics creator's Choose-your-own-adventure Hamlet beats all Kickstarter publishing records

Ryan "Dinosaur Comics" North writes in with the improbable tale of his amazingly successful Kickstarter for a Choose-Your-Own-Adventure style adaptation of Hamlet, which has made him a fortune and prompted him to release the whole thing under a Creative Commons license:

There's a little under two days left on the project for my chooseable-path version of Hamlet called To Be Or Not To Be. (Like a choose-your-own-adventure book, but that is trademarked, so I will say that in this book Adventures Are Being Chosen By You and leave it at that) You can play as Ophelia, Hamlet, or Hamlet's Dad, but if you choose him you die on the first page and play as a ghost. And instead of a play-within-a-play there's a book-within-a-book where you read ANOTHER choose-your-own-path book. I'm really excited for it.

All the endings will be illustrated by some really talented artists like Noelle Stevenson (Gingerhaze), Kate Beaton (Hark A Vagrant), and Meredith Gran (Octopus Pie) and the book will be released with a CC BY-NC 3.0 license. I was asking for $20k and we reached that in 3 and a half hours, and now in the last day of the project it's above $400k, making it the most-funded publishing project on Kickstarter ever which is nuts!

The coolest thing about it is the contrast with traditional publishing: nobody would want to print this book in full colour and with all these illustrations, but because Kickstarter lets you contact the audience directly, we've been able to do that and to move the book from black and white to colour, add more illustrations, as well as have a mini prequel adventure too.

To Be Or Not To Be: That Is The Adventure


  1. I’ve found, through BB, so many exciting ways to spend my money in the last month or so. It’s a shame that I don’t have any extra money to actually spend.

    1. I agree that there are always a few somethings on this site that I find worth considering buying because most of the items are things that I will enjoy and that I can to use to develop my practice (whether it be drawing, editing, mixing, et al.)

      I’ve embraced limits much more passionately in the last few years, intentionally for artistic purposes and out of budgetary necessity. So, I limit myself to one book per 1-2 months that teaches me more about the activities I’m currently engaged in… calligraphy/lettering, and drawing being my primary disciplines these days.

      What’s great about most BB stuff is that it’s geared towards those of us who do and make. (I know, HERP DERP that’s their thang). As such, I find I can manage a budget AND keep myself learning and enjoying my passions. And that’s a form of marketing I can appreciate.

      It helps me focus. And I think my work has benefitted from it and it’s enhanced my practice.

       When I was making enough money to buy, say, 5 or 6 books a month, I found myself constantly at loose end, distracted and oppressed by infinite possibilities. So hurray for limits.

      I have also worked at my art through months of rice and beans in which the single purchase of a book was impossible. BB offers ample free materials, such that can be used for daily inspiration, practice and education without spending a dime. 

      In fin, It’s all good. And it works for me.

    1. It’s the most successful publishing Kickstarter, not the most successful of ANY Kickstarter. That part confused me too since Kickstarter’s showcase shows things going over 1 million.

    1.  I have kickstarted 2 games and a book.  so far I would describe the process as “slow”. or at least slow compared to the frenzy of the kickstarter itself.  Nothing is actually late so far – just. . .  A whole lot of life has passed by.  In the time since I kicked in, I’ve gotten laid off, moved to another country, started the kids in a new school, and the things I kickstarted haven’t so far kickfinished.

      I’m not complaining – more just observing that the pace of someone actually making a thing is dramatically different from the pace of me just buying a thing that’s already made.

      1.  I think that’s a good point for people new to it.  Don’t go in thinking, “Oh, I’m pre-ordering something, and it will be done exactly when they say it will and/or as soon as the funding ends.”  It likely won’t work that way.  Go in knowing that it may take a while, and don’t spend more money than you’re willing to lose without getting anything in return.  I’ve done 5 or 6, and only one of them has really fallen apart.  It’s been about a year and a half, and the project person won’t answer questions, shows contempt for his backers in the (very infrequent) updates, and has started selling the items on this own website before providing them to the vast majority of his backers.  The rage surrounding it is a pretty bad scene, especially for people who kicked in hundreds of dollars for a top-tier reward and the people who got them intending them to be Christmas presents…for 2011.  Avoid those traps, and it’s kind of fun.

        And I totally backed this one.  I loved CYOA books in my youth.

  2. Though I too do not have any extra money to spend at the moment, I was in on this on day one. I spoke with Ryan North briefly at his table at the TCAF comics convention in Toronto earlier this year and he seemed just like he seems online, super friendly and fun to be around… but also competent and confident in his work. 

    I enjoyed the encounter primarily because the people who went up to his table just before me had a photo on a phone of North with the Star Trek TNG cast (from a convention) and they apparently only went up to talk to him to find out who the frumpy old dude in the photo was… it was Riker (Frakes).

    Anyway… the book looks great and involvement with some of my other webcomic favorites like Kate Beaton and Anthony Clark (both of whom I also met at TCAF and who are also nice) makes it irresistible to me.

  3. I was thinking about waiting until next year’s TCAF to pick this book up, considering the rather exorbitant $10 international shipping fee.

    But just another $10K and Mr. North will “literally explode”!  How can you resist that?

  4. If Dino Comics + Kate Beaton weren’t enough for you, he’s also the guy who wrote the fantastic Adventure Time comic book (first TPB out now).

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