A hello, and some Kickstarted words

Hello again. I’m still in the woods trying to determine the future of the blog, but I did want to offer a longer treatment to one new, one ongoing, and one completed project. I’m finding that one of the most compelling uses of Kickstarter is as a means to vet and fund self-published writing (and I include comics in this as well), and each of these projects is a great example of that.

About a year ago I picked up a copy of STORIES, the genre-agnostic Neil Gaiman/Al Sarrantonio anthology of short stories. What a great idea it was! It got me wondering whether a fiction magazine could follow the same model, to pay for fiction at professional rates but exist without classifying itself into a genre. Enter Fireside Magazine.

Fireside has published two issues in this, its first year, based on a pre-sale model via Kickstarter. I like the idea of the magazine so much I’ve backed both issues, and pestered publisher Brian White into giving me an interview for the site, and into letting me help with the submissions process (now open through Labor Day). But what I really dig most about the magazine is that it took an idea, and willed a magazine into existence. With the help of the crowd. Isn’t that just great?

Another great example of using Kickstarter to get a project made is Book Riot’s START HERE book. I’m fond of the idea behind this one as it reminds me of Michael Chabon’s MAPS AND LEGENDS. START HERE will collect essays from 25 critics and authors, who will each provide a guided tour of a renowned author’s work, allowing the reader a pathway to understanding that author better. MAPS AND LEGENDS had a similar effect, but also in reverse, as it helped me to better understand both Chabon and the writers he discussed. As a lover of fiction who made only the merest gesture toward actual study, I’m hoping that START HERE will give me a chance to better fill in the gaps.

And lastly, I find Matt Forbeck’s year-long Kickstarter odyssey very compelling. His fourth campaign in his 12 for ’12 series, MONSTER ACADEMY, just went live today and is nearly 30% funded already. This insane collection of campaigns has led Matt to promise to write 12 novels in 12 months at 50,000 words each. He’s a bit behind at the moment, but he’s managed to squeeze in a tie-in novel for Leverage as well as write the Magic: The Gathering comic, so let’s cut him some slack, eh?

The threads that I think tie each of these campaigns together are the producers’ eagerness to rely on the crowd to get their work done, and to do so in an area I hold dear: the written word. We’ve all heard how much the market for the written word is changing, for fiction, journalism, and non-fiction. Much ink has been spilled predicting the demise of, well, all of it. But in the face of all that is there is an opportunity for creators and readers to get together, without interference or obfuscation by other self-interested parties, and to get things done.

This doesn’t have to happen via Kickstarter, and I will admit some reluctance to read unvetted, self-published work. The beauty of Kickstarter is that it combines the publishing, vetting, and purchase processes. It allows readers to get some taste of the work to come, while also acting as a buzz-building machine. Once the base project is finished, the author has a piece of work that they own, and some money in their pocket, that they can use to continue to sell the project to the outside world.

I don’t know if Kickstarter will ever lead to best-seller sales during a campaign. I suspect there will be work that surprises us with how well it does. But I’m certain that some day, in the not too distant future, we’ll see some book catch fire, that started out as a Kickstarter project. I’m looking forward to that, both for that author, and for the community of talented writers cranking out work. I’d love to see those people have a better chance to making a living doing what they love.

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