The Memory Eater, Kickstarter, and the New Patronage


First, the obligatory advertisement.  The Memory Eater anthology has launched a Kickstarter campaign to fund its initial print run.  This anthology features the works of dozens of both writers and artists, myself included.  Each story revolves around how a the ability to delete memories from an individual affects society, influenced history, and ultimately goes horribly wrong.  Each story is coupled with a full-page illustration, several of which are displayed on the Kickstarter page.  If you would like to see a sample of four of the included stories, including my story “Home Again,” the publisher has posted a sampler on the anthology’s website.  I hope you’ll consider pre-ordering a copy through the Kickstarter, and perhaps consider one of the premium rewards being offered.

I promise I’m not going to turn this blog into all Memory Eater Kickstarter all the time (not counting the sidebar widget), but I do hope my readers understand we’re in the critical first few days of the campaign.  In its first 24 hours, the anthology raised $343 towards its publication, or 8% of its total goal.  If we can average even half that per day the rest of the way, the anthology will more than exceed its funding goals.  I’m excited to take part in this campaign not only because I have a direct investment in the final project, but because I’ve been fascinated with Kickstarter for the past several months.  I’m doing my best to pick and choose my projects, but have made contributions to projects as big as the record smashing Double Fine Adventure, or as small as the Dinosaurs in Space role-playing game.  The most recently successful campaign I’ve been part of is a push to digitize old science fiction books that are largely forgotten and have no eBook formats.  I’ve never had my own idea, my own project that needed Kickstarting, so it’s fascinating to experience this from the other side.  I’ll probably make a few more blog posts about the experience as we go.  So far, it involves a lot of F5-ing and deciding if I want to be one of Those People who begs appropriately chosen celebrities on Twitter for Kickstarter retweets.

I’ve written about Kickstarter once before, over on my blog-away-from-home at Unleaded.  At the time I called Kickstarter the “Modern Patronage,” and I stand by that assessment.  It’s odd how modern technology reinvigorates old ideas and makes them new again.  Classic patronage typically involved going to a few rich individuals for a large influx of money to fund a creator’s creativity.  A painter, a writer, an inventor, someone who is trying to feed himself with ideas rather than through traditional labor.  Kickstarter represents the social media version of patronage, reaching out not to a few people but to everyone.  The goal isn’t to find one person to fund a year of a creator’s life, but to find dozens, hundreds, or occasionally thousands of people to believe in an idea just enough to promise a few dollars if and only if enough other people will also contribute just a little.  This is the amazing power of crowd sourcing, the idea that enough people doing little things can fund massive projects.  Get enough people to pitch in at an average of just $38, and suddenly you’ve got a company with $3.3 million to create the best video game they can.

In that Unleaded post from last October I said,

This isn’t the future of the publication industry.  I feel rather confident in saying that.  But it is an interesting take on the old patronage system, and could provide some deserving artists, writers, creators, and designers with the funds they need to get over the hump and see some form of success.  It can also provide an absolute kick in the teeth for that artist who falls just short or, worse, gets no support at all.

I suppose the better phrasing is that I hope this isn’t the future of the publication industry.  I don’t relish a future where all literary projects have to go through microfunding in order to exist.  However, I would like to walk back some of my cynicism from that earlier post.  While I would hate to see the entire industry go this direction, I’ve seen several individuals do it with fantastic success.  Chuck Wendig, he of the foul mouth and weekly flash fiction challenges, has had success in not one, but two recent Kickstarters for his longer fiction.  SFWA pro market Bull Spec successfully used Kickstarter to fund their third year of publication.  Laura Anne Gilman has successfully used it to fund publication of one novella, and is well underway on another project.  It’s a new step in self publication, and one fraught with all the same perils.  It requires a presence and a willingness to push and pimp and advertise.  I’m not going to post failed projects, but they exist.  Click into Ending Soon, and you’ll see plenty of projects with full green bars, but plenty more that have miles to go and only a few short hours left.  The free market giveth, and it taketh away.

I’m hoping not to get experience with that part, but this is all experience, and it’s all fascinating.

So wish us luck as we push forward.  Check out the samples.  Consider pre-ordering.  You’ll have our eternal gratitude.  Remember, it’s never a handout, there’s always something for the money.  Keep an eye on this space as I provide occasional look-ins on a Kickstarter project from the inside.

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