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Mysterion: Rediscovering the Mysteries of Crowdfunding

Tuesday, November 24th, 2015 | Posted by Donald Crankshaw

MysterionCover

Mysterion’s Front cover

One of the risks of telling people you don’t need money is that they’ll take you at your word.

When my wife and I decided to do Mysterion: Rediscovering the Mysteries of the Christian Faith, an anthology of speculative fiction which engages with Christianity (which I introduced to Black Gate here), one of the first things we did was talk to other small press publishers, including Chizine’s Sandra Kasturi and Black Gate’s own John O’Neill.  Based on our talks with them, we figured out what it took to do an anthology, and how much it would cost, including cover art, interior layout, and the story budget. Then once we figured out the budget, we determined whether we could afford it without crowdfunding. If we were committing to this project, we wanted to make sure we could do it regardless of the results of any fundraising. The answer was that we could.

And then we decided to do some crowdfunding anyway. Not to make the anthology happen, but to make it better. We fully intend to do the anthology whether anyone gives us money or not.

“We don’t need it, but give us money anyway” turns out not to be such a great crowdfunding pitch.

So let me try a better one. Now I could go into what donors get as rewards (The ebook at half the retail price and a month early! Both ebook and paperback at less than the retail price! Free shipping almost anywhere in the world!) or what your money will do for us (More stories! Higher rates! We’ll do it again!), but what I really want to talk about is why I’m excited about this anthology, and you should be too.

One of our great fears when we started this project was that we would not get enough good stories for an anthology. It was one of the few things which we thought could cause the project to collapse in ignominy and defeat, and force us to say “Sorry, there won’t be an anthology.” We did our best to prepare for that possibility.  When it came to fundraising, we decided not to take any money up front. We also decided not to purchase any stories until we had a complete anthology’s worth of stories to buy.

I’m happy to say that we left those fears behind some time ago. We’ve received over 250 stories in the time we’ve been opened, and we’re only halfway through the submission period. On top of that, we’ve been pleasantly surprised by the quality of the stories. Perhaps because of how we’ve let writers know about the anthology, through listing sites and writer forums, most of the stories show skill and an understanding of the craft, though not all have a professional polish, or that special spark that makes it a Mysterion story.

The result is that we already have 25 stories we want to publish. More, in fact, than we can currently afford with our story budget, which means that when we get to the end of the submission period and choose what will go into the anthology, we’ll have to reject stories we really like so that we can print the stories we truly love. And this will only get worse, as we find more stories we want to publish, and are forced to choose between our darlings.

While I can’t tell you which stories will ultimately make it into the anthology, I really do love the stories we’re already holding. Stories spanning the whole gamut of speculative fiction genres, including medieval fantasy, modern fantasy, post-apocalyptic horror, weird western, far future science fiction, alien planets and alien civilizations, and near future science fiction. Stories that eschew the easy answers, and instead ask hard questions of the Christian faith, such as: Can you really tell the difference between an angel and a demon? Do demons get a chance at redemption? Do robots have souls? Is it right to turn away from what you need for survival in order to remain true to your beliefs? What revelation might God give to aliens that he hasn’t given to us? How much choice do you really have when you’re chosen by God? Would we really want a God who judges in the here and now?

If you want to read stories that ask these kinds of questions, where the struggle is more certain than the answer, then we think you’ll enjoy our anthology.

We’re using Patreon for crowdfunding, which is a bit different from Kickstarter. Many of you are familiar with Patreon’s monthly campaigns, but we’re not doing that: like I said before, we don’t take any money up front. We’ll only collect money once we produce an anthology and make the ebook version available for download, so it’s probably closer to pre-ordering than crowdfunding. If you’re interested, our Patreon page is at www.patreon.com/EnigmaticMirror.

3 Comments »

  1. I just finished a Kickstarter campaign last week, and it was mentally exhausting. In some ways, my project was like yours, in that I could have done a not-great job of releasing my novella into the wild, and I was asking for support to do it beautifully.

    Here’s what I think helped most: I had a specific artist I wanted to work with, one whose style is breathtaking and like nobody else’s. I could say to prospective backers that their money would bring works by that artist into being that otherwise would not exist.

    The difference between POD and offset printing was important to me, but not to my backers. Alas.

    I took a crowdfunding course designed for musicians that transferred really well to writing. Launch + Release had a New Year’s discount, and they might do that again. Even without the discount, the course was completely worth all the time and the quite reasonable amount of money I put into it. Every shortcoming in my campaign as it played out was a result of my not following some piece of advice from the course. Had I followed their game plan more closely, I could probably have tripled what I raised.

    However you go about it, best of luck with your project!

    Comment by Sarah Avery - November 24, 2015 11:19 pm

  2. Thanks for your input, Sarah. If we were doing it again, I think we’d look into a course like that. Where did you find it?

    We were pretty cautious going into this, mainly to avoid the mistakes we’ve seen other crowdfunding attempts make, but if we do another anthology, I think we can approach it with more confidence, and put ourselves out there more.

    Comment by Donald Crankshaw - November 26, 2015 8:53 pm

  3. I don’t remember where I found it. Possibly on Facebook.

    Willingness to put yourself out there is so important. To keep faith with a story that did me the kindness of coming to me to be written, I had to go way outside my comfort zone. Psychologically, I had to remind myself again and again that I wasn’t running around yelling about my own imagined greatness, but that I was trying to give people a chance to read a book they’d really love.

    Comment by Sarah Avery - November 30, 2015 2:51 pm


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