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April 11, 2012

Kickstarting publishing


It may be that publishing isn’t dying, it’s only moving to crowd-funding websites.

Friends of Melville House, Electric Literature, are hoping to launch a new form of online periodical, Recommended Readingby seeking funding on “the world’s largest funding platform for creative projects”, Kickstarter.

“Recommended Reading, the latest project from Electric Literature, will publish one story every week, each chosen by a great author or editor. In this age of distraction, we’ll uncover writing that’s worth slowing down and spending some time with. And in doing so, we’ll help give great writers, literary magazines, and independent presses the recognition (and readership) they deserve.”

Funding publishing projects in such a way is a growing trend. Mark Frauenfelder reports on Boing Boing, that acclaimed cartoonist Jim Woodring is looking for funding for the sequel to his 100-page graphic novel Congress of the Animals on USA Projects. Woodring explains himself thus:

“Ordinarily I support myself with sales of speculative and commissioned art, and the occasional simpatico commercial job. When drawing a book, though, that work ceases, and survival becomes a challenge. I don’t drink, take drugs or play the horses; any funding I receive from this United States Artists Special Project will be spent entirely and judiciously on those most essential of art supplies: food and shelter.”

Indeed, Kickstarter has a whole category called “Publishing.” Some projects do extraordinarily well on Kickstarter, others not so much. It’s unclear what the golden ticket is for attracting cash on the site, although tying together historical fiction, children and steampunk seems like a winning combination.  Jordan Stratford‘s project, Wollstonecraft, a steampunk-style childrens’ book about Ada Lovelace and Mary Shelley, is now 430% funded.

Another project worthy of backing on Kickstarter is the recently reinvigorated periodical The Baffler, which offers a highly seductive synopsis:

“Your donations will go directly to helping us pay our writers and artists to produce the kind of independent, uncompromising art and criticism that’s often muffled by velvet glove of cultural bureaucracy. With a contract that frees us from annoying administrative expenses, we have no need to divert donations into a bureau, center, consultancy, department, fellowship, institute, lab, office, prize, program, project, residency, think tank, or any other boondoggle to superintend or entangle the magazine in superfluous business operations. There’s no higher agenda than the magazine itself.

As someone scribbled on our Facebook page, “That’s awesome you can use communistic economic supports to prop up your capitalistically enviable periodical!”

Helping communism and capitalism at the same time! Seems like a much more effective use of your money than that extra doughnut.


Ariel Bogle is a former publicist at Melville House.