Tag Archives: Kickstarter

Interview With Michael Underwood (Three Questions)

(This is part  “Three Questions With Xxxx“. If you’re interested in taking part click here and fill out the form.)

Headshot FountainI became aware of Michael and his talent through podcasting and mutual friends. When I saw the concept behind his series Genrenauts and learned about the Kickstarter he’s running to fund it, I immediately wanted to ask him some questions.

1) I love shorter fiction. Doorstops turn me off, so short stories and novellas are my cup of tea. I’m starting to see more and more shorter works published, perhaps at least in part because of the ease of publication these days. What is it about this length/format that appeals to you as a writer (and perhaps as a reader)?

MU: Like many writers, I started with short fiction before I tried my hand at writing a novel. Once I got into long form, I mostly stayed there, since most of what I read growing up and most of what I read now is longer-form. I got into novellas through my first series, the Ree Reyes urban fantasies, when my publisher asked me to write a novella to tide the series over while I tried out another idea. It was really fun for me to investigate that middle format, with some of the density and focus I associate with short fiction while still having the space to develop a longer plot, to include action sequences, and other aspects that I hadn’t really been able to do in short fiction.

Genrenauts 2.5 - There Will Always Be a MaxAs a reader, I’ve become more and more fond of novellas as I’ve been reading other works from my fellow Tor.com Publishing authors – it’s really fun to see how much variation there is even within the constraints of the novella format – a one-POV novella of just between 18K and 20K words (like Binti by Nnedi Okorafor or Domnall and the Borrowed Child by Sylvia Sprunk Wrigley) is a very different beast from an almost-40,000-ish word work that’s as much short novel as long novella (like The Sorcerer of the Wildeeps by Kai Ashante Wilson). The novella is an incredibly flexible format, and every one I read, I come to appreciate it more, and agree even more with scholars and legends who hold it up as the perfect length for speculative fiction.

In addition to appreciating that variation, I love novellas as a palate cleanser. I can read a 120,000 word serious, deliberate book, then breeze through a 25,000-word adventure to clear my head, to round out my emotional landscape. Or I can set up a stack of three novellas and read them all over a long weekend without that being all I do over those three days.

In a world where there are an infinite number of shiny things vying for our attention, novellas are even more appealing as a form of written storytelling – they’re the Goldilocks planet of fiction – not too long, not too short – they’re just right.

2) Serial fiction is nothing new. This approach to writing and releasing prose is likely as old as writing itself. Then, as you pointed out on your Kickstarter page, is also thanks in part to television. What challenges do you face in putting out serial fiction and how have you overcome them in this series?

Genrenauts 1 - The Shootout SolutionMU: The Kickstarter is in no small part a direct response to the challenges of serial fiction – I had a serial work that I wasn’t able to publish fast enough to operate the way I felt it needed to. Tor.com invested a lot of resources and gave me support, but they weren’t in a position to publish all six novellas of season one in rapid succession. The Kickstarter, if successful, will give me the means to publish episodes 3 through six in rapid succession.

Another challenge for serial fiction, I think, is binge watching culture. Thanks to Netflix and to some notoriously unfinished prose series, a lot of people prefer to consume an entire series all at once, or at least a large portion of narrative all at once. Reading 150 pages per chunk is outside the normal reading habit for a lot of people, so working in a serial fiction space carries some effort to reorient readers into this older form of reading (though it is the dominant way a lot of the first, truly broadly English-language commercial fiction was consumed). I’ve tried to plan for that inclination to want to read in big chunks by balancing my stories between the serial and episodic modes. The episodes all feed in together to larger stories, but each episode has its own internal arcs, largely framed by the ‘case of the week’ structure of the Genrenauts’ field missions.

Genrenauts 2 - The Absconded Ambassador3) This series was originally being published by Tor. Due in part to a desire to release these with greater frequency, you’re publishing the next several “episodes” independently. As you’ve said, Tor was okay with that. Did that reaction surprise you and what challenges do you think you’ll face as a result of this change?

The possibility of continuing the series on my own was a part of the conversation with Tor.com from the beginning. Being a publishing professional in my day job, and having worked with my editor previously as a colleague, it was easier for my agent and I to talk very frankly about the different possibilities of what might happen down the road with the series. The permission to republish the Tor.com episodes in a collected edition was in the contract from the very beginning, which has made this transition much easier (it wasn’t a surprise, it was option #2 on a list of several options, all of which were discussed before I signed the contract for Episodes 1 & 2.)

There are, however, still challenges. From what I’ve learned about indie/author-publishing, not having direct control of every story in a series makes some strategies and tactics that have worked well for other authors more difficult for me – I have to work with the Tor.com model and make what they’re doing into strengths for the series. The Tor.com business model is digital-leaning, which lines up well with the also digital-leaning indie publishing. The first two episodes got much more of a buy-in to libraries thanks to Macmillan’s strength in that field, so I know that I can and should be on the lookout for ways to support and reach out to libraries. Since I work in publishing, I feel fairly confident that I’ll be able to build my indie-published episodes and collections on top of the platform for the series that Tor.com and I built together with the first episodes, especially as they continue to support them and the series writ large.

BONUS QUESTION – Since this is an effort to crowdsource the rest of the series, I wanted to know if this is successful (and I hope it is), whether you intend to do more independent publishing as a result and what you think about the future of “hybrid” authors (those that have been published both traditionally and independently).

MU: I definitely plan to continue publishing some of my work independently. I have tried to approach my writing career using a hybrid author mentality for most of two years now, though this is my first independent publishing project (I self-pubbed a short story to my mailing list a while back, but that was a very small, ‘thanks for being awesome gift’ kind of affair). I wholeheartedly agree with the hybrid publishing pioneers who have called for authors to broaden our perspective, to take control of our publishing careers and destinies, in order to better weather the tides of publishing.

For me, more hybrid authors means more authors thinking about the business side of their careers. Which then means means more authors confident to push back on bad clauses in publishing contracts, more authors who know there are other options if a deal falls through. It means more careers that survive a dip due to one poorly-selling book or shift in the market. It means more independently-published authors making smart choices on when and why they might want to sign a traditional contract in order to gain the reach and support that traditional houses can offer. Add in crowdfunding tools like Patreon and Kickstarter and there are really enough option to build a publishing career in a very deliberate, efficient way, and I hope that we see it continue to pay off for a lot of writers. There are always going to be writers that aren’t interested in the entrepreneurial mindset that helps make selling indie more viable, but those who have the flexibility and patience to use each path for its advantages to weave together a diverse publishing portfolio will, I think, find a lot of opportunities and more chances to make a sustainable career.

Michael R. Underwood is the author of seven books, including the Ree Reyes Geekomancy series, superhero fantasy Shield and Crocus, and Genrenauts, a sdience fiction adventure series in novellas. By day, he’s the North American Sales & Marketing Manager for Angry Robot Books. Mike grew up devouring stories in all forms, from comics to video games, tabletop RPGs, movies, and books. Always books.
Mike lives in Baltimore with his wife and their ever-growing library. In his rapidly-vanishing free time, he geeks out on comics and games and makes pizzas from scratch. He is also a co-host on the Hugo-nominated Skiffy and Fanty Show and Speculate! The Podcast for Writers, Readers, and Fans.

Amazon Page
Kickstarter Page for Genrenauts

Interview with Jean Marie Bauhaus

I was so excited by the idea of a possible new book in this series and the Kickstarter campaign that I wanted to ask JM a few questions. Watch the video and then have a read!

1) Is the mystery genre one that you’ve always been interested in writing in? Who are your favorite mystery writers?

It’s funny, I’ve never thought of myself as a mystery writer. I didn’t set out to write a mystery with Restless Spirits, but I guess it definitely has elements of that. The sequel, if I write it, will be even more of a whodunit–that’s one of the things that really tripped me up when I tried to write the original draft without an outline. I got about 30,000 words in and had to throw it all out and do an outline to untangle the knots of the mystery aspect of that whole story.

I don’t really read the mystery genre, outside of Sherlock Holmes–although I’m a big fan of The Dresden Files and I guess those qualify as mystery (and were undoubtedly a big influence on my writing at the time). I also occasionally read suspense thrillers like Tess Gerritsen’s Rizzoli & Isles series, which definitely have a crime solving aspect. But for me, with this book, the mystery aspect was just a backdrop for the characters to be interesting. It wasn’t really at the forefront of my mind when I wrote it.

2) I like the way the romance is worked into the story very organically and how it ties into other plot points. It’s not just “tacked on”. Was that romance part of your early planing?

Restless Spirits happens to be the one and only book I’ve ever managed to successfully pants (i.e., write with no planning or outline). So everything did unfold very organically. Once I started writing Ron and got into her character and her voice, everything just clicked and I just let her tell her story. I was more or less along for the ride on that one.

3) What challenges have you faced getting this out there, as you aren’t only the author here but also the editor and publisher?

This was the first book I self-published. It was my NaNoWriMo project way back in ‘08 (the first time I “won” that event, too–lot of firsts with this book), and in 2009 I made my first foray into self-publishing by posting it on a blog (I come from a fan fiction background so that felt really natural at the time). When people complained that it was hard to read in that format, I posted it on Scribd, and after a while I tried charging for the full download.

Around this time, there was a big movement in postcasting, where folks like J.C. Hutchins and Scott Sigler and Mur Lafferty were doing really neat things with serial podcast fiction. So I tried that next, but I only got two chapters recorded and edited before I knew that podcasting and I just weren’t a good fit.

Fast-forward to 2011, when Kindle Direct Publishing and Createspace were starting to be seen as legitimate roads to publishing. By that point I had taken my book (back then it was titled This Old Haunt) off of Scribd because it wasn’t really selling, but I’d gotten a lot of good feedback on it. So I decided to do another revision and release it as an actual book under its current title.

It got some great reader reviews right off the bat, and sales were small but steady for about the first year. They picked up a bit after I wrote my second novel, but it didn’t really gain traction until I made it “perma-free” on Amazon. Since then, I’ve given away probably a few thousand copies, but it’s garnered a respectable number of positive reviews and has done a lot to drive sales and borrows of my other books.

4) You’ve decide to put together a Kickstarter to fund the second novel in this series. What made you decide to go this route?

People have been asking me to do a sequel almost since the current version was first published, but for a long time I just didn’t see where the story could go from there. I felt like Ron’s story was done, and I had other story ideas I wanted to write. But then last year I was struck with inspiration for not just a sequel, but a whole series–at least four books, if not more.

So I tried to write the second book, and hoping that lightning would strike twice, I attempted to pants it. As I said above, that didn’t go so well and I had to throw out most of that first attempt and do an outline. But unfortunately, I haven’t been able to write any more on it, because life.

I would really like to write this series, but although requests for a sequel have been passionate, they haven’t been great in number, and since work forced me to put it on the back burner I’ve had inspiration for a number of other books I’d like to write.

I thought doing a Kickstarter would kill three birds with one stone; if successful, it would let me cut back on my freelancing hours and finally write the book without having to worry about how we’re going to buy groceries for the next three months, and also provide the needed funds to produce a big-publishing-quality book. It would also tell me whether there’s really a viable audience for this series. If there is, then I’ll know what I’ll be working on for the next year or two. If there’s not and the campaign doesn’t reach its funding goal (or even come close), then I can move on to one of those other projects with no guilt.

5) How will you be using the funds that you generate?

Whatever’s left after Kickstarter fees, processing fees, and order fulfillment costs (i.e. shipping, etc.) will have a sizeable chunk set aside for book production costs–editing, mainly, but I’d also like to see what a professional illustrator could do with the cover. I’ve always designed my own covers and I’m kind of a control freak in that area, but I don’t have a lot of ideas for this one that I’d be able to pull off well with my graphic design skills alone.

If there’s enough left over (in terms of either money or time), I’d also like to re-format the original Restless Spirits. I made a lot of amateur formatting mistakes with the paperback version that I haven’t had time to go back and correct now that I know what I’m doing. If I ever put out a boxed set I want everything to be consistent in terms of quality.

If we reach my initial funding goal, then the rest will help cover living expenses while I actually make the book. If we go over, then I’ll put together some stretch goals and new prizes. I’d like to do fun stuff like swag–I know a local artist who creates awesome jewelry around literary and fantasy themes–and maybe some kind of book launch event. I think it would be a lot of fun to get together with the local paranormal society and do a ghost tour that culminates with a reading and book signing at this local haunted theater; but that’ll be a big stretch goal, if my campaign ever reaches that point.

Thanks for coming on the blog! I wish you great success.

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Interview With Mike Stewart (Three Questions)

I read both of Mike Stewart’s Assured Destruction e-books towards the end of last year and thoroughly enjoyed them. You can read the reviews of Assured Destruction and Script Kiddie for my detailed thoughts on them, but suffice to say words like “excellent” and “well written” apply. When he told me he was doing a Kickstarter for the third book, I was excited. So, like I do, I wanted to find out more. I’ve asked him three questions and I hope you enjoy the answers.

1) Being a geek, I’m a big fan of cyberpunk and stories involving tech. I’m not too sensitive to mistakes, depending on the story, but in a story like these getting the details right is very important. So far as I can tell you have done a very good job in the first two. Do you geek for a living and are thus able to avoid those pitfalls, is there a lot of research involved, or is it a bit of both?

If I could do life over, I’d be a coder. Why? Because it’s the closest you can get to being a real wizard. In what other field can the lines you write come alive on the screen, or in a robot’s actions? In what other field can you attack another system with programs/spells or protect yourself by putting up a firewall? Technology is moving into the realm of fantasy. That’s why I’m into it. So, do I geek for a living? No. I do however geekout. 🙂

I also have a deep interest in new media literacy and that includes new media risk (content, conduct, and contact). Kids need to understand the distributability and permanence of content. And they need to learn about how awesome technology is (let’s especially get more girls coding!). I’ve read hundreds of whitepapers on these issues and even presented to senate committee on the issues and opportunity of new media. With Jan I wanted to present a balanced view of those risks and opportunities.

2) One of the things I enjoyed about the first two novels is how “real” Jan’s life is. In addition to her mom’s health issues and the troubles of growing up in this wonderful modern age, she’s got her own unique problems. You don’t whitewash the world for the sake of a YA label. What limitations (if any) do you put on your works in this genre to keep it age appropriate and why did you opt to go as gritty as you did?

Sex and swearing. That’s about all I’ll keep out. Kids are reading far up in terms of age group. Oh, I also won’t write about kids committing suicide. There are studies that suggest suicide rates increase if kids read about their peers committing suicide.

All my writing is a little dark; I’m not sure I could keep that out of it, but Jan’s sense of humor helps me lighten the tone a bit (I hope—book three is intense).

3) You’re doing a Kickstarter for the release of the third book in the series. Have you crowd-funded before and what challenges are you facing with this campaign?

This is my first campaign, but I’ve released an app before and there are similarities in terms of trying to generate interest. That’s the big challenge; how do you get eyeballs to the campaign and once there, how do you convince them to make a pledge?

Some articles I’ve read have suggested that the keys are scarcity (i.e. be the first to get, or get one of a hundred XYZ), social proof (show people that others think your project has merit), and authority (why you? why am I the one to create this project).

But then it’s the same challenge with releasing a book too, isn’t it? You have to write the best hook you can, develop a brand around yourself, and spread the word.

In this case, I didn’t feel I had a choice. There’s a Kickstarter campaign IN the book, how could I not have one in real life?

Really appreciate the chance to post on your blog, Scott, and for your staunch support. 🙂

It’s a pleasure finding and supporting new writers. So, go to his kickstarter page and pledge whatever you can!

Interview – Kickstarting Horror With Zen Davis

Zen sent me an email a few days ago to let me know about his new Kickstarter which can be found here – http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/zendavis/asylum-33d. I love supporting up and comers in the horror genre so I thought I’d ask him a few questions.

1) Tell us a little bit about your background as a writer,

The majority of my writing has been private. The writing that hasn’t has been submitted been submitted on a regular basis to Francis Ford Coppola’s screenwriting website Zoetrope. I wrote and submitted many screenplays for peer review including Chloroform Kids, Pele, Ringtone, and Biohazard. I met a lot of interesting and creative writers there that helped me develop into the writer I am today. I suggest if anyone is looking for a site where people actually read your work and get back to you with great feedback, go to Zoetrope. Some members are bitterer than others due to a lack of success, but that can be said of any creative community really.

When college rolled around, my writing became more academic in nature. It was a whole new way of drafting content, and it took some time to grasp. I was particularly proud of my final paper for college when I graduated. Although I was docked a full letter grade for being a night late, my professor proclaimed that I had turned in the best final paper of any student that semester. I was ecstatic with the comment because the professor graded like a son of a bitch, and I’d worked my ass off to make him happy.

With school out of the way, I finally got back into creative writing. I wrote monster and item descriptions for a small Kickstarter game called EvoCreo and earned my first $100 in the game industry doing so. The project creator just rehired me to do more work since he liked what I did the first time around.

I also purchased an amazing program called Articy;Draft that I suggest any writer purchase. It’s available on Steam and it makes the process of outlining and developing your story a breeze. Now I’m working every waking hour try to get the word out about the Asylum 33D.

2) Why did you choose to crowdsource your project and what made you choose KS specifically?

I’m currently paying every cent to my name back towards my college loans. Once I get into law school, I will incur at least an additional $35,000 worth of debt per year. Over three years, that’s $105,000. With interest, I have no clue how I’d be able to afford printing the novel. Crowdsourcing my project is the only way to get it out inside of the next four years. Still if I have to wait four years to get this out, I have to wait four years. Eventually I intended to release Asylum 33D. Crowdsourcing lets me get to it a lot sooner however.

Kickstarter itself was an easy choice. It’s the most visible of all crowdsourcing sites.

3) You’ve set a very attainable goal at $3000. You’ve got some amazing stretch goals. Provided you make them what are the challenges you face in overcoming them and how do you plan to overcome them?

A building is only as strong as its foundation, and for Asylum 33D that foundation is the novel. It sets up our ghosts, our characters, our locations, and our story. Once we have that, everything else will line up quite nicely.

One of the ways I’ve mitigated issues with the stretch goals is that I’ve made everything digital. The art book, graphic novel, visual novel, and game will all be distributed digitally. No box copies. This will take out a lot of production guesswork that other projects face. When something is completed, it gets added to a server and mailed to the backer. Easy, easy-peasy, japanesey.

The art book will be the easiest of the stretch goals. It will be mostly in-bulk black and white art drawn quickly on a daily basis. Artists will be assigned portions of the books to read and once they finish, they will draw out story boards and concepts from the sections they covered. These images will be put together in a PDF and mailed to backers. No hassle, no haggle.

The graphic novel will be compiled in a similar way. The art direction will need to be dealt with in a more disciplined way so that everything remains consistent. The page count will need to be looked after since our budget can only cover so many pages of colored art. Luckily, the art book will have acted as rough draft for us. We will know exactly how many pages we need to tell our story and exactly what we need to cut to keep to our page count.

Now things get tricky with visual novel. The deal-breaking issue that needs to be dealt with here is the voice acting. It can’t suck. If it does, the entire thing is a wash. A misstep could ruin the entire tone of the visual novel. I intend to fully cooperate with the community in choosing our cast and show restraint and caution when deciding parts. Together we will make the best informed choice we can.

The game will be the hardest thing to get right. The gameplay is something that needs to feel right. Once again we’ll be cooperating with the Asylum 33D community to see what works, what doesn’t. Every backer will be involved from the pre-alpha stage. Their feedback will take seriously and be implemented at every opportunity. However, the limitations of the budget will also need to be made clear to them. Although $375,000 is a significant amount of money, there will have to be an understanding that we probably won’t be able to implement every request they have.

4) The art that you have on the KS page is amazing. What’s your relationship with the artists? Have you worked with them before?

Our relationship is pretty much a business relationship. We met when I decided to place an ad on Deviant Art. I usually use references to show the artists what I’m looking for and let them do their thing on a first draft. When they get back to me, I use MS Paint to make changes, if necessary, to let the artists know what aspects I’d like done differently.

The clown, for example, isn’t how Nicolas originally intended him to be. I was involved and drew out rough examples of the changes I wanted. He took care of the rest. I work similarly with the rest of the crew.

5) You and I share a love of horror. What are your influences?

“It” pretty much scarred me. I was 7 when I saw the film on TV and Tim Curry kind of violated my soul. That’s not hyperbole either. For the entire week after I saw the film, I was terrified of a clown popping out of the drain, ready to eat me whole. It was phobia bad. Just a constant everlasting sense of dread going to school, walking around sewer drains, and going to the toilet.

The book wasn’t much better. There was a small part where Mike Hanlon goes over various cases of children being killed. One I remember in particular was of a small child, about five or six, who was getting ready to potty train himself. Pennywise came up the toilet drain, hit the kid like a locomotive, and smashed the poor kid’s skull open. It’s been about ten years since I read the book, though I’m pretty certain that was in there. The first time I read the novel though was when I was ten… I needed better guardians.

6) What books are you reading now?

Barack Obama – The Audacity of Hope – I read a chapter a day while I study for law school.

The Walking Dead – Humanity sucks. The graphic novel. (guest starring: Zombies.)

One Piece – No currently running graphic novel series has made me weep more consistently.

7) What are your top 3 favorite horror movies?

01. Jaws – Changed the way people look at the ocean forever.

02. The Thing – The creature effects are amongst the best ever.

03. It – The second half isn’t as good. But the first half is breathtakingly horrifying.

8) What do you drink when you’re creating?

I’m usually dehydrated.

9) What’s your favorite swear word?

The same as Samuel L. Jackson.

10) If you could wield any weapon in combat what would it be and who would it be against?

A) Aerosol golden poison frog spray can. Dead before you know it hit you.

B) The Shark. I wanted Quint to live so bad. Right in those doll eyes… I miss Robert Shaw.

You can contact Zen through his website @ZenDavis.com or follow him on Twitter @ZenDavis

The Way of the Gun – Kickstarter

Some of you may remember my experiment on something called The Lessons of the Gun. I am writing a novelette and I am giving away the first six thousand words to whet your appetite. So far there haven’t been too many takers. That’s okay. That kind of thing happens in experimentation. I’ll continue to let it ride.

There’s been an addition though, a sort of “LEVEL UP”, to the mix. I approached five authors about writing a story in this world and we’re doing a Kickstarter. There will be six stories total in this world, including mine. If you’ve already chipped in for the story I’m writing you’ll still get it. If the Kickstarter succeeds you’ll get the edited version.

So what’s all this about?

The short stories in this anthology will have all of the action and adventure that you’d expect from a Sunday matinee shoot’em up with a dash of philosophy and tension as ancient codes deal with an increasingly modern world.

In addition to my own story, this anthology will contain works by some of my favorite authors. Jake Bible, the mind behind Dead Mech and The Americans, Justin Macumber, author of the military sci fi novel Haywire, Zach Ricks, editor of Flagship magazine and author of his own Weird Western series, Jared Axelrod, creator of the rich world behind Fables of the Flying City and Doc Coleman podcaster and author of the steampunk series Crackle and Bang.

The goal is five thousand samolians, which will go towards paying this fine people, as well as an editor and cover artist. As of the writing of this post we’ve hit $640, which amazes me. Even more amazing is that three people pledged at the $100 level. For that they get a character named after them in their choice of author’s story, the e-book, and the printed book signed by all authors. Pretty sweet deal.

So go have a look, let me know what you think, and help us make this happen!