Replacing Irreantum: Starting Up

Wm looks at some items relating to the starting up phase of starting a successor to Irreantum.

This is a continuation of my analysis of the barriers involved in replacing Irreantum, the now defunct literary journal of the Association for Mormon Letters.

Other installments: Scope/Positioning | Staffing/Production | Generating Submissions | Financial Models | Starting Up

STARTING UP

There’s such a wide range of factors involved in starting up a successor to Irreantum that I almost didn’t do this section, but there are a few items to think about in relation to starting up a Mormon literary magazine/journal that I decided I had something to say about.

Irreantum Assets: I’m not sure what all these would be, but at the very least there’s the Irreantum name itself and associated domain name [irreantum.org, which was never utilized for much]. But there may also be electronic files for previous content and those archives (and I don’t how extensive they are–it’d be awesome if there are electronic files that go all the way back to the beginning) could be leveraged for some value. Of course, anyone who wanted to put together a successor to Irreantum would need to put together a proposal for the board of the Association for Mormon Letters. I don’t know enough about the situation to say whether or not building on the bones of Irreantum is a good idea, but it may be worth exploring.

Minimal Start Up Costs: A domain name and a year of web hosting will cost about $100. Depending on the web development skills of the start up team, you may need to add on a premium WordPress (or other free CMS) theme as well as premium. Prices can vary, but a good premium theme can be as low as $40. That’s the minimum. Let’s say you want to produce 4 issues (I think 6-12 would be better) and pay for cover art (which is a good idea). In my opinion, $100 a cover is the minimum you should pay. And then let’s say you publish 6 pieces per issue and pay a token average payment of $20 per work. That’s $400 for a year’s worth of covers and $480 for content. Or say you were willing to pay 3 cents a word and averaged about 4,000 words per story/essay. That would make for 24k words per issue and 96k words total for the year at a total cost of $2,880. That’s all without paying for layout or editing or any additional services or advertising. But let’s say you operate under the exact submissions model as Irreantum and run a contest. For first, second and third place, Irreantum provided $300, $200 and $100. Assuming you’d do both fiction and essay, that’s $1,200 a year.

Crowdsourcing: One way to cover the start up costs would be to crowdsource them using something like Kickstarter or Indiegogo. The beauty of crowdsourcing is that you are essentially pre-selling subscriptions. The genre community has found some success in funding anthologies and/or a year’s worth of issues of a magazine. Such a campaign could also test whether there is a readership for the magazine. The thing is, though, that Mormon fiction projects don’t have a great track record of being funded via a crowdsourcing campaign. Another barrier is that because crowdsourced campaigns rely on a variety of deliverables to gain traction, often a print product is involved and print versions can quickly eat up funding. On the other hand, it’s easy to see why crowdsourcing is attractive to those looking to kickstart magazines or (more often) anthologies. Let’s say a magazine was able to offer a good range of virtual incentives (no print version) from $5 to $30 and average $15. If you could attract 150 funders (which, make no mistake is a lot in the world of Mormon fiction — it’s certainly no given, but it’s doable), then you’d have $2250 to work with. That’s enough to pay for some covers and token payments to contributors as well as for basic webhosting. On the other hand, what happens if the Kickstarter fails? That can suck the air out of a project. An audience for a fiction publication especially can take a long time to build as potential readers (as well as potential contributors) wait and see if they like the editorial direction of the publication (or just see if the thing is going to make a go of it).

Recruiting Volunteers: based on my experience, here’s how to effectively recruit volunteers.

  1. Have a system in place to manage the work being done. Note that email + attachments is not a good system. Also have a style manual and production manual.
  2. Create a defined list of positions along with the job duties and expected time it will take to do the job well.
  3. Make sure a few of the positions can accommodate a fair number of volunteers just in case they appear (for lit pubs, that’s often slush readers and copyeditors). These are folks who can grow into other positions (either through experience or the ability to commit more time to the cause).
  4. Provide training.
  5. Have people in charge who are responsive and friendly.

Social Media: use it. It’s a must in this day and age. You don’t have to be prolific, but you should be consistent in posting, interact with your followers and have a point of view/unique voice. I’d say that Twitter and Facebook are the place to start, but I’d also play with Pinterest and Google+.

That’s all I have to say in terms of starting up a successor to Irreantum. Any othe analysis would be in response to specific efforts. What did I miss?

And with that, we have one more to go in the series: Readership.

Equal-time Doctrine

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As the iPlates Kickstarter draws to a close, that other Book of Mormon comic is getting into the action.

Compared to iPlates, Michael Mercer’s From the Dust is as equal in ambition as it is different in intention and execution. Michael’s also set a waaaay more ambitious goal. Will it work? I don’t know. I do think the Kickstarter model makes more sense for them than their previous model, and I do think From the Dust is likely to be popular with a larger group of people; however, I also suspect Mercer’s built-in network is smaller and less familiar with the Kickstarter model. So gathering in almost ten thousand more dollars strikes me as an iffy proposition.

Best of luck, though! I’ve pledged my $25. I would love to own the books.

iPlates Kickstarter

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Although we miss many worthy projects, Kickstarter has become a funding home for many Mormon artists, including some explicitly Mormon projects. Such as Stephen Carter and Jett Atwood’s iPlates.

I’ve written about the first volume before, and I anticipate this volume to improve on the first. (I have no good proof this will be the case; I’m just extrapolating from a trend.) The story will be 128 pages based on Mosiah 12-13.

And: if the project is successful, they’ll start right away on their next project. Volume three will star Abish.

willitcome

News from Your Friendly Nayborhood Sonosopher

Over the past couple weeks I’ve received two emails from Alex Caldiero announcing projects he’s involved with. The first is a Kickstarter campaign, the second a new book.

First: the Kickstarter campaign.

As a native of Sicily, Alex spent his childhood in the shadow of Mt. Etna, the largest active volcano in Europe. Using the funds to be raised by their Kickstarter campaign—titled “Living with Etna”—Alex hopes to return to Sicily as the tour guide for emerging filmmakers Laura Kisana and Isaac Caldiero (Alex’s son), who hope to document the relationship between the mountain and the people who inhabit its slopes.

When I first watched their project video and read through their proposal, I recalled the instruction God gave to Joseph Smith in March 1833 that those involved with building his kingdom ought to make it their “business and mission” to “study and learn, and become acquainted with all good books, and with languages, tongues, and people.” There are, of course, many ways to fulfill this counsel. One of them may include supporting (however we’re willing and however we can) projects like the one Alex and Co. hope to undertake with this trip and the documentary that would flow from it. Continue reading “News from Your Friendly Nayborhood Sonosopher”

Mahonri Stewart on the Zion Theatre Company Kickstarter

An interview with Mahonri Stewart on the Kickstarter to fund Zion Theatre Company’s 2014 season.

Prometheus Unbound promotional posterZion Theatre Company is running a Kickstarter to fund its 2014 season. Mahonri Stewart agreed to do a Q&A with me about it and what’s going on with ZTC.

What made you decide to use Kickstarter specifically for the 2014 season of Zion Theatre Company? And why fund a whole season rather than, say, just an individual play?

I had a definite, focused plan in mind for what I wanted Zion Theatre Company to do in 2014, but the past couple of years we had cut it close on some of our plays–some of our plays did exceptionally well, some barely paid the costs, and some lost money. It all balanced out pretty well, at times it strained our accounts, which was discouraging since it’s been with the last few shows that we’ve seen our most enthusiastic audiences, a plethora of extremely positive reviews, and realistic hope for future success. Melissa Leilani Larson’s adaptation of Jane Austen’s Persuasion and my Farewell to Eden were especially impactful on audiences and critics and I think those shows did an excellent job in setting up expectations and enthusiasm for our future productions by showing exactly what kind of potential we actually have as a company.

So by trying to gain funds that would help us fund the entire season, instead of just going with money from play to play as we have, it takes off the nervous edge that if one show doesn’t do as well as the last one, then it doesn’t threaten to put the kabosh on the rest of our plans for the season. Having that nest egg allows us to focus on the quality of the current show instead of wondering if we spend our money on, you know, a good set, that we may not have enough money for the next show.  It was a nervous place to be and we almost closed up shop after a couple of our shows didn’t do as well as some others in our season. So this long game tactic gives us an opportunity to focus on making the best show possible in the present, without worrying about the future. It gives us the security to up our quality.

Tell us about the programming: why those four plays? I’d be especially be interested in hearing just a bit more about the two new ones.

I would love to!

We’re doing two of my new shows, and two from other well known playwrights (one a classic, one a premiere). The two from other Utah-based playwrights are as follows: Continue reading “Mahonri Stewart on the Zion Theatre Company Kickstarter”

Chris Bigelow kickstarts memoir LSD to LDS: 4 days to hit goal

Chris Bigelow wants to use Kickstarter to fund his memoir Mormon Punk: From LSD to LDS.

Zarahemla Books owner and Irreantum founder Chris Bigelow has until this Saturday at 8 pm MDT to reach the Kickstarter goal for his memoir Mormon Punk: From LSD to LDS. Here’s his description of it:

As a sixth-generation Mormon and the oldest of ten siblings, I was ordained to the priesthood at age twelve. By then, however, I was utterly bored with the LDS religion–my true inner religion had become Dungeons & Dragons and the rock group Rush. As soon as I left home at age seventeen, I escaped into Salt Lake City’s mid-1980s underground punk and New Wave scene, my generation’s version of sex, drugs, and rock and roll.

Rather than finding a workable new life, however, I ended up–possibly as a result of taking hallucinogenic drugs–encountering the devil in a harrowing midnight ordeal. My encounter was not unlike the demonic experiences of some early Mormons, including Joseph Smith and my own ancestor, the polygamous apostle Heber C. Kimball. Wanting to protect myself against such malevolent forces, I did a 180 and dove back into the religion of my youth.

$15 gets you an ebook version; $25 the trade paperback. Because of Zarahemla Books, we know Chris can deliver on getting the thing produced — he just needs some incentive to get the thing written and revised, especially now that his work circumstances have changed and he is a freelancer. I haven’t read this part of his story (if you click through there are sample chapters), but I have read some of what he is written about his mission experience, and in my opinion memoir is Chris’s most natural mode of writing. Click through and if you’re intrigued by what you read and want more, back the project.

Kickstarting Jake Parker

antlerboy.

Remember Missile Mouse? Book one? Book two? The mind behind these books is one Jake Parker, one of my favorite comics artists, and the one one who meets both these categories: I buy most everything he does. I share it with my kids.

Jake has started a new Kickstarter campaign which has in very few days racked up a tremendous amount of money. Let’s talk with Jake about what he’s up to, shall we?

Continue reading “Kickstarting Jake Parker”