How fandom loves: Let’s be weird together

The weirdness in me honors the weirdness in you - Supernatural fandom

{Author’s Note: This post expands on something I said at an Ad Astra panel that I felt needed to be shared. There’s so much grossness out there regarding mental health and fandom, separately and together; I figured we could use a little love. Enjoy, comment, share. Mwah.}

From the outside, fandom can look stupid and awful. It can look like a gaggle of overweight, undermatured collectors who read too many comics in their mom’s basements. It can look like codependent interneters with nothing better to do than whine about their depression. It can look like oversensitive idealists attacking the “real world”’s views of gender, sex, race, and ability. A misanthropic mess of squabbling, nitpicking, ignorant children. It can look like a lot of things. not many of them good.

But from the inside, the view is remarkably different.

First, we first fell in love with a story. Before we Tumbled, cosplayed, or fanficced—maybe even before we shipped—we saw something beautiful on the screen or on the page, and we absorbed it into the fabric of our being. Not long after, a little voice inside whispered, “You are not alone.” And because we were outsiders, treated as less-than, othered, marginalized, we didn’t believe it, but we kept watching and reading and crying and laughing and soon we wanted to believe it. We needed to share our love of the story. That’s when we took those first tentative baby steps into the world of fandom. We sought out places where others gathered, unsure if we belonged, clutching our dearest plush to our emblazoned T-shirts, eyes widening at the wonderous temples that have been built to the stories that showed us who we are.

And then we fell in love again.

As we started goobing out with other story lovers, we got to know each other. Over time, we discovered that the thing(s) that make(s) us weird, awkward, different, broken, flawed out there were not only common in here, but normal. They had them, too. We were shocked to be seen and welcomed, heard and validated. To realize these people cared about us because, between the stories and the struggles, we’re the same. People who love us.

Our people.

This is the special beauty of fandom. It’s an understanding that connects us in ways we may never experience outside the community. It creates an organic support structure—a way to help without pretense. If you struggle with hyperfocus that makes you forget to eat, and I struggle with anorexia, we can have lunch and swap theories about Neville being the Chosen One. If I’m lost in depression, you can come watch Guardians of the Galaxy with me so I feel loved without having to talk. We’re afforded endless opportunities to see and support because we have this framework of storylove around us.

No, the fandom community isn’t perfect, and yes, there are problems. But that’s true for any group. What makes fandom so precious is that, even when it’s tense and feelings are hurt, the core of our relationship is always the love of a story. We’re on the same team.

We’re fans. Fandom is about love—for our stories and for each other. As long as we remember that, no power in the ‘verse can stop us.

Limited back of the month - fandom crossover - slippedstitchstudios

The Book That Love Built: What I learned about running a crowdfunding campaign

Keanu Reeves Whoa

31 days.
53 funders.
$2,000 goal.
$2,560 raised.
1 gorgeous cover.
6 official ISBNs.
50 printed copies.
100 postcards.
1 short story.
50 signed prints.
1 tandem webcast.
2 incredibly happy creatives.
1 book that love built.

You guys did this. Not me, not Desz, not IndieGoGo – you.

You’re the ones who went above and beyond, reaching deep into pockets and social media feeds to show that you believe in me, in Desz, in the book, and in each other. You’ve changed the way I look at being an indie creator and amplified what I know to be possible. You made a dream come true, paving the way for more beautiful dreams in the future.

Thank you. Endlessly, honestly.

And now for something completely different: the deconstruction of the Cora Riley cover-funding campaign.  What went wrong, what went right, and what I need to learn for next time.

What I Learned About Crowdfunding

I’ll be honest, y’all. I had to be convinced to run this thing, and I didn’t think I’d raise $1,000, much less $2,500. I thought my audience was too small, the goals too selfish, the time wasn’t right. Clearly, that was silly.  Since this was an experiment, I wanted to run down the lessons I’ve learned so other folks considering crowdfunding have a reference point and I remember for next time.

What I Did Right

  • Ran numbers for exactly what I needed, including IndieGoGo + PayPal fees and perk fulfillment costs
  • Built several perk levels that built on each other
  • Kept the goal modestly low to allow for overfunding and stretch goals
  • Wrote updates on the IGG site, my blog, and my newsletter when we reached milestones, added new things, or needed a boost
  • Provided social media shareables to make it easy to share
  • Followed up with every contributor a couple days later via email to ask them to share the project
  • Added milestone incentives (cover reveals, book excerpts) to motivate donations
  • Liked, RTed, and thanked people for sharing the project on social media
  • Wrote a profile about Desz so people knew her better
  • Emphasized the importance of artists relying on their audiences and co-creation
  • Stuck it out even when I was crying because I thought no one loved me

What I Screwed Up

  • Didn’t ask enough people with bigger platforms for help soon enough
  • Didn’t pay attention to the calendar; Nov 1 is paycheck Friday, meaning I missed out on those donations
  • Offered a stretch goal that’s actually a spoiler and doesn’t mean anything until you’ve read the book
  • Forgot that IGG income is counted as actual income and therefore counts on my taxes
  • Didn’t have enough under-$100 perk levels
  • Included Inkchanger in perks; people already have it so were less likely to donate at that level; needed an alternative
  • Didn’t pimp the project in places I’m not already known (like Reddit) to get fresh eyes on it
  • Didn’t get enough emotional support from friends who understand when I was freaking out

Next Time

Yes, there will be a next time. The success of this project has proved in very real terms that I can rely on my audience’s patronage, which means changing the way I conduct the business of self-publishing my books. Knowing I’m not alone – not just creating for you but actually with you – makes the roadmap significantly.  As it stands, the plan is to release a Forgotten Relics book twice a year (one in spring and one in fall). If we run a $1,500 Kickstarter every six months, banking on a growing audience and planning for killer stretch goals, who knows what kind of incredible things we can achieve for/with these books?

Visions of audiobooks, signing tours, collector’s editions, and merch are dancing in my head already…


Artists and the art of asking

Amanda Palmer just moved up several notches in my inner hierarchy of awesome people that I want to be when I grow up. Her TED talk went live, and I cried three times in those short 13 minutes.

I want to be a part of the world she’s talking about. A world where we can ask for help and get it from the network of trusting, supportive connections we’ve formed in our lives. Connections that extend beyond close friends and family into the ether of social media and the internet where we have a chance to forge a new future where we don’t “make” people pay for things or shame them for following their bliss. A world where connection is king. Not content or capitalism or culture. A world where we can be vulnerable and open enough to ask and let the voices who speak up support us, not because we deserve it or have tenure or are famous but because there’s an exchange of love taking place.

We’ve been taught that we should be ashamed as artists to ask for money. That we need to just make our work and shut up and hope someone has pity on us or is so enthralled with our work that they shower us with riches. That would make us lucky. Otherwise, we should get “real jobs.”

We’re taught that to ask for help – artist or not – is to be weak and helpless. And if you get help, you cannot ask for it again because you’re no longer in need.

It’s not about need. It’s about the connection.

It’s not about masses of screaming fans. It’s about connection.

It’s not about piles of cash. It’s about connection.

“It’s about a few people loving you up close and those people being enough.”