the Little Red Reviewer

Invisible Threads Kickstarter!

Posted on: February 24, 2020

My friends at Apex Publications are at it again!    On the heels of their wildly successful Do Not Go Quietly comes their newest Kickstarter project,  Invisible Threads: Cutting the Binds that Hold us Back.

 

You guys, the authors are already in this anthology, this list is unbelievable!  I am too lazy to type everyone’s names, so I’m copy/pasting the image from the Kickstarter site.

 

We each face barriers in our life, some more easily overcome than others. Some seemingly impossible to overcome.   What if society’s response is “there’s nothing to be done, you might as well learn to live with it”?  What if society’s response is “What are you talking about? I don’t see any barrier. It must be in your head”. ?    At least that’s what I think of when I hear the term “Invisible Threads”.

And all these amazing authors, who have totally different life experiences than mine? I want to know what they came up with.

Now that I’ve got a little more of your attention,  here is a link to the Kickstarter site.

 

Backer rewards include print copies of Invisible Threads,  other Apex Titles such as Do Not Go Quietly, Irredeemable, Upside Down,  and War Stories,   stickers, tuckerizations, professional critique services, free stuff from the Apex store,  Apex surprise boxes, and more!  Seriously tho, there are some hella cool backer rewards.

 

Jason and Lesley let me pick their brains about the new anthology,  the joys (and terrors) of Kickstarter, 4am emails, the secret stuff that editors do, their pet peeves, and more.  They’ve done so many Kickstarters by now, it’s gotta be easy by this point. . .  right?

 

Jason Sizemore

About Jason Sizemore and Lesley Conner:

Raised in the  Appalachian hills of southeast Kentucky, Jason Sizemore is a three-time  Hugo Award-nominated editor, writer, and publisher who operates the  genre press Apex Publications. He is the author of a collection of dark  science fiction and horror shorts titled Irredeemable, and the tell-all creative nonfiction For Exposure: The Life and Times of a Small Press Publisher. Jason co-edited the successful Do Not Go Quietly anthology with Lesley Conner. He currently lives in Lexington, KY. For more information visit www.jason-sizemore.com or you can find him on Twitter @apexjason.

 

Lesley Conner is a writer/editor, managing editor of Apex Book Company,  and a Girl Scout leader. When she isn’t handling her editorial or Girl  Scout leader responsibilities, she’s researching fascinating historical  figures, rare demons, and new ways to dispose of bodies, interweaving  the three into strange and horrifying tales. Her short fiction can be  found in Mountain Dead, Dark Tales of Terror, A Hacked-Up Holiday Massacre, as well as other places. Her first novel, The Weight of Chains, was published by Sinister Grin Press in September, 2015. She is the co-editor of two anthologies: Best of Apex Magazine: Volume 1 and Do Not Go Quietly,  both of which she edited with Jason Sizemore. She lives in Maryland  with her husband and two daughters, and is currently working on a new  novel. To find out all her secrets, you can follow her on Twitter at @LesleyConner.

Lesley Conner

 

And here’s our conversation!

 

Andrea: When I first heard the title,  I thought “oh, this must be about threads that tie us together, and we don’t even realize it!”,  and that’s not the theme of the anthology, at all. The theme is more along the lines of “these are the things that are holding us back”, things like societal expectations,  stereotypes, and preconceived notions. Why did you decide to do an anthology on this theme?

 

Jason:  Lesley and I are both from poor coal mine communities in Appalachia (she’s West Virginia, I’m Kentucky). We share a common bond in that we escaped the poverty trap and all that entails to work and thrive in publishing. Because we know our story of pulling free of societal threads is not unique, we wanted to hear the stories of how others overcame.

 

While Invisible Threads is not intended to be a political book (unlike our last anthology, Do Not Go Quietly), I do think our political environment influenced our decision to run with the theme. Classism is running rampant across the world. Hate-filled people are pushing back against social gains. The ruling classes are becoming more draconian. Now, more than ever, we need a reminder that it is important to break free of these threads because we need smart, sensible people fighting back who remember what it is like to be in the trenches.

 

Andrea: You’ve already invited authors to bring their stories to your table of contents. When you approached these authors, what guidance did you give them (if any) about what you were looking for?

 

Lesley: To be honest, we didn’t give them a whole lot of guidance. The theme and deadlines when we’d need things back to us, and that was about it. But I think with this kind of anthology, that’s what was needed. The societal pressures that each person deals with are highly individualized based on your own background and experiences. The entire point of the book is that without those experiences, you may not see the struggles your neighbors are going through because they are invisible. We tried to invite a diverse group of authors who will hopefully be able to give us a wide range of stories of people struggling against the invisible threads in their lives.

Andrea: If memory serves,  stretch goals of previous Apex anthology Kickstarters included a submission period, for stories to be purchased out of the slush pile. Will you be doing that for Invisible Threads? (please say yes!)

 

Jason: Yes. The hope is that we find four to eight stories that fit.

 

Andrea: What is the typical planning process like for an anthology of this magnitude? I imagine one of you didn’t email the other at 4am and say something like “so, I’ve got this crazy idea. . .”.  How many months of planning goes into it, before you invite authors to participate, before you plan a Kickstarter, before you think about cover art, and all of that? What kinds of things are on your “to do” list,  to complete before the project becomes public knowledge?

 

Jason: You might be surprised and alarmed by how many 4am emails Lesley and I send each other!

 

Honestly, we’ve been discussing Invisible Threads since before Do Not Go Quietly was funded. It wasn’t a continual conversation, but more along the lines of “things that worked” and “things that didn’t work.” We discussed the theme and theme synopsis for several days. Spent several days coming up with our initial invite list. Targeted an artist. Sent out invites. Made a budget. Compiled backer rewards. Lined up a printer. Built the Kickstarter page and promotional website. Worked on prelaunch.

 

Running a Kickstarter is hard. Building a great anthology is hard. Doing both at once…not for the weak of heart.

 

Lesley: But somehow Jason and I keep doing it!

 

Andrea: What’s the “secret thing” about editing an anthology,  the thing that non-editors would never guess happens behind the scenes?

Jason: The amount of paperwork is formidable. There are contracts. Millions of contracts: authors, editors, with the printer, the artists. Addresses to gather. Payment data. There will be multiple versions of each manuscript: the original, our red lines, the author’s revisions, and so on. There are numerous versions of the book files: advance reader copies, author review copies with notes, the golden (published) version. Reams and reams of email correspondence.

 

It’s a small miracle it all comes together when you consider how disorganized I can be!

 

Andrea:  Now it’s time for some Kickstarter logistical questions!  How do you determine your stretch goals and backer rewards?  You’ve done kickstarters before, what’s proven to be the most popular type of backer reward?

 

Jason: It all starts with a budget. At a very high level, you know how much you have to pay for original fiction, editing, art, postage, backer rewards, and production (printers will give you estimates). You also have to account for the approximately 6% of your pledged total Kickstarter takes in fees. Then you have to set aside enough for business income taxes. Then add 10% because there are always unaccounted for expenses.

 

The amount asked for via Kickstarter is roughly our “break even” number. Stretch goals are approximately “break even” amounts needed in excess. Any profit made is usually via post-Kickstarter sales.

 

The most popular backer rewards are editor critiques and tuckerizations.

 

Andrea: This isn’t your first Kickstarter, not by a long shot!  What have you learned about what works on Kickstarter, or doesn’t work, along the way?  Is Kickstarter ever anything other than 30 days of anxiety, and then 12 more months of even more anxiety?

 

Lesley: I start getting anxious the moment the thought of running a Kickstarter comes up. Jason and I have already put months into this project. The solicited authors are writing their stories. Artists have been paid. We’re trying to get the news of the Kickstarter out there far and wide before we launch. I want this book to be a reality. But … it comes down to 30 days. If those days don’t go well. If we can’t reach enough people who think “Hell, yeah! I want to read that!” then that’s it. The book doesn’t exist.

 

So running a Kickstarter is months of anxiety leading up to it, 30 days of manic excitement where we are constantly watching and celebrating each new pledge, and then – if successful – 12 months of hard work to create something wonderful.

Andrea:  I have some unrelated, but hopefully still fun questions.  As editors, What are your pet peeves when it comes to writing?  When you’re reading short story submissions, what do you want to see/read/experience in the first page of the story?  What writing sins instantly make you stop reading?

 

Jason: I’ve grown to dislike literary “I hate my life” or “I hate my job” stories. I read to escape, not to shoulder the author’s personal problems.

 

The most common reason I reject a story is that after I’ve read the first three pages, I’ve yet to encounter any conflict or thematic pull. If you’re learning the craft of writing, please take home this one bit of advice: a short story needs conflict in the first few hundred words. As always, there are exceptions, but most of those exceptions are written by experienced writers.

 

Lesley: I want to be emotionally invested in your story. I want stories that make me feel something. The most common reason that I will stop reading a story is because I don’t care what happens to the character. If an author doesn’t draw me in and make me care about the characters, then it doesn’t matter how perfect everything else is, because I have no desire to go on the journey.

 

Andrea: What are some books (or graphic novels or TV or movies)  you’ve enjoyed lately?

 

Jason: I enjoyed Sabbath by Nick Mamatas. I’m really liking The Cabin at the End of the World by Paul Trembley. Check them out!

 

Lesley: I just finished Bunny by Mona Awad. It was super strange in the best way! Really digs into all of the ugliness that can come along with female friendships, self doubt, and what is reality. As a reader, I was questioning every word on the page. I’ll definitely be reading it again in the future!

 

I’ve also been reading through all of  L. Frank Baum’s Land of Oz books–I’m currently reading The Road to Oz, which is the fifth book in the collection of 14. My favorite part is the collection includes notes from the author at the beginning of each book. It’s obvious from these notes that Baum was really ready to be writing something else at this point, but that children kept writing him asking for more Oz books and he didn’t want to disappoint them. Makes me wonder if he enjoyed his writing or if he grew to hate characters that so many people around the world still know and love.

 

Andrea:  Thank you so much! Beyond the time and energy it takes to plan and run a Kickstarter, I know it also takes time and energy to answer all these questions.  Thank you for your time, and for your energy.

 

Links, again:

Invisible Threads Kickstarter

Apex Publications

 

 

 

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