Mysticon 2020!

I spent Friday and Saturday at one of the better regional conventions I’ve found in the South: Mysticon. I’m going to put the photos first since those are more interesting, but will also post some of my panel notes here in case they may be useful.

Image may contain: 3 people, people sitting, screen, table and indoor
The “Art in Science” panel. I’m describing a Venn diagram where the intersection of Science and Art is “Wonder.”
I enjoyed being on a panel at Mysticon with Guest of Honor Larry Niven. He’s a lovely person.

I’m going to put the photos first since those are more interesting, and share an anecdote or two, but will also post my panel’s notes on crowdfunding here in case they may be useful.

Mysticon 2020 Anecdote 1: In the dealer room I found a used copy of a book Larry Niven, a collaboration with Jerry Pournelle–his son Alex edited my book Confessions of a Female Safety Engineer–and with Michael Flynn. It was signed by Flynn and I got Niven to sign it as well. $4! Score!

Mysticon 2020 Anecdote 2: Larry Niven dropped by my signing table and he sat next to me for a nice, long 20-minute genre chat. I thanked him for the collaborations he’d done which helped the careers of so many writers, and shared how Abyss & Apex helps new writers – 20% of our authors are published in our pages for the first time anywhere and we do extensive rewrites as needed. He was paging through our 10-yr-old Best of A&A 1 while I showed him authors we’d found or helped who’d gone on to great writing careers and a story snagged his eye. He simply could not resist a story entitled “When Maxwell’s Demon Met Schrodinger’s Cat”! But he did not have time to finish it so I gifted him with a copy. He asked me to sign it, too.

Friday, I moderated a panel on Crowdfunding. Here are my notes from that one!

When you’re looking for a site to fundraise, you want to check for fees as well as if it’s an all or nothing site. Many platforms will take processing fees from each contributing transaction as well as a small percentage of your overall earnings, while a few sites use an all or nothing model, which means you only get your money if you reach your intended goal.

Kickstarter. Kickstarter is one of the biggest names when it comes to crowdfunding. (We took examples of Kickstarter projects from the audience.)

It’s also easy to use. You begin by setting your goal and then a time period to complete it. FYI: before your campaign can launch, you’ll have to be approved by Kickstarter. For each level of money raised per individual, you set a small gift or personal experience for your donor. Set these levels and rewards (and any stretch goals) in advanace!

Kickstarter is an all or nothing platform, which means that you don’t get your funds unless you complete your campaign. It also means that the funder’s credit card won’t be charged unless you meet your campaign goal. The fee is 5% on top of processing payment charges (3- to 5-percent) per transaction. If you raise enough money, there’s a 14-day waiting period for funds. I have never used Kickstarter because I do not like the all-or-nothing format, but many high-profile genre projects have used it to good effect. Note: if you do not meet 80% of your goal in the first three days you probably will not meet it, because interest tends to drop off sharply after day three.

Indigogo. Indigogo users are usually creating campaigns for tech innovations, creative works, and community projects. The crowdfunding platform works similarly to Kickstarter, except it doesn’t have an exclusively all or nothing fundraising model.

Users choose between two options: fixed and flexible funding. Fixed is best for fundraisers where your project needs a certain amount of money while flexible is good for campaigns where you’ll benefit from any funding. With flexible funding, you will get your funds whether or not you meet your goal; with fixed funding, just like with Kickstarter all funds are returned to donors if you don’t meet the campaign goal. However, there are no fixed funding fees for campaigners who do not meet their goal as opposed to 5-percent for flexible funds and fixed funds that do meet their goals. There’s also a processing fee of 3-percent and 30 cents per transaction. The minimum goal for either type of fundraiser is $500. I have used Indigogo with the flexible funding option for A&A to fund an anthology.

Causes. Is your thing a nonprofit like Strange Horizons, or is it organized around a cause, perhaps like FIYAH? Then Causes might be the way to go. Causes is the world’s largest online campaigning platform focused on social, political, and cultural issues. It brands itself as a social network for people who want to make a difference faster and more effectively. It boasts 186 million users in 156 different countries. The site is great for nonprofits that want to build a donor community without spending too much money and resources on networking. No fees: since it runs ads, Causes is free of charge for users.

On your Causes crowdfunding page, you can collect donations and pledges, raise awareness, and share relevant media to potential donors.

GoFundMe. You’ve probably seen a handful of GoFundMe fundraisers on social media at one point or another for emergencies and charitable causes, but businesses can use it as well. The crowdfunding site collects a 2.9-percent processing fee and 30 cents for every donation. As it’s not an all or nothing fundraising site, you keep everything that you raise. ( I like that! I’ve used them for A&A.) Plus, there are zero personal campaign funding fees for those based in the United States.

There are a few GoFundMe caveats, however: Business startups may not raise as much capital on GoFundMe, and it’s important to be mindful that only one in ten campaigns ever get fully funded on the site.

Patreon. Patreon is popular among digital creatives, such writers and, in my case, publishers. As opposed to you collecting one-time campaign donations, they have a subscription model where patrons regularly contribute a set amount of money every month (or per creation). The site allows writers and platforms like A&A to form relationships with their fans, and creators can even deliver exclusive content to their Patreon subscribers as an incentive to continue funding them. (A&A offers copies of our anthologies and/or professional editing of short stories.) It requires those using the platform to regularly share news, updates, interaction, etc for their patrons. Otherwise, pledgers do have the option of canceling their subscription if creators don’t produce content.

Patreon collects a 2.9-percent fee and 35 cents from each pledge. The site boasts two million active patrons and over 100,000 active creators. While it might look like a niche, Patreon is actually the fifth largest crowdfunding site behind GoFundMe, Kickstarter, Indiegogo, and TeeSpring (which does venture capital).

One drawback with Patreon is that it doesn’t market creators as much as sites such as Indiegogo or Kickstarter, which have entire verticals and pages on their projects for potential donors to browse. You have to push your Patreon page yourself.

PayPal. It costs you nothing to set up a PayPal donations link, and they will be happy to show you how. This is not exactly crowdfunding, in the strictest sense, but if you are a creator – a writer or a small publisher like A&A – then you might not want to pass up the opportunity of asking your fans to make very individual donations. If you like, you can also set up a subscription where they make yearly donations: Abyss & Apex did that for years. But it’s purely supplemental either way. In my experience you should not expect to break even on PayPal donations but they couldn’t hurt!