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Exploring Cyberfunded Projectsby Elizabeth Barrette
There exist many variations on cyberfunded creativity. Often, someone will see one version of CFC and decide to try it themselves, changing the details in the process. Donations and purchases are typically collected via PayPal, but some projects accept checks or other methods of payment. Donor names are frequently listed in conjunction with the project. Touring some of the best known and most successful cyberfunded projects can help creators decide what they want to do, and patrons decide what they want to support.
Methods and Variations
Different creative materials require somewhat different handling and presentation. Creators may want to retain certain types of control or invite specific forms of audience participation. They may or may not set particular prices. Some versions of cyberfunded creativity in use include:
Cyberfunded creativity spans a variety of completed and currently ongoing projects. More arise all the time. Especially adept fiction, artwork, and other content draws attention and spreads through an ever-widening audience. Other projects may have a smaller but still devoted following. Let’s take a look at some successful examples of CFC.
“The Aphorisms of Kherishdar” by M.C.A. Hogarth is a series of sociological science fiction short stories with accompanying artwork. A 13-part series was originally planned for more traditional publication, but the contract never materialized. By that time the author had described the series, posted some art and samples, and otherwise gotten the audience keenly interested. So the series was presented through cyberfunded creativity. It grew to 25 stories and proved successful enough to generate a hardcopy chapbook which is now available. Patrons are listed both on the website and in the chapbook, including my name – this was one of the first projects to which I contributed. A related series, “The Admonishments of Kherishdar,” is also underway.
The Liaden Universe by Sharon Lee and Steve Miller has been running for some years, including several traditionally published novels. It also spans a series of hardcopy chapbooks put out by the authors in response to fan demand, during a time when publisher interest slacked off. Lee and Miller decided to try cyberfunded creativity for a “side book” that takes a tangent to the main action in the series. The first draft of Fledgling: A Liaden Universe Novel was finished October 8, 2007 with thirty-one chapters.
Ellen Million Graphics is a website showcasing the work of many artists, and run by Ellen Million. It includes a gift shop, EMG-zine, and portfolios. Especially noteworthy is the “Portrait Adoption” section, in which artists can post character portraits for sale. This allows viewers to choose a picture that’s already completed, rather than commission one from scratch.
The Lorelei Signal and Sorcerous Signals are webzines edited by Carol Hightshoe. They publish short fiction, poems, and artwork with science fiction or fantasy themes. The webzines are freely available; audience members are encouraged to use the donation buttons to send money to authors and artists whose work they enjoy. The webzines offer modest payments up front followed by royalties if donations exceed the amount advanced. This model has the advantage of showing the editor exactly whose work and what kind of content draws the most attention.
Once a month, I host a Poetry Fishbowl on my blog, “The Wordsmith’s Forge.” Themes include such things as speculative fiction, Paganism, nature, and community. Audience members give me prompts and I write poems based on those ideas. People can choose to make general donations, to sponsor a specific poem for blog publication, and/or to commission a hardcopy of the poem laid out as a scrapbook page.
“The Admonishments of Kherishdar” by M.C.A. Hogarth – community-sponsored art and fiction series.
“The Aphorisms of Kherishdar” by M.C.A. Hogarth – community-sponsored art and fiction series.
Balance Cards by M.C.A. Hogarth – community-sponsored divination and individually commissioned artwork.
The Big Meow by Diane Duane
Ellen Million Graphics
Fledgling: A Liaden Universe Novel by Sharon Lee and Steve Miller
Hunt for the Dymalon Cygnet: A Fable of Lost Worlds by Don Sakers
The Lorelei Signal – webzine edited by Carol Hightshoe
Nina Paley’s blog – includes funding history of Sita Sings the Blues
Portrait Adoption hosted by Ellen Million Graphics
Sita Sings the Blues by Nina Paley – animated movie, 35mm film print funded by community donations.
Sorcerous Signals – webzine edited by Carol Hightshoe
The Vondish Ambassador by Lawrence Watt-Evans – novel funded by donations.
Wind Tunnel Dreams – community on LiveJournal, featuring a community-sponsored fiction series by Shadesong.
The Wordsmith’s Forge blog by Elizabeth Barrette
Elizabeth Barrette writes fiction, nonfiction, and poetry in the fields of speculative fiction, gender studies, and alternative spirituality. Recent publications include the short story "Clouds in the Morning" in Torn World and poem "The Forest of Infinity" in Star*Line. She serves on the Canon Board, editing and selecting material at Torn World. She hosts a monthly Poetry Fishbowl on her blog, The Wordsmith’s Forge (http://ysabetwordsmith.livejournal.com), writing poems based on audience prompts. She enjoys suspension-of-disbelief bungee-jumping and spelunking in other people's reality tunnels.
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