In this special weekend interview post, I’m chatting with Brian White, the founder of the soon-to-debut FIRESIDE fiction magazine. Brian is hosting a Kickstarter project to raise money to publish the first of what will hopefully be many issues.
ANTHONY: Hi Brian! Thanks for sitting down to ramble on for a few! What inspired you to start Fireside magazine?
BRIAN: A lot of the people who I follow on Twitter are creative types: writers, artists, journalists (yes many of us are creative), musicians. Which means that there is a lot of shop talk, which these days means thinking about all the different tools there are for creative people to promote and support their careers. Things like crowdfunding and self-publishing. A lot of this stuff was bubbling at a low simmer in a stew in the back of my brain, and one night I just thought, “Hey, I could publish a magazine. And with something like Kickstarter, I wouldn’t be taking a huge financial risk.”
As soon as I had that idea, I knew I wanted to do a fiction magazine. I am a big sci-fi reader, and I also like crime, fantasy, horror, and a lot of other genres. So when I was thinking about what shape I’d like the magazine to take, I thought of the anthology “Stories” edited by Neil Gaiman and Al Sarrantonio that came out last year. There is a great passage in the introduction, in which Gaiman writes of his response to a question about what quote he would want inscribed on the wall of the kids’ section in a public library. He captured the reason why we love good stories:
I’m not sure I’d put a quote up, if it was me, and I had a library wall to deface. I think I’d just remind people of the power of stories, of why they exist in the first place. I’d put up the four words that anyone telling a story wants to hear. The ones that show it’s working, and that pages will be turned:
“… and then what happened?”
That’s the spirit of Fireside magazine. Good stories, no matter what the genre.
ANTHONY: I love that quote from Neil, and really enjoyed the whole Stories anthology. When you say “all genres” are welcome — what can readers expect not just from the first issue, but from any issues that may come along after?
BRIAN: I have a feeling that the first issue will have a sci-fi slant, but I really don’t know, because I told the short story writers — Tobias Buckell, Ken Liu, Chuck Wendig, and Christie Yant — they could really do whatever they wanted. The same goes for the comic that D.J. Kirkbride and Adam P. Knave are working on.
As for art, Amy Houser will be doing the cover for issue one. Ahe has kind of a whimsical, colorful style that I think matches up really well with the spirit of stories that spark the imagination.
For the future, I’d love to mix things up as much as possible. Maybe one issue will be crime and fantasy and mystery. Or steampunk and noir. Or … well, anything. I’m truly trying to keep an open mind and look for good stories anywhere they might grow. I’m not much for romance novels, but if I found a really great romance story, I’d run with it.
And there will be a comic in every issue. I only have started reading comics in the past few years, but I am really in love with them now and want them to be a core part of Fireside.
ANTHONY: The fiction magazine market is a notoriously difficult one these days, especially in print form. So why start a magazine now? Why not just post stories to your personal website?
BRIAN: Hopeless optimism? I’m 28 and I work at a newspaper, which is facing a lot of the same problems that fiction magazines do, or at least the problems share some roots. But I love the paper, and I love short stories. I want them both to live and grow and thrive in one form or another, and I figure if I want that to happen, I have to do what I can to make it happen.
And part of that is paying the creative people, the writers and artists, fairly and in a way that helps them make a living being creative. To do that, I have to raise a lot of money on Kickstarter, and I didn’t think I’d be able to do that just with a website, since Kickstarter is all rewards-driven. By actually creating an electronic and print magazine, I’m able to offer a bunch of different rewards, especially with the print magazine, which opens up the option of paying a higher price to get an issue autographed by one of the writers or cover artist.
ANTHONY: Let’s talk Kickstarter for a moment. Tell my readers a bit about how Kickstarter works and what the rewards are for donating to Fireside magazine.
BRIAN: I’ve been explaining Kickstarter by saying that it is a lot like a PBS or NPR pledge drive. You ask people to contribute, and based on how much they give you, they can pick from any of the various rewards at that dollar level or lower. In Fireside’s case, this means electronic or print editions of the magazine, and at higher levels, autographs and even having a character in a story named after you or getting drawn into a special illustration.
But the big difference from PBS or NPR is that Kickstarter only turns over the money if the campaign reaches its stated goal, in Fireside’s case $6,500. And that is great because it really removes the risk for everyone. I only had to spend a relatively small amount out of pocket to lay the groundwork, so if it doesn’t succeed, I’m not out a lot of money. The backers’ credit cards don’t get charged unless the campaign is successful, so again, if it fails, they don’t lose their money. And the writers and artist for the Fireside don’t have to turn anything in until a month after the Kickstarter is funded, so they don’t lose all that time on something that ends up not paying.
ANTHONY: The Kickstarter is mostly based around getting that first issue out and into the public’s hands. What are your plans for funding future issues?
BRIAN: My Kickstarter goal, $6,500, covers pretty much to the penny just the costs of the first issue. I hope to raise more than that to sink into future issues. But if this succeeds, I do plan on Kickstarting the second issue as well. I will also be selling single copies, and hopefully that will generate some money to help it become a self-sustaining thing. And I also plan to offer subscriptions if we get beyond a first issue, which would help wean us from Kickstarter.
ANTHONY: The line-up for the first issue is already set. For future issues, will you be having open submitting and a slush pile, or will you will continue “invitation only?”
BRIAN: I definitely plan on holding at least one slot in future issues open for submissions, but having a lineup is important with the Kickstarter funding model because it means there is a group to collaborate with on the campaign, which has been a great help to me, and that group is committed to the success of the issue, which means a lot of promotion from both the creators and their networks, which is really key to a successful Kickstarter.
ANTHONY: Any other information you’d like to share about Fireside?
BRIAN: Just that I am really grateful for all the support we have already received and for all the people out there who seem to be as interested in finding good stories as I am.
Thanks so much, Anthony.
ANTHONY: You’re welcome, Brian! I hope the Kickstarter is successful. I already made my donation.