For its 15th birthday, San Francisco-based publishing house McSweeney's is getting into the crowdfunding game with a crazy-sounding goal - a campaign “which we believe can be the most successful campaign of its kind.” What does that mean exactly? Does an independent publishing house hope to top the millions of dollars raised by gaming consoles and cult TV shows?
Well, probably not. Instead, it has a very specific type of success in mind, as suggested by the campaign footnote: “Maybe. Percentage-wise.”
In other words, the company has set a lofty campaign goal of $15, with the real goal of raising some impressive multiple of that number. So if people end up spending, say, $15,000, McSweeney's could say that it raised 100,000 percent of its goal. Would a title of “most successful, percentage-wise” title really give McSweeney's anything other than bragging rights? Not as far as I can tell, but hey, it sounds cool, right? (Plus there's the money raised.)
The publisher was founded by author Dave Eggers, and in addition to publishing or co-publishing many of Eggers' books (including his recent tech-focused novel The Circle), McSweeney's has released titles by David Byrne, Michael Chabon, Lydia Davis, Jonathan Lethem, William T. Vollman, and many others. Its magazines include McSweeney's Quarterly Concern and The Believer, and it runs a humor-focused website, which is where I found one of my favorite things ever published on the Internet.
The company is pitching this as more of a pre-sale than a charity campaign, writing in a staff email that “no one is donating money to our for-profit business” and that instead it's “launching a custom-built micro-store-site on our own domain, one that offers our customers new ways to buy, subscribe, and generally celebrate all things McSweeney's.” To take that approach, McSweeney's used Crowdhoster, the white label crowdfunding platform from Crowdtilt.
As for why it's going the crowd-funding route at all, the company writes:
Even fifteen years in, though, when our beloved readers could be forgiven for thinking that canny early investments in Monster Beverage or Westinghouse Air Brakes have long ago put us beyond any need of external support, the truth is that we are no less and no more than an independent publishing house. Our quarterly and our website take no ads; our projects stretch every penny. And because no millennial cataclysm seems immediately imminent, and we'd like to continue to grow and flourish, we're stepping outside the bounds of our own scruffy e-commerce portal, and launching a crowdfunded subscription drive and birthday sale.
If you're interested in participating, you can visit the campaign here. (And by the way, McSweeney's isn't the only indie publisher to launch a crowdfunding effort this week - I donated to the campaign of comics publisher Fantagraphics last night.)