McSweeney's: New Books, New Magazines, and a Whole Lot More
We need your support!
Here at McSweeney’s, we want to keep putting out projects that take risks and celebrate great writing and make contemporary lit a little more vibrant. Now you can help make that happen.
Our independent press is edging up on its eighteenth birthday, with a few hundred novels and art objects and essay collections and magazine issues—many of them award-winning or envelope-pushing or impossible to publish anywhere else—under its exotically beaded belt. We’ve done it all on a shoestring, devoting ourselves to discovering unheard voices and publishing the best new writing in a wide variety of eye-gratifying ways, and we have some terrific things in store for the months ahead: stories from Roxane Gay and Jess Walter and Meg Wolitzer; essays from Lydia Davis and Lena Dunham and Peter Mendelsund; new books of all kinds; a third season of our euphony-packed podcast; and daily laughs on our enduring and eponymous humor website.
Last fall, we announced that we’ll be moving toward nonprofit operation; that shift will be a big step toward sustaining our work for many years to come. But to keep our projects going and our lights on in the near term, your support in this moment is essential. By backing our upcoming undertakings, you’ll be keeping our corner of independent publishing alive through a pivotal period—and, of course, you’ll be getting some pretty amazing stuff from us and our exceedingly generous community of writers, artists, and friends.
We’re pulling out all the stops here—in order for our next passel of projects to reach your hands, in order for our website to keep running and our warehouse to keep warehousing and for all the things we want to share with you to see the light of day, we need your help. Every backer will get us closer to our goal. Join us!
Here's what we'll do with your help.
This campaign will allow us to complete production on our two magazines' upcoming issues: the Summer issue of the Believer and the 49th issue of our celebrated literary journal, Timothy McSweeney's Quarterly Concern. We'll also make sure that our Internet Tendency has the support it needs to keep on humming as one of the web's most beloved humor sites, and that The Organist, our arts and culture podcast, is given the fuel for its most ambitious season yet. Finally, you'll be bolstering crucial post-production, distribution, and publicity efforts for our upcoming books: That Thing You Do With Your Mouth, an autobiographical collaboration between David Shields and Samantha Matthews; Girl at the Bottom of the Sea, a much-anticipated young-adult treasure by Michelle Tea; and This Bridge Will Not Be Gray, an irresistible new picture book by Dave Eggers and Tucker Nichols.
You can learn more about these projects and the rest of what we do below—and scroll down still further to hear about this campaign's rewards! The rewards, we think, are very good.
For over a decade, the Believer has dedicated itself to publishing new work by undiscovered and underappreciated writers, and to giving everyone who appears in its pages near-total freedom from word counts, news pegs, and style restrictions. Our bimonthly magazine followed Rachel Kaadzi Ghansah into the belly of Electric Lady Studios and traveled with Michelle Tea to a transgender activist camp at a womyn’s music festival; this year, we have new work on the way from Esmé Weijun Wang, Pablo Calvi, Karen Tongson, Kima Jones, Julianna Brannum, Sarah Marshall, and many more (as well as L. Davis and L. Dunham, as mentioned above). We'll have in-depth reporting from far-flung locales: Tijuana’s red-light district, Cuba’s punk scene, an oil pipeline running through Ecuador, a semi-abandoned movie studio in India, and the deep woods of the Pacific Northwest. And we'll have extensive new interviews with everyone from LL Cool J to Alain de Botton.
This year, we redesigned the magazine from front to back and introduced more space in each issue for ambitious, unique, and stylistically innovative work. We’ve also overhauled our commissions and acquisitions process to improve authorial diversity—we know that if we’re sharing the work of only a portion of our community, we are failing. Our next issue is ready to go; succeeding in this campaign will make it real.
Timothy McSweeney's Quarterly Concern
Our quarterly has been a home for everyone from John Hodgman to Hilton Als to Miranda July to Rebecca Curtis—and, in recent years, through special sections on Latin America, South Sudan, Croatia, Kenya, and Indigenous Australian writing, for international authors of all stripes. Since Issue 4, we’ve redesigned the journal every time, printing issues in the form of bundles of junk mail and cigar boxes and cube-shaped imitations of sweaty human heads. We’ve published screenplays by Boots Riley, serialized plays by Denis Johnson, Art Spiegelman’s notebooks, and a murder mystery printed on a suit of cards designed to be read in any order. We’ve brought home two National Magazine Awards and done a fair bit to redefine what a literary magazine can be.
2015 finds our journal in the run-up to Marlon James’s Caribbean fiction anthology; a jubilee fiftieth issue featuring fifty stories by fifty different writers; and, before that, our long-awaited 49th issue, an LP-sized compendium of cover stories, featuring classics by Flannery O’Connor and James Joyce and a dozen more, “covered” by contemporary authors from Roxane Gay to Alice Kim to T.C. Boyle, and collected within a frame-worthy slipcase designed by legendary album artist Gary Burdan. It’s going to be a gorgeous and absurdly enjoyable thing—all we need to get it done is to hit our goal.
Since the beginning, our publishing arm has been a place to put out boundary-breaking work, with untrammeled storytelling matched to unrivaled design. We've published the debut novels of Deb Olin Unferth and James Hannaham and Salvador Plascencia; on the nonfiction front, we’ve brought out Hilton Als’s White Girls and William T. Vollmann’s three-thousand-page Rising Up and Rising Down, along with award-winning work by T Cooper and Darin Strauss and Michael Chabon. (You can see our whole list right here.)
In the coming year, we'll have new fiction from Valencia author Michelle Tea and form-shattering short-story writer Diane Williams, debuts by San Franciscan M. Quint and Croatian Olja Savicevic, that genre-defying autobiographical collaboration from David Shields and Samantha Matthews, and poetry and kids’ books and a few other surprises, too. We can't wait to send them all your way.
The Organist began as the Believer’s monthly arts and culture podcast, in collaboration with the legendary Los Angeles–based radio station KCRW. We wanted the show to reflect the same omnivorous approach to culture that the magazine does, pairing longform interviews with oddly absorbing (and absorbingly odd) reported stories. We’ve aired oral histories of psychedelic cults alongside radio dramas written by leading novelists, and listening histories of your favorite musicians alongside stories from scientists, philosophers, and poets. This year, we switched the show to weekly.
Your contribution to this cornucopia of a Kickstarter will have a direct impact on the future of the Organist: we’re counting on this campaign to cover the costs of a third season of the most eclectic, electric, eccentric, and engaging podcast in the known world. We’ll be pushing out in every direction, with more reporting from farther-flung lands, new radio dramas commissioned from the best writers around, boosted production values, and studio time with the best and brightest lights of modern-day arts and culture and beyond.
With your support, too, we’ll be able to take the Organist out on tour, creating a live show featuring an all-star cast of writers, actors, musicians, and talkative cybernetic goldfish. It's going to be very good.
Timothy McSweeney’s Internet Tendency
Since 1998, our website has been publishing new humor writing every damn weekday—even Thursdays. One of the Internet’s earliest intentionally funny websites, we were the first to recognize decorative gourd season, the first to analyze the physics of the Death Star’s trash compactor, and the first to allow a misunderstood font like Comic Sans a place to vent. We’ve also served as a launching ground for too many comedy writers and performers to count, and as an outlet for the likes of Michael Ian Black, Jesse Eisenberg, and Ellie Kemper. Our contributors have gone on to write best-selling books, acclaimed films, and award-winning TV shows—all while, until recently, our website ran on not much more than some decade-old code and a wing and a prayer.
With your support, we’ll be able to upgrade the site with responsive design, so the Tendency can serve as an even better home for all the free and funny and eminently Facebook-worthy web humor your heart desires, on any device. Plus, you’ll help us keep our servers powered up, our column contest alive, and our fearless editors fed, shorn, and mostly clothed.
Our website also houses our online store, which we want to boost with faster performance and better service so we can get our books and magazines into the hands of more happy readers—this campaign will help us make that happen, too.
McSweeney's Poetry Series
Nine books in, our Poetry Series has brought out work by some of today’s most exciting emerging and established poets—from Rebecca Lindenberg’s breathtaking Love, an Index to Arif Gamal’s Morning in Serra Mattu, we’ve made the series a place for writers of all backgrounds and artistic orientations, and for work that finds room for both the deeply personal and the formally experimental.
The future holds new collections by Jesús Castillo, Emily Carr, Jay Hopler, and Dorian Geisler, as well as expanded offerings from the poetry realm: works in translation, anthologies, travelogues, and much more.
All right, you're thinking—this campaign seems good and necessary and I will back it. But what should I take home in return? Let this pictorial guide be your guide! And be sure to peruse the column to the right—not every reward is pictured here.
Risks and challenges
Publishing requires tremendous effort and a lot of resources, but we have more than fifteen years of experience in the industry and a bright, dedicated team that’s poised to get these projects out the door. We're confident that we'll be able to follow through on all we've promised.
In the wake of this campaign, we want to keep taking on ambitious projects and paying the writers and artists that appear in our pages, and our shift toward nonprofit operation will be the key to making that possible. But applying for 501(c)(3) status takes time, as does building up the backing every nonprofit depends on. We’re working hard to develop funding from grants, foundations, and memberships, which will form the bedrock of McSweeney’s for many years to come. This Kickstarter is designed to ensure that we can keep putting new work into the world while we set ourselves up for long-term sustainability.
Over the last year, we've been making some fundamental changes to our operation in order to continue supporting the kinds of projects we believe are important. In October 2014, we became a fiscally sponsored project of SOMArts, a San Francisco nonprofit arts incubator with a rich history of supporting Bay Area arts and culture organizations. This sponsorship allows us to accept tax-deductible donations while we work on obtaining our own 501(c)(3) nonprofit status. Our Kickstarter supporters will be able to choose from the rewards described above; if you would prefer to make a tax-deductible donation, please visit http://www.mcsweeneys.net/pages/membership-levels.
And in the meantime—thank you for supporting independent publishing. We’re profoundly grateful for your help.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter