The King Must Fall by Adrian Collins

With Grimdark Magazine’s latest anthology Kickstarter The King Must Fall motoring past the AU$40,000 mark this week, I caught up with Adrian Collins to talk about the project.

- The King Must Fall has done fantastic thus far on Kickstarter; what was the first 24 hours like for you watching the positive reception from the reading community?

After how little I slept for the month-long funding window for our last Kickstarter project, Evil is a Matter of Perspective, I told myself I’d be way more chill and well-rested this time. There’s an old military saying somewhere about no plan surviving first contact, and that pretty much applies here. That first 24hrs was utterly mental.

Watching the backer and financial counter skyrocket to 70% within the first 24hrs was unbelievable. The lettered editions were gone in a few hours. The numbered editions not too many hours after that. It was also the time period when I realised I needed to somehow find a local supplier in the UK to bring the postage cost right down (which I managed to do a few days later).

The community has been epic, driving this sort of success. Their trust, pledges, and their shout outs have gotten us into a position where we’ve just added Luke Scull to our lineup and we are less than a grand away from adding Alex Marshall as well. A special shout out goes out to the Grimdark Fiction Readers and Writers group on Facebook—as with almost everything we do, they’ve been right behind this.

- The Kickstarter is a true passion project for you. Can you tell me about your theme, "The King Must Fall," and how the idea came about?

The idea actually came from Bradley P. Beaulieu, author of The Song of the Shattered Sands series. He reached out to me one day with the tagline as the idea, I loved it and ran with it. I’ve always loved reading about the toppling of power (or the attempt at it), and I think quite often this simple scenario sits as a key part of so much in fantasy, especially grimdark fantasy, to one degree or another. In my mind there are few things so fearful to a medieval-styled populace as the unknown of a new potential leader who holds so much sway over their lives.

- What would you give as advice to someone who was going to run their own fantasy Kickstarter from your experiences with The King Must Fall and previous works?

This is a very long discussion, and I’d highly recommend checking out both the article I wrote for Booknest, Five Things I Learned from Failing at Kickstarter, and the interview I just completed with the Wizards, Warriors, and Words: A Fantasy Writing Advice Podcast.

In short, though:

Make sure you have a crystal-clear product message. If the random bloke you sit next to at the bus stop can’t look at it and within 60 seconds know EXACTLY what you’re selling, you’ve not done it right.

If you aren’t a financial controller, get one to do your financials—spreadsheeting set and variable costs is no easy feat, get someone smarter than you to do it. You do not want to run out of money mid-production.

Create a detailed marketing plan to handle the “trough of despair”, the period of slow growth between the first 48hrs and last 48hrs of your funding window. Better to have it and not need it than need it and not have it.

As a follow up to the last point, do not panic in the trough of despair. It’s an almost mathematical certainty that it’ll happen to everyone—that’s just the way these things work—but every marketing company on planet earth (it feels like) is going to try and sell you some miracle solution to this. In my experience, most of them are selling absolute crap and run for the hills as soon as you ask some of the most simple qualification questions.

Find somebody else that’s done it really well and learn from them. Ask questions. Mimic their structure and messaging. Learn from and improve upon what’s come before you.

And have fun. What’s the point of the whole thing if you’re not enjoying yourself?

- Who are some authors that you would love to work with in the future?


But, to name a few, P. Djelli Clark, Sarah Gailey, Garth Nix, Glen Cook, N.K Jemisin, Matthew Woodring Stover, Robin Hobb, Nnedi Okorafar, Scott Lynch, Nicholas Eames, C.S. Friedman, R.F. Kuang, Andrzej Sapkowski, Seanan McGuire, Graham McNeill, Dan Abnett, Adrian Selby, Brian McLellan …. Ahhhhhhh it’s a pretty long list.

And for a deadest hailmary pass, George R.R. Martin (maybe for an intro).

- Grimdark Magazine issues and anthologies release some of the best short stories in the Grimdark genre, but what are the three things that you and your team look for in a short piece of fiction when deciding what to feature?

While I’ve seen entire essays and huge tirades written on the topic, I’ve always kept this really simple. When I read a grimdark story, I always look for:

1) A grim story: a sense of foreboding and fear, something that weighs on you, shocks you, leaves you with your jaw on the floor or a sick feeling in your stomach.
2) A dark world: be it fantasy or fiction, I want to feel like this story is happening in an oppressive situation, or somewhere things are pretty rapidly going to hell.
3) A morally grey protagonist: this, THIS, I cannot stress enough. Grimdark is about character. It’s about the anti-hero. It’s about doing the wrong thing for the right reasons and the right thing for the wrong reasons. It’s about perspective and seeing the world from somebody’s you normally wouldn’t on an ethical level (versus on a not-having-magic-powers or being-the-best-swordsperson-who-ever-lived level).

If this Kickstarter hits the AU$62,000 level, we’ll open up a full-paid slot for authors to submit to an open window, and I hope they read this post before doing so!

- I know that you are an individual who has worn many hats. You have been a reviewer, site creator, editor, and Kickstarter. What is something that you have learned from each position that you would have never guessed going into it?

I’ve done a bit of everything at GdM, but I think the key learning I’ve had is about how you treat people both in your volunteer teams and the marketplace. Just don’t be a bag of sweaty dicks. It’s literally that simple. Try to do right by your team and your community and they’ll look after you. Deliver on your commitments. Help people when they are in a tough spot if you can. Do right by them, and they’ll back you and look after you. The publishing and reading community is one of the best communities out there and I’m grateful to be a part of it.

- What blogs/ reviewers are your go to sites for Grimdark book reviews?

Apart from this one you mean!!!???

I’d say is the gold standard for any sort of reviews or commentary,,, Black Gate, The Fantasy Hive, Fantasy Book Critic, SFF World, Novel Notions, and The Fantasy Inn are the key ones I’d look at. I’d never say they are niche grimdark reviewers like we are, but they do review a lot of the stuff I like to read.

Thanks for dropping by, Adrian.

No worries. I love a good chin wag!

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