Perhaps it was a note from a ‘street team‘ member today and fan of my books, or last night’s heated conversation about ‘real publishing‘ and the horrors of Facebook or the Internet that prompts this article, and in the middle of a second attempt to crowd fund Dragon In The Post. In fact it was being a bit too thin skinned that made me pull the last Kickstarter effort, before it was even half way through and when we were doing well on 37%. I think that both shocked and disappointed some and I am sorry for that, but I was selling my flat too. The truth is that putting yourself out there, as an established author or not, can be an invasive, very personal and sometimes a painful thing. That’s because, while you should really only be selling the merits of a story, if you can even be heard and so judged for it with all the Net noise, it feels as if you are having to sell your whole personality and simultaneously act as a door to door money grabber. I made a mistake then not thanking everyone who had taken part last time personally, whether they had been able to actually donate to the campaign or not, because I so enjoyed some of the conversations that went on around the world, the enthusiasm, art put up, passion and the sense of mutual effort to reach a goal. This is a thank you to them and you.
That money goal, the finishing line, can be a slightly corrupting thing though, in the sense of wanting to get it in the bag, not just for me but everyone else too. That shared sense of achievement. But I assure you it is as important people are behind hit with £5 or £500, because my heart bits a little faster every time it goes up and the moral support is crucial too. Perhaps my own personality has merited an accusation of callousness from one original backer, ie being accused of only speaking to them when I wanted the money. I don’t think that is actually true though, I give time and thought as I can, as I suggested I would do unpaid work editing and publishing others at Phoenix Ark Press. Although I have always said I don’t especially like Facebook, don’t want my life swallowed up by too much time online and so on. It is the paradox of a very personal and difficult publishing story, that took time for me to confront openly, and having to work with this medium to try and get back to real books (in the post) and build a small publisher too. Perhaps people might remember that it should not be just a ‘you scratch my back‘ thing either, as in ‘I will Like your page if you Like mine‘, which seems all over Facebook! I do Like some pages but I chose what I Like, even if people have Liked my efforts. Meanwhile if Phoenix Ark could get my books up and running again, and that is its own question mark, I have always said we might be able to give back in encouraging others to crowd fund their work with us. But that itself speaks a necessary toughness, a quality control, a business head and the kind you find with big professional publishing houses and editors, although in our case with a grass roots creative spirit too.
We all know that going online has its ups and downs, the desperate sense of wanting to be heard, sometimes even the near addiction of it, mixed I know with both fear and desperation at times. Something I have talked about very seriously in my own case, so I hope establishing its own level of trust, along with awful examples of the harm it can do in terms of isolation, bullying and so on. That’s why through this whole crowd funding journey I came up with an idea called Lifeliners, which was to encourage people to mentor others and build a kind of network that might challenge the increasingly awful capital divides out there, getting people to help build mentoring, friendship and funding projects everywhere and right around the world. If crowd funding in many spheres is going to be a working model for the future though, and the online world is such a pressing reality, or unreality, such thinking should be encouraged.
My approach to this campaign then is consciously more laid back, if without sacrificing passion, work and energy, I hope. It is why I took advice and set a lower goal at £4500, during a longer period of 40 days, and why I now feel more relaxed about pages on Facebook becoming their own forums, where I do not have to be all the time, although I am alerted to them via emails. People must have their own fun with that, whether a campaign works or not, but I hope we can connect again many times, as both individuals and a united team, and I am very open to any ideas others have. I also am grateful for that, that others can be heard too, and indeed want to thank people whether they have be able to donate money or not. Of course I want to hit the target and money is an important element in life, but if that was the only thing I would never have become a writer in the first place. While I am also acutely aware of the difference in spirit among some. Meaning that those with little money have often given far more both in terms of cash and effort than often disapproving friends with money, who I know have carried two previous projects to success with little loss to themselves. That sometimes makes me angry because it seems to reflect the lack of awareness out there these days and the huge gulfs that have developed both in terms of capital divides and as importantly the real imaginative empathy with other lives and experiences. People who think it is just a stroll in the park though, whether that merits £20 or £200, might try standing up and crowd funding themselves, to know how much it can take it out of you. I have also been challenged on choosing the Indiegogo model of drawing money whether the campaign reaches its target or not. I wrestled with that and in the end fully justify it with the huge work done on other campaign and the special Opt Out Clause I introduced if anyone wants money back and we don’t hit it. But above all with the fact I am trying to build a little publisher and working now to bring my first novel Fire bringer back into hardcopy availability, so your money will be well spent. I think I may well return everything if we do not get at least close to the target, though remember if I do that without Indiegogo’s percentage taken off I will be even more out of pocket myself.
Then of course, with all that complexity, comes many hugely positive and exciting things too; the fun of really doing so well each time, the importance of trying to tell some kind of truth about Social Media or Facebook, making new and old friends, how moved I’ve been both by talking to people and hearing how my books have touched lives, and just the importance of trying. It is all in such marked contract to what happened at a big, highly commercial New York publishing house. Who knows what the future holds? If the lesson is it just does not work then it is good to learn from that and let it go. As for the mutual demands or expectations that naturally develop, especially with such personal money contributions involved, all I can say is that in the end no one owns me or my time and I must be my own person, as much as you, though I want to encourage others too. But, as Dragon In The Post tops £1250 and still with over a month to go, a big hooray and it is full steam ahead, because I am hatching many ideas to bring it to fruition this time, and hope you will become part of a Street Team and bring in your ideas too. As Jean Luc says in Star Trek “Make it so!” Thank you all again.
If you would like to “Join the story, become part of the adventure” and see the lovely work on Facebook too then why not visit the project now by WATCHING AND CONTRIBUTING TO THE DRAGON HERE
David Clement-Davies July 2014