Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Kickstarter, and Imminence

billboard, originally uploaded by Diana Kimball.

Saturdays ago, with the windows rolled down, Robin drove to Daly City. And I sat alongside in the wind tunnel, while we raised our voices above the open air, about reversals.

What happens when affirmation comes first?

Last week, my friend nickd announced that he's writing a book on interaction design, called Cadence & Slang. And Robin is writing a mystery. Both of them are funding the books through Kickstarter, a new place to ransom ideas worth believing in.

It strikes me that the imminence of Kickstarter is powerful and simple. Calculate how much money it will take to make an idea come true (a physical resolution); post the project and the projected cost, make measured promises; solicit support while the clock runs down. If backers meet the ransom before time runs out, the money gets handed over instantly. If not? That's information, too—an indication that something was off. Dread of that indication fuels inordinate effort. No waiting around to be discovered: you will do whatever it takes to earn the conviction of others.

What floors me about all of this is the way that nickd & Robin are striking out on their own, with earnest trepidation and confident hope. Kickstarter solves a problem I've been frustrated by for some time: when traditional publishing channels falter, how do writers calculate whether their work is worth believing in?

Then, I didn't know the solution, and wrote:

The dream of becoming a “published author” is haunting. Becoming one, for most of the twentieth century, was a worthy goal because it was incredibly difficult to achieve. To achieve it meant conquering all of the obstacles put in place by the publishing industry to keep unmarketable or uninspired texts from reaching bookstore shelves. In a sense, it meant winning—over other manuscripts and other authors, but also over one’s own self-doubt. It did not, of course, always or even often translate to riches. But to become a published author at least meant that someone else believed in a work enough to bet on its success.
Kickstarter is not the solution, but it is the best solution I've so far seen. Because: yes! “To become a published author means that someone else believes in a work enough to bet on its success.” Maybe many other people, proving themselves discerning by putting their money on the line.

I am excited by the existence of this tool. With talented people like nickd and Robin setting out to do the brave things they've always meant to do, what could go wrong? What could go right? I can't wait to hear about all their triumphs and missteps—I think they will run into a different assembly of obstacles than usual. Because there's all this pressure from other people counting on you, but: only alongside the knowledge that they believe in what you intend to create.

(In your intention, and so, in you.)

Kickstarter forces promotion, planning, and urgency to the beginning, right when affirmation is most precious. By creating a public contract, Kickstarter takes the vanity out of self-publishing. It's not you publishing it, not really; it's all the people who trusted in your work enough to bet on its success.

“The money” Robin confided, “is nothing, compared to just knowing.”


Andy Baio said...

Wow, thank you. You should fund the next ROFLCon with Kickstarter! Let me know if you want an invite and I'll hook you up.

Linda Germain said...

Thank you for writing it so clearly.

Liz Noonan said...

wow. very well put. eloquent.

David Sanger said...

" this is a business fuelled largely by writers' need for attention, and no one wants to crush any writer's dreams before a book is even published. Especially since every now and then they actually come true."

on the mercurial and obsolescent world of front-list hardcover book publishing ::: Redactor Agonistes by Daniel Menaker, ex-exec-editor RH

ben.hicks said...

Kickstarter is one large step in giving the people a choice in what gets made/seen/read instead of having large corporations deciding for us. Exciting times lay ahead.