By now you’ve probably heard the news, and I’m here to tell you it’s true: February 7 is my birthday. It’s a serious one too — the big Three-Oh. In lieu of gifts, I’m asking that you make a donation in your name to me.
Oh, that’s the other news. I’m writing a book. Maybe.
Why a book?
Sometime in high school was the first time someone told me, “You should write a book.” Other people have told me that over the years. “You should write a book” is a sentence that is said to billions of people every day across this great nation of ours. And yet, probably less than half of those people actually write books.
The thing is, I actually would like to write a book. I’m a writer, after all — by trade and by compulsion — so it seems like a logical next step to write something longer than a blog post or brochure. Plus, I think I could write a pretty good book (no false modesty here). Maybe not great (OK, a little false modesty), but better than some of the books I’ve read.
So why haven’t I written a book? Two fundamental truths you should know about me: (1) I love to write, and (2) I hate wasting effort on stuff that doesn’t serve a purpose. When it comes to real writing, my challenge has always been reconciling both of these realities.
I’m a copywriter, which is a good compromise. I get to exercise my writerly muscles on relatively short-term projects with clear, direct rewards (e.g., being able to pay my bills usually). Blogging is another good compromise. I get to write fun stuff, and I enjoy it when readers enjoy what I write. ((Even blogging can feel pointless, though. One of the reasons I got rid of comments was because that little text box at the bottom of every post implies that comments should be there — and if they’re not, then it’s an implied pointless failure.))
But writing a book is a whole other wordgame. It’s a lot of work over a lot of time with no clear purpose in the end. Good work is its own reward? Screw that; I want money, fame, and adoration.
Or at least some money.
So I found myself caught in a nice little catch-22: I didn’t want to write a book if people weren’t going to buy/read/like it, but there was no way to know if people would buy/read/like until after I’d already written it.
Except maybe there is a way (at least for the buy part of it).
If you don’t know what Kickstarter is, read up on the basics. In a nut, it’s a way to “crowdfund” “creative” projects by allowing “backers” to contribute money to make “stuff” happen (and they get rewards in return). Once the pledges reach a predetermined level (for me, $5,500) within a predetermined amount of time (for me, 30 days and counting), the project is considered “funded” and it’s time to rock and roll.
The cool thing about Kickstarter is, if I don’t get enough pledges, you don’t have to pay anything and I don’t have to do anything. That’s a key motivating factor for me. I intentionally set the goal pretty high so that I’d be able to devote enough time to the project without feeling like I could or should be working on other things (please refer to “I hate wasting effort” above). There are similar crowdfunding websites that collect money for creative projects and don’t enforce an “all or nothing” limitation. But that’s not what I want. I want all or nothing. Either one would be OK; it’s the murky middle that I don’t like.
Why an e-book?
To make this crazy scheme succeed, I need to reduce the friction of the whole process. It has to be as easy as possible to move from one step to the next, to get the book written, published, and in your hands. Nowadays, with the iPods and the microwaves and the cloud, the easiest way to distribute a book is digitally, as an e-book. And the easiest e-book format, it seems to me, is Amazon’s Kindle platform.
There are free Kindle apps that you can use to read Kindle e-books on iPhone, iPad, Android, Mac, and Windows. However, I prefer the experience of reading on the e-ink Kindle device itself, so you might want to consider getting one if you like to read. I recommend the Kindle Paperwhite, but there’s also a dirt-cheap version if you just want to get your feet wet.
How can I help?
If I haven’t talked you out of it yet, and you’d like to see this project get off the ground, go to the Kickstart page and contribute (or at least watch the video; I think it turned out pretty cool).
After that, spread the word. For anyone who’s totally unfamiliar with me, I know it’s a tough sell: a vague proposal for a future book by an unknown author that could end up being about anything? Why would anyone pay money for that? To be honest, I don’t know the answer to that. Maybe you have some ideas. Get creative, maybe.
Is this post almost done?
Lastly — if you’ll allow me to get all mushy for a moment — your pledge to this project isn’t just about getting a book. It’s a vote of confidence in me (and confidence don’t come cheap!). It tells me that you believe I’ll write something worth reading. That’s immeasurably valuable to me. If you trust me enough to contribute, all I can really say is: thank you.
Update: Get even more of your questions answered here.