Dear Doctor Taylor,
For the last six months, I have been crowdfunding my novel The Backstreets of Purgatory with Unbound. Although I am making good progress, certain things are beginning to concern me. Recently I have noticed that when I start a conversation, my partner’s eyes glaze and he stares wistfully over my shoulder as if he is reminiscing about a time when our conversations sparked with such intellectual firecrackers as whether it is acceptable to add milk while the tea bag is still in the mug, or whether Cheddar or Gruyère makes better cheese on toast.
Worryingly, whenever we are out and about and I open my bag to rummage through it, he flinches and distances himself from me as if I’m about to batter him with a baseball bat, which is frankly ridiculous because my handbag can barely accommodate my supply of publicity flyers (which I whip out and thrust on innocent bystanders at every opportunity) and has no space for medium-to-large pieces of portable sports equipment. Sadly, he has stopped laughing at my jokes (and has caused me to question if he ever did) and has on occasions dragged me kicking and screaming from my computer for the most mundane of reasons (like, for example, to eat a meal). He has no sympathy for the repetitive strain injury that has all but incapacitated my track pad finger because it is apparently patently unhealthy (and thus no one’s fault but my own) to refresh one’s funding target page as rapidly as one’s poor internet connection allows.
During the short-lived elation that comes with each pledge for my book and my ensuing enthusiasm (manifested most frequently by my boogying around the living room in a manner that would quite understandably mortify the younger members of my extended family were any of them—or worse, any of their friends—ever to spot me, although they will, no doubt, be reassured to know that I have drawn the line at twerking) he has jokingly bandied around phrases like these pledges being the ‘crack-cocaine’ or ‘jaeger-bombs’ of crowdfunding and has subsequently completely failed to comprehend the clammy-walled, lichen-lined, stagnant well of despair (and this, this, is the nadir of subtle understatement) in which I find myself when one, two, three days go by without a pledge. (‘It’ll be fine’; Fine? Are you kidding me?) When I wake with night sweats of cold panic that my funding may never materialise or with palpitations at the thought that it actually might, he sleeps on peacefully until I shake him awake to remonstrate at his deep-somnia and lack of compassion.
Moreover, each time I brainstorm him for ideas for my campaign, he says I’m doing great. On the rare occasions when I find myself more than arm’s length from my computer and my phone bleeps and I leap from wherever I happen to be uncomfortably perched and biting my nails to check it (in the process overturning a coffee table or trampling underfoot our elderly cat who is too arthritic to take appropriate evasive action) he comes out with such blasphemous comments as, ‘Stop obsessing about Twitter.’
Here, I present his utterly absurd ideas for coping with the psychological stress of crowdfunding a novel. Unfathomably directed, it would appear, towards me.
- Don’t take it personally if someone doesn’t pledge. People are busy, they haven’t all deliberately ignored your messages or FaceBook posts. Think of the messages or emails that you don’t immediately reply to, that slip off the bottom of your screen and out of your thoughts. People might be skint or might be waiting for your book to get into bookshops without appreciating that without support that won’t happen. And even if they have deliberately ignored your messages, remember that folk are bombarded with stuff every single day and it is far easier to blank a request for support than to pluck up the nerve to say no. And, believe it or not, your novel may not be to everyone’s taste. But that is okay. Really.
- Focus on the positives. Forget the frustration of the non-responders or the hostile response from the local bookshop or whatever. Focus on the support you’ve already had. Take Backstreets, for example. Nearly three hundred people have pre-ordered the novel which is phenomenal. Old school friends (old school-friends and old-school friends) and colleagues that we haven’t seen or been in contact with for years have been incredibly generous and happy to support the project. Family and friends have been campaigning on your behalf. Friends of friends have joined the crowd, and folk we don’t know. Friends and strangers have let you use their venues to do reading events. I could go on…
- A support network to bounce your ideas and worries off is essential. Preferably made up of people who understand exactly what you are going though, which isn’t always the people closest to you in everyday life.* And you have a great network with your fellow Unbound authors, and the amazing writers and teachers you’ve met over the years.
- Put your project in context. Hard though it may be to hear, there are far more important and difficult things happening in the world than the crowdfunding of your book. However it feels, funding your novel is NOT a matter of life or death. You know that, right? Anyway, consider the progress you’ve made since this time last year when you didn’t have an agent, didn’t have a publisher. Now you are with a reputable publisher and are at over 70% of your project target which is well on the way to making it a reality.
- BUT accept that it is okay to be stressed. Even if there are more important things happening in the world, even if your worries seem trivial in comparison, even if no one else but you is so haunted by what the figures say on your funding page, it is okay to be stressed. You’ve been working on this novel for years. You want it to be read. You don’t want to let down the people who have supported you. If you weren’t stressed it would be because none of it mattered to you. It is okay that is matters. It is good that it matters. Just try not to let it take over your life.
What am I supposed to say to that? Honestly, I am not sure what planet he is on. The implication is that it is me who is difficult to live with.
Can you help?
Regards and all that kind of thing,
PS Any campaign tips would also be gratefully received.
*Is it me or does that mean, ‘Please moan to someone other than me?’
First of all, I am in no way qualified to help you. But as anti-expertise is the order of the day in these bizarre times, you’ll find I have a good line in quackery and jargon that may assuage many of the problems you are presently encountering. Reading between the lines (and, more pertinently, reading the actual lines), I would hazard that you are crowdfunding your novel. With nothing more than a quick glance at a buzzing website or two, I have come up with three simple, easy-to-follow tips for your campaign such that its success will proliferate like the internet equivalent of an influenza epidemic.☣
Campaign Tip Number 1
Make listicles. As in this case, they may have nothing to do with the matter in hand. So long as they are easy to read, numbered and feature in a click-bait title, your work is done.
Campaign Tip Number 2
Whenever and where ever possible fill your posts with pictures of your cat. Preferably doing something that a North American would term ‘adorable’, like this one:
And these ones:
(I have it on good authority that you tweeted a vid of your cat doing drugs; this is not exactly what I had in mind. In future, think before you alienate the kitties-in-rehab community).
Campaign Tip Number 3
Unless your goal is to stupefy your audience into submission, avoid the following topics:
- Innovations in design of 1970s filter coffee makers
- The detailed taxonomy of shell-less terrestrial gastropod molluscs
- The chemical formulae of rare blue dyes
As I said, easy to follow, easy to carry out, unless your novel is about extracting paint pigments from slugs by filtering salted slug extract through a drip filter coffee machine. (I have it on good authority that you deleted that chapter.)
Unfortunately, as regards to the words of wisdom spouted by your partner, I can make no comment until I recover my faculties. If, indeed, these faculties are not already irretrievably lost.
Yours etc etc
☣apologies to all of you who have been recently gripped by la grippe and who may find this particular analogy in feverishly bad taste
Brown snail photographed by Guttorm Flatabø (user:dittaeva) and reproduced under Creative Commons Licence BY-SA-3.0 or BY-SA 2.5, via Wikimedia Commons
Chemical structure of Tyrian purple by Xplus1 reproduced from Wikimedia Commons.