In the short time since my Kickstarter ended, a few people have expressed the desire to give me some money to help in my quest to get my latest novel published. This has left me pleasantly surprised, but also in a bit of a moral conundrum.
I appreciate the heartfelt concern and desire to help. I am exceedingly grateful. At the same time, I do not want to just take someone’s money. I recognize it as help, as a gift, but I am not a destitute person. Neither am I well off, or even in a liquid state. Life is often pillar to post with a lot of hand wringing in between. Nonetheless, I get by. I make do. I stand on my own two feet. At least, I try to.
The publishing of a novel rests in two dimensions. In one space, it is a gift to the world. It is my vision, my thoughts and deep ponderings expressed in crafted sentences for the enjoyment of those who read it. In another space, publishing a novel is a personal goal. I choose to have it published. I could simply put the text on the web for everyone to read free. However, I want to see my name as the by-line on a printed tome. I have that elusive vision of a legacy lasting through time. I am willing to accept low proceed margins. The publishing itself is a personal goal, not a life sustaining one.
If I wanted to paint the rented mobile home I live in, could I ask friends for paint money? I suppose I could ask, but who would want to give? So how is accepting money for publishing my personal pet project any different? Yet I understand that some see the greater good of a writing project, the exchange of knowledge and thought. Some may be truly anxious to hold a copy, and for that I am extremely grateful. However, to just hand me some cash does not guarantee the fruition of that goal. I recognize it is a comforting support. “Keep at it, old man. I can’t wait to read it.” Have no fears, I will keep at it.
These offers have made me think of times when gifts are the cultural norm, birthdays, Christmas, Hanukah. We often receive a gift from someone for whom we do not have a gift in return. How do you feel when that happens? I know I am always grateful, but I also feel a bit ashamed. You thought so much of me, and I have no way to show that I think the same of you. Perhaps I assumed there would be no physical gift coming, that happy wishes would be all we need to share. Perhaps there was not the time, and often there is not the capital to supply everyone with a purchased symbol of compassion. The moments of smiles and handshakes and hugs, and the time together beforehand is the real gift, both given and received.
Still, I understand that desire to help. Gifting may be an answer. I do, after all, have an existing novel in print, and in audio book, and in ebook. I even have t-shirts and mugs, tote bags and hoodies, and signatures can always be arranged. Give one or the other to a besty for a birthday, to a companion for Christmas, to a helper for Hanukah. In giving that, you will have given them something, given a touch of me to them, and put a little jingle in my coffers as well. You will be helping me in my next publishing conquest. On the other hand, if help is what you want to give, which I so greatly appreciate, spread the word. Promote a post, share a snippet, start a rousing discussion that generates interest. Point me toward a book signing, a con, or a panel discussion. Write a review, talk me or my books up to a bookstore owner, the list can be lengthy.
I do not wish to appear to be snubbing your gracious gift when you ask, “Can I give you some bucks?” I am thankful that you even thought to offer. I appreciate the help, and will graciously accept the help that is needed, but you need to eat and pay rent as badly as I do. We can help each other, in so many ways.