• The Writers' Group

‘What I’m really thinking: the crowdfunder’ | S. Dodson

Updated: Jul 16, 2019

Many moons ago when I was carefree and cocksure, I used to joke that one of my greatest attributes was how exceptionally modest I was. But these days, as I raise funds for my book, ‘Philosophers’ Dogs’, I’m increasingly realising how hard it is to break free of the ingrained sense of modesty that so many people naturally feel. Nobody likes to brag about their work or ask people to recognise and support it. If there’s one thing I’ve realised from recently binge-watching the secret life of 4-5 year olds on Channel 4, it’s that the kids who go around telling all the other kids to be their friends are also the ones who don’t get given pieces of chocolate cake during the twisted experiments the TV show’s producers seem to regularly conduct on these unexpecting study subjects.

So please, if you see me asking for people to get involved with and support my book; it’s not that I’ve forgotten about the natural unspoken rules of modesty that we are brought up to expect from ourselves and others. And if it makes you feel any better about it, I am totally feeling as awkward and as nervous about the whole thing as a Conservative politician trying to say that a no-deal Brexit won’t damage the economy and put the UK union at risk.

But until this book is funded; I’m going to keep doing this (and I say that really genuinely hoping it doesn’t sound like a threat). Partly because I’m probably as much of an egotist as the next person and I would derive genuine unadulterated joy from seeing my book on the shelves of bookstores; but also because I think the book – and particularly the illustrations that have been drawn by my incredibly talented sister – is really a lot of fun, and could make a lot of people (and, perhaps more importantly, a lot of dogs), happy.

But I’m also going to keep doing this because we currently live in an age of cultural homogenisation – caused in part by the monopolisation of cultural and media organisations and companies. Though it’s true there are now more independent, small presses than ever before, it’s also true that it’s harder and harder for these presses to stay in business longer than a couple of years, or to spread their books to as wide an audience as the quality of their publications undoubtedly often deserves. And it’s also true that the big five publishing companies – themselves usually part of larger, international media conglomerates that own the rights to film and other cultural products – are becoming less and less interested in taking a chance on new ideas or books from new writers or creatives, because those types of books have too high a ‘risk’ element attached for them to make it through the strict algorithms and models that tell them which books to publish in order to make maximum profit. This is why you end up seeing copies of novels that are copies of previously commercially successful novels; it’s why you see sequels and prequels and reboots and spin-offs but hardly any genuinely new stories or ideas from new writers.

Unbound are a company that is trying to recognise the challenges and opportunities of our current situation. I’m genuinely delighted that an award-winning publishing company like them, who have had books short-listed for the Man Booker prize, and an editorial and commissioning team who are experts in what constitutes ‘new and exciting’ books, would think my book has what it takes to make it. I would love to be able to see what their incredible design and production team are able to do with the finished product, but that will only happen with the support of my friends, family, and their friends, and their family.

I could write so much about the other factors at play here – about the role of social media and the internet in our society; about social networks (both real and digital), and the psychological impact different asks and actions have on people’s relationships with one another. I could get into a discursive essay about the origins of crowdfunding (did you know Samuel Pepys crowdfunded the first ever English dictionary?); and how it’s linked, strangely, both with the rise of individualism since Thatcher brought the dawn of neoliberalism into society, but also to the empathetic, altruistic parts of human nature that underpin why I so strongly believe we are better and stronger together than we are divided; and why we so often seek solidarity in collectives rather than hide away in isolation from one another (even if this is what our modern world increasingly forces upon us, while ostensibly bringing us closer together through technology that technically connects us but physically often keeps us apart).

But perhaps that isn’t as important as all that. And what’s really important is that I’m just hoping that somewhere in all this is some of what I’m trying to say that really matters: which is that I’m so grateful to everyone reading this message, and to everyone I’ve met on this crowdfunding journey (a journey that, I’m finding, started long before I ever wrote the book). And I want to say thank you to anyone who has already pledged and thank you to anyone who is going to pledge to support this book. I hope the (admittedly fantastic) rewards you’ll get in return – from dog walks to beautiful art prints – fill you with joy, as Marie Kondo would say.

So thank you; is what this is really all about. Thank you; thank you; thank you. (C) Sam Dodson, 2019 You can find Sam's superb "Philosopher's Dogs", and help to fund further publishing efforts here: https://unbound.com/books/philosophers-dogs/

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