I have performed readings for rows and rows of empty card chairs. I have sat in a bookstore signing, next to a life-size cardboard cutout of myself, equipped with stacks of my opus and a boxful of virgin Sharpies, unautographing for three solid hours.
Once, appearing on "Good Morning, Kansas City," my segment was cut to 90 seconds because the previous guest -- a urologist demonstrating a penile vacuum pump -- went long. There's probably a metaphor in there somewhere. You find it; I’m still busy cringing.
At a gigantic Barnes & Noble, I once was given prime real estate at the top of the escalator. That time I did not go unmolested. For the entirety of my two-hour slot, I directed curious shoppers to children’s literature and the restrooms. This was in my hometown. (It wasn't a total loss. I got free coffee and a good deal on The Deptford Trilogy.)
The point being that I have known my share of rejection. I have felt the steady dull ache of Indifference. Oh yes, I have been remaindered. But nothing prepared me for this:
That's the crowdfunding site, where venture capital has been democratized and entrepreneurs can take their hopes and dreams directly to the people. Sequoia Capital and Bank of America are all well and good, but to pitch on Kickstarter is to be evaluated not by some rich Silicon Valley kingmaker in a work shirt and chinos, but by your peers. Your peeps. Your very marketplace.
So I totally have a project going there, and never mind what. It's a media thing that, if funded, will perhaps do big things for things that need big things done for them. My partner and I have launched it on Kickstarter to raise a modest sum of money, but also to coalesce a community of likeminded people -- people who agree that the thing we are proposing has the enduring cultural value that they wish to share with the world.
The exercise, in other words, is far less project than mission. There is some reputational and career capital at stake, sure -- but mainly heart and soul. It’s our contribution. Our brainchild. Our baby. But here’s the thing: Evidently 8 billion people -- less 32 -- think we have an ugly baby. After 3 days of public display, the entire world has donated $2,420.
First of all, to the 32, thank you, deeply. You have been generous and affirming. We are endlessly grateful. We are also, however, slightly short of our goal. $36,080 short, to be exact.
Book authors know the experience of compulsively clicking on Amazon to monitor sales ranking. I’ve done it myself, notwithstanding the essential pathos of the exercise. But for pure, excruciating humility, I submit there is nothing quite like returning hour after hour to a Kickstarter page and see the total unmoved. You log on to see the numbers escalate wildly like those billboards of the national debt.
What you see instead is Planck’s Constant.
Is the idea that stupid? Am I that unattractive? Are the heroic 32 that wrong?
Should I have worn a necktie? Is it my breath?
Once again, rejection is no stranger to me. I’ve had my country song rejected in Nashville, my screenplay rejected in Hollywood, my astronaut application rejected by NASA. I once pitched New York Magazine on a story about the cultural history of lox. It was rejected. The reason? “Too New York Magazine.” But a simple yes or no -- okay, a simple no -- leaves some room for rationalization and even righteous sour grapes.
But Kickstarter is a capital marketplace, and by definition, how it values your idea is how much, to the penny, it is worth. You know that scene from "Groundhog Day" where Chris Elliott is put up for bid at a bachelor auction and goes for the reserve price of 25 cents? I feel his pain. Of course, his agony lasted only 2 ½ minutes. I have another 27 days to go.