2014-11-24 08:00:00

William Shatner explores new worlds of self-publishing and Kickstarter | Self-publishing

He has battled the Klingons and boldly gone where no man has gone before as Captain James T Kirk of the USS Enterprise, but now William Shatner is taking on a new mission: conquering the world of self-publishing with his new book, a guide to reinventing yourself for the over-fifties.

Shatner has turned to Kickstarter to raise the $50,000 (£32,000) he needs to release Catch Me Up, and just a few days in, the actor has already brought in donations of more than $15,000. The book will be a combination of stories Shatner has collected from people “who had been laid off, lost careers, had been downsized and replaced by younger people with more tech skills; but who actually fought back and won”, alongside “the vital tools and training needed to accomplish great things at any age”, he explains on his Kickstarter.

“I’ve been unemployed over 400 times in my life. I’ve had to reinvent myself over and over to get hired by TV shows, movie producers, and even by Priceline.com when I was 60+ years old,” the veteran actor tells potential backers. “I have another confession. Until just recently I HATED new technology. My ‘smart’ phone made me feel stupid. My grandkids had to show me how to use Facebook. I even refused to have an email account. You know what I found out? Without this know-how, I was becoming irrelevant … and a guy like me can’t afford to be irrelevant. So I did something about it.”

The book, said Shatner, is about two things: “achieving great things in your life at any age,” and “how to leverage the new technology around us today to do anything you want, at warp speed”. Pledging $10 brings a digital version of the book as its reward, $2,000 will result in a “personal handwritten note (suitable for framing) from the Captain himself” along with copies of the book, while $10,000 gives “your very own table for you and five friends at the William Shatner Charity Gala”.

“People over 50 have been pretty beat up lately with downsizing, a slumping economy, and so many changes in the way things work. That’s why I wrote this new book Catch Me Up,” said Shatner.

The actor has previously published books including a memoir, Up Till Now, Get a Life!, an analysis of Star Trek fandom, and Star Trek novels, all through mainstream publishers. Catch Me Up is his first project on Kickstarter.

“This book and the website are labours of love. I really believe it can give hope, skills, and even community to a portion of our population that really needs it right now. Frankly, lofty goals like this are not that appealing to big publishers. Going the traditional route would’ve required a number of sacrifices including a change in the overall message. So I’ve decided to take a page from my own book, so to speak, and use crowd-sourcing to fund this project,” said the author. “Through Kickstarter, I can preserve the integrity of this movement and give you, my backers, the chance to be a significant part of my cherished project.”

His decision comes as crowd-sourcing becomes a growing movement in the literary world. Award-winning Irish novelist Julian Gough recently raised $8,676 – well over his $1,500 goal – for his Kickstarter project asking for funds to finance a research trip to Las Vegas (backers could receive a postcard with a bullet hole in it). Author and academic Will Brooker, meanwhile, beat his target of $8,500 by more than $1,500 to fund his feminist comic My So-Called Secret Identity – which comes with a fully-clothed, super-smart heroine.

UK publisher Unbound, meanwhile, has made crowd-funding into its business model, funding and publishing 42 books with help from its backers since it launched in 2011. The publisher was founded by QI’s John Mitchinson and Justin Pollard and Crap Towns author Dan Kieran, and counts amongst its successes Letters of Note, a bestseller, and The Wake by Paul Kingsnorth, which was longlisted for the Man Booker, shortlisted for the Goldsmiths Prize and won the Gordon Burn prize.

Josh Spero is one of the authors currently looking for supporters on Unbound, for his book Second Hand Stories, an account of his attempts to track down the previous owners of his secondhand books. “Tom Dunbabin was a Classics scholar who became a spy, leading the resistance against the Germans in Crete in the second world war,” writes Spero on Unbound’s website. “Peter Levi was a poet and a priest who fell in love with a friend’s wife while at the same time subverting Greece’s military dictatorship. Belinda Dennis was a contrary Latin teacher and Emilie Vleminckx a contrary Latin student. And James Naylor was a boy I loved.”

Spero said that he is looking to raise £17,000, and is already 37% of the way there, with large donations of around £2,000 set to come in in the next few days. “The reason I went with Unbound is two-fold,” said the author. “First, I got rejected by every other publisher I applied to. I got told they wouldn’t know where to put it in Waterstones, that it would be so hard to sell, that it wasn’t commercial. I said it doesn’t have to be commercial, it has to be interesting. So that was the first reason – that I got rejected by unimaginative publishers. But luckily, Unbound is bold and imaginative and willing to take risks on things they believe in.”

Rachael Kerr at Unbound said the publisher currently has around 45 books in the funding stage, and “lots more in the pipeline”. Backers all receive a copy of the book, and further rewards depending on how much is pledged.

“On average, to print a hardback novel or non-fiction title without illustrations, the target level would be about £14,000.  Obviously if we print in paperback that goes down significantly, or if the title requires colour printing it goes up,” said Kerr.

“We are currently launching about four or five projects a month. We’ve also recently launched a campaign to encourage more submissions from women – we noticed that only a third of our submissions came from women and decided to do something about it,” she added. “Since launching Women in Print earlier this month, we’ve had a 400% increase in submissions – of all the titles submitted by women during November, the best three will be launched onto the site early in the new year.”

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