TRUMP SONNETS: A BRIEF HISTORY
Where to start?
In this case with Donald Trump, of course. Trump Sonnets, Volume 1 and Trump Sonnets, Volume 2 have both had very positive response from people who've seen them. I started writing poems about him the day after the 2016 election, and haven't stopped. Tacking a Volume 1 at the end of the title of the first one felt like a joke then. But now that I've also written and had published Volume 2, and have completed writing Volume 3, some friends have already asked about Volume 4. So it's no longer a joke. And when people stop and read or hear a few of the poems, I've never had anything easier to sell or that felt more crucial.
Alas, what's lacking has been the critical attention that gets the books into more people's hands like you. The publisher at Ridgeway Press and I have both tried--and the books have national distribution--and I've even written an essay, "Donald Trump is My Muse" to go along with the review copies. That essay led to the project's well-received stage show. But Trump is both everywhere and taboo, challenging and exhausting. Except for a few happy exceptions, reviewers and booksellers have chosen to ignore the project even though these are my ninth, tenth, and eleventh books, and I have a life as a musician where I've released nine CDs and tour nationally (and occasionally internationally), so presumably have a platform to do justice to this work. But so far the publisher and I have had to do most of this ourselves--and we're both already super-busy in various ways. So instead of going top down, we can go bottom up here. That means if you're reading this, you can help. That's what this is all about.
WHAT YOU CAN DO WITH THESE BOOKS
The poems are a fun, worthy antidote to these perilous times. Writing them has been a calling--the material chose me, and hasn't let go yet. Various people have told me that their kids have liked the poems, or their parents have liked the poems, or they themselves have liked the poems. Some have given the books to family or friends. Others have left them in the bathroom to read there. At least one university professor has assigned Volume 1 for an upcoming fall semester Creative Writing class. I say it's all good!
Since more than half of the poems in the first two collections are in Donald Trump's voice, I've even sold the odd copy to Trump supporters who've heard me read one of those. "It's satire," I say. "You're not going to like the book." But they've told me they like the poems in his voice. My feeling is if by reading these poems they begin thinking more critically, I'm doing something special.
THIS NEW BOOK (THIS NEW PROJECT)
Naturally, the new book is titled Trump Sonnets, Volume 3, and has 78 poems from 69 countries. I've written the poems. The publisher has agreed to publish them. We still have to have the manuscript properly formatted, designed, and manufactured, and then the publisher and I will be all set to market it. All that costs money.
With the publishers of my first seven books, I've had to buy copies at 40% or 50% of the retail price. It's expensive to buy a few hundred, but having the books has enabled me to do the marketing I need to. Fortunately, I don't have to do that here with this series. Instead, the publisher has agreed to let me invest in the actual manufacturing, and to then let me receive most of the books. That way I can promote the book more vigorously. But of course that means I'm also investing in all aspects of the project, from the design of the book, to the manufacturing, even to making the video that's above--it's a simple video, yes, but it didn't just happen by itself. That, too, cost money.
So while the books will get published somehow--that's part of my life as an engaged citizen--the publisher is not independently wealthy, nor am I. Having support here means that in addition to manufacturing books and sending them to backers, we can try once again with reviewers. (I recently spoke with a well-established book critic who enjoyed the first two books, currently has no forum through which to review them, but passed along the name of someone at The New York Times, who she thought ought to be interested--and wished me luck.)
SOME OF WHAT'S COMING UP
I only mean to say that this is a process. If additional funding comes in, I'd continue to get the book out where I can. I'd also launch a dedicated trumpsonnets.com website, and help my publisher update his website, which he's been unable to do in the year and a half since these books have come out. (And while I'd love for my books to be featured prominently on that website, if I'd have pursued a more traditional and established publisher, I'd almost certainly still be waiting to have the first book of this series published instead of having two already in print, and preparing for the third. There are always trade-offs. Always.)
Saturday, August 18 I'm performing at the Long Center in Austin, where I'll be joined by musician and visual artist, Tim Kerr, by my long-time Austin friend, Jerry Hagins, and by special guests (including perhaps the wonderful Beth Chrisman). Take a look below at excerpts from a July 2, 2017 Austin event at Malvern Books (where I'm joined for parts of it by Jerry and Beth). The plan is to have this book manufactured by mid-August, 2018--even if it won't officially be released until January 2019. Please help make this happen.
Risks and challenges
KEN WALDMAN, CONTRARIAN
I'm a contrarian, especially when it comes to most anything technological. I'll always be a late adapter (if I adapt at all). I was late to using email, late to having a website, and late to owning a cell phone--and now get laughs when I show my little flip phone. When I did finally begin using email (and grew dependent on the internet), I was late to owning a laptop with Wi-Fi, and for years used public computers while on tour.
But the true creative work--at least my true creative work--is outside of all that. The technology is a helpful tool I'll integrate as I will. And Kickstarter looks to be one more helpful tool.
So, while I've been mulling the pros and cons of Kickstarter vs. various other crowdfunding sites for months now, and have read that to succeed I'm supposed to engage people by social media, I'll do it my way here. I've never been on Twitter or Instagram. And while I have a Facebook account, I don't post or read posts. A few times a year I'll log on to Facebook when I want to try to reach someone I can't reach otherwise, and write them directly. It rarely gets the desired result, but at least it's an option. I have nothing against other people using Facebook--and when someone wants to post something on my behalf, that's okay too. In fact, I encourage it.
Still, I prefer to write to people individually and directly, whether by email or by postal mail. I also go to a lot of conferences and festivals, see people there, and pass along information that way. It's not the most efficient way to communicate in this era, but it makes sense for me. I believe in the written word and I believe in community. Ultimately, it's one more reason why I write books.
Kickstarter allows me to put this into practice, even if I'm doing this contrary to how others seem to do this.
YES, KEN WALDMAN, CONTRARIAN
So, while I've also read and reread that 30 days is the sweet spot in length for one of these campaigns, and that it's important to clear out a schedule to make this crowdfunding the most important thing during that time, I'll be doing what I'm always doing. That means juggling everything else that needs doing over these weeks. What can I say? The rest of my life isn't stopping. I recently learned my rental is ending, so I'm having to move--always a big undertaking. Plus I'm doing a few shows, attending a conference and a festival, and am doing the daily chores that keep my business going. This Kickstarter project may be special and new, but it's also one more thing I'll have to fit in.
Contrarian? I launched this as soon as I was able in mid-May and will end it on July 4th, which somehow seems appropriate. I've met a lot of people over the years, have plenty of friends, and will reach out to people as I can. I've already let people know about this, and will continue to do so throughout the length of the campaign. Of course, there's never a guarantee a single person will respond once it goes live (although enough people have already responded positively that I'm optimistic here). But there's never a guarantee in anything I do. What's in my control is, first, doing the best work I can, then, second, letting people properly know about it, and then, third, accepting what help and support come my way.
I've been doing this kind of work a long time. Turning the new poems into a book is business as usual. The timeline won't be a problem if we get the funding. What's special is seeing how people respond to this particular work in this particular forum.
A last thing. While I'm grateful that a company like Kickstarter exists to allow me to do this, I've already experienced some of the company's limitations. A few weeks ago I reached out directly to a Kickstarter representative about this potential campaign, and didn't get a response. This past week I wrote to Kickstarter support for what seemed a basic question. Five days later I've yet to receive a satisfying answer, so am having to work around that specific issue. Whether these interactions are unusual or usual, I can't say. But they also tell me that I'm on my own with much of this. I'll do what I can within Kickstarter's system.
At least Kickstarter looks better than the alternatives. The information on Campus has been invaluable. Plus, I've studied various campaigns. I may be a contrarian, but I do my homework, play by the rules, and strive to be flexible (despite my sometimes maddening 20th century ways).
In the end, I'm excited to have written this book and to let you all know about it. Every one of you can help me not only bring this into the world, but also to help me make the most of the opportunity.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
- (50 days)