Sunday, July 30, 2017

Launching a Patreon

I like to joke that I have two full time jobs and neither one of them pays very much. (You know, the kind of joke when laughter always seems to be right on the edge of tears. That kind.) I'm a bookseller at an independent bookstore and a writer. I could talk for a long time about how and why our contemporary economy acts the way it does, why it values what it values, and why, say, our nation's greatest primary care doctors make less money than mediocre investment bankers, but that would be a very long way to say that, among many other valuable professions and vocations, the structure of our formal economy does not pay booksellers and writers very well. This presents one set of challenges when you're 24 and getting your shit together, but an entirely different set of challenges when you're 37 and trying to figure out how to sustain and protect the shit you got together. I have been both privileged and lucky to actually publish a book with a fantastic small press, to work for a store that values me and understands the financial limitations of working in a bookstore, and to have a partner that is willing to work at less satisfying but higher paying jobs to make up the gap. I have been very fortunate, but the result of that fortune doesn't include a retirement fund, much flexibility or long term stability and it doesn't provide contingency options if something drastic happens in my life, either bad (drastically changing housing costs) or good (my partner who is also an artist and really and truly kicks ass gets an opportunity to work in the arts, crafts, in a brewery, or something that doesn't make up the gap). Since it is important to ask for what you need, even if you might not get it, I am launching a Patreon and asking for your support.

You'll support my writing, including my blog posts here, essays, criticism, poetry and stories published elsewhere (like this recent piece on resistance and The Curfew), as well as the works that will (I hope) become my future books and any other projects, performances, and events I might write, organize, and contribute to.

You'll also support my work as a bookseller where I've made a commitment to advocate for small and independent presses, works in translation, experimental works, works that make people uncomfortable, works that challenge readers, works that are entertaining but don't have the publicity budget to get in front of your eyes; in short, the great books being written and published that deserve to be read and loved by readers but that don't get in front of readers any other way. In my time at PSB, I've advocated for authors like Valeria Luiselli, Renee Gladman, Victor LaValle, Kevin Young, Patricia Lockwood, Mary Rueffle, Yuri Herrera, Maggie Nelson, Robin Coste Lewis, Ananda Devi, Bhanu Kapil and a whole bunch of other authors you should be reading right now.

So what do patrons get as a thank you? All patrons will get access to capsule reviews of pretty much every book I read. (I'll make the first few public to give you a sense of what those reviews will look like.) Once I reach my goal of $500 a month, patrons at $5 a month and up will get an exclusive newsletter with longer considerations on books, politics, and the world as well as first looks at my writing projects slated for publication. (Scroll back through this blog to get a sense of what you might get in a newsletter.) Patrons at $10 a month and up will also get one personalized book recommendation a month. Yep, once a month, these patrons will be able to message me with what they're looking to read and/or give and get a personal recommendation. If you don't live in the metro-Cambridge area it's the closest you can get to visiting me at the store. (In some ways, it'll be even better, because I'll have the chance to do a little research.) Finally, patrons at $20 will get all that other stuff plus the occasional free book from my (sadly) finite shelves.

Thank you in advance if you end up becoming a patron, but also, thank you if you read my blog and other work, and also thank you if you read my book, and extra special thank you if you recommend it to other people. If you're one of my publishing friends, thank you for all the books you've sent me over the years and for helping bring new books into the world, even though publishing doesn't pay well either. If you're one of my bookseller friends, thank you for all of the work you do helping to keep a vital aspect of human culture afloat in our economy. If you're one of my writer friends, thank you for continuing to write. It often feels like we're shouting into a void, but we are not.

Finally, I understand, for whatever reason, you might not want to become my patron. That's cool. There is no shortage of people doing great work who deserve your support in some form or another. You can't ask if you're not ready to accept “No.” (And as a writer who still gets way more rejections than acceptances, I've built up a pretty thick skin.) But if books are important to you and writing is important to you, then even if you decide not to support me, go out to an independent bookstore (or visit one online) ask for a recommendation from the bookseller and buy a book by someone you've never heard of. Do this once a month. Do this once a quarter. Do this every year for your cool friend's birthday. Do this at whatever capacity you can. Writing a book is a series of small acts stacked on top of each other, one word at a time, and keeping the book world thriving works the same way; small acts, spread out among readers, adding fuel to one of the fundamental engines of human culture.

Support my Patreon here.

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