Sorry, Charlie: My first Kickstarter project

Sorry, Charlie cover


Sorry, Charlie on Kickstarter


A year ago, I almost pulled the trigger on a T-shirt project for Kickstarter. Almost. I got the first 15 or so shirts printed, wrote the text for my project down, and had everything going except the video. Then life happened.


I did, during that time, find out that it’s not impossible to self-publish your own book. I self-published Sorry, Charlie on Amazon, made it available for paperback through Createspace, and then placed it on for the Nook. So I dropped the ball on one thing, but picked it up on the other. I am also looking into getting an accountant to handle all the money I made last year from Sorry, Charlie. $41. That’s my age, by the way, which if there is any correlation there, by the time I’m 80, I’ll be doubling my take. Sweet. But the point is, it made me happy and I proved to myself that I could do something.


Of course, after I published it I realized that about 1000 people a day can do the same thing. I didn’t have a marketing campaign, and so the book got buried under a mountain of digital siblings. After writing the first 100 or so pages of my next novel, The Village, I have launched my first Kickstarter campaign. It’s still not the T-shirts. It’s a follow up to my novella Sorry, Charlie.


I had originally self-edited (never do this). And was creating my own book cover (never do this). Then I had two friends chip in who knew what they were doing. Jerson Campos created an awesome book cover and Bonnie Roberts edited the book. Huge, huge difference in the final product. Get people who do this for a living to perform these two services. Even if you are good at editing, you’re too close to your literary neonate. People don’t look at their newborns and say, “Wow, now that is an ugly baby!” Find people who will tell you that you have an ugly baby.


My very first Kickstarter project is to help these guys. One of them did their thing for free, and the other one did theirs for close to free. You know how it is when friends ask you for crap. You feel guilty charging them what you need to. This will hopefully put a little change in their pockets.


When this project is over, I’m going to launch the T-shirt project. Then a simpler one to spread a little love. Then one for my next novel The Village, so I can pay these guys up front next time.


I did my prep work. I watched other people come and go on Kickstarter. I watched what the successful ones did and I watched what the unsuccessful ones did. I read Don Steinberg’s The Kickstarter Handbook: Real-Life Crowdfunding Success Stories. I read the guidelines and helpful hints from the Kickstarter site itself. I took special care with my rewards. I wrote my story down. I shot my video. About 70 or so takes, I think. I upgraded to Amazon payments for business and verified all my information. I put in pictures of Bonnie and Jerson so backers could see the people they’re helping. Then I did what I believe to be the most important thing so far.


I got feedback. I used the preview link and let other people scour the project. I ended up taking out something that might not have come off as humorous as I had intended if you didn’t know me to begin with. I replaced it with something a little more gracious sounding. I changed a couple of rewards so they clearly stated that they included the rewards from smaller donation levels. I removed a comment referring to something that no longer existed in the video. Again, I stepped back and let people look at my wretched little newborn.


Then I clicked the Submit button and stared at the screen for a day and a half until Kickstarter approved it. Then I published it. Put my fragile ego, I mean infant project, out there with its eggshell crust for everyone to see. I’m hoping that they love him and hug him and call him George.


I published it on February 20, 2013 at 4:52 p.m. and got my first backer that night at exactly 1:20 a.m. Not that I was staring at the screen for 8 hours and 28 minutes straight. That would be creepy.


I’m going to go blink now.




Jang Scissorhands

I grew up a 5 dollar haircut kind of guy.  For a long time, that’s all I would pay for haircuts.  Then when I got a little older, I began to go to the more upscale boutiques.  The kind that charge 17 bucks for a regular cut.  Why?  For the same reason that every other guy does.  They always have those 20 something hot chicks.  Some with big boobs.  Young, hot, and big boobs.  And if you are lucky, maybe they have to lean over on you a little to get that one piece of hair.  And I don’t know of any other legal way, non-divorce causing way, to have a young, hot girl lay one of her boobs on your shoulder for a second while she plays with your hair.  And it’s much, much cheaper than the strip clubs.


I know what you’re thinking.  Dirty old man.  And you’re absolutely correct.  But there is something that transcends the 5 bucks and the shoulder boob.  Every barber shop and boutique I’ve ever been in operates the same way.  Time is money.  Like the old time scribes, they get paid per job.  And so like the old time scribes, they rush you through the process and end up with some misprints or lopsided bangs.  If you’ve ever crawled out of a Wal-Mart shop looking like Scotty Don’t, then you understand the prolonged mental agony of having to watch your mangled hair slowly repair itself over a couple months.  You have to say goodbye to first impressions and deal with people who try to not stare at the side of your head while they talk to you.  You become another casualty of this manic, impersonal production-like process.  Suddenly that 17 bucks doesn’t sound so wonderful.  Of course, you can get your hair mangled for less, and I have.  But it’s much less humiliating to get hair-raped for 5 bucks instead of 17.  It’s barberism.  Sorry, I couldn’t resist.


So when you finally find someone who gets it right, you stick with that person.  After I lost my job last year and had to move home, I drove all the way here to get my hair cut.  People who have had their follicles violated understand.  That’s why, even though I am happily married, I have established a relationship with another woman.  Her name is Jang.


Jang has two degrees.  Literature and Art.  She has gone to school, but says she really learned how to cut hair by applying her artistic skills to the process.  And she is a good artist.  This makes her, in my mind, the Ms. Miyagi of barbering.  It’s like something you would see in a Jackie Chan or Jet Li movie.  Like when they read their adversary’s calligraphy to deduce what their fighting style will be.  I’ve never really thought about it, but I like the philosophy here.  Instead of someone blowing through beauty school and then working their production line process in the same stale pattern as everyone else, Jang has taken the foundational knowledge necessary and then applied her artistic philosophy.  It works.


For starters, there’s no rushing you out of the seat.  It takes as long as it takes.  At some of her older jobs, when she was working for the Man, that presented a problem.  The Man wanted to maximize profits.  Jang wanted a happy customer.  Those two don’t usually go together.  But Jang has her own place now.  No rushing.  As a result, I am automatically calmer as soon as I walk in the door.  There is classical music playing, but it’s not the pretentious kind or the kitschy elevator jingles.  It’s just soothing.  There are smiles and she asks how the kids are doing.  But she actually wants to know.  It’s not just banter.  It’s sincerity.  Then she begins.


It’s here where things get fuzzy.  Time slows and folds in on itself and there is happiness all around me.  It’s very Zen.  I am calm like a glassy lake in the early morning.  I can hear the ocean.  I open my eyes and my wife is staring at me with a knowing smile.  She recognizes my barbershop bliss.  It’s funny, but wonderful.


When I leave the Lily Flagg Barber Shop, I know I have cheated on my wife.  At least it feels like it.  And I will do it again and again in the coming months.  And it won’t cost me 17 bucks.  And I can do without the boob on my shoulder.