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  • Writer's pictureShawna Reppert

Crowdsource Funding and Cave of Forgotten Dreams

Crowdsource Funding and Cave of Forgotten Dreams

Published August 15, 2013 | By Shawna

A year or so ago, I went to see the movie Cave of Forgotten Dreams. (If you haven’t heard of it, it’s an absolutely stunning documentary on a recently discovered cave filled with generations-worth of Paleolithic art. Go see it. In 3-D if you can manage it. I have chills running down my spine just recalling it.)

One of the first things that came to mind watching it (the very first thing was Oh, WOW. And the third. And the fifth. . .) Ahem, yes. One of the first things that I thought about was that whoever made the images on those cave walls had worked hard at his craft. There was shading, texture, suggestion of depth and movement. No matter how talented you are, learning these things takes time.

Now, remember, these images were painted in a time long before take-out food and cozy brick-and-mortar homes. Human beings spent virtually all their waking hours trying to find something to eat, and trying to avoid being eaten themselves. Yet someone from the tribe was taking time away from these essential pursuits to make art. And music, since bone flutes were found from the same period. And, one could guess, storytelling, though there is no proof from a time so long before written language.

We know very little about the people who used those caves. There is no record of their social structure or economic system. Yet I cannot imagine that, in a time of such bare-bones existence, a single person could devote so much time to developing art unless he or she was supported in some way by the community. Think about it. In a world of little to eat and a lot of chance of being eaten, the community said ‘this is important to us. This is life and death.’

Over the centuries, human societies have come up with many arrangements to support their artists, musicians and storytellers, from the patronage system of the Renaissance to the government grants of the New Deal right through to the raw capitalism of the record labels and traditional publishing houses. All of them had advantages and disadvantages to both the artists and the society.

Now, I have nothing against traditional publishing per se. My debut novel came out with Carina Press and overall it was a pretty good experience. But traditional publishing does have its drawbacks, especially now when many publishers are either looking to fill a certain marketing niche or looking for a novel that will not only give them reasonable sales over a few years, but a novel that will be an instant blockbuster.

The publishers need to make money to stay in business. I understand this. Changes in how books are sold make it harder for them to do this with books that are slow-and-steady sellers rather than instant blockbusters. I understand this too.

But if you’re an avid reader, I’ll bet that you have books that you have read until they fell apart, only to buy a new copy. Books that you have a relationship withthan runs longer and deeper than many marriages. If you’re like me, not all of those books have ever seen the top of a bestseller list.

Not that I have an issue with bestseller lists. I’d like to be on one someday, myself. My point is, not every novel on the bestseller list has merit, and not every novel with merit makes the bestseller list. When you look at traditional publishing, you’re removing things one more step, to books that someone else thinks might make the bestseller list (and may I remind you that many of these someones sent form rejection letters out on the first Harry Potter book.)

To my mind, this is where crowdsource funding comes in. Crowdsource democratizes the publishing process. It allows you, the reader of books, the one who listens to music or looks at art, to have a voice in what you think is worthy of being produced.

Crowdsource isn’t perfect. It is subject to popularity contests and the cult of personality. But given the choice of allowing all publication decisions to be made by an ever-smaller group of New York publishers, I’m glad that other alternatives exist.

I’ve just started my first Kickstarter. It’s still anyone’s guess whether it will fund. I’ve also supported crowdsource projects through Kickstarter and other venues. From the creative side, it’s both thrilling and humbling to see people, some friends , some acquaintances, and some perfect strangers, come together to make your project happen. From the supporter side, it’s empowering and exciting to be part of bringing a book or CD into being.

At the risk of sounding overly mystical, crowdsourcing is a way of connecting with those unknown humans from the dawn of time who though that creating was as important as food and shelter, and essential enough to the community for the community to support.

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