The Kickstarter campaign is ending, but the new ‘Walden’ will live on.
Henry and I are not finished — not by a long shot.
During the past thirty days, I’ve been living in a public fishbowl: a Kickstarter project to fund a new hardcover edition of Thoreau’s Walden. It’s been one of the most intense months of my life, full of high highs and low lows. Through it all, the messages of support and encouragement from backers have sustained me. I am touched by their desire to see this book come to life.
Sadly, with the campaign down to hours and minutes and only 27% of our budget raised, we will not get anywhere near the fundraising goal.
That’s the (depressing, heartbreaking) bad news. But there’s a silver lining.
My friends and family know that though I feel things deeply — indeed, life hits me at a visceral level — I am not easily deterred once I’ve found a mission. As I write these words I am exhausted and dispirited, but not broken. For me, this project was a bid for a career shift to full-time publishing. It didn’t work out as I’d hoped, but I’m not about to give up. I still believe that preserving great books for posterity is a calling worthy of my best hours.
I still want to produce this edition, and I believe there’s another way we can make that happen.
One thing this campaign has shown is that there is a very enthusiastic audience for this book. Yes, we’re far short of the fundraising goal, but the pledges to date would pay for about 500 books: halfway to 1,000, a respectable number for a limited edition. With a reduction in some of our hard costs, a smaller print run is now possible. Over the coming months, I believe we can fill an order for 1,000 books.
After a short rest (read: after I’ve peeled myself off the basement floor), I will return to working full time as a design consultant. Within the coming months, I will launch a pre-order website for the new Walden. After that, I’ll chip away at the design and annotation work. It will take longer than we initially planned, but I’m as determined as ever to see this project through to completion. As soon as I have orders for at least 1,000 books, I’ll notify the printer and start the production process.
The new completion target is summer 2017, just in time for Henry’s 200th birthday.
It was recently announced that Penguin plans to publish a Thoreau bicentennial edition of Walden shortly before mine. Theirs is a revival of Houghton Mifflin’s 1902 illustrated edition, and from what I can tell it will not be annotated, nor will it include new artwork. So there’s room on the shelf for both of these new versions.
Once the pre-order website is live, Kickstarter backers will be the first to know, followed by folks who follow me on Medium and other social media. In addition to the hardcover book and PDF, I will offer an ultra-limited slipcased edition. The slipcase will be simple, sturdy, and clothbound to match the book’s cover.
To any backers who read this, and the many people who have tweeted, commented, or emailed with words of delight, encouragement, and constructive criticism: thank you for your support, wisdom, and enthusiasm thus far. It means the world to me and my team.
For now, I’ll sign off with a few words from Thoreau, found in Walden’s last chapter:
“I learned this, at least, by my experiment: that if one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours. He will put some things behind, will pass an invisible boundary; new, universal, and more liberal laws will begin to establish themselves around and within him; or the old laws be expanded, and interpreted in his favor in a more liberal sense, and he will live with the license of a higher order of beings. In proportion as he simplifies his life, the laws of the universe will appear less complex, and solitude will not be solitude, nor poverty poverty, nor weakness weakness. If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put the foundations under them.”
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