The concept of the lone artistic genius, epitomized by Michelangelo, does not apply to the production of modern books. While the author researches, writes and reviews his creation in relative isolation, occasionally depending on colleagues and peers for feedback and input, the real teamwork begins when the book reaches the publisher. In the case of From Marble to Flesh, this team has been larger than usual, taking advantage of technological tools for crowdsourcing, crowdfunding and collaboration. Hundreds of people have contributed to the process, making this book neither solely Victor Coonin’s nor The Florentine’s book, but your book.
Coonin approached The Florentine Press in the summer of 2013 with a goal. He’s a professor of art history and, as academics do, he’d written a book in his field. But rather than approach an academic press, he came to us, saying he doesn’t just want to publish but actually to sell his book. He was convinced that there were more than a few hundred people out there who would want to read the story of Michelangelo’s David in the way that he’s told it. It took no more than a chapter to convince The Florentine editors that he was right.
As we send this book off to press in Florence this month, we’ve exchanged perhaps a thousand emails with Coonin, an American professor who we have never met and only seen once on Skype. We’ve depended on constant communication as well as collaborative and sharing tools like Dropbox and Google Drive to hasten along our project. We’ve scoured the Internet for photos of copies of the David and written emails to tattoo artists. But the bigger innovation has been our dependence on “the crowd” for decisions and funding.
The Florentine boasts a large network of contributors, friends, readers and fans, and we knew we could count on their interest in Michelangelo as well as their help with our project. We first called on them to decide the title for this book, which we had narrowed down to four choices. We sent 100 emails and received as many replies through a Google survey, with an impressive 50% vote for the title we ultimately put on the cover.
We called on our network again when it came to funding. Printing books and newspapers is not a lucrative business, so we needed to diminish the risk of betting on a book that might not sell. We ran a crowdfunding campaign on the online platform Kickstarter to raise enough to cover printing costs for one thousand copies and to test the market’s interest in the topic. Kickstarter projects set an “all-or-nothing” monetary goal that must be reached in order to receive money donated by individuals. While a project is open, people donate any amount to the project in exchange for rewards, which in our case ranged from a thank-you in the book for $5 to a copy of the finished work or a private guided Michelangelo tour of Florence. We had 30 days to raise 5000 dollars. Could we pull it off?
To our delight, we reached our initial target after only 12 days on Kickstarter, and proceeded to collect $7296 from 157 donors. Thanks to this platform, we were able to fund this book dollar by dollar from people who live in the USA and Canada (the vast majority of backers), Italy, Israel, Australia, New Zealand, Great Britain and the Netherlands. Their enthusiastic feedback helped confirm our choices.
A successful crowdfunding campaign is not something to be taken for granted. It takes the world’s interest but it also takes a village to create! To make a convincing video, one of the most important factors for success, we received footage of the author filmed in Memphis, Tennessee by George Smithers, and combined it with new filming and archival material by our videographer, Sandro Nardoni, in Florence. Editing by Federico Lupo in the offices of Flod and The Florentine completed the process. We inundated our sizeable social media community with promotion of the campaign and received hundreds of tweets back. We were also helped along by bloggers who kindly published articles about the book, enabling us to reach an even wider audience.
The result is the work of one author, one intern, two editors, two proofreaders, three graphic designers, four enlightened bosses, five newspapers, eight bloggers, one hundred voters, and one hundred and fifty seven donors. And probably many more…
The book From Marble to Flesh will be out on June 3, 2014, and is currently available for sale on this website.