William Shatner is daring to go where no author has gone before.
The original Star Trek captain is using modern technology—Kickstarter—to fund a campaign to publish and market a new book.
The topic: modern technology, and how those 50 and above can use it to find their way in the workforce.
“There’s a disparity about the age of people over fifty,” Shatner says. “They want more. Of course, they can give more. The problem is that employers are loath to give more until they know what they can get. And until older people can demonstrate what they know—typically with technology—they often cannot get a job.”
In his travels, Shatner has met large numbers of 50-somethings who had lost jobs due to changes in their industry and then reinvented themselves by making use of modern communications technology.
“It’s been extremely exciting,” Shatner says, “to have interviewed people who had extraordinary stories of meandering down this new technological path. These are personal stories of people who had just an iota of courage, which blossomed into opportunity using the magic that these electronic instruments have. That’s what the book is about.”
The book is called Catch Me Up, and the attendant website is www.catchmeup.com.
So far, more than 500 people have committed a total of $40,000 toward Shatner’s Kickstarter campaign, which ends on January 19. According to Kickstarter’s rules, if a fundraiser doesn’t raise the full amount, he gets nothing.
Hence Shatner’s need to find Kickstarter donors to kick in the last $10,000.
“Twenty dollars gets you the book,” Shatner says. “You get a real benefit. It’s a good Christmas gift for your parent or grandparent, because it’s a gift that can turn into a new career.”
In Catch Me Up, Shatner tells the story of a guy behind the counter of a store who sells a large amount of rope to a man with a llama farm. The guy ends up quitting his job and opening up his own llama farm, and making a fortune.
Another interviewee figured out how to make mulch out of rubber in Japan and now makes tons of money importing that mulch into the United States.
“My first thought was to go with a traditional publisher,” Shatner says, “but then it hit me as an inspiration. Why not market the book the same way we were suggesting that readers market themselves?
“Typically, you can raise capital by going to friends, family, or a bank. Today there’s Kickstarter. Since this is a book about using technology to jumpstart your life, why not use Kickstarter to jumpstart the marketing of the book?
“People over 50 are digital immigrants,” Shatner adds. “Younger people are the digital natives. So older people are landing at the digital equivalent of Ellis Island and have to learn a new language, the language of technology. But by making their way through the whole digital world, they have a marvelous adventure in front of them, if only they have the courage to take it.”
Shatner describes the most illuminating moment in technology for him as the time he bought a new car in Philadelphia in advance of a cross-country trip.
“My wife and I had Sirius radio in the car,” Shatner says. “I’ve never had that before, and I was looking forward to exploring the radio.
“But for four days, whenever we saw something interesting, we would ask our iPhone a question about it. That hill, is that where Native Americans sent smoke signals? What’s a smoke signal?
“That Civil War battlefield—what was the cause of that particular battle?
“We were able to summon the whole history of warfare, of reservations, of plants, clouds, windows, tornadoes—it was all an adventure just on the iPhone. That’s the adventure you can have.”
Shatner says that some of modern communications technology was foreshadowed on Star Trek.
“We hinted at all that,” he says. “We would talk out loud to the computer and say, ‘Computer, turn on.’ This was an early example of voice recognition.
“I interviewed Peter Kurzweil for a book a number of years ago. Kurzweil had just invented what he called the fourth edition of computer voice recognition. He explained that I would have to educate the voice recognition system by reading to it for twenty minutes.
“So I did. And then with Kurzweil beside me, I dictated into the device, ‘To whom it may concern.’
“It typed, ‘To whom it may concern.’
“I then dictated, ‘I’m sitting here with a well-known man named Kurzweil.’
“It typed, ‘I’m sitting here with a well-known man named….’
“It wasn’t able to spell the name of its own inventor!
“Kurzweil, sitting next to me, tells me, ‘Say delete.’
“So I say ‘Delete,’ and it types ‘Delete.’
“Kurzweil says, ‘Oh s*#t. Say delete, delete.’
“I do, and it says, ‘Delete, delete, delete.’
“I think his technology has gotten better since then.”
Shatner’s bottom line: If you’re over 50, you have to join the technological revolution, whether you want to or not, because your livelihood depends on it. Now, with Catch Me Up, the Captain himself will show you how.
Michael Levin has also launched a free resource for writers on YouTube. Over 200 videos, with Michael Levin, discussing every aspect of fiction and nonfiction writing and publishing. Visit http://www.BooksAreMyBabies.com for more.
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