The Art of Asking by Amanda Palmer
Published by Grand Central Publishing
Publish Date: November 11, 2014
Find it here: Goodreads / Amazon
Rock star, crowdfunding pioneer, and TED speaker Amanda Palmer knows all about asking. Performing as a living statue in a wedding dress, she wordlessly asked thousands of passersby for their dollars. When she became a singer, songwriter, and musician, she was not afraid to ask her audience to support her as she surfed the crowd (and slept on their couches while touring). And when she left her record label to strike out on her own, she asked her fans to support her in making an album, leading to the world’s most successful music Kickstarter.
Even while Amanda is both celebrated and attacked for her fearlessness in asking for help, she finds that there are important things she cannot ask for-as a musician, as a friend, and as a wife. She learns that she isn’t alone in this, that so many people are afraid to ask for help, and it paralyzes their lives and relationships. In this groundbreaking book, she explores these barriers in her own life and in the lives of those around her, and discovers the emotional, philosophical, and practical aspects of THE ART OF ASKING.
Part manifesto, part revelation, this is the story of an artist struggling with the new rules of exchange in the twenty-first century, both on and off the Internet. THE ART OF ASKING will inspire readers to rethink their own ideas about asking, giving, art, and love. (Goodreads)
My Thoughts: I finished this book a few days ago but I can’t stop thinking about it, which usually tells me that I have a new favorite for my shelves. I only found Amanda Palmer a few years ago after hearing her husband speak – he mentioned her in his talk. I began reading her blog, and following her antics including the Kickstarter that changed music, her TED Talk, etc. I love some of the things that Amanda says – I think she is super-positive and energizing and I’ve always enjoyed reading her thoughts.
It was on a whim while on vacation that I downloaded this book and began reading – I couldn’t stop reading, actually. I thought I’d learn a thing or two about how Amanda used crowdsourcing to change music a little bit…but I got SO MUCH MORE from this book, and now I want my own paper copy for my shelves so I can underline and circle and highlight and write in the margins.
In The Art of Asking, Amanda Palmer gives us insight into her life, her process actually. Things like: how she started working a job that isn’t really that “normal” after graduating college and learned so much from it, and this propelled her into this amazing life that isn’t exactly ordinary. She gives us plenty of her good experiences in her book, but she is also honest enough to share what hasn’t worked for her, what were her fears, her insecurities, things like that. I appreciate the transparency of this book so much. I think that one of her main messages is that she arrived to the place she is at present largely because she allowed herself to rely on other people – her community – because she is as close to them as possible, and also honest and personal, by way of the internet. The relationship she has made with her fans and online community has allowed her to be as physically close to her fanbase as she can be, which is what she really seems to want as much as anything as a good artist, and her experiences with fan-interactions is very entertaining and encouraging to those of us that really enjoy interacting with artists that we support and admire.
Amanda talks about the criticism she has received, mostly online, when doing things like couch-surfing and asking for the things that she needs, mostly online. This is very interesting, because I think it is always easy to criticize other people behind a computer and I wonder if so many people would criticize what she has been doing if they talked to her face-to-face and heard her thoughts and ideas? Probably not.
“Asking” seems like such a simple concept when you take the time to listen to her story: when you make yourself vulnerable to people and ASK them for things that you need or want, most of the time people come through because people genuinely want to help one another. People want to see others and be seen, to trust and be trusted. People want to be part of the solution to a problem. People love art and don’t mind paying for it.
One of the best things about The Art of Asking is not necessarily the story of how Amanda Palmer launched this wildly successful Kickstarter campaign to crowdsource an album and changed music forever, but how she interjected bits and pieces of her life into the story. I was sucked into the little pieces of Amanda throughout the story. For someone that is a rock star, she seems like someone that is very down-to-earth and so human, and I just love that. She also shared these great little interactions herself and Neil Gaiman, which felt like such a treat to those of us who are fans of the both of them. The exchanges between Amanda and her friend Anthony are like giant hugs. Immediately when I finished the book, I opened her music and listened again to her TED Talk, which I had already heard before. But this book is still with me.
It’s just a great memoir. It’s a great story. Oftentimes books like these are only a little bit okay to me; they’re great for super-fans of the subject and sometimes even poorly written. But this book isn’t that. I got so much more from this than I expected and I’m kind of fangirling this book so hard, days after finishing it. Not because I’m an uber-fan, and please don’t take that wrong. But because it’s a dang good book and I like it what says in there. I think that I’d like to have tea or coffee with Amanda one day and I would certainly like to see her perform live.
I recommend The Art of Asking by Amanda Palmer for people that are interested in the music industry, people that are interested in making art or doing a job that they enjoy to the fullest, and people that enjoy human-interest stories. Actually, I recommend this one to anyone. This is definitely on my favorites list for this year.
Amanda Palmer ( & Neil Gaiman)
This book was WAY more incredible than I could have imagined.