Interview with Bethany Carlson
What drove you to the field of crowdfunding?
I was teaching a Professional Self-Publishing class at WriterHouse in 2013, and one of my students, Stefan Bechtel (Roar of the Heavens, Mr. Hornaday’s War), said, “what about Kickstarter?” I had heard of it, but didn’t know until then that it could be used to fund books. He and I worked together with action bowler Bob Purzycki on a successful Kickstarter campaign for his memoir, then titled Bowling for the Mob. It ended up being picked up for a nice contract by Rodale Press and re-released as Redemption Alley. That was the start of a journey that led to over $160,000 raised for creative projects, many of them books by local authors.
How has the crowdfunding trend affected the literary community?
Crowdfunding is one of the best query letters there is. If you can sell your book before it exists, you can sell it once it’s published. Most books (over 90%) fail to turn a profit, so showing a publisher that you actually sell books can be an attention-grabber. In fact, a crowdfunding site dedicated to books, Publishizer.com, specifically works with authors who have an agent. Authors with successful campaigns receive introductions to traditional publishing houses. Another site, Inkshares, is a publishing company that exclusively funds its books through its own in-house crowdfunding site. And Kickstarter alone has raised over $83MM for publishing projects. Now, the publishing industry as a whole has revenues of approximately $28Bn or so annually, so compared to that, crowdfunding is pretty small – but it’s growing.
Any secrets for staying on track, breaking writer’s block, or staying creative and innovative in your writing?
In my observation it’s very difficult for authors (or really anyone) to wear a creative hat and a business hat at the same time. If you are working on your MS, don’t worry yet about selling it – it can become a depressing mental block. But, if you have a solid draft MS done and it’s time to start selling it, do some kind of ceremony where you’re telling yourself, on a deep level, “I’m going to sell this sucker now”, and switch hats. There’s a key marketing principle, Effective Frequency, that is helpful for authors to know: simply put, a person needs to hear a message seven times to act on it. That means, if you’re selling your book (through crowdfunding or another mechanism), you need to tell your prospective readers seven times about it before they buy it. It’s easy to give up after two or three times (the silence can be so discouraging!), so write down your plan to share your message seven times before you even start. Then just keep slogging through and checking them off one by one so you don’t give up before Effective Frequency has the chance to work for you.
What motivated you to become a board member for WriterHouse?
I want people to get their voices heard in the world. Anything I can do to help make that happen, awesome.
Kafka on the Shore, Haruki Murakami; The Summer Book, Tove Jansson; Hoboes, Mark Wyman; Beatrice and Virgil, Yann Martel; The Sisters Brothers, Patrick deWitt; Out of Africa, Isak Dinesen.
I’m training my CASPCA rescue Jack Russell / Blue Heeler, Dax, in agility. I am a crazy dog mom, so he has his own Facebook page, “Dax the Blue Jack”.