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Update 6/25: Laryssa has not only met but exceeded her goal! Thank you to everyone for your support and sharing. Congratulations to Laryssa and we can’t wait to read her new book!
Laryssa Wirstiuk is a writer and a writing instructor with a dream – she wants to publish her own book. And not just an ebook but an actual paperback. Her goal is to print 1,000 copies in her debut as a fiction writer and she turned to the social phenomenon Kickstarter to seek the funding she needs.
I met Laryssa on Twitter and was inspired by her project. They say the publishing industry is dying. That nobody wants a “book” anymore, what with iPads and Kindles making books instantly accessible (and much easier to tote to the beach).
But as a fellow bibliophile, I’m glad that there are still people like Laryssa who are publishing real paper books to touch, flip through and cozy up with in bed at night. (Have YOU ever tried snuggling up with a Kindle?)
So I wanted to share Laryssa’s story because it shows what you can do with a dream and some determination. I hope it will inspire you to start thinking of new ways to reach your goals.
Interview With Writer Laryssa Wirstiuk
Question: Let’s start with a little background… I know you teach writing as well as write about writing on your blog at www.craftyourdrafts.com. I also noticed that you said you hated English class in high school. How did you end up being a writer?
It’s true – I teach writing now but can empathize with struggling, disinterested students because I didn’t always enjoy writing/English. Though I appreciate and respect those who study English, I don’t like asking questions about a text’s historical and cultural relevance. Instead, I like reading as a writer and asking questions related to craft. Why did the writer choose this syntax and diction? How is the writer able to achieve these effects with language, and how is the writer able to maintain the reader’s attention?
I discovered my interest in writing by accident, through my own casual reading, and I had to wait until college to take craft-related courses. I started writing mostly as a way to deal with teenage angst and because a few teachers told me I had talent. I desperately wanted to be good at something, and that motivating desire, in addition to my love for language, has driven me ever since.
Question: When it comes to language and grammar, do you find that your writing background keeps you on the straight-and-narrow or are you a rule-breaker?
When I’m texting or chatting, I hardly follow any rules. In casual correspondence, I would never judge anyone for grammar usage. However, I definitely judge professional writing. I believe that being able to write well is the ultimate sign of professionalism.
Question: Is there a specific genre or style of writing that you enjoy most?
Poetry was my first love, but character-driven short stories are my passion now.
Question: Your passion drove you to initiate a Kickstarter project to fund the publication of your book “The Prescribed Burn”. Tell me about that.
Since age 17, my dream had been to publish a book in the traditional way: complete a manuscript, find an agent, and sell my book. About six months ago, I edited that dream to include self-publishing.
The decision to self publish was not easy because I was worried everyone – especially my writing peers – would think I had failed at my original dream. However, for the first time in a long time, I’m moving forward rather than spinning my wheels sending letters to literary agents and spending hundreds on writing contests.
As someone who feels uncomfortable asking for money, I was hesitant to launch a Kickstarter campaign. However, my friend Mark, who self publishes comic books for children, had great success with Kickstarter and encouraged me to try it. I set my goal at $5,500, which will cover the cost of printing 1,000 copies of my book.
Now that I’m more familiar with the site, I highly recommend it to anyone trying to fund a creative project; however, project creators should be prepared to spend A LOT of time planning and marketing. The money won’t just fall into your lap.
Question: Will this be the first book you publish?
Yes. I’ve been working on The Prescribed Burn for five years, and it was my graduate school thesis.
Question: You mentioned that someone trying to fund a project should be prepared to spend a lot of time marketing. I first noticed your project when you tweeted about it. What marketing are you doing to get the funding you need?
I don’t consider myself a marketing expert by any means, but I do have some experience. In college, I spent two summers as a publicity intern at Pearson Education (an educational publisher) under one of the best mentors I’ve ever had. She taught me how to write effective press releases and create relationships with a book’s potential audience. I’ve also worked as a marketing coordinator in three very different industries.
In addition to the strategies I list below, I think my years of Facebooking and Tweeting about writing and maintaining my blogs have helped me develop my image and reputation – people in my network know that writing is my passion, and they trust that I will deliver on my promises because I’m so dedicated to my work.
Here are some strategies I’ve used to market my Kickstarter campaign:
- Tweeting about my progress but never @ replying to anyone about my book unless it feels appropriate to mention. In order to keep from looking like a spammer, you have to constantly keep the message fresh.
- Sharing updates on the book’s Facebook page and also on a Facebook event page I created for the Kickstarter campaign. Every day, I change the date of the event to the present day, and all the people I’ve invited receive a notification when I post something new – it’s been very effective at getting people’s attention and calling them to action.
- Sending personalized messages to almost every one of my 800-something Facebook friends. Most people have ignored me, but I’ve been overwhelmed by how many people – even people I haven’t spoken to in years – are eager to support my project.
- Sending an e-mail to about 400 of my contacts (including friends, former and present colleagues, former students, family members, etc.) about two weeks before my Kickstarter campaign and then updating them about once a week.
- Uploading screenshots of my progress on Instagram.
- Sharing a press release with local publications. Two local news outlets published articles about me!
- Pushing myself to attend events I wouldn’t normally attend, meeting new people, and finding ways to introduce the subject of my book.
- Creating a Kickstarter account in advance of my campaign and funding other projects that I liked.
- Setting realistic milestone goals and promising extra rewards if I’m able to meet the goals. I’ve also introduced a refer-a-friend bonus reward. I don’t think that these extra incentives have earned me any new pledges, but I’ll have fun fulfilling the special rewards.
Question: Have you found that any particular marketing strategy yields better results?
Sending a personalized e-mail or Facebook message has absolutely yielded the best results. It also takes the most time. Try to remember at least one fact about the person you’re messaging and work it into the introduction of your message or ask a question. Above all, be genuine.
Question: Other than “asking for money”, what have you found most challenging about getting your project funded?
The greatest challenge for me has been to not obsess. I definitely consider myself to be a workaholic, and when I put my mind to something, I will do absolutely everything in my power to make it happen. However, some parts of the Kickstarter campaign are completely out of my control, and I have trouble accepting that.
Question: Whenever someone asks me to donate, I immediately think, “No way! I can’t afford that.” I bet a lot of people feel the same way and tune out requests like yours. But there’s a wide range of funding amounts on your Kickstarter page and it’s true that every little bit counts. For the sake of people like me who have that knee-jerk reaction, could you tell me the lowest donation amount you’re received so far?
Backers can donate as little as $1, but the lowest pledge I’ve received is $5, which I absolutely appreciate because every dollar really DOES help. I definitely understand what it’s like to ignore people who ask me for money, and that’s why I was hesitant to use Kickstarter in the first place. I’m fine with those who tune me out, but I’m motivated by those who gladly want to help. Raising funds through Kickstarter is great practice – once my book is published, I’m basically going to be asking people for money every time I try to sell a copy.
Question: Would you like to share the highest amount you’ve received? How about the average amount?
Pledges have ranged from $5 to $500. My average pledge amount is $36.26, and the most popular pledge level is $25.
Question: The way Kickstarter works, if you don’t meet your funding goal by a specified deadline, then you get nothing. What will you do if you don’t meet that goal?
I have some money saved but not enough to cover the cost of printing 1,000 books. I have a few options if I don’t meet my goal: 1) take out a loan; 2) publish The Prescribed Burn as an e-book, which doesn’t really require an investment; or 3) continue to save money, which could take a long time. I’m committed to publishing it no matter what.
Question: What advice or encouragement would you give to people who have an idea or a dream and want to get it “kickstarted”?
Commit to doing it and just do it. You have nothing to lose, and the process of setting up a Kickstarter campaign will force you to think about how you want to present yourself to your future audience/customers. It’s an excellent marketing exercise.
Choose a time when you’re not too busy with your full-time job (if you have one) because running a campaign will be your temporary full-time job. Also, spend at least two weeks planning and set a realistic goal based on how many people you know will most likely pledge.
Question: We have so much opportunity to share and help each other in small, simple ways. This is just one example of how a small amount of money, or even a mention or a tweet that may reach the right “ears” so to speak can help support another person’s dream. Could you tell our readers how they can find out more about your project and how they can contribute?
Absolutely! A collection of 15 short stories, The Prescribed Burn follows aspiring young artist Veda through her teens and early twenties as she struggles to find her creative calling and self-acceptance. You can read a sample story at the official website. You can check out my Kickstarter page and pledge. Thank you for your attention and consideration!
Question: I wish you the best of luck with your project and I hope you meet your funding goal. Ralph and I have happily contributed and I’m looking forward to receiving our copy of your new book!
Thank you very much! Your support means a lot to me. As someone who doubts that creativity is valued by our society, I feel encouraged and moved by all the people who have supported me so far.
I hope you’ll check out Laryssa’s project. Even a $1 donation will help her move closer toward her goal (which only has a week and a half to fulfill!) If you can’t donate, then consider sharing this interview or her project page itself with your social networks. Let’s prove that social marketing does work and that if we help each other in small, simple ways, we can all succeed.
Visit Laryssa’s writing website.