At Oneshi Press, we’re huge fans of Kickstarter. And a huge part of our experience with the platform that enables us to publish to a wide audience is Oriana Leckert. She’s Kickstarter’s Director of Publishing & Comics Outreach, and she’s been a huge help to us and countless others in indie publishing. We reached out to Oriana to talk about what her job entails and what she does for Kickstarter and for the creators who use the platform, as well as what she gets up to when she’s not helping us Kickstart our comics.
Thank you so much for your time, Oriana. You’re in an interesting role as Director of Publishing & Comics Outreach for Kickstarter. Can you tell us what your job entails?
Broadly, my job is to be out in the world of my categories (publishing, comics, and journalism), helping people better understand how Kickstarter works and whether they’d want to use it, and then helping to set them up for success if they decide they do.
I usually describe my job as having three parts: publishing industry expert, crowdfunding strategic consultant, and cheerleader. I do everything from speaking on panels at conventions to organizing the publishing creator tips page to coordinating the @KickstarterRead Twitter to talking to dozens and dozens and dozens of writers, artists, publishers, journalists, and anyone else in the literary world.
How did you come to work for Kickstarter in your current role? What’s your background like?
My career has been half traditional publishing and half digital media. I started at Random House a million years ago; I’ve been a matchmaker for ghostwriters, a fact-checker for a book packager, a copyeditor for MTV News, an editor-at-large for Hyperallergic, a freelance editor for hundreds of presses and websites, and a cultural journalist with bylines from Vice, Atlas Obscura, Artsy, Gothamist, the New York Post, and a whole bunch more. I also wrote a book that grew out of a multi-year reporting project on under-the-radar and DIY cultural spaces across Brooklyn and New York City.
I like to think that each of those has contributed something to my broad understanding of the literary landscape and how to build community within it.
What are some of your favorite things about what you do?
It’s pretty tough to answer this without sounding corny, but it’s truly just wildly inspiring to get to work with an endless array of creative people, helping them figure out how to raise money to fund their bookish dreams. I mean, I don’t know how it could get any better than that?
What are some things that you wish more people who want to, or already do, fund their work on Kickstarter knew?
I think people get really fixated on small details and the minutiae of their campaign pages, when what’s really paramount is knowing who your readers are and understanding how to reach them. This is a kind of dopey line, but everyone thinks about the “funding” aspect of crowdfunding; not everyone thinks about the crowd. Because of course, that’s what you’re doing here: assembling your most dedicated supporters.
That’s not to say that there aren’t lots of important elements to a great project page (I wrote several thousand words on that, in fact!), but after awhile, you have to call the page done and do the work to reach your community and get them excited to join you on this creative journey.
The comics category is one of the most successful on Kickstarter. What do you think contributes to its success?
I think a few things contribute to this.
First, comics has historically had a really strong DIY streak, so I think this kind of fundraising really appeals to both writers and readers.
Second, the barrier to entry is relatively low, on the creator side as well as for backers: making a book, while not exactly easy, is certainly not as hard as making a film or a backpack or an art exhibit or a tabletop board game, and the price point tends to be low enough that it’s the kind of thing lots of people are willing to take a chance on.
Finally, and I try to say this as loudly and as often as I can: the #KickstarterReads community, especially in comics, is so marvelously generous, passionate, supportive, and kind—creators and backers are constantly lifting each other up, cross-promoting one another’s work, sharing their favorite books and creative people, and just generally doing everything they can to keep the category successful out in the world.
What kinds of publishing projects would Oriana Leckert like to see more of on Kickstarter?
Kickstarter has always been a proud home for marginalized voices and creators who have been ignored or overlooked by the mainstream, so I always, always want to see more deeply niche content: lesbians on Mars, vampires having tea parties, Indigenous romantic capers, AR-enhanced superheroines, anthologies based on color palettes, just anything I’ve never seen before.
I also really love to see creators taking big swings, using the platform to create really ambitious works that would be impossible using any other funding method. But mostly I just want to see everyone creating the art they want to see in the world, whatever that may be.
You’ve spearheaded the Kickstarter Reads Twitter account, as well. Can you tell us a little bit about that, and what you hope to do with it?
I work on that in partnership with the great David Hyde of Superfan Promotions, and it’s been an absolute delight watching it grow. We wanted it to be a gathering place for the whole literary crowdfunding community, as well as another opportunity to showcase some of the many, many outstanding projects and people in the space. We use the account to promote projects and comics press daily, and we’ve been incredibly gratified by the response from the community.
What’s your non-professional background like? Who is Oriana Leckert?
Haha, gosh. Well I’m pretty deeply involved in Brooklyn’s participatory art world, both as a participant and a chronicler: stuff like renegade boat-building bacchanals, overnight costumed bike rides, itinerant art carnivals in box trucks, immersive performance parties, and other beautiful madness. I also ride my bike a lot and read a lot and, you know, take long walks on the beach with my partner.
What kind of things do you like to read in your down time?
I suppose I read a lot of hipster-y, zeitgeist-y modern literature. Recent faves have been from Otessa Moshfegh, Lauren Oyler, Sayaka Murata, T Kira Madden, Emma Straub, Anna Weiner, Mira Jacob, Daniel Handler, and Leigh Stein.
And of course I read tons of comics and graphic novels; a bunch I recently loved: Alison Bechdel’s The Secret to Superhuman Strength, Brecht Evens’ The City of Belgium, Kendra Wells’ Real Hero Shit, Iléana Surducan’s The Lost Sunday, Kim Hyun Sook’s Banned Book Club, Carmen Maria Machado’s The Low, Low Woods, Kat Leyh’s Thirsty Mermaids, Emma Grove’s The Third Person, and N.K. Jemisin’s Far Sector.
Oriana Leckert is the Director of Publishing & Comics Outreach at Kickstarter, where she helps creators bring a marvelous array of literary projects to life. She’s written and edited for Vice, MTV News, Slate, Hyperallergic, Gothamist, Atlas Obscura, and many more. Her first book, Brooklyn Spaces: 50 Hubs of Culture and Creativity (Monacelli, 2015), grew out of a multi-year project chronicling the rise and fall of under-the-radar creative places across New York City. Follow Oriana at @orianabklyn on Twitter/Instagram.
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