Interview by Christian Feuerstein ’94
Bart Leib ’00 and his independent science fiction publishing company, Crossed Genres, have had successful Kickstarter campaigns before. “We [funded] our first anthology and our first book” through the crowdfunding site, he says. However, for Crossed Genre’s third Kickstarter campaign, to fund the publication of six titles through 2013, he asked renowned author Neil Gaiman for a mention on his Twitter feed—and Gaiman went to the campaign’s website, read all about it, and enthusiastically promoted it to his 1.7 million followers on Twitter. The attention from Gaiman meant that the project was fully funded quickly, and now Crossed Genres is also bringing back Crossed Genres magazine and is well on its way to its second stretch goal of “going pro”—paying authors according to the standards set by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA). [Editor’s note: In the week before publication, Crossed Genres met this goal.] Bart chatted about Antioch co-ops, Amanda Palmer’s Kickstarter success, and ill-advised changes in majors.
What brought you to Antioch College? How did you first hear of it?
When I found out that my best friend’s mother had gone there in the ’50s, I did my research and I felt that it would be a good fit.
What was your major?
I started out as a creative writing major. I then started doing theater. I decided I wanted to write for the theatre, and [laughs] I made an ill-advised major swap.
Who were some of your favorite professors?
Louise Smith was my advisor—she was great. She really empowered me. Bob Devine. Faculty member Scott Warren was great—I took a philosophy course from him.
Tell us about some of your favorite co-ops.
Oh man! I did a theater co-op in Minneapolis. I had a lot of fun. The whole experience was great … working backstage on shows. I did a six-month co-op in London. I spent the entire time working as a bartender. I got to do side trips to Amsterdam and Prague.
What is your advice for the current students?
Their situation is so different from ours; the culture is very different. However, universal advice that would still apply—the most important thing you could do in college is figure out who you are. There’s a lot of trial and error involved in that, and that is what they should be pursuing.
On his publishing company, Crossed Genres, and its success using Kickstarter:
We started in September 2008. We went to Worldcon [the World Science Fiction convention] in Denver that year, and we got the chance to talk to authors and agents about the idea of a magazine that had a different theme every month. The magazine lasted until December of 2011. We did our first anthology after the first twelve issues of the magazine—we published a story from each issue. The first book was a novel we had serialized, A Festival of Skeletons. That came out in December of 2010. The anthology and the novel were both funded through Kickstarter.
I’ve been amazingly impressed with Amanda Palmer’s Kickstarter. [Editor’s note: Amanda Palmer recently had one of the highest-grossing Kickstarter projects, raising over $1 million for her next album and book.] What makes the biggest difference between a successful Kickstarter project and an unsuccessful one is doing your homework. With our first two projects, no one had any idea about the correct way to do it, and what you can expect to bring in. By the time we did this Kickstarter, there’s a wealth of information out there and there’s a lot more data to work with.
Neil Gaiman retweeting us was great, but, looking at the numbers, it’s really at most about one-quarter of the money we brought in [through Gaiman’s Twitter following]. We met our first stretch goal—bringing back the magazine—in four days.
Any possibility of you using Kickstarter to fund a co-op position at Crossed Genres?
I would love to do that, but I’m not sure how to convince backers to support it—showing them the direct benefit would be difficult.