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Crowdfunding Tapped in Attempt to Publish Book About Secrets


Kris Loewen, worship and communications pastor at Walla Walla University Church, has turned to Kickstarter to fund his book Hidden, which argues that keeping secrets holds us back from becoming who God created us to be. 

Question: You have written a book, called Hidden and are now trying to raise $15,000 on the online crowdfunding platform Kickstarter to get the book out there. Why do you need $15,000?

Answer: My primary goal with the Kickstarter campaign is to fund an editorial team to work through my manuscript. The book is complete. But anyone who has written anything of consequence knows that the first drafts are not representative of the final product. I have had many friends interested in reading my work and giving me feedback, and their support is a huge gift. Most of them, however, are not professional editors, experienced in the industry, or impartial critics. I think the book has the greatest chance of being the best it can be if it’s jostled in the hands of editors who don't really care about my feelings being hurt! 

Regarding the funding goal, the short answer is that I need about $6,000-$7,000 for editorial and graphic design. The $17,613 total includes those costs as well as all other expenses: printing books, shipping, producing other rewards like T-shirts, Kickstarter fees, income tax, sales tax, and video production. I'd be more than happy to discuss in detail my budget with anyone who's interested. If the project funds successfully (Kickstarter is ALL or NOTHING), I do not anticipate having any leftover "profit" for myself. Everything will go into the book.

What is Hidden about?

Hidden is about personal secret-keeping. Specifically, it argues that secrets have an incredible capacity to hold people back from becoming who God created them to be. Self-concealment stunts growth in profound and varied ways. At the same time, however (and to my surprise), the book also explores how certain kinds of secret-keeping actually promote spiritual maturity. As a whole, Hidden lays out a framework for how to deal with our secrets, how to leverage them for the better, and to avoid the terrible liabilities they can bring. 

The book is full of personal stories and lessons I've learned along the way — and also examples from scripture, current events, literature, and film. The book is conversational in tone (as opposed to academic or technical), devotional in purpose, and extremely personal in nature. 

Why did you want to write the book? Who should read it? What makes your book different from other Christian books?

Mercy, good question. I had to write it. Hidden is a record of some of what I've learned over the past decade of life. It describes how I've made sense of the world and explores how I've witnessed change taking shape in myself and in others I’ve worked with. It comes straight from my heart.

People who are stuck should read Hidden. Anyone confused by unexplainable behavior, unable to change, or overwhelmed by a sense that they're missing something deeper would benefit from reading the book. Likewise, people who have an answer for everything, who have tight boxes and square categories for all of life, would do well to read it as well. Honestly, I think there is something for everyone in this book.

There are precious few books on the market that explore secret-keeping. And there are certainly none that dive into the topic pastorally and from such a personal and approachable vantage point as mine. Brené Brown has done some beautiful work on the themes of vulnerability and shame. Some readers of Spectrum are no doubt familiar with her TED talk (I believe it might be the most watched one ever). I cover similar ground as she does but from the perspective of a Christian pastor.

Have you run a Kickstarter campaign before? Why did you choose this fundraising method?

This is my first Kickstarter. Conceivably, publishing with a traditional printer would be simpler (having not done any of this before, I'm speculating). But my understanding is that the publishing world has changed in the last 10 to 20 years. One difference is that presses are less willing to take on new, unrepresented authors than they perhaps were. Likewise, the developments of eBook technology and lighting-printing have created a viable platform for authors to stay independent. All things being equal, I'd prefer to retain control of my work as any other artist would. But with the choice to self-publish, funding on the front-end becomes a challenge for a pastor living on a modest salary.

I chose Kickstarter because this is what it's designed for. Every year, Kickstarter hosts thousands of creative projects like mine — publishing is one of its largest categories, in fact. It's a way for creators with an idea to reach out to people for support in getting their work out into the world — with the possible upside of viral communication multiplying those efforts. Likewise, the risk is relatively low (my wife and I will have sunk a little more than a thousand dollars into the campaign if it ultimately does not fund). I've seen several other pastor-authors like me share their work on Kickstarter in successful projects (like the Chopping Wood Freedom Collective, not to mention Daneen Akers' work with Seventh-Gay Adventists.) I understand there are other platforms out there for crowdfunding, but Kickstarter seems to be the most respected and professional of the bunch.

I certainly could have asked friends and family privately for support or even started a “GoFundMe.” But going through all the effort, hard work, and expense to put together the Kickstarter helps demonstrate my seriousness about the book and the legitimacy of my project: both in terms of my personal investment of time and thought but also the concept.

Do you think the Kickstarter campaign is going to be successful? The campaign ends on Friday, December 1!

Ha! I honestly have no predictions for you. There is a bit of a hill to climb here in the final week. As I’m writing this, the campaign sits at nearly 50% of the total pledged. I don’t think the goal to be insurmountable just yet. Let’s be honest; a single inspired donor could easily wipe out the remaining "to raise" balance with one click.

Most Kickstarters begin with a spike in giving, then travel through a few weeks almost entirely flat-lined, before finishing with a final spike in the last day or two. Hidden certainly had that initial burst of support from generous and excited backers at the beginning. But it has also continued to receive pledges and attention all along the past two weeks. I anticipate folks will continue backing the project right up until the last moments Thursday night, November 30. 

Can you tell us about your secrets revealed in the book or would that be giving it away?

It was obvious to me that if I was going to write a book about secrets, I'd need to share some of my own. I've blogged some about my journey to better health — secret eating patterns is a subject in the book. I write about how certain family secrets have affected me, how in some cases destructive behavior patterns have been passed down through generations. I discuss the death of my brother, who was killed in a house fire when I was 18 years old. I describe in the book how I kept my grief out of sight and how that impacted me for the worse. I explore my experiences with abuse and finding healing from trauma as well. These are just  samples. With my tongue firmly in my cheek, I’ll say that if Spectrum readers want more dirt on me, they should pony up and support the project!

Why should people contribute to your campaign?

I believe in the message of this book with all my heart. Sorting out the difference between "private" and "secret" in my life as a pastor has been deeply important, stabilizing, and confidence-boosting. Confessing certain secrets at certain moments in my life has been nothing short of transformational.

In the words of Walter Brueggemann: "We are a people with many secrets." This, I believe, is particularly true of Adventists. There are many manifestations of secret-keeping within our church, and there are, of course, dozens of causes for these, both structural/cultural and personal. Regardless of the circumstances, our secrets tend to keep us disconnected, ashamed, lonely, and stuck in dysfunctional patterns. I want to help our tribe grow, to become more like Jesus, to minimize pain and suffering we can cause in the world and amplify the good, I want to help us be better representatives of Jesus until His return.

I believe the message of Hidden has the capacity to change all of us for the better, if we let it. If you are overwhelmed by political wrangling and shenanigans and have no idea what to do about it, invest in this project. The stuff we keep hidden drives so, so much of the crazy behavior we witness in public, by our leaders and among our fellow church members. The material in my book is clearly steps removed from decisions made on committees in conference offices and arenas. But if leaders making those decisions have done the kind of work Hidden invites, the nature of our organization will shift. 

Have you written a book before? Was it hard?

This is my first book. I began formally researching and writing back when my second son was born, three years ago, which coincided with a sabbatical. Ever since, I've been plugging away at it in my free time, early mornings, and late nights. The process has been difficult at times, but for the most part, I've absolutely loved it. It's a joy. And I'm incredibly grateful to all my friends and colleagues who have submitted to long conversations of my yammering about the book.

The most difficult part of the process for me has been the marketing piece. I'm not a natural salesperson. I'm a pastor. I don't want to trick anyone into buying my “product” (apologies to salespeople for the uncharitable characterization). I don't want to get rich. I want people to feel wanted and welcome at the table. I want people to feel known and loved unconditionally as they are. I want to create authentic and intimate community. I want the world to be better. This is the work that I believe God made me to do here on earth.

Unfortunately, in my case, part of getting the message of Hidden out has required a bit of marketing/communication work. Although I’m content and still full of joy, I find this aspect of “writing” very challenging and stressful.

What are your sources of inspiration?

Oh man, the list is so very long. Authors include Dr. David Benner (Spirituality and the Awakening of Self), John Bradshaw (Family Secrets), Malcolm Gladwell, Bessel Van Der Kolk, the late Dallas Willard, and Brené Brown. Also, Frank Warren's amazing project "PostSecret" has been an inspiration, along with This American Life. A great number of films and stories from literature — too many to mention — have been important to me in creating this book.

More than any of these, however, I've been inspired by friends and churchmembers who, alongside me, have worked on their shame, their sin, their fears, their insecurities, their traumas, and more. Those who have confessed their secrets to me — and guarded them as well  — are my heroes. 

You are an Adventist pastor —  what, for you, makes the Adventist church the place to belong? What made you decide to become a pastor?

I love the Adventist Church, in particular, because of its fearless commitment to weaseling out the truth, regardless of the consequences. We all know painful examples of when this hasn't happened or when truth-telling is stifled or misdirected. But at the kernel, Adventists are a people who want to uncover the greatest Secrets — even if that requires our very lives. I absolutely love that about us. I'm proud to be a part of a community that is so courageous. There are other reasons that I'm happy to be an Adventist, of course. But this one might just be at the top of the list.

I sensed God's call to pastoral ministry when I was in high school, and I just couldn't shake it. I was a straight-A student through high school and college and believed myself capable of choosing any field of study, any career path. But my heart was with the work of the church: I loved preaching, I loved teaching, I loved studying, I loved seeing the church at its best. Entering pastoral ministry just seemed “right.”

Later, once I discovered that my personal God-created mission was independent (and in my case complementary) of the vocation of pastoral ministry, I settled into my chosen career with a bit more confidence and joy. I love that it's my job to help people appreciate God's unending love for them, exactly as they are. It's a perfect line of work for me.


Image Credit: Kris Loewen

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