Tell us a little bit about yourself, your books and any new projects you are working on.

1. When did you first know you wanted to be a writer?

Creative writing found me in junior high thanks to my English teacher, Mrs. Castellano. She would have us write stories each quarter (about ANYTHING) and let us share them to the class. The adrenaline surge of a “live audience” hit me and I quickly got over being as nervous in front of people. I still use two of those stories I wrote in my storytelling shows for children at events around town. As a writer, I love getting into a flow state when creative ideas just fall onto a page. That’s when writing feels magical! I was even a language arts teacher for three years to help other young people find their love of the written word.

2. How long have you been writing? How many books have you written?

My first and only book (so far) is Sedgie the Hedgie Finds the Treasure and was published in June 2022. It’s based on a pirate-themed magic show I perform for children at libraries and schools with my live hedgehog, Sedgie. It teaches lessons on friendship, bravery, and gratitude. My goal with this book is to show children how to make connections between what they see in real life and what they read in books. Reading IS magical! I have a plan for another book in the near future to be in the same series of The Adventures of Sedgie the Hedgie. It will have a mystery theme and connect with my Balloon Mystery Magic Show as I am also a balloon artist!

3. What made you want to self-publish?

Self-publishing gave me creative control over my book. I enjoyed having a say in the illustrations; my illustrator, Drew Dittmar, was WONDERFUL to work with and very accommodating to my vision. That being said, he also added little details that danced on the page and made the book even better. Check out the way the characters’ pirate hats change throughout the book and note the cute little fish jumping out of the water near the boat as they approach the island. Since I already have a business as a children’s entertainer with a large client-base, self-publishing made sense for me.

4. Would you recommend new authors self-publish, and would you recommend Gatekeeper Press?

I would recommend self-publishing to authors who have the drive to market their book. Gatekeeper Press was very upfront and honest about how marketing would fall mostly onto the author. I appreciated that honesty from the get go. It’s an investment of time and money, but it can be rewarding to have so much control in the process. The Author Manager they provide is a good guide, but so much of the creative process falls onto the author. If you’re a writer who would benefit from more support with your ideas, organization, and illustrations, maybe the more traditional route would be better. As an entrepreneur through and through, this route was a good fit for me.

5. What do you do marketing-wise to help announce and sell your books?

I hired a PR professional when my book was published to help spread the word. She helped write a press release, get me on the news on Good Day Columbus and ABC 6, and generally supported me to bring the right energy to the process. I was a little nervous about self-promotion, but she gently nudged me to sing my own praises and be proud of my accomplishments. Sometimes, we just need a little cheering section to bolster our confidence! I also asked my clients if I could offer book sales and signings after my programs when it was a good fit.

6. What advice do you have for a new or fledgling author?

Try to find a niche that sets you apart from all the other books and authors in the world. Using my live hedgehog and my dog as characters in my book isn’t necessarily a “new idea,” but there aren’t many magical hedgehogs out there. Taking the spin on “a rabbit out of a hat” and using “a hedgehog out of a treasure chest” gives me a fresh idea to hook children into the magical world of reading!

7. What social media platforms are you on?

I am active on Facebook and Instagram. Since the book came out, I tried to increase my Instagram presence. You can find me on either at @EricaEntertainment. My official business name is Erica Carlson Children’s Entertainment.

8. What is the one piece of advice you wish you had known when you first started out?

Just one?!? Okay…Get comfortable with asking for help. I come from a family of entrepreneurs. We are a hardworking, get-things-done bunch. I thought I would do my own illustrations with felt art when I first started writing. Time quickly got the better of me and I listened to some wise people when they recommended I talk to a local librarian, Drew Dittmar. Thank goodness I did! The partnership with him has led to our first completed book with over 1,100 copies sold! And we are in discussion about our next book, too! Exciting opportunities are on the horizon!

9. What do you feel is the biggest challenge authors are facing going into 2023 (and beyond)?

There are just a LOT of books out there. I was at the Columbus Book Festival last week, and there is no shortage of creative talent out there. That’s both exciting and daunting. Getting “noticed” and hitting a “big break” feels like a game of luck or a networking nightmare at times. Keeping our chins up and staying focused with the “why” behind your drive is important. Refueling is important so you can keep sharing your gifts with the world.

10. Have you won any awards or contests that you would like to mention?

I feel like my awards come from repeat business as an author/magician/balloon artist/airbrush artist/entertainer/teacher. I’m trying to put joy and positive energy out into the world, and the fact that I’ve been self-employed full-time for 13 years is a sign that it’s working. I am so grateful to be able to make a living through the arts.

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