In 2011, I switched Iguana Books from a quasi-traditional publishing model to a hybrid model: the author (or someone who wasn’t me) paid the costs of publication, and we put out professional-quality books that were distributed worldwide as e-books and print-on-demand paperbacks.
It sort of worked, but there were problems: lots of people couldn’t afford the service and there’s a stigma about paying to get published. The worst problem was the one inside my head: I didn’t like charging writers a lot of money when I knew there was a good chance their books would sell poorly. It became a conscience thing, knowing that I was selling a service that would leave many of my customers’ dreams pitifully crushed.
In 2012, one of our would-be authors said he wanted to crowdfund to raise money to pay for publishing his book. In four weeks, he managed to raise a bit over $16,000.
So what is crowdfunding, and how does it work for publishing projects? Crowdfunding, according to Wikipedia, is “the practice of funding a project or venture by raising many small amounts of money from a large number of people, typically via the Internet.”
There are thousands of crowdfunding companies offering variations of the same model: a variety of rewards or incentives are offered at different funding levels. Contribution levels usually range from $5 or $10 (for which you might just get a “hi and thanks” on Twitter) to thousands — the largest contribution any of our campaigns has received to date is $5,000.
By the beginning of 2015, we were crowdfunding most of our projects using Pubslush, a crowdfunding site designed specifically for publishing projects. In May 2015 — our best crowdfunding month to date — Pubslush paid us over $32,000 to cover publication costs of four books. Then, in August 2015, Pubslush announced that it was closing.
We decided to start from scratch with a new service called PubLaunch. The crowdfunding part of the site is up and running, and soon we’ll be launching a “marketplace” to connect writers with editors, designers, indexers, marketing people, printers, distributors and so on. Everything you could need to publish a book. (We’re currently accepting registrations.)
Crowdfunding solves three problems:
- It helps people afford publishing (and editing) services they couldn’t otherwise afford.
- It gets rid of the dreaded “vanity publishing” stigma that comes with paying to get your book published.
- It offers a really valuable market test. If a book does well when crowdfunded, it will probably sell reasonably well. If it sells 2.3 copies when crowdfunded, it would also have sold terribly when published. So the writer has discovered that the book has no market without spending thousands of dollars to find that out.
What do you think? Would you try crowdfunding for yourself, or recommend it to a client?
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