Old School vs New School Crowdfunding

 By RACHEL RUEBEN, CrowdFunding Beat guest contributor,

Last week, I discussed traditional crowdfunding and today, I’ll be explaining the new way the publishing industry is using that same model to test a book’s profitability. They (the publishers), do it mainly to get out of hardest and most costly parts of publishing, which are acquiring books as well as marketing them.

Think about it, if a publisher doesn’t have to actually commission a book, then there’s no risk involved. It’s the perfect model for them. However for an author, it may not be such a great deal but you didn’t ask me all that did you?

Don’t Have Any Money to Publish? Then I Hope You Like Sharing

Seeing an opportunity to make money on the crowdfunding craze, several companies popped up catering specifically to self-published/indie authors. Many of them are publishers operating on the crowdfunding model.

Another thing I need to point out is that not all of these sites operate exactly the same way. As an author you need to be aware of this.

• Pentian Allows backers to share in the book’s profits.
• PubSlush  is a publisher operating on the crowdfunding model and has several packages where they help you with various things like landing pages, social media posts etc.
• Unbound.co.uk  Here an author has to pitch the idea of the book and if the book gathers enough pledges, then the author can begin writing the book. Unbound takes 50% of the profits.

Now what do they offer authors in the way of distribution and marketing is a good question. None of them address those issues on their websites. Again at least with Kickstarter and other sites like it, you are in total control and after Kickstarter gets their cut, they leave.

The Problem With This Arrangement

Keep in mind that unlike a traditional publisher, these people don’t make their money from selling your book, they get it from crowdfunding. There is no incentive here to make your book a success.

Crowdsourcing for a Publishing Contract

By Ritesh Nayak via Flickr

For those of you who don’t know whatcrowdsourcing is, it’s the engaging of a crowd for a skill or resource. The steps here are so similar to crowdfunding that I had to add it to this post.  However unlike with crowdfunding, where you campaign for funds, here you campaign for votes.
Several publishers such as; Mcmillan, Harper Collins and Amazon, have created websites to engage readers to pick out the best books for them. In essence, they want to farm out the responsibility of the slush pile to the public and the most popular manuscripts will get a traditional publishing contract.

Kindle Scout
Here an author uploads a book, and the readers to decide if it is worthy of a contract by voting for it. The author that gets the most votes gets a publishing contract from 47North (An imprint of Amazon) as well as an advance of $1,500. They also offer a 50% royalty and insist on a 45 day exclusive.

Authonomy, which is owned by Harper Collins, only offers the possibility of a traditional publishing contract. Each month, 5 popular manuscripts are chosen by the editors for review. However, I’m told by authors who’ve actually used the site that those odds are miniscule. Also, their terms aren’t searchable on the website so there’s not much to tell about them. There’s no mention of a royalty split or advance of any kind.

Owned by Macmillan, Swoon Reads, is a site for YA Romance writers and just like Authonomy, it promises a publishing contract to the most popular stories. However, unlike Authonomy and Kindle Scout, they offer a $15,000 advance. They also insist on all your rights in all languages and an option on your next book.

Common Complaints

Game Dogs By FishFlicks via Flickr

A lot of the authors I’ve encountered online have utter disdain for the alleged politicking involved in these ventures. A few claim that some authors have gamed the system byspamming people all day and kissing butt. Well, duh!  These books are chosen based on their popularity, not their merit. In my opinion, these types of sites are testing an author’s ability to market their work and connect with an audience. It has nothing to do with literary quality whatsoever.  If you feel that campaigning for votes or money is demoralizing or degrading, then this isn’t for you.

The Takeaway

It’s worth mentioning Swoon Reads and Authonomy gets less traffic than this blog according to Alexa, so I don’t know who’s gonna discover your novel when no one is really using the site. You’d be better off going to Wattpad, which has serious traffic, or commenting in the comments section of this post.

Another disturbing thing I noticed was that most of these sites also have poorly managed social media pages. If these companies aren’t marketing their own product, why would they market yours? Personally, I would have a hard time parting with 50% or more of my royalties to someone who isn’t adding anything to my publishing project.

But then again, you didn’t ask me all that…

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