Crowdfunding – A New Creative Outlet for Authors

When you are an author who is having a hard time signing with a publishing house, it definitely can be a big disappointment when your work is not out there for others to read. An alternative method for authors to publish their work is through crowdfunding. Unlike self-publishing where the author is responsible for writing, editing, design, printing (if they want to release a print book), distribution and promotion, crowdfunding is a means of “mitigating financial risk” for the authors (Book Passage, n.d.; Positive Writer, n.d.). Through the source of crowdfunding, authors are not limited to the traditional means and the audiences have a say over the content. It allows authors to publish their work without the confines of the traditional publishing houses.

In order to talk more about crowdfunding, let’s talk about the concept. Crowdfunding first started within the music and video industry, which then started to shift to the publishing industry in 2010 (Schimming, 2015, p. 6). It is an opportunity for people to fund their projects with the help of a larger group of people contributing money, which usually happens through the Internet (Schofield, n.d.) In terms of book publishing, it is an alternative format for authors where they can find resources to publish books that might not have been accepted at a publishing house (Positive Writer, n.d.). The idea is that the creator will either post a sample of their work or a description on the crowdfunding website and the amount they need in order for them to complete the project (Allen, 2011). The money helps “cover the cost of hiring professional editors, designers, and marketers” so the author can produce a book with quality (Kaye, 2015). According to Allen, in some cases, projects that are posted on the website have actually already have publishers. However because smaller publishing houses publish these projects, it is the author’s responsibility to cover the production costs if the book does not do well in the market (Allen, 2011). Another example about a published author is Eric Ries. He used the crowdfunding platform to propose a book, which will be exclusively released for the people who pledged for the project (Bausells, 2015). It had reached its goal within a day and more people were asking to make a donation in order to receive the book (Bausells, 2015). Therefore crowdfunding platforms not only help new authors but established ones as well.

Crowdfunding have been such a huge trend amongst different creators. One of the biggest website that has helped authors reach their audience would be the website, Kickstarter. Some other big websites for book publishing are PUBSLUSH, and Unbound, which not only acts as a crowdsourcing website but as a publisher as well (Gartland, n.d.). According to Kaye, there are two types of crowdfunding options. There are “fundraising platforms that help authors connect with their audience,” something that Kickstarter offers to their clients and a “full-service book publisher that use crowdfunding to decide what to publish” (2015). Both platforms connect authors directly to the audience and it is up to the authors on how involved they want the readers/pledges in the production process.

With the new use of technology, the relationship between the author and the audience has changed. It allowed the readers to be more involved in the decision process, which is a more transparent process than the traditional book-publishing model. Traditionally, the book publishers would take the risk if a book were going to fail in the market. Therefore if a publisher believes the author’s work will not be a success, they will reject the author’s idea or ask for it to be re-written (Schimming, 2015, p. 2). Depending on the author’s contract with the publishing house, the publisher can have control over the author’s work, from design to editing (Shimming, 2015, p. 2). However, the crowdfunding model allows the pledges to replace the publisher (Shimming, 2015, p. 5). With that in mind, this allows the author to be more creative with their writing without conforming to the publisher’s demands and forgoing the traditional routes of hiring an agent (Perry, 2015, p. 8). It also removes the middleman, so the author is directly connecting with their audience and getting the feedback of what the audience want (Quinlan, 2012). Furthermore, with the added interaction with their readers, they are able to test whether the content that they are producing will be a success, reducing the risk of failure (Bauswells, 2015). The authors would be able to get loans for projects that were initially rejected from having a financial backing and it opens up a wide variety of audiences from different regions (Quinlan, 2012). According to Øiestad and Bugge, “the user-added value is probably the most important web 2.0 trend for content-oriented firms” (2013, p. 56).

Crowdfunding is also a great tool for authors to think about their marketing strategy (Positive Writer, n.d.). In order to bring awareness to their proposed concept, the author would have to connect to their potential readers. More importantly they would have to advocate their work to people who they believe would appreciate it and are willing to pledge for them. This allows them the opportunity to reach to their personal contacts such as their friends and families and people on their social media platform to donate (Positive Writer, n.d.). The following is an example of a veteran author who has been writing for 20 years and has used the crowdfunding platform, Kickstarter to raise funds for her book (Bearman, n.d.). The first step that the author, Susan Bearman, have to decide is the overall budget of her goal. In order to give her pledges an incentive, the crowdfunding website provides the pledges with a reward system. For Susan Bearman, her pledges consisted mostly of her friends and families and their acquaintances (Bearman, n.d.). The rewards system helps motivate the pledges to donate and acts a form of gratitude from the author (Bearman n.d.; Schofield, n.d.). Furthermore, by adding a reward level, it recognizes those who donates more than others (Schofield, n.d). Some authors even credit the pledges in their book, which is determined by the amount they donated to the process (Allen, 2012). The more the pledges pre-order the author’s book, the more the author makes. In Schimming’s article, authors who use the platform, Inkshare, receive 50% of the income made through the pre-order of print books and 70% on e-books, which is a lot more than the get if they were in a contract with a traditional publishing house (2015, 9). Although the concept of marketing their books should be a normal routine for most self-published authors there are still some authors out there who are not comfortable with it. Some feel uncomfortable asking for donations from their friends and families (Schimming, 2015, p. 8). For authors who are struggling to achieve their fundraising goals, some crowdfunding websites would hold the money until the goal has been fulfilled; therefore it is up to the author to market their idea in order to keep their promise to their pledges (Allen, 2012).

Although crowdfunding is a great resource for authors, it also helps publishers as well. Through crowdfunding websites, publishers are able to utilize it by discovering new authors that writes good content (Biggs, 2015). Publishers take advantage of the feedback that the authors receive from their readers. The reason is because the readers act as a “filter for quality and for market testing” (Harvey, 2014). They help the publishers determine whether the content is good or bad and gage whether the book will be a success. Furthermore, by adapting to the crowdfunding platforms, publishers are able to engage the authors and the readers without losing both to other self-publishing platforms (Harvey, 2014). It is also a great way for authors to meet and connect with publishers as well (Biggs, 2015).

In the perspective of the readers, they now have the most power through the crowdfunding model. With the traditional book publishing model, the readers were often left out of the decision making process. Audiences were only need when the product is available in the brick and mortar or e-stores to purchase and consume the content. However, now the readers have the opportunity to choose who and what kind of content they want to support. They essentially determine whether the book will be published. With that said, this new model allows a reverse in the power dynamics between the publisher, author and reader. Although, many authors, readers and publishers support the crowdfunding model there are however downsides. According to Quinlan, the author’s concepts on the fundraising websites are not protected (2012). Others are allowed to steal the author’s idea and use it for their own gains. Furthermore, pledges who regret donating to a cause have no way of getting their money back because once the donation goal has been made, the money is the author’s property (Quinlan, 2012).

With that in mind, there are more positive results for authors, readers and publishers who use crowdfunding platforms. It allows new authors to have a foot in an otherwise competitive industry. Veteran authors are able to be creative and receive support for works that normally would not be released through the traditional publishing model, while publishers are able to curate talent through these platforms. In addition, readers are active throughout the production process by providing authors with suggestions and having a say in what they want to consume. Many have questioned if this will be the next big thing in the book publishing industry and I would like to think so. This model is able to provide an opportunity for many and builds a foundation for those who seek to be a part of the once exclusive publishing industry.

References

Allen, T. (2011, June 27). Crowdfunding: When the Publisher Doesn’t Cover the Creator’s Expenses. Retrieved November 9, 2015, from http://www.publishersweekly.com/pw/by-topic/industry-news/comics/article/47781-crowdfunding-when-the-publisher-doesn-t-cover-the-creator-s-expenses.html

Bausells, M. (2015, June 5). Kickstarting a books revolution: The literary crowdfunding boom. Retrieved November 8, 2015, from http://www.theguardian.com/books/2015/jun/05/the-literary-crowdfunding-boom

Bearman, S. (n.d.). Crowdfunding for Authors: Is it right and is it right for you? Retrieved November 9, 2015, from http://writeitsideways.com/crowdfunding-for-authors-is-it-right-and-is-it-right-for-you/

Gartland, M. (n.d.). Will Crowdfunding Books Replace Author Advances and Further Empower Readers? Retrieved November 8, 2015, from http://winningedits.com/crowdfunding-books/

Harvey, E. (2014, August 1). How Crowdsourcing is Powering New Publishing Platforms. Retrieved November 9, 2015, from http://www.bookbusinessmag.com/article/how-crowdsourcing-powering-new-publishing-platforms/

Kaye, M. (2015, March 31). What You Need to Know About Crowdfunded Publishing. Jane Friedman. Retrieved November 9, 2015, from https://janefriedman.com/crowdfunded-publishing/

Øiestad, S., & Bugge, M. M. (2014). Digitisation of publishing: Exploration based on existing business models. Technological Forecasting and Social Change, 83, 54-65.

Perry, J. (2015). 21st Century New Use Technology in the Book Publishing Industry and How Authors Can Better Protect Their New Use Technology Rights. Available at SSRN 2545103.

Publish Your Next Book with Crowdfunding. (n.d.). Retrieved November 8, 2015, from http://positivewriter.com/crowdfunding/

Quinlan, M. (2012, June 22). The pros and cons of crowd funding. Retrieved November 9, 2015, from http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/the-pros-and-cons-of-crowd-funding-1.1136449

Schimming, M. (2015). Changing Publisher-Author Relationships in the Midst of Developing Crowd-Funded Publishing Platforms.

Schofield, J. (n.d.). Crowdfunding and The Publishing Process – A Match Made In Literary Heaven. Retrieved November 9, 2015, from http://www.magnoliamedianetwork.com/crowdfunding-publishing/

Traditional vs. Alternative Publishing. (n.d.). Retrieved November 8, 2015, from http://www.bookpassage.com/traditional-vs-alternative-publishing

2 Comments

  1. Frank Silva Cardona

    November 17, 2015 at 3:26 am

    Hi Amy,

    Overall I found your article informative but confusing at some points. I wish you would have had stated a central argument at the beginning of the essay, it felt more like you were outlining a practice than making an argument about it throughout.

    I think one thing you could have gone into more detail about would have been to discuss how new authors can use crowdfunding, and the struggles they can face when choosing a crowd sourced campaign vs relying on a publisher, or a combination of both.

    There wasn’t too much discussed about new authors, you seemed to mostly discuss how authors and creatives with audiences already established could take advantage of the crowd. An author who doesn’t have a ready audience to crowdsource their project would struggle with this system if they don’t have enough people to reach their goals. I think more consideration on building audiences within this scenario would have been helpful.

    I enjoyed the section where you discussed how new technologies allow authors the potential to remove publishers as middle men and collect higher rates of income on their projects than by selling through a traditional publishing house. Would have been helpful to consider the challenge an author faces when the question of whether they can sell their content in the same volume as through with a traditional house arises.

    In the section about authors using crowdsourcing for marketing purposes I got really confused when you jump from talking about how authors need to build their own audiences alone, to how they use rewards to entice higher donations, to how they struggle to entice donations. This was confusing and didn’t really mention how crowd sourcing is a marketing tool for authors.

    The discussion of publishers using crowdsourcing was better developed, as you showed adequately how publishers can join take up the crowdsourcing practices and use the crowd for feedback and to analyse support for a potential piece. The implications of choosing publishers as gatekeepers of quality content vs the crowd would have been helpful to discuss in more detail in this section. Further discussion of the implications on publishers in general would be helpful, is this practice diminishing the need to have a house financially back a project?

    The discussion on how readers are affected was interesting in noting how readers can influence the decision to publish vs having the publisher solely decide without having tested the book on potential readers.

    I think you make some interesting statements in your conclusion, but felt you could have done a better job throughout in presenting these conclusions as part of a central argument.

    Overall it was cool to see how the crowd can influence the success of a project in contrast to how they may have died at the hands of a publisher instead. Your essay was informative but a little foggy in what exactly the arguments were. I think a better effort tying it all together would have helped. Furthermore, it felt like sometimes you went off topic mid paragraph, maybe having someone proof read looking for these issues in mind would be helpful for you in future.

  2. This essay describes and provides several examples of crowdfunding relatively well. It touches on some of the challenges and advantages, and even how it redistributes power in the publishing world. However, the essay is too focused on the descriptions and not enough on the analysis. The descriptions, convoluted at time, detract from the essay’s strength, and it is not clear what the author’s message is. It is clear, although never explicitly stated, that the author believes crowdfunding is a positive development for publishers. However, this needs to be inferred from the positive language used, but it it is not explicitly argued.

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