Crowdfunding books is an opportunity for authors, both new and well-known, to share their new ideas with the general public. Authors can find out if their book idea would sell just by using online crowdfunding websites. Although publishers still play a role in the creative process, the decision of whether or not the book will be published is based on consumer’s choices. Crowdfunding a book does not always mean asking for the entire costs for it. Some people only require a certain amount that they cannot afford, for example, money to pay for an artist to design their cover art (Bausells, 2015). Platforms such as Kickstarter and Unbound are one of many sites that help crowdfund projects and “gives publishers the capacity to involve fans directly, and skip all the layers between the creator and the reader” (Bausells, 2015).
The connection between authors and readers are bridged because they are part of the creative process. Crowdfunding is a way for authors to connect with their fans and ask for help in making their book a reality. Generating sales is not the first priority of this process but finding support is. This support is as much about helping the author as it is about supporting an idea for a book. Most, if not all, crowdfunded books are either partially written or not written at all. Some authors start their crowdfunding to see whether or not their idea is compelling to readers before they spend time on writing it. An example of crowdfunding being successful is a book called “Content Warfare” by Ryan Hanley which was crowdfunded on Publishizer.com (Morkes, 2016). He had an interesting idea but was unsure of whether or not it would sell. So he started crowdfunding and within 30 days of his campaign he reached $10, 000 for his unwritten book (Morkes, 2016). This displays a possible market for crowdfunded books. It creates a fanbase for an author’s book that includes both supporters and fans who are eagerly waiting for the completion of the book.
There are two different methods of crowdfunding, “platforms that help you connect with your audience or full-service book publishers that use crowdfunding to decide what to publish” (Kaye, 2015). Fundraising Platforms such as Kickstarter, Indiegogo, and Publishizer allow authors the freedom to choose their own editors, designers, printers, marketers, etcetera. Authors only have to give a small portion of the money raised to the platform they chose to use; percentage of the said small portion is dependant on the platform as well and whether or not the crowdfunding was successful. The second method involves book publishers that use crowdfunding sources. The book publishers would take care of finding editors, designers, marketers, and distributors for the author; the publishers would only profit if the crowdfunding was a success (Kaye, 2015). These crowdfunding publishers include Inkshares and Unbound. Crowdfunding is an opportunity for open collaboration with the possibility of making a profit throughout the process, “it can be democratic, open, and financially lucrative for authors while also inviting the participation of a broad community of booksellers, publishing professionals, and readers” (Kaye, 2015).
To provide an example of how a fundraising platform works, here is Publishizer. There are three simple steps for the author: write a book proposal, validate readership, and choose a publisher. For the first step, the author needs to write something like a business plan for their book. The second step for authors is to generate support for their idea. The specific goal for the author is to have 500 pre-orders for their book within 30 days. If this goal is reached Publishizer will query interested publishers for the author. The third step involves the author contacting the list of interested publishers that Publishizer has collected and request publishing offers (Publishizer, 2016). When readers browse different books on Publishizer, they see a list of different books, each with their own cover art as well as information regarding how that particular book is doing. Readers would see the monetary amount raised, the number of pre-orders that author has, the number of days left in the campaign out of the 30 day limit that is given to the author, as well as the number of publishers that have shown an interest in their book idea.
An example of a website that helps full-service book publishers to use crowdfunding to decide what to publish, here is Unbound. Similar to Publishizer, Unbound has a number of stages to its crowdfunding process. Authors are required to go through five steps: pitching an idea, the contract, crowdfunding, production, and the completion of the project. The first step for authors is to pitch their book idea to the Commissioning Editors; where they will decide if the idea is worth supporting. The second step involves signing a contract; the author maintains their intellectual rights, Unbound gets the licence to produce and publish the author’s work, and profits are split 50/50 (Unbound, 2015). The third step is to write the book; this is more of the waiting period for authors, while they write their book, pre-orders are sold by Unbound. The fourth step is production; Unbound has a team of professionals who include writers, designers, editors, publishers, and product managers who will take care of the whole production process (Unbound, 2015). The final step is the completion of the project. Not only do supporters of the book receive a physical copy, the book is also sold into popular stores by Penguin Random House (Unbound, 2015). While browsing the various book ideas, readers can immediately see the percentage funded. On Unbound however, the cover art is not created and may prove difficult in catching readers’ attention. Many people judge a book by its cover, in this case, select a book by its cover. Unlike Publishizer, Unbound does not put a time limit for the authors. Once the book reaches the funding target, the publishing process begins.
Both fundraising platforms, Publishizer and Unbound, provide readers with a video trailer of the author and the book idea, a synopsis of the book, a small biography of the author, and different monetary ways readers could support their favourite idea. Readers have the freedom to choose the denomination they want to contribute to a partially written book. Authors have the responsibility to only provide rewards that they can fulfill once the process has ended. Lower monetary donations are awarded with perks such as their names printed on the back, a physical copy of the book, and an ebook. Some more expensive options include $50 for a copy of the book with a limited edition cover art, $310 for a personal dedication from the author, and $1000 for 50 signed copies of the book, shirts, posters, and coffee mugs. This is all dependant on the author and the crowdfunding platform they choose to use.
Although there are many pros to crowdfunding, one of them being that the success of their book is largely based upon consumer interests, authors are still facing the difficulty of having publishers decide whether or not their idea is worth supporting. Publishizer requires publishers to be interested in the author’s idea and Unbound requires the idea to be accepted by their Commissioning Editors before moving forward. Authors are putting their faith in readers themselves; to give their idea a chance. Another factor that needs to be considered with the idea of crowdfunding a book is that the book is not complete. This means that the little preview of the book that people have read may be the best part of the book. Similar to watching a movie trailer, thinking that it would be an amazing movie, deciding to pay to see it in theatres, and then coming out disappointed because the best of the movie was the trailer itself. Crowdfunding is not something like Netflix where the audience has the ability to exit out of their choice and select another movie to watch. It can prove to be difficult to find supporters if people can walk into a bookstore, pick up a book, and if they like what they are reading so far, they purchase it. Crowdfunding a book, or crowdfunding anything, requires people to put a lot of faith in the creator of the project, as well as a monetary donation. Depending on the amount that people donate, it may not be an issue if the supporter receives a poorly written book for a $5 donation. On the opposite end of the spectrum, if someone pays $1000 for the book to be published, they are probably expecting an amazing book as a result.
“The idea of funding books by subscriptions is actually something that was very popular in the 18th century” (Kaye, 2015) and has made its way back into the industry. It is an increasingly popular way for authors to not only spread their ideas across the globe but to involve their potential readers in the publishing process as well. The method of crowdfunding books seems to be a growing industry and although it has its pros and cons, much like everything else, it would be interesting to see whether or not it it takes over as the main method of book publishing.
Bausells, Marta. (2015, June 5). Kickstarting a books revolution: the literary crowdfunding boom. Retrieved from: The Guardian https://www.theguardian.com/books/2015/jun/05/the-literary-crowdfunding-boom
Kaye, Matt. (2015, March 31). What You Need to Know About Crowdfunded Publishing. Retrieved from: Jane Friedman https://janefriedman.com/crowdfunded-publishing/
Morkes, Tom. (2016). The Complete Guide to Crowdfunding Your Book. Retrieved from: Tom Morkes http://tommorkes.com/the-complete-guide-to-crowdfunding-your-book/
Now, there is a better way to get published. (2016). Publishizer, Inc. Retrieved from: https://publishizer.com/about/authors/
How It Works. (2015). Unbound. Retrieved from https://unbound.com/about