Hope For the Little Guy: How Crowdfunding Helps Out the New Author

For me the biggest dream, the biggest accomplishment, would be to become a published author, a novelist. I’d always imagined – hoped – it would happen like it did for J.K. Rowling, which is to say that I’d be picked up by a publisher and become an author in the traditional way. For a long time I believed this was the only way to publish a book, and up until recently I still believed this was the only viable way to become a real writer (nor am I the only one to feel inclined towards traditional publishing for certain reasons). Then the world of self-publishing was introduced to me, along with it questions about what that might involve and whether it could be viable for wannabe writers. There are many different ways of self-publishing, one of which has been kicking off in recent years based on crowdfunding. I was quite intrigued by the crowdfunding model of publishing, mostly because I could actually see myself using it (opposed to other self-publishing methods I’ve read about). Crowdfunded publishing is appealing to authors because it gives them a way to get their content out without being controlled by the gatekeepers of traditional publishing, and provides funds to do so in ways other forms of self-publishing cannot. In a world where crowdfunded publishing has grown into the norm, it is the wannabe writer who benefits the most. They have a greater chance at becoming successful writers this way than they do with the system as it sits today.

Crowdfunding essentially works like this: you propose your project, set up an amount goal for how much you would like to raise, then start marketing like crazy. If people are interested in your campaign, they can pledge you money. If you reach your goal in the allotted amount of time then your campaign was a success and you can then move on with your project, following through on whatever promises you made to those who pledged you money, and then it’s happy endings all around (obviously I’m leaving a lot out, but you get the picture).

Crowdfunded publishing follows the same process but I will be talking specifically about two different veins an author can use, depending on what they wish to achieve. One way is to use a fundraising platform, such as Publishizer, that will help authors to raise funds to later publish their book. There are many different fundraising platforms to choose from, but regardless of which platform they choose, it will be up to them, once their campaign has succeeded, to find the services they need to publish their book using the money they’ve raised. Another option authors can choose is to use a platform that helps to raise money in the same way but will then go on to publish the successful books themselves, such as Inkshares. Regardless of which vein out of these two an author chooses, the possibilities opened by crowdfunded publishing bring a whole set of new dynamics to the creative process and industry, largely due to the interactivity between author and reader that can be very beneficial, especially to the first-time author.

For authors, new or old, crowdfunding is a great chance to test whether or not their story is marketable – in other words, do people actually want to read their story? An editor of a publishing company may love their story, but when it comes time to actually sell the book, the general populace may not agree that it is worth buying. Crowdfunding bypasses the middleman and gets information straight from an audience; it will indicate more directly whether there is any interest in the story and how significant that interest is. Authors can more easily gauge their stories like this – what do they keep and what do they change? Is this a viable story option, or should they scrap it and try again with something else? (A painful realisation, but better to find out before completion than after.) New/wannabe authors have no previous books to go off of; they have no sense of market for potential books nor an audience to market to, both of which are potential black marks for traditional publishers simply because it makes it harder to sell if there’s no pre-established audience. Crowdfunding a book idea or story segments allows new authors to test the waters in a way that wouldn’t be financially smart for traditional publishers – why should they risk losing money on some no-name author? The biggest thing at risk when crowdfunding a book is the authors’ feelings, because if they don’t end up reaching their goal, the donors aren’t charged and so no one loses money (this may vary by site, but overall there is not a great financial risk being taken, other than the occasional fee from the site, and even then fees usually only apply when the project succeeds). Crowdfunding gives new authors the chance to find a market without really risking anyone’s financial status.

Of course, seeing whether or not their story is marketable depends on the author’s ability to market in the first place. This is where crowdfunding may let down the more introverted author. Authors who know how to market themselves and their books are more likely to be successful at crowdfunding for their books than an author too shy to ask people for money, so were this model to become the standard model, those authors who can market may take off and get all the attention, leaving those less capable without a chance. Crowdfunding is often (but not necessarily) most successful when the author either already has an established platform (blogs, social media accounts with many followers, etc.) or is capable of getting one up and running successfully. Crowdfunding can be a great tool for an author, but they must work for it to work. However, these days many publishers appear to be marketing books less than they used to, especially for lesser-known authors, so authors need to be marketing for themselves no matter how they choose to publish. Sorry introverts. The benefit of crowdfunding, especially to the new author who loses out on marketing from a traditional publisher, is that it’s an additional way to reach people and gain a readership, and is possibly more effective than traditional self-marketing (tweeting and Facebook posts can only do so much) because it brings the reader into direct relation with the product.

Direct relation to the product, or interactivity between the author and reader, is one of the most beneficial outcomes of crowdfunded publishing, and could be what makes this model so beneficial to authors (new or experienced) and possibly even to publishing as a whole. I should specify that this is interactivity while the book is still in the process of being written. That there is interactivity at all is amazing on its own – traditional publishing, even different kinds of self-publishing, usually will not have any audience interaction until after the book is out; in traditional publishing this is mostly due to its process restricting the possibility for this, while self-publishing at its most basic mimics this process (the process is as it is done presently – there could be a future where the generic publishing formula includes audience interaction throughout its stages, but in that case, why not make crowdfunding the norm since it already does this?). The crowdfunding model of publishing allows for ongoing interactivity during the writing process and reader feedback in ways that have not been built into other, more traditional methods of publishing. Readers really have a chance to become involved with the book, not only by funding it (and therefore indicating that yes, they want it) but by becoming even more directly involved by author invitation to suggest ideas for it. Many of the crowdfunding platforms also provide the option for “extras”, where depending on how much a person pledges they can receive extra stuff such as a one-on-one meet with the author. This is a good way for the author to get people to pledge more than the basic amount, and presents fun bonuses for the audience that may otherwise not have been made available to them. With the possibility, inevitability even, of the author-reader interaction that is provided by crowdfunding, a viable model could come from this where a book is written and commissioned based entirely on what the audience wants. While this hasn’t happened yet (not noticeably at least), readers who want to know more about the writing process or the chance to get involved in the creative process will have much better luck turning to crowdfunded projects than alternative methods.

How does crowdfunded author-reader interactivity help new authors? Again, it goes back to being given the chance to establish an audience and being able to gain that audience’s opinion throughout the writing of the novel, wherein traditional publishing this chance is non-existent because it lacks that same interactivity. New authors can use reader suggestions in ways established authors may not be able to. Established writers, simply from the fact that they are already established, have reader expectations they must live up to. Readers expect them to write in certain genres for example. They may not be able to branch out in a crowdfunded book because their current readers like what they already do and may not support any change. New authors though have no reader expectations; they’re not locked into a certain genre or style or even audience. If crowdfunded publishing becomes more popular among readers, new authors may actually have an advantage over established authors.

Publishers may be weary of crowdfunding sites, especially those aimed specifically at generating books because they may consider them competitors, but I don’t think this needs to be the case. Crowdfunded books could be very beneficial to a publisher if they embrace the crowdfunding platforms that then go on to publish the books that have been campaigned successfully, as in the second vein of crowdfunded publishing I mentioned earlier. If a publisher chooses to use this model, authors can submit to them as they would to a book-specific crowdfunding site such as Unbound. According to Unbound, this model is the way to go for publishers wishing to make it in the online world. With a successful campaign, where money is coming in from lots of people hoping to see this book finished, the publisher knows ahead of time that there is a market and an eager audience for the book. This is good for the publisher because they have a greater sense of who to target, and it is good for the author because they’re already seeing financial success from a book they haven’t even fully written yet. Then when the funds raised during the campaign are used by the publisher to publish the book, the publisher can worry less about taking a hit if the book doesn’t end up doing so well because at least some of the cost of publishing was covered, depending on how much was raised. If crowdfunding were to take off and join with publishing like this, new authors may be more likely to get published and become successful because the risk of the new will be less daunting than in traditional publishing.

Crowdfunded publishing is a really exciting idea – exciting because it may actually work as an alternative to traditional publishing. As long as an author can get over any fears they may have about asking for money and attention, there is room for authors to be very successful at crowdfunding their books. If this model continues to grow and mould itself, the wannabe, new author may just be able to become the successful, real author in ways traditional publishing simply cannot offer. Given the chance to test their idea in the market, to find people who want to read their book, and to interact with them in the creation of that book, crowdfunding has created a great formula for the new author trying to get published, a better formula that doesn’t leave out the wannabe from the creative world.
Works Cited

Anderson, Porter. “Self-Publishing and the Industry: Implications and Impact.” Publishing Perspectives. N.p., 24 Sept. 2013. Web. 2 Nov. 2015.

Bearman, Susan. “Crowdfunding for Authors: Is it right and is it right for you?” Write It Sideways. N.p., n.d. Web. 2 Nov. 2015.

Bransford, Nathan. “How a Book Gets Published.” Nathan Bransford. N.p., 25 Aug. 2009. Web. 5 Nov. 2015.

Dmatriccino. “Why Don’t Publishers Market & Promote the Books They Publish?” Writer’s Digest. N.p., 19 April 2010. Web. 5 Nov. 2015.

Galley, Ben. “How to Crowdfund Your Book.” Publishing Talk. N.p., 18 May 2015. Web. 2 Nov. 2015.

Gartland, Matt. “Will Crowdfunding Books Replace Author Advances and Further Empower Readers?” Winning Edits. N.p., n.d. Web. 2 Nov. 2015.

Hesse, Jason. “Crowdfunding Authors’ Books Could Save Publishing.” Forbes. N.p., 30 Sept. 2014. Web. 2 Nov. 2015.

Hogue, Joseph. “Ultimate List of Crowdfunding and Fundraising Websites.” Crowd 101. N.p., 28 July 2015. Web. 4 Nov. 2015.

Inkshares. Inkshares, n.d. Web. 2 Nov. 2015.

Kaye, Matt. “What You Need to Know About Crowdfunded Publishing.” Jane Friedman. N.p., 31 March 2015. Web. 2 Nov. 2015.

Kellogg, Carolyn. “Authors Prefer Traditional Publishers to Self-Publishing. Surprised?” Los Angeles Times. N.p., 9 Jan. 2014. Web. 5 Nov. 2015.

Prive, Tanya. “What Is Crowdfunding And How Does It Benefit The Economy.” Forbes. N.p., 27 Nov. 2012. Web. 4 Nov. 2015.

Publishizer. Publishizer, n.d. Web. 2 Nov. 2015.

Rich, Jason R. “The Major Steps in the Self-Publishing Process.” Self-Publishing for Dummies Cheat Sheet. For Dummies, n.d. Web. 5 Nov. 2015.

Schofield, Justine. “Publish Your Next Book with Crowdfunding.” Positive Writer. N.p., n.d. Web. 2 Nov. 2015.

Sweeney, Joe. “Everything You Need to Know About Crowdfunding.” The Simple Dollar. N.p., 1 Dec. 2014. Web. 5 Nov. 2015.

Tart, Nicholas. “7 Things I Learned from Publishing a Book.” Income. N.p., n.d. Web. 5 Nov. 2015.

Unbound. Unbound, n.d. Web. 5 Nov. 2015.

Weinberg, Dana Beth. “Author Survey Results: Expectations of Traditional Publishing and Self-Publishing.” DBW. N.p., 27 Jan. 2014. Web. 2 Nov. 2015.

Technology in Archaeology and Publishing: What’s Time Got to Do with It Anyway?

It may seem strange to compare an industry so focused on predicting its own future with one that is dedicated to the past, and without a doubt it is strange, but the worlds of publishing and archaeology do have one important thing in common: they have both been greatly affected by advances in technology. What interests me most is not the creations and discoveries that have come from these advancements (which, don’t get me wrong, are fascinating in and of themselves as well), but the reactions people, involved both directly and indirectly, have had towards the output of these technological advancements. To push that one step further, I’m interested in the controversies that have or haven’t occurred: why do the technologies in one world invoke controversy while those in the other do not? In the publishing world, technologies such as e-readers (and the companies that come with them) have brought up concerns with those involved in publishing, mostly about what the future of the book will look like. On the complete other side of the scale is the field of archaeology, where new gadgets and methods are getting people excited for what they will be able to discover next. While some technologies invoke controversy and others do not, there can be no denying the affects they have been having on these two completely different worlds.

First, it is important to take a look at what some of these technologies are and what they are doing for archaeology and publishing.

In archaeology there have been so many things made possible from advances in technology that dates all the way back to the 1960s. While not everything began with archaeology in mind, technologies from a range of other industries have been introduced to the archaeologist to aide them in their discoveries of the past, such as the use of MRI machines to scan bodies for useful data without risking the loss of their intact preservation.

A major revolution in the discovery and survey of archaeological sites long thought to be lost is the use of satellite imagery. Archaeologists today can use satellite images to survey sites invisible to the naked eye. Even just by using Google Earth, sites have been discovered, and when archaeologists gain access to satellite images they can manipulate for their purposes (3D rendering of sites for example) there is no end to what they can make of what lies beneath the ground. One of the best consequences that has come from methods such as these is when using satellite imagery to view sites, archaeologists don’t need to go there themselves or dig up everything they find, which saves a lot of time, money, manpower, and most importantly allows the site to remain preserved for future research. The development and improvement of satellite imagery is just one of the many technological advances that have immensely improved archaeological methods. For a field aiming to better understand the human past, this has been nothing but great news.

The technologies of the publishing industry tell a slightly different story however.
I think it is safe to assume that the development of e-readers has been the defining technology for the publishing industry as of late. With it, e-readers bring to publishing a mixed sense of trepidation and excitement concerning the future of the book and those whose jobs revolve around the book, from writers to publishers to bookstores and their counterparts, all the way to consumers. E-readers allow books to be read digitally, which begs the question, will there still be a need, or even desire, for physical books in the future? There are those who say yes, e-books are better and those who say no (I personally would like to think that print books will never be completely erased from our lives and that it would be a very sad day indeed were that to happen). There have been vast improvements made to the technology behind e-readers, such as e-ink technology which, among other things, allows greater readability of e-readers, making reading on a screen practically no different from reading off of paper (discounting some of the arguments made by those not in favour of e-books).

When first introduced, there was a flare up in the publishing world that e-readers and e-books were going to change everything, and not everyone seemed excited about this change. Conflicts with Amazon continued the controversy over e-books. No doubt things have started calming down now but there is still a nagging concern surrounding the implications of e-books/e-readers and their evolving technology. I think the main concern revolves around the problem over pricing. Especially in their beginning, e-books were priced much lower than the average print book. Publishers were worried they wouldn’t be able to make a profit off of e-books. Cheap e-books could potentially cause problems for print books as well: why would someone buy the more expensive print book when they could buy a cheaper digital version? The value of the book has been put at risk. People would come to think of books as only being worth what the e-book cost, and would then start expecting print book costs to reflect that value. Publishers would not only be losing money off e-books, but potentially print books as well if they are unsuccessful at resolving the value issue that e-books have introduced. From this glance it would seem that, unlike archaeology, certain technological advances may be devastating to the publishing industry as it stands today.

Does this mean that publishing will cease to exist? This seems doubtful to me. No doubt it will change, but with time we may find that things will tend to balance each other out. How come then, do two industries advancing as much as they are with regards to technology react in such different ways? Should we be taking technology as a threat or should we look to it with excitement for the changes it will bring? The most important thing to note in regards to any technological controversy or lack thereof is that publishing and archaeology are not from the same worlds. When it comes down to it, publishing is a business that needs to make money. Archaeology simply does not work this way; it is not profit-centered, but knowledge-centered. This largely affects the way publishing and archaeology react to new technologies. I’ll touch more on this later, but it is important to keep it in mind when considering the diverse reactions of publishing and archaeology.

One possibility for the polar reactions towards the technological advances archaeology and publishing are seeing today is the concept of time. I mentioned above that some of the technologies in frequent use today for archaeology have been around since the 1960s, or even earlier in some cases. Satellite imagery comes from the concept of aerial photography. Starting back in the 1850s onwards, photographs were taken from above using hot air balloons and even kites. After the 1940s, aerial photography became a more popular method of survey for archaeologists, and they have been using it ever since in one form or another. The technology has evolved – images have gotten clearer, you can focus on one thing in particular, such as land disturbances – but the basic concept has remained the same. Aerial, or satellite, imagery is used for finding and/or surveying sites.
This is an example of a technological advance that has been in use for a long time. It has had plenty of time to evolve, grow better, and become fine-tuned. Because it has been in use in archaeology for such a long time, it has become a widely accepted approach. The technology and concept behind e-readers are much fresher to publishing. The controversy that has surrounded them could be because those feeling wary haven’t had enough time to adapt to the idea of publishing moving towards the digital like those in archaeology have. It could also be that the evolution of the e-reader has occurred rather quickly in relatively few years; aerial imagery took much longer to evolve into what it is today. The popularity wave of e-readers/e-books happened fast and almost all at once; it was a lot to be toppled over with in such a short amount of time. Publishers were not given a lot of time to adjust, and this could be a reason for the uncertainty. They weren’t ready for it to take off because they didn’t expect it to.

Even if it is the case that archaeology has had the time to adjust that publishing has not, why wasn’t there any initial scare when new technologies were introduced way back when like there was in publishing? I would argue for the replacement issue being the main cause behind publishers’ paranoia. E-reader technology has the potential to completely take over print books. E-books and print books are the same thing; it is their form which differs. Some will prefer one while some will prefer the other (and then there will always be the inbetweeners). The main concern of publishers when e-books started taking off was that those who prefer e-books would eventually outnumber those who prefer print books. This is a problem because of the pricing issue I touched on above. Even when publishers are successful in raising the price of e-books, they find it doesn’t help them as people are less likely to buy them. The price conundrum continues to this day.

While it doesn’t seem to be the case lately, as e-books sales have actually started to level off and decline even, the potential is there for e-books to take over print books because they are the same thing. The difference in archaeology is that technologies often combine with the old ways of doing things to improve methods rather than replace each other completely. A new method of dating an artifact may come about, but this only helps to come up with a more definite date for artifacts when combined with other absolute dating methods, such as the case with radiocarbon dating and tree-ring dating being used together to calibrate dates. The methods can’t replace one another because each has valuable information to give in regards to dating. E-books and print books are usually more or less giving the same information; it is preference which depicts what is used, not science. The emotional aspects of publishing are a far cry from the science that drives archaeology.

As I mentioned above, the most important difference between archaeology and publishing, and so for the technologies introduced to them, is that one is a field of study while the other is an industry centered on profit. Creativity may be what drives publishing, but being able to profit off of that creativity is what keeps publishing alive. This is not the case in archaeology; it is not trying to make a profit off of what it discovers (at least it shouldn’t be). Nobody’s livelihood is going to be destroyed by the onset of a new technology because archaeology is not an industry of selling the way publishing is. If e-books ever do take over print books completely (and the price conundrum has not been resolved), publishers may be at risk of going out of business, which would indeed change the publishing world as we know it today. Archaeologists aren’t as tied down to technologies as publishers are; a technological advancement, such as additional absolute dating methods, can only be of use to them, benefitting archaeology as a whole.

Both archaeology and publishing are defined by, even controlled by, advances made in the technologies used in them. While they are on equal terms of the extent they have been affected, the reactions to those effects have been what set these worlds apart. The technologies of publishing may in practice be no more devastating than those of archaeology, but while archaeologists have seen only benefits from new technologies, the publishing industry saw the technology getting away from them and this brought mixed feelings. Publishing comes with a price, and so any technology introduced in this area puts that price at risk. The initial reactions to e-readers and e-books showed this, and the pricing issue is still being sorted out to this day. Already though we are seeing that, just as in archaeology, timing is the key. Archaeology had years worth of time to adjust to their technologies, and even publishing has begun to balance itself out in time.


Works Cited
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