Business, Indie Publishing, Publishing, Writing Business

Old School vs New School Crowdfunding: Which One Should Authors Consider? Part 2

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Pic via Pixabay

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, for example:

Pentian Allows backers to share in the book’s profits.
PubLaunch is a service that focuses on helping authors through the publishing process through connecting them with other professionals in the industry as well as helping them with their crowdfunding efforts.
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

For those of you who don’t know what crowdsourcing 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 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
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.

SwoonReads
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

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 by spamming 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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Business, Indie Publishing, Publishing

Old School vs New School Crowdfunding: Which One Should Authors Consider?

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Pic via Pixabay

Not long ago, Kickstarter became a household name when it became the go to place to raise money for independent artists without a corporate sponsor.  Crowdfunding websites have raised money for films, music albums, and yes, even books.  Now flash forward to 2014 and even mainstream artists like Kenny Loggins and Zach Braff have used the site to raise quite a bit of money for their own pet projects.

However, there is a new kind of crowdfunding popping up in the publishing world and it would be wise if authors learned the difference between the two if they want to fund a self-published book, or simply get a contract with a publisher.

In The Beginning There Was Old School Crowdfunding

Back in the day, artists would create an account on a crowdfunding site and go straight to the people thus cutting out the middle men like agents, acquisitions editors and yes, even traditional publishers.  It was like a miracle from heaven for independent artists everywhere.  Artists could keep their rights, retain creative control and still make money on a book.  However, as with most miracles, there was a catch…

Chicken Meet Egg

Quickly, a problem arose for those with no platform.  An author with very few connections often had a difficult time raising awareness let alone, funds for their project.  Like it or not, most successful crowdfunding requires a promotional savvy that most authors don’t have.

This is where marketing companies and PR firms who specialize in crowdfunding promised to come to the rescue, for a price.  In essence, another middle man had been born.  Go figure.

Are Promotional Services Really Necessary?

If you don’t want to build a platform then yes.  Because according to Kickstarter’s own statistics, only 43% of projects actually get funded.

I’ve seen prices for these promotional services vary dramatically from $17 to $2,991 which include anything from press releases written by a copywriter, to targeted advertising, templates for your email list (or so you can bug your family and friends), and even video tutorials. However, that’s only on the pricier side. If you want to go the cheaper route, you can get a press release (written by God knows who), a targeted Facebook ad, and a social media blast.  I’ve only listed the affordable ones because I know my audience.

*Not affiliated with any of the companies mentioned*

Since there are no guarantees that this visibility will result in a successful campaign, it makes more sense to build a platform and promote the project yourself.  There’s no way around this platform thing, trust me, I’ve looked into it!

Crowdfunding is a 24/7 Deal

Ask anyone who’s ever successfully funded a campaign and they’ll tell you it is a hard job that requires hands on management. Authors often promote tirelessly on social media, blog tours and even podcasts to raise awareness for their projects.  So this isn’t just a set it and forget it endeavor.  If your project is 30 days, then you need to be plugged in for 30 days. This money will not raise itself.

Ultimately the question you have to ask yourself is, do you have the dedication it takes to successfully raise money for a project? If not, then old school crowdfunding isn’t for you.  However don’t fret, that’s not the only game in town. Next week, I’ll explain another way crowdfunding is taking over the publishing world and why it may be the new business template for publishers.

Check out Part 2 of this article here: Old School vs New School Crowdfunding Which One Should Authors Consider?

Marketing, Networking, Social Media

My Review Of Wattpad

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Image via Wikimedia Commons

*Check out the update to this post here and here because things have changed*

For those of you who don’t know what Wattpad is, it’s a story sharing site and most recently, a crowdfunding site.  Unlike FanFiction.net, Wattpad, is much easier to navigate and more visually appealing.  Since joining, I’ve shared several stories from YA fiction, a crime story and even a vampire novel (which I have taken down).

Wattpad has become so hot that publishing companies such as Book Country (Penguin/Random), and Swoon Reads (Macmillian) have copied its business model.  Allowing authors to post their manuscripts and letting their “community” to vote it up or down.  Those that become popular, are picked up by the publishing company after all the hard work has been done.

My Pseudo Analysis

I signed up for Wattpad little over a year ago, and learned that most of their readers are bored, young people looking for a freebie.  And despite what you may have read in the various online publications, there aren’t many agents, or editors looking for talent on Wattpad.  Like KDP, there are only a handful of authors who can actually credit their success to the site.

But back to the matter at hand, I shared the first three chapters of my YA novel “Hag” and got no increase in sales and a mere 54 views.  My vampire novel did the best with 253 views and three votes.  My crime novel, “Fedelta” has 64 views and 3 votes.  By the way, “Fedelta” is a free serial story that I’ve been sharing online at the Cereal Authors Blog.  Sadly, there have been more views on the CA blog than on Wattpad, and that’s saying a lot since WP boasts of a monthly readership of 10 million people.

The Crappy Part About Wattpad

Wattpad is considered a social media site for readers so, this is a good place to find those who will take a chance on a new author.  Like Amazon, there are awards and even features on the home page which Wattpad only gives to those with lots of views and votes.  So in essence, it’s a popularity contest which is okay with me, but I’ve noticed they are rolling out the red carpet for authors like Margaret Atwood because of their already solid fan base.  For example, when Wattpad rolled out their own crowdfunding  venture several months ago, only certain authors with a large number of followers were allowed to participate.  I’m guessing it’s because they wanted their program to start off successfully.  That way they can pretend their site is better at raising funds than Indiegogo or Kickstarter.

I see this site becoming increasingly newbie unfriendly.

How to Get Comments & Votes

If you want to have a go at it, Wattpad has several pieces of advice for authors and here are the top 7:

  1. Make sure your profile has a picture of you, the real you.
  2. Upload often and consistently.
  3. Read and comment on other stories.
  4. Share via social media; Facebook, Twitter etc.
  5. Upload video and audio files to your work.
  6. Be sure that your book has a cover picture.
  7. If your book is available on Amazon or B&N you can add an external link to it.

Notice the tips above are very similar to those given to bloggers, so why not just create a blog and promote that?  There have been several authors who have had success blogging and even tweeting their books.  You don’t need a middle man.  But I digress…

The Conclusion

I believe if you put a lot of work into building your audience on sites like Wattpad, Goodreads, or even Scribd, it will work.  Unfortunately, this will be an audience of freebie seekers and not fans of your work.  Fans buy books, not followers.

Since I’ve published my first book in 2012, I’ve noticed that getting visibility for my book isn’t hard at all.  It’s getting people to PAY for my book that’s the most difficult part of self-publishing.  As of today, I haven’t met any indie authors who have seen an increase in sales due to their platform on Wattpad.  The common sentiment in the indie community is that it’s a complete waste of time, like Goodreads.

So what are your thoughts?  Have you used Wattpad and if so, what were the results?

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Business, Publishing, Writing Business

Getting Others to Pay for Your Self-Publishing Expenses

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Image via Pixabay

This article was updated in 2016 in the post: Old School vs New School Crowdfunding: Which One Should Authors Consider? Please check that out.

It’s been called the no money, no problem solution in self-publishing, I’m of course talking about crowd funding.  Crowd funding got its start in response to a very dark past, when self-publishing was much like gambling since it was unlikely an author would ever recoup their initial investment.  In those primitive days, aspiring authors would charge all their publishing expenses on credit cards or withdraw from retirement accounts in order to make their dreams come true.  Not understanding how publishing works, many indies watched their life savings depleted by expensive vanity publishing contracts and unscrupulous con artists.

Since we indie authors are running a business, why don’t we raise capital like a normal business?  Just because some editor or agent says no, doesn’t mean a book should die.  There are several online sites that industrious authors can use to fund their self-published projects like; Kickstarter, IndieGoGo, and RocketHub just to name a few.

The Dark Side of Crowd Funding

According to the rules of most popular crowd funding sites, there is 2-9% cut of all money raised.  However the fees don’t end there, some banks and middle men like in the case of Kickstarter, (Amazon Payment) takes another 3-5% for credit card processing fees.  Also, authors can’t forget the tax man because according to the U.S. Internal Revenue Service, all money raised on a crowd funding site is 100% taxable.  That means authors are going to have to carefully do the math and possibly raise their monetary goals to accommodate these additional expenses.

In this Ted Talk, performance artist Amanda Palmer, encouraged artists to “ask without shame.”  Amanda by the way, holds the record on Kickstarter for raising the most money for a music project with over one million dollars in donations.  The money she raises not only goes to fund the project but also allows her and her band to giveaway their work free of charge.  In an age where most artists discourage torrents and file sharing Amanda and her band actually encourage it.  This is blatantly counter intuitive to most corporate business models in which freebies are used only as a short term marketing ploy.  On the flip side, Amanda’s strategy is more long term, using digital music as a promotional tool, rather than a money making venture.  As the industry argues over .99 songs, Amanda and her band have successfully cut out the middle man and are setting up their next tour.

So how does an author repeat this success?

Social Media to the Rescue?

Many indie artists take to the web by guest posting on popular blogs, or even advertising on social media sites like Facebook to raise awareness for their self-publishing endeavor.  Those who have a larger social media following generally do better than those that don’t.  We’re talking about 25,000+ “engaged” followers.

Here are a few tips on how to run a successful campaign:

  • Successful campaigns are funded by tiny increments, so set the pledges to smaller amounts like $5 or $10.
  • Campaigns with videos explaining your project and enthusiasm seem to do better than those without them.
  • Have a compelling blurb explaining your project with a call to action.
  • Promote your project on social media because most projects are funded 80% by family and friends.
  • Fund other projects in popular niches like movies, gaming, or music to get visibility on the site as well as some good karma.

Crowd funding can be a viable path for the more savvy author who already knows how to promote a book since the steps are so similar, but even then, there are no guarantees of a successful crowd funding project.