1. AVCortez
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    AVCortez Active Member

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    Discussion about community funded publishing

    Discussion in 'Publishing' started by AVCortez, Mar 26, 2013.

    I'm a little bit hazy on the rules regarding posting links to other websites so I'll forego linking the sites unless a moderator expresses permission. But I'm sure most know what I'm talking about.

    Allow me to preface this by saying that the following will most likely point out blaring holes in my understanding of tradition publishing. Feel free to correct these, but please try focus on the topic at hand which is; community funded publishing.

    To my understanding, modern authors have been slaves to large publication houses and their specific guidelines pertaining to what they know will sell. They are a business, and one must respect that. I wouldn't publish a book I thought was crap either. The only alternative being self publishing, a costly and extremely risky venture for a would-be author. Not to mention the stigma associated with it.

    Community funded publishing, or crowd sourced, seems to sit somewhere in the middle. Focussing on the author's own abilities, not so much as a craft-writer but as the creator of an interesting read. This form of publishing is, to me, both a blessing and curse. Because on one hand, wonderful writers whose plots and characters don't quite fit the mainstream mould are getting published. But on the other, it leaves an opening for a natural born salesmen but a sub-standard writer to get the same, if not more, cash for a weaker piece of literature.

    It is a trend that is rapidly building steam. Not only in literature, but graphic novels, video games, cinema, industrial design, theatre, music... Well just about anything. Groups and individuals seem to be completely by-passing the step of searching out venture capitalists and publishing houses, and taking their pitch straight to the masses. Sometimes with great success. People are saying it is breaking down the walls, shaking up publishers and producers, shifting the focus from specified parameters of what the big dogs think will work, to, what the people want.

    I've read blog posts and articles both for and against the trend and a couple of scathing articles by published (although mid-list) authors (only one name I can remember, but will not mention), damning the concept entirely. Their claim essentially that if you are not good to be picked up, you shouldn't be published. Which, to me, shows too much respect for big name publishing houses, whose readers have set guide lines to abide regarding what will and won't be accepted.

    So I'm hoping to get a discussion going as to how people feel about this “shift” in publishing. What do you believe are the pros and cons of community funded publishing? Would you try it yourself? Do you know someone who has? Would you try it only after being rejected by the major publishing houses?

    Bit long, sorry.

    EDIT: For clarity.
     
  2. shadowwalker
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    shadowwalker Contributing Member Contributor

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    Well, first, the idea that authors are slaves to publishers is ridiculous. It's a business partnership, with the publisher taking on a huge risk financially. It's also a negotiable partnership - if the writer doesn't like the initial contract terms, they can negotiate for better ones or walk away.

    Second, there are a lot of sub-standard writers who go the self-pub route because they aren't good enough to get a contract - but not all. So anyone making a blanket statement like that about self-publishers is off-base. Public funding (is that what they call 'crowd sourcing'?) is a viable option, imho. I mean, why not? It's no different than an inventor going after private funding, or someone going to friends and family to help start a business. As long as the people asking for funding are being honest and not trying sell off the Brooklyn Bridge, let people contribute if they want to.

    Personally, I wouldn't ask for or give donations this way. A) I'm not interested in self-publishing and B) I'm not willing to throw money away on iffy things like that (even if it was treated as an investment with an actual monetary return). I don't see it as being the 'new wave of publishing' - people will get all excited about a project (especially if they only have to spend a little bit of money), but they aren't going to be all that willing to continually fund other people.
     
  3. chicagoliz
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    chicagoliz Contributing Member Contributor

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    I don't think I'm familiar with "community publishing." I am aware that some authors have tried to raise funds via a kickstarter campaign, or some similar crowd-funded type organization, with varying degrees of success.

    The whole self-publishing versus traditional publishing is a big topic that frequently comes up on writing sites and in any organization or group composed of writers. Some folks can get quite emotional over it, often because they have a lot invested in one side. Self-publishing is certainly a much more viable option today, and a lot of authors like it because it affords them more control and a bigger share of the profits (if there are any). Traditional publishing has marketing power that's hard to rival, and established links with booksellers, and experience with other business aspects. I think both are valid and it really depends on what a writer wants from publishing his or her work.
     
  4. psychotick
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    psychotick Contributing Member Contributor

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    Hi,

    I think your post has some problems. First self pubbling does not necessarily cost anything save time and talent. If you can write, edit and make a bash at a reasonable cover, you can do it all yourself.

    Second I don't think authors with trade pubbing deals are slaves to anyone - not unless they signed really poor contracts.

    And third as for community publishing are you speaking of crowd sourcing? It's not too clear. If you do mean crowd sourcing then I think it's a great idea. Not necessarily because the author will get a cent from his proposal - as I understand it most crowd sourced projects fail because they don't reach the required funds. But its still a good method of publicity. My own thought would be to make the required buy price so high that it could never realistically be achieved, simply to save on admin etc, and then just use the application as a publicity campaign. After all most books financed this way also give freebies away to those who financed them to a certain amount, and you don't really want to be mailing out thousands of copies of your books. It's just too much like hard work.

    Cheers, Greg.
     
  5. AVCortez
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    AVCortez Active Member

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    You missed the point:

    I made no comment regarding the actual contract following a publisher accepting a manuscript. It is my understanding that publishers have a specific set of guidelines when they decide on manuscripts, correct? Even if you say otherwise, I'm going to be hard pressed to believe massive publishing houses simply let their readers pick and choose whatever novels take their fancy.

    Lets be honest here, unless you're some mega savant, you are lying to yourself if you believe you can produce a novel to a professional standard on your own.

    Again, as just mentioned, perhaps slave was the wrong term to use, but my premise had nothing to do the the Author/Publisher contractual arrangement.

    Crowd sourced, community funded, same jig. Yeah, this is a very good idea and something I may actually do in the future.

    Though, I think you are very wrong about this:

    I would love nothing more than to be mailing out thousands of copies of my books...
     
  6. jazzabel
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    jazzabel Contributing Member Contributor

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    I aim for traditional publishing simply because I'm an ambitious person and would like to make a living as a writer. But I am in no way opposed to self publishing.In my case both apply. I "self-published" by writing out a novella on my blog. Now I am in the process of making it into an e-book because there's reader interest. I wasn't interested in trad publishing that and self-pub option is great because it allows me complete creative control. I suppose community funded publishing falls half way between, and the examples I've seen, mainly anthologies, worked out really well.
    Still, everything else I'm working on is for trad publishing (hopefully) and that is locked safely in my computer until it gets to the stage to start writing queries. I think all this noise about trad vs self publishing war/competition is meaningless. Self-publishing is invaluable if used appropriately and we should all be grateful for it. But trad publishing remains the gold standard.
     
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  7. shadowwalker
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    shadowwalker Contributing Member Contributor

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    Specific set of guidelines? Sure - the book has to be well-written and pique the interest of the acquisitions people - ie, have something about it that tells the experienced professionals that readers will probably buy enough of them to make a profit for both publisher and writer. They do have X number of books they can accept during a specific time frame and genre, but that's a matter of production practicality. Publishers are not these Mighty Dictators that tell the public what they will read. They look at what the public is reading, as well as what the public is reading less of, and what the public is reading more of. They look at what their competition is publishing. They look at the indie (small) publishers to see what they're publishing successfully. And they even look at individual books that don't fit the mold and think, "Hey, this is different enough and good enough that we have to take a chance and publish it!".
     
  8. chicagoliz
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    chicagoliz Contributing Member Contributor

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    Not necessarily. They publish whatever they think will sell. All the big publishers wanted Fifty Shades of Grey, and Random House got it. It was as close to a sure thing as a publisher ever gets -- there was demand for it before a big publisher even had it available. They took it as it was, printed it up and distributed it through their distribution system. I actually doubt that they would have taken it had it been submitted via the traditional method. But, here you have an example of something that was self-published, caught on, and was picked up by a traditional publisher. It doesn't happen often, but it does occasionally.

    Big Publishing is a business. They care about making money. Not about dictating what people should read.
     
  9. iolair
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    iolair Active Member

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    I don't believe that's true - although you would need reasonable education/intelligence (nothing like savant/genius level) and more importantly the willingness to learn about editing and spend a very significant amount of time and effort getting it right.

    (I'm using as a definition of 'professional' - a standard where people will give you money for it, without requiring any further editing)
     
  10. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    what do you man by 'produce'?... if you mean 'write' then that makes no sense whatsoever, since writers who are not savants/geniuses do it all the time...
     
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  11. spartan928
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    Crowd-funding is self-publishing if the author is running the campaign. For an unknown author isn't this putting the wagon load of cash in front of the horse? It presupposes that you have a crowd to send you money. Who is going to pledge money to an unknown author? Immediate family and friends but that's it. Also, what incentive other than a copy of the final product can an author offer? A signed copy of the final product? Big deal. Otherwise, an unknown author must have an incredible sales pitch, marketing skills and samples of excellent writing to entice strangers to pledge cash to their cause in the limited time frame a campaign allows. There is nothing to prevent anyone from starting a campaign. I say go for it, get what you can. Use the cash for cover design, whatever. But I'd fail to see how anyone could get strangers to pledge more than $5 (if that) when they can cherry pick from a million other unknown authors who have finished, reviewed work out there for $3.99-6.99.

    If we are discussing known, established authors with a fan base then that changes the parameters. But, unless you have a publishing team behind the campaign as well, then that author is making the decision to self-publish and takes on all the marketing, publishing etc etc that comes with it. So, despite how this all might seem cutting edge, business principles still apply. Sales and marketing principles still apply. An audience is built on the foundation of an authors work. There isn't any short-cut, nor is there ever going to be.
     
  12. NigeTheHat
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    NigeTheHat Contributing Member Contributor

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    I think crowd-funding is fine as an option if you want to produce something physical but don't have the money to burn, or if you want to have a crack at getting people to pay for you to take a year off to write.

    The problem you'll likely run into is exactly the same one you'd run into trying to make money at self-publishing - you need an audience. That means marketing, and that pretty much always means money. Some people get (really, really) lucky and have their pet project go viral. Most don't.

    If you do go down this route, remember that you're not so much selling a book as selling being a part of something. The reason people will give you $20 for a book that might happen rather than go to Amazon and pay $5 for one they'll definitely get is because they want to help bring something wonderful into the world, because they want to hold the finished book in their hands and think that they might not be the author or the illustrator or the editor, but they helped make this happen.
     
  13. psychotick
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    psychotick Contributing Member Contributor

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    Hi AV,

    Without wanting to get into a whole mess about self pubbling versus trade, I think you over-estimate the difficulty of self pubbing a book to a 'professional' standard. There are lots of books out there which have been self pubbed and are of this standard. (There's lots of carp too, no denying it.)

    Now there are three things that the author needs to do to achieve this standard of book. 1. Write it - no one can do this for them and that's the same challenge for both self and trade pubbers. 2. Edit it - here's where the trade pubber has the advantage, but having said that if the author knows a few good readers with sharp eyes and good grammar skills etc, it's not an insurmountable one. 3. Put a cover on it - and again the trade pubbed has an advantage here, but again with the software available out there, and the sheer number of enthusiastic amateurs in digital art, it's not insurmountable. Besides you can buy a cover from someone you like for not much dosh.

    You don't need to be a mega-savant or have loads of dosh to self publish to a high standard.

    Cheers, Greg.
     
  14. psychotick
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    psychotick Contributing Member Contributor

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    Hi AV,

    Without wanting to get into a whole mess about self pubbling versus trade, I think you over-estimate the difficulty of self pubbing a book to a 'professional' standard. There are lots of books out there which have been self pubbed and are of this standard. (There's lots of carp too, no denying it.)

    Now there are three things that the author needs to do to achieve this standard of book. 1. Write it - no one can do this for them and that's the same challenge for both self and trade pubbers. 2. Edit it - here's where the trade pubber has the advantage, but having said that if the author knows a few good readers with sharp eyes and good grammar skills etc, it's not an insurmountable one. 3. Put a cover on it - and again the trade pubbed has an advantage here, but again with the software available out there, and the sheer number of enthusiastic amateurs in digital art, it's not insurmountable. Besides you can buy a cover from someone you like for not much dosh.

    You don't need to be a mega-savant or have loads of dosh to self publish to a high standard.

    Cheers, Greg.
     
  15. AVCortez
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    AVCortez Active Member

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    Unknown authors do offer signed copies of their debut novels; and people often pledge (the term used by these sites like kickstarter) for them. I think you are applying your own mindset to masses, as well as underestimating the power of social proof. People follow, that's just what they do. After monitoring more than a few campaigns I've noticed that that do not gain funding at a steady rate - the more money they get, the faster they rise, often, if they make their goal they will actually exceed it.

    I would love it if kickstarter would do a "why did you pledge" sort of article because, like you, the mindset of someone who goes on and pledges $50 to someone they have never heard of escapes me. Then again, perhaps these people are known to the author, but its also half as likely that they are not.

    Known authors are present as well, and almost invariably their campaigns have a much more marketing savy structure. Then again a women who's name escapes me, a kindle self-published author who has marketed her work (successfully) through social media had a very successful campaign based off of a simple pitch. She had not even written the novel.

    NigeTheHat
    Very well put.

    Mam
    To take a novel from the rough draft to print.

    Chic
    I've taken to calling this 'retropublishing' - based off of the term 'retrofit' - I know of an Australian blogger who received a book deal in the same way. He also wrote erotica, though. I would be interested in how common this actually is. I would have thought it extremely rare, but perhaps its not as uncommon as we think. Is this a relatively new method, or could it be likened to something else?

    Hence why they have a specific set of guide lines with what they will and won't publish. Harry Potter is a brilliant exception to this apparently, when Rowling's first book was finally picked up, it was a tough sell even within the publishing house. To quote the person who told me the story "it didn't fit into any of their categories, but it had something." It's not unlikely that if this story is true, that it changed the way a lot of publishers review manuscripts.

    psychotick
    Hello, Greg. I think you're right, I am over-estimating it. But my standards are set pretty high, and don't want to change that. I've been studying and working in design for nearly seven years now and when I look at a trad published book all I see are the jobs... so many jobs. Graphic designers, type setters, formatters, cover artists. I cut a living from some of the above, and know well the amount of work that goes into formatting a publication... And then of course there are the editors. I guess it's just my personal opinion, but I think that anyone who can do all of the above to my standard is a genius... Probably because I've seen a lot of people who've tried and, in my opinion, failed.

    One point that is worth noting is that even non-graphic designers will notice poor typography. They won't know why it's poor, but it will be less appealing to them. Type-setting and formatting is something that they spend a large portion of a design degree teaching. It's kind of sad that a artist will have their friends awe struck by a mediocre illustration, but the most brilliant type-setter receives near zero acclaim... Most people don't even know what one is.

    To give you an insight into the cost of illustration (in australia at least): If you look at my blog there are some examples of my illustration. I charge around $60 an hour, depending on the client, and a piece of passable cover art would take me in the league of 20 hours (15-20 hours seems to be the standard). That's $1200. Now, my art is crap. Maybe if I spent 60 hours on a piece I might, with a lot of luck, be able to produce what I would consider a professional standard of work. And yet, twice I've been approached to paint book covers... I declined both because the money was bordering on an insult. Offering an artist, $50-100 for a piece of cover art, if they show an semblance of skill, is the reason its so hard to make a living a freelance artists... But now I'm descending into the problems within my own industry, which I really shouldn't be... With that in mind, you are very right, as there are a lot of phenomenal digital artists in places like eastern Europe who will work for their $60 equivalent and produce amazing artwork.

    -----------------------------------------------​

    Getting very off topic here. But it does appear that most seem to be, in one way or another, in favour of crowd sourced publishing, even if the motives behind pledgers is a bit of a mystery. Do you guys think the hype surrounding it; as in news articles and such that claim it's "shaking up the industry" are blown out of proportion?

    I've been inclined that it is the way forward, taking the executive power out of the hands of the big dogs, and giving it back to the creators. But I have not applied this thought to literary publishing (figured I should bold that, so it doesn't become flame bait), more to game-design, which is making an obvious shift towards indie developers. NOTE: the shift to my knowledge is not particularly obvious in market share, simply that many game design firms that could not have existed three years ago are generating an income.

    Also, another thing that has no doubt been discussed here, but perhaps we could enter into again is what you all think of kindle publishing. Most of what I've read has been very negative, plenty saying in no uncertain terms that the kindle store is jammed up with shit-house novels.
     
  16. shadowwalker
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    shadowwalker Contributing Member Contributor

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    I think most things that claim to be 'shaking up the industry' are overblown. That's not to say they aren't useful or have a place in publishing, of course. But they're The Thing when they first start out, and then things level off and they work for some, not for others - just like everything in life. And not finding anything wrong with it doesn't necessarily mean one is in favor of it. :)
     

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