1. Cdn Writer

    Cdn Writer Senior Member

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    Publishing Cooperative

    Discussion in 'Publishing' started by Cdn Writer, Jun 11, 2020.

    It's been a long night and I had an idea which I was playing with, I was going to use it as a plot device in something I'm working on but then the idea sort of jumped up and drop kicked me with the thought - HEY!!!!! THIS COULD WORK!!!!

    Like I said above, it's been a long night so I hope this is coherent. I would normally wait til I get some ZZZ's but I don't want to forget. So, here goes:


    ***Moderators - while this could potentially take off at some future date, it is NOT meant as "market research" or as an attempt to solicit monies for such an endeavour. Hopefully it does not break any rules.*** Jannert Mod hat on here: It's fine, as long as it's just a discussion about the notion of publishing cooperatives, etc, and is not a come-on to start one here.


    The inspiration for this was that I was trying to create a business a hitman could do to explain away some of his illegitimate income and his travels away from home to commit the murders he's hired to do. I thought of a book publishing company. The idea just sat and sat, during which time I saw some discussions in here in the threads "Questions for a Ghostwriter" and the Catrin Lewis' thread "Wherein I roll my own in the publishing world."

    The gist I picked up is that people weren't happy with traditional publishers and speaking for myself, I wasn't happy with what I was seeing as the amount of non-writing work that went into self publishing. I had done some research into starting a business before and I had a little booklet about cooperatives on a bookshelf somewhere. I saw the title in passing and lightning struck!

    This may be an awful idea, a good idea, a stupid idea, a brilliant idea, whatever.


    I specifically want to know why it would or would not work.


    What if 100 writers were to organize, each contributes $1,000 for a total of $100,000 which goes to the establishment of "The Writer's Publishing House Inc."

    The 100 writers vote in a board of directors of say 25 of their members and those members further vote in 7 of them to be an executive committee with the authority to speak for the corporation. They use that $100,000 to hire an editor and a marketing manager, possibly also a social media employee. They won't need offices or support staff like secretaries as they can work from home.

    The members can each submit work, the board as a whole votes on what to publish, and the corp tries to publish 2 to 3 books each quarter so potentially 8 to 12 books a year from the members. The books that publish, after the expenses are recovered, 80% of the proceeds go to the author and 20% go to the corp to reinvest such as in workshops, new staff, new equipment, etc.

    Could set up a rule that members can have X number of books published under the corp before they have to leave to make room for newer writers; maybe also a time limit of 5 to 10 years for each member so people are always revolving and new writers are coming in every year?

    Funds permitting, I think the $1,000 membership fee has to be returnable when the author leaves, unless they donate it to the corp.


    So.....as I wrote above - Would this work? Why would it work? Why wouldn't it work?


    Thanks!!
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Jun 11, 2020
  2. jannert

    jannert Who? Whooo? Staff Supporter Contributor

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    The first thing that struck me ...I don't want to be a wet blanket here ...but with print-on-demand publishing and things like KDP publishing available more or less for free, I suspect most authors would rather spend $1000 getting their own work out there for sure (paying for good cover design, marketing, etc), rather than gambling the money on possibly getting their work out there. (Around a 10% chance?)

    I'm not seeing an advantage to this model. In a way, it's vanity publishing—only instead of paying money to actually get published, the person is paying $1000 to possibly get published.

    The main advantage a traditional publishing house has over self-published books is the clout associated with its name as a marketing 'plus.' Traditional publishers make their reputation by being very selective about which authors they publish, then promoting books that are of high quality and/or sell well.

    The membership of this cooperative, on the other hand, is simply based on writers who can afford $1000 as a stake. They might all be poor quality writers. And what would the plans be to build their reputation? What would this cooperative's clout be based on?

    Getting published is easy these days—and you can already do it for almost nothing. Getting the books sold is the trick.
     
    Last edited: Jun 11, 2020
  3. Cdn Writer

    Cdn Writer Senior Member

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    Ahh, believe it or not, while this might not work in the real world, it does work in my book because my character can use his own money to buy the books he's trying to sell.

    Like, he publishes book #1, it goes to store #1, and he buys some copies with his illegitimate income - paying cash - and then he earns royalties on the book sales. He can also get other people to buy the book. Doesn't have to be under his name.


    As for the real world issue, ok, it doesn't work because I was looking at the wrong issue. It's not getting published that's a problem. It's having people buy the books that's the issue. Hmm....I'll see what I can come up with in that realm the next time I'm sleep starved. Maybe I'll solve the problem.

    I really think there has to be a middle ground. People like me don't want to go to book signings, "meet-the-author" meets & greets, maintain a social media presence. I do NOT even have any social media accounts - no instagrams, no facebooks, no tumbrl, no whatsapp, no whatever-the-name-is-today, and more to the point, I DO NOT WANT THIS STUFF. All I want to do is write a great story and have people buy it. Period.

    This won't work for poor, struggling writers but maybe a richer author could hire the traditional publishing house to publish the book, market it and then if it takes off, they earn a pile and if it fails, they're out of pocket whatever they paid to the publishing company? Bah....thinking out loud. Need to mull on it some more.
     
    Last edited: Jun 12, 2020
  4. big soft moose

    big soft moose The Moderating Moose Staff Supporter Contributor Community Volunteer

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    The maths doesn't add up -

    a full time marketing officer is going to be at least 25k per annum, probably more, say another ten for social media management, and 12k on a grand per manuscript basis for the editor... that's an outgoing of 47k a year on wages.

    add to that cover design for twelve books at may be 500 a shot - that's another 6 grand

    then you've got the ancillary costs for webhosting and so forth

    you'll have spent your 100k by the end of year two

    And in terms of income it is highly unlikely that the net sales (after advertising costs etc) of twelve unknown authors will be 250k in the first year, or even the second year..so you won't replenish your money as fast as you spend it.

    eotd you'll be bankrupt by the end of year three... and thats without saving up the money to return to authors who leave.
     
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  5. big soft moose

    big soft moose The Moderating Moose Staff Supporter Contributor Community Volunteer

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    As a money laundering scheme for your character, why would he involve other authors... he would be better off putting the books on amazon, then using multiple accounts to buy the overpriced ebooks... that said books are low cost items so even if he smurfed the cash arround it would take a long time to launder his money.

    he'd be better off buying gold coins for cash, then selling them again, or just paying a percentage to a crooked banker running a money laundry
     
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  6. Homer Potvin

    Homer Potvin We may just go where no-one's been.... Contributor

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    Not likely...
     
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  7. jannert

    jannert Who? Whooo? Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Speaking as somebody who has a finished novel ready to 'go,' but who lacks the knowledge and expertise and gumption to get to grips with complicated self-publishing software, etc, I would love to be able to hire somebody to do that work for me. Somebody with a reputation for excellence. And somebody who can deal with my MS which is NOT in Word.

    I don't want them to 'publish' the book for me, but merely to get my MS into a publishable format. I can't seem to find that category of help at all. I don't need editing or proofreading ...I've done that. I just need it formatted and returned to me in a state where I could then proofread for any minor formatting mistakes, then upload it to KDP and get a print-on-demand set up as well. Does that category of that paid 'help' even exist? Dunno. I suspect there would be a large market for that stage of help, actually. I know lots of people like myself who love to write, but are kinda technically challenged. What am I missing here?

    It's kinda like telling a watercolour artist that he can't sell his artwork unless he does all the matting and framing himself. While some artists have the setup and knowledge to do all that, others don't. Instead, they hire a framer to do the framing for them. That's what I need as a writer ...a framer!
     
    Last edited: Jun 12, 2020
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  8. deadrats

    deadrats Contributor Contributor

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    You can't buy a book deal. That's not how trade publishers work. It seems like you're a little out of touch with the publishing industry. But there was a true story about a writer who drove all around the country buying his books to make The New York Times best seller list. This was about fifteen or twenty years ago.
     
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  9. Cdn Writer

    Cdn Writer Senior Member

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    Change the numbers? 500 writers, $1,000 each? $500,000. Or 100 writers but $5,000 each? $500,000. Also could keep the membership money, could charge membership fees each year. Especially if the books don't bring in the revenue that the cooperative needs to continue.

    I'm wondering if some type of sweat equity could work a la Habitat for Humanity's model. For example, you're a skilled editor, you can donate that service in lieu of membership dues. Or Jannert is an expert social media influencer and she can send out a blast of "check this awesome book out!!!" and drive the sales of that book in exchange for a reduced membership fee.


    It was one idea. The other methods, I don't know about the rest of the world but in my city, gold purchases and sales are tracked. If someone was buying thousands of dollars worth of gold and then selling it down the line for cash, the tax people would know. I'm pretty sure there would be a delay involved but law enforcement would get notified and people would start wondering, how does Mr. X have $300,000 (or whatever) worth of gold to exchange for cash? I'm not crazy about involving other people directly such as by finding a crooked banker because then my character is exposed to blackmail if the banker decides to threaten him - "give me more $ or I'll go to the cops!" and by going into a group, Mr. X is playing a bit of "leaf in the forest" with anyone looking.

    **"Leaf in the forest" is a game where an item, in this case a leaf, is hidden among other leafs. So "leaf in the forest" refers to hiding one leaf in a forest of trees/leaves. Hide a book in the library. Hide a jewel in the jewelry box. Hide a prisoner in the jail. Etc.

    I'm thinking he could own the publishing company and also be a writer himself. He'd have the opportunity to spread his money around legitimately through advances to the writers and then they repay him as the books (hopefully) sell, providing him with a legitimate revenue stream as the books continue to sell as well. And....ulterior motive here - he can write a mystery novel about the actual crimes he's committed and hide these books/confessions among all the other books he's publishing. Think of this approach as his "trophy" instead of taking photos of the crime scene or an item from the victim.

    Plausible? Perhaps not but fun to play with.


    I could see the members in this forum cooperating in this manner, perhaps not to the extent of paying money for it unless they were going to get some return on their investment, but the community here seems pretty supportive. It's not necessary for us to love each other and agree with each other 100% but if everyone works together to help each member write and publish the best book ever.....that's my ideal cooperative model.


    Hey!!! There's a business idea. Is it large enough for someone to take on? How much work is it and what are people willing to pay for it?

    Off the top of my head, could you approach a local university's English department or perhaps computer science department and ask if they are able to do that? Or the high school computer teacher might be able to give you the number of a brilliant student who's looking to earn some pocket money and can help.


    Part of the problem is that I am jumping around a lot and not doing a very good job of laying out my thinking processes here, mainly because this started as an academic exercise that I then thought could work in the real world.

    I started with the idea of a hitman who needed a way to hide his illegitimate income and also a job which could explain his travels and presences in various places.

    I thought he could start the publishing company and then he could spread the money around - he could pay his own way for his own work, plus he could advance money to potential writers and then when they published they would repay the advances to him legitimately and everything would look hunky-dory in the end if there was ever an audit. Of course, the more I thought of it, the more problems. So a publishing company became a publishing cooperative and when I was trying to figure that out, I started to think this might work in the real world - it seems not but it was an interesting exercise.

    Learned some new things at least.

    Thanks all!
     
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  10. Naomasa298

    Naomasa298 Senior Member

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    It could work if the person setting up the cooperative is themselves a marketing expert, and therefore could contribute their own time "for free" at the beginning (hence your sweat equity).
     
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  11. big soft moose

    big soft moose The Moderating Moose Staff Supporter Contributor Community Volunteer

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    for the reality - the figures don't work because if you increase the buy in to say 5k you're at a point where its not worth doing it, while if you increase the number you've got too many people who'll never get published.

    For the plot - it still feels like a difficult way of washing his money, not to mention that he'll have to pay tax on it, and give 30% of it to amazon.

    also for him to get back the kind of money a hitman earns he'd have to sell so many books he'd be a best seller, both drawing attention which he doesn't want, and alerting amazon to something funny going on

    In reality most organised crime money is smurfed, that is its disbursed in quantities less than 10k to avoid reporting laws to a bunch of minions - the smurfs - who then pay it into accounts and transfer it through a web of accounts winding up off shore in switzerland, or grand cayman or wherever,... the smurfs get to keep about a quarter of a percent of what they smurf. this is because most OC money is accumulated in cash from drugs, vice, protection and so on
     
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  12. marshipan

    marshipan Contributor Contributor

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    Yes. I've never personally hired a formatter but Fiver is where I've heard of a lot of people sourcing that kind of help. What is your file type of your MS?
     
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  13. jannert

    jannert Who? Whooo? Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I work in Apple's Pages programme. I can export it to several different formats, including Word (so that Word users can read it.) But I can't work on it in Word.

    I downloaded Vellum, which is a programme that apparently does adapt Pages formatting to be compatible with KDP. But not only is it expensive to use (like nearly £300) but it's so damn complicated. They send you a free version, and you can get your MS ready to go on the free version. But once you decide to upload it to KDP, the fee kicks in.

    It's not that it can't be done. It's that I'm just not feeling up to doing it myself.

    Fiver? I'll check it out... thanks....
     
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  14. Homer Potvin

    Homer Potvin We may just go where no-one's been.... Contributor

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    Yeah, except writing is probably the most individualist, introverted and anti-cooperative avenue of all the arts.

    And like Moose said, your math is all over the place. I don't see how anyone could get a return on their $1000 investment unless this magically produced a best seller. And anyone capable of writing a bestseller (or any seller) isn't going to be interested in divesting their personal economic viability. Again, you're talking about writers... not a band of musicians or a troupe of actors that require "coworkers" to perform their art.

    As for a hitman who needs to launder money, any cash-only business will do. The Providence mob ran most of their money through vending machine and coin-op laundry companies. And lottery ticket scams, which were also a cash-only purchase. The old joke was that every pizza parlor across Rhode Island would have a sign advertising lottery tickets in the window but never actually sold lottery tickets. Of course, the police and state lottery commissions were corrupt as hell too, so nobody ever checked into it.

    Restaurants in general are a great way to launder money. That was another old joke... any Providence restaurant that only accepted cash was considered to be "connected." This is of course was in the glory days before RICO statutes, when proving the existence of a criminal organization was nearly impossible.
     
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  15. big soft moose

    big soft moose The Moderating Moose Staff Supporter Contributor Community Volunteer

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    Vellum is pretty simple really (its $249 US which is about £180)... adam croft has a really good free course on using it https://adamcroft.teachable.com/p/formatting-your-books-with-vellum

    that said if you don't want to spend that much Jutoh is almost as good for $49 but it doesn't do print

    most of the fomatters on fiverr will just be chucking it through vellum with a minimum of care so be careful what you pay for.

    Polgarus studios do a good job but are $89 per manuscript.

    There are free options for formatting offered by draft 2 digital, reedsy and so forth, but i used d2d on my first two books and the results were shite - that was when i bought vellum
     
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  16. big soft moose

    big soft moose The Moderating Moose Staff Supporter Contributor Community Volunteer

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    another point to consider here is that books are not a cash business - to spend the dirty money on amazon you have to already have it in a bank... and if you've got in a bank you could just wire it to the caymans
     
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  17. NigeTheHat

    NigeTheHat Contributor Contributor

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    Go to Upwork, search for 'kindle formatter'. You'll find a few there. The people will be a bit more expensive than Fiverr but they're more likely to be good.
     
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  18. jannert

    jannert Who? Whooo? Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Thanks.
     
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  19. Cdn Writer

    Cdn Writer Senior Member

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  20. big soft moose

    big soft moose The Moderating Moose Staff Supporter Contributor Community Volunteer

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    that looks a lot like a vanity publisher to me - two grand plus to do things you could easily do yourself or commision for a lot less... yeah um... no
     
  21. Cdn Writer

    Cdn Writer Senior Member

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    Really? I thought it was ok. Then again, I'm not into doing a lot myself. I just want to write the story and have the publisher deal with everything else, ha. Oh well.....at least I know who not to go to....
     
  22. big soft moose

    big soft moose The Moderating Moose Staff Supporter Contributor Community Volunteer

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    publishers pay authors, authors don't pay publishers... every time you see that 'hybrid approach' bullshit its a red flag for vanity publishing.

    you pay them two and a half grand plus the editing costs for services worth may be $500, and guarantee to buy 100 author copies, and they take 80% of your print royalties and 50% of your ebook royalties (and that will be net royalties after amazons etc share)... fuck that noise

    in a trad deal they take about that amount of royalties but you don't pay anything up front and you're not obliged to buy author copies

    or you can self publish, do the work and pay the costs up front but keep your net royalties (after amazon's and other market places, share)

    it sounds like self probably isn't for you if you just want to write, although increasingly even in trad deals the author has to do some marketing
     
    Last edited: Jun 12, 2020
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  23. deadrats

    deadrats Contributor Contributor

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    @Cdn Writer -- Writers don't pay back their advances. The publisher takes it from sales and once a book has earned back the advance, the writer starts receiving royalties. Many books do not earn back the advance that was given to the writer. Still, the writer doesn't owe the publisher anything. The writer gets to keep the advance no matter what. Maybe you want to think of a different industry for your character to work in. I don't think your plan here works in fiction or the real world as it stands now. If you want your character to work in publishing, I think you really need to learn more about the inner workings of the industry. There are reasons why it's tough and competitive. There are reasons why it's so hard to break in. That's not something you can easily change nor should be changed. And no writer with any common sense is going to fork over $1K to have their book published or possibly published. That's just a ridiculous reading fee.
     
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  24. big soft moose

    big soft moose The Moderating Moose Staff Supporter Contributor Community Volunteer

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    you can self publish and pay a service company to do most of the work, personally i wouldn't since its a good way to spend a lot of cash... but the main difference between a legit service company and a vanity is that a legit service company is not pretending to be a publisher and doesn't take any of your royalties

    https://www.bookbaby.com is an example of one such - to be clear i'm not recomending them, you can get better services individually cheaper if you shop around, but its an option for those writers who are cash rich and time poor and don't care about making a positive return on their investment
     
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  25. Naomasa298

    Naomasa298 Senior Member

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    Seems scammy to me if you have to agree to buy copies of your own book.
     
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