This Startup Aims To Democratize Book Publishing

From Forbes:

Time was, the publishing industry could claim a stable existence, safe within its leather-bound borders. If a publishing business was held and run by competent hands, it could typically expect a nice payoff from those gilded-edge pages. Over the past decade (or more), however, sales numbers have become increasingly unpredictable.

The merging of some traditional publishers and the shutting of doors by others has made becoming a debut author perceptibly less likely. Literary agents have more methods than ever for heaving even the most adventurous and resolute new author out the door — particularly if the author doesn’t arrive on the agent’s doorstep with an existing base of eager readers. What new and unaided author can show up with the needed number of followers in tow? I would guess the number may amount to about zero.

Traditional publishers want relevant authors but have a massive challenge in finding them, especially with the scale filtering methods used today. The whole author-agent-publisher convoy has become a woefully ineffective method for discovering and nurturing high-quality literature and new titles.

But recent developments in the publishing world have allowed for a possible future. New platforms such as Publishizer, a crowdfunding literary agency, are stepping forward and connecting authors and publishers through preorders and data. This seems like a safer haven for newbie authors.

. . . .

1. No more rejection of new book ideas.

Constantine mentioned that in the U.S. every year, more than 1 million book proposals get turned down — that’s a rejection rate of about 96 percent. Not that this widespread rejection is just making an appearance now — it’s something that has gone on for decades. Certainly, it’s no secret that agents and their publisher counterparts are subjective in their choices of material to present.

We have all heard horror stories like Tim Ferris being rejected numerous times for his New York Times bestselling book The 4-Hour Work Week. And who wouldn’t want to shake some sense into those who received J.K. Rowling’s first Harry Potter manuscript — and rejected it more than 10 times? The world-famous Harry Potter series nearly didn’t get published, and Rowling was told not to “quit her day job.” The number of good books that might never see the sunlight of publication is staggering.

Crowdsourcing can eradicate these traditional roadblocks and inefficiencies by validating book ideas with readers who preorder copies after reviewing an author’s proposal, which Publishizer helps create according to industry standards. Authors then get matched to publishers based on the specific interests of acquisitions editors — before any of the book is written. So rather than being painfully rejected dozens of times over months or years, authors can be quickly connected with interested publishers.

. . . .

Crowdfunding may single-handedly bring about an era that we have not seen before in publishing, helping us find works that would otherwise languish in a literary graveyard somewhere. I believe that crowdfunding will uncover books that will delight future generations — and bring a bright new unfolding of freedom to people who have not known where to strike that power pose before.

Link to the rest at Forbes

16 thoughts on “This Startup Aims To Democratize Book Publishing”

  1. So in other words they’re having readers do the tradpub job of reviewing the slush pile, and using an algorithm to match winning MSs to editors.

    Meanwhile, authors can circumvent all this with self-publishing.

    Sounds like an obsolete tool in search of a function.

  2. This Startup Aims To Democratize Book Publishing…

    Amazon & Apple & Nook & Kobo already did.

    A startup charging authors for what a couple trillion-dollar companies already offer them for free?

    Let us know how that works out.

  3. One thing traditional publishers still do for (select) authors is provide payday loans.

    These folk don’t even do that; they expect the invisible masses to provide the financing for them.

    Capital-free capitalism.

    Or as Danny DeVito would say: playing with other people’s money.


  4. “New platforms such as Publishizer, a crowdfunding literary agency, are stepping forward and connecting authors and publishers through preorders and data.”

    So they’re trying to replace agents? Are they charging 15%?

    Much safer/faster/cheaper/(and might make you some money) to self publish and let trad-pub come to you (just make sure the contract doesn’t sell you and your work too cheaply! 😉 )

    • “So they’re trying to replace agents? Are they charging 15%?”

      No, they are charging %30. Seriously. It is right there on their home page.

      • I didn’t even check their site, what little PG posted here was bad enough. 😉

        Makes you wonder why this wasn’t marked as a paid for ad because someone at Forbes had to be in on the take …

  5. This is a sweet operation, if they can pull it off. This is a particular highlight:

    “Publishizer is free. Authors earn 70% of pre-orders. If you sell 750 pre-orders or higher, as one of our clients, you will earn 70% of advances and royalties.”

    The first sentence is directly contradicted by what follows. The less sexy but more true statement is that there are no up-front costs. Note that charging 30% at the back end is twice what a traditional literary agent gets.

    Next up:

    “9/10 Publishizer clients land a traditional book deal.”

    Actually, looking through some of the proposals, the publishers linked as “interested” seem to run to hybrid at best: the sort whose websites swear that they aren’t vanity publishers while discussing how much this will cost the author.

    Then there is the question of those pre-orders. One wonders how they can price a book when it is still in the proposal stage, but let’s pass over that. Then there is the vague promise that we will “often” get a copy of the ebook “months before it is published.” Ooh! A book that hasn’t been completely edited yet! How can I resist?

    But mostly I wonder about the idea of putting cash down for a book that may or may not be published at some indefinite future date. The FAQ includes this bit of hilarity:

    “Can I request a refund?
    “Yes. If you would like to request a refund, please contact us.”

    OK, next question: Will I get that refund? And when? But even assuming this isn’t outright fraud, this seems to be a scheme to benefit from the float of those pre-orders.

    They do have a point. Predicting what books will and will not sell well is hard. This ought not be surprising. It is like the baseball draft. Highly motivated analytics teams take their best shot, but a guy drafted early may never pan out, while a guy who was never drafted at all becomes a star.

    Crowd sourcing at the proposal stage is an interesting idea. It might even work. But if it does, then this outfit has a manuscript that is pre-screened for success. This should result in a lower agency fee, not a higher one. And considering that most if not all of the publishers interested aren’t actually all that traditional, what actually is the value it provides the author?

    All in all, this looks like it occupies the gray area between being a vastly overpriced funding/marketing site and an outright scam.

    Edit: Also, the first sentence of the first proposal I looked at lacked a verb. The rest of the paragraph wasn’t any better. If they were at all serious about adding value to the author, a quick edit of the proposal would have been a good place to start

    • “This is a sweet operation, if they can pull it off.”

      There’s a sucker born every second …

      Any bets we’ll be seeing them on ‘Writer Beware’ real soon now? 😉

    • In 2010, Mike Trout was the 25th guy selected in the draft.
      24 teams passed on the most talented ball player in 70 years. So of those chosen ahead of him (Harper, Machado, Yelich) were great talents in their own right. But others…

      The human factor is always hard to quantify.

      • Mike Piazza was the 1,390th player selected in the 1988 draft. His father was boyhood friends with Tommy Lasorda, who is the godfather of Mike’s younger brother. Mike’s father asked Lasorda as a personal favor to draft the kid if no one else did. This was, of course, before his induction into the Hall of Fame.

        Predicting is hard. Especially the future.

  6. Weeeeellll (in Ronald Reagan’s voice), I’m sure many currently self-published authors will be jumping on this like fleas on a quadriplegic (no scratching) dog with hemophilia… Yeah.

    But not me. Or any TPVers, I’d wager. 🙂

  7. First looked at the “Learn More” page. Scrolled down and there’s Austin Macauley. I spent some time reading their site recently for a friend, no really, this friend was offered a contract by AM and wanted to check with me before signing. Big red flags. HUGE red flags. She didn’t sign. That there turned me right off. I didn’t read any more.

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