First time or independent authors face a real dilemma when bringing their work to the literary marketplace. They want to devote their efforts fully to the research and creative endeavor of writing a great book and they’ll have to devote many months or years to doing so.
An old friend of mine recently launched her first novel on the crowdfunding platform Publishizer which I supported enthusiastically.
But we soon learned that Publishizer, to put it most charitably, is not exactly the opportunity that it purports to be.
It’s a crowdfunding platform, so they provide the tools and eCommerce checkout for a book launch campaign. You bring the readers. It differs from IndieGoGo or Kickstarter in that those very popular websites are frequented monthly by millions of potential customers of your product. There’s value in being found in their thriving marketplaces. With Publishizer you bring all the customers to them; you’re going to be emailing, calling and asking your friends and family to plug their credit card details into their website to support your book launch.
What happened with my friend’s project is very revealing…
She had modest success; in a month she sold her book to over 50 of her friends and family which was priced a little high (I thought) at $20 per unit, generating over four figures in sales. A long way from the New York Times bestseller list BUT really not bad for a mom from suburbia with a mere 400 Facebook friends. And to her excitement, she started receiving offers from publishers via the site. But the publishing offers she received were from independent publishers that really don’t do much for the author. They essentially offer a pay-to-publish service to the author. You pay them to copy edit your book, design a cover, format it for distribution on Amazon and print physical books. They almost certainly won’t get you into bookstores or interviewed on daytime talk shows.
The vast majority of publishing deals that Publishizer brokers are with these kinds of independent publishers. These guys are not going to get you into Barnes & Noble. Basically, they’ll just get you onto Amazon and a few other online retailers. Which is honestly, something that you can do yourself.
I’ll make the case that this is a worse deal than self-publishing…
- Independent publishers take 15% — 30% royalties on your book. That might not seem like that much money but if your book ends up being moderately successful it amounts to thousands of dollars (or more) in the long term — wouldn’t you rather have that money? Are they providing services that are worth that?
- What do these publishers bring to the table in terms of marketing? Do they focus on a literary niche and have a loyal base of interested customers? Do they have hundreds of thousands of engaged followers on social media? Do they have a popular podcast or Youtube channel where they can interview you and promote your work? Or do they merely list your book on their eCommerce store?
- If you self-publish you get to set the book price at whatever you want.
- They may do some editorializing of your work. You give up some control over your book.
- Ultimately you can maximize the profit margins from the sales of your book by spending a little extra time subcontracting or doing yourself the cover design, copy editing, digital formatting and book printing.
I’m sure that some niche-focused independent publishers provide value but in general, I’d be very skeptical of them.
Very few of the crowdfunding campaigns on Publishizer sell over 500 units. To sell over 500 units of a book you either need…
- To be an established writer with a popular blog, large social media following or some other measure of celebrity.
- A professional marketing campaign; viral Youtube videos, search engine optimization, banner advertising, hosting live events, influencer outreach campaign, Facebook advertising, doing a bunch of podcast interviews, etc. Unless you’re a marketing powerhouse yourself this requires a marketing team and at least a four-figure budget.
It’s well said that…
A bank is where you should go for a loan if you can prove that you don’t need it.
Similarly, book publishers are increasingly…
Where you should go publish your book if you can prove that you don’t need their help to market it.
The Author’s Dilemma
If you’ve spent months or years in monk mode researching and writing your book instead of using social media to build an audience you’re in a tough position. As is discussed an Intelligence Squared debate, in the past the author’s job was to just be an author and they would partner with a publisher who did all the marketing and got it into bookstores but the world has changed. Bookstores are closing their doors (or turning into boutique coffee shops) permanently thanks to Amazon. As opposed to finding something new to read by browsing the shelves of a bookstore the reader’s attention is now piqued by books that they hear about on the Internet, from their social media friends or see discussed on Youtube. Now you need to devote equal time and effort to self promote and market your work as you do to writing itself.
In regards to Publishizer, there are three conspicuous red flags…
Red flag #1 They take a 30% cut
Which is a lot! Let’s say that you have modest success and raise about $1200 in crowdfunding like my friend did; you’ll be paying them nearly $400 for hosting your launch page and that doesn’t include bank transfer fees which is usually another 2% — 3%. Kickstarter or Indiegogo take less than 10% including transfer fees.
Red flag #2 Claims to be your literary agent
On their website, they claim to be a literary agency. I imagine a literary agent as being a very cosmopolitan person with an office in New York who spends their days reading manuscripts and their evenings drinking cocktails and rubbing elbows with decision-makers in publishing and the media. These guys don’t do that, they just have a website that accepts credit cards with an algorithm. They are a middle man.
Red flag #3 They don’t read your book
My friend actually spoke throughout the process with one of the founders of Publishizer. He over-promised the literary agency service and filled her head with fantasies of her book published by a big publisher and being found front and center in bookstores. She was quite troubled when halfway through the crowdfunding campaign she discovered that he had not even read her book. A real literary agent would read their client’s books to ascertain if they were even good enough for consideration by publishers. But of course, they don’t read their client’s books because they don’t actually care about quality, they just care about sales.
My friend ultimately canceled her Publishizer campaign and refunded her customers because per their terms and conditions authors are required to fulfill all orders placed. So upon completion of her campaign, she would have to choose between self-publishing with only 70% of the funds she raised or lowering her standards and signing a contract to pay 15% — 30% royalties of her book’s sales forever to a 3rd rate publisher that did almost nothing to meaningfully contribute to her book’s success.
I’m not going to go as far as calling Publishizer a blatant scam.
They do provide a crowdfunding service and an introduction to publishers but it’s a pretty awful deal for first time or independent authors. If you want a literary agent go look at the recent bestselling books in your niche or topic, then go look up who their literary agents are and tactfully approach them with your manuscript. If you want to crowdfund your book you can do it on the mainstream crowdfunding websites. If your launch is really successful you can go negotiate with mainstream publishers yourself.
Or better yet you can install crowdfunding software (it costs $34) on your own website, figure out eCommerce on your own (it’s NOT that complicated) and you get to keep nearly 100% of the money your launch makes.
JGive. Donations & Funding for Joomla (formerly jomGive)
JGive is a powerful “crowdfunding” extension that enables your members to create fund-raising projects; accept…
Spend a couple of hundred bucks on cover design and getting proper copy editing done and reinvest the thousands of dollars your publisher would be making on marketing or researching your next book.
I should note that…
I am not an author-client of Publishizer.
I’m merely a customer of theirs, a reader and a writer. Those who have had experiences with them are welcome to comment.