In the past few years, crowdfunding has emerged as a way for creative types to solicit monetary contributions from the public in order to finance their new projects. Increasingly would-be inventors, aspiring musicians, struggling filmmakers, and countless others have all begun to flock on the Internet, launching campaigns on crowdfunding websites in the hopes of generating interest in their work and raising the necessary funds to complete and market their products.
As many have rightly pointed out, while the Internet may have modernized the practice of crowdfunding and made it more fashionable and accessible, the idea of having your work financed by a generous benefactor is not a particularly new one. Crowdfunding can be seen as a sort of return to the old patronage networks that flourished in Europe during the medieval period and throughout the Renaissance — only now you don’t have to win the favour of a member of a royal family or a wealthy nobleman, you just need to convince the ‘commoners’ to give you a small donation by selling them on the novelty and utility of your idea and promising them ‘rewards’ like an original drawing, a pair of jeans, or a plush toy.
Although all-purpose crowdfinancing platforms like Kickstarter and Indiegogo have dominated the news and, consequently, captured the bulk of the public’s attention, speciality crowdfunding sites devoted to raising money for specific types of projects have become increasingly popular. Among some of the speciality sites gaining the most traction are ‘crowd-driven’ or ‘subscription’ based publishing platforms like Inkshares, LeanPub, Pubslush, Unbound, and Unglue It.
Heralded by many publishing forecasters as the “next big thing,” these platforms offer yet another alternative to writers who would like publish their work and make it available to the masses, but who haven’t been able to establish a relationship with a traditional publisher. For writers, the advantages of crowdfunding a book are numerous: you can get a general idea of whether or not there is a market and audience for your work before you even publish it, you can bypass traditional “gatekeepers” and make your appeal directly to members of the public, who are often much more willing to take a risk and back a debut author than publishing houses typically are, you don’t have to compromise or relinquish any creative control over your work in order to please a third-party, most crowd-driven publishing sites offer editing services and take care of producing and distributing projects on behalf of the author once a project reaches its funding goal, and so on.
Crowdfunding publishing platforms are not only designed with the needs of authors in mind, they also make a point of emphasizing the ways in which their services benefit the people who choose to back these authors. Sites like Inkshares and Pubslush bill themselves as being “for readers” and state that part of their mission is to “democratize publishing” and “giv[e] a voice to readers.”
Whether or not it truly is the “next big thing,” ‘crowd-driven’ publishing certainly seems to have made its mark. All of the crowd funded publishing platforms listed above have had several writers meet and even exceed the funding targets for their projects.
Feel like getting your ‘patron’ on? Here are a few of my favourite projects on Inkshares, Pubslush, and Unbound that are still in need of funding.
Have you ever wondered where the phrase the “cat’s pajamas” comes from? No? Me neither, come to think of it, but someone who has given the phrase a lot of thought is Daniel Wallace, author of Big Fish: A Novel of Mythic Proportions, which was adapted into a film by Tim Burton in 2003, The Watermelon King, and The Kings and Queens of Roam. Wallace is convinced that “there was a time when cats wore pajamas,” and in The Cat’s Pajamas, the 20-page illustrated children’s book that Wallace is looking to fund, he intends to “prove” it by giving readers a glimpse into the life of Louis Fellini, a cat who dared to be different.
2.The Giant Strawberry by Meiko Patton
Yes, another children’s book. What can I say? I’m a sucker for brightly coloured illustrations and the story’s premise is very sweet (literally!).
3. Giving It Raw: Nearly 30 Years with AIDS by Francisco Ibanez-Carrasco
Having received the backing of Canadian literary figures like Daniel Allen Cox and Brent Calderwood, Francisco Ibanez-Carrasco is hoping to raise eight thousand dollars to self-publish Giving It Raw: Nearly 30 Years with AIDS, a “wickedly tragicomic memoir” detailing his experiences as a Chilean-Canadian living with AIDS. He promises to provide a candid and unique perspective on an issue which has been widely overlooked in popular media.
Anyone fancy donating at the thousand dollar reward level so I can find out what Ibanez-Carrasco’s idea of “personal thanks” entails? His description has left me wondering.
4. Roadrunner: The Authorized Biography Lee Brilleaux by Zoë Howe
With numerous musician biographies already under her belt including the “critically acclaimed” Typical Girls: The Story of the Slits and the upcoming title Barbed Wire Kisses, an authorized biography of the Jesus and Mary Chain, Zoë Howe is looking to finance her new biography on Lee Brilleaux, former frontman of UK pub rock band Dr. Feelgood. Those who make a donation to Howe’s cause will be credited by name in the acknowledgements page and will also be eligible to receive other perks if the project succeeds in reaching its goal.