We spoke to Guy Vincent, founder of crowd-publishing startup Publishizer. Publishizer allows authors to gather pre-orders for their books in order to be matched with the publisher or publishing service providers that are best for them. Guy elaborated on the challenging initial period of setting up his business, the future of publishing and why we should be looking to data for our answers. Questions by Melanie Price.
1. Your background was firstly in digital development and content management. How did this help your move into publishing, if at all?
I worked as a magazine intern during university, and self-published an ebook about waking up early, which sold better than I expected. Somehow, this qualified me as a digital publishing expert, and I landed a job starting the digital division of South-East Asia’s largest book printing company, Tien Wah Press. We were selling digital conversion services, interactive ebooks and book app development to publishers in New York and London. While working there, I encountered so many writers and artists lacking the funds for an offset print run. That’s where the idea for a crowd-funding platform for books started.
2. Tell us about how you first came up with the idea for Publishizer and how you brought it into fruition.
After 2 years at Tien Wah Press, we’d built our digital division to over $2 million in sales, and it was time for me to move on. I quit my job in Singapore, poured my life savings into hiring two German engineers, and moved to India to allow myself time to bootstrap the platform. After a few successful campaigns, they came onboard as technical co-founders. Last year we got into 500 Startups, a Silicon Valley startup accelerator that invested in the company. Since then, we’ve shifted our focus towards matching authors with publishers.
3. Tell us a bit about how Publishizer works. How do you market a successful pre-order campaign for so many authors?
Publishizer is a book pre-orders platform that matches authors with publishers. You launch a Publishizer campaign with the all-or-nothing goal of 250 pre-orders. If you hit the goal, we query our list of publishers for you. If not, all pre-orders are fully refunded. Authors can message interested publishers directly, and pick the best publishing deal for their book. We’re pretty clear that driving those 250 pre-orders is up to the author, although we promote popular campaigns to our audience weekly and monthly, giving them additional boosts in sales. We’ve spent tens of thousands of dollars on book marketing experiments, and learned that the most profitable channel for selling books is an email list the authors has grown themselves.
4. What has been your biggest challenge so far?
Building a three-sided platform. To attract readers we need authors, and to attract them we need publishers. To attract publishers, we need authors, and they want readers. That’s a downright difficult puzzle to solve. Luckily, we’ve been able to build our community to a point where the platform is growing organically, and each new campaign brings Publishizer new readers and publishers, strengthening the ecosystem for everyone.
5. Do you think crowd-publishing platforms like Publishizer are the future of publishing? If so, why?
I think the future is about choice. Every book project is different, and authors have complex and diverse needs. There is no one-size-fits-all publishing model for authors. So our goal is to give authors the widest range of choices possible, by bringing interested publishers to them with pre-orders. Our list of publishers are mostly traditional royalty publishers (from Penguin Random House, Simon & Schuster, Hachette Group) although we have a growing list of hybrid and service publishers to give authors the widest range of choices possible. I think that’s the most potent benefit of crowd-publishing.
6. Do you have any advice for others looking to innovate in the realm of publishing?
We’ve been data-driven since living in Silicon Valley. I lived with a Netflix engineer last year, and was amazed to learn their content acquisitions are made 80% on data, and 20% on opinion. In my broad experience, the publishing industry as a whole – especially it’s gatekeepers – are still 80% focused on opinion, and 20% on data. I think if acquiring editors are able to get their hands on better data, they will be able to make more profitable and successful acquisitions, leading to a more vibrant publishing industry for authors and readers.