04 May Upending the Publishing Industry
** Originally published on www.NithinCoca.com, reposted here with permission. **
We all know that Crowdfunding makes projects which would have been unthinkable in the past, possible today, creating a new paradigm for creativity. But print books have been around of hundreds of years, with publishers the time-honored gatekeepers. How is this industry, in which five big publishing houses hold incredible power, going to adapt to Kickstarter?
That is what I seek to discover through Chilies: A Spicy Quest. This is, in fact, my second book. My first is a memoir about a trip I took around the world. I wrote it the traditional way, in my spare time; occasional weekends, evenings, a few hours a week through seven years of full-time work and graduate school. Without the freedom or time to dedicate to writing, it took years, and only today, I’m slowly sending proposals to publishers.
Behind their rhetoric of “benevolent gatekeepers”, the reality is, Publishers suck. They seem to be allergic to new authors, only want to publish short, mainstream stories, and aren’t willing to invest in the author. Moreover, they give authors a tiny cut of sales, leaving many dependent on other forms of income.
Writing my first book wasn’t for a career, it was a side project, but Chilies is a full-scale, long-term global research and writing project. It just can’t be done on the side. However, doing a non-fiction project with a major research component through traditional publishers is, well, nearly impossible due to the constraints facing new authors. It’s a Catch-22 – to get support, you need to be an established author, but the only way to become an established author is through the big publishing houses who don’t accept ambitious projects from new, innovative authors.
That is why I’ve turned to Kickstarter, which, by focusing on the audience first, bypasses the gatekeepers of the publishing industry and allows developers to directly reach readers. We are eliminating the middlemen, and, in turn, creating more savvy, collaborative, global content. I strongly believe in this new, more social, democratic model of funding projects is the future. Publishers stand no chance at surviving if they don’t adapt to what is the biggest shift in decades.
That’s why Chilies hasn’t even been sent to a publisher – first of all, it would be a waste of time, but secondly, I would rather do it through Kickstarter, because it would mean the important people – readers – believe in my project, not some gray-haired editor who (most likely) doesn’t even know what Kickstarter is.
If it fails…
Kickstarter is just one piece of a larger plan. I plan to apply for other grants, to write shorter articles for magazines, and seek country-specific sources of revenue or try to monetize my website more.
That being said, a successful Kickstart is ideal. It will allow me to plan my research in advance, make contacts, develop my itinerary, and visit research archives. Success will also add credibility to my pitches to Food and Travel media, who will notice that this project is already engaging a wide audience and be eager to participate. Kickstarter isn’t just to raise funds, it also will hugely help raise credibility and build the project base.
That is where the true power of Crowdfunding lies, and it exactly what traditional publishers are missing.
Coca's first book, Traveling Softly and Quietly, is available for sale on Amazon. He focuses now on his work as a freelance journalist, writing about on social and economic issues in developing countries, with specific expertise in Southeast Asia. His feature and news pieces have appeared in global media outlets including Al Jazeera, Quartz, Atlantic Cities, SciDev.Net, Southeast Asia Globe, The Diplomat, Penang Monthly and numerous regional publications in Asia and the United States.