How Crowdsourcing is Powering New Publishing Platforms
Though the methods of self- and traditional publishing may appear to be at odds at times, they share the same end goal of creating valuable reading experiences. In fact, many publishers are finding that merging the two camps can lead to profitable new models. Crowdsourcing of content is one such model born of the self-publishing movement finding wider application. It provides an open forum for authors' works and utilizes readers as a filter for quality and for market testing. Publishers are adopting crowdsourcing platforms in order to empower readers and authors without losing them to pure self-publishing platforms.
In May, BookExpo America's "Sourcing the Crowd" panel explored this relatively untapped opportunity. The panel included Jean Feiwel, publisher of Macmillan's Swoon Reads, Liz Pelletier publisher and co-founder of Entangled Publishing, and Molly O'Neill, head of editorial at Storybird. All three panelists have created platforms that foster communities dedicated to finding and promoting the best contributed stories.
Proving the Value of Publishers
Swoon Reads not only wants to find new authors, but it hopes to show authors why publishers still matter. "Part of Swoon Reads role is to pull back the curtain on publishing and show what publishers can do for your editorial, sales, and distribution," said Feiwel.
Swoon Reads, often called The X Factor of the publishing world, accepts manuscripts from unpublished authors—primarily romance novels—and allows its community of readers to vote on their favorites.The platform just published its first crowdsourced title, A Little Something Different, by Sandy Hall.
Although Swoon Reads provides the same type of editorial and marketing services that it would to a traditionally published author, the difference lies in the reader dynamic. "The readers are promoting you," said Feiwel, "They don't want you to tell them what is big. They want to tell you. Then they will advocate for your product."
Liz Pelletier capitalizes on this type of advocacy at Entangled Publishing by encouraging reader feedback and incentivizing them to promote their favorite new works on social media. Pelletier is mobilizing book fandom by partnering with the company Fancorp, a platform that allows her to assign social media tasks to fans. Pelletier can assign a simple task, like tweeting about a new book release, and reward fans for their activity with points that they can turn in for rewards, like a signed copy of their favorite book. By doing this, Entangled promotes its works at a minimal cost. "Instead of connecting with 100,000 readers, we connected with 1,000 influencers who can share our story," said Pelletier.
Building A Fan Base
If powerful reader advocacy is the enticement for publishers, immediate feedback is what draws in the authors, said Molly O'Neill of Storybird. "The difference between a print and digital product is doing everything first in print -- writing, editing, etc.," said O'Neill, "And a post-filtering environment in digital where the work changes based on reader response."
Storybird, a platform and community based around visual storytelling, skews toward a younger audience, between the ages of 9 and 14. Users write their own stories, review others, and use Storybird as a social networking tool. Reader feedback is an important part of the platform, but equally valuable are author-reader interactions. "We're finding writers are using us to build a fan base and grow a career," said O'Neill. "Carving out a third space between self-publishing and traditional where community and engagement are a core part of the experience."
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