– by Hufsa Tahir
Crowdfunding sites like Kickstarter have been popular in many avenues of entertainment –game development, new technology, charity drives, even tuition fees – but this practice has taken its time getting to publishing. Now that it has, the prospects seem huge. But is it all good?
There are already several sites like PubSlush and LeanPub that allow members to donate funds toward publishing a book based on its premise. Another site, Unglue It, works by having the author agree to put the work in the public domain in exchange for being funded by potential readers.
I don’t know how much I agree with this idea. On the one hand, the fact that funding like this is a great lift for an industry where there is never enough money to go around. Lots of books are never published because the publishers’ just didn’t have the funds to cover printing costs. Special art books, children’s books with extensive interactive features, memorabilia books, these are all costly ventures, and not many smaller houses want to touch them. A Kickstarter for publishers would be a huge asset for them. Crowdfunding would allow more publishers to take risks with diverse books they would have turned down before. It would broaden the scope of literature available. It would be a huge relief to an indie publishing house.
It can go further. Communities can fund books that talk about social issues that actively affect them: everyday racism, spousal abuse, alcoholism, etc. Books are a great avenue to have your voices heard.
But on the other hand, when I think about someone touting their book as “the next Harry Potter” and getting energetic fans to pay for its publication – or worse, a well-known author’s publishers getting lazy and putting the author’s sequel to a popular series up on a crowdfunding platform – then I begin to worry about reader exploitation. Where is the line between servicing literature and abusing a passionate audience?
What do you think? Is crowdfunding publishers a good move for the industry? Comment below!