After posting a summary of Johanna Vondeling's "top ten trends shaping the future of publishing", I am returning to each of the trends in separate posts appearing on Mondays for the balance of the summer.
Vondeling is Berrett-Koehler's vice president for international sales and business development. The ninth trend on her list, "Crowdfunding comes of age", provides a publisher's perspective on the opportunity offered by a variety of emerging internet-based funding services:
Digital crowdsourcing platforms such as Indiegogo, Kickstarter, Unbound, and Pubslush are proliferating, gaining both users and donors at a remarkable pace.
Now, content curators can use these platforms to locate content that readers are attracted to and willing to pay for—before it is produced and distributed.
Combined with the boom in self-publishing, this trend means more opportunities to identify content with proven market demand, and more ways to identify the hardcore fan base for a particular set of content before making the decision to invest.
This particular part of Vondeling's post introduces a theme I echoed last Friday, when I noted:
The challenge we face is less about an effort to find the next big thing and more about a series of efforts to accumulate a set of related, smaller things. The good news is, publishers have long been good at sussing out these niches, though more by subject than format.
Publishers have long offered a credible path for authors who want or need either access to physical bookstores, an advance, or both. However, I think the primacy of bookstore access is already under attack, and it's clear that crowdfunding is an effective way to finance a project.
That said, it's less clear whether or when crowdfunding might replace the banking role that publishers have offered many authors. Crowdfunded books are more than theoretical, but their existence doesn't resolve our persistent unknown: the velocity of change.
I don't have predictions here; I find that they tend to ossify thinking. I do appreciate Vondeling's advice: think of crowdfunding platforms as an expanded farm team.
Publishers can monitor platform activity and track failures and successes. They can "suss out" the new niches and be prepared to move more quickly than might have been the case in the past. Those aren't very sexy strategies, but they represent the kinds of actions that can shed light on our persistent unknown.