2012 SXSW: Is Crowdsourcing The Future?





After my visit to 2012 SXSW I took in some great talks from some great panellists. They were music based, but the subjects got me thinking about my own writing and author platform.

Music and Books are not that different, and are going through, or have been through, some very similar things. One talk I went to discussed Crowdsourcing, a subject I’m beginning to really enjoy. I’ve read some great examples recently, and sites like Kickstarter are offering creative folk an outlet to get money with very little risk.

The idea of crowdsourcing for authors isn’t new, but I see the future of writing closely centred around this relatively new channel.


Crowdsourcing For Everyone, Everywhere…


The subject fascinates me on two fronts:

1-    Collaborating with others

2-    Deep involvement with readers

Let’s first focus on collaboration, and how crowdsourcing can bring people of differing skill sets together under one creative project.

In the past a writer would create a great story, send it to a publisher, and the rest would get taken care of as the writer sat back and drank, smoked, and had merry good times (at least this is my fantasy).

That, however, is no longer the case, and if you’re a writer looking to self publish then you’ll need to become a marketer, a designer, an editor, and a whole host of other things. You can do a lot yourself, but not everything, and this is where the potential of crowdsourcing comes in.

The modern day self-publisher will no doubt spend a certain amount of money on a Book Designer, an Editor, and a few other services. You create a book, pay these people, and that’s pretty much it.

The process is distant, and very much a B2B type endeavour. What if, however, we begin to team up and create a project that several people feel part of. Everyone has their own talent and skill set, so is the idea of joining forces really that hard to conjure up?

A recent post on The Creative Penn discussed exactly this, and my visits to 2012 SXSW had me reliving that post, and create a few new ideas along the way. Imagine online communities where someone creates an idea and asks people to join. You offer your skill set, and in return get a percentage of the revenue.

The benefits of this are huge:

–       It creates a journey to share with fans

–       Set up costs are minimal

–       You have several sets of fan bases, instead of just one

–       Quality throughout the whole process

There are issues too (lower royalties for one, and the idea of too many cooks spoiling the broth), but this could have serious upside for certain people. I’m thinking those who love to write, but hate to edit. Love to design and create covers, but the idea of writing makes them want to cry.

This process creates a story to tell, offers quality across the entire process, and helps people share the love. The idea, I’m sure you’ll agree, is at very least interesting.

The other side of crowdsourcing is to engage with your fans and help minimise risk to you. Sites like Kickstarter and IndieGoGo give you the chance to set a target for your project, spread the word, and have fans across the globe give you money and believe in what you’re doing.

The key here is the product you offer. You don’t give away royalties like earlier, instead a variety of products and services. For example for a £10 donation you may give them a paperback version of your book, but for £100 you may give a specially signed and personalised hardcover book, as well as some special gifts important to you and the reader.

If you reach your goal then you follow through with the promised products. If you don’t then the reader isn’t charged and you don’t get anything (in most cases. Sites differ with their rules).

This is a great service for creative folk, especially self-publishing authors. When you factor in the costs of everything (book cover, editing, etc) then a few thousand may be needed. If you get this before hand the risk is taken away.

However, more important than the money, in my opinion, is the process you share with readers. First of all you’ll connect with new readers… and secondly, involve your supporters in the process. As I mentioned in my previous post, people strive for trust and being part of something special.

Crowdsourcing has some growing pains still (Kickstarter for example doesn’t allow for UK projects), but it’s beginning to carry steam. Successful Self-Publisher, Chuck Wendig is currently doing a campaign and I’m sure more authors will follow soon.

From a business sense it’s sound practice, but it’s the potential for engagement that excites me more. Can we one day see a fully crowdsourced book, from the people creating to the ones buying?

I think that’s the future for certain authors, and I’m sure the results will be interesting.

What about you though?

Do you see Crowdsourcing to have a future?

Or is it just another fad that will fade away?

In my next post I’ll discuss merchandising for authors, and how writers can learn a thing or two from bands and musicians from the past forty years.

Turndog Millionaire – @turndog_million

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