It was just Valentines’ Day, but we were not feeling the love at Publishizer.
We found Jonathan Roseland’s painfully titled article “Is Publishizer a Scam?” — which was anecdotally based on his unnamed friend’s disappointing experience with us. Though it is sweet that he writes, “I’m not going to go as far as calling Publishizer a blatant scam” right at the bottom of his article, I felt compelled to share a little more about what we do with him (which turned into this article).
At the same time, Victoria Strauss’ blogpost “Publishizer: Do Authors Really Need a Crowdfunding Literary Agency?” lambasted us for “annoyingly non-specific about the details of the process,” our “poorly-vetted group of publishing partners,” and questions the value we deliver. She did however, contact us to find out more about what we actually do and kindly provided us a list of questionable publishers (which we will definitely investigate).
Still, we can’t help but feel slightly heartened that people actually KNOW about Publishizer and CARE enough to write about us! Some say that all press is good press, and while I’m not totally convinced, I am hopeful this gives us a good opportunity to let people know what we’re up to over here.
Publishing a book is an incredibly complicated process with many different paths an author can take. Publishizer is trying to democratise publishing by offering as many publishing options to an author based on the performance of their preorders campaign. We put our authors first, and are upfront about being a crowdfunding platform.
So of course, we always inform interested authors that they have to bring readers, and that they have to sell. This is particularly salient for first-time authors, as publishers see them as high risk acquisitions. Preorders are the best way to validate their book idea and to show that there is an audience for their book. Through Publishizer, validated campaigns have a chance to be seen by acquiring editors; and we can see that it is working for our authors.
Every author is free to try their hand at self-publishing, but the problems are numerous — it’s time-consuming, expensive and lacks discoverability. Indeed, there exists a plethora of crowdfunding platforms with lower commission fees to choose from, but none provide the author support that we do. With our help, many Publishizer authors were able to sell more copies than they ever believed they could.
Here I will address Jonathan’s “three conspicuous red flags” about Publishizer.
“Red flag #1 They take a 30% cut”
We charge a 30% commission because our agents provide intensive support and marketing training to all our authors before, during and after a campaign. It is not just algorithms and automation. Since we are working with people’s dreams of publishing, the work we do can be very high-touch and sensitive. We do our best to motivate, educate and help all our authors, but it is always hard managing author expectations.
I’m sorry that your friend was disappointed, but do ask your friend how much support she was given in terms of resources and calls with her agent (or in this case, our co-founder), or how much she promoted her campaign.
After a campaign, our agents also help advise authors and negotiate deals. And if they choose to refund their campaign, we do not charge authors a single cent. We don’t get paid, at all, despite all the hours put in with the author. Again, you can verify this with your friend. Many book coaches and other companies that help authors publish charge exorbitant sums upfront. But as our mission has always been to help authors, we only charge a commission if they succeed. We have bills to pay too, and how can we continue help other authors if we couldn’t survive?
“Red flag #2 Claims to be your literary agent”
We began matching authors to publishers one and a half years ago, and have slowly transitioned into a digital literary agency. In 2017, we based ourselves in New York to meet and sign on publishers. We still have representation there, but we’re not yet able to maintain an office in the very expensive city of New York. (Though we remain optimistic that this will change in the near future.)
It is true that we are not just agents. Other than negotiating deals with publishers for Publishizer authors, our agents also help authors develop their proposals and preorder campaigns. So they are more like book-coach-agents, or book enablers! Additionally, we currently do so without taking any royalties from our authors who do sign with publishers. (Please let us know if you find any agents or agencies that do this, we’d love to meet them.)
“Red flag #3 They don’t read your book”
Publishers are inundated and do not have time to read your manuscript. Although the criteria for fiction and non-fiction books differ, the book publishing industry deals in book proposals. (We’re not the only ones saying this. Check out “Do You Really Need a Book Proposal?” by The Writing Cooperative, “Start Here: How to Write A Book Proposal” by Jane Friedman, “How to Write a Book Proposal That Leaves Publishers Begging to Sign You” by NYT bestselling author Michael Hyatt)
This is why we have invested a lot of engineering into our site to help authors craft detailed book proposals that exceed industry standards. It’s a beast with the many sections broken down — and it’s all free. You can go through the process yourself if you like. We think this is great, because why spend your time writing a book that no one wants or needs? (Note: Most non-fiction book publishing deals are done without a manuscript, but we do ask for mostly completed manuscripts for fiction books as publishers will want to see them.)
I understand why some may view Publishizer in a negative light. Our site is far from perfect, riddled with inconsistencies, embarrassing mistakes and an outdated FAQ that desperately needs a refresh. But the truth is we’re not a huge company (with lots of money behind it), out to prey on hopeful authors. We’re a tiny, bootstrapped startup taking on the publishing industry. We don’t have a design team, an HR team, or a PR team. We barely even advertise.
Combining crowdfunding with agenting takes a lot of time, effort, and patience to get right. And as 90% of startups fail, I’m proud to say that we’ve managed to survive without funding, and most emphatically, without cheating anyone. We have had to constantly evolve and adapt to the changing landscape of the publishing industry, and to meet the complicated needs of authors and publishers.
There are a lot of disappointed authors out there, but we’ve managed to help hundreds realise their dreams. Those authors have been happy to provide genuine testimonies for us. As the quality of our publishing deals continue increasing, so will our ability to make better connections with the right publishers. No matter ‘how big’ or ‘what type’ of publisher is on our platform, there are potential matches with a hugely diverse set of authors out there.
Our most recent agented deal was for Neil Schaffer’s “The Business of Influence.” Neil not only ran a successful preorder campaign, he also signed a traditional advance-paying deal with HarperCollins Leadership! We’re super stoked for him, and for all the other authors who have been satisfied with their experience with us.
Of course, you can’t please everyone. We also have so much room for improvement, so please send us your feedback and ideas. We’re in the middle of yet another iteration to improve the experience for all our users: readers, authors and publishers (do you know how much work that entails???)
We are slowly growing our modest but awesome team, working hard to bring on better publishers and create more help resources for authors. I invite you to follow our progress. Please visit our site again after our revamp, and maybe even try it out yourself first. After all, you have nothing to lose!