Expert publishing blog opinions are solely those of the blogger and not necessarily endorsed by DBW.
In the Spanish-speaking world, one digital publishing company has disrupted the traditional publishing process by creating an online platform that combines full-service self-publishing with crowdfunding. This platform allows authors to present their projects, lets backers pledge and support them and provides financial rewards to all involved once the books sell. The company is called Pentian, and after several years shaking up the ebook world in Spain, Central and South America, it’s now expanding into the United States.
Pentian began as a traditional publisher in 2004. As the ebook trend grew in 2009, the company expanded to offer self-publishing. “With the explosion in digital books, we saw a trend where authors of high-quality were seeking out self-publishing options,” said Enrique Parilla, whose title at Pentian is Enabler of Dreams. The typical book, self-published via Pentian, costs between $2,000 and $6,000, depending on the extent of editing, design and promotion needed. And that’s where the logjams arose. “These valued authors have great books but not necessarily the funds to self publish,” Parilla said.
To solve the funding problem, the tech-savvy leaders at Pentian decided to build their own crowdfunding layer into the publishing workflow. Pentian’s crowdfunding system allows individual backers to share royalties with the author. For a pledge of $10, $20, or $50, for example, donors may get a signed copy and, ongoing into the future, a percentage of sales in proportion to their contribution amount.
So unlike Kickstarter, Pentian offers royalties as a reward for early supporters. Another way Pentian is different from Kickstarter is that Pentian puts a cap on the amount of money raised. Kickstarter campaigns can raise more than the target amount. But at Pentian, when the amount of money needed to produce the book is met, they close the donations and begin production of the book.
Parilla and his team have noticed that this contribution cap creates a sense of urgency in the crowd-sourcing momentum and actually helps close the deal. Once a book gets 80% of its funding, he reported, contributions frequently accelerate rapidly.
If a book fails to reach the amount necessary to pay for production, it’s a sign that the book may not be a commercial success. “Our crowdfunding model is a way to get the market to decide,” said Parilla. The authors who can’t raise the production fees via crowdsourcing can then choose to pay for the production on their own—knowing that the book may be tough to sell—try again, or pull the book from production.
Another interesting result of Pentian’s crowdfunding-in-exchange-for-royalties model is that when all backers have a stake in the success of the books, they actually help do some of the marketing. A traditionally self-published book has one person, the author, with a financial stake in the book’s success. And that author alone slogs through his or her social media marketing campaign. But a book with fifty backers has fifty people who want the book to succeed. They often spread the word to their own networks. “When people are financially vested,” said Parilla, “they promote the book. They have a sense that ‘we’re all in this together.’”
Production-wise, Pentian controls the cover design and copyediting, but their titles are ‘self-published’ in the sense that Pentian does not intervene with the books’ editorial content. Pentian does not tell authors to make the ending happier, add a subplot or cut 300 pages from a 700-page narrative. “We don’t presume to know more than the market,” said Parilla.
Pentian currently has about 6,000 books in its catalog. The books are available on Amazon and the Apple iBookstore as well as through Ingram. Currently, very few of Pentian’s titles are in English. However, the large Spanish-speaking population in the U.S. is helping to grow Pentian’s presence in North America. And, as Pentian opens their services to the English-language market, self-published authors in the United States have a new option for funding the production of their books.