More Crowdsourced Content on Its Way

Expert publishing blog opinions are solely those of the blogger and not necessarily endorsed by DBW.

Last week Amazon confirmed it’s adding a crowdsourced-based option to its current slate of self-publishing offerings. While details are still forthcoming, the fact that Amazon is taking greater interest in exploring crowdsourcing as a publishing model suggests its profile is on the rise.

To be sure, that observation could rest on a chicken-or-egg formula that doesn’t reliably tell us much about the future of crowdsourcing in the broader digital publishing ecosystem–at least not yet. But the case of subscription ebooks could be instructive. Subscription ebook services had established a growing, sometimes uncertain place in the digital publishing landscape for several years before Amazon launched Kindle Unlimited in July of this year. Gradually, major providers like Oyster and Scribd had managed to grow their catalogs and gotten Big Five publishers to play ball. Just when it became clear subscription ebooks weren’t simply going to vanish, Amazon rolled out its own service.

None of that guarantees that ebook subscription services–whether Amazon’s or anyone else’s–are going to be here five or ten or twenty years hence, and the same is certainly true of crowdsourced publishing models.

But it’s clear the latter have also been gaining steady traction. In one experiment launched this year, Simon & Schuster committed to publishing a novel that wins a student writing contest it’s hosting through its new sci-fi imprint Simon451. More recently, Penguin UK announced it was open-sourcing the editorial process on a multimedia project involving the work of author Stephen Fry.

In many quarters of the indie and start-up world, crowdsourcing is already a fixture of the publishing process, with perhaps the best-known platform being the Toronto-based storytelling community Wattpad. While Wattpad isn’t a publisher, it’s teamed up with several, including Sourcebooks and Harlequin, for a number of publishing ventures. Meanwhile, the Spanish-language crowdscourcing self-publisher Pentian is expanding, as are a range of other initiatives throughout the indie landscape.

All this would seem to indicate there’s a sizable community of authors and readers for whom crowdsourced approaches to content are already second nature. Amazon’s announcement appears to be a play for both. The question for Amazon and others is whether that excitement and familiarity is both scalable and sustainable. In the long run, the answer might be no, but in the short-term I expect we’ll see an increasing number of ventures, like Amazon’s latest, designed to find out.

2 thoughts on “More Crowdsourced Content on Its Way

  1. Carl Plumer

    Interesting development. I haven’t tried crowdfunding yet, but am hoping to give it a go soon. Would like to hear from author’s with experience in this area replying here on what works and what doesn’t. I was considering either Kickstarter or Pubslush, but will keep an eye on the amazon platform with interest.

  2. Ebook Bargains UK

    For Amazon this is another step toward predatory publishing.

    The author has to provide a complete manuscript and cover and submit to a crowd that will almost certainly be made up of fellow indie authors all screaming out for their friends on Facebook, twitter, etc, to vote up their book.

    For he \lucky\ titles that get selected Amazon will publish an e-book only version with a rights grab on all international rights in all languages, and on audio, with absolutely no commitment to do anything but sit on them.

    The title will be exclusive to Amazon so automatically exclude 35% of the ebook buying market.

    They will get lousy royalties – just 50% of net as opposed to 70% of list if they went with KDP and also sold on other retail sites – and with a vague notion that they might, f incredibly lucky, get some special promo on the Amazon site.

    \Eligible\ is the word they use. As many indie authors have found to their costs, being \eligible\ for Amazon’s unquestionable marketing power means absolutely nothing if you then are passed over.

    Just ask the many indie authors who walked into that trap with the secretive Amazon White Glove agented-titles only programme. Sign up for a year exclusive with promises of being eligible for \shoveller programme\, targeted email shots etc. Only to find you’re locked into Amazon for a year and they are using their get out of jail free card – the word \eligible for\ to point out they promised nothing.

    But great for Amazon. An author gets locked out of other retailers for year but doesn’t even get the same benefits as an imprint author.

    If these terms were being handed out by a trad publisher the Amazon cheerleaders would be screaming exploitation.



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