How does a new writer become discovered?
It’s an age-old question, but innovative digital publisher Wink Publishing has a brand new reply: reader-directed publishing.
I’ve been aware of Wink Publishing for some time — indeed, joined their mailing list a few months ago. But only today did I properly look into them, prompted by Wink Publishing’s guest post on The Next Best Book Club.
WINK’S SALES PITCH
Most traditional publishers are money-focused, solely publishing profitable books such as celebrity titles and formulaic genre bestsellers, whilst giving authors a tiny fraction of profits. Wink, on the other hand, wants to both publish entertaining literature AND give authors a good share of the profits — and the safest way to do this is to directly ask readers what they want to read.
HOW IT WORKS
Culling through all their submissions, Wink Publishing draws up a shortlist of titles. Readers can then read 50-page excerpts of each shortlisted title and vote for their favourite. At the end of the voting period, Wink publishes the book with the most votes.
To take part, author contestants must have a finished novel between 50-150k of any genre and be unpublished.
Winner takes all: an exclusive 3-year publishing contract with Wink and 50% of profits.
An innovative business model. Digital publishing is all about innovation, you never know which new initiative will take off.
Focus on unpublished authors. In the age of ebooks, it’s very difficult for new faces to distinguish themselves from the crowd.
A respectable royalty rate. All profits of the book are split 50/50 between author and publisher, with Wink swallowing any costs.
Additional support. Wink claims to fill the role of author agent as well, searching for ways to use serial, film and other rights, too. Most indie authors don’t have the time to exploit these secondary rights successfully.
Effortless. Assuming your book is shortlisted, your name and title get a lot of free publicity, regardless of whether you win. Even if your book isn’t selected, you’ve exposed your work to a potential audience.
Despite the pros listed above, there are a number of reasons I would hesitate to recommend Wink Publishing to any aspiring authors out there. These are:
The sales pitch. It doesn’t convince me: just because the book published is reader-selected doesn’t make the title more literary or less formulaic than books traditional publishers publish. Besides, Wink curates the shortlist, hence — one would assume — only puts through profitable titles.
The business model. To put it bluntly: what if all the submissions they receive are crap? What if all are excellent and deserve to be published? If you accept 50-150k novels of any genre, how can you compare a 50k romance to an 80k literary exploration to a 150k science fiction behemoth?
No track record. Wink has only published one book so far, and is running the second contest. Everyone has to start somewhere, but is it economically wise to give your book to Wink as it is now?
The contract terms: 3-year exclusivity. I’m assuming they take an option on secondary rights too. Do you want to tie yourself to a publisher for that long when they have no track record? Compare that to 1889 Labs, where we ask for non-exclusive ebook and print rights, plus a six-month notice period for termination.
Unpublished only. Every second your book is sitting there waiting for votes is another second it’s not on sale. And you have no way to guarantee your book will even win the contest and get a publishing deal out of it.
Limited audience. Yes, taking part in the contest gets you free marketing. But to whom? A specific subsection of readers who enjoy these kinds of contests. I’d argue that most readers would rather read your whole book NOW if they’ve read 50 pages and enjoyed it enough to vote for it… but the contract doesn’t allow you to self-publish on the side.
The royalty rates. 50/50 is a healthy split. But compare that to the 70% we give authors at 1889 Labs. Not to mention the even greater profit margin you’d get if you have the determination and skill to go indie.
The X Factor. Would this be true reader-directed publishing or a popularity contest? I could get hundreds of people to vote for my book, none of whom might eventually buy the book when published.
I’ve tried to keep the list concise, but am certain there are other points that could be raised.
I’m a strong advocate of innovative digital publishing, firstly because you never know what could work, and secondly because it’s often great fun (1889’s livewriting experiments spring to mind).
Certainly reader-directed fiction has a lot of potential. I know of indie authors experimenting with a variety of reader-directed and/or interactive fiction, for example authors who write stories on request — by having readers vote for their preferred topic, or by having reader earn points to spend by completing certain tasks.
I’m just not entirely sold on Wink Publishing’s take on reader involvement and would hesitate to recommend it to aspiring authors.
Of course, I’m happy to be proved wrong. Do you think it would work?