When it comes to publishing, there are crowd funding sites which leave the creator in control (like Publishizer, yesterday) and then there are crowd funding sites which are publishers in all but name (PubSlush, for example).
An Inkshares book begins with a proposal pitching an author’s book to potential readers. According to Thomas, many Inkshares authors “had really crappy experiences with their publishers and are just fed up,” but are still looking for the “value-added services provided by a traditional publisher.”
With Inkshares they have to earn it by the approbation of fellow readers. Once a hurdle is cleared, typically around 1,000 copies pre-ordered, then the proposal page becomes a sales page where readers can pre-order the book and interact with the author as the upcoming book is developed.
For a publisher, InkShares offers pretty decent royalty terms: 50% of its gross earnings on print books, and 70% on ebooks. This of course means that a $20 print book sold to a distributor for $10 nets the author a decent $5.
The company has been around since April 2013, but it hasn't gotten a lot of press attention. It was last covered by PW in August of last year, which reported that InkShares had raised $1.2 million in capital, with investors including Ingram Ventures, Indicator Ventures, and QueensBridge Venture Partners.
The capital will keep the lights on at the startup for its first 18 months, said Gomolin, after which time, according to projections, Inkshares should be a “profitable company” and will able to “grow on [its] own.” All of the money raised by authors on the platform goes to editorial, design, production, and marketing. “We don’t make money unless a book sells,” said Gomolin. “Just like a traditional publishing house.”
PW also reported that InkShares was founded by Thad Woodman, formerly a manager at the economics consulting firm Nickerson & Associates, and Larry Levitsky, previously the publisher and general manager of the computer book publishing division of McGraw-Hill.
Long story short, this is in every way a publisher, which changes the tenor of the crowd funding effort from financial to market research.
Or as GigaOm put it last year:
What crowdfunding offers, Gomolin says, is a way of doing an end-run around the “slush pile” process, where writers send in manuscripts and then publishers (or their assistants) get to determine who wins and who loses based on the first four pages of a book. Instead of that black-box approach, everyone on a crowdfunding platform like Inkshares can see who is looking for funding and how much they have received (the company says it has hand-picked authors to get the platform rolling but after that the selection process will be completely crowd-powered).
InkShare's model is not everyone's cup of tea, but the company has signed a number of authors and successfully funded a couple dozen books, including Daniel Wallace's The Cat’s Pajamas. Wallace is perhaps best know for the novel Big Fish, which was adapted into a 2003 movie and a 2013 Broadway musical.
Clearly the company has found a workable model for publishing, but is it financially viable as well?
That remains to be seen.