By Rachel L’Heureux
“At Your Service” is an ongoing blog series where we ask a self-publishing industry professional to describe the services they provide so that self-published authors may learn more about the opportunities and resources afforded them.
Today, we speak with Amanda Barbara, the CEO of Pubslush, an online platform of authors, readers, and industry professionals that offers pre- and post-publication features for literary projects of all kinds. Tired of incredible authors and stories being lost to the ominous “slush pile,” the company, founded by Barbara, alongside her mother, Hellen, strives to make publishing a more “democratic” process where authors and readers collaboratively fund and, therefore, determine who and what gets published. Through crowdfunding and pre-ordering, Pubslush puts authors in direct contact with their readership and those who support their venture.
Q: Why was Pubslush founded?
A: My mom and I started Pubslush about two and half years ago. The idea for the company came from the fact that bestselling authors like J.K. Rowling, Kathryn Stockett, and Stephen King had all originally been rejected. They were in the slush pile. How could now-famous books like Harry Potter have been rejected so many times? This made us think about what other books we were missing out on because one editor decided they didn’t want to publish it.
We decided to take books out of this slush pile—hence “Pubslush”— and put them online to let the authors prove there is a market for their books. Let them prove the viability of that market and that there is a need and an audience out there.
Q: What services do you offer?
A: Pubslush is a pre-publication platform where authors and publishers are able to raise funds and test the market before they publish. Authors that conduct a crowdfunding campaign are often looking for the funding to produce their book. However, many authors use the funds they raise for marketing, advertising, a book tour, blog tour, etc.
Pubslush also hosts pre-order campaigns. Our pre-order option was released in beta in September 2014 and will be rolled out for a full-scale launch in January 2015.
Authors also have the choice to list their books on our “Books For Sale” page. This option is for authors who have already published, but who want to become a part of the Pubslush community. Creating a For Sale page is completely free, offers visibility and exposure to Pubslush’s literary audience, and serves to drive traffic to wherever the book is being sold.
Each of our platform options serves authors and publishers in a unique way. Best of all, our crowdfunding and pre-order options provide authors with the reader data and market analytics from their campaign, so they know exactly who supported or bought their book and how to connect with them in the future.
Q: What are the basic steps of beginning any campaign with Pubslush?
A: Once you’ve determined which type of campaign meets your particular needs, creating a campaign simply requires basic information about you and your book. As an author, you would include your website, social media, and location. Then, for your book you would provide an image, summary, and optional excerpt. We also allow you to create rewards or packages so you can entice your readers by offering more than just an ebook or print copy. Many authors offer signed copies or limited editions. We have had authors offer bookmarks, totes, Skype interviews, heartfelt thank you notes, etc. The more creative the rewards, the better response you will receive.
Q: Does Pubslush assist authors in compiling that information?
A: We offer a program called “Pubslush Prep,” which is completely optional. It’s a way to provide additional service and hand-holding to authors who need more personalized consultation for their campaign. It’s the perfect option for authors who are new to marketing or who want more access to our team. We offer the Prep program at a low price, ranging from $50 to $250— $250 is the highest, and you get full access to our team. Pubslush Prep doesn’t ensure success, it’s still the author’s responsibility to implement the strategies we provide, but our team will provide the resources and knowledge to help foster success on our platform.
Q: Aside from Pubslush Prep, how much does it cost to get your book on the site?
A: Pubslush is a completely risk-free platform. If an author makes no money, neither do we. It’s completely free to begin a campaign and we take a low fee of 4% from all successful campaigns.
Q: How do authors seek donations for a crowdfunding campaign?
A: First and foremost, they are not donations. Readers are supporting your project by giving you money and receiving something in exchange. So, it’s like selling anything else. You start with your immediate network, contacting family, friends, and get all of them on board. Then, you ask those people to reach out to their friends and family and their colleagues, and get them excited as well. The more momentum you create, the more attractive your campaign will seem to readers outside of your network.
Q: What are your rules surrounding funding goals?
A: We allow a campaigner to set a minimum goal—we require it to be at least $500—which is the amount you need to raise in order to produce your book and fulfill your rewards. Then, you are also able to set an overall goal. For example, let’s say you need $3,000 to publish your book and without that $3,000, you won’t be able move forward with the publishing process — but ideally, you would like to make $10,000 in order to produce the highest quality book and cover marketing expenses. In this case, you would set your minimum at $3,000 and your overall goal at $10,000. As long as you surpass the $3,000 mark, you are able to keep the funds you raise and Pubslush takes the same low fee of 4%.
Other crowdfunding platforms such as Kickstarter and Indiegogo have different funding models. Kickstarter has an all-or-nothing policy, meaning if you don’t make your goal, you lose everything. If you do reach your goal, they take a 5% platform fee. With Indiegogo, they offer two options: all-or-nothing, also known as fixed funding, for a fee of 4%, or a flexible funding option. Through Indiegogo’s flexible funding, you are able to keep the funds raised even if you don’t meet your goal, but they take a 9% platform fee.
Q: What’s the average amount of money authors raise on Pubslush?
A: This past year we have had over 100 successful campaigns and the average amount raised was between $3,500 to $4,000. That being said, we do have some that just reached their minimum at $500 and some that have made over $15,000.
Q: What happens if you don’t reach your minimum?
A: You receive no funds and your supporters aren’t charged.
Q: Do you offer any services post-publication?
A: Our services are mainly for publishers and authors in the pre-publication phase, but we also allow authors to list their books in our community once they are published through the Books For Sale page I mentioned earlier.
Q: Who are the members of this community?
A: Our community is made up of authors, readers, publishers, and industry professionals, including editors, cover designers, etc.
Q: On average, how many projects does Pubslush work with at a time?
A: This past year there was generally between 50 and 60 campaigns on the platform at any given time. We offer branded pages for publishers and others in the literary community through our “Publisher & Partner”programs, which are growing very quickly. We’re also expanding and adding many features in 2015. With this growth, we hope to be working with 1,000+ authors at a time within the next year.
Q: Is there a certain kind of book that does particularly well with Pubslush?
A: Success on Pubslush is not genre driven but is influenced by the author or the publisher and how active they are in their campaign. You could have a book about snails, but if you know people and they love what you have to say, then you’re going to be able to sell your book to that target market. It’s about the author, how passionate they are about their book and their determination to succeed.
Q: Besides perhaps being outgoing, what sort of author is usually successful with Pubslush?
A: I wouldn’t say an author has to be outgoing as much as just passionate and motivated. No one can promote and market your book like you. You need to do the work. It’s your people, it’s your readers.
Q: What are some common mistakes that authors make?
A: Rushing and pushing their book too soon. I always laugh when an author comments, “Well, my pub date is next week.” When you’re self-publishing, you set your own pub date, so don’t release your book until you’ve done the necessary legwork to prepare for a successful book launch.
Another common mistake is made when authors don’t do their research. I talked to an author recently who bought an ISBN on CreateSpace (Amazon’s self-publishing service). Now, he can’t sell his book in local bookstores because many bookstores won’t take CreateSpace ISBNs. If you’re self-publishing, you want to own your book. Do your research and know who you’re signing contracts with.
Another author I spoke with signed with a self-publishing company without conducting the proper research. It’s an awful company that scams self-published authors and charges them way too much money for a poor return. When this author received the printed copies of his book, chapters one and two were printed twice, and chapters three and four were completely missing from the book. He had to pay the printer for that mistake. At the end of the day, you’re paying for services and you need to research and read reviews.
Lastly, authors don’t always realize the amount of marketing work involved in launching a book. If you put your book on any site and you don’t tell anyone about it, there’s not going to be any movement. You need to drive traffic, so we’re trying to educate authors with the ten or so steps they need to take during a campaign so that a book will gain momentum.
Thank you for your time and information!
BlueInk Review offers credible and unbiased reviews of self-published books exclusively. Visit us at www.blueinkreview.com.
Rachel L’Heureux is a graduate of the University of Denver, as well as the Publishing Institute at the University of Denver. She is BlueInk’s 2014 fall intern.