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6:05pm on Wednesday, 13th June, 2012:
I remembered this the other day. It's a pitch I made in the late 1990s for an Internet start-up. I was in negotiations with a company called On-Line over it when they turned into a plc, their stock rose something like 2,500% on the first day, and they became an early exemplar of the Internet dot com boom. They had other things to do from that point onwards, so the idea never came to anything (we parted on good terms though).
I thought I'd blog it because it was a prototype of what is now known as cloud funding. Also, the fact that few physical books are actually printed nowadays, plus print-on-demand for vanity publishers, makes it something of a hard sell today.
Here ya go...
Publishers receive sacks of submissions every day, which go straight into a slush pile. Almost all will be rejected — not necessarily because they're no good, but in many cases because the publisher doesn't think that the publication and marketing costs could necessarily be recovered. The days of gentlemen publishers trying out ten new authors in the hope that one would be a surprise hit are long gone.
If, however, a publisher could guarantee that enough books would be sold to recover costs, the problem disappears. I don't know what the actual figure is, but for demonstration purposes I've worked on the rough supposition that if a publisher prints 5,000 copies of a book, about 3,000 of these need to be sold to break even. Under this scenario, if a publisher had advance orders for 3,000 copies, they'd go to print, right?
(Again, it doesn't matter if this is right, so long as it sounds right to non-publishers).
The idea with Magic 3,000 is that publishers take the books that they would like to publish, and put them online. No-one wants to read books in this format, but they'd be prepared to look through them in much the same way that people thumb through books in a bookshop before deciding to buy them. If the people who read the online books like them, they put their names down to buy a copy when it comes out. If they don't, then they don't! When a book gets the required number of sign-ups, it goes to print. The publishers know they'll at least break even, and will probably make a profit.
After all, on the Internet 3,000 people isn't actually a lot.
It gets better. There are many thousands of people out there who have written books. If they found they could send a Microsoft Word file of their Great Work and it would appear online, they'd do it. The books wouldn't have to be any good — it's survival of the fittest, after all! — but that's not the point. People who have books on the site have a reason to visit the site. They have a reason to come back to the site frequently, to see how their book is doing. They may even browse some other books.
In other words, what we have is a site that will generate thousands of hits per day. Thousands of hits means thousands of eyeballs, and the proven way to make money on the Internet — advertising. I've put a few examples on this site, but they're nothing compared to what's possible.
The beauty of this is that it's something which people can understand. I could go on Richard and Judy and explain it to bored home-makers. People have nothing to lose by sending in their books, so why wouldn't they do it? Readers have nothing to lose by registering for a book, so why wouldn't they do it? Publishers have nothing to lose by publishing the books, so why wouldn't they do it? It sounds like it's going to succeed.
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