As is becoming ever more common across various markets, crowdfunding platforms are continuing to be on the rise. For an industry which is expected to be worth up to $100 billion by 2025, previously untested channels are being explored in order to generate alternative investment methods.
Publishing is a perfect example.
While the field has already been tapped by other firms, FicShelf, a startup still in its beta phase, is looking to disrupt the market by offering an easy to use crowdfunding platform for aspiring writers to gain valuable investment, and their readers to support promising projects.
Their Co-Founder and CEO, Monique Duarte was kind enough to take our questions about the new company, her view on the publishing market, and plans for the future.
How would you describe FicShelf to a potential user? What does the platform offer which we haven’t seen in the publishing world so far?
FicShelf is an online publishing platform for people who love reading and writing. We use technology and social trends to solve the current issues within the publishing market, but we also respect the traditional processes too.
Writers are already making use of social networking in order to build a following. Readers are interested in more than just good content – they want to be part of the creative process – to truly engage with the story, as it is being written. FicShelf makes this possible through allowing writers to serialise their work, chapter by chapter, and helping them to monetise their content.
Our tools also allow writers to optimise the creation of their books, with the ability to crowdfund, collaborate with a community of publishing professionals – solving the issues of visibility, promotion and selling – and build their very own publishing teams.
For publishing professionals, we offer the promise of work and networking opportunities, along with a forum to make their voice heard in this transforming industry.
You just reached your beta phase. Tell us about that experience, and all that goes into setting up a business.
We are elated!
Coordinating fundraising, managing cash flow, hiring personnel (bearing in mind the aforementioned cash flow), and PR efforts – all while you are building your product – is no mean feat. So if you have reached the Beta stage, chances are you have done all of the above, or most of it, right.
Of course getting to this stage has also meant a lot of hard work and compromise. But that only makes the moment sweeter. It took us more time than expected to launch, but that is because we wanted a strong base that would allow us to scale and evolve quickly.
Yes, we are improving day by day, but we have built a solid foundation, and we are proud of it.
FicShelf is being launched in three phases, correct? What’s your reasoning behind that?
That is correct, and there are two reasons for this:
Firstly, businesses should never evolve in isolation. A good lean startup involves its stakeholders as soon as possible, so it made sense to develop in stages, rather than going into our cave and emerging one year later with a solution none of our customers needed.
Secondly, if you are trying to disrupt a market as we are, you have to start from the bottom of the pyramid, where you are needed. JK Rowling doesn’t need us, but there are millions of self-publishing and amateur writers in need of a startup like FicShelf. We target this audience first in order to achieve critical mass.
Tell us about ‘social publishing’. What is it, and how does it benefit writers
Social publishing means involving readers early on in the creative process. It challenges the stereotypical view of solitary writing in which an author would retreat to a cabin in the woods and resurface years later with a masterpiece. The publishing market is saturated. Instead of dealing with issues of visibility and promotion, it makes much more sense to work on building an audience of loyal readers who will support you throughout the creative process, and then when your book is ready, buy it.
There are many members of the publishing elite that will turn up their noses at phenomena such as fanfiction and online periodical publication. But they do so at their own peril. Wonder how EL James managed to transform her Twilight fanfiction into a worldwide hit in itself? Through her fanbase – that is how. Social publishing allows authors to acquire more than just readers. Through social publishing, they can get followers – a captive audience, who will support them both emotionally and financially, through thick and thin.
JK Rowling is known for having kept a very respectful eye on her fanfiction community.
Besides, online periodical publication is a great way to test the waters with a new book idea. Publish a few chapters online and see if there is any interest in the story you want to tell before you dedicate years of your life to writing it in full. The extra benefit authors will have on FicShelf’s Social Publishing Platform is a quicker form of remuneration, by selling a story chapter by chapter, as they write it. It worked for Dickens, and it will work for us too.
FicShelf is looking to allow writers to utilize crowdfunding for their projects. Do you feel the field is well-suited for these types of campaigns?
Definitely. Readers are interested in more than just consuming high quality content. They want to be part of the story. They want to know that their money is going beyond consumerism, and actually reaching the artist.
Publishing houses are no longer able, nor interested in footing the bill. We all have a responsibility to make sure that the classics of our time make it onto our bookshelves.
Although it’s still early, what have you made of the feedback you’ve received so far?
We worked hard to make sure that we had the right balance of writers, readers, editors and designers among our beta testers. The feedback we receive from them is essential to the development of the platform. In fact, we are so keenly aware of this that we have one member of the team purely responsible for engaging with our beta testers and answering their queries.
How do you see FicShelf developing as a brand in the future? If all goes well in the early stages, have you thought of what the next step might be?
We have big ambitions for the FicShelf brand. As you say, it’s early days, but in the future we plan to build an audience of not just thousands, but hundreds of thousands. One day we would like to rival even Amazon’s publishing division!
Anything else our readers should know?
Yes! We’ve just launched our new Funding Platform, and we’re rather proud of it. We’re allowing authors to fundraise, and use the proceeds to hire their own publishing team. We have three fantastic writers who won a competition we ran in partnership with the Alliance of Independent Authors running funding campaigns at the moment. Please do consider supporting them at ficshelf.com/funding.