Startup of the week: Publishizer

Startup of the week: Publishizer

Born in India and bred in Silicon Valley, the matchmaking service for authors and publishers has already earned 130 authors $464,000 in pre-orders, produced six Amazon #1 bestsellers and secured $100,000 funding in its quest to become "the world's first true crowd-publishing platform".

The pitch

Publishizer matches authors with publishers during pre-orders campaigns. It's like Kickstarter meets Tinder, for publishing.

Who's behind it?

Guy Vincent, a charismatic Australian who now lives, naturally, in California's Mountain View. In 2011 Vincent launched the digital division of South-East Asia's largest book printing company, Tien Wah Press, in Singapore, but after noticing how many promising writers and artists struggled to fund their print runs he quit his job, moved to India, and teamed up with two German engineers to build a crowd-funding platform for books. A year into the startup, the team was accepted into the 500 Startups accelerator in Silicon Valley and pivoted their focus to matching authors with publishers.

What's the gap in the market?

"Over 2 million book proposals are submitted to literary agents in the US every year – and 96% of those are rejected," Vincent explains. "That's almost 2 million people in the US alone who are seeking a publisher for their book, every year. We realised we could use our pre-orders metrics to match our authors with publishers based on their interests. So, rather than being painfully rejected dozens of times, we can flip that equation and bring our authors dozens of interested publishers."

Success so far?

To date, 11,000 readers have pre-ordered books on Publishizer and 130 authors have earned $464,000 in pre-orders, six of whom have produced Amazon #1 bestsellers. The startup has signed up publishers ranging from Big Four imprints like Enliven Books (an imprint of Atria, which is part of Simon & Schuster) to traditional publishers like John Wiley & Sons, as well as doing deals with independent publishers such as BenBella Books and Morgan James Publishing, and niche publishing services companies like Dog Ear Publishing and BookBaby. Last year, it secured $100,000 investment from 500 Startups.

Biggest challenges?

"Solving the chicken-and-egg dilemma," Vincent admits. "As a platform, we need readers to attract authors, and authors to attract readers. We also need authors to attract publishers, and publishers to attract authors. Building a three-sided marketplace is a seriously big challenge – we're fortunate to have well-connected advisors and to be in a position where we add value to each user segment. Our readers enjoy exclusive pre-order rewards, authors benefit from the widest range of publishing choices, and publishers benefit from making more profitable acquisitions. It's a win-win-win model, but insanely difficult to execute."

Ultimate ambition?

The Publishizer team is aiming high, hoping to become top of mind when someone wants a publisher for their book within the next few years. "We will take authors from idea to proposal, and pre-orders to publisher, with a simple user experience that is 100% free for authors and publishers," Vincent explains. "Our goal is to bring the power of the crowd to publishing – by becoming the world's first true crowd-publishing platform."

Advice for other publishing entrepreneurs?

For Vincent, the key to building a solid business model lies in creating obvious and instant value for users. "We started out charging a 5% fee as a crowd-funding platform, which was never going to become sustainable as a niche platform," he says. "We tripled our fees to 15% when we pivoted to crowd-publishing, while creating massive value for our authors and publishers by using metrics to match them more efficiently. Best of all, we can match readers, authors and publishers better over time as our community grows. This decision to pivot allows us to generate positive cashflow, expand our team, and serve our users better – which ultimately means more books getting into the hands of the right readers."

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