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Crowdfunding helps budding Chinese authors get published

Published on Jul 30, 2014 11:11 PM
 

BEIJING (CHINA DAILY/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - Ms Chen Liang, a young mother in Beijing, has spent months rewriting Flowers In The Mirror, a 300,000-character novel written in archaic Chinese, into plain modern Mandarin for her child.

She recently decided to publish the book so that more children will be able to enjoy the inspiring ancient tale. But she probably won't need to come up with her own money: Ms Chen promoted her idea on a crowdfunding website on July 25, and in two days, she got more than 200 backers and received pre-orders worth 4,100 yuan (S$827.06) at Zhongchou.com.

She is but one of many budding authors who are turning to crowdfunding, or online fund-raisers, to pool resources from supporters - most of whom are strangers - in order to publish their books.

Although there are no official statistics on how many publishing projects are seeking funding through this channel, or exactly how many millions of yuan have been pledged to such programmes, Zhongchou.com, one of China's popular crowdfunding platforms, alone has more than 120 book-publishing projects with goals from 500 yuan to 1 million yuan.

"Crowdfunding for books is a relatively new concept in China, but it's gaining a lot of popularity in a very short time," says Mr Li Yaohui, a senior executive at Zhongchou.com.

The idea is simple: Potential readers can finance a book directly, in exchange for various value-added services at various pledge levels, such as signed books, meeting or even dining with the author, and getting access to important events related to the book, Mr Li says.

Mr Yi Lang, from Suzhou, Jiangsu province, launched a crowdfunding project to raise funds to publish a book, Traveling Is an Earnest Thing.

Mr Yi runs a hobby group of 180,000 members on the social network website Douban.com, and the book is a collection of the group members' articles on their travel experiences.

He had targeted 22,000 yuan for his crowdfunding effort, but ended up with more than 24,500 yuan at Dreamore.com, another crowdfunding website.

Recently, a book named Crowdfunding: The Revolution And Innovation Of Traditional Funding, published by China Machine Press, received wide attention.

The book, written by three Internet observers and Internet company executives, discusses the history of crowdfunding in both China and abroad, as well as describing classic crowdfunding cases and a how-to guide.

The book itself is a product of crowdfunding.

In April, the publisher set up a fundraising page at Zhongchou.com, and offered to provide various rewards, including the published book and a membership that gives holders varying degrees of access to resources of the publishing house based on the sum pledged.

Within two weeks, the publisher raised more than 80,000 yuan, meeting its financial goal and generating news coverage with its success.

Mr Li Xin, an editor with Chemical Industry Press who has overseen the company's book crowdfunding projects, says that for publishers, the promotion effect is "way more important" than the cash crowdfunding can generate.

Mr Li Yaohui, the Zhongchou.com executive, agrees.

In mid-2013, he suddenly noticed that nearly all of his friends on WeChat, a popular instant-messaging service in China, were talking and posting about a book titled The Benefits of Social Network, which talks about the online networking.

At that time, few people had heard about crowdfunding, and the book was among the very first crowdfunding programmes to raise 100,000 yuan.

The author offered backers signed books and an opportunity to have afternoon tea with him.

The book and his author soon made news headlines and became famous even before it was published. In two weeks, the book got 3,300 pre-orders.

Within a month after publication, the book sold 100,000 copies.

Besides being a promotional tool, Mr Li Yaohui concludes, crowdfunding can also help book producers to better understand potential readers, and to predict the market response.

"It is very useful for a publisher if there is a way to better know how many copies a book should be published on first round of print," Mr Li says. "Crowdfunding certainly can help with that."

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