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Crowdfunding in the Dutch Book Publishing Industry

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Writing can be vain. A large Dutch survey a couple of years ago turned out that 1 million Dutch write as a hobby, out of the total of 16 million inhabitants. One third of these hobby writers (300,000 people) would like to have a book published. As a consequence, tens of thousands of unsolicited manuscripts are sent to publishers in the Netherlands every year, but very few manuscripts make it through the so called 'slushpile' and will actually get the chance of being published. This does not mean that these unsolicited manuscripts are not potential 'bestsellers': many nowadays broadly popular writers, such as the Dutch writers Harry Mulish and Tessa de Loo encountered difficulties in being published. And this is not solely a Dutch phenomenon: internationally well-known writers such as Gabriel Garcia Márquez and J.K. Rowling had to searching for a publisher for years as well.

This is exactly why I founded the website TenPages.com: to offer a low barrier, interactive solution to all these people with writing ambitions. As a writer, you can upload your manuscript (at least ten pages) on the TenPages.com website in order to be viewed by readers. These readers decide which manuscripts are most promising by buying shares in them, in order to raise enough funds for publication. The concept of the public funding a future project, mostly through the internet, is called 'crowdfunding'.

Once enough shares (2,000 of € 5 each) of a manuscript are sold within 4 months' time, the writer is contracted by one of the Dutch TenPages' partnering publishers. The book will then be published and sold (paper edition and e-book) at common on- and off-line retailing channels. The writers receives regular royalties (10 to 20 percent) of the book sales revenues, the shareholders share in the booksales revenues as well and get 10 percent of total sales. Additionally, they are -- if they wish -- mentioned in the book.

The concept has different advantages to the groups involved:
  • Aspiring writers have a platform to publish their manuscript, without investments;
  • Friends, family and other booklovers can get involved in early stage books, invest in them and share in the upside;
  • Publishers can publish a book with initial costs covered by the shareholders and knowing the book already has 'ambassadors'.

TenPages.com was launched in February 2010 as the first professional crowdfunding platform in the worldwide book publishing industry. The launch generated a surprising amount of media coverage in the Netherlands and the website became rapidly popular amongst Dutch writers and readers. During the first two years, 66 writers have managed to raise enough funds for publication and the first 35 books are in stores now, amongst which two are national bestsellers (Zo Zuidas and De urenfabriek). The website won different national awards and was recently named a finalist at the Cartier Women's Initiative Awards 2012 that will be held in France in October. We have recently started preparing international expansion and are now talking to potential foreign partners, in order to fulfill our ambition of becoming the largest book crowdfunding platform in the world.

Valentine is a 2012 Cartier Women's Award finalist. For more information, please visit http://www.cartierwomensinitiative.com/editions/2012/.