NEW PULP FICTION: Is crowdfunding the now-and-future of the creative industries?

IF THE MESSAGE IS widely accessible but the mediums still aren’t as accessible across the world, could crowdfunding change the nature of media globalisation?

France, in its fraternal wisdom, has come up with something even more wonderfully hippiefied than Paris’ bike hire service Velib.

Web, world: welcome Editions du Public, where any author can submit their manuscript, try to earn a core following and get the chance to be published.

When the manuscript is accepted, it must seek the support of 2,000 co-editors, who each invest 11 Euros into the book. If the 2,000 mark is reached, the book gets the magical ISBN number and is released for sale in both the virtual and real worlds.

“Sixteen have been merited good enough to make it onto the publisher’s website, from Nathalie Tavignot’s Croissant de lune (Crescent Moon), in which a series of murders occur in a village whose inhabitants have just woken from a long sleep and remember nothing, to Ghislain Hammer’s poetry collection Les colosses nus (The Naked Colossi).” – The Guardian

(c) Edition du Public, France

GATEKEEPERS

By calling the readers ‘editors’, they are given the gatekeeping decisions those in the media elite normally make – or, lo and behold, the Richard and Judy Book Club (did you know it’s still around?) make.

The idea is to give power back to readers.  I refrain to say choice. Blatantly all readers have choice…

“We want, thanks to crowdfunding, to give the chance to every author to be published,” Laurence Broussal at Éditions du Public told The Guardian.

“Thanks to our website, authors have a real communication platform to make themselves known to internet users and to meet their public. But we want this to be without risk: the internet co-editor is refunded with 100% of their output, and the author gets back their manuscript, if the book is not published.”

So at least that saves from any copyright wrangling issues.

EDP believes in “I invest in what I want to read”. We all do when we buy a book – but when we buy new novels, are we buying them because we genuinely want to, or because the NY Times Book Review said so?

(c) getty Images all rights reserved

FROM CO-OP TO CROWD

Crowdfunding is the cool term used for something-like a co-operative: i.e. a business model in which customers work as shareholders and all help to shape the business ethic and purchasing choices made by said co-op.

Like shareware and programming cooperatives found with developers online, such as eMule and even Linux itself – perhaps the best examples of this sharing and pooling of resources and knowledge – the Editions du Public model is one that is both shaping and recreating the future of publishing, shifting resource usage and it could even see itself repeated across the media.

The empowerment it gives to authors, or content makers, is unmistakable: they get their work back, there are no ties and they are judged completely on content (and maybe, if the fans like that author anyway). The publishers (or, the crowd) have a higher intake threshold for new authors than that of the more obvious publishing houses such as Faber, Random House and Penguin. There’s no contract for either side of the actual book. You either pay your eleven euros or you don’t.

Furthermore, for the reader, there is no need to repeat-buy the material product if it is released as pulp fiction – co-op members can simply read the successful manuscript online and wait for their investor’s copy. There’s no spin off product. In this sense, globalisation actually closes the doors on fancy new products in the publishing industry: all a person will need is internet access to read new authors’ work.

Yet there is the risk of it all turning a little bit X-Factor, and perhaps it will only reflect the shop front’s bestseller market on a digital platform, rather than shaking things up from the outside, as one might expect from a more grassroots movement.

This is because there is still a form of hierarchy: with the trend set by the initial Lily Allen marketing campaign (‘underground’ artist pushes her demo onto record producers, is refused and so gets a million MySpace friends before finally getting picked up and moving on to become one of the UK’s most favourite and top-selling artists), and like those whose public relations rely upon social networking tools, s/he who is most popular wins.

(c) bookbinding; getty images all rights reserved

The Guardian reported:

“Each title has six months to sign up 2,000 co-editors and some are already proving more popular than others: Tavignot’s thriller has 45 subscribers, while Hammer has just two.”

Hammer’ll be okay, you know there’s nothing a decent Twitter profile can’t do…

FILM

So could crowdfunding be applied to film? This is ambitious given the distribution is more complicated (at least in the UK, where a film screening is technically illegal without a license) but with free platforms such as YouTube, Megavideo and especially Vimeo for independent filmmakers, launching crowdfunding from these could supply the audience and resources needed for minor theatrical releases.

MUSIC

It could definitely work for music: smaller labels that become self-sustained as its core followers subscribe to their favourite artists, which in turn creating their own PR buzz within their social networks. If Editions du Public is successful over a number of years, the tastes of the mainstream and the conglomerates might be influenced by this…well, maybe not if it takes too much spark away from ad agencies?

CONCLUSION

We’ve driven head first into the multi-channel environment, where our tastes and genres are constantly being reshaped, redefined and atomised into more and more channels (not that all of them are great quality – there’s some stinking, garbage business-digital channels out there: buyer beware. But it’s what we’re gonna get with infinite broadcasting space). We keep driving; the probability of heading into a world which begins to look for alternatives to the elite and their chosen ones is high. It’s already happening.

Is it finally time for the literati to big up the masses, not just the critics?

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