“If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?”
“ If a book goes into the cloud and no is around to find it, does it really count?”
What is the "Community Fund"?
The Community Fund is the equivalent of a VC fund, but for books and authors instead of startups and techies. It is a community fund in the sense that its goal is to maximize social impact and benefit authors the most.
We offer authors an advertising budget that we manage and use to spread the word about their books. The “catch” is that if the book goes viral and succeeds, authors contribute 5 percent back if their sales proceeds reach $25,000. This is an optional program. Authors opt-in.
We are taking the same bets that financiers and angel investors do. Our bet is that if a community comes together to support authors and only a few books go viral, they can help us replenish the community fund and support more authors to self-publish and become successful.
These are the questions we asked ourselves while designing this fund. Hopefully, they can help you understand how it works. If not, please get in touch to discuss in more details or to share suggestions.
Getting an ebook published is half the work. Advertising and sales go hand in hand, we hope that the community fund gives authors the leg-up that they need to make their work visible.
Authors who can do their own advertising don’t have to participate. But authors who need the extra budget or need help in digital advertising, can get it. In exchange, if the community fund helps an author succeed, they contribute back 5 percent.
We try to be as resourceful and creative as possible. So far funds come from outreach to philanthropists and donors, crowdfunding campaigns, online ad credits and we take 5 percent from books that exceed $25,000 in revenue.
You will know where the money went down to the last penny. We make our Community Fund finances transparent. We publish all our fundraising numbers, a monthly snapshot of our ad spend and annual reports.
The money goes to digital advertising, but the advertising platforms vary. We decide where to advertise depending on the book genre and on previous data from other advertising campaigns.
We are also aware (and hope that) money is not all you need. To generate book sales, we talk to “culture influencers” and ask them to promote good books. We also have an ever-growing mailing list of readers. We publish an estimate of the value of this “free” advertising. We hope to quantify to authors the support that they get from being part of this community.
First, someone has to be eligible for the community fund. The eligibility criteria is simple:
- The author has to be an individual--not a Think Tank, an NGO, an university or a company.
- The author has to be self-published. If you already have a publisher, they should be doing the advertising work.
- Additional criteria may apply if a philanthropist or a donor contributed money to the fund with a specific goal. Further vetting or approval may be needed.
Once an author meets the eligibility criteria, we discuss at length the community fund and make sure we are all on the same page on all the details. This includes payment and billing, monitoring sales, audience targeting, budget, assets created and workflow. We write down all those details and make them public, so that the community who contributed funds gets all the transparency it deserves.
Yes. If you are self-published and the book is already out, you are eligible for the community fund. You have to commit to contributing 5 percent of your proceeds after $25,000 in revenue.
No. The fund is open to books of all genres. We believe that every good book serves a civic purpose and makes our society better.
We divide the community fund into two equal buckets. One is used as a seed fund for new books. It helps us explore which books are likely to go viral. The other half is used to sustain the sales of “up-ward trending” books.
All books get an equal amount of seed funding each month, for a duration of 6 months. The books that generate in revenue more than they cost in ad spending for two consecutive months unlock the second tier of funding for another 6 months. We use the ad conversion rates of each book to determine their additional share. The ad conversion rate is the percentage of people who clicked on an ad and then bought your book. For example, if one person bought your book after an ad had been clicked 100 times, the conversion rate is 1%. A book that has an ad conversion rate of 10% gets double the money that a book with an ad conversion rate of 5%.
We believe that we can stretch the same dollar amount of digital advertising to generate more book sales. We can use search engine optimization, data from previous advertising campaigns and our experience with digital ads to make smarter choices in how we place ads. We also save on the logistical complexity of asking each individual author to run their own ads and report back their numbers to different donors. Last, the world of digital ads is also full of tech-jargon and intimidating. We take that complexity out.
We don’t take any fees from authors, because we think managing a community fund increases our social impact and encourages authors to work with us.
Our single metric for the fund’s impact is the number of books that receive seed funding. We don’t want to optimize for a few books going viral, we only work toward making books go viral because it enables us to support as many authors as possible.