Sunday, September 7, 2014

Crowdfunding on Pubslush

A long time ago, I went to a talk on publishing by Sonia Marsh, and at the very end of it, she mentioned using Pubslush to fundraise for book launching parties. I've been researching the website on and off for the last few months, before finally deciding to try and run a campaign on my own to help pay the publishing costs of my novel The Changelings.

The campaign will run in October. You can see it here.

What is Pubslush?

Kickstarter for Books!

Basically, Pubslush is a way for authors to raise money by creating a "campaign" for a set amount of time (15-45 days) and asking your supporters to donate money in exchange for incentives. The authors (or agents or publishers) can use this money to create or promote their book.

A 2013 article in Forbes says this: "Run by mother-daughter team Hellen and Amanda L Barbara, this American start-up is focused on providing crowdfunding services tailored to the needs of authors, agents, self-publishers and small presses."

On the website: "Pubslush is a global marketing platform for literary projects only. We offer flexible funding, we have the lowest fee in the industry, and we provide our campaigners with valuable market analytics. Most importantly, though, we pride ourselves on our emphasis on user education and for being an accessible resource for our campaigners every step of the way with the Pubslush Prep program."


The website seems very proud of taking authors under its wing. Unfortunately, since I have issues with asking strangers for help, I've mostly been browsing the site. The "help" button takes you to wonderful links. You can also get an idea of what works by scanning successful campaigns. So there's still a lot of room for independent-minded writers as well.

Money Matters

You must raise a minimum of $500 in order to keep any of the money. You can raise the minimum if you so choose. You can set a maximum, although, if you raise more than the maximum, you can still keep the extra money.

If you reach $500 (or your own minimum), Pubslush deducts a 4% fee, plus 3.5% in credit card charges.

"Supporters of a campaign will be charged on the final day of the Fundraising period. In the event that the Minimum Threshold has not been met [...], Supporters will simply not be charged." This is in the Terms of Services. Basically, no one pays until the final day. If the campaign fails, no one spends money or makes money.

You entice people to donate by offering "incentives," small rewards for certain amounts. Although authors, in general, try to offer "free" rewards, you may have to spend some of your own money purchasing rewards. You will also have to factor in the cost of shipping.  You have the option of tacking on additional fees for international shipping. 

You can also choose to donate some of the proceeds (a minimum of 10%) to a charity called the Pubslush Foundation, which fights illiteracy. If you do so, you'll receive "a special distinction on our site."

Pubslush Prep is "a customized program designed to provide our campaigners with hands-on campaign support." On a basic (read: free) level it offers email templates and an introduction email with campaign relations coordinator. However, it also offers Bronze Prep ($50), Silver Prep ($75), Gold Prep ($175), Platinum Prep ($250), and Strictly Social Media Package ($100). 

Bronze level offers thing like an initial email consultation with the campaign relations coordinator plus 30 minutes of phone time, while Platinum Level gets you customized tweets and a feature on the Pubslush blog. 


I think the 4% fee is reasonable. The website does offer authors a wider audience, so it's only fair to take a small cut. I'm a little more leery of paying for the advice, if only because if you fail, you get nothing--so it's a bit of a gamble. Also, in a business sense, you do have to worry about being nickeled and dimed. 

Let's say you paid $50 for a consultation and decide to donate 10% to charity and put in $30 for incentives and shipping. You raise $500. $20 goes to the website fees, $17.50 goes to credit card charges, then you pay another $50 for a donation and include the cost of supplies. That means raising that $500 has cost you $167.50, or roughly 1/3 of the money raised. If you give away copies of your book as an incentive, you have to be doubly careful because you're cutting into the audience who will buy your book later.

These concerns, by the way, come from a first-time publisher with very little money to subsist on, let alone publish with. Don't get me wrong, it's still an amazing tool to have at your disposal. But it's not free. You have to spend money to make money; it's just a matter of considering how much you're comfortable spending.

Other Benefits

Though the primary function is to raise money, the secondary function is to generate interest in your books. First-timers can build an audience outside their usual friends and family. Authors with an audience can appeal to their fan base by offering samples of new work.

Once you run a (successful?) campaign, it stays on the website, so that people can click on it and have a peek.

They also have tools, a blog, and articles for author education.


It seems like Pubslush is striving to be not only a crowdfunding website, but also an author platform. They seem to want you to promote the book long 

The articles are a great resource. I recommend browsing them just for the heck of it. Some of these have to do with crowdfunding, if you're uncertain of what it entails or whether or not to take the plunge. Others talk about writing and promotion.

I couldn't use the tools because I have ancient technology which Pubslush doesn't seem to like.

Starting a Campaign

You will need to type/ upload the following:

  • Title
  • Byline (Your name or pseudonym)
  • Image (at least 720 px in width--optional)
  • Video (optional)
  • Project Overview (a 1-sentence blurb to summarize your project and capture your audience's attention--200 characters max)
  • Book Details (aka, your genre)
  • Page Length (less than 50, 50-100, 100-250, 250-500, 500 +)
  • Book Status (idea, working draft, or completed manuscript)
  • Book Excerpt (5-10 page sample, submitted as either a text document, PDF, or series of images--optional)
  • Tags (metadata that 
  • Author Photo 
  • Author Bio (Approximately 2 sentences about yourself--500 characters max)
  • Interview (The standard questions ask: Why did you write this book? Wo are your favorite authors? What was your inspiration for this book? What do you plan to do with the funds you raise? You can answer some, all, or none of these question. You can make up your own questions, too.) 
  • Links (your website, Facebook account, Twitter, etc.)
  • Funding Goal (How much you want to raise--$500 minimum)
  • Funding Duration (15-45 days)
  • Launchpad (When do you want to start?)
  • Levels and Rewards (How much money do people need to spend to qualify for the reward? Is there a limited amount of rewards offered? When do you expect to deliver the reward, assuming the campaign is successful? Do you charge extra for international shipping and if so, how much?)
After filling in all that massive amount of information, you review your information, agree to the terms and conditions, and wait for them to approve your campaign. After that, your campaign will appear on the website for people to browse, although they will not be able to donate until the launch date.


I thought about using Pubslush to pay for my cover, but I noticed that most campaigns have a picture, some more professional than others. I, personally, feel more attracted to professional-looking artwork; it reassures me that the author is serious. For me, though, it meant paying for the cover out of my own pocket.

Filling in the information was time-consuming, but helpful, because it forced me to sit down and write (and re-write) promotional material for my book. However, copy and pasting from a word document to the little boxes caused the lines to go all wonky. You may need to re-type.

Before starting the incentives, I read and re-read an amazingly helpful article by AJ Walkley. Since the site recommends using your personal talents to create incentives, I decided to channel my card-making. Shipping and handling threw me a bit, but cards are cheap to mail. Still, I had to factor in that cost, as well as website fees, and card-making materials.

One of my most difficult problems was uploading the sample of the story. Again, I blame ancient technology. (My laptop is 4 years old.) Pubslush was not happy with Internet Explorer, but it worked fine for Mozilla Firefox, once I updated everything. Even though it uploaded my Microsoft Word document, it wouldn't let me actually see the writing. It did show me the PDF document, so I went with that.

I read through the Terms and Conditions, and one part bothered me a bit. "With respect to all Content, by submitting Content to Pubslush, you hereby grant to Pubslush a worldwide, non-exclusive, royalty-free, sub-licensable, perpetual, irrevocable ad transferable license to use, reproduce, adapt, publish, translate, distribute, prepare derivative works of, display, and perform the Content in connection with the Service and the business of Pubslush, and of its successors and assigns." 

"Content" is defined earlier, "any text, scripts, graphics, images, or other materials which a User posts to the Service," which includes "a segment of the User's original book."

So I think what this means is, once it goes on the site, it stays on the site, and they can distribute it worldwide. They do not have the rights to your entire novel, just whatever you put on the website. You can use the material you publish on Pubslush elsewhere. You cannot charge them to use your work. I think they are just covering their bases so people don't sue them or claim copyright violations. However, if you are uncomfortable with these terms, don't use the site.

What's Next?

In the next few months, I'm going to look at Pubslush from the point of view of someone donating and someone running a campaign. I'll write more when I know more, so stay tuned.

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