What is “fansourcing” and what inspired you to build a website devoted to it?
Fansourcing is a way to make author tours a viable means of promotion. There’s this funny disconnect where all these book readers are hanging out online but they’re getting their recommendations in person. Our idea was to build something that lets you bridge that online-offline divide.
When I was an author, I wanted people to know about my book but everyone said, “don’t try and do a tour because it will be a disaster.”
But I’m stubborn and I didn’t listen to them. I did a lot of four-person events. That really takes the wind out of your sails.
So our idea was, what if you could build a mechanism that made sure you only did good events if you always promoted the events just the right amount?
Luckily we didn’t have to invent this idea, we just applied it to a new space. We basically applied the ideas of Groupon and Kickstarter to live events. And that’s what we call fansourcing.
The idea is that the important activity for marketing your book is connecting with communities. If you can do that, you’ll be able to get enough people to go to your events.
And with a mechanism like fansourcing you basically pre-sell that minimum amount and once the 15th book or the 20th ticket is sold, you agree in advance to do the event.
What does your business model look like?
Our approach is, if you’re a non-traditional space then we’ll do the book fulfillment for you and act as the bookstore. If you’re a bookseller then we do revenue share deals.
If you’re an author that wants to sell tickets or get an honorarium for an event, then we take a small cut, like five percent, or if you just want to use us for free doing RVSP, free events, then it’s all free.
Do you fear you’re putting book publicists or agents out of business with this platform?
It’s the job of agents or publicists to empower their authors. There are so many titles and there are so many authors that need help and there aren’t enough resources to help them all.
So why not create a mechanism that lets everyone do their jobs a little more efficiently? I don’t think we’re putting anyone out of business, we’re creating more opportunities because we’re creating more sales and more hits, and that’s good for everyone.
Do you think live events have become more or less important for authors in the digital age?
They are more important because the value of that word-of-mouth connection is so great and it’s harder and harder to get.
I guess we all sort of thought the value of a like or a share or a retweet would be enough to get people to buy a book. But that didn’t necessarily work out. It takes more for someone to buy a book and it takes more for you to build a book-buying audience.
The real value and importance of live events is that they create stronger connections and better relationships. Identifying those key relationships is the difference between having a successful career as an author or just a title that fades away into obscurity.
It makes perfect sense for an author like Jeff Jarvis to buy into a platform that’s all about crowdsourcing and audience empowerment, but was it a struggle to get other types of writers to buy in?
For us the biggest challenge is this slight shift in behaviour. You need to accept failure at a different point and failure is a tough word. But if you don’t connect with the right audience and you don’t get people interested in a particular event then you should let it go.
This saves you time and lets you spend your efforts developing new audiences and finding other communities.
So you’re basically bringing the lean-startup, “fail fast” model into the event and publishing worlds?
I guess we are! “Fail better every time” is a great approach because it is going to help you identify your audience much more efficiently.
Think about how much nicer an exchange it is for the author and the host to be able to say, “Hey! We gave it the old college try, it didn’t work out” versus flying to Duluth and giving a talk to a giant audience of nobody.