Sometimes you hear or read about a new initiative that immediately grasps your attention. Take TenPages.com, a Dutch start-up with international ambitions. TenPages helps aspiring authors to get published by a traditional publisher via crowd-funding. The service was launched last February. It generated extensive media coverage in The Netherlands. Seven months later over 700 manuscripts were uploaded to the website and now the first book is in the stores. A great success but how sustainable is the concept against the self-publishing alternatives of Smashwords, Amazon and Lulu.com? Would it survive when it indeed opens up to the international community?
Solving a problem in book publishing
Traditionally book publishing is a very personal business. On the one hand you have the publisher who makes an estimated guess whether the publication of a manuscript will cost or deliver money. On the other hand you have the author who needs to convince the publisher that it will be a success in order to get the manuscript published. With authors complaining about the power of the publisher and publishers ending up with stocks of unsold books, this way of doing business is under stress. In fact it is one of the reasons why self-publishing initiatives are gaining popularity.
Introducing crowd-funding as a way to substantiate the publishing decision, TenPages.com has found a niche between traditional book publishing and self-publishing. In fact it helps aspiring authors to get published by traditional book publishers. Simultaneously this charming and inspiring initiative helps book publishers to better connect with their most important stakeholders: their readers and authors.
At TenPages authors can publish the first ten pages of their manuscript online. If an user of the site likes it, this person can buy one of the 2.000 shares (€ 5,- each). A visitor can buy no more than 200 shares of one manuscript but publishing houses may get all the remaining shares in one go. Authors and shareholders can buy online promotion tools / widget to spread the message and convince others to also buy a share.
If during a period of maximum 4 months all the shares are sold the manuscript is up for publication by an affiliated publishing house. Following the closure of the (standard) publishing contract the author gets eight months to finish the work under the guidance of an editor of the publishing house. During and after publication the promotion of the work is supported by the publishing house and TenPages.
TenPages is not (yet) working with ebooks. According to this Dutch article, the founder of the site – Valentine van der Lande – has said during a conference last month she thinks the Dutch market is not yet big enough for ebooks. However in the future it may consider possibilities of ebook publishing.
Who gets what…
When all shares are sold, one tenth of the total sum of money goes to the author as a bonus, thus sustaining the publishers’ system of payment in advance. This amounts to € 1.000. The rest of the money (€ 9.000) goes to the publishing house to edit, publish and promote the manuscript.
After publication the author receives the *standard* royalty percentage over the sold books. This is usually 10%. The publishing house gets 30% and TenPages receives 8%. The user-shareholders are mentioned in the publication and receive a return on their investment as they get a 10% share in the sale revenues. Interestingly enough, there is a 4-year limitation for the time a shareholder can profit from the sales. If not all the shares are sold the shareholder doesn’t lose his whole investment. If this is the case €4,- per share is returned to him or her.
TenPages.com tries to make money in various ways. Of course, it hopes to make a profit from the book sale. Via the web-shop you can buy books and related products. An interesting source of income is the sale of additional services. This includes the earlier mentioned promotools but also – since recently – an evaluation of a manuscript by a professional editor (before it sells the necessary shares).
Founder and business partners
Valentine van der Lande (32) invented the concept of TenPages.com in 2008. Her LinkedIn profile informs us that she is not new in publishing. Previously she was product manager books at Bol.com, the largest online book retailer in the Netherlands and e-commerce manager at Albumprinter BV, one of the main European photo book providers. Early on she got the confidence of the people behind JungleMinds, a big internet consultancy agency based in The Netherlands. Three out of the four investors in TenPages.com are related to this company.
The publishing partners include De Arbeidspers (one of the biggest and oldest literary publishers of The Netherlands), Eburon, The House of Books and Pearson. As is stated on the site TenPages.com is not cooperating with publishers outside The Netherlands, therefore its services are not available to writers who have a manuscript that is written in English or a language other than Dutch.
TenPages.com also has a strategic partnership with selexyz, a renowned bookstore chain in the Netherlands that has a firm position in the Dutch online book retail market. Selexyz helps promoting the TenPages.com authors, mainly by putting the books in their shops.
At several occasions van der Lande has announced that she would like to expand internationally. Boekblad.nl reports she has started talking with possible partners, and according to another Dutch source she wishes to be active to be active in Germany, France and the UK in three years.
Why it could work: There is room for different publishing models, different ways for authors to showcase (the potential of) their manuscript. Furthermore I lack proof but it appears authors still tend to favor traditional publishers over self-publishing services, at least in first instance. Certainly once the publishers’ decision has been become less subjective. Authors recognize that traditional publishers may offer real value for their money (a royalty model less favorable than the 70% offered by Amazon for instance). They pay in advance once the manuscript is accepted and they take away a lot of hassle authors don’t like doing (editing, marketing and promotion). Above all, self-publishing still has an aura of being less valuable than traditional book publishing. At the same time TenPages.com also has a strong case towards book publishers. It provides them an opportunity to get a better feel of the market, and indirectly react to some of the threats of self-publishing and technology-based companies.
However the competition is fierce. Much depends how TenPages.com (and possibly book publishers in general) will react to key elements such as the amount of personal attention given to the writers, in the sense of guidance and sufficient marketing efforts. And there is also the matter of distribution. At this moment TenPages.com is not working with digital formats. In long term this is a serious setback in the competition for the attention of aspiring writers. However things may change rapidly either indirectly via Centraal Boekhuis, the main book distributor in The Netherlands that possibly will make all books available for Ipads (a deal with Apple closed during the Frankfurter Buchmess). Or directly via Eburon, the book publisher that recently joined the TenPages partnership. This company has a lot of experience with digital reading developments.
Either way, it would be great if TenPages.com would make it easier for a potential English speaking audience to find the site and learn about the concept. Maybe they can add a short introduction in English?
Tenpages * where books are born (site is in Dutch)
‘Vanity’ Press goes digital, The Wall Street Journal (provides a nice overview)
TenPages is nominated for the Accenture Innovation Awards for the Media, Communication & High Tech Industry – During this short video presentation Van der Lande explains the concept in English