Can a nomadic Australian tech entrepreneur transform literary agenting? Guy Vincent thinks he can. Vincent says that in 2013 he was living in Singapore and working for Tien Wah Press, one of the region’s largest printers, when his friend Jackie Treagus asked for help publishing her book—a pocked-size cookbook for adventurers titled The Backpacker Chef. Vincent helped Treagus raise $5,220 through crowdfunding, garnering 522 preorders, and thus Publishizer was born.
Fast forward six years and Publishizer has become, Vincent says, “the world’s first crowdfunding literary agency.” He is speaking via phone from Amsterdam, where he lives after moving from Singapore to Bali, then Peru and New York City. The company is based in the Netherlands due to a $420,000 investment from Netherlands-based Arches Capital, which built on an earlier $100,000 investment from 500 Startups, a startup accelerator in Silicon Valley.
Initially, Publishizer launched its own crowdfunding platform to fund books that would then be self-published, taking 5% of the money raised as a fee for the service. As the company grew, it began seeing that publishers were interested in acquiring books that had garnered more than 500 preorders on the platform and began placing books with publishers on behalf of authors. Today, Publishizer takes a fee of 30% of the crowdfunding campaign’s earnings, but it gets no cut of any ensuing publishing deal, and authors are also free to sign up agents and publishers on their own.
If things go as planned for Publishizer, the idea of looking for an agent will become moot. “To date, 800 authors have used Publishizer to raise a total of $1.8 million, resulting in 160 publishing deals,” Vincent says. The money raised pays for preorders that are bought from and fulfilled by the publisher. Among the traditional publishing deals that the company has helped midwife in the U.S. are The Business of Influence by Neal Schaffer (HarperCollins Leadership), Live Big by Aljit Nawalkha (BenBella), Modern Tribe by Al Jeffrey (Hay House), and Superconductors by Derek Loudermilk (Kogan Page).
With this track record, Vincent is confident that Publishizer can transition into signing traditional literary agency contracts with authors, and it thus signed Loudermilk as its first client. With Publishizer as the agent, Loudermilk, a travel writer and personal development expert, sold his next book, Experience the Revolution, to Wiley in April after 517 preorders. In return, Publishizer is taking the traditional 15% fee against advances and royalties for domestic rights, as well as 20% for foreign rights, on top of the initial 30% for the crowdfunding.
“We are looking for quality,” says Wendolin Perla, Publishizer’s head of publishing. “We think that there are more authors out there who can fit into publishers’ lists, if only the publishers learn about them. We have largely had success working with nonfiction authors in business, mind/body/spirit, and self-help categories—but we have started to see more fiction, such as That One Cigarette by Stu Krieger,” which was bought by Harvard Square Editions.
The move into fiction will require a different set of skills than selling self-help or business titles. Perla is suited to the role, having joined Publishizer last year after more than a decade at Penguin Random House Grupo Editorial in Mexico City, where she served as literary director. She says that despite her pedigree in the industry, it is a challenge to get the attention of acquiring editors.
“The traditional publishing business is based on reputation, referrals, and prestige,” Perla says. “All of these take time to establish, and a lot of publishers are used to only deal face-to-face with an agent.”
So, in the near term, Perla is building her database of contacts and has put together a rights catalogue of titles from authors who have had successful crowdfunding campaigns, which she’ll be taking to the Frankfurt Book Fair in October.
For his part, Vincent is firmly planted in Amsterdam, where he is focused on further developing his team, which now numbers nearly a dozen and is spread across an ever-growing list of countries, from Canada to Hungary. “But as global as the company may be, Bali will always be Publishizer’s spiritual home,” he says, sounding a note of nostalgia for his nomadic past.