Ebooks for Charity
June 30, 2011 2:14 PM   Subscribe

Ok so I have asked a similar question recently but I wanted to be more specific to get some feedback from people. Thanks.

We are launching a new site where we will feature and actively promote ebooks with the primary objectives of:

1. Raising funds for charities
2. Offering a venue for writers to get additional notoriety and exposure (sales) for their ebooks.
3. Building a community of customers and writers that will have an opportunity to take an active role in supporting charities. The community will have several ways to influence the content being offered and the charities being helped.

The price point we are targeting to offer the ebooks will be reasonably lower than the average price of ebooks offered on Amazon and other similar sites. We don't intend to try to compete with the big boys, we simply want to offer quality ebooks (from up-and-coming authors to semi-established authors) and help charities. Authors will also have the opportunity to be a part of focused campaigns where we will promote their ebooks to raise money for specific charitable organizations, which will bring additional exposure to the author and have their name associated with a good cause. We believe this model will make money for the authors, for us, and most importantly, make a difference along the way by supporting charities. What are the potential road blocks aside from the standard marketing hurtles needed to anything? What could we add if anything to make the concept more attractive. All feedback is welcomed.
posted by Monkeyzulu to Writing & Language (5 answers total)
We believe this model will make money for the authors, for us, and most importantly, make a difference along the way by supporting charities.

How? You need a concrete business plan, not just an idea and belief. Honestly, this whole proposition sounds confusing. Your selling someone's product for less than it's value and the author isn't getting money, but publicity? And you want to use new or previously unpublished authors for this? What charities? Your own selection of charities or the author's choice? What percentage of the sale goes to overhead? Have you registered as a 501c3? Do you have an attorney and an accountant? What happened to your granola bars?
posted by asockpuppet at 3:01 PM on June 30, 2011 [1 favorite]

Not sure if this is a special road block or a standard marketing hurdle, but I guess my first concern is the glut of free or cheap books available on Kindle and presumably the other platforms. Sure, a lot of those are public domain or the like, but when you say "up-and-coming authors to semi-established authors," that's a category which is often selling very cheaply in Amazon in self-publish programs and as "Kindle Singles."

So it begs the question - not trying to be sarcastic, but whom is meant to be helping who? (or however those pronoun thingies work) Is the thrust that people are attracted to give to the charity because they've discovered an author, or do the authors hope to boost sales by aligning with a charity? I guess I can kinda see that as two sides of the same coin, and perhaps you can promote either/both, but it might help to have good focus on that issue, because you kind of have to have the stars aligned on a narrow segment - those who want to support authors AND give to a given charity.

Have you considered, or perhaps is it part of the mix, to essentially act as an Amazon affiliate? Give to charity by buying whatever books you want to buy, including the latest John Grisham if that's what rocks your world. Just a thought.

As a final confusing data point, I'm a big fan of the idea of curation. If you have well-read volunteer reviewers/editors who can reliably point out the really good stuff to me as a reader, I might pay attention to your site and spend $4-7 on e-books that I might otherwise not try. If it's just a data dump from every author who wants to give this a whirl, it's frankly less compelling.
posted by randomkeystrike at 3:06 PM on June 30, 2011

What are the potential road blocks aside from the standard marketing hurtles needed to anything?

Are you the publisher of the ebooks? If not, are you working with publishers now to set up this program to sell books at below-Amazon prices?

Are you thinking of working only with self-published authors? If so, what sort of quality control do you plan on? What do you plan to do about self-published works that violate copyrights (e.g. the Harry Potter derivatives sold around the world)? Do you have an attorney well-versed in the relevant areas of law? Do you have standard contracts ready?
posted by Marty Marx at 3:16 PM on June 30, 2011

I remember the previous question and I still don't understand what's going on here. Oh well. Anyway, here are some suggestions:

- Avoid using the word "exposure", which is like a red cape to an internet bull furious at the common assumption that creative people will work for little or no personal reward. I'm not sure what word you could use instead, but not that one.
- As far as I can tell your business won't be a charity, it'll be a fundraising company. Disclose how much you'll be skimming off in administrative expenses and keep it low (or preferably zero if you have some other source of revenue, eg web ads).
- Offer professional editing and design services to the authors. You are going to be doing this, right?
- Get some authors who are already well-known in the genres you're targetting to write for you. "Exposure" alongside known professionals is still not worth much but is likely to be more attractive than exposure among hordes of other desperate amateurs. You'll need to pay them for this so don't spend all your start-up capital on web design (you have capital, right?).
- Find out what kind of standards (record-keeping, auditing, disclosure etc) fundraising organisations are required to comply with in your jurisdiction. Get a lawyer and an accountant (both with experience working with your kind of organisation) to run over every aspect of your business plan to make sure it's legal, tax-effective etc before you even think about incorporating.
- Get some legitimate charities on board. This may be difficult as they have no reason to trust you.

I think you're facing a bit of an uphill battle, to be honest.
posted by A Thousand Baited Hooks at 4:09 PM on June 30, 2011

The chief hurdle, as most others have pointed out, is the eBook pie is already sliced pretty thin. Many Kindle eBooks are $9.99, and that's the price for established authors as well as people you've never heard of. Nicely formatted classics can be had for free or cheap. So what's "reasonably lower"? $4.99? Whatever it is, you'd have to divide that up between you, the charity, the author, and his/her publisher (unless you are the publisher).

For this to work, you have to be adding value (and quite a bit of it, since your goal is to lower the price-point). I assume most authors who are interested in helping charities could help them just by donating part of their proceeds and/or by showing up and doing readings at charity events (and bragging about it on their blogs/twitter feeds/facebook pages). In this scenario, unless you have some serious marketing kung-fu, your business seems like an unnecessary middle man.
posted by wheat at 8:13 PM on June 30, 2011

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