Publishing’s Third Option—Sponsored E-books: An Interview with Kizzi Nkwocha, CEO of Mithra Publishing

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

There is a new alternative in the ever evolving world of publishing—advertising sponsorships. The concept of sponsored publication is not entirely new; it is somewhat common in the non-fiction world of educational and reference materials. What is new is sponsored fiction.

Not to be confused with a commissioned novel, where product endorsement becomes part of the plot, sponsorship is more like the advertisements we see in magazines. There have been some murmurings about the concept of sponsored publishing since 2009. Now Mithra Publishing has stepped forward to lead the way into this exciting, new prospect.

WOW: Hello Kizzi, welcome to WOW! What caused you to adopt this business model?

Kizzi: This business model was born out of frustration. The frustration a lot of writers feel after spending months, sometimes years, banging on a publisher's door, pleading for an opportunity to have their work taken on and made available to the public. On the other hand, publishers are also suffering. In a number of cases they want to take a risk on a new author. But in an uncertain economy and with margins getting tighter every month, they feel the return on investment simply won’t be high enough to justify the gamble. The safer option is to publish authors with proven track records or writers with celebrity names. Most new writers are left with no other alternative but to self-publish, which can be a very costly venture. We want to create another option, a model where the cost of publishing is shared between the publisher and a number of advertisers. The author is left to do what he or she does best: concentrate on writing a great book. With this model we can afford to take risks on new talent and we have committed ourselves to introducing at least one new author every month.

WOW: How do you see this fitting in to today’s fiction market?

Kizzi: It’s a third option and fits nicely in-between the existing fiction models of publisher-financed books and self-financed books.

WOW: I can see where sponsorship could greatly reduce the upfront costs for an author looking at self-publication, but how do you go about finding the right sponsors for the project?

Kizzi: We focus on the main theme of the book and related issues that arise from those themes. A great example is Teresa Hamilton’s book, Choices. The central theme of the book is about a forty-something wife and mother who faces a dilemma that threatens to tear apart her life. We looked at the target readership (women in their thirties, forties and fifties) and asked ourselves: “what are their interests?” The finished book now carries ads from a women’s networking business, a jewelry company, a luxury cruise wedding business, etc…

WOW: That makes sense; you’re matching up the target audience. Give us an example of a basic advertising package—price, run time, graphics, etc…

Kizzi: It cost £1,200 ($1,881) for a full page ad. A half page advertisement costs £700 ($1,097) and a quarter page costs £500 ($ 184) *. Ads can be either text-only or text with an image. Because the majority of e-readers are online, we also hyperlink the ads so, once a reader clicks on it, they’re taken directly to the advertiser's website.

Unlike magazine or newspaper ads, e-books are often kept for years and re-read which means the ads have a very long shelf life. Many e-book devices allow users to lend their books to friends which will increase the exposure to an advertiser’s brand.

WOW: So, these are interactive ads in that the reader can “click” directly to the sponsor’s site. Terrific perk for the sponsor as it allows them to create an immediate relationship with that customer. Where are the ads placed in the e-books?

Kizzi: We stress to advertisers that the ads are kept separate from the story and cannot influence the editorial content whatsoever. There are no discreet product placements. The ads appear on a separate page from the text and often at a relevant section of the story. For example, if at the end of the story the main character decides to get married, we’ll run ads from wedding companies.

WOW: It’s nice to hear that the ads don’t interrupt the flow of the story. How does sponsorship effect copyrights?

Kizzi: The sponsorship has no effect on copyrights. The book remains the copyright of the author. Advertising sponsored publishing is pretty much an unexplored frontier. But, by adopting this model, we think it will inject new life into the publishing industry. We are demystifying the publishing process and opening doors to new writers. And that can only be a good thing.

WOW: That is a good thing! Thank you, Kizzi, for sharing with us today.

Mithra Publishing is an international publishing company based in the U.K. You can read more at Mithra Publishing’s website or check out one of their new releases, Choices by Teresa Hamilton.

Lauren seems to have it all, until her idyllic world is turned upside down… What would you do? Filled with believable characters, family feuds, love, sex and betrayal, Choices is now available at Amazon.

(* Note: Ad rates converted to current U.S. Dollar exchange rate for illustrative purposes only and does not represent a direct price quote from Mithra Publishing)

By Robyn Chausse


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