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A “Shark Tank” Publishing House for Authors: But Could It Work?

If you’re an author as well as a fan of “Shark Tank,” the TV show in which millionaires compete to invest in unique start-ups, you’ve probably wondered what it would be like to have someone invest in your book without taking control over your career–including the royalties–the way traditional publishing houses do. Could a publishing house exist that would invest money in polishing and marketing your novel without actually owning it?

Part of this idea came to me after reading a conversation among three bestselling authors who have been in the publishing game–both traditional and indie–for decades. These guys–Dean Wesley Smith, JA Konrath and Barry Eisler–know that a lot of authors out there are getting ripped off, and they especially advise against giving up rights to your work forever just to score a book deal with a big publisher when there’s so much you could do yourself while keeping your rights.

Using their advice and warnings, I thought I’d draw up a crude business model for a publishing house that could satisfy their demands and mine. It’s the publishing house of my dreams since it would take a huge financial burden off my shoulders by allowing me, the author, to choose how much the company would invest and how much they would get to keep afterward, without giving up ownership of my book.

But could such a business ever be profitable?

It would require a massive amount of start-up money to pay an acquisitions editorial staff and to outsource designers, editors, and other service providers. And at least some of the books acquired would have to be bestsellers early on to sustain the business. So this kind of company might remain a fantasy for a very long time.

But who knows? Could it work at some point? Tell me what you think in the comments section below.

Again, this is a fictional publishing company. Please refrain from sending me money (unless you really like me).

Welcome to Gambler Press.

Where You Come Up With the Idea, and We Take All the Risk.

At Gambler Press, we turn books into bestsellers without taking away your rights.

Our highly trained acquisitions team decides if your novel has what it takes to be a bestseller – and then you decide how much of the royalties we get to keep for a limited time, based on how much you want us to invest.

Notice we said “limited time.” Other publishing houses will keep your rights forever. We don’t believe in that.

And when we say “invest,” we mean OUR money. Not yours.

Here’s how it works.

You’re a writer with a potentially hot property on your hands. You decide not to go with an agent or a traditional publishing house that will keep 80% or more of your royalties for life. Congratulations. You’ve made the right decision.

But we at Gambler are not a traditional publishing house.

If your novel meets our standards of potential commercial success, we let you decide how much of our money to spend on editorial services, cover design, interior layout, and marketing campaigns. The amount we invest determines the percentage of your book’s royalties we get to keep — always for a limited time.

That’s why we calls ourselves Gambler. We hope to make money off your book within five years, because if we don’t, 100% of the rights to your book will be returned to you, the author.

This is true even if we lose our investment. That’s why we only select the hottest books.

How much are we willing to invest?

That’s up to you.

Say all you need are editorial services (which we never charge for). Hiring an editor to review your book can cost up to $5,000 and more. Not all of us can afford that kind of money. But ask any successful author and they’ll tell you the same thing: all books should have an editor.

If you submit your book and we decide to take it on, we’ll invest that $5,000 dollars and keep a percentage of the royalties for up to five years.

Either we lose that money, or your book shoots up the bestseller lists, in which case everybody wins – including your fans.

And no matter what happens, after five years all of the rights are returned to you. If that’s not enough, you get to keep all the designs and services we provided at no cost.

What about a literary novel that could win the Pulitzer? Will you invest in that?

It depends. Will your work of art earn us a profit?

We only select books that we feel are going to sell copies. Thousands or millions of copies. Enough to make a profit for everyone involved, including us and especially you.

And if it wins any awards, that’s great, too. You get to keep those.

Here’s the big question: How much of your hard-earned royalties does Gambler actually take?

The minimum we invest in each novel is $500, and for that we keep 5% for the next five years.

You decide where that money gets spent – whether on a cover design or a mix of other services. And we’ll upload the book in electronic format to our online store as well as Amazon, B&N, Smashwords and other major retailers at no additional cost.

But we’re willing to invest more than that, sometimes thousands more depending on how we judge your book’s marketability.

For every $500 of our money that we put into your book, we keep an additional 5% of the royalties – again, for only five years after the date of publication, after which the rights revert back to you.

So if you need $2,500 for editorial services, we’ll pay for it and only ask for 25% of the royalties for five years.

If you need $5,000 for a complete suite of services, we’ll pay for that too, and only ask for 50% of the royalties for five years.

After those five years, you’re on your own and we keep nothing except what we were able to earn.

What about subsidiary rights, like audiobook and movie rights?

Since we invest so much in our authors with no guarantee of getting back that investment plus our margin, our claim to your book’s royalties includes all subsidiary rights. This means that if you sell your book to Hollywood, it will be YOU selling it as YOUR property, not ours. We take home the percentage you’ve chosen and nothing more.

Again, after five years, we’ll be entitled to ZERO of anything having to do with your novels. You could just wait until the five year period is over and then sell the rights to your book and keep everything. It’s up to you.

Other publishing houses offer advances that need to be earned back before you see a dime. After that they take over your book and keep the majority of its profits, sometimes forever. We don’t work that way.

We don’t want to own your book. We just want to invest in it.

Because we invest our own capital in your success, we are always on the lookout for a book that will sell. Therefore we only select the hottest, most breathtaking manuscripts we receive.

Have you written the next bestseller? If so, let us gamble on its success – using our money, not yours.


So there it is. Am I crazy? Are my numbers hideously off? Is “Gambler Press” a stupid name? Would you ever consider submitting your novel to a company like this one?


*Image of playing cards courtesy of casinoreviewbank.com

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