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Startup Snapshot: Squirl

Jef Van der Avoort is co-founder of Squirl, the first location-based book discovery app. Previously he helped brands like LEGO, Philips and Hasbro to create engaging experiences on the border between the analog and digital world.

1) What exactly is Squirl?

Squirl is a location-based book discovery app that lets you bump into the real-world settings from books (e.g. The Plaza Hotel in the Great Gatsby). You can read the excerpt that takes place right where you are standing and check in to the literary location. You may also click through to buy the book. In essence, we are building an augmented story layer on top of the world.

2) What problem does it solve?

Book discovery is the number one issue for authors and publishers. We want to level the playing field by turning the whole world into a bookstore. The places you pass by become portals into different worlds, no matter if it is from a book by a first-time indie author or a bestselling superstar. It is a new, engaging and serendipitous way to discover your next read.

3) Who is your target market?

The casual reader is very important to us. These are people who read 2 or 3 books a year and are mostly overlooked when it comes to publishing tech. Discovering new books is not on top of their list, but they are interested in stories that are relevant to them. Through this geographic relevance we can excite these readers to buy a book they might not have discovered in any other way.

4) What results do you hope to see over the next few years?

Our first tangible goal is to see a book rise to the New York Times bestseller list because it was discovered through Squirl. On a more macro-level, we would like authors and publishers to see Squirl next to social marketing platforms like Twitter and Goodreads.

5) What will be next for Squirl?

We are very excited with the positive reception we are receiving and we already have some Squirl fans. We are currently raising a seed round to build some great features and advance Squirl to continue to enhance the experience for both readers and authors.

Startup Snapshot: Writers Boon

1) What exactly is Writers Boon?

Writers Boon is a free, all-powerful platform that helps authors navigate the publishing and marketing maze, connects them with trusted resources, and saves them money by featuring offers, deals and discounts. The platform is built with Oracle technology, the world’s number one database solutions provider. Writers Boon counts about 260+ topics and 400 trusted professionals, all with exceptional reviews.

2)  What problem does it solve?

  • Writers Boon offers a well-organized outline of publishing and marketing tips and info that serve as a blue print for action. No more hacking your way through hundreds of websites. Save time and brainpower.
  • We don’t only connect authors with top-notch experts. We do more than that. We have the most useful DIY Tools & Apps for writers.  And if you want to learn more on any topic, you only need to look under our How-To Guides.
  • Best of all, we feature deals and discounts on publishing and marketing products and services. So now you get the best at the best price. Think of us as Groupon for the writers’ community.

3) Who is your target market?

On the writers’ side, bloggers and aspiring or experienced authors of fiction and non-fiction books. On the vendors’ side, the best publishing and marketing experts and designers of tools & apps for writers.

4) What results do you hope to see over the next few years?

Well, I do hope with all my “author heart” that it will provide real help to all the wonderful authors out there who brighten up our days, some of them at the beginning of their writing journey, others trying to come to grips with book marketing opportunities.

5) What will be next for Writers Boon?

My vision is for Writers Boon to become the authors’ premier information source. Whether they are aspiring or experienced writers of fiction and non-fiction books, whether they want to find the best quotes generator tools, the best writing retreats, or whether they are looking for the best deal on writing software, now they know on Writers Boon they can find everything and everyone they need.

Carol Vorvain is a lawyer, author and founder of Writers Boon, the newest, most comprehensive platform for writers. Her books, When Dreams are CallingWhy not? – The island where happiness starts with a question and  A Fool in Istanbul – The adventures of a self-denying workaholic have been featured in a number of travel magazines including the International Traveller magazine and can be found in libraries, bookstores and on Amazon.

Startup Snapshot: Scriggler

Dmitry Selemir was once a physicist and hedge fund rocket scientist PM, and is now the founder and CEO of Scriggler.com, ‘the Soundcloud of writing platforms‘. We interviewed him here.20160826_132004

1) What exactly is Scriggler?

We define Scriggler as a writing, blogging and debating platform, but it is a lot more than that. It combines elements of social network, blogging platform and, above all, it is a community with the goal of not just providing its members with an opportunity to present their work, their opinions and ideas, but to give them a voice, by providing a significant promotional support both within the Scriggler membership circles and outside.

It’s all about helping our members reach out to a much wider audience than they otherwise would be able to and also about helping readers discover stories, poetry, opinions and ideas that would resonate with them the most.

2) What problem does it solve?

The problem is exactly what any new author will be faced with – how do you get your work in front of people and ultimately make sure they are prepared to buy your books. Most still appear to think the solution is to write more books or write better books until you get noticed by an agent/publisher and they take care of the rest. In reality, whether you self-publish or go conventional way – arguably it’s your ability to get visibility, build your author platform that counts the most and publishers look at that ability as one of the major factors, books themselves almost come secondary. After all, they are in the business of selling books, not rewarding literary merit.

What Scriggler aims to achieve here is to help our members through the most difficult stages of audience acquisition – their very first steps. We don’t just get their work seen, we help them develop the whole package – their social media presence, their website, newsletter; experiment with the strategy to find what works best for them. We also encourage them to find similar authors to partner with, either creatively or purely for promotion.

We don’t forget about the bigger picture too. Scriggler is open to all genres and topics and is certainly not confined to showcases of fiction and poetry – our members share opinions, ideas, blogs, etc. It opens up the membership to a much wider mix of people, it’s not just writers mingling with each other. It also ensures much more diverse conversations and increases the chances of our contributors to connect with the actual audience, not just fellow writers, after all selling your books to other authors is a pretty difficult, if not impossible, task.

It all contributes to our ultimate goal of becoming an intellectual and cultural blender, where all views and ideas are well represented.

3) Who is your target market?

There are two distinct parts to Scriggler – one is the website itself and the free services we provide, the other is additional, premium services, like our Twitter management and book promotion service. When talking about target market it makes sense to talk about these separately.

The free service is designed to appeal to as broad an audience as possible, we are open to all genres and topics and certainly, would like all of them to be well represented.

The premium part is designed for people who would benefit from higher visibility – for example, those actively developing their author platform. Primarily the services we currently offer concentrate on social media and predominantly Twitter, where we take advantage of both our expertise and current presence. This is the area we would like to expand on, making sure we give our audience access to as diverse a list of services and tools as possible. We don’t necessarily need to be the sole provider – so we are very much open to partnerships.

4) What results do you hope to see over the next few years?

We have big plans, of course, and some, particularly ones concerning future development, I would prefer to keep under wraps for the time being.

Right now we are focused on growth of the already sizeable community behind the website, our ability to impact on the discovery and distribution of our contributor’s content. We would like to see more success stories from our members and certainly want to be a big factor behind it. I will also be looking to expand the team behind the website, ideally bringing in a new co-founder with publishing background.

5) What will be next for Scriggler?

In the immediate future, we’ll hold our current course – expand the social media presence and grow both the user base and the readership and start building relationships with other industry participants – anyone who would help us have more impact on the careers of our members.


Startup Snapshot: Shelfie (A.K.A. Shazam for bookworms…)

PeterHudsonPeter Hudson is the co-founder of Shelfie. The idea for Shelfie came out of an argument Peter was having with his friend Dan in a bar. Dan said he had a book at home that would prove he was right. In frustration that he couldn’t make his point, Dan said “I wish I had digital copies of all my paper books on my phone”. 

1) What exactly is the Shelfie app?

Shelfie is a free app for iOS and Android where you can take a picture of your bookshelf (a “shelfie”) and the app will automatically identify all of your books. It’s kind of like Shazam for bookworms.

2) What problem does is solve?

Shelfie solves two problems. The first is format shifting, that is, if you buy a print book we believe that you should also get the digital edition either for free or at the very least at a huge discount. The second problem we solve is book discovery and recommendations.

Here’s how…

Once you’ve used Shelfie to inventory your library, the app allows you to download the digital or audio editions of your paper books at a huge discount (usually 80-90% off what you’d have to pay normally). At the moment (summer 2016) we’ve been able to sign “bundling” deals with about 1800 publishers to offer about 450,000 titles. This is usually around 25% of the books on an “average” bookshelf.

Shelfie helps you discover new books that you’ll enjoy by looking at the patterns of how you organize your bookshelf and by correlating that pattern with the way that millions of other books are organized on other readers’ bookshelves. Where Amazon has “people who bought this also bought”, Shelfie has “readers who love this book put it on a shelf beside” — this is human curation of books at scale.

3) Who is your target market?

People who love books, readers who always want to have their library in their pocket, and bibliophiles who are always looking for their next book.

4) What results do you hope to see over the next few years?

We’re very keen to sign the last two of the “big five” publishers to offer print + digital bundle deals. We currently have agreements with HarperCollins, Hachette, and Macmillan. We’re working on bringing Penguin Random House and Simon & Schuster on board.

5) What is next for the Shelfie app?

We’ve very excited about the social aspects of Shelfie. We recently built in features that allow readers to browse each others’ bookshelves. If you’ve ever been at a party and found yourself browsing the host’s bookcase, you’ll probably enjoy the “feed” in Shelfie.

Startup snapshot: Leanpub

len_eppLen Epp is a Co-Founder of Leanpub. He wrote a doctorate in English Literature before working as an investment banker in London, so enjoys wearing the seemingly contradictory hats of resident corporate finance and literary type person at Leanpub. We interviewed him about Leanpub here. 

1) What exactly is Leanpub?

Leanpub is a book writing platform combined with a bookstore that pays a royalty of 90% minus 50 cents per sale. Leanpub is primarily used by self-published authors, and also some small publishers. To suit the preferences of different types of authors, we’ve built Leanpub so that you can write books in Word, in the browser, or in plain text; or, if an author wants to upload an ebook they have made themselves, they can also upload their book in PDF, EPUB and/or MOBI format.

2) What problem does it solve?

One big problem that Leanpub solves is: How can you build an audience while you are writing your book?

Our answer is to publish your book before it is finished, and then add new chapters and publish new versions until you are done. Leanpub is built around this idea, which has many benefits both for authors and for readers; for example, it lets the author get feedback early, and build a loyal following of readers who can help her improve her book (and it’s also great for publishing serial fiction, of course).

3) Who is your target market?

Leanpub is currently most popular with authors of technical books, partly because our “Publish Early, Publish Often” model is especially valuable for people who are writing or reading about cutting-edge technologies that are subject to rapid change. However, our target market is actually all self-published or indie authors, and we are doing more to try to attract new types of authors, especially fiction authors. Personally, I would love to see people start publishing in-progress books that follow political events, like election campaigns.

4) What results do you hope to see over the next few years?

We hope to see our model of in-progress publishing catch on for both fiction and non-fiction books. It is very rewarding to build an early audience and it can help improve the quality of the final version of the book, which can of course be taken up by a conventional publisher when it is finished. Many of our authors also find this model inspires increased motivation to write, as you have readers out there waiting for the next chapter.

We expect that the next few years will bring a lot of growth in the market for self-published ebooks. In some quarters this is considered to be a controversial view; for my own views on the matter, please see my article ‘On The Dark Matter Of The Publishing Industry‘.

5) What will be next for Leanpub?

The next big thing for Leanpub is to work more on building community within the Leanpub platform. We want to encourage communication between authors and readers, and readers and readers. This will include lots of development work on our reading app (currently the app is available for iOS users, and we will be adding an Android app as well).

Startup snapshot: Books & Magic

Mark Folkenberg Portrait SquareMark Folkenberg is the Founder and CEO of Books & Magic. After years as a professional game developer, Mark and his team have spent the last three years developing their concept and first product.

1) What exactly is Books & Magic?

Books & Magic is a 6-person cocktail of creative minds handpicked from the computer game and book publishing industries, all with a common vision of creating a new genre for books. We are highly inspired by the classical fairy tales, and being located in Copenhagen, we decided to take on the original fairy tale of ‘The Little Mermaid’ by Hans Christian Andersen for our first book project.

Our magical augmented reality (AR) book visualises the universe within the text, directly on top of the pages of the book. Simply view the book through our app and the hidden universe is revealed right in front of you.

2) What problem does it solve?

We’ve managed to make the AR experience so convincing and meaningful that it feels like a magical experience. We capture the interest of children and adults by offering a way to actually explore the universe of the book. Fire cannons, unlocking chests or helping the little mermaid on her way are some of the hidden elements that the reader can find and engage with.

Intentionally, the app doesn’t tell the story – for that you would need to read the book. All the raised questions from exploring the universe and the curiosity of finding more hidden elements drives the player into becoming a reader in search of answers.

3) Who is your target market?

The story is the timeless original fairy tale by Hans Christian Andersen, and everyone aged 5+ can be entertained by our magical book. We’ve designed the games with 3 levels of increasing difficulty, so the youngest can play the game which is also challenging the older children.

The book and app can be used solo, each in their own right, however, when they’re used together, the magical book experience is a perfect way to increase the interest for the physical book as well as a great opportunity for parents and children to spend time together.

The product’s main target is parents or grandparents, who wish to share a great story and the original classic with the youngest, to use our digital universe to introduce them to the physical book and perhaps even open their eyes to the magic within the book universe.

4) What results do you hope to see over the next few years?

We hope to reach the most of the UK and the rest of the English speaking countries with the message about this new genre, to actually offer children an alternative and less passive use of their mobile devices.

We already offer online purchase and free world wide shipping, but we are very aware that a many parents and grandparents prefer to buy their books in the local bookstore. So we hope to be able to offer this in a broad range of countries during the next year or two.

5) What will be next for Books & Magic?

As a young company, Books & Magic is born out of the digital age. We are a highly creative and very technical company, much more than the average book publisher. We believe in the book format and our take on the digital age is not to dismantle the physical book, but to enhance it.

We embrace the physical separation of the book and the mobile devices and are already working on the next book in the series. A third classical fairy tale book is in the pipeline too. But, we also have something else on the drawing board that I won’t spoil here. You will all have to wait and see. 🙂

Startup Snapshot: Book Sprints

book sprintsAdam Hyde is the founder of the Book Sprints methodology, Co-Founder of the Collaborative Knowledge Foundation, and a current Shuttleworth Foundation Fellow. He also founded FLOSS Manuals, Booktype, Objavi, Lexicon, BookJS and PubSweet.

1. What exactly is Book Sprints?

Book Sprints, Ltd, is a team of facilitators, book-production professionals, and illustrators specialized in Book Sprint facilitation and rapid book production. Our organization developed the original methodology and has refined it since 2008 through the facilitation of more than 100 Book Sprints, in which a book is planned, written, and produced in five days or less. Topics have ranged from corporate documentation to industry guides, government policies, technical documentation, white papers, academic research papers, and activist manuals.

2. What problem does it solve?

A Book Sprint is a collaborative process where a book is produced from the ground up in just five days. But even more important, this collaborative process captures the knowledge of a group of subject-matter experts in a manner that would be nearly impossible using traditional processes. The result at the end of the Book Sprint is a high-quality finished book in digital and print-ready formats, ready for distribution.

3. Who is your target market?

Anyone that needs a book, fast! Having said that we seem to catch on very well with the Corporate Documentation sector and large NGOs who need to produce field guides and white papers. We have also produced a wide variety of books from OER textbooks, to fiction, to research outputs, as well as primary materials for PHD dissertations.

4. What results do you hope to see over the next few years?

We would hope more people would come to understand that Book Sprints is not just about producing books quickly; it’s about immersive collaboration, learning from your peers, creating fast bonds with them, and building consensus and a common vision.

5. What will be next for Book Sprints?

We have Book Sprints coming up soon with organizations like the World Bank, the U.S. Energy Association, Cisco, and F5. And we are in discussions about several education-related projects–a sector we are anxious to do more work in.

Adam Hyde has also worked with and advised Safari Books Online, PLoS, the World Bank, Google Summer of Code, University of California Press, Liturgical Press, Augsburg Fortress Publishers, Cisco, F5, Cryptoparty, OpenStack, Open Oil, Sourcefabric, GIZ, USAID, Mozilla and the EC amongst others. For more information please see: http://www.adamhyde.net/projects/

book sprints

Startup snapshot: Exact Editions

exact editionsHaving spent the past decade turning complex consumer magazines into their precise digital doppelgangers, Exact Editions launched their new digital books service in May. Here we interviewed Adam Hodgkin, Chairman and Co-Founder of Exact Editions

1) What exactly is Exact Editions?

Exact Editions is a platform for publishing and licensing content on the web and through apps to individuals and institutions. Exact Editions helps publishers by delivering services which generate subscriptions.

2) What problem does it solve?

Exact Editions 2The Exact Editions platform ensures that digital publications look exactly the same as their print sisters; and it does this in a way which is efficient for searching and sharing.

Exact Editions uses PDF files to build a database for each publication on the platform. The service delivers a solution that looks exactly like the book or magazine in print, but it is an access solution not a file delivery protocol. So the access management side of the business is at least as important as the content management side.

We also provide customer support and statistics to our users since cross-platform solutions for users that range in size from the largest universities to the private individual will, from time to time, present new questions.

3) Who is your target market?

Exact Editions 3Exact Editions launched by focusing on the consumer magazine space and selling subscriptions direct to consumers and through app stores. We were among the first magazine solutions to deliver apps for the iPhone and then for the iPad. Never neglecting our roots in the web.

In the last 5 years a growing sector for us is the university, college and library market. Also selling site licenses for corporates.

Exact Editions is unusual among digital magazine solutions in providing access to complete archives (we work with magazines that have archives that stretch back to the 19th century). A concern with archives leads us to support the librarians’ requirement for perpetual access.

4) What results do you hope to see over the next few years?

Exact EditionsOnce Exact Editions was selling some magazines for perpetual access, it was clear that there is demand for a similar service for books. The Exact Editions platform works well for book publishers that have complex and rich page designs that are poorly served by the most commonly used ebook file formats. But equally important the Exact Editions service offers publishers the opportunity to sell books with a perpetual access to institutions that need to have a multi-user, site license for the campus or organisation.

We launched our book service three weeks ago and it seems that the multi-user, site license access management that we provide for book publishers is an important offering. Book publishers also get to set the price level for their individual titles on the Exact Editions platform, and they have ownership of their subscriber lists.

5) What will be next for Exact Editions?

Exact Editions is a platform, not a publisher, so we are keen to work with as many publishers as can use our services. We are primarily aimed at the library and institutional market, at this point mainly universities and colleges, but we can already see that there is a good market among schools and corporates for many of the books and magazines which are using our platform. Opening up these broader markets is on our wish list. We also have some very successful French magazines and we would like to add books and magazines from all the major European languages.

bookmetrix logo

Startup snapshot: Bookmetrix

Martijn RoelandseMartijn Roelandse was a publishing editor at Bohn Stafleu van Loghum, a Dutch Springer subsidiary, and later for Springer. Since 2015 he has been working as Manager of Publishing Innovation to develop new projects. One of those is Bookmetrix, a platform developed by Springer and Altmetric that offers a comprehensive overview of the impact of a book.

1) What exactly is Bookmetrix?

Developed in partnership between Springer and Altmetric, Bookmetrix is the first platform of its kind to offer integrated traditional and non-traditional metrics for books and chapters. Designed to give authors, editors and readers easy access to this combined data all in one place for the first time, Bookmetrix helps to set a new standard for monitoring and reporting the activity surrounding a book post-publication. It’s picking up notice, too. It was announced as a finalist for the 2015 ALPSP Awards for Innovation in Publishing and the 2016 Quantum Publishing Innovation Award.

2) What problem does it solve?

Up until recently, book authors and editors would be updated on an annual basis on the downloads of their ebook. As many books are not indexed in either Scopus or in Thomson Reuters Book Citation Index, authors knew very little about the impact and reach of their book. We think the story behind a book isn’t finished when it’s published; a book and chapters, like journal articles, are discussed both in the academic realm and in society. We therefore now offer book and chapter level metrics for all our 200,000+ books and 3,600,000+ chapters. For each one of them, if available, you can find citations, online mentions, Mendeley readers, downloads and reviews. If you are interested in the story behind Bookmetrix, do read this excellent blog post from Altmetric’s Jean Liu.

3) Who is your target market?

The scope of Bookmetrix is wider than existing initiatives in the market: it covers substantially more books and goes beyond pure citation data. Bookmetrix dovetails with Springer’s ambition to drive more industry-wide initiatives to support the work of authors and researchers.

4) What results do you hope to see over the next few years?

Ultimately we hope to solve two problems. First, recognition is needed for the work of authors of books and chapters, just like authors of articles. Especially in humanities and social sciences, publishing books is the modus operandi for communicating with peers, but they are often not included in research evaluations. Second, people should stop judging books by their covers. Bookmetrix helps readers identify the right book for them within a discipline, high-impact ones with many citations, very useful ones with many downloads, or ones that are highly discussed online with many mentions. The choice is theirs.

5) What will be next for Bookmetrix?

At The London Book Fair this year we launched a first pilot with another scholarly publisher, Brill, to offer Bookmetrix for their books. In addition, we will be adding new features and functionalities to Bookmetrix over the next few months, so stay tuned!


Startup snapshot: Tekstum

LaurenRomeoPhotoLauren Romeo is the Lead Scientist at Tekstum Solutions. Here we interviewed her on their sentiment and emotion analysis technology.

1) What exactly is Tekstum?

Tekstum is an engine that identifies, measures and analyses the feelings of readers. Our algorithm uses artificial intelligence and big data to achieve better editorial and marketing decisions.

In short: Our system synthesizes the overwhelming amount of qualitative information available to optimize the success ratio of publishers.

2) What problem does it solve?

Every year the number of new book titles in the market grows exponentially, generating large amounts of data at fast rates. Yet, much of the analysis currently being conducted is quantitative (i.e. the total number of “likes” of a book) rather than qualitative (i.e. why a person “likes” or “dislikes” that book).

The Tekstum engine uses natural language processing techniques to find patterns in qualitative data comprised of the opinions and feelings of actual readers in order to draw conclusions regarding the sentiment and emotions of how they experience a book.

3) Who is your target market?

Our current targets are publishers and retailers. Yet, the main idea behind Tekstum technology is that it is flexible; so it can also be adapted for any user, including libraries and curious readers.

4) What results do you hope to see over the next few years?

One exciting feature that we are currently developing is a novel recommendation system based on the emotions and sentiment that real readers are expressing. Over the next few years, our goal is to become the reference for emotion and sentiment-based book recommendation systems, as well as to continue expanding our engine to encompass more and more languages.

5) What will be next for Tekstum?

Currently, we are completing the testing phase of our engine for the English language, which we are looking forward to release this summer. It will open doors to new and exciting markets for us. After the release of the English version, we also plan to expand in order to cover more languages; French and German are the next two on deck. So follow us on twitter to keep an eye out for updates regarding their development.

Lauren Romeo is pioneering the Natural Language Processing research and development of the Tekstum engine. A PhD in Computational Linguistics, she has been getting her hands dirty with textual data and algorithms for years so that publishers can sleep easier at night.  Learn even more about her on LinkedIn

Startup snapshot: Freebooksy and Bargain Booksy

Ferol-Vernon-280x280 (1)Ferol Vernon is the COO of Written Word Media and has built technology for everyone from doctors and combat medics to musicians and now authors. Ferol’s focus is building deeply engaging technology for readers, and effective ad products for authors and publishers. Here we interviewed him on Freebooksy and Bargain Boosky, both part of the Written Word Media Family. 

1) What exactly are Freebooksy and Bargain Booksy?

Freebooksy and Bargain Booksy are book deal sites. Freebooksy features only free books has 213,000 registered readers and Bargain Booksy features books that are priced under $5, and has 160,000 registered readers. Readers save their genre preferences as well as reading device preferences so our daily newsletter is extremely targeted, and the books we feature sell lots of copies.

2) What problem do they solve?

Two problems really. Readers are always looking for their next great book, but not everyone wants to pay full price, so we offer book deal alerts to readers. We help them find a great book, in the genre they want, for a price that can’t be beat. The second problem we solve is for authors, who are always looking for a place to promote their book. Our advertising products are very effective, and extremely affordable. Authors who promote with us see tangible results, and they keep coming back.

3) What do they offer for publishers?

The service we offer to publishers is the same service we offer to authors. Our advertising works so well, some of the biggest publishers on earth use us. We strive to make sure the same promo tools that work for major publishing houses, are available to indie authors as well.

4) What has been your greatest success?

We’re really most proud of our reputation among the author community. We genuinely care about our authors, and it shows in how we run our business. We know authors want great customer service, so we make it a priority. There’s real people here answering emails every day, and customer service is the first thing we talk about in our weekly staff meeting.

5) What challenges do you face?

Big goals are always challenging and at Written Word Media we have big goals. We want to provide the world’s best  promotional services for authors and that means constantly finding new audiences of readers. Our strategy is to build brands that cater to specific reader types, we’ve branched out from just Freebooksy and Bargain Booksy, and launched two new sites. NewInBooks is all about the latest, hottest books, and more in-depth content about books. Red Feather Romance is a romance-specific site. Both of those sites were built to offer a new type of reader to our authors. Continuing to create new brands to attract new readers is challenging, but we’re up to the task.

6) What will be next for Written Word Media?

Like I mentioned we’re highly focused on finding readers and building great ad products for authors. That strategy has served us well and we’re not abandoning it, look for continued expansion form us in in the coming months!


Startup snapshot: Futureproofs

life as a freelancerJohn Pettigrew is CEO and Founder of Futureproofs, where he is trying to make editors’ lives better with software designed for the jobs they actually do. A recovering editor himself, John has been working in publishing since 1997, including stints on academic journals, educational textbooks, and print and digital materials of all kinds. Here we interviewed John on Futureproofs and what’s next in the pipeline.

1) What exactly is Futureproofs?

Futureproofs lets you proofread effectively on-screen. It provides simple markup based on the BSI (or Chicago) standard, effective collaboration and powerful project management with real-time data. Bottom line, it helps publishing teams to publish their books at the required quality, faster and more cheaply.

2) What problem does it solve?

Many of us still proofread on paper – it’s simple, reliable and well-understood. But it’s also slow, surprisingly expensive and not environmentally friendly. But the existing software isn’t really designed for proofreading, so it’s slow and clumsy, which translates to ‘more expensive’. Futureproofs is designed specifically for publishing, based on long experience of the industry.

3) Who is your target market?

Currently, we’re targeting illustrated-book publishers – education, trade non-fiction and children’s. But Futureproofs can work for anyone who’s creating books, magazines or large-scale documents. We have customers who publish mostly narrative text, and we’re also talking to several academic publishers.

4) What results do you hope to see over the next few years?

I set up Futureproofs to make editors’ lives better. So, I hope that we’ll help to build a confident editorial community that can do its job effectively and demonstrate its value to the wider publishing industry (traditional and self-publishers alike). And for Futureproofs to be the default choice for proofreading!

5) What will be next for Futureproofs?

We’re always releasing new features for Futureproofs (usually a couple of times a month). The next Big Thing, though, will be support for ebooks via the EPUB format (they’re a real pain to check at the moment), which is coming later this year, probably around the Frankfurt Book Fair in October.

Read more on the Futureproofs blog and website.

writing app

Startup snapshot: Write Track

Write TrackChris Smith is co-founder of Write Track with Bec Evans. He also runs a communications, content and digital marketing agency called Swarm and blogs about creative productivity for the Next Web and Huffington Post. Here we interviewed Chris on Write Track and what’s next in the pipeline.

1) What exactly is Write Track?

Write Track is a creative activity tracker for anyone who aspires to write. People have said we’re a little like ‘Fitbit for writers’ because we take the same kind of goal-setting and tracking tech found in fitness trackers – and apply them to creative practice.

Our ambition is to help anyone who wants to write improve their creative output and achieve their writing dreams.

2) What problem does it solve?

Writers – like many creatives – are rarely stumped for ideas. They struggle to find the time, they suffer from self-doubt, they procrastinate and get stuck in a negative spiral. They find it hard to find a writing practice that’s right for them – that’s where technology can help.

Write Track uses behaviour change theory and the science of habits to kick-start people’s writing practice and help them continue. In time, our system will provide writers with data about their creative practice and in so doing, give them the motivation to continue, grow – and improve.

3) Who is your target market?

Writers are our target market but not of any specific type or genre.

We hope that Write Track will be of value to any writer – aspiring or established – who needs or wants to write regularly and often – but struggles to find the time or keep to a writing schedule.

4) What results do you hope to see over the next few years?

People are using Write Track to start and finish their writing projects and to submit (and win) prizes at competitions. We’ve had one user clinch a publishing deal for a novel using our system to track his writing progress.

Our long-term vision is that technology can help anyone to write and become a better, more productive writer. In time we want to create our own niche with the publishing and creative writing sectors.

5) What will be next for Write Track?

We know our system works – but we also know we need to make it better. At the moment we’re using all the user feedback and data from the closed beta to develop our product pipeline. Currently we’re deep in the development and testing of a new writing challenge product that we hope to have publically available in the summer.

book discovery

Startup snapshot: iAuthor

iauthorFeatured in The Bookseller, Digital Book World and GalleyCat, Adam Kolczynski is best known for iAuthor, the London-based startup. In tackling the perennial problem of book discoverability, Kolczynski has straddled both ends of the publishing spectrum: first as an author, then as a publisher with Polybius Books. Here we interviewed him to catch-up with iAuthor developments.

1) What exactly is iAuthor?

iAuthor is a book discovery platform for a new breed of bibliophile. Think ‘Pinterest for books’. Through a theme-driven and intensely visual approach, iAuthor connects readers to authors; and vice versa. All content is author-generated. No editor’s picks. The result is a true democracy of opportunity. Authors have equal access to readers, regardless of their route to publication.

2) What problem does it solve?

Gabriel Zaid’s 2003 observation is both piquant and prophetic: “The reading of books is growing arithmetically; the writing of books is growing exponentially.” Fast-forward 13 years, and we’re witnessing an alarming asymmetry between reader growth and book numbers. Across key formats, the number of new books released per year is not matched by a commensurate increase in readers. The result? More books are competing for fewer reader eyeballs. Readers feel swamped by digital noise, creating a paradox of choice. Authors are deafened by this same noise, widening the gap between talent and opportunity. Millions of books are left undiscovered. Both ends of the publishing spectrum suffer.

If an overabundance of books weren’t enough, other factors have exacerbated this discoverability problem:

a) A scarcity of attention

Mobile and tablet readers are more time-squeezed than ever, so unknown authors have less time to capture and maintain reader interest.

b) Saturated genre categories

Many book categories have a surplus of books on every topic, particularly in the case of non-fiction. The resulting overlap makes it harder for individual books to stand out.

c) Poor user-experience

Annoying file downloads, restrictive DRM and awkward page navigation deters many readers from sampling books online. Unless readers can try before they buy, the likelihood of an impulse purchase drops significantly.

iAuthor overcomes these obstacles through a unique combination of crowdsourced book themes and user-generated book samples.

3) Who is your target market?

From the book discovery angle: digital-first readers. Voracious book buyers, reviewers, bloggers, book clubs, and more. All those looking to stumble upon their next read with a splurge of serendipity.

From the book promotion angle: authors, publishers and book PR agencies. On hitting 2.2 million page-views and 1.2 million engaged minutes since launch, iAuthor rolled out a signature feature called 7dayAds. Native advertising has been on the rise on social media sites. Sponsored tweets, promotional product pins and Facebook ads have made users both the journey and the destination. With this in mind, 7dayAds targets users who are already “soaked” in iAuthor’s ecosystem, letting them upgrade free book profiles to premium adverts for short promotional bursts.

4) What results do you hope to see over the next few years?

iAuthor’s mission is to make books not only searchable but genuinely discoverable. Amazon-style metadata will make a book searchable in seconds…if the buyer already knew of its existence. But what if they didn’t? What if the buyer chanced upon the book? That’s where iAuthor’s ‘serendipitous discovery’ comes in. With well-aimed funding and sustainable scaling, iAuthor can become the marquee platform for book discovery and author brand-building. With 12 New York Times bestselling authors and 16 USA Today bestselling authors aboard iAuthor, the once quixotic notion of top-tier authors sharing promotional space with edgy indies is real and manifest.

5) What will be next for iAuthor after this?

Eric Ries’ lean startup methodology calls for products to be built iteratively, with customer validation at every milestone. By extension, iAuthor is only as robust as its last iteration; and only as ambitious as its next one! In the coming months, we aim to expand our book analytics suite to incorporate stats from readers’ sampling habits, while simultaneously streamlining the inline comments in LitSampler, iAuthor’s proprietary book sampler. iAuthor is proving both ‘sticky’ and habit-forming; an eclectic user-base with genuine discovery intent, not just gratuitous self-promotion. The proposed enhancements will deepen that engagement on all levels.


Startup snapshot: The Owl Field

Michel LafranceMichel Lafrance is the founder and managing director for The Owl Field, an audio entertainment company specializing in 3D audio storytelling. In addition to managing the startup, he is the content producer and sound designer. Here we interviewed him. 


1) What exactly is The Owl Field?

The Owl Field is about 3D Audio storytelling. We produce immersive audio dramas that place the listener as the story’s central character, and from a first person perspective, everything happens around the listener in a 3D audio soundscape. Characters, sound effects and music surround the listener just as in the real world. The listener wears a pair of headphones, closes their eyes, and is simply transported to their virtual world.

2) What problem does it solve?

Audiobooks have seen amazing growth over the past five years, but the future of entertainment is immersive media like virtual reality and 360video. Our audio dramas fill the current gap between traditional audiobooks and virtual reality, and are a way for publishers to keep pace with those future forms of entertainment. Filling this gap would help attract new listeners, would provide new content for existing fans, and would offer a virtual experience for people living with sight loss who are currently completely underserved in the visuals-based virtual reality industry.

audio 3D

3) Who is your target market?

Our storytelling format can be applied to any story genre so our target market is wide open. We currently have numerous productions for ages 13+, and also one for ages 3+ that we plan to turn into a series. The beauty of 3D audio is that it can be experienced on any standard pair of headphones. There’s no need to purchase expensive or clunky virtual reality headsets so it’s an affordable and accessible form of virtual reality for everyone.

4) What are your goals for the next few years?

We want to be a pioneer in 3D audio storytelling. The popularity of audio entertainment will continue to grow over the next few years and with it the demand for immersive experiences. Our goal is to work with publishers to meet that demand by giving authors and publishers an exciting new format for existing fans and by attracting new listeners to publishing audio entertainment.

5) After you initial success, what will be next for The Owl Field?

We’ve just released a new podcast for all things 3D audio and we’re currently pursuing funding for our next production. We’re thrilled to be working with an award-winning fantasy audio drama writer for it and are equally excited to be augmenting the experience by adding elements of interactivity and personalisation.

You can get in touch with The Owl Field via email, or follow them on Facebook and Twitter.

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