Pronoun also saw the departure of longtime principals, including
former v-p, business development Matthew Cavnar, to be
replaced by a new set of executives, including CEO Josh Brody.
Amidst all the changes, the company managed to secure $3.5
million in investment form Avalon Ventures in June.
Brody says that Pronoun makes money from Vook’s legacy
businesses in data conversion and sales tracking, and it intends
to focus on attracting authors: “Pronoun starts with the author
at its core, and builds from there. We’re focused on building
the platform, and it should be free to authors.”
Fast Pencil, a self-publishing platform founded in 2008 and
acquired by the Courier Corp. in 2014, was reacquired in May
by its founder, Steve Wilson, after Courier’s acquisition by R.R.
Donnelley earlier this year. Fast Pencil has struggled since it
launched. Courier paid $5 million for the company, eventually
reporting an operating loss and a $6 million write down on the
purchase. “It made sense to get the company back,” Wilson says.
Social Media, Data Tracking, Analysis
AuthorBee’s new Twitter application allows users to collect and
organize tweets on topics and subjects that they specify. It stores
them in a sequential “story” format, grouping related tweets
together under user-determined headings. The AuthorBee Web
application makes it easy for users to archive, locate, and navigate through a variety of Twitter-generated posts.
Next Big Sound, a venture that tracks social media data
relating to music, was acquired by music streaming service
Pandora in July. Next Big Sound is the parent company of Next
Big Book, a platform that tracks social media data on books, as
well as physical and digital book sales, for use by marketers.
Next Big Book was the 2014 winner of BookExpo America’s
Startup Challenge, a contest that awards $10,000 to a book-related startup. (Founder Alex White declined to comment on
the impact of the acquisition on the company’s book service.)
Made by Mess, a Web development company, launched
Momentum at BEA in May. Momentum is a subscription-funded service that can be used to generate “social unlock”
promotional campaigns for publishers—i.e., rewarding
Twitter and Facebook users who share, retweet, or comment
on titles being promoted and tracking fans’ social engagement. Made by Mess CEO Jack Shedd says that the platform
charges a monthly fee and is designed to “reduce the cost of
managing and tracking social unlocks” by offering tiered
levels of services and prices designed to attract publishers
large and small.
New Developments at Digital
BY CALVIN REID
The digital publishing landscape continues to morph and, inevitably, evolve, as new publishing ventures either gain traction and grow or look for ways to adapt. In July, AuthorBee, a storytelling and social media filter that launched in 2012,
introduced a new Twitter application, while Vook, an early
digital startup, went through an overhaul in May and emerged
as Pronoun, a new digital self-publishing platform. And earlier
in the year, Entitle, an e-book subscription service originally
known as eReatah, shut down operations after struggling to
attract consumers. Below, we look at how select digital publishing startups have fared in 2015 to date.
Lost My Name, a vertically integrated U.K.-based company
that uses technology to create personalized books for children,
snagged $9 million in financing from a group of investors in
June. LMN is an unusual publishing venture; it launched in
2013 and sells one product: The Little Girl Who Lost Her Name
(or The Little Boy Who Lost His Name, depending on the child’s
gender), an illustrated, customized children’s book whose story
is determined by the child’s name. The product is available only
via LMN’s website, and the company has sold more than
600,000 units, including 140,000 copies in the U.S. LMN
plans to add a new title in the fall and hopes to ramp up its
marketing in the U.S.
Booktrack, an e-publishing venture that allows publishers
and self-publishers to add customizable soundtracks and sound
effects to digital titles, secured $5 million in investment funding
in July from Coent Venture Partners and Sparkbox Ventures.
The company has a library of 20,000 licensed audio and music
files that can be used by publishers to create their own
soundtracks (or Booktrack will produce soundtracks for them
for a fee), adding scores or sound effects to books and turning
the digital reading experience into something of a radio play.
As noted above, Vook, which launched in 2009 as an e-book
and interactive content platform, went through a complete pivot
and relaunched in May as Pronoun, a soup-to-nuts self-publishing platform. Pronoun offers its publishing services, e-book
distribution, and a variety of digital tools to authors for free,
while also promising a 100% royalty. The relaunch followed a
year of acquisitions of content and technology that included the
purchase of Byliner, the online literary boutique e-publisher;
Coliloquy, a publisher of choose-your-own-adventure-style
enhanced e-books; and Booklr, an e-book data analysis platform.
Book startups troll for investors and juggle business models
to survive in a fast-changing digital marketplace