This year's FutureBook Live conference will see five exciting book-related startups slug it out in a live pitch-off for the BookTech Startup of the Year 2018 crown. Two of our finalists, The Pound Project and Bookabees, have already been profiled. This week we continue the series with the American image-led storytelling platform, Commaful.
Commaful is an online platform "where the Instagram generation goes to share and discover stories". The site hosts a variety of fanfiction, short stories, poetry and more, all shared in a picturebook-style format. Commaful is used by both professional writers - including bestselling authors and screenwriters - as well as amateur creators who are just starting out.
Commaful is founded by Sydney Liu and Ryan Choi. The two met at the University of Southern California - since then, Liu took a leave of absense and Choi turned down a PhD program offer to pursue Commaful. Liu, a fantasy and poetry fan, has a background as a fiction writer, journalist, and amateur screenplay writer in addition to growing large social media followings across Instagram, Twitter, and Tumblr. Choi, whose chief passion is for sci-fi, has managed large online communities and won several national programming contests.
What's the gap in the market?
"Teens today consume content very differently," the pair assert. "The vast majority of their entertainment time comes from their mobile phones. We started Commaful because we were frustrated that our friends had stopped reading our stories in favor of watching "stories" on Snapchat and Instagram." They wanted to design something that could get their friends to read their works - and Commaful was born. "Today, many community members of the site report that they hadn't read for fun outside of school before they found Commaful," Liu and Choi report.
Success so far?
In the last year, the site has grown significantly, with monthly readership hitting the hundreds of thousands, and over a million in overall reach. This has led to fresh opportunities for its community members, from small publishing deals to press opportunities. The site has also hosted several writing contests to encourage its users to write more.
The founders want Commaful to ultimately "help fiction appear everywhere".
"We want to continue to support writers and grow the creator base and audience," Liu and Choi explain. "We want to spread the love of reading and writing in the mobile age - and we believe that Commaful will be one of the easiest ways to get started doing that and reach a new generation.The stories are easily embeddable and shareable, so there is no excuse not to be enjoying fiction."
Advice to other publishing entrepreneurs?
"You will never feel ready to start a company. When the right idea comes along, jump on it."