Fast-growing PublishDrive takes on "unreliable, non-transparent" ebook market

Fast-growing PublishDrive takes on "unreliable, non-transparent" ebook market

Two years in, and Budapest-based ebook publishing platform PublishDrive is becoming a contender with marketing tools, audiobooks and "earn as you sell".

The pitch

PublishDrive is "the most intelligent" ebook publishing platform, promising to increase ebook sales for publishers in over 70 countries. Its software allows publishers to control all part of the ebook management process, from production and metadata management through to distribution, business intelligence analytics, sales reports and billing. 

PublishDrive sells titles on a royalty-share basis to more than 400 stores and 240,000 digital libraries worldwide including both major stores such as Amazon, Apple, Google, Kobo, Barnes & Noble and local stores, schools, universities and public libraries.

It has just entered the rapidly growing audiobook market, and introduced an "earn-as-you sell" payment system, meaning that publishers receive their earnings no matter whether retailers come through with the cash. 

The team

PublishDrive was dreamt up by Kinga Jentetics (right.), a marketeer with previous roles at Zurich Financial Services and McKinsey.  “I could not find a reliable, easy-to-use and affordable solution to publish my thesis about how music affects the image of a country” she explains. “Once we launched PublishDrive in 2015, it was wonderful to see how global markets reacted to my book. Despite the niche topic, I received purchases from Brazil, Mexico, and even China."

Now c.e.o., Jentetics was selected as one of Forbes' 100 Female Founders and featured on this year's Forbes 30 under 30 Europe Media list, and is an advocate for encouraging girls and young women to choose a career in tech. She is supported by co-founders Adam Rendes (v.p. of engineering) and Robert Csizmar (c.t.o.). They lead a five-strong development and business team based in Budapest and have secured an early investor, Startup Wise Guys from Estonia.

“Our team consists of people with different backgrounds and expertise: business and marketing, business intelligence, coding” Jentetics says. “Robert worked in the education industry as an IT manager , where he learned how tech can turn a traditional industry into an innovative one. Adam wrote most of the code: thanks to him, we were able to make publishing more efficient and intelligent. Csilla, the operations manager, knows everything about ebooks with her practical knowledge gained as a librarian and information scientist. Ramona Tanay is the newest hire: she uses unorthodox marketing techniques to build PublishDrive’s brand.”

What's the gap in the market?

Digital publishing is, by now, an established and even crowded field. But Jentetics believes that the standard remains pretty shocking. "A lot of publishers still use expensive, unreliable, time-consuming and non-transparent ways of digital publishing which makes it more difficult for them to see the big picture and to think strategically about ebooks," she complains. "With PublishDrive we provide business intelligence-supported data with reliable, easy-to-use and transparent publishing processes."

The team is now working on bringing the same  rigour to a suite of marketing automation tools, believing that the link between publishing and marketing is still too inefficient and non-data-led.

Success so far

Two years in, PublishDrive is working with 900 publishers from more than 40 countries worldwide, with ebooks published in 33 languages so far. "We were the first ebook publishing platform selling to Chinese retailers, reaching over 1bn potential readers," Jentetics enthuses. "In 2016 PublishDrive had 300% annual growth, both in our customer base and our revenue. For 2017 we have even bigger plans!”

Biggest challenges?

After a promising launch, PublishDrive now faces the classic startup growing pains. “For now the biggest challenge is to scale our company and to find the right strategic and financial partners who can support our vision on the long term.”

Ultimate ambition?

The team's latest aim is to revamp the connection between publishing and marketing. “We can see that today, publishing has a lot of tools with co-creation and automated processes, but there is no real solution for increasing ebook sales," Jentetics says. "We believe that more effective marketing automation tools based on artificial intelligence and machine learning, hand in hand with the power of business intelligence, could enable publishers to reach their audience more easily.”

Advice to other publishing entrepreneurs?

“Find the vision for your publishing company, build quality relationships and listen to your customers – either publishers, authors, retailers or readers. If you listen closely enough, they might tell you what needs they really have. This way you can make an actual difference.”