The latest in our series asking startups to share the challenges they face and lessons they learn as they grow catches up with Emmanuel Nataf, founder and c.e.o. of Reedsy, which won the BookTech Company of the Year Award at December's FutureBook 15.
As a small startup with big ambitions, we here at Reedsy were overjoyed to see our efforts recognised at the FutureBook conference. It’s safe to say that more than a few finalists in 2015’s BookTech Company of the Year were nursing nurofen-numbed hangovers the morning after! Yet while the award has worked wonders for our morale, we’re trying not to let it get to our heads. It's simply back to work.
That said, the Reedsy team feel that this award illustrates a rising tide within the publishing industry toward our way of thinking. Until only recently, the self-publishing arena was an unchecked battleground, a veritable free-for-all where authors and freelancers alike placed their profits in the hands of lady luck. What the Reedsy platform offers is a simple alternative; quality and transparency, the reassuring structure that ensures every book will become the best it can be.
Of course, it sounds simple when summarised into a pithy little sales pitch, but getting here has not been without its share of challenges. Quite apart from the expected hurdles for any young business (*grumble*: long hours, low pay), our team has also faced a steady supply of cynicism from some traditional publishing houses and other sceptics of self-publishing. Our response? Let’s just say there’s a reason we’re known around town as “that group that goes on and on about the growth of the ‘freelance economy’.”
Fortunately our defiance has begun to pay dividends. Since being named FutureBook’s BookTech Company of the Year, we’ve had the opportunity to talk to some of the most impressive publishing companies in the world about our vision. Indeed, if there is anything we’ve learned from winning the award it’s that we were right to ignore the naysayers. There are in fact many professionals who share our goal to improve the state of self-publishing.
In 2016 we will be announcing some amazing new partnerships with the best author organizations, distributors, retailers and publishing houses. We'll also be releasing a dedicated offer for publishers, the new Reedsy for Publishers, available in March. This will include new project management tools (tasks, calendar, messages, files) which enable publishers to invite their teams onto the Reedsy platform so they can work more collaboratively and follow each book project’s progress via a single interface.
The project that we've been focusing on in the past few months, however - and which launches for free this week - is the Reedsy Book Editor. Currently, authors use various tools to write and edit their manuscripts. But to turn them into a bookthey are forced to either hire an expensive professional designer, or use inflexible online softwares that poorly format their final ePub and print-ready files. Such tools pay no attention to the actual craft of typesetting, and authors haven’t the time to learn complicated programs like Adobe Indesign. Wouldn’t it be easier to have one powerful tool to write, edit and format a book all from one place?
It hasn't been plain sailing pulling together such an ambitious tool. The trick was finding the right balance between feature richness and user friendliness. At first, early testers were overwhelmed by the slew of options at their fingertips, not to mention a layout that only our programmers could comprehend! Yet after numerous revisions and outside feedback, we’re confident that The Reedsy Book Editor now offers a means of high-quality book production whose functionality is matched by its approachability.
Speaking of the future, it’s easy as a company to become so focused on your own product(s) that you blind yourself to other innovations waiting just around the corner. Last weekend I ran into Spritz, a new text-streaming application that allows users to significantly improve their reading speed, even from a device as small as a watch. The benefits are immediately noticeable, and after only a few days of use I now wonder if Spritz may be the next medium for reading.
Needless to say, everyone here at Reedsy is using it. After all, if there's one thing we've learnt, it's that successful growth as a startup depends on looking out, as well as in.
Emmanuel Nataf is CEO and Founder of Reedsy, the online marketplace for publishing professionals. He’s also a street photographer in his spare time. Catch him on Twitter @EmmanuelNataf