The inside story behind Reedsy's new Discovery platform

The inside story behind Reedsy's new Discovery platform

This week FutureBook award-winning self-publishing marketplace Reedsy launched Reedsy Discovery, a new marketing platform for authors. We sat down with founder Emmanuel Nataf to get the scoop behind the development, aims and ambitions of the service.

Why this new service and why now?

Since we started Reedsy, tens of thousands of authors have come to us looking for help to market their books. So far we were able to offer suggestions of professional marketers who could assist them with their launch and a number of resources (blog posts, Reedsy Learning courses and Reedsy Live sessions). But as most authors are not interested in marketing and the self-publishing market keeps growing, we felt we had to do more to help authors reach their audience. Not all authors want to be running Facebook ads so we’ll do that for them, in the background, without them knowing. 

The second reason is that we were frustrated that traditional media ignored the indie world. We believe there’s immense value in covering and promoting self-publishing as it represents the vast majority of today’s market (about 80% in fact). It brings more diverse books to readers and allows to write for countless niches no publisher would ever care about. It’s a bit weird there’s such great communities to discover indie bands and songs but there’s so little for books. 

And why now? Well I wish we launched it a year ago, but we decide not to raise additional funding which slowed down the development of Reedsy Discovery. On the bright side, we’re a sustainable business now!

Who is Reedsy Discovery aimed at - publishers, agents, readers or a mix? How many of each do you currently have signed up to the site?

It's aimed at a range of people. Authors looking to reach their audience. Reviewers looking to grow their following and access to new titles before their launch. Readers looking for more than mass market titles. Indie publishers are also welcome to come post their titles to Discovery. We have already subscribed tens of thousands of readers and over 100 reviewers will be reachable at launch. 

What exactly do readers get out of it?

Readers get a daily curated feed of books. They’ll be able to upvote the ones they’re interested in, add them to their bookshelves, comment on them, follow the author for updates, and get a preview of the book (first chapter). Books will only be available for free to reviewers, not readers. Readers will get the book on the Discovery launch date while reviewers will get access before that (same as for ARC’s). 

(How) are you going to incentivise readers and reviewers to take part?

For reviewers, it's an opportunity to build their audience (if a review is featured, it’ll get promoted to a lot of readers); a platform that streamlines the process of managing submissions (some reviewers get over a thousand submissions a year); and potentially revenue from their revenue (readers will be able to tip if they like what they read — this is experimental though). Readers hey a space to follow new indie releases and share them with friends, plus curated selections of books in their favorite genres. Think of it as a modern Books section of a publication like the Guardian or the NYTimes but with social features and indie-focused. 

How does Reedsy Discovery aim to compete with pre-release review sites such as Netgalley ?

It’ll be a much more open platform where reviewers are given more exposure (they will probably become influencers on the site).

How will the Discovery algorithm/ ranking work?

It will be a mix of human curation and algorithms. We’ll map user data and profile readers to train a machine learning engine. The objective is to create micro-categories over time so we can have refined segments of readers. Our book reviewers will act as curators and will give us an early idea of how interesting a book is. Then our community of readers will be able to upvote and comment on titles on a daily basis. We’ll leverage all that data to feature the best books ourselves.  

How (will) you ensure that the best books, not just the author willing to pay the most, rises to the top?

Reedsy Discovery will cost $50 for authors at launch. Authors will pay for exposure to readers and potentially a review if one of our reviewers picks their book up. You can’t be spending more than that.

​What checks do you have in place to prevent shilling / authors gaming the system?

We’ll monitor titles that emerge to the top in an abnormal way and manually decide whether they tried to game the system or not. 

What were your greatest challenges in developing the service?

Until now, it’s been mostly about finding enough time to keep developing our marketplace while building Discovery, which is a brand new and ambitious product. In the coming weeks, we’ll have to see whether the concept works and if it’s beneficial to all parties — authors, reviewers and readers. 

What do you think of Wattpad’s new publishing division Wattpad Books? Do you have any plans to do something similar?

Wattpad Studio is powerful and I hope it’ll be a wake-up call for publishers. We don’t have plans to publish content ourselves at this point — we think self-publishing is an amazing opportunity for authors.