BookieJar wants to connect readers to the authors they love, helping readers discover new titles and allowing authors to more easily promote and publish their digital works.
Founded by former Microsofties Deyun Wu and Bruno Botvinik — who sold the mobile search company MotionBridge to Microsoft in 2006 — the six-person Kirkland startup offers a number of services to readers and writers. One of the most intriguing is a new electronic signature product, dubbed Autograph Now, which allows readers to request a digital autograph from an author.
Wu will be talking about that service and others as one of the presenters at MIT’s Northwest Startup Demo on December 1st. (Details here).
We chatted with Wu for the latest installment of Startup Spotlight.
Explain what you do so our parents can understand it: “BookieJar is a social reading and publishing platform that offers complete and ongoing eBooks. It features promotional capabilities — even eBook signing to deepen the bond between readers and writers.”
Inspiration hit us when: “When I was still a program manager at Microsoft, I went to some nearby cci-fi book clubs from time to time. I met many writers and readers and realized through our discussions how difficult it is for independent writers to find readers, and for readers to discover new and engaging content. That was almost shocking. With all the existing technologies readers and writers are still not able to reach each other…. I decided to build a place to restore the bond between storytellers and audiences — that would be an end-to-end ePublishing marketplace with built-in social and promotional capabilities.”
VC, Angel or Bootstrap: “We raised a small amount from friends and family. Since our beta launch in May we’ve been focusing on partner and customer engagement and refining our product. It’s important to have strong traction before spending time raising fund from external sources.”
Our ‘secret sauce’ is: “We are now the first e-book publishing platform to offer autographed e-books, and the first publishing platform to offer an ongoing publishing model. With our ongoing publishing model, books are published in pieces, often chapter by chapter. This model allows readers to “taste” before committing to buying the whole book. The writer benefits from greater reader engagement and loyalty and, for manuscripts in progress, the writer enjoys a faster time to market and gets useful feedback early. Allowing readers to taste the book is essential because a book synopsis is not sufficient enough to engage readers.
With our “Autograph Now!” technology, a writer can sign e-books in-person on the reader’s device — including iPad, Nook color, PC or Kindle — by using a stylus, finger or mouse. The writer is also able to respond to a reader’s request online or prepare a generic digital autograph for future readers or existing ones.”
The smartest move we’ve made so far: “Staying focused on our differentiators and building a compelling ePublishing solution that addresses independent writers and publishers real needs.”
The biggest mistake we’ve made so far: “We didn’t realize the scope of our product is so big until we were very far along on the road. It is probably a good thing because otherwise we may have never built it.”
Would you rather have Gates, Jobs, Zuckerberg or Bezos in your corner: “Bezos and Zuckerberg. We are combining our passions for books and social community. It would be very instructive to learn from their experiences and look at things they did and did not do.”
Our world domination strategy starts when: “Independent writers and publishers become successful by leveraging our platform. There have been 130 million books published in modern history and one million new titles come out every year. Writers are facing tremendous market competition and BookieJar has been built to help them stand out of the crowd.”
Rivals should fear us because: “The power of social community is huge. We’ve seen big book stores benefit by using reader reviews to drive book sales. But there is no big industry player focused on writer and reader connection yet, so there is a first-mover opportunity. We know that writers are very interested in communicating with their readers, and readers like to follow their favorite writers, find their new releases, as well as sharing opinions with other readers. In the digital world we can leverage this energy and meet people’s rising demand. ”
We are truly unique because: “We are bonding readers and writers. Readers and writers need each other, but the current publishing industry hasn’t provided an efficient way for them to connect…. We aim to be a central hub where readers and writers can engage in conversations and build connections, so that readers can have an enriched reading experience while writers can earn readership loyalty and build their fan base.”
The biggest hurdle we’ve overcome is: “Designing and building our product with very limited resources and in a very short time.”
What’s the one piece of advice you’d give to other entrepreneurs just starting out: “Enjoy the ride. Being an entrepreneur means choosing a path that is different with your friends’ and you’ll face different challenges everyday but that’s part of the fun! Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Thorny Road of Honor” is a perfect read when you need inspirations.”