Boston-based startup Libboo announced its partnership with publishing house Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (HMH) this week, which will support the launch of its 3-month pilot program to help connect emerging authors with influential readers. The company aims to help readers discover new books, while giving them rewards in exchange for sharing those books with their networks. A TechStars Boston company, Libboo launches its platform this week with HMH as well as several independent publishers.
The partnership with HMH will give Libboo the ability to showcase some of the publisher’s bestsellers and critically acclaimed titles as part of their book discovery platform. “HMH reached out to us and said what you’re doing is really interesting to us and we’re excited to help and work with you discover the next digital bestseller,” Libboo’s Jason Freeman said in an interview.
The value of the company for publishers lies in identifying influencers who can create a tipping point for new authors. Readers sign up as ‘buzzers,’ and are then matched with books that fit their interests. They’re then encouraged to share those matches (or any other books featured on the platform) with their social networks, and as they share they build up their influence on the site and get rewarded with ebooks, exclusive content and the opportunity to connect with authors. Buzzers can build their influence based on the number of followers they have, the number of buzzers they recruit to the platform, and the book sales they drive, among other things.
The three-month pilot with HMH will provide Libboo with feedback that will help gauge the effectiveness of identifying and using book advocates and influencers, and their ability to drive sales for publishers and authors. The company then hopes to use that feedback to leverage the platform for new and emerging authors. The company has currently closed its new author submissions, but they’ll be opening it up to new authors in the future.
“We’re working to innovate in the publishing space by identifying and engaging the publishing world’s top influencers. And the way that we’ve done it initially is that we’ve gone out and surveyed those who when they talk, people listen, as it relates to books and recommendations,” Freeman added. “Our secret sauce in terms of our technology, which is being able to identify specific influence and how that affects individual decisions in regards to book buying and interests by enlisting the author’s biggest fans to share their books with the world.”
The company currently provides all of its services at no upfront cost, with the author retaining their copyright, and it requires no exclusivity contracts. As the pilot continues and Libboo collects feedback, it will be looking to cultivate a monetization strategy.
More and more startups have their eyes on disrupting the publishing world, allowing authors to do everything from crowdsourcing initial feedback and funding with companies like Pubslush, to Publification, which makes publishing an e-book a straightforward process. From a book recommendation perspective Amazon’s powerful recommendation engine already acts as a go-to platform for discovering new content. Then there are social networks like GoodReads, a virtual bookshelf and book wish list that lets people connect around genres and their favorite authors. However, Libboo’s attempt to be a launchpad for new authors by helping them leveraging the power of influencers, and its focus on reader rewards, may allow it carve out a space for itself.
The company is currently closing a round of funding, and the partnership with HMH will likely be the first of many if they can prove that influencers are actually affecting book sales. With the barrier to entry lower than ever for those looking to write, publish and distribute their books, finding a unique way to turn an indie book into a bestseller will be the quickest way to get both authors and readers on board.