Future Think: Bookigee's WriterCube
If you’re struggling with just what the relatively new concept of the "entrepreneurial author" means, there's nobody better to ask than Bookigee founding CEO Kristen McLean.
"With the quickly evolving publishing landscape," McLean says, "more and more opportunities and decision-making power is being placed in the hands of authors, but we haven't created professional tools or trustworthy sources of high-quality information to help them take advantage of this shift."
One of the reasons McLean is so appreciated by writers is that she speaks truth to power when the time comes. “No one in the traditional model is really incentivized to help authors,” she says, “either because they are focusing on their own business-model shift, or because they don't understand what authors need.”
And so McLean’s company Bookigee has created WriterCube, a tool that features a massive Book Marketing Database and more. Bookigee, the parent company, has “several areas we work on in addition to tools for authors,” says McLean.
"We do market research on book consumers, and we work with publishers and technology companies like app developers to create new kinds of data products and services."
What's in the Book Marketing Database at WriterCube? Here are just some of the listings:
- Independent bookstores in the US—1,113 of them
Libraries in every US state: with 294 in Alabama, 465 listing in Massachusetts and 286 in Nebraska
- Reviewers and Major Media—including listings for AM radio shows, news service syndicates and 461 reviewers
- Professional Services—in the "author services" space, this features book packagers, cover designers and publicity resources
- Top Twitter Influencer broken down by author tweets, independent bookstore and industry tweets
There's also instructional material on marketing, self-publishing, branding and other critical topics.
A familiar featured speaker on the publishing conference scene, McLean joins Frankfurt Book Fair’s CONTEC Conference on October 8 in a special panel, “Big Data/Small Data,” with Bowker metadata specialist Laura Dawson and Sebastian Posth of Berlin’s Publishing Data Networks. And she’ll be on the road at many points in the fall and winter, presenting and debating issues in publishing’s digital dynamic, while developing WriterCube’s unique suite of services for authors.
Like those writers, McLean is in exploratory mode, a modern Margaret Mead in the authorial hills:
“I expect our work on behalf of authors is going to be evolving and growing, and much of what we do will come directly out of the community of authors we are working with. For me it's a little bit of an anthropological experience—who are authors in this new paradigm? What do they need?”
At this point, such questions tend to lead to more questions, inclusive of the best business model for WriterCube itself. McLean explains some of her recent thinking:
“We started WriterCube as a subscription product, but we’re now starting to explore moving the database to a freemium model, and instead looking for other ways to drive revenue, either as a marketplace for people to sell services, or as a slightly different kind of marketplace where they (and professional publicists) can sell great publicity lists. (Think an awesome contact list for YA, for instance.) This idea is working very well in the education space where teachers sell lesson plans.”
The primacy of the author is always McLean’s watchword, however. “Before we make any decisions on all that,” she says, “we're going to ask our users what they think.”
With the candor she’s known for in the industry, McLean talks with compassion about how tricky it can be to devise workable commercial frameworks at this early stage in the entrepreneurial author movement:
“This is a very steep curve authors are on. There is definitely a ‘bleeding edge’ of entrepreneurial authors who are rolling up their sleeves and digging in, but there are also lots of authors on other places of the curve. I believe entrepreneurial
authorship is the future of a successful author career, but man, it takes a lot of diverse skills and a very particular attitude. And, it won't happen in a vacuum—we need an ecosystem that supports this career growth for authors, and plenty of smart people to help.”
WriterCube may one day be understood as one of the first responders at the scene.
Journalist Porter Anderson, formerly with CNN and the Village Voice, specializes in publishing at PublishingPerspectives.com, JaneFriedman.com, and WriterUnboxed.com