U.K. Indie Launches Hybrid App, Garners Industry Acclaim
Originally a small crime and horror publisher out of Kent, England, Caffeine Nights Publishing has since evolved, developing a robust hybrid app and a dedicated reader base. Unlike most publisher-branded apps, though, the Caffeine Nights app allows users to make purchases of Caffeine Nights books as well as around 30,000 titles from other publishing houses. "We'll sell books by our rivals in order to make the app an interesting place for the readers to come," says founder Darren Laws. "If all they get is Caffeine Nights shoved down their throats, I can imagine they'd lose interest relatively quickly."
Caffeine Nights grew out of a blog Laws started in 1998. Back then, he worked in PR and devoted his nights to establishing a way for local authors to publish their work. In 2006, Laws and his crew decided to move towards a more traditional mode and introduced a print–on–demand service for budding authors. A year later, Laws renamed the company Caffeine Nights Publishing. Since 2013, Caffeine Nights has published a total of 40 books, with an expected 15 titles to be released this year.
Caffeine Nights' app aims to be a destination, not just an online bookstore. In addition to being an ereader and ecommerce app, the platform features audio and video elements, such as podcasts and interviews, reviews, and deals, in order to generate interest in and keep users inside the app. To stay competitive, Caffeine Nights offers a digital copy of every book bought in print. "We don't believe in making people pay for the same content twice; it's just ludicrous and I can't wrap my head around it at all," says Laws. In an effort to keep readers engaged, Caffeine Nights also sends out free and discounted exclusives in its Sleepless Saturday newsletter promotion every week, chosen by their own authors and including the works of Stephen King, James Patterson, and others.
So far the multi-angle approach is working. The independent publisher has been shortlisted in The Bookseller Industry Awards for Digital Strategy of the Year, standing up against major publishers also up for the nod, including Faber & Faber, Hachette U.K., and HarperCollins.
Perhaps Laws' most bold move remains the decision to sell other publishers' products in the app, from smaller houses to the Big Five. "We want to present a much broader picture than just our name and brand, because it's important to bring people into the app and keep them coming back," says Laws, "you have to engage the reader."
Ultimately, Caffeine Nights aims to gather enough data about the readers and their habits to continue engaging them on a personal basis in the future. "All the analytics will come back to us via the developers and we have specialists who deal with those analytics," Laws explains.
"It's all about trying to make life easier for the reader. Making the decision process that bit easier," says Laws. "We're a small and decent company. I wouldn't put my hand up and say these are all original ideas, but they're ideas we're bringing together, which makes them kind of unique in that sense."