This Founder Created A Social Media Platform For Authors That Aims To Disrupt The Publishing Industry

From Forbes:

When Allison Trowbridge was writing her book, Twenty Two, she found herself incredibly frustrated by the process. As she started talking to other authors, she found she wasn’t alone in that sentiment. This experience is what sparked the seeds of an idea – why was there no social media platform for authors to market their books and forge deeper connections with readers? That’s exactly what Trowbridge hopes to achieve with her soon-to-be-launched platform, Copper.

. . . .

Amy Shoenthal: How did you come up with the idea to create a social media platform for authors?

Allison Trowbridge: I wanted to build the tool I needed and wish had existed when I was early in my book journey. I wrote my book while getting my MBA at Oxford, which by the way, I don’t recommend doing. That was a crazy season of life. I found myself very frustrated with the clunky process of bringing a book to market. 

A lot of the real frustration came from this sense of shameless self promotion that an author is expected to do. We’re writers, and then we’re expected to know how to create visual or video content and how to reach an audience. The platforms that exist really serve readers but not authors. 

That’s why you see authors really struggling to dance on TikTok or do Instagram reels. It requires a very different skill set.  

Every author I talked to, whether a first-timer or multi best seller, had expressed a similar frustration. I shared this with a professor of mine, who pointed out that no one had yet disrupted this industry. That there might be an opportunity here. She really guided me in the right direction. 

 When you look at every social platform that exists today, they have taken off by targeting an underserved creator group and making them stars. So you have photographers on Instagram, dancers on TikTok, gamers on Twitch, crafters on Etsy and musicians on SoundCloud. No one has ever made authors the stars.  

Shoenthal: So how exactly does Copper work? How does it address this issue for frustrated authors?

Trowbridge: I like to call it the LinkedIn of the book world. It’s a two sided marketplace between authors and readers where they can go to connect with one another. Only authors can be verified so it’s very clear who is who. The user experience helps authors have meaningful conversations with existing readers while allowing them to reach new readers using the discoverability piece. 

 Copper is like a readers’ recommendation engine where you can share lists of book recommendations. Every author and every reader has their bookshelf on their profile. 

I was with a best selling author recently and she was giving me all her recommendations. I was literally writing them down on a scrap of paper at a restaurant and realized this should be easier. 

Books right now exist as independent products. We want to create a social experience around it. It uses the credibility of authors and readers to drive recommendations of different books. Readers can comment on the book and have discussions while they’re in the middle of reading it or once they’re done. So, if there’s a spoiler, we have a little ‘S’ icon that shows a little spoiler alert section, and then it blurs out. We want people to jump in and be able to discuss at any point while they’re reading without giving anything away. 

. . . .

This process gives the author insight into how people are reacting to their books as they’re reading them. It’s just wild to me that there’s no place right now where readers can have discussions about the book, and then the author can see in real time what people are reacting to. 

Shoenthal: It’s like a real time book club, which is a very ‘how does this not exist yet’ product. How did you come up with the name?

Trowbridge: I always associated copper with social movements. Abe Lincoln on the face of the penny goes back to the anti-slavery movement. Second, so much technology has been taking our full attention when it should be more like infrastructure around our lives. It should help us be more human, the way copper plumbing or copper wiring just helps us live our lives and connect with one another. It’s old timey but also new. It carries electricity. It has healing properties. These are all the things a book can do. Last, I also learned that the most iconic brand names have a “ca” sound in them.

Link to the rest at Forbes

Perhaps PG is missing something subtle about what’s really going on with the site described in the OP, but he found the following mystifying:

“I shared this with a professor of mine, who pointed out that no one had yet disrupted this industry.”

PG notes that his search of the OP did not disclose a single mention of Amazon.

The author of the OP is described as follows:

Amy Shoenthal writes about extraordinary women who are shaping culture and society.  

Talk about ignoring the elephant in the room.

Amazon has maximally disrupted the books business from one end to the other and is still doing so. Amazon sells the majority of books purchased in the United States.

Book sales make up a little less than 10% of Amazon’s total revenue of $280 billion and growing. So that’s roughly $28 billon per year in book sales for the Zon.

Per the Association of American Publishers Statshot for 2020, all of US book publishing totaled about $26 billion. But this number includes textbook publishing for schools plus other specialty-publishing areas where, to the best of PG’s knowledge, Amazon doesn’t compete.

Per Statshot, trade book sales for 2020 totalled $16.67 billion. Unless PG’s math is wrong total US trade book sales are 59% of Amazon’s total annual book sales.

Per a January, 2019, Wall Street Journal article, “Amazon commands some 72% of adult new book sales online, and 49% of all new book sales by units, according to book-industry research firm Codex Group LLC.”

Again, with publishing statistics, it’s sometimes hard to find apples-to-apples comparisons for “total publishing revenues” in this or that country.

That said, to talk about connecting authors to readers as described in the OP without mentioning Amazon is still truly bizarre. The OP doesn’t mention that self-published authors on Amazon can monitor their sales on close to a real-time basis, can see the opinions of some readers in their comments on the book’s Amazon web page both in star ratings and written reviews.

10 thoughts on “This Founder Created A Social Media Platform For Authors That Aims To Disrupt The Publishing Industry”

    • Ads and user data collection.
      That’s how “free” social networks work.
      “If you’re not the paying customer, you’re the product.”

      TINSTAAFL!

  1. Sounds a lot like Wattpad. I’m skeptical it can work for older writers and readers, though, who either seem to be embracing indie / Amazon or doubling down on legacy publishing and paper books. We’ll see…

    • Or Goodreads, I suppose. I rarely visit, but I have noticed actual discussions going on with some books and reviewers. Or that old thing that I recall being called Alexa before Amazon made the voice command thing of that name. A way to share titles of favorite books and discuss them. It fell by the wayside years ago.

      I have visited Wattpad and find it impossible to use. Can’t find anything i want to read on it. Maybe if a writer I already knew I liked was there I could find something, but in general, I don’t get it.

      I love talking about books, but I don’t think this new venture, if it ever gets off the ground, is for me.

      • True, Wattpad’s search engine is horrible. I just wondered why the person in the OP claimed that there didn’t exist platforms right now where you can have a “social experience” around books. Amazon, Goodreads, Wattpad and co. – to a lesser or greater degree – they all do exactly that.

        Anyway, I was curious so I signed up for it to check out the beta. We’ll see if you will have to send search parties out for me in a couple of years over in the general direction Google+ went …

  2. Three blind, self-centered authors{*} walked into a room and touched the largest thing in it so as to learn what it was. The first one touched the trunk, and said “This is long and narrow, is it perhaps a snake? Are my royalty statements overdue?” The second one touched an ear, and said “This is thin and wide and moving, is it perhaps a fan? Is there an editorial assistant handy to feed me grapes?” The third one fondled a leg, and said “This is rough, and vertical, and round, is it perhaps a tree? Perhaps a sustainable bamboo tree to create craft-quality paper for my masterwork, with gold-embossed raised type on the cover?”

    None of them, however, got anywhere close to the… business end, so they didn’t find the output. And fortunately for them, at no time did the elephant either spray them from its trunk or trumpet.

    Neither did any of them contemplate the meaning of the parable in the first place.

    {*} Yes, that’s infinitely reflexive. It’s Monday.

    • And here’s the cute acknowledgement:

      Copper friend,

      You’re here, hooray! Thank you so much for taking the time to fill out our early-access TypeForm. We’ll be updating you with exciting news about the Copper app very soon.

      It means the world to have such incredible authors and readers pumped about Copper; we couldn’t make the magic happen without your support. The future is bright! Thank you for being here– the party is just getting started.

      Cheers,
      Copper HQ

  3. It’s not a new concept. Maybe…three years ago, Marie Force and a number of authors started up the Book+Main website. Authors registered in a special portal and were able to put up images, book excerpts, and sales links.

    It was heavily weighted to romance and you could search by trope (e.g. secret baby, second chance love.) For a few authors who got in early and who had the time to invest in a whole other platform, it was profitable and worthwhile.

    Since then, the site has been rebranded Verve Romance. I haven’t been in ages, but my understanding is it remains free to readers. Authors pay for their excerpts and book releases to be featured prominently on the site, or in newsletters. In addition, I’m sure the owners continue to make money through Amazon and Apple affiliation, etc.

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