Reedsy on a Roll: The UK Startup Expands To Serve Publishers

In Feature Articles by Porter Anderson

‘Reedsy for Publishers’ is on the way, as the two-year-old company rolls out its Reedsy Book Editor. Collaborative functionality is in testing stages now.

Reedsy main option

By Porter Anderson | @Porter_Anderson

“The idea,” says Emmanuel Nataf, “is that the authors are going to be able to create a book on Reedsy, and whenever it’s ready, push it to Ingram for distribution.”

Emmanuel Nataf

Emmanuel Nataf

The CEO of this two-year-old UK-based startup (named for reeds, not for reads) is introducing this week not only a new stage in his company’s development, but also two major partnerships.

  • US-based IngramSpark has an arrangement to make Reedsy’s new tool, the Reedsy Book Editor, and its service-provider Marketplace available to its authors.
  • And Canada’s Kobo Writing Life is engaged now, as well, another international center of independent authors on the digital path to publishing.

And in a tip-off to a coming development, “Four publishers are using Reedsy now, with author accounts,” Nataf says. What’s ahead? “Reedsy for Publishers, in March.”

Nataf says that Reedsy’s win of The FutureBook Awards’ first BookTech Gold Award in December has provided energy to the company’s accelerating development. As part of the competition, his team demonstrated to FutureBook’s Molly Flatt and her BookTech panel that the company is more than a match-making service for authors and editors. In her coverage of the award, Flatt wrote:

“Reedsy scooped the Gold Award for creating a platform that looks set to powerfully impact on both independent and traditional publishing by empowering writers, publishers, editors and designers to build hybrid careers and work together quickly and effortlessly through bespoke, user-friendly digital tools.”

Thanks in part to the visibility the award gave to the company, “We have conversations going, maybe with 10 publishers now,” Nataf says.

This screen grab of the Reedsy Book Editor relates to the version control an author has in the tool.

This screen shot of the Reedsy Book Editor relates to the version control an author has in the tool.

Context: ‘User-Friendly’

When Nataf attended The Bookseller’s Author Day Conference on the last day of November, he demo-ed a bit of the new Book Editor for a few attendees. He mentioned that publishers had begun using Reedsy’s Marketplace to find editorial and/or design freelancers. Originally pitched to self-publishing authors who need to find technical professionals to assist in marketing, edit, and design, Reedsy was becoming popular, as well, with publishers who had begun outsourcing such editorial work.

“It’s very pleasant to work with publishers because we know they’re obsessed with quality, as we are.”Emmanuel Nataf, Reedsy CEO

That signal development, the interest of publishers, can be understood in the context of what Flatt at The FutureBook has begun examining in a series of articles on the “growth curve”: “What does it take,” she asks, “to grow a sustainable and profitable business in today’s marketplace?”

For Nataf, the combination of active publisher interest and the development of the online Book Editor is driving a quick development of the second, separate edition of the company’s services platform, the Reedsy for Publishers suite of tools.

At this point, the Book Editor is primarily a formatter. In this initial iteration (sign in here to explore it), it’s designed to let authors and/or publishers create good-looking editions of their books easily, and to do that at the level of quality required by Ingram’s distribution services. The files have been successfully tested in conversion to the Kindle’s .mobi files, too, Nataf says. Currently there are two templates, one for fiction and one for nonfiction. More template options will be added in response to user feedback.

In the current evocation of the work, an author loads in a book one chapter at a time; in coming iterations, the system will be able to break up a Word document into its chapters for the writer automatically.

But the real promise here is in what comes next: As in Google Docs and Sheets, more than one person will be able to enter a book’s manuscript at once when the team introduces the program’s collaborative functionality. An author and the editor he or she has hired in Reedsy’s Marketplace, will then be able to work on the text together in real time.

The introduction of the Reedsy Book Editor “is going to be a test for us. We’ll see the reactions, we’ll see how people want to use it.”Emmanuel Nataf, Reedsy CEO

This capability is driving the release in March of what will be called Reedsy for Publishers, Nataf says, eventually allowing a publishing house’s editing, design, and marketing teams to work as groups on their book projects, with all the right team members having access when needed.

This is the digitally supported interchange called for at last year’s Publishers’ Forum conference in Berlin (28 and 29 April this year), when the journalist and author Kathrin Passig spoke about how the lack of such digitized editorial process is “giving Amazon another advantage.”

For now, what authors will encounter in Reedsy’s Book Editor system is a clean, recognizable interface, with a minimum of Word-ish toolbars. The system saves versions of an author’s work automatically.

And, as you can see in this video, the collaborative elements that Nataf says are coming soon to the tool will enhance the Book Editor with live-tracking of changes from both partners, working together in the system.


‘So Much More Streamlined’

Clearly, the new partners Reedsy is attracting are reading the numbers.

Reedsy cites more than 7,000 authors registered with the site since the Marketplace opened in November 2014.

It reports that only 1 percent of the service providers asking to be entered in the Marketplace have been allowed a place.

Nataf tells Publishing Perspectives that Reedsy’s international stance is proven by the fact that some 70 percent of the authors using the London-based service so far are in the United States.

Robin Cutler

Robin Cutler

“What I like about the Reedsy platform,” says IngramSpark Manager Robin Cutler, “is that it provides indie authors with an online marketplace to get many of the services they need to create a finished and polished book.

“The website is very intuitive and easy to use. This is definitely a service that will benefit IngramSpark authors and why we are happy to recommend it.”

And at Kobo, the first thing that Self-Publishing and Author Relations Director Mark Lefebvre tells Publishing Perspectives is that the curatorial aspect of Reedsy’s Marketplace is a key component of the company’s interest:

“We’ve met with and examined Reedsy’s excellent curation of industry professionals and are pleased with the fine work that they have done in terms of ensuring there are experienced pros available for authors. I think curation is something that’s critical and they have done a wonderful job of that; it’s important to Kobo Writing Life that when we send authors to service providers that we are sending them to people that we trust, people who are there to provide a strong value and aren’t there to take advantage of a writer when they are at their most vulnerable. Time and again, we’ve seen Reedsy as people who have earned respect and trust in that space.”

Mark Lefebvre

Mark Lefebvre

With the Book Editor coming online, says Lefebvre—himself an author—”We were excited to follow along and watch as they have been developing it to help make not only the writing and creation, but also the collaborative process of writing and editing so much more streamlined for authors.”

Kobo’s intent, he says, “is to be able to send Kobo Writing Life authors to their suite of service professionals with a discount on those services so that our authors are not only getting to work with trusted professionals but also getting a deal. It fits in perfectly with our goal of putting the author first.”

Nataf says that to date some 300 books have utilized some element of Reedsy’s Marketplace services. The new dimension opened by the introduction of the Book Editor tools “is going to be a test for us. We’ll see the reactions,” he says, “we’ll see how people want to use it. And if it feels like people want to entrust all their products to it, then we’ll import those products.”

The Book Editor is offered free of charge to authors—”It’s really annoyed me that people would have to pay for file conversion,” Nataf says.

Reedsy was backed at its outset in a 50-50 split investment between Seedcamp and DC Thomson Ventures. Nataf says that at this point, no further round of funding is needed. “We’ve just done the angel round, and now the business is doing pretty well” with revenue from its Marketplace of service providers.

As pleased as he is to have had the success he has with Reedsy’s author program, Nataf says that he’s especially pleased to find so many publishers interested in the options coming to the service for them.

“It’s very pleasant to work with publishers,” Nataf says, “because we know they are obsessed with quality as we are. And we know that in the end, we’re going to contribute to putting some really amazing books on the shelves. It’s really exciting for us, we’re proud of this.”

A view of the Reedsy Book Editor's text-processing function with options in the left-hand nav bar

A view of the Reedsy Book Editor’s text-processing function with options in the left-hand navigation bar

About the Author

Porter Anderson

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Porter Anderson has been named International Trade Press Journalist of the Year in London Book Fair's International Excellence Awards. He is Editor-in-Chief of Publishing Perspectives. He formerly was Associate Editor for The FutureBook at London's The Bookseller. Anderson was for more than a decade a senior producer and anchor with, CNN International, and CNN USA. As an arts critic (Fellow, National Critics Institute), he was with The Village Voice, the Dallas Times Herald, and the Tampa Tribune, now the Tampa Bay Times. He co-founded The Hot Sheet, a newsletter for authors, which now is owned and operated by Jane Friedman.