Our team recently did a bit of research on the process of writing a book. After countless hours of scouring through resources, we quickly came to see that the actual act of writing is a very small part of the overall process. There is an endless number of layers in the typical publishing cycle that need to be addressed leaving very little time to focus on the meat and bones.
Pronoun is looking to change that by leveraging technology and data to empower authors to keep control over their work – both financially and creatively, attacking a dinosaur of an industry that has been quite hesitant to change.
The company, founded in 2009, just raised a fresh round of capital from Avalon Ventures and today Pronoun CEO Josh Brody joins us to discuss what’s next in the digital publishing realm.
Who were your investors and how much did you raise? Was it seed, Series A, B, etc?
The funding comes from Avalon Ventures and is $3.5M though the round remains open.
Tell us about your product or service.
Pronoun is a new, open, free publishing platform that puts authors first. We provide support for authors through the entire book publishing process, from creation to distribution to marketing, all while allowing authors to keep 100% of their earnings.
What inspired you to start the company?
Today’s publishing landscape is a cutthroat one. Authors have to choose between bringing their work to a large publishing house, where they have a significant chance of being rejected or cut out of much of their book’s revenue, or go to a self-publishing company that will nickel-and-dime them every step of the way without providing the support they need. We wanted to provide authors with the resources they need to succeed, and we realized that to do that, we needed to build a business that aligned with their interests and leveraged modern technology.
How is it different?
We provide the support that authors deserve. We provide marketing guidance, transparency in tracking sales figures, direct control over things such as pricing and the ability to profit from advances in publishing technology that provide increased efficiency at lower costs.
What market you are targeting and how big is it?
Our platform is completely free to authors. We also work with a number of enterprise partners and operate Byliner, our own imprint. Our business model for enterprises and imprint is pure revenue-share.
Who are your most popular authors, so far?
Some of our most popular authors include Jon Krakauer, Jodi Picoult and Nick Hornby.
What was the funding process like?
It’s a bit of a stereotype that traditional venture investors shy away from content plays. At some level, that’s true. But books remain a massive industry, and everyone is book buyer. It’s a format that endures, and digital is a whole new opportunity for growth. Avalon Ventures has made other smart investments in the space, and for us, partnering with them was an opportunity to work with a team who has a venture-based mindset towards disruption, but simultaneously understands the unique dynamics of the book market.
What are the biggest challenges that you faced while raising capital?
It’s undoubtedly a good fund-raising environment for early stage technology companies right now. But that’s largely due to the great companies that are being built – there’s so many old industries colliding with the internet in interesting ways, and our culture’s renewed focus on entrepreneurship has spawned some truly impressive companies. Great investors therefore have more potential great bets to make – and standing out among other companies for those checks require not just a great story but true differentiation.
What factors about your business led your investors to write the check?
Avalon shares our passion for both disruption and the digital publishing industry – they share our view that major change is coming to this market, just as it has come to other creative industries in the last 10 years. Aligning ourselves with authors and supporting their interests will help us quickly identify new and innovative business opportunities as technology continues to revolutionize the publishing industry, and Avalon wanted to be a partner in tapping into that opportunity.
What are the milestones you plan to achieve in the next six months?
This capital is going towards building out our new platform, which will be live in the next six months – that’s our focus and singular goal.
What advice can you offer companies in New York that do not have a fresh injection of capital in the bank?
If you’re inspired by the problems you’re solving you can survive anything. Additionally, the highs only feel like highs when you’ve been through lows, so remind yourselves, if it feels unsurmountable, that you and your business will come out smarter and more capable in the long run.
Where do you see the company going now over the near term?
As I mentioned, our focus for the immediate future is on building a platform that attracts authors as the most open and usable solution for digital book publishing on the market. Our priority is to show authors that our platform puts them in the driver’s seat, which we believe is the way it should be since they are the ones who are actually writing the books.
Which is your favorite NY summer spot, when you want to sit outside and curl up with a good book?
I like visiting the local bookstores in Chelsea, like 192 Books and Printed Matter – and yes, I appreciate the irony.