Questions for start-ups: completelynovel.com

Anna Lewis, CompletelyNovel.comA community for booklovers and bookwriters, you'd think there would be many. But that is not the case says Anna Lewis, co-founder of completelynovel.com. "There are a number of online communities for either readers or writers, but no-one else puts those two groups in one place," she says. Indeed the site does just that: bringing  readers and writers and even publishers together. The site allows a writer to  upload their work to the website, readers can read work  online for free, buy a paperback copy through the website, leave reviews and publishers will then be alerted as to the most popular and best rated books. And that is what the site aims to do finally, getting as many undiscovered authors out there published. Or as Anna explains:

How did you come up with the idea of your start-up?
We were talking to writers, and found out how difficult it is to get your work seen by a publisher, let alone published. There seemed to be a great deal of inefficiency in the way that books were selected for publication and a lot of writers feeling like they were banging their heads against a brick wall. The idea for creating an online community which links everyone within the publishing industry and allows them to interact more easily and effectively was born. We give writers the tools to be able to prove their work to publishers and make it fun for them at the same time. They can work with the community of readers on the site to improve and promote their books.

How did you form your team?
Oliver Brooks and I have known each other since studying at Cambridge University and decided to go into business together at the start of 2008. After the initial web programmer behind the site moved to San Francisco (!) we started posting on the Ruby on Rails forums and talking to everyone we knew who worked in start-ups. We spoke to quite a few people and decided that Jon Gilbraith was the best person for the job. Since then, we have had a number of people working with us in different capacities, building up discreet parts of the website.  What has also been great is that there have been lots of people who have contacted us volunteering to get involved with the site. We've been really encouraged by the enthusiasm that people have shown!
How did you fund it, with how much money, and what is the business model?
So far, the business has been funded through a loan but we have kept it all very 'boot-strapped'. The business model involves using affiliate sales and offering premium services to our more frequent users and business customers such as publishers, agents and printers.

What was your biggest challenge during the development process and how can other start-ups learn from that?
I think the biggest challenge has been managing freelancers who have taken on projects.  In some cases they have taken a lot longer than we anticipated.  I'd advise anyone else to be really thorough when it comes to establishing whether a particular freelancer understands the task at hand, especially if you are creating a complicated web application.  If at all possible get them on site with you so you can make sure you're on the same page!

Are you profitable?
Not quite yet!

Where do you think your company will be in one year?
In a year, we are aiming to have a network of Print-on-demand printers spread across the rest of the world and publishers and literary agents using CompletelyNovel to identify talent and market new books. We will also have a massive resource of online reading and information for readers across the world. We hope to hit the 500,000 uniques mark a year after we launch.

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