A Completely Novel Start up

Here, The NextWomen talk to Anna Lewis about how CompletelyNovel is bringing writers and publishers together on a level playing field.

1. How did you come up with the idea for 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.

2. How did you form your team?

Oliver Brooks and I have know each other since studying at Cambridge Uni 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!

3. How and with how much money did you fund your start-up, and what is the business model?

The business has been funded through a loan so far and 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.

4. What makes you different from other players in your sector?

There are a number of online communities for either readers or writers, but no-one else puts those two groups in one place and allows them to interact to the same extent as CompletelyNovel. Adding other players from the industry into the equation, and the ability to collaborate with them, creates the best place for everyone who loves books. For example, a writer can upload their work to the website, readers can read it 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.

5. 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 app.  If at all possible get them onsite with you so you can make sure you're on the same page!

6. Are you profitable?

Not quite yet!

7. Where will the company be in 1 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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