The book publishing industry has undergone a transformation resulting from the digitization of many volumes and the growing appeal of e-readers. Part of the fallout has been
the closing of numerous brick-and-mortar bookstores, both large and small.
According to digital agency Huge, the IPG-owned agency, another consequence of the digitalization of the industry is that publishers are unwilling to promote the works of most authors, with the exception of superstar bestsellers.
The agency is launching a start-up it believes will help authors (and their fans) do much more effective self-promotion of their works. The new company is called Togather, based at Huge Inc. headquarters in Brooklyn, NY.
Togather is the first new company to be launched from Huge Labs, a start-up incubator that the shop quietly set up at the beginning of the year.
Togather has developed a software tool that helps authors connect with fans by arranging book readings and other speaking opportunities, which company officials say is one of the most reliable drivers of book sales.
The impetus for the idea came from the experiences of two Huge executives, including CEO Aaron Shapiro and former creative director Andrew Kessler, who has moved from the agency to run Togather full time as general manager. Both executives share credit as co-founders of the new company.
Both Kessler and Shapiro are also authors. A few years ago, Kessler wrote "Martian Summer," a behind-the-scenes account of a NASA team working on a mission-to-Mars project. Shapiro recently wrote the marketing book "Users Not Customers." Both experienced firsthand the frustrations of trying to promote their books while doing their day jobs. “You need a full-time person on it or it doesn’t work,” said Kessler.
Togather provides software that enables users, such as authors, fans, book clubs and librarians to propose events such as book readings and speaking engagements. Authors, in turn, can set minimum requirements in terms of book sales, event tickers and speaking fees. The company makes money by taking a single-digit percentage of the revenue generated.
Kessler and his team of seven staffers have been testing the concept for months.
“We know it works,” he said. “It puts the power back in the hands of organizers and fans. The big question for them is: Can we as a community make this happen?
CEO Shapiro directly oversees Huge Labs. Currently. there are two start-ups being readied for unveiling in the coming months. Essentially, he said, the lab is designed to “harness entrepreneurialism and foster innovation inside Huge.” He believes Togather, which received funding from IPG, “will help authors do the same in the publishing industry, which is ripe for disruption.”
Two other start-ups are scheduled to be unveiled before the end of 2012.