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We're connecting readers and authors like never before.
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274 backers pledged $25,076 to help bring this project to life.

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ReadThisNext: Books are for sharing

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When Dani met Rob Bell at a book signing, he said, "Thanks for reading," to which she responded, "thanks for writing," and walked over to a nearby park to cry. 

At an Elizabeth Gilbert book signing, Elisha spent her entire time in line thinking up the perfect thing to say. When she got to the front, she burst into tears. "I just love your books so much," she said, and (barely) pulled herself together enough to take the photo below. 

A book can change everything. It's like finding a message in a bottle at the edge of an ocean that was somehow meant for you. But until now, there hasn't been a great way to direct your appreciation back to the storyteller.

What is ReadThisNext?

ReadThisNext is an app for discovering new books — sort of like a bookstore in your pocket. Unlike social reading apps where you follow people you know to see what they are reading (ex. Goodreads), ReadThisNext provides "expert" recommendations — books are recommended to you by authors.

When you follow an author you'll get notified when they endorse, or "blurb" a book, or their own book is released. We want to foster the connection between readers and authors to give authors more control over how their books are discovered. 

Because our book recommendations come from author blurbs, they are relevant, but unexpected, to recreate the serendipity of walking into a bookstore. We've found that a person's circle of friends isn't always the best indicator of what book you will enjoy. Many readers aren't dedicated to a single genre, and book tastes change over time.

The app

We spent the last six months working with publishers to integrate their data feeds and adding blurbs to our database. Our web app allows users to view blurbs by book or author and follow authors to get updates on new books and blurbs. 

Here is a short demo.

Bringing it to mobile

We're going to work with a designer to bring the experience to mobile in a way that makes sense on a touchscreen. Here are some ideas.

Why ReadThisNext matters

Books are not like other media. It takes most people a month or longer to read a book, versus 3 minutes or 3 hours for a song or movie, respectively. This means readers are extra vigilant in gauging the quality of a book before deciding to read it. 

This is an interesting problem for authors and publishers. Some authors can build their audience over time (Gillian Flynn published two novels before massive hit Gone Girl) but for debut authors, no matter how wonderful the book is, it's hard to attract new readers, even with paid ads, when there's no name recognition. Plus, whether a book makes it to bestseller lists often determines its long-term success, and unless a book takes off in the first 2-3 weeks or with pre-sales, it won't make it to those bestseller lists.

This is why a blurb is so important and such a strong indicator — someone who understands what makes a good story and whose taste you enjoy has already read this book, and is telling you it's worth your time.

We've seen artists such as Beyonce drop new music with no prior promotion. We want authors to be able to have this kind of control over a new book — a network of dedicated readers who are eager to read something new based on the taste of an author they trust, and share books they enjoy with the community. By bringing authors and readers together, ReadThisNext has the potential to finally give authors control over how their books are discovered.

Why we're obsessed with author blurbs

Writers are also readers. In fact, if you've wanted to write a book, you've probably been advised to read A LOT. So, it's no surprise that someone who writes YA might also be reading other books in the category. 

When it comes to blurbs, though, they are often requested either by the author, the publicist, or sometimes even the literary agent. Just because the blurbing author read the book before it was officially edited rather than picking it up off the shelf doesn't mean the recommendation is any less meaningful. We think the opposite. The author and publisher intentionally choose other authors to blurb because their work is similar, or will appeal to the same audience. 

The text of the blurb itself is fun to read (authors are good writers, duh) but it's the connection between author <-> book <-> author that is a strong indicator of relevance.

A picture says a thousand words

Dani grew up going to bookstores. Not to buy books — to hang out with friends on a Thursday night. We'd wander around the display tables in the front, pick up what looked interesting, read the back cover. And we'd buy lots of books, because how can you not? 

That experience was lost online, but book covers still say something about a book that a summary cannot match. In researching for ReadThisNext, Dani was shocked to find out that book cover artists actually read the entire book. A book cover isn't so much a marketing ploy as it is visual communication of what's inside. It gives you a sense of the book's subject matter as well as the emotional tone. A great book cover doesn't need to be pretty enough to hang on a wall, but it does need to give a hint of how you'll feel when you read the book. 

Although people already share photos of books on other social networks — hashtags like #bookstagram, #vscobooks and just #books are some of our favorites on Instagram -- we thought it would be fun to get all the serious book lovers in one place.

Where the money will go

We're lucky that we've already built a web app. That means we just need to add another layer to make a native iOS app.

Dani's done about 97% of the web development work so far, and Elisha manages outreach and publisher relationships, so we need help specifically with design and iOS. We'll also need a developer to turn our existing app into an API so the functionality will work equally well in iOS and web, including mobile web — so Android users can use it too.

  • iOS development firm $20,000 (development and maintenance after launch) 
  • Designer - $1,000 
  • Rails engineer - $2,000 
  • Server costs - $500-$1,000 
  • Kickstarter fees, costs - $1,250

Media Coverage

"But a direct book endorsement from a best-selling author whose writing a reader admires is a bell-clanger. Or it’s a killer app – one that doesn’t require more exertion than a few clicks on a mobile device and comes with large, beautiful imagery." - Lou Fancher at SF Examiner

"It’s kind of like being in a book club, but with all your favorite authors. Which rules." - Emma Oulton at Bustle

Elisha Hartwig on 'The How The Why' - Blackhill Press

If You Can't Beat Them, Join Them: Publishing Gets Its Own Hackathon - The Atlantic

Our Team

Dani Fankhauser, co-founder

Dani previously ran outreach at VC-backed mobile startup Flud, has been programming since 2010, and is a career journalist who was an editor at publications including Bustle and Mashable. She has an M.S. in journalism from Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University, and a B.A. in business administration from Point Loma University in San Diego.

Dani with author B.J. Novak
Dani with author B.J. Novak

Elisha Hartwig, co-founder

Elisha is a branded content editor and creator of #MashReads, Mashable's social book club. She's been a teacher in Spain and completed graduate studies at New York University's School of Professional Studies Center for Publishing.

Elisha with author Elizabeth Gilbert
Elisha with author Elizabeth Gilbert

Special thanks to Bianca Consunji for creating our video, and the following publishers for donating recent releases for our rewards: 

Riverhead Books

Viking Books

Simon and Schuster

Little Brown

Grand Central Publishing

Doubleday

Ecco

Random House Publishing Group

Algonquin

W.W. Norton

Hachette

Risks and challenges

We're building a mobile application, with the possibility of also doing a book of the month club and a destination book club. Most of what we are building is transmitted digitally; but we do have a few rewards which will take time to ship. However, we are confident we have provided ourselves with enough time to fulfill all the rewards.

With our mobile app, the risks will come as we scale. As we onboard new users, costs for servers and storage will increase. We are dealing with this in two ways. The amount we are raising comes with a small cushion so that we can not only build the app, but maintain it for the first year after it is released. Secondly, we are releasing the app to Kickstarter supporters only first in order to scale and test the app before it is launched to a larger crowd. We want this product to be used and enjoyed for many years to come.

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    A copy of a SURPRISE book ... you know you want this! We have a selection of amazing new releases straight from publishers, most hardcover, and remember, we won't give you something we wouldn't / haven't read ourselves. Plus:

    2 beta invites, a thank you note, and a "Books are for sharing" sticker.

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    Mast Brothers Chocolate Cookbook. Plus:

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    A copy of A GOD IN RUINS by Kate Atkinson, plus:

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    A copy of WE ARE NOT OURSELVES by Matthew Thomas, plus:

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    A limited run "Books are for sharing" ceramic mug, because a cup of tea -- like books! -- makes you smarter. Plus:

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    A limited run "Books are for sharing" pair of stemless glasses perfect for whatever beverage pairs with your current book. Plus:

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    Coffee with Dani and Elisha, or a Skype call, to talk about books, publishing, writing and more. Plus:

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    Handwritten list of places to visit in Paris by Courtney Maum, author of I AM HAVING SO MUCH FUN HERE WITHOUT YOU. Plus:

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    Personalized reading list for wanderlust-types at a crossroads by Mary Helen Specht, author of MIGRATORY ANIMALS. Plus:

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    Literary fiction bundle!

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    Popular literary fiction bundle!

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    Non-fiction bundle!

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    Thriller bundle!

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    Bustle.com's favorite books bundle!

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    Handwritten and personalized reading list made for you by Molly Antopol, author of author of THE UNAMERICANS. Plus:

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    BOOK CLUB SPECIAL

    Beta invites for up to 12 people, plus we'll pick a book to read with you and attend your book club in person or via Skype, and provide snacks. Plus:

    A thank you note, and a sticker.

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    An expert-curated list of 100 books you should have in your personal library, because not everyone who wants to look well-read has to be well-read (OK, I guess you could read the books, too). Plus:

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    Get lunch or coffee in NYC with Meredith Turits, awesome Bustle.com books editor and fiction author, to talk about books and writing and other fun stuff. Plus:

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    A trip to Denino's, landmark Staten Island pizza place, with Eddie Joyce, author of SMALL MERCIES.

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    Go to a DIY show with Brenna Ehrlich, founder of All Ages Press and author of 2015 book PLACID GIRL Plus:

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    Bourbon tasting with author Reid Mitenbuler in NYC + a signed copy of his book, BOURBON EMPIRE. Plus:

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    Coffee in San Francisco with author of THE UNAMERICANS and '5 Under 35 honoree' Molly Antopol. Plus:

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    An authentic piece of mourning jewelry, a signed copy of THE BRONTE CABINET by Deborah Lutz, and a one hour phone conversation with the author about all things weird and Victorian. Plus:

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    LAUNCH PARTY PARTNER

    Author? Publicist? Publisher? Your book, plus its beverage pairing provided by our favorite sommelier will be on display at our launch party. Plus a beta invite, of course.

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    ADVISORY COMMITTEE

    Join our quarterly advisory board and have an impact on how our service shapes in the coming years. We'll list your name on our about page to thank you for your contribution to the growth of book discovery online.

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    A trip to Mallorca, a copy of THE ROCKS, and a sightseeing list compiled by Peter Nichols. Plus:

    2 beta invites (you + a friend), a thank you note, and a sticker.

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Funding period

- (30 days)