SaaS: The Next Chapter for Marketplaces
The reality is the book publishing world is broken. The only value — beyond credibility — of having a publisher is distribution (although that doesn’t matter nearly as much as it used to given Amazon) and editing (and you can hire someone to do that).
Wow! When I received this dose of reality a few months ago from a highly successful published business strategy author, it crystallized for me how the combined democratization of content and influence has wreaked havoc on the traditional publisher model. No worries, I thought to myself — I’ll just finish writing my book and then figure out how to self-publish it.
Dread. Fear. Panic. Last week I finished writing the first draft of my book but then I realized I had absolutely no clue what to do next…
I wasn’t worried about finding a distribution partner as companies like Amazon have democratized the publishing process by empowering authors to sell e-books directly to their reader through their Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) platform. But what about the in-between part — how do I magically transform my rough first draft into a polished piece of art that I can download to KDP?
I decided to do some due diligence and Googled “self-publishing” — but I was bewildered when it returned 7.3 million search results. Where to start? Then I remembered I had joined a LinkedIn Group a few weeks ago called “How to Self-Publish a Book”. And that’s where I discovered Reedsy. I felt my excitement build as I read the February 16th LinkedIn article published by Emmanuel Nataf, the co-Founder of Reedsy, titled “Today, Reedsy changes the way millions of authors publish books”. Could this be the solution I was looking for?
Reedsy is a Sharing Economy company that operates in the Professional Services platform as it is building a long tail of supply of freelance professionals in the publishing ecosystem, ranging from editors to designers, publicists, and marketers. By democratizing the self-publishing book creation process, Reedsy is building a new blue ocean of demand by attracting aspiring authors like myself that are looking for a professional alternative to working with a traditional publisher. But what really attracted me to Reedsy is it is more than just a matchmaking platform — it also offers a sleek book editor that reminds me of Medium’s gorgeous interface. I decided to play around with it and cut and pasted a few chapters of my book into it. Wow! It formatted my chapters beautifully — and better yet, it allowed me to easily move entire chapters around as well as export my book into an ePub or PDF. But I still had some questions so I hit the HELP button and sent a message to the Reedsy team. And to my delight, within 10 minutes I received a text back from the Co-Founder himself, Emmanuel, and we set up a time for a call.
I love talking with Sharing Economy founders like Emmanuel as I admire their “rebel with a cause” spirit. Before our call I did some due diligence and discovered Emmanuel launched Reedsy in London, UK in July 2014 along with Matt Cobb, Ricardo Fayet, and Vincent Durand. During our call, Emmanuel shared with me how they actually came up with the idea for Reedsy in mid-2012 after researching the book publishing industry and discovering how archaic and broken the publishing process was. And the market opportunity looked attractive. On the demand side, the self-publishing industry was just starting to boom (the number of self-published books in the US alone skyrocketed from 300,000 in 2012 to over 1 million last year!) and on the supply side, publishers were starting to move to the freelance model, increasing the base of available professionals. As a result, unlike many Professional Services companies, which indiscriminately grow their long tail, Reedsy had the luxury of being able to curate a long tail of 400 professionals from a base of 10,000 applicants. And Emmanuel told me they have a queue of 100 professionals waiting to be listed once they grow demand on the author side.
So I am excited to take the next step — reaching out to editors on the Reedsy platform to hopefully find “the one” that can sculpt my book into a work of art. And given I am writing about UBER-nomics, it seems like fate that I have found a company that is creating value through the principles of UBER-nomics — creating a long tail/blue ocean that provides a platform to empower aspiring authors like myself. The verdict is still out on how additive the book editor will be for Reedsy’s marketplace as it just launched it three weeks ago and the collaborative tools that will enable authors to work directly in the document with authors will not be available for a few more months. But if this SaaS (Software as a Service) tool succeeds in improving the efficiency and effectiveness of the painful book formatting and editing process, I am guessing it will lead to organic growth and increase retention rates on both the supply and demand side.
SaaS tools will become of greater and greater value for marketplaces. The reality is the low barriers to entry, attractive economics, and the recent flood of capital to the exploding Sharing/On-Demand Economy universe is leading to a perfect storm in terms of Porters’ five forces. Many of the former blue oceans are starting to turn bloody red as a result of increasing competition from existing players, the entry of new players, and the threat of substitutes. And due to the unique dynamics of marketplaces, the simultaneous increase in bargaining for both its suppliers and buyers is leading to increasing expectations, rising acquisition costs, and increasing attrition on BOTH the supply and demand sides. For rising competition now threatens to destroy the magic of UBER-nomics, creating a double jeopardy situation.
In early January, I published an article titled “UBER-nomics: It Takes More than Just a Marketplace” in which I asserted that “…in order to achieve UBER-nomics, a company needs to build more than just a marketplace, it needs to create a movement…”. But what I have realized after going through the actual process of searching for a self-publishing solution is that in order to achieve UBER-nomics, a company will need to build more than just a marketplace and a movement — it will also need to offer a SaaS tool. For SaaS is the next chapter for marketplaces.