The Book Community Deserves Better

Why we’re building Spire, a new home for authors and readers.

Jennifer Dobak
4 min readNov 17, 2023
Check us out at

I, like many voracious readers, have always wanted to publish my own novel. Last year I finally decided to do something about it and wrote my first novel during nanowrimo (National Novel Writing Month). I soaked up all the information I could about the book world, deep-diving into booktok, researching how to get a literary agent, and exploring the world of self-publishing. As a software engineer who spent the majority of her career at startups, I couldn’t help but notice…

The world of books and publishing is broken.

Authors are struggling to get in front of readers while making a decent living. Publishers are falling behind fast-moving reading trends. Readers are bouncing around fractured, dated community platforms.

The Current, Corporate Ecosystem

Take for instance Kindle Unlimited, Amazon’s behemoth ebook offering that gives readers access to the Amazon library for $11.99 a month. KU is by far the largest ebook marketplace and go-to platform for self-published authors — they get free access to Amazon’s millions of subscribers, and readers get affordable access to over 1 million titles. Sounds like a win-win? Look a little deeper and you’ll find a crowded marketplace with low discoverability and a proliferation of AI-generated titles. Meanwhile, authors make less than half a penny per page read — that equates to about a dollar for a 300-page novel.

Traditional publishing isn’t much rosier. Between querying literary agents, submitting to publishers, and countless rounds of editing, it takes years before an author’s book hits the shelves. Advances are often low, and even jackpot six-figure advances are typically paid out in small increments and massively depleted once publishers and agents take their cut. Traditional publishing is insular and slow moving, often passing up quality novels that find success through self-publishing.

Though readers have cultivated vibrant online communities through BookTok, Bookstagram and Goodreads, these platforms aren’t serving basic reader needs. Goodreads, the largest online book community acquired by Amazon in 2013, suffers from dated tech and inflexible rating systems. The community for indie and traditionally published novels is fractured and therefore hard to find. Meanwhile Wattpad and Archive of Our Own (AO3), popular among fan-fiction readers, see huge engagement with features like chapter comments, niche tagging, and emoji-reactions. They make the reading experience fun. We have yet to see a platform bring the fun and community of fanfic to the world of published books.

It’s clear the existing ecosystem needs to better serve both authors and readers. That’s where Spire comes in.

A platform by readers and authors for our community

We’re building the reading and publishing platform we wish existed. That means the highest author royalties in publishing, a review and tagging system that caters to how readers actually think about books, community-engagement features like chapter-by-chapter discussions, and improved discoverability through community-made book lists and curation.

For authors, we do not require exclusivity, unlike Kindle Unlimited. We’re committed to offering the best royalty structure to give authors a viable alternative to KU, allowing them to “go wide” and publish across all platforms. We have a strong stance against AI-generated content and will only platform quality books written by real people. For readers, we’re building the best online community to purchase, discuss, and discover books. Explore new reads like never before with improved rating systems, niche tagging, and human-curated lists. Discuss your current read in real time (and spoiler free) in chapter forums and book discussions. Give your favorite authors props with flare, badges, and author-reader communities.

Now Introducing: Spire First Readers

We’re excited to announce our first offering, Spire First Readers. As authors are revising their yet to be published novels, they go through several steps including collecting feedback from alpha and beta readers. The Spire First Readers program collects feedback from real Spire readers, who are compensated for their time and feedback. When authors choose to work with a Spire beta reader, they become eligible to publish through Spire and make their work available for our reader community to purchase.

If you connect with our mission of building a non-corporate book community for readers by readers, sign up for updates here. We’ll let you know when we launch new offerings and share updates on our growth. And if you’re a writer with an in-progress novel, or a reader looking to join the community and give writers feedback, consider signing up here.

You can help spread the word by recommending this article to friends. To learn more about the team and what we’re building, check us out here.

Happy Reading,

Jennifer & Lucy, co-founders of Spire.