A new service from Y Combinator-backed book publisher Hyperink aims to take blog posts, stir in a coherent narrative, and bake them into marvelous ebooks. To help it achieve that ambitious goal, the company has today announced that it will be bringing on three new investors.
The blogs-to-book service works largely as you’d imagine it might, with Hyperink gathering together 30 to 50 blog posts by a single author, and then compiling them into an ebook format. The company assigns an editor to work directly with the author to create a cohesive narrative and the final version is released on all of the major ebook stores (with the temporary, but important, exception of the iBooks Store).
This repackaging strategy is going to be a tough nut to crack, from both a literary and logistical perspective.
From the perspective of the reader, the content of a blog post is dramatically different from that of a book. Not only in the tone of the piece, but also how the entire story unfolds over time. This is something that Hyperink CEO Kevin Gao believes can be fixed by having an editor look over the content and to “make suggestions for new paragraphs” or even prompt the author to do additional research. Steps in the right direction, certainly, but as one author told me, this is essentially the equivalent of “stapling your mom’s recipes together and calling it ‘The Joy of Cooking’.”
From a logistical perspective, the company will likely have a hard time scaling this service. Much like its competitor Byliner, Hyperink will likely provide a nice additional source of income for its lucky chosen authors. However, as more authors clamour for the Hyperink treatment, it’ll be faced with the same scaling issues any growing publisher experiences. Our own Paul Carr and Sarah Lacy both had books commissioned by Byliner and both complained about company’s occasional lack of responsiveness as its catalog grows. HyperInk insists it will be picky about which authors it works with, but they still need to reach a critical mass to become a profitable enterprise.
Nonetheless, the company has seen some success. Notable tech investor Brad Feld published a blogs-to-book ebook through Hyperink, and according to the company, the book is on track to make “tens of thousands of dollars this year.” This could either be validation for the model, or the result of publishing a book by someone who is guaranteed to shift copies. One of the criticisms of traditional publishers is that they only commission bankable stars — leaving them vulnerable to competition from rivals with deeper pockets.
Indeed, the biggest criticism of Hyperink is that it isn’t particularly innovative. Repackaging blog posts is not a great leap forward for the publishing industry — traditional publishers have been doing it for almost a decade, and Paul wrote a whole book about how his blog-to-book publishing house failed way back in 2005. Blogs to books may be a goldmine waiting to be tapped, but no publisher has found the treasure-map yet.
Still, at least Hyperink’s pockets have just become a tiny bit deeper. The company has announced that it is bringing on new investors including Jon Klein, former president of CNN/US and Ramit Sehti, the bestselling author of “I Will Teach You How to Be Rich,” as well as a contributor to the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal. The company will also be announcing the inclusion of a third advisor, with the terms being sealed until the deal is closed. The company is tight-lipped about how much actual investment each is putting in, but all signs suggest that each is bringing more experience than hard cash.
Between the three, as well as Hyperink’s existing investors Y Combinator, Andreessen-Horowitz, SV Angel and Lerer Ventures, the company may have enough advisors and financial backing on its hands to make the model work. However, whether or not the experience and financial backing will be enough to push it over out of the trough of despair and into the successful publishing realm is yet to be seen. In the end, the model is theoretically viable, but so far it has failed on execution.
(Disclosure: PandoDaily is also backed by Marc Andreessen, SV Angel, and Lerer Ventures.)