Guest Post: LitRate – Creating My First Bookish Business Plan

Posted July 30, 2014 in Guest Posts / 19 Comments

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Today I have a very special guest post for you all from Ashley @ Nose Graze! If you haven’t heard already, she and her husband are working on a brand new bookish community for us that will be like Goodreads, but way better! This is a project I’m VERY excited about! While I love GR, it does need some help. Plus I also regularly use Booklikes and Literally. And I’ve played around with BookDigits (love the achievements!). But I’d prefer to use one site that has it all! That’s where LitRate comes in! Below you’ll learn all about how Ashley came up with the plan. This isn’t just some whim on her part. A lot went into this idea, and she hopes to make it a reality!

litrate-logo

A couple weeks ago, I created my first bookish business plan. No—not just my first bookish business plan, but my first business plan PERIOD. I don’t even know what a business plan looks like, so maybe mine wasn’t even a ‘real’ business plan, but it felt real to me.

In 2013 I had a inkling of an idea. What if I created my own book catalog/reviewing site? At the time, the idea just sat there, biding its time. I kept pushing it aside, but it just kept growing. It took over all the other ideas around it until it was the only one left! Now, it’s consuming my every thought. So, naturally, I had to bring my husband on board. We want to make LitRate.

What the heck is LitRate?

LitRate is our idea for a new and improved book cataloging site. Guys, IT’S GOING TO BE EPIC! I mean, with a Coding God (my husband) doing all the tough bits, how could it not be?

On LitRate you’ll be able to search for books, see all the information about them, read and post reviews, rate books, participate in challenges, meet friends, and join discussions. And most importantly: half stars!! (Seriously, I’m sick of rounding up and down.)

Okay, back on track. So after confirming with my husband “YES WE’RE DOING THIS”, I decided to approach this very business-like. So, I made a business plan.

Step 1: All the research

I did all the research in the universe. My poor Google is so worn out. I’ve searched for things like:

  • Goodreads alternatives
  • Why I left Goodreads
  • Goodreads vs BookLikes
  • Goodreads vs LibraryThing

And so on. This was so important because it gave me insight into why people aren’t happy with Goodreads and what they’re looking for. Then I was able to use that information to figure out how I could make a better site that incorporated everyone’s ideas. I wanted to learn from the mistakes that Goodreads made, the features that BookLikes lacked, and the outdated interface that LibraryThing uses.

Step 2: Compile the data

As I did my research, I took notes. I used these notes when compiling my “Competition” section of the business plan. I outlined the key features of each site, what they did right, what they did wrong, and what some of the main criticisms are.

Step 3: Figure out the numbers

Ah, the numbers. The figures. The costs. The penny-stealers. These are the things that I have to pay for in order to make my own book cataloging site. These expenses essentially came down to:

  • Book data subscription: £6,750 (+20% VAT) per year
  • Server: $300 per month
  • Trademark: $275 per class

I try really hard not to look at that first figure because it makes me cry sometimes. Also, I apologize for the multiple currencies. It gets confusing, I know.

Step 4: How to generate revenue

A businessman might call this section the most important one. I call it an annoyance. WHY DO I HAVE TO MAKE MONEY?? Why can’t I just release this into the universe for free with no ads and no sales and just happiness and rainbows??? Sadly, with those disgusting expenses, the world can’t work that way. So I had to figure out how to make money.

We launched a Kickstarter campaign to help raise the £8,100 needed for the book data license for the first year. But after that first year, we have to find another way to pay for it. I narrowed this down to:

  1. Ads
  2. Subscription fees

I ruled out #2 after my research phase. LibraryThing charges people $25 for unlimited books for life. If you don’t pay anything, your “shelves” are limited to 200 books. Now personally I have no problem with this because I understand that this is how their site sustains itself. I understand that not everything can be free. But in my research phase, I saw how many people turned their noses up at this. They didn’t want to pay money to use a cataloging site. So, I looked to advertisements.

(Note: We actually will consider subscriptions in the future to get access to an ad-free version of the site, but it wouldn’t be available straight away. We’d need time to figure out a good price point for that.)

I don’t like advertisements, but sometimes they’re a necessary evil. Either the site doesn’t exist period, or it exists with ads. So, I bite the bullet and go the ad-route. So next I researched ad providers and prices. I figured out how many visitors I would need in order to generate enough advertisement revenue in order to pay for the site. This was like 90% guesswork since it’s hard to pinpoint how much you’ll really make off advertisements, but at least I tried!

I’m not looking to be rich; I just want my site to have a chance!

I created this business plan in order to clearly lay out all my information and options. I think it was mostly an exercise for myself. I’m not looking to get rich or sell LitRate to the highest bidder. I just want the site to have a chance. I want the opportunity to release it to the world and share it with book lovers. This isn’t my project—I want it to be a community project. This is something we can work on together in order to create the best site for all of us.

In order for LitRate to have that chance, I have to raise £8,100 to pay for that book data for the first year. Hopefully we can meet this goal and then work together to make LitRate something AWESOME!

If you’re not happy with your current choice of book cataloging site, or if you’re looking for something new, or even if you’re just feeling generous, please consider checking our our Kickstarter campaign. With your help, we might be able to raise the money and get this project off the ground!


So, readers, are you convinced that LitRate could be the next big thing? Our new bookish online home, if you will? What do you think about this project: comments, concerns, questions, ideas?

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19 responses to “Guest Post: LitRate – Creating My First Bookish Business Plan

  1. I plan on posting info on this on my blog, and I already shared it on facebook. I am intrigued, to say the least, and hope to donate to it soon. I hope it has an update feature similar to the facebook feed. That is one thing I wish GoodReads had… Sometimes I want to comment on a book I am reading, or post updates on them or ask questions about recommendations, and other than reviews and comments and groups, there are no other options on GoodReads that I am aware of. I consider myself an early adopter so I’d love to be in on the beta. As a librarian, I am always looking for the latest and greatest. I have a lifetime account on Librarything but switched to GR because of the better social aspect, so I am now going to have high hopes for LitRate!

    • Yes, do spread the word! 😀

      Goodreads does let you post general status updates and updates on the books you’re reading. But I don’t really use either of those features. Hopefully LitRate will have something similar that’s more convenient to use.

    • Yes we do plan on having a general update feature! If you check out bookblogging.net, the social aspect may draw inspiration from there. 🙂 Obviously LitRate will have more book related stuff, but that gives you an idea for the more general social stuff.

      • That’s great! I much prefer how you have things set up on BookBlogging than on GR. Theirs is just so tiny and hidden away, so I always forget it’s there!

  2. This is the part that makes me want to cry. Why do things have to be about money? It sucks that you have to have a business plan, but I’m glad you do, since that’s the only way to make site like this sustainable. Oh well, we’ll just have to find the money 😉

    • Money is the root of all evil! But the business plan definitely shows that Ashley is serious about doing this right, rather than cheap and easy. I think it’ll be better in the long run, even if she does need to keep raising that ungodly amount of money.

    • Ugh I know!! I hate it!

      My husband and I looked at all the free options VERY thoroughly but I knew that if we went with those, we’d have a sub-par site. A site like this won’t be successful if we can’t show the information on mobiles (Amazon API). A site like this would look unprofessional if we had to have Google branding everywhere and can’t even store the data (Google Books API). And it would just be crap if it was riddled with spam/fake entries (Open Library).

      The free options do exist, but they wouldn’t even give us a tiny chance against Goodreads. Heck, even I wouldn’t want to use my own site if it had those limitations!

      If we’re going to do this, we do want it to be the best we can make it, which sadly means paying a lot of money. 🙁 Grrr.

      • In the long run, the investment is going to be totally worth it though!

        Although if you did have to go the free route, you could have always implemented a librarian system like GR has. I’m constantly adding and editing book data, and wouldn’t have minded doing it at LitRate too. 🙂

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