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Website Creates Author Community for the Self-Published aims to improve the quality of self-published books and create a community of authors and readers.

By Jennifer Wang

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Book Smarts"It's terrible. The average number of copies sold of any self-published book is less than 50," Chris Howard says. He has been working to change that since 2009, when he conceived Cambridge, Mass.-based website to improve the quality of self-published books and to create a community of readers that could help cultivate a list of digital bestsellers. But when Libboo launched in 2011, it bombed, averaging a measly five new community members and 40 unique check-ins per week. Clearly, Howard needed a better hook.

The Fix
Howard informally quizzed acquaintances and the Libboo community about what drives them to buy books. He found that the vast majority buys titles based on recommendations from either friends or, more important, respected authors. That struck a chord. "We learned that mobilizing authors was the most efficient way to get the word out about our books," he says.

Libboo promptly switched its model from pure content distribution to a content-discovery experience. Authors are invited to publish digital storefronts and have influencers (bloggers, critics, fellow authors) review and promote the digital titles catalogued on the site that best match their sphere of influence, such as adult fiction, thrillers, romance, business or self-improvement. A patent-pending algorithm tracks these influencers' reach within Libboo, as well as on Facebook and Twitter.