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Friday, December 4, 2015

Friday Rewind: The Resurgence of Quality

Dear Readers, Writers, and Precious Patrons,

Today on All Authors Friday Rewind we bring you The Resurgence of Quality, an interview with the creator behind Koobug from Issue 3 of All Authors Magazine.

The Resurgence of Quality

During an interview with a fellow author, I was told about a site called Koobug.  His suggestion lingered long after our interview time had concluded, so I took it upon myself to visit the website.  There was a simplistic beauty in presentation with a candor of quality and enthusiastic participation that made me want to know more about this treasure.  To my delight, I was granted the opportunity to talk with the creative minds behind Koobug to get their take on why it is a welcomed wind of change in an environment saturated with practices that dilute the writer and reader experiences.

1.  Where did the name Koobug originate?

We wanted to choose a name for Koobug that didn't have an obvious sound association to anything else because we wanted Koobug to have its own identity. That was the starting point. For various reasons we couldn’t use our original idea and that concept evolved into Koobug.

2. Tell us about the creative forces behind Koobug.  What factors played a role in your deciding to establish this website?

The idea behind Koobug came from writers. The Koobug team are all writers, some published through traditional means, others self-published and some still writing their first books. We wanted to build a site that would genuinely provide support for authors in the areas that they need it. The modern world of writing means that anyone can write and self-publish. Two key difficulties for the self-published, that have yet to be resolved properly, are the problems people have in getting their writing seen – most authors lack the marketing budget that traditional publishers would spend for them, and there is also no 'quality control' over what is good and what is not. It is that lack of quality control that puts many people off buying 'indie' books. We wanted Koobug to put everyone on the same footing when their books start on the site – leveling the playing field. Central to the site is the ability for good books to be identified and be seen, so that readers that come to can find books that have been supported and recommended by others.

It is our clear intent to open a bookstore here on Koobug where authors can market and sell their creations. Other commercial developments will follow. Koobug will endeavor to give the author a much greater degree of financial control by asking for a fairer balance between our commission and the royalties received. One of our Koobloggers recently described it as a “Fairtrade principle”. In the UK this is where a commercial organization deals with third world farmers and companies on an equitable basis. They give the third world a fairer and more respectful deal, whilst still making a profit. The element of greed is banished.

3. The look of the Koobug site is clean, yet simplistic.  The black and white reminds me of typewritten letters against a sheet of paper-with the red being utilized for emphasis.  Was this theme chosen on purpose, and if so, why?

You have it. We wanted clean and simple. We wanted to show off the books and to let their authors be discovered by readers.

4. Do you ever get pressure to implement other elements to Koobug, such as a “blog editor,” “storage capability for pictures of book covers”, or “Koobug messenger”?  How do you respond to people who want these features, and will they be part of Koobug in the future?

We have had requests for all sorts of additions to the site. We love to hear from users, because we have built the site for authors and readers to use and we want to hear from you. We want authors and readers alike to appreciate that Koobug is receptive to creative and constructive ideas. However, we are a small team that are not backed by big investors, and our priority at the moment is to build in the key features that we think are essential to the site. Once those are in place we will keep looking to improve Underlying all changes will be our constant effort to find better ways for good writing to be discovered.

We see ourselves as the next stage in the evolution of the independent bookstore. It is important to us to foster a community based upon talent and integrity. We do not possess vast resources and the success of Koobug is directly proportionate to the support we receive.

5. How did Koobug come up with the concept of multiple classifications for books?  How does it differ from what other sites are offering?

The idea behind our classification/search system is to allow authors to have a far wider discretion in how they choose to portray their work. One of the great things about the new literary world is that people are able to write niche books that are available on a global market. We want that to be reflected in our site and the way that people find books on our site. We also want it to be easy for readers to use, so that they can discover books that they find interesting, in a more intuitive way. We are sure that we will need to put a lot more effort into getting this right, but we see it as a central part of the site.

6. Tell us about the development of the Koobug book reader apps and software.  How will it be more beneficial than the other apps and software currently available to authors?

This is something that we devote a lot of time to within the team. Our ambition is to do something quite strikingly different, which rapidly engages readers from around the world with the creative content on the site. We are working on this “as we speak”, but we will not launch anything until it meets our standards, and so we are keeping it under wraps at the moment... we are all pretty excited by the idea though, and we think that the regular contributors to the site will love it too.

7. I have enjoyed the reviews and interviews you have done for Beem Week’s Jazz Baby and Sarah Michelle Lynch’s A Fine Profession.   Can we anticipate seeing more interviews and reviews?  If so, how often and what is the criteria in regards of how you select people to review and interview?

Reviews and Interviews are an important part of Koobug. We really enjoy interviewing authors, and yes, there will be more of them. It will become a regular feature of the site. Indeed our next interview of the indie author LK Jay will be going live very soon. We spent a lot of time “reviewing” interviews on other sites. They left us unimpressed and underwhelmed. It was clear to us that if we adopted this concept we wanted to make our interviews stand out. They needed to have the tone and quality of a premiere publication. Our first principle was integrity. We don’t create interviews at the request of others, or in exchange for anything. That having been said they are to promote Koobug writers.  We select people that we have noticed on the site and whom we think will be interesting to interview. This is best demonstrated by the Kooblogs. We read them all (I wonder if other sites do the same? ). We are forming a relationship with each of our contributors individually and collectively. Our creative director crafts the interviews and tailors them to the specific subject.. We read examples of the authors' work and take time to understand the world of the particular author we feature. Koobug takes a lot of care in the process because we want our interviews to gain respect and value. They have been well received. We hope more and more people will read them and enjoy them.

8. Why does Koobug opt not to use stars as part of the rating process?

Koobug was not created in the image of other sites. The 5 star system is an illusion. It is open to manipulation and lacks credibility. These facts are widely known. At the heart of Koobug is the idea that we want people to be positive. The creative process should reflect that. We have a system where you can vote for a book that you like, those that get the most votes become a 'top Koobug book' and are profiled on the front page. No payment, no putting other people down to stand out – just good books being supported by people who read them, and then being seen. We think it works.

9. Describe what a reader’s experience will be like upon entering the Koobug website.

We hope that readers will discover a wealth of interesting and good books that they might not have seen on Amazon or in their high street bookstore.  As we've already said we want visiting our site to be like a visit into a good independent bookstore – the sort that are becoming increasingly hard to find in the high street both in the UK and the US. We also want to let readers engage with the authors, through blogging and commenting on books. offers any good writer the chance to meet with their audience and vice-versa. This is not unique to Koobug, but what distinguishes Koobug from the rest is the sense of community or family that we have engendered with those who have joined us.

The Kooblog is at the heart of our site. Anyone who has charted the explosion in its popularity and influence will appreciate that is a site on the move, and a site that listens to its contributors. We can’t respond to every individual whim or idea, but the site is about enjoyment and enrichment.

Koobug is not prescriptive, we encourage and promote poetry and short stories and they will feature prominently in future developments. We see no reason why writers with scripts for film or TV  shouldn’t also see value in the opportunities offered by Koobug.

Above all we want everyone to have fun and fulfillment out of this site.

10. Koobug has a very strong UK following.  What would you say to authors from other places, particular the United States, as to why it would benefit them to have Koobug as part of their networking arsenal?

We are a British company and proud of that fact, but Koobug is a site designed for the whole of the English speaking world.. Naturally have a strong UK following, and we are situated in the UK in the beautiful city of Bath. We hope to very soon be the biggest online literary site based in the UK (if we aren't already). However you should know that we have a VERY large following in the US. We know that US authors have used Koobug to break into the UK market. Michigan author, Beem Weeks, is a good example. He is quoted as saying that due to Koobug, his UK book sales of Jazz Baby now exceed those of his in the USA. Beem was our inaugural interview.

One of our team has very strong family and social ties to the US and two of our team regularly visits both the Midwest, Southwest and West Coast of the USA. We want to have a REAL presence in the US. Koobug gives American Indie authors access to a British audience. Yet Koobug does more still. The American writer can gain a real understanding of the British literary arena, the American reader can have access to the undiscovered talent of the land that brought you Shakespeare, Jane Austen, Charles Dickens, John le Carre ……oh and JK Rowling (to name but a few). Before too long, we believe Koobug will allow the world to discover such a gem.

11. Some of the authors who are a part of the Koobug family have expressed their disdain at others sites-particularly Goodreads.  How does Koobug feel about Goodreads as a whole, and how will an author’s experience be different upon his/her arrival at Koobug?

Koobug has set out its principles upon our website and they are there for everyone to read. Upon the understanding that contributors respect those principles we don’t censure or edit the views of our Koobloggers. We like to think that Koobug is a very constructive community. As your question says, people that visit it often refer to it as a family.  Goodreads is a Goliath and we aren’t in competition with them.  We offer a very real alternative. We don’t have their resources, but it is never a healthy situation to have any sphere of life dominated by one entity. What we want is for Koobug to be THE site of choice, not an afterthought. We know that many of our contributors also appear on other sites. and Goodreads is just one of them. As a matter of comment ,why not compare the responses they get on Goodreads and the responses they get for the same blog on Koobug?. These differences cannot be explained by the fact Goodreads is so big; rather they demonstrate the health and value of Koobug as the authors and readers site of choice. We don't want to attack other sites, but we would say that we are genuinely trying to be different. Our focus is on good writing – encouraging it and providing a place to show it off. Everything else will follow that.

12. What’s next for Koobug in the upcoming months and beyond?

The site recently celebrated its first birthday. We are proud that in that year we have already seen a former “top Koobug book” chosen as a “top 30 indie book” by a national UK newspaper. We are aware that publishers have been showing a positive interest in another 'top Koobug author”, whilst a former “top book” is being considered by a film production company. Koobug has many authors using the site to expand their market in different parts of the world. Now that we have established some very good content on the site, our main emphasis for the next year (apart from technical improvements to the site) is to tell the world about us, and the writers that are on this journey with us. In this regard we want the literary world to be talking about us. The more people who know about us the more readers we can introduce to our authors. We don’t have a large corporate marketing budget. What we have is passion, enthusiasm, commitment and professionalism. “write to be read”.

Thank you for the time and enthusiasm you have shown to us. Whatever the Politicians may say, long live the Special Relationship!

Cheers to that!  Thanks to Brendon Moorehouse (CEO), Simon “Hairy” Forrester, (Techincal Director and Writer)  and Ian Fenney (Creative Director) for this interview.  Koobug definitely has the ingredients to remain a formidable wind of change for writers and readers, not just for the present but well into the future!