Lisa Papademetriou knows a thing or two about writing.
Having written and published over 70 books, including two that landed on the New York Times bestseller list, when someone of her pedigree in the writing business says the business of writing can use an overhaul, people are bound to listen.
“I was in editorial with Harper Collins, Disney Press and Scholastic. I was a story editor, and I worked with writers to improve their work,” she explains. “I became very adept at understanding how stories function and how writers can quickly see if a story is going to work. Story structure is kind of my thing.”
Papademetriou was teaching her “thing” to students in a master’s of fine arts degree in writing program at Sierra Nevada College when an observation turned into inspiration for her new startup, Bookflow.
“What I noticed is that a lot of them were reading books on how to be better writers. I was like, ‘I wish I could be with them when they were actually doing the writing.’ They would grind their gears. They would read a book and try to do all 100 tips. I wished I could come up with a process,” she says. “I told some people I wanted to write a book on writing, but none of the books on writing are helpful.”
Her husband, technologist Ali Usman, with whom she co-founded Click Workspace in Northampton, Mass. 2011, had a suggestion, “How about an app?”
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“I was like, ‘That’s a great idea!’ It will accomplish everything that I am trying to accomplish,” Papademetriou says.
“Because I am a writer, it wasn’t that hard to find people who were willing to try it out,” she adds. “The minute we had a very basic version of the app – I am a member of a small listserve for writers – and asked if people were willing to try it out, a bunch of people hopped on it right away.”
Bookflow helps users build storytelling skills, practice effective writing habits and increase productivity by allowing users to capture, retrieve and organize their ideas.
For a woman who compares writing to running, goal-setting and motivation had to be an integral part of the platform. “Sure, anyone can (write), but if you want to get better you have to commit to doing it regularly,” Papademetriou explains.
Bookflow gives users the ability to set goals like how many words they want to write or when they want to finish. They can utilize writing prompts and reflection questions and track their progress and productivity. Users can also easily rearrange scenes or chapters with a drag and drop tool and export their work at any time.
Papademetriou says everything is stored on the cloud, and the system is constantly saving as you work. “There’s no concern that it’s not getting updated. You can download it anytime you want,” she says.
Bookflow is offering a 45-day free trial. “If you write on it and decide you don’t want to continue, you can still download any material you’ve put on there even after the trial is over,” she says.
After successful beta testing, Bookflow is now in iteration 1.0. While the mobile application still has limited functionality, all of its features can be accessed on the desktop version at bookflow.pub. The platform currently has 850 users, the majority falling within the 25 to 35 age demographic.
Bookflow’s first go-to-market customer is writers, both professional and hobbyists. Papademetriou has identified several other markets for the platform, including blogging and journaling.
For now, she’s focusing on the next chapter in Bookflow’s story – fundraising. “It’s so very chicken and egg, it’s fascinating,” Papademetriou says, noting the age-old battle many entrepreneurs face – founders need funding to get to the next level, yet need to get to the next level in order to attract funding.
Last year, she joined forces with Launch413, a firm headed by Paul Silva and Rick Plaut, that helps startups become scalable but instead of taking an equity stake, shares in future revenue.
“We’ve got our first paying customers. That’s a huge milestone for us. We’ve also met a lot of product development milestones,” she says. “Right now I’m focused on the cost of acquisition milestones. It’s all about establishing the lifetime value of the customer. How long do they stay on the site? Trying to up engagement. We’re really focused on getting the cost of user acquisition as low as possible. Testing our messaging on Google ads and seeing what has the best conversion rate.”
If she’s able to grow Bookflow successfully, she has the potential to leave quite an imprint on the publishing world on both sides of the coin as an author and entrepreneur.
“I’d like for my legacy to be that of a guide. Studies have revealed that writing can lead to both mental and physical health benefits similar to those of meditation. The thought and observation required to write anything – a journal, an essay, a novel, a memoir, or anything else – changes us, hopefully pushing us toward deeper understanding. I’d love to be someone who helped everyone see the importance of sitting with ideas, shaping them, and sharing them,” Papademetriou adds.
This article originally appeared at Masslive.