Evan Gow is the indie developer of StoryOrigin, a marketing tool / community that authors can use to find reviewers, increase sales, build their mailing lists, and manage their schedules. He will chat about how he started this one-stop author service, how authors can get more book reviews, and what gets him through challenging days.
Q. Hi, Evan. What have you been working on this week?
A.I just deployed an update to StoryOrigin’s Goal Trackers feature not more than 5 minutes ago.
Q. Whoa. Goal Trackers. Tell me more.
A. Goal Trackers are a way to set goals and track progress with StoryOrigin. For example, you can set a goal of hitting 50,000 words on a novel by a certain date.
Then, you can track your word count each day with StoryOrigin and you’ll get a graph showing your progress and the amount you need to write for the remaining days to hit your goal
Q. I had no idea. I would love to use a feature like that. Let’s backtrack for a minute… for the benefit of our readers, can you please tell us a brief description of what StoryOrigin is?
A. Sure! StoryOrigin is a marketing tool / community that authors can use to find reviewers, increase sales, build their mailing lists, and manage their schedules.
Q. And it used to be called something else, correct?
A. Nope. StoryOrigin has always been StoryOrigin.
Q. Glad I double-checked! What is your role in its origin? Did you start this company? And why?
A. I’m the indie developer of StoryOrigin. I started it and anything related to StoryOrigin comes down to me (engineering, design, customer support, etc.).
I used to write short stories back in high school, and then became interested in building my own company in college. I worked for a few years after graduating, and decided to pursue something that combined both of those interests.
I talked with a few authors and realized they had a mess on their hands. They had to use 1 tool each for finding reviewers, building their mailing list, working with other authors, tracking their word count, etc.
So, I decided to build a 1-stop-shop that would allow them to manage everything from a single dashboard.
Q. Nice. I really had no idea your service did all that. So say someone wanted to get their feet wet so to speak, is there a free trial, or do we jump in with a membership fee right off?
A. StoryOrigin is currently in an open beta, meaning anyone can sign up and use all of the features for free currently.
Q. Fantastic. Your mention of reviews reminded me of why I invited you for this Q&A. You recently sent out an email saying you wrote what nearly amounted to a book about getting reviews. Have you thought about putting it out as a book?
A. I’ve definitely thought about it. What I like about it being just a free blog post at this point is that I can edit it anytime without much of a hassle and everyone gets the new & improved version.
That’s the basic principle on which I do almost everything including feature releases on StoryOrigin. I will usually release something with what I consider best-in-class features, but then continue to upgrade it as I get feedback.
Q. Yeah, that makes sense. Here is the post, How to get more reviews for your book, so our readers can refer to it. It is an impressive tutorial. Thank you. What would you say are the three biggest takeaways you hope an author would get from it?
A.There are a lot of little insights in the post that are helpful, but I guess the 3 key things that most authors ought to know are:
1. Vet requests for review copies. Check an applicant’s profiles on Amazon, Goodreads, etc. Make sure they read your genre, and if you’re using StoryOrigin, check the history of their completion rates for review copies
2. You need a large number of review copy requests. Regardless of how well you vet requests, not every person you give a review copy will leave a review. Usually, you’ll only get 40% of those reviews within 4 weeks, even with a highly vetted team.
3. Let it go. If someone doesn’t leave a review, hassling them usually just leads to bad feelings on both sides. With StoryOrigin you know that if they don’t complete a review, it dings their reviewer stats at least, so other authors will be more wary of giving that person a review copy.
Q. Those are great. Personally, your post came to me at a crucial time. I was trying to get reviews on a new book, and your tips were helpful. I use a form where reviewers can “apply” as opposed to just giving away a download link. I’ve given those out before, but not a lot of people carried through with reviews.
How long have you been running StoryOrigin?
A. The initial public launch of StoryOrigin was in April 2018.
At that time, all you could do was use StoryOrigin to create a landing page for your reader magnet and automatically deliver it to the reader. I’ve released all the other features since then.
Q. I don’t know how you keep up with all the technological and publishing changes. Do you ever sleep?
A. Ha! I am indeed a human, but I feel like saying that must make people automatically suspicious. (Here’s where the reader thinks, “Artful way to dodge the question, Evan!” – but yes, I do sleep).
Q. So I am curious about the entrepreneurial side of things. Were you one of those kids who built things in their garage so that they could run a startup company? What helped you get from idea to an actual author service?
And do you hold a different other day job that pays the bills, being that SO is still in beta phase?
A.I definitely had lots of ideas for inventions as a kid, but didn’t really build things. I was fortunate enough to have some well-paying jobs coming out of college, that I could leave to focus on StoryOrigin full-time while I built out all of the features.
I’m lucky to be able to keep it in beta for so long, because I can then just be maniacally focused on building the best platform possible and not having to deal with anything else.
It’s also worth noting that the beta won’t last forever, but authors who join now during the beta will continue to receive free service for several months even after the beta period ends.
Q. Of course, that makes sense. What do you hope to achieve next, Evan? Career or bucket list wise.
A. Completely disrupt the publishing world, I guess?
Q. That sounds like a great plan. Amazon needs some competition. As we wrap up the hour, we’ve come to our last question…what is your personal mantra that keeps you going on the hard days? Because it can’t be very easy to run a 1-stop shop company.
A. Anywhere you go, always leave it better than when you came to it.
Q. I love that! Thanks so much Evan! I appreciate the chat. More power to you, and I will be sure to share links to StoryOrigin so our readers can check it out.
A. Thanks so much inviting me!