Macmillan has bought Pronoun, a self-publishing platform that, originally founded as Vook, was one of the early e-book and multimedia technology producers in the business. Through the deal Pronoun will become a Macmillan company, with the Pronoun brand remaining intact. Pronoun's staff, of about 20, will be retained and relocated to Macmillan's New York City headquarters in the Flatiron Building.
Pronoun CEO Josh Brody will continue to direct the company as president. Ben Zhuk, currently chief product officer, will become v-p, product for Macmillan..
Speaking to the deal, Brody said he has known Macmillan CEO John Sargent and COO Andrew Weber for some time, and respected their decisions around digital publishing. Brody added that Macmillan's senior leadership were “interested in the data we gather at Pronoun and how it could impact the broader Macmillan publishing program. We’ve got new features coming and full commitment from Macmillan to support our growth." Macmillan will also look to find and develop authors from the Pronoun platform.
Pronoun, launched in May 2015 by Brody after a pivot from its beginnings as Vook, has attracted some 10,000 authors to date. Before its relaunch as Pronoun, Vook acquired a number of digital publishing startups incuding Booklr (a data analysis service for e-book sales founded by Brody), Byliner (a literary e-book publisher), and Coliloquy (a choose-your-own-adventure platform using enhanced e-books and apps).
Under Brody and his team, these acquisitions and their technologies were folded into the Pronoun platform, which launched as a new, soup-to-nuts self-publishing venture. Pronoun offered its suite of publishing services to authors at no cost, giving them a 100% royalty on their e-book sales. From the beginning, Brody has positioned Pronoun as an entrepreneurial platform aimed at empowering individual authors with a variety of digital tools and data on e-book sales and the book marketplace.
Brody said that Pronoun’s platform will continue to be offered for free to individual authors and that the service will also continue to "pay royalties on Pronoun’s existing payment schedule.” Pronoun authors will also retain, Brody said, “creative and financial control” of the books they publish through the platform.
However, Brody did note that Pronoun is developing an advanced set of digital tools for authors which will be available to them through a revenue share model. “Authors who want or need more support will be able to join additional paid tiers for a revenue share—or may have the opportunity to transition to a traditional publishing contract,” he said.
Pronoun will continue to be, in Brody's wording, “author-focused and entrepreneurial.” He went on: "We tried to create a company that would be transformational and would serve authors. You reach a point where you know you can’t do it all by yourself, and you need advisors and resources. So it makes sense to be a part of a traditional house.”