Two New Companies in Austin, Texas are Starting a Revolution in the Book Publishing World

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Reader Views and Back of the Room, two Austin-based companies, have formed an alliance to provide greater reach to self-published authors and small presses. Through their joint efforts, every product on Back of the Room will receive independent reviews, and Reader Views will gain greater visibility.

Austin, Texas is starting a revolution in the book publishing world.

Two new companies have formed in Austin, Texas with the intent of changing the way that new authors approach publishing. Reader Views (, founded and led by Irene Watson, provides independent book review services to authors and publishers. Back of the Room (, co-founded by Steven List and Celeste Stokely, is an online bookstore that only sells self-published and small press works.

These two companies recently came together to create greater benefit for their mutual community by arranging for Reader Views to review all products listed on Back of the Room.

"It just seemed the natural thing to do, in providing greater value to the authors and small publishers who list their products with us," said List. List, with co-founder Stokely, started the business with a focus on professional speakers, many of whom self-publish, and many of whom have developed exceptional products that only reach audiences who are present for a speaking engagement. "We are committed to helping these products reach a wider market, because we believe in the quality and value they bring." The business rapidly expanded out of the speaker market to include a broader market.

That expansion accounts for the connection between Back of the Room and Reader Views. List and Stokely, while exhibiting at the annual Association for Writers and Writing Programs Bookfair, met an Austin-based small publisher. She introduced List to Watson. "That's the nature of this community," says List "working in cooperation as much as competition, all committed to the authors."

Watson, herself a published author, founded Reader Views in response to the challenges she met in obtaining quality independent book reviews. "Having well-written, independent reviews can be a critical element in the marketing and success of any book. If you're working with a larger publisher, they will arrange for reviews. But if you are self-published or working with a smaller publisher, it's much harder."

Watson, having started Reader Views in late 2005 in Austin, had set a goal to find a larger number of books to review. Back of the Room, also having started in late 2005, had set a goal to obtain quality independent reviews for all products listed on Back of the Room. Serendipity brought them together at a time when they each provided what the other was looking for.

"The reviews delivered by Reader Views' reviewers are well written, objective, and honest," says List. "This was exactly what we were looking for. The fact that Irene and Reader Views are based in Austin meant that we could meet, talk about our independent and mutual goals, and quickly reach an agreement."

"Just when I was looking to reach out, get more products to review, and expand our reach, Steven called me out of the blue. It was what I was looking for all in one place," says Watson.

For a relationship that began just weeks ago, it is already beginning to bear fruit. Reviews from Reader Views are beginning to appear on Back of the Room. Credit for all reviews on Back of the Room is given to both Reader Views and the individual reviewers. Since no money changes hands, there is no question about the reviews being independent and honest. This gives the authors and publishers additional resources in their quest to increase visibility and sales.

According to List, "Everybody wins!"


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