New Booky Call smartphone app connects readers with books

A new smartphone app that recommends books based on reader preferences offers both book publishers and self-published authors an innovative way to reach their target audience — and sell them books.

The Booky Call smartphone app, available for both iOS and Android users, mimics the look, feel, and function of a dating app, with users swiping right or left to indicate interest.

That’s more than a gimmick, though. It reflects both dating app user and reader demographics, reports Brant Menswar, CEO of Booky Call.

“When we looked at a cross-section of dating app users, and then looked at the fastest growing segment of readers, we saw that it’s pretty similar – 18- to 29-year-olds,” he says.

How the Booky Call smartphone app works

Regardless of age (and familiarity with dating apps), all book lovers can download the app, create a free account, and set their preferences for fiction and nonfiction.

Booky Call smartphone app 3
My fiction preferences — readers also set nonfiction preferences if desired

The app offers recommendations; book descriptions presented to users aren’t from back covers, though. A writing staff of 14 replaces them with “dating” profiles that reflect Booky Call’s match-making theme. “Who should swipe right on me?” asks the description for the popular thriller, The Guest List by Lucy Foley. “I love going to weddings, and this one is going to be quite the drama,” it begins.

Booky Call smartphone app 2
Screenshot from part of the description for “The Guest List”

In addition to swiping through recommendations, app users can search by keyword or author name.

When there’s a match, readers can buy the book from three retail partners in print, digital, and audio formats.

The active, current database includes 5,000 titles. After six months, books roll over to the archive, where they’re still available via search, but not actively recommended to users.

Potential for self-published authors

Booky Call smartphone app 3Books available on the app represent all publishing models, including self-publishing.

“We wanted to open this up to self-published authors to help them reach a targeted audience,” says Menswar, who adds that both he and co-founder Jim Knight have self-published and worked with a hybrid publisher. It’s an off-shoot of an affordable book promotion business they developed after Menswar didn’t get the results expected from a pricey book publicist.

“Amazon uploads more books in a day than we could have in our library. That means there’s a better chance your book will be matched to a reader on Booky Call,” he says.

On the traditional publishing side, the focus is on backlist books.

“The average author sold only 200 copies last year, which means that publishers have warehouses with thousands of books that didn’t sell. We’re saying to publishers, ‘Here’s a chance for us to put these books in front of people asking for them in a completely innovative way,’ ” Menswar says.

Good books only, please

Established publishers can place a limited number of books in the database at no charge; they pay the same fee as self-published authors after that. A $250 fee places each book in the current library for six months and in the archive for another six. Keep the book in the archive after that for $50 per year.

A new smartphone app that recommends books based on reader preferences offers both book publishers and self-published authors an innovative way to reach their target audience -- and sell them books.Click to tweet

Menswar cautions authors that self-published books need to look and read like traditionally published books, starting with professional editing. “This is step one for us – a professional editor, not your aunt who reads a lot,” he says.

In addition, because people still like to read print copies, books must be available in print format (print on demand counts). “We want to hold a book in our hands, dogear those corners, feel it, and smell it,” says Menswar.

How to get your book listed

Think your book meets quality standards? To be considered, complete the short questionnaire on the app’s website. If interested, editors will request a PDF copy for review.

When a book’s accepted, the author or publisher can take advantage of additional paid promotional opportunities beyond the $250 listing fee. They include Book of the Day, which displays the book to all users when they log in, and a feature on the companion Booky Call smartphone app podcast. Future plans include a “speed dating” event for books and readers in independent bookstores.

“Our goal is to create a community around books,” says Menswar.

Giving authors and publishers an affordable way to reach readers is a good start.

What do you think about this new way to help readers discover books they’ll love? Will you try the app as a reader? Please tell us in a comment!

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    1. I get it, Daria. Any amount of money would be considered steep for many indie authors. Those who have invested in a top quality book by paying for a professional cover design plus editing and proofreading, though, will most likely consider this fee quite reasonable.

      It’s also worth noting that developing and promoting a high-quality app like this takes A LOT of money. The creators need to recoup their investment and earn a profit. Otherwise, what’s the point?


  1. $250 is not cheap. If it’s good value – and the book gets a good blast for the money, fab. But the actual cash is quite a lot extra to find on top of the production costs for an indy.
    But if it’s as good value as you suggest, it’s well worth looking into further. Thanks!

    1. Thanks, Arabella. This kind of opportunity is best suited to authors who view authorship as a business and invest accordingly. Not everyone can, or wants to, do this, of course.


  2. The cost is not a problem, even for indies. The potential return, however, is.

    You note a database of 5000 books, and that ‘Established publishers can place a limited number of books in the database at no charge.’

    This looks easy for traditional publishers which will occupy as many slots as allowed for no charge.

    What doesn’t seem to be mentioned is how many people have downloaded the app, and data on their preferences, such as how often they buy from the app.

    If accepted (and having already paid for that listing), you will then be offered MORE opportunities to pay for other advantages.

    The advantage I would see is that you are not required to discount your book (practically forced for, say, Bookbub) to be accepted (though I haven’t seen the other details yet).

    I balked at two places: checking a category – Contemporary Fiction is a little broad; and providing a phone number (which I associate with unwanted phone calls and should be requested AFTER acceptance, if at all). A paper trail via email is always preferable.

    I can’t see several of my demographics – older men, women who normally buy only from traditional publishers but read the kind of books I write – using an app.

    Interesting – but I’ll wait (and probably miss the opportunity to get in on the ground floor). I’m a little gun shy from previous opportunities.

    1. A couple of thoughts, Alicia….

      The app just launched last week, so it’s too soon to share download numbers and dollar value of books purchased. Both will grow over time, particularly as the owners spend on marketing (because just like with authors, you have to spend money to make money).

      You don’t pay for a listing until you’re accepted.

      And really, many books won’t be accepted — including those just released by the big publishers, since the focus with traditional publishing is on backlist books, not new releases.

      Editors making the selection will need to get balance — not too many memoirs that will crowd out the self-help books, a good mix of essay collections and thrillers, for example. But ya know, if your book meets the parameters in my article, it only takes a few minutes to fill out the form so it gets considered. If I wrote the right kinds of books for this, I wouldn’t hesitate to apply. (But I don’t!)

      Thanks for weighing in!


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