rĀthe was founded by a technology entrepreneur who, after a life-changing event that spanned many years, decided to chase her lifelong dream of becoming a mystery novelist, writing under the pen name Emily Maxx. In 2015 this as-yet-to-be-published mystery author (look for her soon on rĀthe) set off on her task in a businesslike manner. She hired a writing coach, joined the Writers’ League of Texas, and began taking classes and regular workshops. It was not long before she asked herself, “Why am I not seeing more financial success?”
The answer to that internal question was slow in coming, but the roadblocks to getting that success were evident. Self-published authors were left to fend for themselves, seemingly intentionally leveraged out in one way or another at every turn. Reviews, retail outlets, and access to metadata were reserved exclusively for those chosen few with a publishing contract.
The four years she spent immersed in chasing her dream had revealed three issues: distribution, packaging, and marketing. These were the challenges she would need to surmount.
Inspiration came in the summer of 2018 at dusk while driving on the Oklahoma interstate. She saw the inside of passing vehicles lit up with cell phone screens, one after another. Aha! That was the first piece of the puzzle: distribution.
During a class in September, less than a month back from her trip to the plains, she finally learned the answer to her original question. The answer was 80 percent! The publisher generally takes 80 percent of the net profits of any traditionally published book!
As a business person, she found this was not only shocking but unacceptable, especially after learning of all the impediments to publishing (intentional or not). That day, at the Highland Mall on the Austin Community College campus, the concept for rĀthe was born.
Emily also wanted to share her love of reading because of the impact it had had on her own life. As a child of tragic circumstance, Emily found that reading had taken her away from her heartbreaking reality to a different one and taught her to dream. Her personal history inspired and drove the packaging concept of rĀthe. To her, the concept of episode reading is like Go-Gurt for the mind: make it fit into readers’ hands so people can consume it on the go. In her research, she found glaring data pointing to a real demand for something for people to do with micro-leisure time. The market demanded small portions. That was the second piece of the puzzle: packaging. If she could figure this out, maybe that other lifelong dream of sharing her love of reading would become a reality. A mobile app would handle both packaging and distribution. What was being done in packaging was changing the format (i.e., Audible, eReaders changed print to another format). The research showed that wasn’t doing anything to drive change in the marketing of words or content. No, the amount or size had to be addressed.
Now there was the marketing piece. Emily had attended many classes and conferences with writers of all types over those four years. Some had publishing contracts, but many more were in various stages of writing their first books, just like her. Others had self-published books in the trunks of their cars, in their bedrooms, or digital editions with online retailers. All seemed focused on only the sentence structure and prose of publishing. When the conversation turned to the business side, there were two choices: solicit agents and publishers to get a publishing contract, or self-publish and put it on the biggest online retailer. She dug deeper as she talked with writers who had done both. Neither side had the financial success that she though should be associated with the years that had gone into their work. The former because of that “80 percent thing” and the latter she would have to learn more about.
The answer quickly became clear: there is no marketing. The giant online retailer is performing a different function altogether. They provide space to publish, package your content in different media, ship, and report what has been done. That is what an order fulfillment broker does, after marketing and sales have been done.
There it was, the final piece of the puzzle. Marketing. Authors of every type, including her, needed tools to market their stories. rĀthe was born, and its mission became clear.
Authors can load their content and manage and control their messaging and branding through one dashboard, and the app will market and distribute their words to masses of smartphone users.
If it worked, she and other authors like her could have the opportunity for the financial success they deserve for their hard work.
When it came to brainstorming a name for the idea, all the common associations had business implications that wouldn’t work. Iterations of look or peek, small, bit, or byte were all taken in other industries. In searching for an appropriate name that reflected the nature of the idea, Emily found the word rathe in a book titled The Big Book of Words You Should Know to Sound Smart: A Guide for Aspiring Intellectuals by Robert W. Bly. According to that book, rĀthe is defined as quick or prompt. Upon further research, Emily discovered it is also defined as eager, at the ready, and early in the blooming cycle for a flower or plant. Since nothing like this exists—we are both. It is fitting that our name came from a book.