A Room Apart – An Interview with Ivory Madison, Founder and CEO of redroom.com

By Katie Sheehan

Ivory

A former management consultant to startups and the Fortune 500, Ivory Madison has finally combined her love of writing with her business acumen. Before launching redroom.com, she founded the Red Room Writers Society in 2002, where she personally helped hundreds of aspiring and professional writers complete their books.



What is your background? Where are you from?

I was born and raised in San Francisco and I am going to skip over my unheralded adventures as a New Orleans restaurateur, feminist activist, high-school drop-out, and editor-in-chief of my law school’s law review. A few years ago, I founded the Red Room Writers Society, and was subsequently named “Best Writing Coach” by San Francisco Magazine. I still take writing coaching clients when I can fit it in—I always learn something new! I’m now CEO of Red Room, and my recent book, Huntress: Year One a Batman-related noir graphic novel from DC Comics, came out earlier this year and is already in its second printing. I live in an 1887 Victorian with my husband and thousands of books.

How many authors are a part of
redroom.com? How many fans? How fast is redroom.com growing?

We have about 2,000 authors, about 25,000 members—made up of editors, journalists, publicists, booksellers, and hard-core readers—and we have had as many as 500,000 visitors to the site in one month. We’re growing. And we keep getting notable authors signing up, too—just this past week, Pulitzer Prize-winner Robert Olen Butler, the legendary John Irving, and local superstar Dave Eggers all joined and we’re helping them get their pages up and ready. You will see varying levels of participation, but we give everyone the VIP treatment, especially if they don’t know how or don’t have time to set up their own page. We’re happy to provide a head start and personalized customer service to any author.

Tell us a little bit about how redroom.com functions as a community.

We wanted to see what would happen if we put all the writers and publishing industry professionals in the same room. These are great people. We found that most were above-par writers so the blogs are the best, and they enjoy expressing themselves, and they enjoy supporting each other. People meet on Red Room and get new agents, new readers, invitations to participate in anthologies, get their questions about publishing answered, and help market each other’s books. People make friends. They just needed a way to find each other.

What are the long-term goals for redroom.com?

To become the most effective and preferred online home for authors. We want to become the global command central for authors to market their work and manage their personal and professional life. We want to create such a user-friendly, high-quality experience that consumer use Red Room as their global search and entertainment portal for finding books and authors, whether they are there to socialize, learn, or shop.

How do you envision the future of the book?

99.5% of global book sales are still print books. While new books will be delivered both in print and digital formats, only a tiny percentage of book buyers are interested in reading books online or with an ereader device. The media makes it sound like the book is dead, but the rumors of its death have been greatly exaggerated. However, I don’t argue with people who believe that ebooks will quickly replace print because my job is to make sure Red Room is ready to promote and sell all formats and delivery methods across all platforms, regardless of what happens. Consumers want choices—for example the choice to purchase from their local independent bookstore—we want to provide that. Authors want to leverage their intellectual property across multiple formats, and they should.

How do you envision the future for authors?

Authors will be empowered by social networking and social media tools in a revolutionary way. The business of marketing and publishing will adapt to the new author-centric world. Authors need to realize it’s not a burden to get online and market yourself, it’s the best thing to happen to authors in the last century, giving them more control and better access to fans and potential fans. I believe readers will continue to be willing to pay for content that they consider a “book.” As far as the writing life, that never changes, really!

What are your hopes and dreams for this community?

Writing and books transform individuals and societies, and we want Red Room to facilitate that happening in a positive way that impacts everyone in the world. For writers, we want Red Room to solve all their problems, to empower them, and to make their dreams come true. For readers, we want Red Room to give them access to their heroes and access to the world of ideas in a way that changes their lives and makes the world a better place.

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