February 18, 2012

Interview with Kindlegraph Founder Evan Jacobs

The Kindlegraph Widget.
[Readers - want an autograph for your Kindle books? Click the white Kindlegraph link on the right side of this blog to see how to get one.]
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Evan, before I begin, I want to thank you for creating Kindlegraph.com It's a great concept and a wonderful way to connect authors and readers. I know you'll be changing the format of this venture, and hope you'll be able to tell us a bit about that.

Let's start by talking about Kindlegraph. How does the program work?

Kindlegraph enables readers to receive digital inscriptions from their favorite authors. Yes, authors can sign your e-books! An author can get started using Kindlegraph by first "claiming" her books that are listed on Amazon. Then, readers can request a Kindlegraph from any author and simply enter where they'd like their Kindlegraphs to be delivered (i.e., either directly to a Kindle device or via email).

How did you come up with the idea for Kindlegraph?

The idea for Kindlegraph occurred to me while I was at an author reading. After the author finished talking about his book, it was time for everyone to come up and have their book signed. I felt really awkward since I had the author's book on my Kindle and therefore didn't have anything for the author to sign. I ended up just leaving instead of meeting the author.
Evan Jacobs and a Kindlegraph
I built the first version of Kindlegraph during a two-day software development contest. These events are sometimes called "hackathons" from the term "hack" which means to build something quickly by leveraging open-source software (note: this is the exact opposite of the malicious activity portrayed in the media when they use the term "hacker").

What advice would you give authors for making the most of Kindlegraph?

I tell authors to really let their Kindlegraphs reflect their personalities. My favorite Kindlegraphs are those where the author has taken time to write a personal message or draw a little doodle next to her signature.

Now, please tell readers (all authors are readers) how to get the most out of this service.

Currently Kindlegraph is optimized for readers to connect with authors whom they are already familiar. That is, most readers learn about Kindlegraph via a link from an author they already follow on Twitter or Facebook. These readers have the opportunity to leave a short message for an author when requesting a Kindlegraph.
Soon, however, Kindlegraph will become a better place for readers to discover new authors. I have several really exciting ideas for this and I'm looking forward to revealing these new features in the near future.

What is your background as it pertains to software and books?

I'm a software developer by profession and before I embarked on this entrepreneurial adventure I spent most of my career at Amazon.com. I worked on several different teams during my 10 years there although strangely enough I never worked on the Books or Kindle teams.

When you decided to create your own company, what were some of your reasons for doing so?

I loved working at Amazon. There are so many very smart people there and I was able to work on really challenging problems. However, I also had ideas of my own that I was never able to pursue inside of a large company. Once I left Amazon I spent about six months experimenting with different ideas in a range of different domains before I came across the idea for Kindlegraph.

What other types of tools do you hope to create?

As more readers have access to more books by more authors I think that it becomes increasingly important to help these readers discover the works that they'll most enjoy. I think it's also still too difficult for authors to promote their books and I'd like to help with this as well.

What advice would you give authors for using Amazon's sales ranking tools?   

The best way to think about Amazon's sales rank is simply as a baseline. In other words, sales rank can be a measurement of an author's "success" but you can't improve your sales rank by obsessing about your sales rank. The only real way to improve sales is (like everything else in life) through persistence and hard work.
Also, be careful of anyone who claims to be able to boost your sales rank overnight through some expensive scheme.

What are some of your goals for 2012?

Currently, I rely on income from my consulting work in order to bootstrap Kindlegraph. My main goal for 2012 is to be in a position where I can devote 100% of my time to Kindlegraph.

List two authors we might find you reading.

Evan Jacobs
I enjoy a wide range of genres but I'm currently reading mostly science fiction and biographies. My two favorite authors right now are Neal Stephenson and Matt Ruff. I'm particularly excited to read Mr. Ruff's new book "The Mirage."

Do you ever plan to join the ranks of published authors? If so, what would you like to write?

Great question! Yes, I'd love to become a published author at some point. I currently write about technical and entrepreneurial topics on my blog and perhaps I'll pull these posts together into some sort of collection which I'll publish. I'd also keen to gain first-hand experience in all of the various tools and publishing platforms that authors are currently using.

What is the future of technology and writing? Should authors be scared or excited about the future?

Authors have always embraced technology since advancements in technology have allowed authors to make their work available to more people. As more books become available to more people, some authors start to worry about "information overload." In other words, when readers have instant access to every book ever written, how can authors stand out and get noticed? I think this is actually a good problem to have and it will be the challenge of the next several years. I'm excited to be able to help authors solve this problem.

If money were not an object, where would you most like to live?

I'd love to live on the Italian Riviera.

What song would best describe your life?

"I'm That Man" by West Valley Highway

If you were a tool, what would people use you to do?

I'd probably be some sort of descrambler that would help people make sense of something that was otherwise a mixed-up jumble.
Fill in the Blanks
I love pizza with my kids.
I'm always ready for new challenges.
When I'm alone, I like to read, write, or program.
You'd never be able to tell, but I'm actually quite introverted.
If I had a halo it would be in need of some polishing.
If I could stop time I'd catch up on my reading backlog.
I can never give up because it's not in my nature.
Find Me Here
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Added 2/17/12: Evan has created a Kindlegraph widget that authors will be able to upload to their blogs or websites. Mine is shown at the top of this article. For more info, keep watching the Kindlegraph website. Other features to help authors promote are on their way.


  1. I'm pleased to have you here today, Evan. Love my new widget!

  2. Thanks Evan, and RLF for hosting you! I signed up for Kindlegraph quite awhile ago, & used it once. My question is technical--I tried to make a signature using my mouse (I don't have a touch screen)--and of course it never looked good. Then I touched something & the illegible scrawl finalized! Could you explain the technique of making a signature? Thanks, M. S. Spencer (author of 4 books with 2 on the way).

  3. Oh, good question! Is there a way to make an autograph that we could upload?

  4. Hi M.S.,

    I know that the signing with a mouse can be tricky but most authors get better results with a little bit of practice. It is important that the signature is input in this way (and not via a scanned image) because it provides the most flexibility for outputting in different formats depending on the reader's device.


    P.S. I'm constantly looking for ways to make the signing process easier for authors while also producing a better looking result for readers. One example is a "preview" tool which would allow authors to see exactly how the Kindlegraph would appear before they send it to the reader.

  5. Thanks, Evan. I know you have some good things planned, and appreciate you taking time to stop by and comment.


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