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Figment writing community acquired by Random House

October 29, 2013|By Carolyn Kellogg
  • A screenshot of the Figment website, which has been acquired by Random House.
A screenshot of the Figment website, which has been acquired by Random House. (Figment )

The online writing community Figment has been acquired by Random House Children's Books, the company announced on its website Tuesday. Founded in 2010 by Dana Goodyear and Jacob Lewis, Figment is an online writing community aimed at teens.

"Figment is a user-generated platform. It's essential that our users feel a sense of ownership," Lewis told to The Times' David Ulin in 2012. That year, the site was awarded the L.A. Times Book Prizes' Innovators Award for its forward-thinking engagement of young readers and writers. As of 2012, 45% of Figment's users had posted their own writing, while more than 55% had commented on a story or in a group.

Neither of the founders is a typical tech entrepreneur. Lewis is a former editor at the New Yorker and now on staff at Random House; Goodyear is a poet and New Yorker staff writer whose next book, "Anything That Moves: Renegade Chefs, Fearless Eaters, and the Making of a New American Food Culture" will be published in November. Now they're both leaving Figment behind.

Goodyear was inspired to launch the site after a trip to Japan, during which she became fascinated with cellphone novels being written mostly by young women for young women. Figment was an idea of how those ideas of collaboration and sharing might play out with American teens; in Canada, Wattpadd is another popular young writers platform.

What would Random House Children's Books want with such a site? First, it allows the publisher to engage directly with readers, something publishing houses have typically left to booksellers. Barbara Marcus, president and publisher, Random House Children’s Books, told Publishers Weekly. “The team who founded Figment created a dynamic community that we will continue to grow and expand, and we are so pleased for the opportunity to continue the conversations with this audience of teens that love young adult books.”

Second,  it gives publishers a connection to the content, a way to reach into the vast sea of amateur writers and find the stories that are bobbing to the surface. Penguin, which merged with Random House earlier this year, has a similar adult, genre-focused site, Book Country. Both create, in effect, farm teams of writers that can be pulled up to the big leagues when they're ready -- without the intercession of an agent, perhaps, another disruption of the classic publishing business model. Although, with Figment's acquisition by Random House, it may show that having a community-writing  website may be the new normal.


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