Personalized books are not new – however, a platform that provides uncomplicated market access for the creative minds behind the stories and at the same time offers the customizable books to end customers certainly is. Appropriately named TwoWorlds, the new marketplace for personalized books enables just that. Beyondprint took a closer look at the British startup’s offering and spoke with founder and CEO Andrei Andreescu.
The approach is exciting. With its marketplace concept, the young company appeals equally to two target groups: Designers and creatives of all kinds who are looking for an easy way to bring their ideas to the market and thus to the customer without the classic, often lengthy publishing procedure. And on the other side, end consumers who (at least in the medium to long term) want to draw from a wide selection of very different stories and book designs.
Publishing offer was not a good option
The idea for TwoWorlds originated back in 2018, when Andrei Andreescu had the idea for a personalized book for multicultural children. “I worked with an author and an illustrator to bring the product to life, and then presented it to Wonderbly, a London-based publisher of personalized books. I was hoping to partner with them and sell the book through their website,” Andreescu recalls. “They liked the book, but the offer was similar to that of a traditional publisher: I was to receive 10% of the profits. That didn’t seem fair to me, so the idea was born: what if there was a way for me and all the other creatives out there to create and sell their own personalized book or diary without having to give away almost all the profits?” So, he took the initiative himself. The TwoWorlds marketplace launched in July 2022 after several years of conceptualization and development work.
Admittedly, the selection of titles at twoworlds.co is still manageable. Nevertheless, it is already possible to see what makes TwoWorlds so interesting for end customers: While on the already well-known portals for personalized (children’s) books, such as librio, wonderbly or hurrahelden, all books follow at least roughly the same style, the range of different designs, styles and thus “handwritings” is incredibly broad.
But the store, through which the personalized books can be ordered, represents only one of the “two worlds” of TwoWorlds. The other can be reached via the “Become a Creator” button. Because – and this is, as Andrei Andreescu explains to beyond-print.de, the elementary difference to providers like Wonderbly: “TwoWorlds is a marketplace and not a publisher. We’ve built the tools, services and infrastructure so that anyone can create a personalized book just as easily as a presentation in PowerPoint or Google Slides. Right now, we’re working with a lot of indie artists. The creative industry is growing exponentially, and there are many, very talented people who have incredible skills and a huge following. They just need a way to monetize that, and that’s where we come in.”
Two-pronged business model
In line with the two target groups – end users and creators – the business model is therefore also built on two pillars: “The TwoWorlds studio is the place,” explains Andrei Andreescu, “where the authors create their books, define the personalization fields, create their avatars [i.e., the main characters of the story], set the prices, to name just a few criteria.” The use of this is free for the creators and will remain so, he promises.
The second pillar is the store, described earlier, through which books previously created in the TwoWorlds studio will be offered and sold. “We used a game-based rendering engine to generate the pages of the book in real time. That means customers can see a full preview of all the pages of the book while, for example, making changes to their main character or updating a personalization field or two.”
Despite the two pillars, the business model is as simple as can be, according to the CEO: “We charge a 30% commission when an author’s book is sold in the Two Worlds Bookstore.”
Production takes place on demand at printing partners
The books are produced on demand, i.e. only after an order has been placed. Andrei Andreescu has been able to secure three printing partners to print the books: one in the UK, one in the US and one in Germany. Even though the platform has its origins in Great Britain, creative people as well as customers from all over Europe, the USA and around 50 other countries should have the opportunity to implement their book ideas with TwoWorlds.
How an idea becomes a personalized book
But what does a designer actually have to bring along or deliver in order to turn an idea into a personalized book with the help of TwoWorlds? Basically, there are no specifications for what the stories have to look like. “We wanted authors to have full control over their stories and determine for themselves what customers can personalize in each case. We want to encourage our customers to be as creative as possible,” says Andrei Andreescu.
As mentioned, the actual creation takes place in the TwoWorlds studio. “In short, Book Builder allows the creator to upload all the layers they have created in a Photoshop file, for example. After that, there are three different options for personalization:
- Show and hide layers/groups in an if-then style based on the personalization fields defined by the designer. For example, there could be a personalization field called ‘Favourite Toy’ with options of ‘Building Blocks’, ‘Cars’ and ‘Unicorns’. So there are three levels where these three toys are mapped. The value of the personalization field can be used to determine which layer should be visible and when, so that when customers select ‘Unicorns’, only that layer is activated.
- Dynamic text: This allows the value of a personalization field to be inserted into a text block. Let’s say you have a book with the title ‘A Cake for <NAME>’ and a personalization field ‘Name of Child’, then if the customer enters ‘Sarah’ in this field, for example, the book title will be displayed as ‘A Cake for Sarah’.
- Main characters: the studio allows the creator to create as many avatars as he wants, with as many features and poses as he likes. There are no restrictions. For example, if you want to have a child avatar, you can specify what customers can personalize, such as the hairstyle and hair colour, the skin tone or the shape of the nose. But also, how many options there are for each. The creators have full control,” the CEO elaborates.
Artificial intelligence is not (yet) involved in creating the different layers. “AI can become a fantastic tool for creatives,” Andrei Andreescu is certain. However, creatives will have to upload all versions of features such as hairstyles and the like. “However, we’ve already started looking for ways to simplify the work and still offer more personalization options to the customer.”
The next steps
It’s still early days for TwoWorlds. The marketplace is only a few months old. To publicize and market it, Andrei Andreescu and his team are currently using social media in particular. “Especially TikTok, here we have seen really great conversion rates lately,” he explains. What the next steps might be is perhaps a bit of a premature question. Nevertheless, Andreescu reveals the direction TwoWorlds will take: “We will continue to work on the product and the possibilities for creators, and on the infrastructure. Of course, this also involves more print partners and better delivery times.”