Case Study

Shaking up the publishing game: How The Book Whisperers are empowering writers to develop and succeed

Shaking up the publishing game: How The Book Whisperers are empowering writers to develop and succeed

The Book Whisperers Community Interest Company is a community and publishing company with a difference – rather than prioritising existing authors, they aim to generate and support new writers, developing talent and skills until they are ready to be published.

Initially started as a voluntary group in March 2020, The Book Whisperers was founded by Mary Turner Thomson along with partners Leah Taylor and Simon Ellis. When it was clear that the UK was going into lockdown due to the pandemic, the three authors got together to work out what we could do to help the writing community.

People had often told them ‘I would write a book if only I had the time’, so they created a free private Facebook group and basic website, providing three six-week writing courses – essentially to give people something to do with their enforced ‘free time’. Within two weeks they had circa 1000 members and subsequently published an anthology of their work, ‘Stir Crazy – a lockdown anthology’.

Within a year of being founded, at least 12 of the community’s members had gone on to publish books of their own, and in the summer of 2021, the company was approached by Midlothian Council to set up and run a book festival in the area, starting in 2022. At this point, the partners decided to incorporate by renaming their previous company, Whitewater Publishing (which focused on publishing for the schools sector), as The Book Whisperers Community Interest Company, registering on 1st October 2021, and combining their experiences as authors and publishers into a new kind of publishing company to benefit their community.

Image: Mary Turner Thomson


Mary applied for the Resident Entrepreneur programme with the aim of breaking down the sense of loneliness and isolation which many writers feel, by creating and online community platform to bring together creatives, both developing their craft and learning from each other, thus maximising the potential of their writing and showcasing work from a broad range of backgrounds and experiences.

To achieve this, the platform, launched on 1 October 2022, provides each member with their own profile whilst allowing them to search and connect with other likeminded people through inputting their preferences and sharing requests for what they need. Additionally, the platform offers opportunities for creatives to develop their craft by acting as a one-stop-shop where they can get advice on all aspects of being published – connecting with editors, agents, marketing, distribution etc, as well as getting advice on copyright law, and the business side of being published.

Membership of the platform is broken down into three categories, with the intention of encouraging people to start small and get more involved as their confidence grows:

  1. WHISPER membership: for those who like to read and would like to write but are not sure where to start.
  2. WRITER membership: for those looking to develop their craft, do courses on writing techniques, editing and publishing books, make connections etc.
  3. AUTHOR/PROFESSIONAL membership: for people who are serious about their writing, have already been published or feel they are ready to be published. Alternatively, they might be professionals in the field with authors (such as editors, publishers, trainers, writing coaches, illustrators, photographers etc).

Image: The Book Whisperers Community website

Through the process of setting up the profiles, The Book Whisperers were able to collect data and explore it to pinpoint what it is that members needed to take their craft to the next level – allowing them to then adapt the platform to better serve those needs, whilst at the same time offering them the chance to provide their books through our platform – being able to promote to our members as well as their own existing readers. This would allow each author to gather information about their readership as well as provide us with information overall to inform the company’s own publishing plans – allowing them to champion works of talent and commission books that they can traditionally publish.

The outcome of this research and development will be a new and enhanced way of publishing. Using the data that The Book Whisperers glean from these writers and authors, they can potentially provide online publishing services, short-run (5-15 copies) publishing, etc and/or develop services to best suit the community on their platform. This work responds to the needs of their community, but also builds on the founders’ prior experience of working in publishing for the schools sector.

“My experience as a Resident Entrepreneur has been incredibly valuable. The insight I gained from the meetings and courses were really helpful and allowed me to focus my attention on this project much more intensely. Being part of the Creative Informatics Resident Entrepreneur programme, I feel much more informed and confident in what we are doing.” – Mary Turner Thomson

Already they have discovered that Authors most need assistance with marketing/monetising their work, whilst Writers need support, education and confidence in their writing. They are therefore planning to develop a sister platform, The Book Whisperers Academy, to provide a marketplace of courses on writing and publishing work – such as online courses in creative writing, self-publishing, working with an illustrator, layout & design, getting an agent, understanding publishing rights, gaining confidence in your writing, how to further monetise your work, and potentially also in-person writing retreats.

What the founding team originally thought would be a basic membership site that would allow people to connect to each other has turned into a worldwide marketplace where people can collaborate and share information, knowledge, and products/services. Future plans include developing virtual reality programmes for people to experience writing and reading in a new way (imagine reading your favourite book on a beach from the comfort of your sofa, listening to an audio version of Harry Potter from within Hogwarts itself, or being able to sit across a campfire from an author reading you their book – all in virtual reality).

As with the act of writing itself, it seems the only limit to The Book Whisperers’ potential is their own imagination.


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