Updates2018-11-08T01:59:14+00:00

New Futures and Features and Freebies, oh my!

October 29th, 2018

Ahoy there!

If you’re reading this, here’s a personal, virtual high-five from us for following us on our Accelerate journey! (Feel free to high-five your screen as an act of solidarity). Apart from God’s grace and your constant encouragement, we honestly couldn’t have come this far.

We’ve often compared launching Accelerate to building an airplane — after we’ve taken flight. Many times we weren’t sure if we could stay in the air, often bracing ourselves for a crash landing.

One lesson learned was the necessity of faith in God to provide. A second lesson learned was the importance of valuing and communicating with our members.

In the past months, doubt often surfaced during the times we weren’t sure if we could pay our digital rent. Consequently, in our haste to quickly grow Accelerate to pay the bills, we inevitably sacrificed the quality of our book summaries and the quality of our communication.

We came to our senses in mid-August, repented and apologized.

In faith, we stopped all outreach efforts and even disabled new registrations in order to focus 100% on improving our current members’ experience — fighting to trust that God would provide.

While we still struggled to keep up with our inbox, we turned our focus away from gaining more members, to establishing teams, systems, and processes to set a solid foundation from which we could better serve our members, both now and the future.

However, to afford this, we had to make the difficult decision to indefinitely postpone many book brief features such as audio, animations, and infographics. (While we cannot guarantee this, we’re hoping to be able to incorporate these features again starting January 2019)

We spent the month of September rebuilding a team.

God slowly brought together a world-class team of new directors, editors, designers, publishers, writers, and even a customer support manager!  Procedures were documented, charts were made, systems were built, all to ensure the quality of Accelerate. Slowly, but surely, things came together and even today we’re still continuing to solidify all things operations.

Here’s a snapshot (click to zoom in):

We spent the month of October rebuilding a website.

You may be aware of our website woes. Quick recap: After our first and second developers fell through, we decided to stick with the website we (poorly) built ourselves– a site that we intended to be temporary.

Admittedly, our website looked like it was built in the 90’s.

We prayed that it would suffice while we built our systems/processes. Unfortunately, our site started malfunctioning in September. Some members couldn’t reset passwords or login. Other frustrated members couldn’t cancel their accounts (a digital sin in our books! We promise to always make it easy to cancel).

We were left with no choice but to rebuild our site.

We took a chance on a new developer Derrick, and with his help, we’re excited to say that we’ve been able to make some major upgrades to the website. Do note that we are still on the tail-end of testing and we’re aware that very occasionally the site fails to load — we’re on it! In addition to all the more technical updates such as switching web hosts, improving site speed, and changing subscription software, we now have:

  • New Desktop and Mobile Design!
    We’ve made some changes to both the desktop and mobile experience and have successfully ushered our website into *drumroll* the early 2000’s! In other words, we still have a lot of work to do in the way of design, but we’ll get there! We’ve made changes to the Login, the Library interface, the Account page, the Book Briefs, and more.
  • New Group Plans and Annual Plans!
    You can now register a group with our discounted group plans. Group owners can easily invite members to their group, allowing them to easily create their own accounts and log in to view all the book briefs. Save even more with our new Annual plan feature! If you’re an existing member, you can upgrade to any of these new plans 🙂
  • Email Updates Per Book Brief!
    We know we should have done this long ago, and we apologize. But starting this month, each time a new book brief is available, we will send our members a friendly email notification with an overview of the book, the authors’ bio, and a link to download the PDFs.
  • Individual Book Briefs for Purchase!
    If you’re not a member, you now have the option to purchase single book briefs as a PDF download. (Note: the purchase button changes to a download button for logged in members). Amazon Kindle and Paperback still pending, sorry!
  • New Customer Support System!
    One of the more boring features for y’all, but exciting for us! We’re now using HelpScout to help us organize and more quickly answer any and every customer support question sent our way. We’ve got a neat little red chat button that follows you around the site so you can easily message us. We’re working on releasing a more robust FAQ too! Woohoo!

Features Coming Soon

While those are the major updates to the site, there’s still a lot we plan to do, both in the near future and the distant future. Some features we’re looking to soon implement are:

  • An Affiliate Program!
    As a neat way to help us spread the word, all members will have an “Affiliate Dashboard” providing a unique referral link. Plus, in addition to getting of the word out simply because you’re totally in love with Accelerate (no shame, us too), you’ll earn 30% monthly recurring commission for every new member you refer! That includes all the new Group Plans too. For example, if a church uses your referral link to register for a monthly Small Group subscription for $74.99 / month, you’ll earn $22.50 / month! Sounds like a win-win-win to us! (There may be Bobbleheads involved down the road).
  • Login with Facebook, Google, or Twitter.
    Because we want to make your lives easier :). Soon you’ll be able to log in to Accelerate using one of the social platforms above by simply connecting your social account with your Accelerate account. We haven’t decided which of the social platform logins we will use yet, though. Any preferences?

This Month’s Book Briefs

Finally, we will end this update with a list of book summaries that are currently being gently packaged into beautiful PDFs, to be then placed carefully on digital satin pillows. Our team will inspect these book summaries and polish them with love. Next, with an orchestral soundtrack playing in the background, our content publisher will upload the book summaries with skillful precision as the team watches in silent awe. Tears may be shed. As soon as the book summaries are uploaded and scheduled for the month, we will stand in a circle holding hands, humming the melody of the Pirates of the Caribbean in silent celebration.

With that said, the following book briefs will be available this month:

  1. Take Heart by Matt Chandler
  2. Finally Free by Heath Lambert
  3. The Imperfect Disciple by Jared Wilson
  4. Trusting God by Jerry Bridges
  5. Knowing God by J. I. Packer
  6. Union with Christ by Rankin Wilbourne
  7. God is by Mark Jones
  8. The Sovereignty of God by A. W. Pink

And if you read this far, below is a free Book Brief of You Are What You Love by James K. A. Smith! We’d love for you to check out the new design.

You Are What You Love by James K.A. Smith




Onwards,

The Accelerate Team

Website Redesign & Password Reset

Hey Accelereaders!

Just dropping by your inbox to let you know that we’ve been working hard on a website redesign and are getting ready to go live in a day or two!

Before we go any further, let us take a step back to provide some context:

For the past few weeks, we’ve been working hard to truly improve the Accelerate experience. With our goal to learn how to best serve our current readers, we’ve actually closed Accelerate to new subscriptions in order to focus on this!

Some tasks that have kept us busy include:  Reworking our entire Book Brief process to ensure quality summaries, creating systems to receive and implement feedback (without getting overwhelmed!), redoing our website for an increasingly better user experience, and rebudgeting wisely to make sure we can still exist to serve you!

Our most recent project is our website redesign and while we still have lots to do, we’re excited to hear your thoughts on the site.

Due to some issues we were having with our previous subscription software, we decided to completely switch our software. This will make the overall experience much more user-friendly, both on desktop and mobile!

Unfortunately, however, the process of migrating all of you to the new site will require everyone to reset their password. We sincerely apologize for this inconvenience, but we will be personally reaching out to all of you individually just to check in, ask for feedback, and answer any questions through this process.

So, if you get an automated email from us saying something about your membership being transferred, all that means is we’ve started the processing of moving websites.

In the meantime, here are some pictures of the site that will be available by the end of the week:

There are still a lot of things we’re ironing out, but we’re excited to take this next step forward!

Some features that we plan to roll out in November are:

  • Social Login (either with Facebook or Google)
  • Group pricing! (pictured above)
  • An Affiliate Program! (Help us spread the word and earn 30% commission)

Keep an eye out for all of that! Well, that’s all for now and as always, your support through the launch of Accelerate means so much to us. We couldn’t do this without all of you :). And finally, as part of our goal to better connect with our readers to better serve you, expect to receive a personal email written to you soon!

Yours,

The Accelerate Team

Growing Pains

October 4th, 2018

Please know that we are currently catching up on responding to emails and you will hear back from us hopefully within the next week in response to your previous email requests

Howdy AcceleReaders!

We’re here to bring you a long overdue update. Our sincerest apologies! We also apologize for the corny name we’ve officially given you, dear AcceleReaders :). Let’s start this update off by being completely vulnerable: these two months have been a struggle to survive as an organization. After our turbulent launch in August, we wish we could say that things started to get better, but they didn’t. Problems continued to arise and at one point, strapped for resources, we prayed about whether or not to simply call it quits. Well, we’re writing this email to inform you that by the grace of God we can continue this ministry! We’ll try our best to fill in the gaps below:

New Book Brief Design

The first update is that our book briefs have a brand new look! While we’re still working hard to perfect it, we’ve now created our book briefs in an interactive Flipbook Format. We’ve added a table of contents and a completely new PDF design as well. Now, when you head over to our Library, whenever a book brief is released you’ll first click through to an Overview Page where you can quickly grasp what the book is about. From there, you can either download the PDF or click through to open the interactive Flipbook Book Brief. We’ve also included a Table of Contents as well for easy navigation. We’d love to hear your thoughts on this!

This Month’s Books

The second update is simply to let you know which books we’re currently cooking up and preparing as book briefs. The briefs that will be available for your viewing are as follows:

  1. Nine Marks of a Healthy Church by Mark Dever
  2. Christianity and Liberalism by J. Gresham Machen
  3. Discipling by Mark Dever
  4. How Does Sanctification Work? by David Powlison
  5. The Meaning of Marriage by Tim Keller
  6. Portraits of a Pastor by Jason K. Allen
  7. The Problem of Pain by C. S. Lewis
  8. The Pursuit of God by A. W. Tozer

Be sure to keep your eyes peeled for these this month!

Where are the Audiobooks and Infographics?

While it is our dream and goal to have accompanying infographics and audio for all of our Book Briefs, we recently had to make the difficult decision to postpone any further production. We excitedly announced that each book brief would include all these neat features but severely underestimated both the cost and the time each book brief would take.

Therefore, with Accelerate’s long-term sustainability in view, we decided to readjust our budget to focus on producing the best quality book briefs before working on extra features such as audio and infographics. We decided it would be wiser to ensure we were doing the few important things well, rather than many things poorly.

With that said, we’ve hit the brakes on any further expansion and growth of Accelerate — as exciting as it is to see this ministry grow so quickly! Since then, we’re focused on bringing together a world-class team of writers, editors, designers, and publishers; we’re also focused on developing systems and processes to ensure everything runs smoothly — everything from ensuring the timely delivery of exceptional book summaries to making sure we communicate with our readers quickly!

While we cannot guarantee an exact date that we will begin recording audiobooks and creating infographics again, we hope to have the process started by January 2019.

And speaking of our new team …

Meet the Team

In our effort to make the consistent delivery of quality book briefs our priority, we’ve had to cut back on many areas in order to focus on creating the systems and processes that will best serve our readers in the long-term. While these past few tumultuous months have seen team members come and team members go, we’re happy to announce our official team that will be serving you as the Accelerate Team:

  1. AK Alexander – Executive Director
  2. Ana Key – Operations Director
  3. Barry Wolfer – Managing Editor
  4. Amy Sylvestre – Copy Editor
  5. Sheryl Bajao – Book Brief Designer
  6. Justin Troi – Content Publisher
  7. Bernadette Brown – Community Manager
  8. Aaron Koo – Web Developer
  9. Ciara de Leon – Administrative Assistant

Finally, to conclude our update, we understand that some users have not been able to access their account. We sincerely apologize for such a frustrating experience! We never intended to make it difficult to update or cancel your subscription and so we ask for your forgiveness for hassle you’ve experienced. It has come to our attention that there have been some bugs with our subscription software that have blocked some users from either changing their password or cancelling their account. Aaron, our web developer, is working hard to get these sorted out and Bernadette, our community manager, will be in touch with you this week to assist you with cancellations and refunds.

All in all, thank you so much for your patience and continued support! We’re working hard to create a tool that will truly serve you well and covet your prayers as we continue to pursue this endeavor for the joy of the God’s people and the glory of Christ.

 

If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to respond to this email!

Yours,

AK Alexander and the Accelerate Team

Two Book Briefs and an Update

Howdy Acceleraters!

We wanted to let you know that we’ve recently released two more book briefs:

1. Habits of Grace by David Mathis
and
2. In His Image by Jen Wilkin

You can find the rest of our book briefs at the Accelerate Library.

You’ll notice that we’ve changed the format of the book briefs on the website itself. For the time being, we’ve simply embedded the book brief PDFs onto the website itself. On mobile, you’ll also have the option to view it in full screen. Additionally, you may download all the briefs in PDF form, but we ask you not share these book briefs with others, unless we’ve given specific permission to you.

Keep in mind that this format is temporary as our developers work on our official website, the first version of which we will be releasing in the first week of September. Our goal is to make the book briefs easy to navigate and read, both on desktop and on mobile 🙂 We’re currently making good progress on the new website.

If you have suggestions on how we could improve the website, feel free to shoot us an email with your thoughts!

Some features that have been suggested (but don’t have an official release date) are:

  • Mobile App (iOS and Android)
  • User Dashboards displaying which book briefs you’ve already read
  • Recommending related book briefs at the end of the summary
  • Paypal payment option
  • Group rates for Church staff / teams

If you have any ideas, we’re open to hearing them!

Onward for the Gospel,

The Accelerate Team

P.S. – If you’re a typesetter or have a friend that is, give us a shout! (By typesetter we mean someone that’s creative and proficient at book formatting and layouts (usually Adobe InDesign), that would be interested in helping to create our PDFs).

Our Mistake (An Apology)

August 10th, 2018

When you start something new, it’s always a leap into the unknown.

Whether you’re starting a new church, new ministry, or a new business, you take a risk.

Risk-taking requires a fierce dependence on God and a constant asking for wisdom to make the right decisions.

Many times, your decisions lead to big wins and exciting growth. In times like these, you thank the Lord for His gracious guidance.

Other times, your decisions prove to be unwise. You move too quickly. You miss red flags. You lose the trust of others. In times like these, you admit your mistakes and grow in humility and dependence on the Spirit.

Starting Accelerate has been both incredibly exciting and incredibly challenging. With no business experience, we moved forward in faith, determined to learn quickly. And we did. We quickly learned what worked and what didn’t. We learned from the thrilling positive responses we received from users and we learned from our embarrassing mistakes.

This letter is our response to our most recent mistakes: Our unrealistic goals, our poor communication and our lack of transparency with you, our users.

Why It All Started

In July of 2017, we made our hobby website into an official digital media company knowing only: We loved God, we loved books, our book website was growing, and we needed funds to keep it online – or we would shut everything down by year-end.

Accelerate – a Netflix of book summaries, as we called it— was what we settled on as we spent months brainstorming ways to keep the site running.

However, we soon sensed God had bigger plans for Accelerate than we did. We began receiving emails from all over the world in response to our idea –from church planters struggling to train volunteers; from students who couldn’t afford many books; from pastors looking for resources for sermon prep.

Inspired, we began dreaming of ways to quickly build Accelerate, evidenced by the sea of our doodle-filled notebooks. One of us stepped down from full-time ministry to devote time to this.

In May of 2018, we eagerly began initial fundraising by offering a limited number of lifetime memberships for purchase. We were overwhelmed by how quickly readers jumped on this deal. Encouraged, we ended our fundraiser and immediately got started.

Little did we know, we would soon be suffering the consequences of two mistakes:

We grossly underestimated both the time and the cost it would take to build & launch Accelerate.

Idealistic Budgets & Optimistic Deadlines

To lower expenses, we attempted to initially do most of the book summary work ourselves.

We already had writers for book briefs, so the following remained: Editing, Illustrating, Designing, typesetting, audio recording, animating, and basic website coding to make it look decent online. No sweat. *Chuckles nervously*

After our writers’ stipends, we used the remaining funds on 1) web development and 2) marketing (yes, the word also induced in us an unexplainable gagging reflex). Despite wanting to spend it all on web development, we worried that without new subscribers, we couldn’t afford our expenses in the coming months.

Next, we made some optimistic estimates on how long everything would take and then earnestly made our optimistic announcement to the world:

  • June 2nd for BETA version.
  • July 14th for official launch.

With the deadlines scrawled on a whiteboard, we got to work. We began coding a website prototype, searching for a web developer, working on the first 16 book summaries, and began our marketing campaign.

Fading Optimism

We launched the BETA on June 2nd, but there wasn’t much to celebrate. Users were greeted with a barely functional website and a single, unedited book brief draft to give an idea of our direction. We weren’t especially proud of our product – in fact, we couldn’t even get ourselves to share it with our friends. But we hoped the BETA period would provide us the feedback for any needed changes before an official launch.

June was a blur of consecutive, sleepless nights, sporadic meals, and unhealthy amounts of Red Bull. We juggled everything from business research, writing/editing, customer support, surveying, graphic design, promotion, product testing, and more. Our red, baggy eyes began to scare people at church. However, as July 14th approached, it was becoming increasingly clear that we wouldn’t be ready.

We nervously sent an update to all members, sheepishly explaining the need to push back our launch date to August 1st. All of you were exceedingly gracious and we were encouraged by your patience.

However, our optimism soon began to fade. Everything seemed to go wrong. Book summaries took much longer than estimated. Friends who offered to help backed out. Our first developer didn’t deliver on what he promised and refused to refund costs. And our marketing seemed fruitless, which likely meant we’d soon be up the proverbial creek without a paddle.

Preparing for Takeoff

A week before launch, we were in a bad spot.

We were still spending hours daily researching & working on marketing to try to hit a goal of 250 subscribers – a number we hoped would be enough for next month’s expenses.

However, our focus on marketing came at the expense of the book briefs.

Though all the book briefs were written and edited, we were still creating the illustrations … and we hadn’t even started the audio MP3s or PDFs. Needless to say, we severely underestimated the time needed to create quality book briefs.

To make matters worse, the new developer we found sent us an email that made our stomachs drop.

Hey! I honestly can’t figure out what your previous dev guy was trying to do so it looks like I’ll have to start a website from scratch. Sorry guys. A completely new site with the minimum features you requested will likely cost another $5000 and take my team at least until the first week of September for the first phase.”

What more could go wrong? We were stuck. This presented us with four issues.

  • How could we possibly tell our users about a delay, again?
  • The book briefs were formatted specifically for the website we planned to launch.
  • Without funding from Aug. subscriptions, we couldn’t afford another new website.
  • We couldn’t afford to hire a team we realized we desperately needed.

After prayerful discussion, we felt the only way to keep Accelerate afloat would be from August subscription revenue (and some of our personal savings). Thus, we ultimately decided to keep our August 1st launch.

This was another mistake.

This meant we had less than one week to re-upload all book briefs to the current BETA website prototype (ew), finish designing the PDFs and recording the MP3s.

With a naiveté that we mistook for healthy ambition, we worked day and night to finish everything by August 1st.

Spoiler: We didn’t.

A Failed Launch

On August 1st, as the sun began to rise, brightening the room in which we had spent the last 72 hours furiously working on our computers, we sent out a launch update to apologize for what we knew would be very underwhelming.

In the update, we drafted a quick new timeline for the new releases, promising completed book briefs by August 4th and new book briefs for August shortly after.

We should’ve known the work could take longer than that. Partly it was still our idealism. But, truth be told, it was mainly because we lacked the courage or wisdom to be completely transparent with our progress.

However, what we did next was even more foolish.

From August 1st to August 11th, we completely went off the grid. We stopped updating. Our emails piled up as those who tried reaching out did so to no avail.

Party, we lacked the emotional bandwidth to provide customer support as we worked endlessly on the book briefs. However, deeper reflection reveals that we were simply too terrified and ashamed to face you, our users without a finished product.

While we managed to accomplish of work this past week and a half, we realized it wasn’t worth the loss of your trust in us. Through wise pastoral counsel, we saw that our irresponsible actions were a consequence of our lack of transparency.

Despite your patience towards us, we have been unprofessional and unloving. We write this letter to formally apologize for our unacceptable behavior. Moving forward, we commit to being fully transparent with you.

To this end, we’ve taken the following steps:

  • We’ve committed to prioritize our users first and quality book briefs second, before even considering promoting Accelerate. We will never mix that order up again.
  • We are finalizing the process of securing funding from a gracious investor to more realistically cover costs and fund a much-needed team.
  • We will begin hiring editors, typesetters, illustrators starting next week to ensure that our book briefs are released on time.
  • We have already hired an awesome community support manager, Ciara. She’s spent the past few days learning the ropes and will be responding to all your emails (pray for her).
  • We will create a page displaying more tenable product release deadlines made available online to all for accountability.

Where We Are and Moving Forward

Here is the current status of our book briefs: After major revisions, we have added InsightGraphics and re-uploaded all book briefs available in the library. Additionally, we have 8 newly designed, printable and downloadable PDFs available (here’s the PDF for Tim Keller’s Preaching. You can see the rest in the library. We’d love your feedback!) Finally, we have finished one audio brief, and are currently editing it.

Accelerate Timeline:

Accounting for the time we will need to restructure our budget with a new business manager & accountant, and the time to hire & train a full team, here is a more realistic timeline:

  • 8 / 13:
    • Accelerate Timeline Page Published Online
    • Aug Brief #2: Habits of Grace by David Mathis (Infographics & PDF)
  • 8 / 15:
    • Aug Brief #3: In His Image by Jen Wilkin (Infographics & PDF)
  • 8 / 17:
    • Aug Brief #4: Jesus Among Secular Gods by Ravi Zacharias (Infographics & PDF)
  • 8 / 20:
    • Aug Brief #5: Just Do Something by Kevin DeYoung (Infographics & PDF)
  • 8 / 22:
    • Aug Brief #6: Praying the Bible by Donald Whitney (Infographics & PDF)
  • 8 / 24:
    • Aug Brief #8: Reset by David Murray (Infographics & PDF)
  • 9 / 1:
    • All Audio MP3 for July Book Briefs Online
    • Sept. Brief #1: You Are What You Love by James K. A. Smith (Infographics & PDF)
  • 9 / 4:
    • Sept. Brief #2: The Gospel Comes With a House Key by Rosaria Butterfield (Infographics & PDF)
  • 9 / 7:
    • New Accelerate Website Released

Full timeline will be made available online.

Conclusion

There is simply no way to justify the poor handling of our launch. Our irresponsible lack of communication has caused frustration and broken the trust of many.

We sincerely apologize and ask for your forgiveness. We write this to publicly commit to learning from our mistakes; we write with a new commitment to radical transparency; we write with a commitment to love God by loving our neighbor and doing so by always prioritizing our beloved users before anything else.

However, we know that words are cheap, and trust must be earned. Therefore, we’ve decided to offer a refund of August’s $9.99 subscription charge as our way of saying we’re truly sorry. To request a refund, please email us at info@acceleratebooks.com.

If you have any further questions or comments, send us an email and we will reply as soon as possible.

In His Service,

The TCB Accelerate Team

New Futures and Features and Freebies, oh my!

October 29th, 2018

Ahoy there!

If you’re reading this, here’s a personal, virtual high-five from us for following us on our Accelerate journey! (Feel free to high-five your screen as an act of solidarity). Apart from God’s grace and your constant encouragement, we honestly couldn’t have come this far.

We’ve often compared launching Accelerate to building an airplane — after we’ve taken flight. Many times we weren’t sure if we could stay in the air, often bracing ourselves for a crash landing.

One lesson learned was the necessity of faith in God to provide. A second lesson learned was the importance of valuing and communicating with our members.

In the past months, doubt often surfaced during the times we weren’t sure if we could pay our digital rent. Consequently, in our haste to quickly grow Accelerate to pay the bills, we inevitably sacrificed the quality of our book summaries and the quality of our communication.

We came to our senses in mid-August, repented and apologized.

In faith, we stopped all outreach efforts and even disabled new registrations in order to focus 100% on improving our current members’ experience — fighting to trust that God would provide.

While we still struggled to keep up with our inbox, we turned our focus away from gaining more members, to establishing teams, systems, and processes to set a solid foundation from which we could better serve our members, both now and the future.

However, to afford this, we had to make the difficult decision to indefinitely postpone many book brief features such as audio, animations, and infographics. (While we cannot guarantee this, we’re hoping to be able to incorporate these features again starting January 2019)

We spent the month of September rebuilding a team.

God slowly brought together a world-class team of new directors, editors, designers, publishers, writers, and even a customer support manager!  Procedures were documented, charts were made, systems were built, all to ensure the quality of Accelerate. Slowly, but surely, things came together and even today we’re still continuing to solidify all things operations.

Here’s a snapshot (click to zoom in):

We spent the month of October rebuilding a website.

You may be aware of our website woes. Quick recap: After our first and second developers fell through, we decided to stick with the website we (poorly) built ourselves– a site that we intended to be temporary.

Admittedly, our website looked like it was built in the 90’s.

We prayed that it would suffice while we built our systems/processes. Unfortunately, our site started malfunctioning in September. Some members couldn’t reset passwords or login. Other frustrated members couldn’t cancel their accounts (a digital sin in our books! We promise to always make it easy to cancel).

We were left with no choice but to rebuild our site.

We took a chance on a new developer Derrick, and with his help, we’re excited to say that we’ve been able to make some major upgrades to the website. Do note that we are still on the tail-end of testing and we’re aware that very occasionally the site fails to load — we’re on it! In addition to all the more technical updates such as switching web hosts, improving site speed, and changing subscription software, we now have:

  • New Desktop and Mobile Design!
    We’ve made some changes to both the desktop and mobile experience and have successfully ushered our website into *drumroll* the early 2000’s! In other words, we still have a lot of work to do in the way of design, but we’ll get there! We’ve made changes to the Login, the Library interface, the Account page, the Book Briefs, and more.
  • New Group Plans and Annual Plans!
    You can now register a group with our discounted group plans. Group owners can easily invite members to their group, allowing them to easily create their own accounts and log in to view all the book briefs. Save even more with our new Annual plan feature! If you’re an existing member, you can upgrade to any of these new plans 🙂
  • Email Updates Per Book Brief!
    We know we should have done this long ago, and we apologize. But starting this month, each time a new book brief is available, we will send our members a friendly email notification with an overview of the book, the authors’ bio, and a link to download the PDFs.
  • Individual Book Briefs for Purchase!
    If you’re not a member, you now have the option to purchase single book briefs as a PDF download. (Note: the purchase button changes to a download button for logged in members). Amazon Kindle and Paperback still pending, sorry!
  • New Customer Support System!
    One of the more boring features for y’all, but exciting for us! We’re now using HelpScout to help us organize and more quickly answer any and every customer support question sent our way. We’ve got a neat little red chat button that follows you around the site so you can easily message us. We’re working on releasing a more robust FAQ too! Woohoo!

Features Coming Soon

While those are the major updates to the site, there’s still a lot we plan to do, both in the near future and the distant future. Some features we’re looking to soon implement are:

  • An Affiliate Program!
    As a neat way to help us spread the word, all members will have an “Affiliate Dashboard” providing a unique referral link. Plus, in addition to getting of the word out simply because you’re totally in love with Accelerate (no shame, us too), you’ll earn 30% monthly recurring commission for every new member you refer! That includes all the new Group Plans too. For example, if a church uses your referral link to register for a monthly Small Group subscription for $74.99 / month, you’ll earn $22.50 / month! Sounds like a win-win-win to us! (There may be Bobbleheads involved down the road).
  • Login with Facebook, Google, or Twitter.
    Because we want to make your lives easier :). Soon you’ll be able to log in to Accelerate using one of the social platforms above by simply connecting your social account with your Accelerate account. We haven’t decided which of the social platform logins we will use yet, though. Any preferences?

This Month’s Book Briefs

Finally, we will end this update with a list of book summaries that are currently being gently packaged into beautiful PDFs, to be then placed carefully on digital satin pillows. Our team will inspect these book summaries and polish them with love. Next, with an orchestral soundtrack playing in the background, our content publisher will upload the book summaries with skillful precision as the team watches in silent awe. Tears may be shed. As soon as the book summaries are uploaded and scheduled for the month, we will stand in a circle holding hands, humming the melody of the Pirates of the Caribbean in silent celebration.

With that said, the following book briefs will be available this month:

  1. Take Heart by Matt Chandler
  2. Finally Free by Heath Lambert
  3. The Imperfect Disciple by Jared Wilson
  4. Trusting God by Jerry Bridges
  5. Knowing God by J. I. Packer
  6. Union with Christ by Rankin Wilbourne
  7. God is by Mark Jones
  8. The Sovereignty of God by A. W. Pink

And if you read this far, below is a free Book Brief of You Are What You Love by James K. A. Smith! We’d love for you to check out the new design.

You Are What You Love by James K.A. Smith




Onwards,

The Accelerate Team

Website Redesign & Password Reset

Hey Accelereaders!

Just dropping by your inbox to let you know that we’ve been working hard on a website redesign and are getting ready to go live in a day or two!

Before we go any further, let us take a step back to provide some context:

For the past few weeks, we’ve been working hard to truly improve the Accelerate experience. With our goal to learn how to best serve our current readers, we’ve actually closed Accelerate to new subscriptions in order to focus on this!

Some tasks that have kept us busy include:  Reworking our entire Book Brief process to ensure quality summaries, creating systems to receive and implement feedback (without getting overwhelmed!), redoing our website for an increasingly better user experience, and rebudgeting wisely to make sure we can still exist to serve you!

Our most recent project is our website redesign and while we still have lots to do, we’re excited to hear your thoughts on the site.

Due to some issues we were having with our previous subscription software, we decided to completely switch our software. This will make the overall experience much more user-friendly, both on desktop and mobile!

Unfortunately, however, the process of migrating all of you to the new site will require everyone to reset their password. We sincerely apologize for this inconvenience, but we will be personally reaching out to all of you individually just to check in, ask for feedback, and answer any questions through this process.

So, if you get an automated email from us saying something about your membership being transferred, all that means is we’ve started the processing of moving websites.

In the meantime, here are some pictures of the site that will be available by the end of the week:

There are still a lot of things we’re ironing out, but we’re excited to take this next step forward!

Some features that we plan to roll out in November are:

  • Social Login (either with Facebook or Google)
  • Group pricing! (pictured above)
  • An Affiliate Program! (Help us spread the word and earn 30% commission)

Keep an eye out for all of that! Well, that’s all for now and as always, your support through the launch of Accelerate means so much to us. We couldn’t do this without all of you :). And finally, as part of our goal to better connect with our readers to better serve you, expect to receive a personal email written to you soon!

Yours,

The Accelerate Team

Growing Pains

October 4th, 2018

Please know that we are currently catching up on responding to emails and you will hear back from us hopefully within the next week in response to your previous email requests

Howdy AcceleReaders!

We’re here to bring you a long overdue update. Our sincerest apologies! We also apologize for the corny name we’ve officially given you, dear AcceleReaders :). Let’s start this update off by being completely vulnerable: these two months have been a struggle to survive as an organization. After our turbulent launch in August, we wish we could say that things started to get better, but they didn’t. Problems continued to arise and at one point, strapped for resources, we prayed about whether or not to simply call it quits. Well, we’re writing this email to inform you that by the grace of God we can continue this ministry! We’ll try our best to fill in the gaps below:

New Book Brief Design

The first update is that our book briefs have a brand new look! While we’re still working hard to perfect it, we’ve now created our book briefs in an interactive Flipbook Format. We’ve added a table of contents and a completely new PDF design as well. Now, when you head over to our Library, whenever a book brief is released you’ll first click through to an Overview Page where you can quickly grasp what the book is about. From there, you can either download the PDF or click through to open the interactive Flipbook Book Brief. We’ve also included a Table of Contents as well for easy navigation. We’d love to hear your thoughts on this!

This Month’s Books

The second update is simply to let you know which books we’re currently cooking up and preparing as book briefs. The briefs that will be available for your viewing are as follows:

  1. Nine Marks of a Healthy Church by Mark Dever
  2. Christianity and Liberalism by J. Gresham Machen
  3. Discipling by Mark Dever
  4. How Does Sanctification Work? by David Powlison
  5. The Meaning of Marriage by Tim Keller
  6. Portraits of a Pastor by Jason K. Allen
  7. The Problem of Pain by C. S. Lewis
  8. The Pursuit of God by A. W. Tozer

Be sure to keep your eyes peeled for these this month!

Where are the Audiobooks and Infographics?

While it is our dream and goal to have accompanying infographics and audio for all of our Book Briefs, we recently had to make the difficult decision to postpone any further production. We excitedly announced that each book brief would include all these neat features but severely underestimated both the cost and the time each book brief would take.

Therefore, with Accelerate’s long-term sustainability in view, we decided to readjust our budget to focus on producing the best quality book briefs before working on extra features such as audio and infographics. We decided it would be wiser to ensure we were doing the few important things well, rather than many things poorly.

With that said, we’ve hit the brakes on any further expansion and growth of Accelerate — as exciting as it is to see this ministry grow so quickly! Since then, we’re focused on bringing together a world-class team of writers, editors, designers, and publishers; we’re also focused on developing systems and processes to ensure everything runs smoothly — everything from ensuring the timely delivery of exceptional book summaries to making sure we communicate with our readers quickly!

While we cannot guarantee an exact date that we will begin recording audiobooks and creating infographics again, we hope to have the process started by January 2019.

And speaking of our new team …

Meet the Team

In our effort to make the consistent delivery of quality book briefs our priority, we’ve had to cut back on many areas in order to focus on creating the systems and processes that will best serve our readers in the long-term. While these past few tumultuous months have seen team members come and team members go, we’re happy to announce our official team that will be serving you as the Accelerate Team:

  1. AK Alexander – Executive Director
  2. Ana Key – Operations Director
  3. Barry Wolfer – Managing Editor
  4. Amy Sylvestre – Copy Editor
  5. Sheryl Bajao – Book Brief Designer
  6. Justin Troi – Content Publisher
  7. Bernadette Brown – Community Manager
  8. Aaron Koo – Web Developer
  9. Ciara de Leon – Administrative Assistant

Finally, to conclude our update, we understand that some users have not been able to access their account. We sincerely apologize for such a frustrating experience! We never intended to make it difficult to update or cancel your subscription and so we ask for your forgiveness for hassle you’ve experienced. It has come to our attention that there have been some bugs with our subscription software that have blocked some users from either changing their password or cancelling their account. Aaron, our web developer, is working hard to get these sorted out and Bernadette, our community manager, will be in touch with you this week to assist you with cancellations and refunds.

All in all, thank you so much for your patience and continued support! We’re working hard to create a tool that will truly serve you well and covet your prayers as we continue to pursue this endeavor for the joy of the God’s people and the glory of Christ.

 

If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to respond to this email!

Yours,

AK Alexander and the Accelerate Team

Two Book Briefs and an Update

Howdy Acceleraters!

We wanted to let you know that we’ve recently released two more book briefs:

1. Habits of Grace by David Mathis
and
2. In His Image by Jen Wilkin

You can find the rest of our book briefs at the Accelerate Library.

You’ll notice that we’ve changed the format of the book briefs on the website itself. For the time being, we’ve simply embedded the book brief PDFs onto the website itself. On mobile, you’ll also have the option to view it in full screen. Additionally, you may download all the briefs in PDF form, but we ask you not share these book briefs with others, unless we’ve given specific permission to you.

Keep in mind that this format is temporary as our developers work on our official website, the first version of which we will be releasing in the first week of September. Our goal is to make the book briefs easy to navigate and read, both on desktop and on mobile 🙂 We’re currently making good progress on the new website.

If you have suggestions on how we could improve the website, feel free to shoot us an email with your thoughts!

Some features that have been suggested (but don’t have an official release date) are:

  • Mobile App (iOS and Android)
  • User Dashboards displaying which book briefs you’ve already read
  • Recommending related book briefs at the end of the summary
  • Paypal payment option
  • Group rates for Church staff / teams

If you have any ideas, we’re open to hearing them!

Onward for the Gospel,

The Accelerate Team

P.S. – If you’re a typesetter or have a friend that is, give us a shout! (By typesetter we mean someone that’s creative and proficient at book formatting and layouts (usually Adobe InDesign), that would be interested in helping to create our PDFs).

Our Mistake (An Apology)

August 10th, 2018

When you start something new, it’s always a leap into the unknown.

Whether you’re starting a new church, new ministry, or a new business, you take a risk.

Risk-taking requires a fierce dependence on God and a constant asking for wisdom to make the right decisions.

Many times, your decisions lead to big wins and exciting growth. In times like these, you thank the Lord for His gracious guidance.

Other times, your decisions prove to be unwise. You move too quickly. You miss red flags. You lose the trust of others. In times like these, you admit your mistakes and grow in humility and dependence on the Spirit.

Starting Accelerate has been both incredibly exciting and incredibly challenging. With no business experience, we moved forward in faith, determined to learn quickly. And we did. We quickly learned what worked and what didn’t. We learned from the thrilling positive responses we received from users and we learned from our embarrassing mistakes.

This letter is our response to our most recent mistakes: Our unrealistic goals, our poor communication and our lack of transparency with you, our users.

Why It All Started

In July of 2017, we made our hobby website into an official digital media company knowing only: We loved God, we loved books, our book website was growing, and we needed funds to keep it online – or we would shut everything down by year-end.

Accelerate – a Netflix of book summaries, as we called it— was what we settled on as we spent months brainstorming ways to keep the site running.

However, we soon sensed God had bigger plans for Accelerate than we did. We began receiving emails from all over the world in response to our idea –from church planters struggling to train volunteers; from students who couldn’t afford many books; from pastors looking for resources for sermon prep.

Inspired, we began dreaming of ways to quickly build Accelerate, evidenced by the sea of our doodle-filled notebooks. One of us stepped down from full-time ministry to devote time to this.

In May of 2018, we eagerly began initial fundraising by offering a limited number of lifetime memberships for purchase. We were overwhelmed by how quickly readers jumped on this deal. Encouraged, we ended our fundraiser and immediately got started.

Little did we know, we would soon be suffering the consequences of two mistakes:

We grossly underestimated both the time and the cost it would take to build & launch Accelerate.

Idealistic Budgets & Optimistic Deadlines

To lower expenses, we attempted to initially do most of the book summary work ourselves.

We already had writers for book briefs, so the following remained: Editing, Illustrating, Designing, typesetting, audio recording, animating, and basic website coding to make it look decent online. No sweat. *Chuckles nervously*

After our writers’ stipends, we used the remaining funds on 1) web development and 2) marketing (yes, the word also induced in us an unexplainable gagging reflex). Despite wanting to spend it all on web development, we worried that without new subscribers, we couldn’t afford our expenses in the coming months.

Next, we made some optimistic estimates on how long everything would take and then earnestly made our optimistic announcement to the world:

  • June 2nd for BETA version.
  • July 14th for official launch.

With the deadlines scrawled on a whiteboard, we got to work. We began coding a website prototype, searching for a web developer, working on the first 16 book summaries, and began our marketing campaign.

Fading Optimism

We launched the BETA on June 2nd, but there wasn’t much to celebrate. Users were greeted with a barely functional website and a single, unedited book brief draft to give an idea of our direction. We weren’t especially proud of our product – in fact, we couldn’t even get ourselves to share it with our friends. But we hoped the BETA period would provide us the feedback for any needed changes before an official launch.

June was a blur of consecutive, sleepless nights, sporadic meals, and unhealthy amounts of Red Bull. We juggled everything from business research, writing/editing, customer support, surveying, graphic design, promotion, product testing, and more. Our red, baggy eyes began to scare people at church. However, as July 14th approached, it was becoming increasingly clear that we wouldn’t be ready.

We nervously sent an update to all members, sheepishly explaining the need to push back our launch date to August 1st. All of you were exceedingly gracious and we were encouraged by your patience.

However, our optimism soon began to fade. Everything seemed to go wrong. Book summaries took much longer than estimated. Friends who offered to help backed out. Our first developer didn’t deliver on what he promised and refused to refund costs. And our marketing seemed fruitless, which likely meant we’d soon be up the proverbial creek without a paddle.

Preparing for Takeoff

A week before launch, we were in a bad spot.

We were still spending hours daily researching & working on marketing to try to hit a goal of 250 subscribers – a number we hoped would be enough for next month’s expenses.

However, our focus on marketing came at the expense of the book briefs.

Though all the book briefs were written and edited, we were still creating the illustrations … and we hadn’t even started the audio MP3s or PDFs. Needless to say, we severely underestimated the time needed to create quality book briefs.

To make matters worse, the new developer we found sent us an email that made our stomachs drop.

Hey! I honestly can’t figure out what your previous dev guy was trying to do so it looks like I’ll have to start a website from scratch. Sorry guys. A completely new site with the minimum features you requested will likely cost another $5000 and take my team at least until the first week of September for the first phase.”

What more could go wrong? We were stuck. This presented us with four issues.

  • How could we possibly tell our users about a delay, again?
  • The book briefs were formatted specifically for the website we planned to launch.
  • Without funding from Aug. subscriptions, we couldn’t afford another new website.
  • We couldn’t afford to hire a team we realized we desperately needed.

After prayerful discussion, we felt the only way to keep Accelerate afloat would be from August subscription revenue (and some of our personal savings). Thus, we ultimately decided to keep our August 1st launch.

This was another mistake.

This meant we had less than one week to re-upload all book briefs to the current BETA website prototype (ew), finish designing the PDFs and recording the MP3s.

With a naiveté that we mistook for healthy ambition, we worked day and night to finish everything by August 1st.

Spoiler: We didn’t.

A Failed Launch

On August 1st, as the sun began to rise, brightening the room in which we had spent the last 72 hours furiously working on our computers, we sent out a launch update to apologize for what we knew would be very underwhelming.

In the update, we drafted a quick new timeline for the new releases, promising completed book briefs by August 4th and new book briefs for August shortly after.

We should’ve known the work could take longer than that. Partly it was still our idealism. But, truth be told, it was mainly because we lacked the courage or wisdom to be completely transparent with our progress.

However, what we did next was even more foolish.

From August 1st to August 11th, we completely went off the grid. We stopped updating. Our emails piled up as those who tried reaching out did so to no avail.

Party, we lacked the emotional bandwidth to provide customer support as we worked endlessly on the book briefs. However, deeper reflection reveals that we were simply too terrified and ashamed to face you, our users without a finished product.

While we managed to accomplish of work this past week and a half, we realized it wasn’t worth the loss of your trust in us. Through wise pastoral counsel, we saw that our irresponsible actions were a consequence of our lack of transparency.

Despite your patience towards us, we have been unprofessional and unloving. We write this letter to formally apologize for our unacceptable behavior. Moving forward, we commit to being fully transparent with you.

To this end, we’ve taken the following steps:

  • We’ve committed to prioritize our users first and quality book briefs second, before even considering promoting Accelerate. We will never mix that order up again.
  • We are finalizing the process of securing funding from a gracious investor to more realistically cover costs and fund a much-needed team.
  • We will begin hiring editors, typesetters, illustrators starting next week to ensure that our book briefs are released on time.
  • We have already hired an awesome community support manager, Ciara. She’s spent the past few days learning the ropes and will be responding to all your emails (pray for her).
  • We will create a page displaying more tenable product release deadlines made available online to all for accountability.

Where We Are and Moving Forward

Here is the current status of our book briefs: After major revisions, we have added InsightGraphics and re-uploaded all book briefs available in the library. Additionally, we have 8 newly designed, printable and downloadable PDFs available (here’s the PDF for Tim Keller’s Preaching. You can see the rest in the library. We’d love your feedback!) Finally, we have finished one audio brief, and are currently editing it.

Accelerate Timeline:

Accounting for the time we will need to restructure our budget with a new business manager & accountant, and the time to hire & train a full team, here is a more realistic timeline:

  • 8 / 13:
    • Accelerate Timeline Page Published Online
    • Aug Brief #2: Habits of Grace by David Mathis (Infographics & PDF)
  • 8 / 15:
    • Aug Brief #3: In His Image by Jen Wilkin (Infographics & PDF)
  • 8 / 17:
    • Aug Brief #4: Jesus Among Secular Gods by Ravi Zacharias (Infographics & PDF)
  • 8 / 20:
    • Aug Brief #5: Just Do Something by Kevin DeYoung (Infographics & PDF)
  • 8 / 22:
    • Aug Brief #6: Praying the Bible by Donald Whitney (Infographics & PDF)
  • 8 / 24:
    • Aug Brief #8: Reset by David Murray (Infographics & PDF)
  • 9 / 1:
    • All Audio MP3 for July Book Briefs Online
    • Sept. Brief #1: You Are What You Love by James K. A. Smith (Infographics & PDF)
  • 9 / 4:
    • Sept. Brief #2: The Gospel Comes With a House Key by Rosaria Butterfield (Infographics & PDF)
  • 9 / 7:
    • New Accelerate Website Released

Full timeline will be made available online.

Conclusion

There is simply no way to justify the poor handling of our launch. Our irresponsible lack of communication has caused frustration and broken the trust of many.

We sincerely apologize and ask for your forgiveness. We write this to publicly commit to learning from our mistakes; we write with a new commitment to radical transparency; we write with a commitment to love God by loving our neighbor and doing so by always prioritizing our beloved users before anything else.

However, we know that words are cheap, and trust must be earned. Therefore, we’ve decided to offer a refund of August’s $9.99 subscription charge as our way of saying we’re truly sorry. To request a refund, please email us at info@acceleratebooks.com.

If you have any further questions or comments, send us an email and we will reply as soon as possible.

In His Service,

The TCB Accelerate Team