Going it alone: Why there has never been a better time to be a self-published author

This time last year, The Bookseller ran a piece analysing the latest industry figures from Nielsen. The article covered all formats and markets, but the headline was about self-publishing. Of all the numbers in Nielsen’s report, the most astonishing was the 22% e-book market share gained by self-published titles.

It’s a statistic that surprised many people. Precise figures for self-publishing sales have always been hard to come by and, while online retailer charts often have self-published titles in the top 10, the sheer scale of the market share was unexpected.

The following week there was an article about a major publishing company launching its author portal, designed to give its authors greater access to their brand and sales figures. It was the latest in a long line of publishers offering greater author control in response to growing demand from writers and agents for more revenue transparency.

These two articles, published just a week apart, provide some poignant background to Bonnier Sweden’s new self-publishing venture, Type & Tell: a business that combines professional publishing services with authors’ desires for greater control—a new, high-tech hybrid publishing model.

The next steps

Type & Tell launched in Sweden in 2015 as a self-publishing platform that gives authors control over their own typesetting, design and editorial teams, pricing and distribution, while guiding them through the publishing process with professional help. There is also a unique online book creator through which the service offers the author the control and quality they desire, while lowering the cost of self-publishing.

The platform has been a success with Swedish users—and the next step for the brand is a UK launch. However, it was clear that the UK market would need a slightly different approach. Self-publishing in Sweden is in its early stages. Bricks-and-mortar bookshops still account for a significant proportion of sales and Amazon has only a relatively modest market presence.

In the UK, self-publishing is mature, with plenty of companies offering services already. Amazon is the dominant retailer for self-published books, and English-language products can access a global marketplace. These factors have shaped the UK model for Type & Tell, which is launching during this year’s London Book Fair, offering a complete self-publishing service that guides users throughout the process, from professional editorial guidance and cover design, through to publication, distribution and printing—and all with free typesetting and 100% author royalties. It’s an original model that has only been made possible by investing in pioneering writing and typesetting technology.

The golden age?

For Bonnier, investment in this self-publishing platform is a statement of intent—not only in Type & Tell’s commitment to affordable quality, but also to the future of self-publishing. Bonnier sees self-publishing’s growth partly as a reflection of a social change—our desire to share more, to speak and be heard and our sense of entitlement—and partly as a result of the recent democratisation of publishing.

Very simply, people publish because they can. Anyone can. Prices have come down and digital retail outlets have expanded. It’s a golden era for self-publishing: the quality and cost of digital printing has improved so dramatically that these books can genuinely compete with traditionally published products. And the digitisation of the publishing process means that books’ metadata can also be globally distributed and amended at short notice.

Self-publishing authors also retain control of their own price levers, not only manipulating the RRP but also, by extension, their own royalty. In this area in particular, self-publishing authors don’t just have parity with traditionally published authors, they have the advantage, being able to control their price promotions to coincide with their own timetable and marketing.

Greater author control, higher publishing standards, more rights opportunities. In many ways, there has never been a better time to self-publish.