Can Sweek turn free mobile stories into a self-publishing empire?

Can Sweek turn free mobile stories into a self-publishing empire?

Self-publishing, serialisation, gamification, sales - this Netherlands-based startup is a one-stop publishing shop with a mobile heart.

The pitch

Sweek is a global mobile platform for free reading, writing and sharing stories. Readers can like, share, follow and comment on stories, while writers have the opportunity to build a fanbase from scratch.

As well as mobile publishing, Sweek offers writers free services to self-publish their work - as a printed book and/or an e-book - and then sell it directly via social media, their own websites and relevant sales channels.

For publishers, Sweek hopes to provide a fresh way to run writing contests and discover new talent.

The team

Headquartered in Rotterdam, Sweek was co-founded by three Netherlands natives - Peter Paul van Bekkum, Sabine van der Plas and Veronika Kartovenko. The company is powered by a team of young business, publishing and IT professionals representing 12 different nationalities, and has been incubated by Mybestseller, one of Europe’s market leaders in self-publishing. Sweek also partners with Romanian IT company Qubiz for app and web development. 

What's the gap in the market?

"The rise of the smartphone, unlimited internet access and social media are drastically changing the way we, and especially the younger generation, consume content," van Bekkum explains. "Short stories, reading ‘books’ chapter-by-chapter and serialized reading in combination with a social, engaged community and gamification is the way the publishing world is inevitably heading. Sweek fills this gap in a unique way, while still being connected to the more traditional publishing world by offering self-publishing, direct selling, talent scouting and a range of services to authors and publishers."

Success so far?

Launched this year, Sweek already has 230,000 users, who have published 70,000 stories from more than 80 countries. "We are on track to reach over 1 million users by the end of our second year," van Bekkum reports. "The self-publishing is taking off nicely, and authors are starting to earn money."

The company has also run a successful talent-scouting pilot with Ravensburger, the German publishing house, which saw 16-year old Samira Bosshard receive a publishing contract. "This triggered a lot of other publishers from around the globe," van Bekkum says. "We are looking forward to seeing more Sweek talent discovered." 

Biggest challenges?

With a growing bank of users, content, competitions and partnerships, the Sweek team has a dauntingly broad to-do list. "We're trying to keep our heads cool with all the opportunities we see, and choose the right ones," van Bekkum says.

Ultimate ambition?

Sweek is excited about the crossover between text and video, and would love to become "the social YouTube for stories." Van Bekkum states their aim "to be a global community where readers are able to find any content they’d like, and where authors reach their audience and also earn from their work. We want to deliver new rockstars of writing, both for bestselling books as well as new hit series, whether this is in text or video format."

Advice to other publishing entrepreneurs?

"Validate your product as soon as possible in the real market, experiment with different concepts, ask your users for feedback. and do not be afraid to adapt. Sweek was first launched as a minimum viable product and had some missing functionality. However, user behavior and feedback showed what was most important to our end users and allowed us to prioritize our development efforts. The same goes with experiments. We launched our microfiction competition in one market, and after high traction we implemented it for other markets as well."

Sweek has been shortlisted as one of six finalists for the BookTech Company of the Year Award. To watch the Sweek team pitch live for the award, book your tickets for the FutureBook 2017 conference now.