What an incredible two years it has been since we launched Tellwell. In November of 2014, I set about writing a book aimed at freelance editors and other publishing professionals. The purpose of the book was to give editors a better understanding of the indie publishing industry and the opportunity it represents to them. I wanted to teach good editors how to connect with and help the growing number of authors choosing to self-publish.
Indeed, the self-publishing industry has grown remarkably in the past ten years. Back in 2006, about 80,000 ISBNs (the unique number for each book) were issued to authors who self-published in the U.S. Fast-forward nine years and over 700,000 ISBNs were issued in 2015 alone. That’s an 800% increase.
Three technology changes facilitated this growth: print-on-demand, ebooks, and e-commerce. All of these changes reduced distribution barriers, making it easier to sell books. But, these technology changes did not reduce the need for a good editor, a good designer, and help with marketing.
While the self-publishing industry has gotten bigger, in some respects it hasn’t gotten better. Amazingly, just five companies account for over 80% of self-published books. After working in the industry and studying the major companies closely for many years, I came to the conclusion that the industry has two serious problems.
First, the industry lacks transparency with regard to the people working on each book. Most companies operate a secretive, factory-style approach to publishing. You don’t know if the editors and designers have experience and if they are good at what they do. To most authors, their book is their baby. Handing over the manuscript to a faceless company is scary.
Second, most companies obscure how royalties and distribution work. Printing costs are too high and royalties are too low. Companies force authors to price their books too high to sell. Unfortunately, most authors don’t understand the industry well enough to know that there is a better way.
We quietly launched the company at the beginning of 2015 and immediately gained traction by offering a transparent, team-approach to publishing. We emulated what the smartest indie publishers were doing — selectively choosing the best distribution channels to maximize royalties and minimize printing costs. We offered the best distribution deal in the indie publishing industry from day one.
And we offered experience. Our book designers had each designed several hundred books prior to starting with Tellwell. It sounds paradoxical, but you could speculate that our very first day on the job at Tellwell we already had more experience than our competitors! It’s hard to know for sure, of course, due to the lack of transparency.
Since our launch, we have worked with over 400 incredible Canadian authors. Our authors have been featured on CTV National, the CBC, the Ottawa Citizen, and other prominent media outlets across the country. Our authors’ books have been stocked by Chapters and independent bookstores.
And where do we go from here?
We are just a small company. But our dream is a big one, to have a positive influence on the publishing industry. Our mission is to make the industry more transparent and to connect authors with the perfect publishing team.
One person can make a difference. A team can make a miracle.