Self-Publishing, Direct Sales, and Mobile: The Netherlands’ Peter Paul van Bekkum

In Feature Articles by Porter Anderson

Asked ahead of Frankfurt’s The Markets, Rotterdam’s Peter Paul van Bekkum says mobile, direct sales, and self-publishing are the publishing developments to watch in The Netherlands.
Rotterdam's 'Cube Houses, designed in the 1970s by Piet Blom. Image - iStockphoto: Oliver Hoffmann

Rotterdam’s ‘Cube Houses, designed in the 1970s by Piet Blom. Image – iStockphoto: Oliver Hoffmann

In our series with specialists (analysts, visionaries, and players) who will speak to issues in the seven pivotal publishing markets of Frankfurt Book Fair’s conference, we hear now from Peter Paul van Bekkum of Rotterdam’s MyBestseller and Sweek. Van Bekkum is one of the industry figures from The Netherlands who’ll speak with delegates at The Markets: Global Publishing Summit on October 18.

By Porter Anderson, Editor-in-Chief | @Porter_Anderson

‘A Shift Toward Self-Publishing’
Close to 1,480 publishers are registered in the Netherlands, we learn in our free white paper on the seven regions of Frankfurt Book Fair’s The Markets: Global Publishing Summit.

And yet, writes Hannah Johnson in that white paper, “As in many markets, 100 publishers are responsible for producing around 95 percent of all titles.”

Peter Paul van Bekkum is founder and CEO of two companies based in Rotterdam.

  • MyBestseller is a self-publishing operation that provides a white label service to more than 30 third-party brands in The Netherlands, Germany, the UK, Turkey, and France.
  • Sweek, the newer of the two companies, is described as free reading and writing platform. With its promise of “making reading and writing social,” Sweek seems to echo something of the premise of the massive Toronto-based Wattpad.

“In a rapidly changing market,” van Bekkum tells Publishing Perspectives, “there are lots of challenges for publishers and resellers.”

Three Points of Concern
Peter Paul van Bekkum

Peter Paul van Bekkum

1. Top authors publishing by themselves. “There is a trend,” van Bekkum says, “of top authors leaving traditional publishers and publishing their new books all by themselves.

“They form their own ‘dream teams’ for editing, cover design, production, and marketing. Among them is Paulien Cornelisse, a bestselling author. She managed to reach the top of Dutch bestseller lists with her book De verwarde cavia within two weeks of its release, and she stayed atop the charts for quite some time.

“Many other authors are attracted by these successes and this may lead to a shift toward self-publishing for top authors. There will be new initiatives for these authors, a range of services to support them that let them maintain the flexibility they like as well as significantly higher margins for the writers. This will go hand-in-hand with the next trend I’ll mention, direct sales.”

2. Direct sales. “The book industry in the Netherlands and Flanders,” van Bekkum says, “is traditionally organized. Publishers publish books, CB is the main distributor of books and the retailers, online and off, sell those books.

“This model works perfect except that the margins for publishers and authors are getting thinner and thinner because of the growing costs of the sales channels.

“Somehow, almost no publisher sells directly to its audience. This will change quickly. New models are being introduced in which publishers will make use of as many as seven new sales channels. Some of those new ways of selling will be through social media, publishers’ own Web sites, a newly branded online store, and mobile publishing. These new pathways to sales will be facilitated by widgets, buy buttons, single Web shops, and automated affiliate sales.

Not only will these new sales channels lead to more sales—reaching new target groups—but they’ll also lead to higher margins for publishers and the authors.”

3. Mobile publishing. “Mobile will have the biggest impact of all the trends,” van Bekkum says.

“While no publisher knows yet what its winning business model will be, each company should embrace mobile publishing and experiment with it in order to gain crucial knowledge in this new ballgame.

“Mobile is leading to changes in reading and writing behavior, it carries an influential social component, and it may lead to gamification of reading. Some new business models, both free and paid, will be discussed. And this will shake the industry in the next decade.”

Publishing Perspectives: Can you tell us some of the third-party companies are using your MyBestseller self-publishing platform? 

MyBestseller logo linedPeter Paul van Bekkum: Some of them are Bol.com and Singel Publishers. In Germany, there are Mayersche Buchhandlung and Heymann Buchhandlung (Bookmundo.de). and in France, there’s Jouve (Imprimermonlivre.com).

PP: And can you fill us in on some details about Sweek?

Sweek logo linedPPvB: Sweek is a mobile publishing platform which allows anyone to read, write and share stories all over the world, in an instant, free of charge.

On Sweek you can find stories of both upcoming writers and established top authors, in all genres, to be read online and offline. Readers can follow, like, and share stories, and readers and writers are directly connected. Sweek is available in more than 10 languages and allows for publication in more than 60 languages.

Sweek makes reading and writing social, and cooperates with various publishers and targets in the smartphone generation. It also helps top authors build fanbases and markets their traditionally published books. It’s available in both Android and iOS apps, and in its Web version.


In addition to our Markets white paper, you can read our series of interviews and information relation to The Markets: Global Publishing Summit (18 October 2016) from Publishing Perspectives and the Frankfurt Book Fair.
The Markets logo

This year’s program will showcase the following seven markets:

  1. Brazil
  2. Flanders & The Netherlands (2016 Frankfurt Book Fair Guest of Honour)
  3. Philippines
  4. Poland
  5. Spain
  6. United Arab Emirates
  7. United Kingdom

The Markets’ programming highlights each of these seven publishing territories from three perspectives: analysis, vision, and industry players. The day is devised to provide attendees not only with information and insights into the most important features of each industry market, but also with extensive networking opportunities during the event.

About the Author

Porter Anderson

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Porter Anderson is Editor-in-Chief of Publishing Perspectives. Prior to that he was Associate Editor for The FutureBook, a channel at The Bookseller focused on digital publishing. Anderson has also worked with CNN International, CNN.com, CNN USA, the Village Voice, the Dallas Times Herald, and other media.