Danish Publisher Politiken Launches Polaris Publishing in Sweden

In Feature Articles by Marie Bilde

A key player in the Danish publishing market has launched a new publishing house in Sweden: can doubling her market mean twice the success?
Lene Juul, Director of Politikens Forlag in Denmark

Lene Juul, Director of Politikens Forlag in Denmark

By Marie Bilde | @MarieBilde

‘Large-Scale Advantages’
Eearlier this month, Denmark’s third largest publishing house JP/Politiken Publishers, announced the launch of Polaris Publishers (Polaris Förlag) in Sweden.

polaris-forlag-logo-lined-politikens-storyPolaris will function as an “independent unit,” according to the press release. It will be led by Jonas Axelsson, who will leave his position as CEO at the Swedish literary agency Partners in Stories. Previously, he was literary director at Sweden’s Albert Bonniers Förlag and director of Bonnier Group Agency.

p_forlag_logo-linedJust like its Danish parent publisher, Polaris will focus on literary fiction, crime and thrillers, as well as popular nonfiction.

Publishing Perspectives had an opportunity to interview Lene Juul, the CEO of Denmark’s JP/Politikens Publishers, about the new Swedish venture, asking about the ambition and strategy behind it.

Publishing Perspectives: What is the strategy behind launching Polaris right now?

Lene Juul: JP/Politiken Publishers have had some very good years with significant growth, and we now run a solid business. We stand today as a strong publishing house. Our bestseller strategy has been successful, and it has allowed us to develop new editorial programs—for example, a literary fiction line.

Our good financial situation led us to seek expansion, [and] at the same time, we want potential expansions to contribute to the further development of the Danish publishing house.

We’ve been looking at Sweden from that perspective for some time now. Despite some differences, it’s not very far from what we know. We can therefore re-use and adapt our existing strategy and technology.

The Swedish book market has been developing, even though some Swedish publishers have had some turbulent years. [One example of this is the Swedish audiobook subscription service Storytel purchasing Norstedts Förlag earlier this year, after absorbing Denmark’s Mofibo.]

With the experience, expertise and market-oriented focus of JP/Politiken, I’m convinced that we can obtain a good market position for Polaris–in co-existence with our skilled Swedish colleagues.

PP: What do you hope to accomplish by having a presence in two countries?

LJ: It’s my belief that our close relationship will make us better publishers in both Denmark and Sweden. With the partnership comes possibilities for large-scale advantages and the economics of scale: collective purchases. Polaris can benefit from our existing publishing system with only a few adjustments, and they can quite easily use an adapted version of our website, which we first launched two years ago.

As we do at JP/Politiken, Polaris will strive to publish everything in all formats simultaneously. [Print, ebook, audiobook.] Sweden has much higher sales figures for audiobooks than we have in Denmark, and Polaris will of course seek to take advantage of that.

A larger share of Swedish book sales takes place online [than in Denmark], even when it comes to print books. This is where JP/Politikens’ expertise in mass marketing—and our financial opportunity to see it through—can really make a difference: We have used that muscle to build up brands and authorships with great success, and we expect to do it in Sweden. We aim high, and we have the strength and machinery of our owner, JP/Politiken Group, backing us up.

PP: How will the catalogues of both houses be affected by this partnership?

LJ: We’ve already had a lot of interest from Swedish authors, who understandably find the possibility of being published in both markets quite attractive.

And when it comes to buying translation rights, we can negotiate and buy the rights for Denmark and Sweden at the same time. This will also be more attractive to the foreign agents. We’ve known some agents to be reluctant to spend time dealing with our relatively small markets and sales potential. But together we stand stronger: size matters.

PP: The first Polaris books are due to come out in the second half of 2017. How many books do you plan to publish in 2017? And how about the following years?

LJ: We expect to publish between 10 and 15 books in 2017. In 2018, we plan to double this number, and in 2019 maybe double it again to reach the catalogue volume we want.

We’ll have a mix of books from established authors and debut Swedish authors, as well as translation of high-quality books. We don’t want to be a “translation-outlet.” And Jonas [Axelsson] is the best man Polaris could have asked to find the perfect mix.

With the interest we’ve already had from Swedish and Danish authors, I’m confident that the goal is achievable. I’m very excited about the project, and I look forward to following and supporting Jonas’ work.

JP/Politiken Publishers is part of JP/Politiken Group , which owns several prominent Danish newspapers (Politiken, Jyllands-posten, Børsen) as well as the digital newspaper archive Infomedia and the online bookshop riidr.com.

About the Author

Marie Bilde

A digital publishing enthusiast focused on disruption, infrastructure, globalization, and new business models, Marie Bilde has spent 20 years in various areas of Danish publishing, holding positions as lexicographer, digital editor, and manager of digital production and distribution. Today she works as an independent book industry consultant.