10 to Watch 2016: TellWell

“Authors are, in a sense, like entrepreneurs. They have a project and big hopes plus all the details of executing on those hopes. And really, they need help from a team of other creative people.”

Photograph by Simon Desrochers.

From CEOs to chefs, many people have stories to tell — and more and more of them are choosing self-publishing. But as many of them discover, self-publishing with some mainstream firms can be a tough gig, leaving authors feeling nameless and overcharged after paying markup on printing and giving up a portion of revenues for sales and distribution.

To the rescue is TellWell, a Victoria-based company whose founder, Tim Lindsay, has worked with enough authors to know they need a great team behind them plus a structure that gives them 100-per-cent net royalties and no markup on print costs. That, says Lindsay, means TellWell can be objective when giving authors advice on how to print, distribute and sell books.

Lindsay, who spent nine years in media and publishing before launching TellWell, says “Our model is simple. We charge money for publishing-related services, such as editing and design and helping authors sell their books.”

TellWell makes money on services, not book sales. “It’s the authors who take the biggest risks by investing in their books, so they should get the biggest reward,” he says, noting authors cover their publishing costs faster with TellWell because they earn higher royalties.

“We’re transparent about the team working on each book,” he adds. “At TellWell, you know who your editor is, or your designer. You’ve got a strong, passionate team behind you who loves publishing.”

And, judging from the office foosball table, it’s a team who likes to have fun when they are not finessing manuscripts.

Q&A with Tim Lindsay of TellWell

What was your biggest startup challenge?

The balance between developing and improving services with executing day-to-day things that need to be done. Also, with our position, where we offer better royalties and lower printing costs, most people still look at what they are paying up front. So you have
to educate them about benefits.

What was the scariest part of starting up?

I’m not sure it was scary, but I had to make big decisions about scale. I could have remained self-employed working from home, had very enjoyable work and done quite well. It was a conscious decision to get an office and build a company. There are trade offs, of course. best Business advice you received? You need to have passion for the business or you’ll get exhausted too quickly. If you start a business just to make money as opposed to doing something you believe in and enjoy, it’s going to be less sustainable.

TellWell Business Profile

Type of business: Self-publishing company

Year founded: 2015

Owner/principal: Tim Lindsay

Employees: 6

This article is from the April/May 2016 issue of Douglas.