When the Copyright Agency Limited conducted a digital publishing survey recently, it found that some 26 per cent of Australian book publishers have no digital strategy at all, yet two-thirds of CAL members think digital sales will eventually overtake print for the Australian publishing industry as a whole.
The survey found that authors see access to more readers and international markets as the main benefit of digital publishing (78.4 per cent). The ability to self-publish and sell content directly (54.8 per cent) and the speed at which writing projects could be developed (52.5 per cent) were also seen as pluses.
So it’s no wonder multinational book publishers like Harlequin and Pan Macmillan are starting to develop strategies to appeal to innovative, tech savvy, entrepreneurial writers, and retain their share in these authors’ success.
Romance publisher Harlequin launched a “digital first” arm, Carina Press, in the US a couple of years ago. Carina now publishes some five digital-only titles a week (with print-on-demand on the horizon), and has experimented with different lengths, such as novellas of 15,000 words, as well as genre re-mixing (think paranormal romance, for example).
Carina’s executive editor, Angela James (@angelajames), shared her experiences of running a digital imprint at an if:book-organised event in Sydney last month (you can read the live Twitter coverage of the “Going Digital” event here).
James said Carina is able to bring books to market much more quickly than its print counterparts – in around six months. Its author contracts include world rights, and no advances, though royalties are slightly higher than in standard print publishing deals.
Carina titles are not restricted by DRM (digital rights management software), which is designed to prevent piracy. James said she could show us how to strip DRM from an ebook in 15 seconds flat, and Carina had not seen any relative increase in piracy rates.
Readers will be hoping this and the stance on world rights are a sign of what’s to come. Australian ebook buyers are familiar with the situation where they are denied access to a title that may have been available in the US or UK for months due to complex international rights agreements.
Setting up separate, digital-only businesses is one way for publishers to get around these territorial rights restrictions for future titles.
Among the attendees at the presentation was a large contingent from Pan Macmillan. Two days later, on August 18, the Australian arm of the publishing giant announced the launch of its own digital-only imprint, Momentum Books. Like Carina, it will take in world rights for all titles, fast-track the publishing process and experiment with formats.
Momentum will publish new authors as well as names including John Birmingham (author of After America), Andy Griffiths (The Day My Bum Went Psycho), Rusty Young (Marching Powder), and a new iOS (iPhone, iPod touch and iPad) app from baby whisperer Tizzie Hall (Save our
Birmingham is, it seems, chief cheerleader for Momentum Books.
‘This is so cool, so inevitably going to be awesome, that if Pan hadn’t gone there, I was totally gonna go all wildcat and do it myself,’ he writes on the press release to announce Momentum’s launch.
‘It means writers can experiment in ways that just aren’t possible when you’re betting the mortgage on a book that took four years to write. It’s almost an insurgent style of doing things that you wouldn’t expect to see from one of the older and most successful publishing houses.
‘Pan … brings skills and possibilities to the process that garage-based publishing can’t match.’
‘It feels like the future just caught up with us.’
Tomorrow, EBOOKISH.com.au will catch up with Momentum’s publisher, Joel Naoum, to find out more about the experiments he’ll be undertaking in his new role. We’ll keep you posted.