Digital first publishing creating new opportunities for writers – Part 2 (Hampress and Really Blue Books)

I’m very enthused about the possibilities in digital first publishing. They are creating new options for readers but also new opportunities for writers. In my last post about Australian digital first publishers I covered Editia, Momentum and Xoum.

Digital first publishing ventures are being launched by people and groups from a variety of experience in publishing. One recent Australian venture has been created by Australian historian Paul Ham. With a background in journalism and publishing, he is also the author of  Hiroshima NagasakiKokodaVietnam: The Australian War and the latest, Sandakan published in October 2012.

Hampress creates Shortbooks, Audio books and short films and sells them for around A$3.50 and $4.50 – ‘about the price of a cup of coffee’ as it states on their site. Users of their site can create an account and buy directly from them, although their work will also be available on Amazon, Apple, Kobo and Google. Shortbooks written by Ham will be available for free on the Hampress website but for sale on other retail channels. With Ham’s international connections he has writers, friends and agents who act as representatives and promote the site in Paris, London and Los Angeles.

The progress of the internet is like a comet streaking across the sky. In the boiling hot molten head are the tech pioneers – pornography and gambling; a little way back is Google, Amazon and eBay; then, further back, Apple, Facebook and Twitter; then came online ticketing, retail, travel etc; and way back, right at the end, in the smoking tail, sits Music, Publishing and Newspapers. In other words, the companies that had most to gain from the web have been the slowest to adopt it. And they’re failing, because they gave away their intellectual property right from the start. The newspapers simply handed over their core product: news (a bizarre act of self-cannibalism). The Music industry simply sat on its haunches and watched the revolution race by. Publishers stripped books of their value by charging a fraction of their price online, but kept the old price on the shelves. That was understandable, but confused the public, and hardly enhanced the perception of an author’s commercial worth. Now people are gradually re-learning the ancient lesson, that you have to pay for quality. Great writing will once again command a fee. But authors are helpless to control the level – because few old economy publishers have their interests at heart in the digital world. Hampress aims to reverse this, by championing the new model of the shortbook – and a new kind of writing.”

Paul Ham, Founder of Hampress

Although the content on the site is still quite small in their soft launch phase (five shortbooks, seven audiobooks and one film) there are many more in the wings so stand by for more announcements.

Although most publishers promote author events around publication, Hampress are taking another angle by promoting they also produce events, readings and debates. Their first event – The Hampress Big Fat Sydney Poetry Pig-out – will be held at The Basement on 2 December 2012. There will be “Great poetry recitals by great actors and authors.”. They are planning more events for 2013 in Sydney, Paris and London.

Operating on the common digital first formula of ‘no advances but higher than normal royalties’, the exceptions are public figures and politicians who are asked and expected to donate to charities. In a nice touch Hampress donate A$0.10 of every purchase to their supported charities Médecins Sans Frontières and Schizophrenia Research Institute.

Hampress are open to ideas and you can submit to them via their site. They are clear they can’t reply to every submission, but if they are interested in the idea you will hear back from them within a month. In this case ‘no news is not good news’ although they encourage you to rethink your proposal and resubmit.  So far they have received a considerable number of pitches and they hope to start letting the world know about some of their upcoming work soon.

You can visit their website, follow them on Twitter or Like them on Facebook.

 

Another local entrant to digital first publishing is Really Blue Books. Launched as a company in September 2011, their first five titles were released in February 2012. Founded by Sarah Bailey, they call themselves “the rogue epublisher and ebook of the modern era.” With over 150 submissions received in their first year of operations, to date they have published eight titles with another 5-6 due by the end of 2012.

Digital to me is the exciting frontier of publishing. I love what it offers all parties: greater publishing options and potential readers for authors, greater accessibility, choice and convenience for readers, greater potential customer base, shorter publishing schedules and lower risk for publishers. Statistics have shown that people with portable reading devices, be they ereaders, tablets or smartphones, are reading more than they would have otherwise. I’m all for the proliferation of reading, knowledge and improving the mind. And, of course, escapism! It is terribly exciting to be part of an industry that changes and evolves on almost a month-to-month basis.

Sarah Bailey, Founder, Really Blue Books.

Like many digital first publishers they are Anti DRM and naturally enough focus on ebooks! Really Blue Books also operate on ‘no advances but higher than normal royalties’ but are open in sharing that they “offer our authors 45% of Net Receipts.” Customers can create their account on the site and purchase directly from them or via their retail partners Amazon, Kobo, Google Play and Firsty Fish. I’d never heard of Firstly Fish but they are a UK-based ebookseller. Bkclb, OverDrive and Booki.sh will follow soon.

Really Blue books are publishing mostly fiction, and non-fiction although open to ideas. Really Blue Books will publish short stories of 7,500 words in length but require a minimum of four stories submitted. They accept Novelettes of 7,500 – 18,000 words in length; Novellas and Young Adult fiction of 18,000 – 45,000 words and Novels of 45,000 words+.

They take submissions in a wide range of document file types: .doc, .docx, .odt, .pdf, .rtf, .html, .xhtml, .epub, .indd (Microsoft Word, Libre Office/Open Office, Adobe PDF, Adobe InDesign, web or ebook formats). Read the submission guidelines before you rush off though and email submissions to: submissions@reallybluebooks.com .

Due to the large volume of submissions being received and working with a small but dedicated team, the wait to hear if your submission has been successful is around 8-10 weeks. Bailey said this was to enable every submission the consideration it is due. She hopes she can improve on this timeline in the future. She also said “The quality of the submissions we’ve received has been amazing – so much so, I’m wondering how they ever get past the traditional publishers.”

There are future plans for an ‘author portal’ to enable two or more people access to edit a single document eliminating the problem with version control. Bailey wants author, editor and publisher to remain up-to-date to the minute on the progress of a publication. ” I feel that this is the next step in the digital evolution of the entire publishing process and will be very excited to roll it out in future.”

You can visit their website, Like them on Facebook, add them to your circle on Google+ or follow them on Twitter.

 

Do you know of any Australian or New Zealand digital first publishers I should feature in this series?

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