In late 2009 Charlotte Harper became obsessed with Twitter. ‘I was just sitting on Twitter on my iPhone for hours on end,’ she says. 140-character quips, thoughts and headlines streamed down her screen. Then she noticed a hashtag #appletablet. ‘People [were] talking about how this apple device was coming, and [that] it was going to change everything. I thought, “It is. That’s true. If Apple release an e-reader it will change everything and here’s my chance,”’ she says. The hashtag begat Editia, ‘a new digital first publishing business devoted to long form journalism and non-fiction shorts.’ (Editia website) Harper admits to being an early adaptor. ‘I’m ridiculous. I’m one of those people who queues up outside Apple stores from the early hours of the morning, [who] takes my small children so they have to wait with me,’ she quips. But this enthusiasm has been pivotal to the launch of Editia, and to the vision and skills that Harper brings as founder and publisher.
She’s worked as an editor, a journalist, a Walkley Award-winning digital producer and a teacher of journalism. Her first book about technology was published in 1999. She’s working on a Masters in Communications by Research at the University of Canberra about, ‘Social reading, long form journalism and the connected ebook’. After reading those early tweets on the #appletablet she found her way to the launch of the iPad in Australia. Her blog about the technology, ebookish.com.au went live from her hotel room the very night of the launch.
Thus it’s not surprising that Editia is a digital first publishing house. And while the pending list covers a broad range of topics – including the arts, food, the environment and literature Harper says that, ‘in each case there’s a bit of a connection back to technology.’
In short, Editia is interested in good non-fiction writing, and is open to established and emerging writers (provided you have a letter of endorsement from an editor or lecturer). Alliteration is the key to remembering ‘Six till Seven Submission Sundays’ (that’s two short windows each Sunday, not one long one). Detailed submission guidelines are available on the website.
Editia is a pioneering digital-first publishing house for long form non-fiction in Australia. Being an early adaptor involves vision, nimbleness, risk and a bit of experimentation. To help mitigate risk, Harper has established a Corporate Advisory Board of digital publishing experts. As far as experimentation goes, well, that’s all part of the fun. ‘We’re all experimenting – mainstream publishers small start ups, indie authors, bookshops… It’s a really exciting time to be involved in the industry because nobody really knows what’s going to happen next,’ she says.
In lieu of advances, Editia offers writers a digital consulting package to help them better build their brand. ‘It’s really hard to cut through unless you have something to distinguish yourself from the rest of the people out there. If you just set up a blog and say, “I’ve written this book and it’s really good and you should buy it,” why is anyone going to bother coming there?’ she asks. Harper recommends that writers establish a niche. ‘Build your profile by providing content that’s really useful for people rather than just [being] about self promotion,’ she says.
Tablets and digital technology have shaken-up the traditional publishing industry, but a side effect is opportunities for writers and independent publishers like Editia. ‘Hopefully the future of long form non-fiction is going to be hugely successful, and grow in popularity as more and more readers in Australia and internationally become owners of tablets and e-readers,’ says Harper. With the technology in their hands, readers will realise the potential for consuming non-fiction pieces outside of traditional formats.
Harper recognises that many writers – both established an emerging – are pondering the future of their long form work. What she sees, ‘is an opportunity for [writers] to build up their own profile and write the stories that they want to write (rather than the stories that editors in media organisations tell them to write).’ For this writer at least, that’s a liberating thought. But to Harper, the benefit of this is not just for writers. ‘When writers are writing the stories they want to write, the stories are so much better aren’t they?’ she says, ‘I think the future is very bright.’
- In addition to considering submissions year-round, there is an Editia Prize for a work of long form narrative journalism (between 10,000 and 35,000 words). The winner will receive a $2,500 advance on royalties. Submissions to the prize open on 30 November, 2012.