I’ve been thinking a lot about ebooks lately. I’m working on a special project (details to be revealed soon) and it’s taken me deep into the world of formatting, Kindle, Kobe, Mobi files and all manner of other technological mayhem. I’m slowly coming around to the idea of buying an e-reader, though I can never see it taking the place of my beloved books. Where I can see its value, however, is in the sheer number of books I could carry at once, as well as the availability of new material at all times.
Take now, for example. A quiet Tuesday night at home and I have no book at hand to read. It’s enough to make a girl blog.
With my new interest in mind, and given my position as an author and soon-to-be novelist, I decided it was time to take the bull by the horns and find out more about the e-book publishing business. So I smiled beguilingly at Joel Naoum, publisher of Momentum, Pan Macmillan’s new digital-only imprint, and invited him to the Fibro for a grilling.
Pan Macmillan is the first Australian publisher to launch a digital-only imprint, so I figured that Joel, as a man at the forefront of the foray into ebooks here, was a good person to ask about all the changes in the publishing business.
Fortunately, he smiled back. Here he is. All toasty.
Why was Momentum set up?
Joel Naoum: “For a few reasons, but the main one is to get the opportunity to experiment. Because we’re separate from Pan Macmillan and the imprint is structured in a different way (no warehouses, no distribution costs, no printing costs), we can afford to experiment with debut authors, keep prices low and sell our authors globally.”
Are you always acquiring? What are you looking for in a writer or project?
JN: “I am always acquiring! I’m looking for books with global appeal, authors who are engaged with their potential audience on social media or blogs, books that work well digitally (genre fiction, for the most part) and – most importantly – a great story.”
Is it a difficult time to be an author – or an exciting time to be an author? Discuss.
JN: “It’s both. Authors are going to be expected to know more and do more and yet it is getting commensurately more difficult for new authors to get a publishing deal. The rise of social media means that it’s difficult for publishers to market on an author’s behalf nowadays. The most effective way for an author to reach their audience is to directly engage with them. It’s exciting for authors, however, because they have an unprecedented opportunity to make their work available to readers without a publisher (though I’d still argue that authors are better off with a publisher than without!).”
How does an author stand out when a reader has to wade through the entire internet to find their book?
JN: “My experience – and I suspect that of many readers – is that they have too many things they want to read. The internet buying experience is optimised for those people. Get in and get out. It’s not an ideal browsing experience, and I don’t actually see that experience from a bricks-and-mortar bookstore being replicated online. (And I think the ebook stores who try will probably fail.)
“People ‘browse’ books online by reading widely and organically stumbling upon things they want to read. The benefit of internet shopping in general – and particularly with ebooks – is that the distance between thinking ‘oh, that might be interesting to read’ and being able to read it is very short. A few clicks at most. That’s where digital book marketing comes in. Our digital marketing team maximises the opportunities for readers to organically discover books and decreases the amount of time and energy it takes to purchase a book.”
What are your three top tips for writers to who want to survive and thrive in this changing publishing environment?
JN: “That’s a tough one… I’d say ‘keep writing’ is my number one tip. At the end of the day, that’s still the most important thing a writer can do (that is, don’t get distracted by points two and three…).
“Second point is to read. Not enough writers read in the genre they want to write for – and they make terrible rookie mistakes that make me want to throw their manuscript out the window (if it wasn’t inside my computer, that is).
“Third point is to engage online with social media and try to build up a useful professional writing and reading network.”
[Edited 9/16] Unfortunately, Momentum Publishing has closed its doors, but Joel’s advice remains extremely important for authors today.