Journalism, like every facet of the publishing industry, has undergone a slew of changes, and Editia has emerged to make the most of these so-called exciting times. Editia is a digital-first imprint devoted to longform journalism and non-fiction shorts spearheaded by the dynamic Charlotte Harper.
Since 2010, Charlotte, and her corporate advisory board (consisting of an impressive range of experienced industry professionals), have been laying the groundwork for the emergence of Editia. This year saw the launch of the imprint’s first title, Anna Maguire’s Crowdfund It! Check out the Editia blog for full details about the title and the array of publicity it’s been receiving.
Cutbacks to newspaper and magazine editorial teams and freelance budgets have meant that longform journalism has become increasingly difficult publish. Strict word limits in the print media all too often constrain the potential of longer journalism, and the slow turnarounds in print publishing have meant that it’s been difficult to publish newsworthy creative non-fiction in a timely manner. Editia, seeing this as an opportunity, has responded, capitalising on digital publishing’s ability to respond immediately to the moment of note.
If you are a journalist or a non-fiction writer, Editia is looking for well-researched, narrative-driven longform journalism or creative non-fiction, between 10,000 and 35,000 words, in a diverse range of areas. For information on Editia submissions visit their website. Submissions for the Editia Prize for creative non-fiction also open on November 30, and this promises to be an exciting endeavour indeed.
We at Speakeasy were thrilled to get the opportunity to speak with Editia doyen Charlotte Harper about her exciting new project.
Speakeasy: Can you tell us how Editia came about and what your hopes for it are?
Charlotte Harper (CH): I’ve always wanted to be a book publisher. In fact, I published my first book, Mr Water, back in 1978, when I was 7, and sent it off to then favourite author Roger Hargreaves. He sent me back a lovely letter featuring Mr Funny.
I fell into journalism as a uni graduate, but kept an eye on the book world, completing a Postgraduate Diploma in Editing and Publishing at Macquarie University in 1999 – the same year my own book, Weird Wild Web, was published by Penguin Australia – and spending three years as a newspaper literary editor soon after.
My background in online journalism and technology writing meant I was well positioned to keep track of the digital revolution in the book industry between 2009 and today. I remember seeing tweets featuring the hashtags #appletablet and #islate in late 2009 and knowing that with the impending arrival of the iPad came my opportunity to launch a start-up that would make the most of social media and ereader technology – and of my own skills and career experience – to help writers to reach readers who are hungry for digitally driven content. I registered the business name Editia in early 2010.
I spent a couple of years researching and tracking industry developments for my then blog, ebookish.com.au, as well as other media outlets, meanwhile putting money aside to fund the business. I have worked closely with a group of like-minded, digitally savvy book industry types who now form Editia’s corporate advisory board.
As for my hopes, I’d love to sell enough copies of our first title, Crowdfund it!, to be able to cover all of our costs for 2013, and then within a couple of years to be able to start hiring staff and building our list from a handful of titles a year to many more.
Speakeasy: In your blog post ‘What is Longform Journalism?’ you say that longform journalism is ‘a popular genre, and the rise of the ebook will only boost it further.’ Can you talk a little about what the rise of the ebook means to forms of writing such as longform journalism? Do you think that longform journalism has been under-represented in traditional media?
CH: There is no doubt that as newspaper and magazine publishers have tightened their belts, the opportunities for in-house journalists to spend the necessary time to write quality longform journalism have dwindled. These same publishers have cut their budgets for contributors too, leaving freelance writers with little scope to dedicate themselves to longer works.
Ebooks offer the potential for writers to reach readers directly, and to be paid for their work on a per sale basis, whether they self-publish, or work with a start-up like Editia in Australia, or the Atavist and Byliner in the US. The Kindle Singles program has proven the model can work.
Longform works are easier to consume on a dedicated ereading device like a Kindle, Kobo or Sony Reader, or a tablet like the iPad, than on a website too.
Speakeasy: As we’ve begun to see with digital-only fiction journals, like the Review of Australian Fiction, the nature of online journals offers a freedom from the constraints of the word limit, allowing a piece to run to its natural length. In your opinion, what does this freedom offer to journalists and other non-fiction writers?
CH: I have been frustrated throughout my career as a journalist at the constraints print places on writers, in terms of space and time. Deadlines for newspapers and magazines are based around printing and truck distribution schedules, rather than the optimum timing for a story or its readers.
Word lengths are dictated by the space available in a particular edition or on a particular page. Advertising levels and editorial judgement of individuals who have no interest in a particular story can mean an excellent feature is slashed in half. I hate to think how many fine words I’ve had to cut out of colleagues’ print articles over the years.
Then there are the pages and pages of research and audio recordings of interviews that journalists collect and often archive without using it at all. With ebook-length journalism, this material can come to life.
The freedom to publish works of journalism at their natural length is, for me, one of the main attractions for working with ebooks and print-on-demand. The ability to make corrections and publish fast turnaround updates are equally wonderful.
Speakeasy: Can you talk a little about the potential that digital publishing has to capture/engage with the Zeitgeist?
CH: I wouldn’t use the word potential here. Digital developments have already shaken up the publishing industry so dramatically that nothing will ever be the same.
Independent authors are going it alone and reaching audiences they could never have dreamed of in the pre-ebook and pre-social media era.
GoodReads groups and global networks of readers sharing comments and highlights via Kobo, Amazon and ReadMill are replacing book clubs in living rooms.
Major publishing houses are publishing fewer and fewer high-cost print titles like cookbooks as content consumption patterns change.
Readers are increasingly discovering (and instantly purchasing) new titles online, leaving newspaper section editors and bricks and mortar stores to ponder their futures.
I hope desperately that the best publishing houses, newspaper sections and bookshops will survive and thrive; mind you, I suspect there will be more pain in all three sectors in coming years.
Meanwhile, lean start-ups like Editia are nimble enough to react quickly to developments in the market. Who knows what will be next for the industry, or for us? We can’t wait to find out.
Speakeasy: Editia has recently launched its first title Crowdfund it! by Anna Maguire. Can you tell us a little about the response this book has received and what you think it means for the Editia project?
CH: The response has been wonderful. My favourite so far was when Sydney Morning Herald literary editor Susan Wyndham described Crowdfund it! as “Zeitgeisty” in an article about Editia’s launch in the Saturday Spectrum liftout (our favourite newspaper section of all).
It was really important for us to launch with a cutting edge title by a digitally-savvy author, and we have done just that. Crowdfunding is huge right now, and growing in profile all the time. If anything, Anna’s book was a little ahead of its time in terms of mainstream reach, because we still meet potential readers who haven’t yet heard of crowdfunding. Fortunately, there are also plenty of filmmakers, entrepreneurs, musicians, writers and artists looking for expertise on the phenomenon, as well as hipsters who just like to be up with the latest tech and cultural trends.
Speakeasy: I understand that although much of Editia’s 2013 list is already full, submissions are still open. Can you offer any insight into what you might be looking for regarding submissions?
CH: We’re particularly keen on narrative longform journalism works, so true stories told using narrative techniques usually found in fiction, and particularly those that demand quick turnaround publishing due to their newsworthiness. The word count is between 10,000 and 35,000 words.
In terms of subject matter we’re interested in the arts, culture, literature, media, travel, technology, politics, business, economics, science, sport, crime, society, life and food.
The work should be insightful with substance that demonstrates a depth of reporting about a real life situation filled with emotion and intrigue. The writing should be well crafted, contain accurate and thoroughly researched information and hold the reader’s attention throughout.
Speakeasy: Entries for the Editia Prize will be opening soon. Would you like to talk a little about this prize, and what it means to Australian journalism?
CH: The Editia Prize is a new award for original and unpublished works of longform journalism of between 10,000 and 35,000 words. It’s open to residents of Australia and New Zealand, and the winner will receive a publishing contract with Editia and a $2500 advance on royalties.
Personally, I’m really excited about it because I think it has the potential to attract both experienced journalists who have recently left the newspaper or magazine business due to shrinking editorial teams there, and young journalism students and those who are starting out in their careers and looking for a challenging way to make their mark.
The opportunity to receive feedback from journalism gurus like Matthew Ricketson and Malcolm Schmidtke would be invaluable to the latter, while the former would benefit from exposure to new digital audiences.
Entry details are available at http://www.editia.com/editia-prize.
Speakeasy: Are there any other upcoming Editia events, developments, or opportunities you might like to tell us about?
CH: We’re planning to publish the print on demand version of Crowdfund it! later this year or early next year, and hold another expert panel event on crowdfunding in our hometown of Canberra to mark the publication of that edition. For regular updates on our events and upcoming titles, readers should follow us on Facebook and Twitter.
Speakeasy: Is there anything else you might like to mention to our readers?
CH: My second child will be born in mid-November, so things will be quiet on the Editia front for a few weeks over the summer. It’s been a big few months!
In the meantime, become a crowdfunding expert – or just enjoy reading about the successes of those creative types who already have – for just $7 when you order your ebook copy of Anna Maguire’s Crowdfund it! directly from www.editia.com or via Amazon, Apple, Kobo, Booku, Bkclb.co or Booki.sh partner stores including Readings and Gleebooks.
Julian Thumm is a freelance editor and writer. He has degrees from The University of Queensland and The University of Adelaide. He has worked with the Australian Journal of Communication, The University of Queensland Press, and Corporate Communication International through The City University of New York. He is currently based in Brisbane.