Speech to Australian Digital Alliance copyright forum: How Editia came to be

A much younger Alex on first meeting a Kindle.

A much younger Alex on first meeting a Kindle.

Last Friday I spoke on a panel at the Australian Digital Alliance copyright forum at the National Library of Australia. The brief was to talk about how Editia came to be to provide a snapshot of a publishing organisation working in these rapidly changing times for the industry. Here’s the full text of the speech.

Hello, copyright users and innovators.

I’m here to tell you a little bit about my digital first book publishing business, Editia, so named after the Latin editio, the publishing of a book or announcement.

I’m a sole trader operating at and supported by the Gorman Arts Centre in Braddon, and assisted by a corporate advisory board consisting of a number of digital publishing gurus from within and outside the mainstream book industry.

I launched the business in late 2012, a month after my first son, Seb, turned three, and eight weeks before the second, Alex, was born. Now two, Alex (pictured) recently bought his first ebook on my Kindle without asking my permission, but that’s another story.

I’d spent much of late 2009, 2010 and 2011 glued to Twitter, tracking the digital revolution that transformed the book industry then blogging about it for my ebookish blog.

I wrote some news stories and features about it for Fairfax, my former employer, but was itching to escape and start a business of my own to tap into all this change. As a former literary editor, magazine editor, tech writer and web producer, I had the passion for books and gadgets, the journalistic and editing experience and the coding skills to be able to do just that.

The fact that everything could be done online meant I could run a global publishing business from Canberra, something that would not have been possible five years ago.

I’d always been frustrated by the word limits newspapers and magazines by their nature imposed on feature writers. I’d often had to cut 5000 or 6000 word features in half just to fit arbitrary spaces, and felt frustrated about what was lost.

I’d also read plenty of non-fiction books that seemed to me to have been padded out to fit the conventional length of a trade book. The rise of the Kindle and iPad, of ebook retailers like Kobo, and of digital printing technologies allowing for affordable short print runs and print on demand meant it was now possible to publish longer works of journalism at their natural length, whether that be 5000, 10,000 or 40,000 words.

I decided I’d build a company around this style of writing and commissioned my first book, Crowdfund it!.

The author, digital publishing expert Anna Maguire, planned to write about 15,000 words. The first edition was 25,000. The third, which we published late last year, came it at around 37,000. As an editor with 20 years of experience in the 400 to 2000-word space, that was quite an adjustment.

Next, we published Business and baby on board, a 25,000-word ebook guide to being a mumpreneur for which we signed only digital rights after discovering the project on Pozible, where author Johanna Baker-Dowdell was raising funds to self-publish the print edition.

Scott Bridges forced me to rethink everything (which you have to be prepared to do in this industry at this time) when he pitched his book 18 days: Al Jazeera English and the Egyptian Revolution to me at the Walkley Awards two weeks after Alex was born. The work was as much as ten times longer than the books I’d been expecting to publish, weighing in at a whopping 90,000 words. But in fact, Scott had done exactly what I was talking about earlier: he’d written the book to its natural length. It was a work of longform journalism, and a brilliantly written one at that, so we signed a contract, published the ebook the following year and the print edition a few months later.

I’m so glad Scott chose Editia, because he’s a delight to work with and 18 days went on to gain national and international media attention. Scott was flown to the Berlin Documentary Forum to discuss the book in the middle of last year, and recently took out the Non-Fiction prize in the 2014 ACT Writing and Publishing Awards.

18 days is also the only one of the five shortlisted titles for the ACT Book of the Year to be produced by a Canberra publisher.

We hope it’s a contender for the People’s Choice Award too (you can help it along by voting on the ArtsACT website).

Scott later turned out to be one half of the Twitter sensation of 2014 which led to another Editia title, Kevern write a book: The best of @Rudd2000, and I’ll leave him to talk about that except to say that it has been our most successful book in terms of sales and publicity and helped us to score a print distribution deal with the highly respected NewSouth Books.

I sent their CEO, Kathy Bail, an email a couple of days after the launch with links to the media coverage and they offered me a three-year contract for all titles past and present that very day. I signed it immediately before they could change their minds. They now stock all our books and ordered another print run of Kevern only last week.

I’ve just received my first cheque from them, which would’ve been worthy of celebration in its own right, but arriving as it did on the same day as TWO cheques from Amazon, led to me waving them up and down the corridors of Gorman House and all over Editia’s social media accounts in triumph.

Editia published two books in between 18 days and Kevern. David Dufty’s How to build an android came to Editia via then literary agent Mary Cunnane. It had been published to critical acclaim in the US and UK (yes, reviewed in The Guardian and the New York Times no less) but needed a new Australian publisher. Dufty’s narrative non-fiction work is a cracker story about the roboticists who created an android in the likeness of science fiction author Philip K Dick, toured the US with it, then left its head in an overhead locker on a plane, never to be seen again. We published the ebook edition the day Radio National aired a documentary about robots including an extensive interview with David.

The other title is a joint venture with those innovators and copyright pioneers at if:book Australia, the Institute for the Future of the Book. The essays for The N00bz: New adventures in literature were originally published on the if:book website and examine experiments in writing and publishing. Contributors include Benjamin Law, Sophie Masson, James Bradley and Romy Ash. Each was challenged to try new tools and experiences and observe the effect on their craft. I was like a pig in muck editing this one, and even contributed an essay myself.

Speaking of editing, I have in fact commissioned freelance book editor Sarah Fletcher to edit most of our projects and would ask her to do them all if budgets permitted. When you’re a one-woman show paying for each new book with the profits from the last, publishing can become very DIY.

I tend to be it at all stages of the process: commissioning and acquiring titles; assessing submissions; negotiating contracts and rights deals; managing ISBNs, barcodes and cataloguing in publication applications; briefing a designer (typically the talented Wendy Dawes) for the cover, web banner and any other marketing material; writing cover blurbs, press releases, blog posts, enewsletters and social media posts; creating and implementing marketing and publicity plans; sourcing images; editing the copy; laying out the pages; proofreading; creating the three types of ebook files; distributing those files to retail partners; negotiating contracts with retail and distribution partners; organising and speaking at launch events; negotiating with printers; paying royalties and issuing royalty statements; bookkeeping; tech support; office management; business development; managing the website including its ecommerce functionality and finally order fulfillment (which means being on first name terms with everyone at my local post office).

It’s exhausting and almost enough to make you want to go back to working for someone else. Almost.

So anyway, the greatest challenge has been keeping on top of it all while juggling two small children with limited help from their dad who works long hours in one of those crazy jobs at Parliament House.

The second greatest challenge is that the industry isn’t really ready for organisations like Editia that want to publish books within weeks of commissioning them, when they’re ready to go, rather than several months later to fit in with the media and retail ordering cycles.

This ties in with the reason I shifted my focus to print copies: literary editors are not ebook-ready. They require proof copies of books or at the very least a PDF. If you’re going to the trouble of creating a print-ready PDF, you may as well do a short print run.

Then there’s the battle to get your book noticed among the hordes that are published each day. It’s tough, but I’ve been heartened by the success we’ve had with direct sales from the Editia website. If people want to buy a book, they’ll find it.

I might finish with a quick word about the book I should be working on right now instead of standing here talking to you. Some months ago, the man who must surely be the father of the year ordered two copies of Scott’s Al Jazeera book from our website. I did something I rarely do, and picked up a pen and some writing paper and wrote a personal letter to include with his books.

That man was Juris Greste, and he and the rest of the Greste family, particularly Kylie Greste, have been regular email correspondents ever since. Yesterday, I received my first email from Peter himself, and nearly burst into tears on the street in Manuka.

I’ve been working with the Grestes for some months on a book of messages sent to Peter while he was in prison. It was to be called Free Peter Greste, and all profits were to go to the campaign to bring Peter home.

Now that he’s back in Australia, Peter will be contributing the introduction to the project himself and we’ll be able to add a final chapter of the emails he and the family have received celebrating his newfound freedom. At Peter and Andrew Greste’s suggestion, profits over the book’s first year will go to the Foreign Prisoners Support Service. This Australian-based organization was a great help to the Grestes during Peter’s imprisonment.

I can announce here today that the new title, penned by Peter himself, will be Prison post: Letters of support for Peter Greste. It will be published next month and you can pre-order your copy from the Editia website now.

I am so glad that this somewhat grim project has become a much happier one, though its messages about press freedom remain as important as ever, particularly as Peter’s two colleagues are still caught up in the retrial of their case. We wish them well.

On a less serious note, someone commented to me last week that publishing a book of emails so soon after a book of tweets could lead to Editia becoming the go-to publisher of repurposed digital material. Well, why not?

So, if you’re a food blogger who’s made hipsterfoodies.com’s top ten paleo Instagram accounts listing, or you’re writing a real life romantic comedy based on your Snapchat and Tinder experiences, drop me a line.











Editia author Bridges talks AJE, Egypt in Berlin

18 days in Berlin

18 days on sale in Berlin today.

Editia is in Germany. Look closely at this picture to see 18 days: Al Jazeera English and the Egyptian Revolution at the Haus der Kulturen der Welt Bookstore, Berlin.

In around 35 minutes, author Scott Bridges will take the stage at the biennial Berlin Documentary Forum there alongside his former colleague Rawya Rageh, an AJE correspondent who reported from Cairo and Alexandria during the revolution. The panel moderator is writer and curator Sohrab Mohebbi.

Scott boarded his plane for Germany (where he is a guest of the Forum) days after the final stop on his three-city Australian book tour.

He spent part of his second day there talking to Radio National’s Phillip Adams on Late Night Live back here in Australia about the book and the ongoing significance of its subject matter before being able to focus on the task at hand in Berlin.

Scott was invited over there to speak on a panel discussing AJE’s award-winning coverage of the 2011 revolution to complement the re-airing of four full days of the footage – from February 1-4, 2011 – at the Haus der Kulturen der Welt this week.

If you’d like to follow the event live, there is a hashtag, #BerlinDocumentaryForum, and a link for a livestream on the Forum website. For those of us who should be sleeping, sessions will be available for download later.

The Forum bookstore has a bundle of books to sell, so if you happen to be in Berlin and keen to read 18 days, you should be able to get your hands on one today. If not, the book is on sale in major ebookstores and also via this very website.

Herzlichen Glückwunsch und viel Glück, Scott!

Editia at the Walkleys

The October-November edition of the Media Entertainment & Arts Alliance’s Walkley Magazine features a two-page feature by Editia Founder + Publisher Charlotte Harper entitled Rise of the journopreneur.

Continuing that theme, Charlotte joined a panel at the 2012 Walkeys Conference in Canberra yesterday called Maverick to mainstream: successful start-ups. The session looked at “the secrets of successful media ventures from some of the industry’s sharpest entrepreneurs, while learning effective ways to overcome the many challenges of a competitive marketplace of ideas”.

Chaired by James Kirby, who together with fellow shareholders Alan Kohler, Stephen Bartholomeusz and Robert Gottliebsen recently sold Australian Independent Business Media to News Ltd for some $30 million, the panel featured John Griffiths, Editor and Founder, RiotACT; Leonard Witt, US journalist, scholar and blogger; and Jane Nicholls, CEO, The Global Mail.

Each spoke for seven minutes about their background and start-up experiences. Here is part of Charlotte’s presentation, including several paragraphs that didn’t make the cut:

If you’d like to run your own start-up but have no idea where to start, try working for another small business first. As publisher of Management Today, I work for Canberra start-up MSA Media. Run by former News Ltd journalists Gerard McManus and Tom Skotnicki, MSA pitched against ACP and Pacific for the Management Today contract and won.

I run a team of young writers there and it’s a hotbed of creative ideas, some of which are on track for 2013 launch. Working with Tom and Gerard is like undertaking a journalist’s apprenticeship in small business management.

Being involved with online publishing since 1997, I’ve worked on numerous such in-house launches. Intrapreneurship is a great way to learn project management skills.

While blogging and social media smarts are essential, these will come more easily to journalists than competitor analysis, business plan writing, bookkeeping, design and contract negotiation. I recommend Xero for bookkeeping and befriending a contracts expert or lawyer as well as a graphic designer.

Other factors to consider are insurance (professional indemnity, public liability, workers compensation) and ergonomics for occupational health and safety – including your own.

Take small business courses run by local/state government business development arms; attend industry events, courses and conferences related to your idea; read books like Ian Benjamin’s Consulting, Contracting and Freelancing, John English’s How to Organise and Operate a Small Business in Australia and Entrepreneurial Journalism: How to Build What’s Next for News by Mark Briggs and visit websites like Startup Smart, Mashable and Flying Solo.

Learn from the mistakes of others, and most importantly, your own.

In launching Editia, I’ve discovered that most things cost 20% more than you budget for and take twice as long as you expect.

I’ve also learnt that it’s possible to be too cutting edge. Nearly half the people I talked to about crowdfunding in promoting our first book had never heard of the concept. We needed to explain what it was before we could begin to convert them into customers.

Another hitch was the many requests for a PDF or physical proof review copy from those who found ePub and browser-based versions beyond them. We will cater to this in future.

A big lesson was that ebook distribution is not yet ready for our fast turnaround needs. We went direct to Amazon and Apple and the book was live within hours. For other retailers, we used a specialist distributor with mixed results. From here on, we will only deal direct.

More positively, I am inspired daily by the success of journalist-driven ventures like Wendy Harmer’s the Hoopla, Mia Freedman’s Mama Mia, Amanda Gome’s last launch for Private Media, Women’s Agenda, and Tim Burrowes’ Mumbrella.

Australian university journalism schools should be inviting entrepreneurs like these to present guest lectures on their experiences, and indeed offering entire postgraduate entrepreneurial journalism courses, perhaps in partnership with TAFE, for journalists with a few years’ experience.

Some of my UC students already have plans for subscription blogs and YouTube channels of their own – I believe that even at the undergraduate level, we should be helping them develop these plans rather than dwelling on how legacy media organisations operate.

If I were in a position to, I’d be heading to the US in 2013 to attend the City University of New York’s 15-week entrepreneurial journalism course, which is designed for mid-career journalists. Students develop a start-up project and work with Big Apple start-ups like the Atavist and FourSquare. One student raised $50,000 via crowdfunding platform Kickstarter to get his project, Narrative.ly, off the ground this year.

Despite all the doom and gloom in mainstream media, digital technologies provide real opportunities for journalists to build their own profiles and create the stories that they want to publish or broadcast globally – wherever they are, whatever their means and no matter how many babies and children are sharing the home office.

Editia’s moment in the spotlight

We managed to squeeze in a couple of minutes talking about Editia’s plans and founder + publisher Charlotte Harper’s 1978 Mr Men book before getting onto the serious business of debating latest issues in crowdfunding at the launch event at Gleebooks last week. See Charlotte’s welcome presentation on our YouTube channel here or click on the video screen below.

Editia cupcakes and crowdfunding experts at Gleebooks

Anna Maguire and Charlotte HarperEditia cupcakesCrowdfund it! launch: expert panel

A small but enthusiastic crowd gathered at Gleebooks last Sunday (September 23) to celebrate the launch of Crowdfund it! and its publisher, Editia.

The highlight was the panel event, at which three of the founders/co-founders of Australia’s major crowdfunding platforms (Tom Dawkins of Startsomegood, Rick Chen of Pozible and Bryan Vadas of iPledg) took to the stage together for the first time – along with Crowdfund it! author Anna Maguire and successful crowdfunding campaigner Kate Toon – to discuss latest developments in the phenomenon.

The cupcakes were delicious.

You can see more photos from the day in our gallery on the Editia Facebook page and the Pinterest board created for the launch.

Videos coming up shortly.

Press releases for Crowdfund it, Editia, Editia Prize launches

We’ll be talking to the media about Editia’s books, events and plans in more detail soon, but here are our official launch press releases for starters …

Please click here to view the PDF of the press release for the launch of digital publishing start-up Editia.

Please click here to view the PDF of the official launch press release for Crowdfund it!

Please click here to view the PDF of the press release for the launch of the Editia Prize.

Crowdfund it! launch @ Gleebooks

Crowdfund it! cover

Sydney’s first ever ebook launch
Expert panellists on the latest in crowdfunding

Where: Gleebooks, 49 Glebe Point Road, Glebe NSW
When: 3.30pm for 4pm, September 23, 2012
Who: Anna Maguire, author, Crowdfund it!; Alan Crabbe, co-founder, Pozible; Tom Dawkins, co-founder, StartSomeGood; Bryan Vadas, co-founder, iPledg; writer and successful Pozible campaigner Kate Toon; Charlotte Harper, founder and publisher, Editia
What: Official launch of Editia, Crowdfund it! and expert panel discussion on the latest developments in crowdfunding
RSVP: Essential, please call Gleebooks on 02 9660 2333

Gleebooks is playing host to an afternoon tea event on September 23 to mark the arrival of specialist short non-fiction digital start-up Editia on the publishing scene, and the launch of its first title, Anna Maguire’s Crowdfund it!

The September publication is a complete guide to crowdfunding featuring real insights from successful campaigns the world over. It covers creative projects, causes, social entrepreneurship, microfinance and business equity.

Crowdfunding enables a collective of individuals to pledge small amounts of money towards a common goal. Boosted by social media take-up, it is expected to nearly double 2011 takings and raise US$2.8 billion worldwide this year according to industry research group Massolution.

Sydney-based Maguire is a digital publishing consultant and blogger Her book focuses on 12 of the highest profile crowdfunding platforms, including Kickstarter, Pozible and ArtistShare. It features interviews with successful campaigners like star of British sci-fi comedy Red Dwarf Robert Llewellyn, who raised £21,000 to publish his novel News From Gardenia through Unbound.

At what will be the first ever Sydney bookstore launch event for an ebook, as opposed to a printed book with an associated digital edition, attendees will be able to purchase their own copy from Gleebooks’ Booki.sh-powered online store on the spot and start reading it on their smartphone or tablet right away.

Maguire will join a panel of experts, including Pozible co-founder Alan Crabbe, to discuss the latest developments in crowd funding.

Learn more about the latest developments in crowdfunding at the Crowdfund it! blog, and buy your copy of the book for $7 here.

Why a corporate advisory board?

In an ideal world, I’d be a squillionaire who could afford to focus all of my energies on Editia, and flit between luxurious (and historic) premises in Sydney, London and New York.

I would have the means to lure the most talented minds in digital publishing to leave their existing jobs and come and work for this start-up.

But this is real life, not a fairytale, and I’m not about to approach potential investors to fund a venture that may not make a substantial profit for some time. Nor am I planning on taking on business partners with whom I’d need to share slim profits.

I’ve watched over the years as acquaintances with big business dreams like mine have approached mates with deep pockets for backing, and then struggled for years to pay any of it back. Some have given more than half their business away to silent partners, and resented the other stakeholders daily as they reaped the benefits of my friends’ creativity and drive. Then there have been those who formed partnerships with one or two others, only to squabble over everything from stationery to staffing choices, and end up bitter “divorcees”.

So how would Editia be structured? When a colleague at Management Today, Amy Birchall, filed a feature on something called corporate advisory boards recently, I consumed it eagerly (you can read it here).

It turns out it is possible to appoint a board of expert advisers without paying them expensive directors’ fees or giving them a stake in your business. The benefits for them include expanding their own business experience without risking any financial loss or legal culpability. They also gain profile in marketing material, and the satisfaction of helping nurture a start-up into a viable business.

For Editia, the benefits have been huge over the few months the board members have been on board, as it were.

I was able to approach exactly the people I would’ve hired if money had been no object. Every single one accepted my invitation once they learnt a little about the business plan. Each has offered advice and guidance generously when asked – and in many cases without needing to be asked at all.

Several have already completed paid work for Editia on top of their unpaid corporate advisory role, in each case going above and beyond what you would expect when paying a contractor.

In a recent development, I have managed to secure office space (shared with Halstead Press) in the stunning 1925 Gorman House arts precinct in Canberra’s city centre too.

So, maybe I am living a fairytale after all. One in which Twitter, Skype, the cloud and generosity of spirit allow me to work in a city removed from much of my industry, yet supported by a team of bookish gurus.

Charlotte Harper

About the name

The first thing most people want to know about the name Editia is how to pronounce it. The answer, by executive decision of the founder, is like the word edition, but with an –a substituted for the –on, and with more emphasis on the middle syllable (“edeesha”), to rhyme with the name Letitia.

I chose the name after researching Latin and descended words to do with publishing, publications, editing and editions.

Why? Because Latin was my favourite subject at school, and Romance Linguistics just pipped Ancient Greek, Logic and Traditional Grammar as my pick as an ANU undergraduate.

I wanted the business name to reference this passion for Classics and Linguistics, while at the same time reflecting the essence of what Editia would be doing: publishing different editions (print, ebook and app) of works of long form journalism and short non-fiction, as well as shorter digital missives like blogs, Facebook posts and tweets.

The word exists today in Romanian, where it means “the edition”. It is derived from the Latin “editio” meaning the “publishing of a book” or “an announcement”.

I registered the business name 2010, around the time the iPad launched and Twitter really began to take off, and have become more and more enthusiastic about it since.

A couple of our corporate advisers had their doubts, mainly because they felt people wouldn’t know how to pronounce it. I decided to get some further evidence of its appropriateness by emailing some experts about its heritage (be warned, the rest of this post is for true language geeks).

To find out about the word’s meaning in a living language, I contacted wrote Romanian Linguistics expert Ramona Gonczol, a UK-based academic. Here’s part of her reply:

“Editia does come from the Latin editio meaning the ‘publishing of a book’ or ‘an announcement’ so it is most appropriate.

In Romanian the noun declension is as follows:

Indefinite forms        

Singular        Plural 

N         o editie        niste editii

Ac       o editie        niste editii

G        unei editii    unor editii

D        unei editii    unor editii

Definite forms

N         editia        editiile

Ac        editia        editiile

G        editiei        editiilor

D        editiei        editiilor

So the form you choose is the N/Ac form sg def  which is very appropriate, sort of like the edition.

In Romanian it would have a diacritic (ediția) but I wouldn’t worry about it as it is based on Latin and it is clear and beautiful enough.

It exists in Italian too, edizione, and in French, edition, and Spanish, edicion. Even better! Great choice!”

Heartened by Ramona’s enthusiasm, I decided to find out a bit more about the word’s Latin derivation.

Richard Ashdowne, of the Classics Faculty at Oxford, is currently editing Oxford’s Dictionary of Medieval Latin from British Sources. I figured he may know how the –a form of the word editio had developed from classical times through to its Romanian present. Here’s his reply to my email, with my favourite line in bold.

“There’s no ‘editia’ in British Medieval Latin, nor is there in Classical Latin. I don’t have a Late Latin dictionary to hand at home, but I would be pretty confident that it isn’t LL either. It is possible it appears in some other ML across Europe – I don’t have all those dictionaries to hand either – but again I would rather doubt it. There is editio and the p. pple of edere (edita f. nom. sg. or nt. nom/acc pl., or editum nt. nom/acc sg.) but that’s it.

There is a CL suffix -ia usually added to adjectives to make abstract nouns, and it has an extended form -itia, so editia is a perfectly well-formed word, but not one that existed. There is also -ium/-itium which denotes collectives or abstracts, which equally could be plausibly added to editum (p.pple of edere as sb. nt., ‘something published’) and have a plural form. Derivation is always haphazard, so it is not predictable which forms will occur nor necessarily what they mean when they do.

If you were a Latin publisher, it would be crucial, I think, to have a real Latin word; but since it is incidental and part of the ‘brand’, I might be inclined to think that a plausible word (though not a real one) would have the desired effect (and you could give an explanation in an appropriate place). This seems to be the case for all manner of brands these days anyway.”

Richard’s kind words, together with the fabulous logo design that Anthony Nankervis came up with at around that time, were enough to clinch it for me. Editia it is!

Charlotte Harper