Digital Platforms for Writers

The traditional form of publishing isn’t the only option available for writers today. The rise of digital technologies gives writers a variety of platforms to get their work out there. We asked Scott Pack some questions about his work in the industry.

Scott Pack is the publisher at The Friday Project, an experimental imprint of HarperCollins. He also runs the Authonomy website, where unpublished authors can share their work, the top five manuscripts being read by HarperCollins each month. He was previously the head of buying at Waterstones. Scott blogs at Me and My Big Mouth and tweets from @meandmybigmouth.

Tell us a bit more about your work in the digital publishing industry

I run an imprint of HarperCollins called The Friday Project and we publish about 15 new books a year in both print and digital editions. I also look after Authonomy, the HarperCollins website for unpublished writers and that has led to a digital imprint, publishing some of the best work from the site as ebooks. Some of the titles have subsequently gone on to be published elsewhere in the business in print form. In both my roles I am always looking for new and exciting models, different ways to execute certain aspects of publishing from acquisition to production to marketing and sales. It is somewhat experimental, and not all the experiments work, but in the main we are enjoying success.

How far has technology altered our concept of what a book is? Is it defined by format – print, ebook, app – or by its content?

Think of it this way. Publishing has always been a business in which writers lend publishers their words and the publishers try to get those words in the hands, hearts and minds of as many people as possible. Traditionally this has been achieved by printing a book and selling it to bookshops but over the past decade or so this has all changed. Much of what we do is still about printing books and selling them through bookshops but we are actively looking at other ways we can get people to engage with the words authors lend us. Content can be seen as quite a clinical word but it is also an accurate term. I prefer ‘intellectual property’. Writers lend us their IP and we do our best to bring it to people through books, ebook, apps, websites, and other means. The basic principle is the same but the method of production and delivery may differ.

We are actively looking at other ways we can get people to engage with the words authors lend us

What advice would you give to writers looking to get published digitally? Are there any common pitfalls writers should be aware of?

If they are looking to self-publish then my best advice is to try to make every element of your finished product as professional as possible. Make sure it has a good copy edit, invest in a well-designed, commercial cover, research your market and package your work accordingly. Too many writers release a product that isn’t quite right. Either there are lots of typos or the cover is very amateur-looking or they price it too high. Attention to detail is the best advice I can give.

How far does digital truly reward artistic creators? Is there a danger of replacing publishers with vast enterprises like Amazon, Apple and YouTube or whatever comes next?

Many creators are a little unsatisfied by the digital formats as they feel somewhat transitory, not real. There is still a slight stigma about being published only in digital formats. I think that is changing though, and as more writers earn a living from the digital format the opinions evolve.

How have peer-support networks like authonomy and WriteWords created a new route to publication?

Potentially, yes. Certainly Authonomy has led to a number of authors being published by HarperCollins and also prompted many more to finally self-publish. In my experience, authors still want to be published by a traditional publisher in print form, at least most of them do, but these websites and communities can help reach that goal.