New York publisher, HarperCollins, whose eBook versions of many of their print titles appear in abundance on the bestseller lists here at Kindling Romance, announced Monday the creation of a new post, “digital editorial director,” to oversee electronic publishing at that house. Given the job was Margot Schupf, an associate editor at HarperCollins and former editorial director at Rodale Press.
Quoted in an article at Crain’s New York Business, HarperCollins Group Publisher Liate Stehlik explained:
Ms. Schupf will “develop original e-book titles, create new opportunities from the backlist, and work closely with the marketing team … to build our digital presence with digital tools such as iPhone apps.”
What does this mean for romance readers? HarperCollins plans to publish a line of eBook-only romance releases through its Avon imprint, (though no word if they’ll go to print at a later date). I find this tremendously exciting for the future of romance because it means that New York is finally “getting it,” with Avon being the first to board the Starship Enterprise to explore strange new digital publishing worlds and so forth.
Now wait just a lightyear, you might be saying. Harlequin is already doing this with the digital releases of their Nocturne Bites and Spice Briefs novellas. Yes, and no.
As the article at Crain’s points out, other major publishers already have directors of digital content in place, but they tend to approach the role differently.
Simon & Schuster recently appointed its longtime Touchstone Fireside division publisher, Mark Gompertz, as executive vice president of digital publishing, but his role is to serve as a bridge between the house’s traditional publishing groups and the digital production and marketing divisions.
To an certain extent, that’s how the Nocturne Bites and Spice Brief electronic imprints currently appear to be operating. I like these lines because they give me, as a reader, a chance to sample short work from a variety of authors. For new writers, they also offer the opportunity to a lucky few to wedge a foot ever so delicately in the door at Harlequin. However, as you look down the list of those who have written the Bites, for instance, you’ll notice that many are authors already in print at that house.
True, the Bites and Spice Briefs are original stories, but they serve a strong secondary function, a way to market print authors. They’re fully developed stories, but they are also samples of the type of print books a reader will encounter if purchasing from those specific lines. Even My Soul to Lose, by Rachel Vincent (gotta love a heroine who’s a banshee), which currently tops their eBook bestsellers list, is, in a sense, a teaser for the simultaneous print/eBook release of Vincent’s upcoming My Soul to Take.
HarperCollins, with the appointment of Schupf to their new digital editorial director post, says she’d like to try on a different head space with eBooks:
“I thought it would be interesting to come at e-books from a content perspective,” Ms. Schupf said. “A lot of people are coming at it from a marketing and distribution perspective.”
Though independent publishers such as Samhain, Lyrical Press, Red Rose, and Ellora’s Cave have been boldly going where no one has gone for years—with releases that are touted first as eBooks and second as print books—this news from HC may portend a shift ahead in the New York publishing establishment vibe.
Could this also be an important step in gaining traction for eBooks as a “legitimate” format within the Romance Writers of America?