I’ve been working in a digital role at Pan Macmillan, and at Tor, since 2007 and the one constant thing about it is that it keeps changing. My role has been to manage website development—so, for example, I organised the creation of this blog a year or two ago. And then it was to manage ebook production and operations—when I project managed the switch to DRM-free ebooks for Tor and the digitization of our backlist. And now it is to work more closely with the editorial team on digital publishing.
When the time is right, I’m sure we will blog about the digital publishing projects we have in the works now. Projects we’ve done together in the past include the ebook-with-extras of Neal Asher’s The Gabble in 2008, which was an early enhanced ebook. The War of the Words competition with Sci-Fi Now, which brought us R. J. Frith’s The Nemesis List. A website takeover for the 30th anniversary ofThe Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy that included animation, Marvin on Twitter and an iGoogle theme (you can still see it here). The cover design competition for two Peter F. Hamilton short story ebooks, taken from Manhattan in Reverse—we had terrific final covers for Footvote and The Demon Trap. And most recently the ebook omnibus of the “trilogy of five” Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy to mark Douglas Adams’ 60th birthday.
The other main focus for me right now is Pan Macmillan’s digital imprint, Bello. This is an imprint designed to bring back great writing in the ebook format (and print-on-demand paperback too). Bello’s list is mostly comprised of crime and thrillers but we do also have a few SF/F titles, such as Jo Bannister’s early titles, e.g. The Matrix, Vita Sackville-West’s The Grand Canyon and Victor Canning’s Arthurian trilogy, which are high fantasy (first in the trilogy is The Crimson Chalice). Bello is developing fast—we published 400 books in 2012—and it’s wonderful fun to bring back all these great books. We have a small but dedicated team who are working hard to help readers (re)discover these authors.
Some of my time is spent analyzing what’s happening in the digital market, both in terms of our own publishing and that of our competitors. When I find something relevant or, hopefully, useful, I feed that to the Tor team so that they can take advantage of it in their roles. This could be tweaks to our metadata, latest ebook sales trends or web links (e.g. this article in Wired on Netflix’s content strategy as evidenced in the new season of Arrested Development). The digital market has evolved very rapidly and aspects of how it operates can be quite obscure, so I also make myself available to agent and authors to discuss what’s going on. These conversations are good as I hear about what’s happening from the different perspectives of the agent and authors as well. And when there is a big shift in the digital market, or a development, I do my best to be as informed as possible and brief the team on the implications for our publishing.
The best part of being in Team Tor is the opportunity to read great books—and getting to be among the first to read them, which is always a bit of a thrill when you really enjoy an author’s work. As a reader, being part of Tor has enabled me to discover the work of Neal Asher, Adrian Tchaikovsky, Mark Charan Newton, China Miéville and Gary Gibson. And I’ve been able to work on the books of authors I grew up reading—Douglas Adams, Peter F. Hamilton and Julian May. I’ve also had the pleasure of getting to know many of these authors too. My happiest moment with Tor, though, was undoubtedly when I got to do the sticker arrangement on the ebook cover of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams—restrained but elegant, I hope you will agree!
This article was originally published on the Tor UK blog.
James Long is the Editorial Director, Digital at Pan Macmillan and for their digital imprint, Bello. On Twitter as @ricoeurian