Joel Naoum is the Sydney-based book publisher running Pan Macmillan’s new digital-only imprint Momentum. He recently completed a three-month stint in London for the Unwin Fellowship, researching digital publishing experimentation. His blog ishttp://www.thesmellofbooks.com/, and he tweets at @joelnaoum.
1. Momentum launched in February of this year, and already has an impressive list of over 40 titles. How are you travelling so far? Do you think Pan Macmillan’s decision to set up a digital-only imprint helps legitimise digital-only books, compared to the traditional focus on print?
I think we’re travelling pretty well! There’s a lot more we want to do with the imprint, but I think it’s been an exciting trip so far and will only become more so. I think the focus Pan Macmillan Australia (and Macmillan globally) has put on digital publishing speaks extremely well of the company, and confirms how seriously the company takes the rise of digital. I hope it helps legitimise digital publishing in general too, but I guess we’ll have to wait and see on that one.
2. In 2011 you undertook an Unwin Trust UK-Australian Fellowship, to document experiments in digital publishing in the UK, and this has resulted in a fascinating report. How does the UK digital publishing environment compare to Australia’s, and which of your findings have you implemented at Momentum?
Probably too many to list here! It was an extremely informative trip, and I learned a lot about how to handle the threats and opportunities that are facing the digital publishing industry. Probably the biggest change I’ve brought in is the implementation of a format-independent workflow, which I first saw in action at Faber & Faber in the UK. But there are a lot of others. In general the biggest difference between the UK and the Australian digital publishing scenes is the maturity of the UK market. As a result of making more money from digital books, publishers in the UK tend to take it that much more seriously. However, I think publishers in Australia are taking digital pretty damn seriously nowadays, so the gap is shrinking.
3. Momentum is somewhat unusual for a publishing house in that it accepts unsolicited submissions every Monday. How have writers responded this approach, and have you found any rising stars in the slush pile?
Absolutely. We’ve taken on a number of authors from Momentum Monday – some new authors and some already established. It’s an extremely rich resource for us, and I’m continually surprised at the high level of quality of submissions we receive.
4. What Australian works have you loved recently?
To be honest I don’t get all that much time to read for pleasure any more! I loved Claire Corbett’s When We Have Wings, and I’m a big fan of Kirstyn McDermott (I had the pleasure of editing her first novel when I was still in the main Pan Macmillan fold). I’m also keenly bringing on as much spec fic as I can at Momentum. I’d suggest checking out Nathan Farrugia’s The Chimera Vector, and we have a couple of fantastic speculative novels coming out in the next few months. I’m particularly excited about Nina D’aleo, whose book The Last City is coming out in August. It’s a kind of cross between Blade Runner and Perdido Street Station by China Miéville. It’s dark, weird and a really fun read. If any reviewers would like to read it, they should get in touch!
5. Two years on from Aussiecon 4, what do you think have been the biggest changes to the Australian SpecFic scene?
Is it a cop out to say digital? It’s true, though. In particular the rise of self-publishing digitally means that Australian speculative fiction authors can get their stories out there to a bigger audience than they’ve ever had access to before – without worrying about the occasionally prudish and snobby gatekeepers of the traditional Australian publishing scene.