Event report

Conference 2013 - Harper Impulse – a new digital imprint.

Report published 02 August 2013

Into an over-heated conference room, breezed Kimberley Young and Charlotte Ledger from Harper Impulse, a new digital imprint.

They brought a much-needed breath of fresh air, to those of us fanning ourselves in the absence of air-conditioning, so enthusiastic were they for romance and books and especially writers.

Kimberley began, by explaining that the world of publishing is undergoing a ‘seismic shift’.

Writers are at the heart of everything publishers do, but it is a cutthroat world. Publishers invest thousands of pounds to place novels in supermarkets, for instance. The book gets a short chance to prove itself and if it doesn't sell, it's replaced within a fortnight. Little wonder then that a known author, a snappy title and cover, or the book being part of a ‘must have’ series are triggers for busy shoppers to grab the book quickly, along with the bananas and washing powder.

Kimberley urged us to think of new ways we could tell stories. I remember ‘choose your own’ stories being popular with the children I used to teach; now they are apparently equally popular with the gaming generation, as they become adults. Digital technology is currently being developed to enable ‘choose your own’ stories to be accessed on e-reading devices. Harper Impulse has appointed its own Director of Innovation, Eric Winbolt. They are also recruiting and taking expertise from those working in gaming technologies.

Harper Impulse was only set up in March 2013. A digital first imprint from Harper Collins UK, it aims to be the home of good story telling, however the writer wants to tell it and however the reader wants to access it. It will publish ‘fun and fast Adult and New Adult genre fiction, mainstream novels, contemporary, historical, paranormal and erotic.’ They are looking for any length story and want writers who push the boundaries; those who experiment with narrative form or mash up genres.

A new generation of techno-savvy readers are out there (in fact I talked to one at the conference). They want to read from their phone or mini iPad and demand short-term content, bite sized pleasure (and not just in their erotica!).

To succeed, Kimberley said, everyone in the industry needs to take risks and it sounds as if Harper Impulse is doing just that. They have just acquired six short stories to read on a mobile, all based around kisses. They will be sending out, a kiss a week, to Harper Impulse readers.

Charlotte went on to explain that digital technology made the publishing process much quicker. From a lead interval of eleven months, for a print copy, to one of six to eight weeks.

Harper Impulse promises 25% royalties on the first 10,000 copies sold, rising to 50% thereafter. On the subject of contracts, they want to work with the author to agree a contract with which the writer is happy. And they have an ‘open door’ policy. No need for an agented submission.

Charlotte also stressed it is possible, after review feedback, to change content or a cover quickly. An interesting concept! Also fascinating is that, in Harper Impulse’s opinion, bad reviews do not always adversely affect sales.

Kimberley and Charlotte also suggested some ways to make a synopsis attention grabbing. Here are brief details:
• Treat it like a road map. Keep it to the big picture and do not include detail.
• Be catchy. Include cultural references to explain the theme or tone. Do not be afraid to be different. What happened if Bridget Jones shopped in Asos, or if the Great Gatsby met Mad Men?
• Think what would make you read your book. Did it make you cry? Did you love the ending or the subject matter?
• Keep it short and sweet. Two pages maximum. Focus on character and plot points.
• Try something different. Split it into parts or draw pictures, or write character sketches.
• And finally, a great blurb, title or synopsis can grab attention. Sometimes it’s simply a matter of being the right book at the right time.

A seismic shift, indeed. I think perhaps an earthquake magnitude 9, with a tsunami of new technology thrown in. Exciting times!

‘Choose your own story’ in digital format on your phone app, anyone?


Report By Georgia Hill.

It's a fact

In terms of the value, romance accounted for 12% of all fiction sales in 2013