For all those who fear the death of print books, no one can deny that digital publishing is keeping reading alive in an increasingly attention-deficit time. And it’s better to read a few thousand words on your ipad or smart phone between meetings and kids napping, than to lament the ever growing stack of books you’ll never get to.
Enter Shebooks, a new publisher of 10,000 word digital books, which has emerged onto the literary landscape as an exciting new opportunity for women writers, and an “ebook boutique” of curated, “quality content” for readers.
Little more than a year ago, the idea for Shebooks was born in a casual dialogue between Founding Editor Laura Fraser and her friend, editor Peggy Northrup at a journalism conference on how to get more women writers published, paid, and noticed for their work. This came at a time when, as Fraser says, “the value of content is diminishing and publishers are increasingly focused on top performing authors.”
One grant for women entrepreneurs from the McCormick foundation later, along with the support of Harvard MBA Rachel Greenfield, and a year after that conversation, Shebooks, which has published 48 digital books so far, and launched a monthly subscription service for readers, is clearly thriving. This week they’re in the final leg of a Kickstarter campaign to raise $50,000.
The short length of the books–10,000 words translates to about 30 pages–may seem unusual, but Fraser says it’s working really well for them. “When you have little pockets of time in the day, you don’t necessarily want to sit down and lug around The Goldfinch. It’s really satisfying to read something and be done with it.”
Since Shebooks is among a small number of book publishers that publishes short memoir, this allows writers to explore personal stories without having to come up with the meat for a book-length work. “Writers love this length,” she says. “For both readers and writers there’s very little in between personal essays and complete memoirs. Most stories from a person’s life are not so long; what you get are really padded memoirs. In our collection, these memoirs are stories that people have thought a lot about and chewed over.”
She cites a few of their memoirs that excite her. “Runway is a story about a young woman who goes to model in Paris and realizes that she’d really rather go to grad school in English. It’s a fun back-stage view of modeling that totally held my interest for ten thousand words, but I’m not sure if it would have sustained it as a full length memoir.
“We’re going to publish Jim Morrison’s widow Patricia Morrison’s account of their marriage, not the entire autobiography of Jim’s life, which I wouldn’t necessarily want to read.”
The short length allows for the “juicy parts” of any story, which, Fraser clarifies, does not mean that they’re “dishy.”
Not only are the books affordably priced individually, but Shebooks has launched a subscription service whereby, for a low monthly fee, readers can download as many books as they like. $4.95 for the first month, $7.95 thereafter.
“I feel like the energy behind it is so good,” says Fraser. “Finally there’s a space for women writers who are not getting their fair share of attention or money.”
What she’d like to see more of is long-form journalism about women’s issues. “We want pieces that we’ll still want to read in six months. We’re looking for people who can open a window onto other women’s experiences.”
When she isn’t editing, she takes comfort in walks in the Botanical Gardens of Golden Gate Park with her partner Peter, who, Sweatpants & Coffee was pleased to learn is something of a “geek about coffee.”
“Peter got a fancy Burr grinder and a coffee maker that the geekiest coffee geeks say is the only way to approach making drip coffee, a Mocca Master,” she says with a laugh. “And yet he’ll reheat yesterday’s coffee in the microwave, so what’s the point?”
As for Fraser, she takes her coffee like she does her books, without a lot of frills, (and a dash of half and half).