Auckland-based author-turned-publisher Jill Marshall is taking on traditional publishing houses with a business model that embraces new media.
Marshall launched Pear Jam Books in March following the Christchurch earthquake, which cuts out agents and works directly with authors, producing books in four formats: e-book, audio book, as an application or game and a traditional print book.
Pear Jam Books will publish 13 titles this year that will largely be sold online through retailers such as Amazon, although Marshall is also setting up a presence in selected bookstores.
The model operates on a per-title profit share basis, which she says gives writers greater control and visibility over their work and earnings. Royalties range from 20 percent for print books to 30 percent for audio and e-books.
Game and app versions will be developed by US-basedeBooks2Go, but Marshall is eager to bring New Zealand gaming companies on board.
Pear Jam Books was born from Marshall’s own frustrations as an author in dealing with publishers – she was prompted to start the venture when she and Christchurch writer Emma Pullar wanted to publish a children’s book to raise funds for victims of the earthquake but couldn’t find a publisher willing to back them.
Their book, Curly from Shirley, the Christchurch dog, has sold 1500 copies and was delivered to market in less than a month, which Marshall
says is indicative of the fast-paced nature of Pear Jam Books.
In May, she handpicked her first stable of 11 authors from students at her company Write Good Stuff, which offers online writing
courses and manuscript assessments.
She said in her experience, authors have less and less say in what happens with their own work over time.
"That seems to be counter-intuitive when you've actually created the thing in the first place."
Publishing has traditionally been a long and laborious process, she said.
"In traditional publishing there have been too many gatekeepers along the way creating obstacles even for established authors. Pear Jam Books will essentially eliminate the need for gatekeepers, supplying stories directly into the hands of consumers."
She said Pear Jam Books was the only publishing house focusing on globalising New Zealand literature in various formats, while cutting out the middleman.
Originally from the UK, Marshall is best known for her Jane Blonde children’s book series and has sold more than half a million books.