LAURA FRASER IS THE Editorial Director and co-founder of shebooks.net, which publishes short e-books by and for women. Last month shebooks launched a Kickstarter campaign to build a fund to pay for women writers. I learned about this campaign just this week via twitter (and immediately contributed), and asked Laura if she would answer a few questions about herself, shebooks, and life in the fast-past world of ebook publishing.
What’s your background?
LF: I’ve been a journalist based in San Francisco for a long time, and have written for everything from Mother Jones and the New York Times to Vogue and Gourmet. I’ve done a lot of teaching and have been a member of the San Francisco Writers’ Grotto collective for about 15 years. I’ve written three books—an investigative expose called Losing It, about the diet industry, and two memoirs, All Over the Map and An Italian Affair, which was a NYT bestseller.
Why did you start shebooks? How long has it been around?
LF: My longtime friend and editor Peggy Northrop and I were at a journalism conference at Berkeley in 2012, where we were excited by the talk about the explosion of digital media, which is giving readers new ways to find compelling stories. And we were pleased to see writers find fresh ways to work and make money outside the usual channels. But it became clear to us that female authors, journalists, editors—and ultimately female readers—were being shut out of the revolution.(Our “aha!” moment came at a panel where there were all guys onstage announcing their new companies to an audience that was nearly all women. I turned to Peggy and said, “It’s all the same guys.” She nodded and said, “Someone should do this for women.” Then she went back to her hotel and started registering website names.)
So we decided not to wait for our invitation to the party. Shebooks was the result: a new media format, real money for writers (our writers all share in our profits), and engaging stories that women can’t wait to read, that fit the corners of their busy lives. We also applied for and received an early grant from the New Media Women’s Entrepreneurial Fund at the Journalism Lab at American University, which put us into business.
Can you tell me a little bit about the kind of books you select for shebooks? How many books do you publish a year?
LF: We are publishing e-books that are between the length of an article and book—about 10,000 words, if you’re a writer, or an hour read if you aren’t. We publish fiction, journalism and memoir; our sweet spot is short memoir, and no one else is doing that. We publish two a week, every week.
What’s the average turnaround time, from manuscript acceptance to ebook?
LF: That depends on how many we already have scheduled, but it usually takes at least a month to edit, copyedit, and design a cover.
That’s really fast! Why a Kickstarter program?
LF: We are doing a campaign called Equal Writes to raise money to fund and publish women writers. We believe that if more high-quality women writers have a platform, it will raise their visibility and they will be published more throughout the media. Kickstarter also helps raise awareness of our new company, and gets us new subscribers.
What books are on your nightstand now?
LF: I just finished The Year She Left Us, by Kathryn Ma, which was terrific. Now I’m reading Abroad, by Katie Crouch. The others on my to-read list are Dissident Gardens, by Jonathan Lethem; The Unamericans, by Molly Antopol; Queen Sugar, by Natalie Baszile; Clever Girl, by Tessa Hadley; Bleeding Edge, by Thomas Pynchon; Lovers at the Chameleon Club Paris 1921, by Francine Prose…there’s a big stack. They’re all print books. I love print books at night but read e-books constantly when I travel and commute.
What’s your ebook reader of choice?
LF: iPad mini
To learn more or to contribute to the Equal Writes Kickstarter campaign, go to http://kck.st/U3Rn91.
Martha Conway’s first novel 12 Bliss Street (St. Martin’s Minotaur) was nominated for an Edgar Award, and her short fiction has appeared in The Iowa Review, The Mississippi Review, The Quarterly, Folio, Puerto del Sol, Carolina Quarterly, and other publications. She graduated from Vassar College and received her master’s degree in Creative Writing from San Francisco State University. She is the recipient of a California Arts Council fellowship in Creative Writing, and has reviewed fiction for the San Francisco Chronicle, The San Francisco Review of Books, and The Iowa Review. She teaches fiction at Stanford University’s Online Writers’ Studio. Born in Cleveland, she now lives in San Francisco with her family.
Check out Martha’s current novel: Thieving Forest
“The story is less a traditional mystery than a new millennium comic-opera version of a mystery. Conway not only speaks the shorthand of the Internet generation but uses it to create a smart and sassy tale with a heroine who could well be the prototype of a new era of female sleuths.”
Houston Chronicle on 12 Bliss Street