Author turns digital publisher

Penelope Todd demonstrates her digital publication Slightly Peculiar Love Stories. Photo by Linda...
Penelope Todd demonstrates her digital publication Slightly Peculiar Love Stories. Photo by Linda Robertson.
Heading off on holiday this summer and trying to cram a dozen books into the suitcase? Penelope Todd just might have the answer.

Earlier this year, Ms Todd, a Dunedin author of novels for adults, young adults and children, launched a digital publishing business Rosa Mira Books.

According to its website, it offered "the kind of delectable reading experience that makes you forget you're not holding a paperback" with the ability to read "while you wait for volcanoes to subside, the bath to fill, the bus to arrive".

As well as doing her own writing, Ms Todd used to work as an editor for Dunedin publisher Longacre Press.

When she lost her work there when it was sold to Random House in late 2009, she felt it was time to put into action an idea she had "percolating away" to start a digital publishing enterprise.

The business, believed to be New Zealand's first digital-first publisher of hand-picked manuscripts, was launched on January 11 this year, with the novel The Glass Harmonica by American author Dorothee Kocks, who she met in Spain.

Ms Todd said she was very lucky that Ms Kocks was both very trusting and also "fired up" about her initiative.

Since then, she has also published Slightly Peculiar Love Stories, a collection by both New Zealand and international authors.

At the moment, final page designs were being done for Michael Jackson's Road Markings: An Anthropologist in the Antipodes, which she hoped to publish in time for Rosa Mira Books' first anniversary.

Describing herself as "not a technophile" and who initially did not know the difference between a PDF and a word document, Ms Todd admitted it had been an "enormous" learning curve.

The publishing industry was in a "great state of flux and flex" with consideration having to be for highly pragmatic and marketable choices, whereas she could have "a little more leeway".

She wanted high quality work to be a hallmark of her business and her aim was to "build up a bookshelf of timeless books of high quality".

Digital books had benefits for both writers and readers and there was immediately a potential global market.

In New Zealand, writers traditionally did not sell beyond the shores of the country, and to get into Europe, the UK or US was "beyond the dreams" of most writers in hard copy form.

With digital books, readership could be "from anywhere" and it was also "quite light-footed" from an ecological point of view.

While it was a hard road, Ms Todd said a lot of confidence had been expressed from within the industry and she intended to be involved for the "long haul".

As for her own writing - that was on the backburner.

"I do stir it every now and then," she said.



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