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We have freedom to look at what all readers want Kate Cuthbert, Escape Publishing

Launched on the 14th of November, Escape Publishing is the new Australian digital arm of Harlequin. It's a move that's been eagerly anticipated by both readers and local authors, and editor Kate Cuthbert is equally excited about the imprint's launch.

Although Kate acknowledges the importance of market factors such as the strong digital sales locally, as well as the huge growth in certain sub-genres of the romance market, she says that the imprint came about when it did because her team was simply 'too excited to hold off.'

She adds that things came together at the right time, positioning Escape for a swift launch.

'It does take time to plan and implement those plans, but we definitely wanted to move as quickly as possible to get started.'

A global reach through local stories

Kate Cuthbert Escape Editor We have freedom to look at what all readers want   Kate Cuthbert, Escape Publishing

Kate Cuthbert

Although Escape aims to reach a global audience, its emphasis will be on supporting local authors, which Kate notes are those that will naturally appeal to local readers.

'Realistically, Australia doesnt have the population to fully support Escape Publishingor any publisher. Our population is just too low.'

Kate is confident about pursuing the global markets that will ensure that Escape is a success, but without doing so at the expense of local readers.

'We are really focusing on pushing the Australian voice and Australian and New Zealand stories.'

She adds that being based in Australia means that Escape and Escape's authors will be more accessible to Australian readers.

'It might be because we're in the same time zone, and therefore on social media at the same time, or that we're in person at reader and industry events around the country.'

The freedom of digital publishing

One of the advantages of digital publishing is that publishers are able to take risks that might not otherwise be possible in traditional publishing formats.

Though Escape is able to draw on Harlequin's famously in-depth market research, it's not as concerned with tailoring its direction to suit broad market needs. This means that the Escape team can explore ideas that might seem more unusual or more niche.

'A lot of the market research is on what readers want on a large scale. That is, what most readers want most of the time. Because Escape Publishing is digital-first, we have more freedom to look at what all readers want, whether its most of the time, some of the time, or only casually.'

It the team at Escape find a story that they love, they have the freedom to pursue publication for it, regardless of whether it fits within the market research.

Interestingly, where many digital imprints have positioned themselves as 'digital first', meaning that print is always a tantalising option for their more successful titles, Escape is a digital only imprint.

'This is actually one of the things that I really think differentiates Escape Publishing from other e-book publishers. We dont think that print is the end goal. This suggests that print is privileged over digital, and that a print contract somehow legitimises a book. We dont buy into that.'

This doesn't mean, of course, that seeing an Escape title in print form in some point is verboten, but that digital publication is not seen as a stepping stone towards print publication.

'Our goal is to make our digital-first books the best they can be, with as wide a success as possible as the legitimate books that they already are.'

The Australian voice

Kate is passionate not only about digital formats, but about providing a platform for Australian authors to share their stories.

She's fascinated by the diversity of the Australian experience and the way a multiplicity of voices and stories has emerged from the combination of our vast country and relatively small and geographically diverse population.

''What is Australian to one Aussie is not the Australian experience of another Aussie. So theres just this vast richness to draw from, so no two stories are ever the same.'

Kate adds that the way in which we tell our stories has a distinct local flavour as well.

'Aussies have a really fresh, no holds barred way of telling their stories: the language, tone, and themes are very down-to-earth and very real.'

This is contrast to the 'manufactured, uniform polish' that can be seen elsewhere.

'I like to tell our international readers that the Aussie voice is a chorus, rather than a single note.'

On writing for Escape

Escape is actively seeking new Australian romance authors and as editor Kate is well-placed to share advice on how aspiring authors might catch her eye with their submissions.

'The only rule an author should follow is the is it a romance? rule: does it have a strong romantic arc? Does it have an emotionally fulfilling ending? If the answer is yes, then Im interested!'

Kate adds that because Escape's turnaround is extremely fast by publishing standards, authors should try to make sure that their manuscripts are in excellent shape before submitting.

'Get someone else to look over itsomeone you trust to tell you the truth. Probably not your best friend. You need to know where the problems are, the holes, the leaps of logic, the emotional short cuts. Then edit and proofread until your eyes hurt. The more finished your manuscript, the more likely Im going to keep reading.'

Escape Publishing Harlequin Logo 300x128 We have freedom to look at what all readers want   Kate Cuthbert, Escape Publishing

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  1. An interesting interview, even though I dont read many romances and dont live in Australia! I hope the new venture is a success!

    • Stephanie /

      Nows a pretty good time to jump on the romance bandwagon, Laurie! :)

      Im really looking forward to discovering some new local authors through this imprintI have quite a few books lined up on my TBR already!

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