Writing

Softcopy: The Road to Self-Publishing an E-journal

Blogger in Residence, Christine McPaul, shares her experience of creating the e-journal, Softcopy.

journey

“The road to publication can be rough, take snacks and a friend” – Elizabeth Hein

Three of us were crammed into my spare room with homemade muffins, chocolate-chip buns, a whiteboard, a laptop and an idea. We had already met a few times, and the plan was taking shape. We felt bold, excited and a little shaky – we intended to create a literary e-journal for emerging writers.

Last year I was one of thirty writers selected for the HARDCOPY 2014 program at the ACT Writers Centre. It was there that I met two friends, Lesley Boland and George Dunford, who would share the road to publication for Softcopy.

The choice to go digital was something we debated. But not for too long. Platforms like Facebook and YouTube have over 13 million users each. In 2004 the amount of time people spent on the Internet was around six hours per week. By 2014 it had risen to 17.5 hours per week. If that seems like a lot, it might surprise you to learn that book readers spend above average time online compared to non-readers. With this in mind, we decided to embark on a pathway to independent online publishing.

One decision down. About fifty more to be made. What do we call the journal? Do we have the technical skills to make it happen? What are our design values? Can we secure the URL we need? How often will we publish? Do we have submission guidelines and will anyone want to submit their work? Will we finish our own stories in time? How will we edit? Assuming we make it to publication, will anybody read it?

Some of these decisions were straight forward. Others required cake, coffee, alcohol.

For the inaugural edition, we decided to focus on our fellow participants from HARDCOPY 2014, with sixteen submissions forming the basis of Softcopy Edition 1. George secured the Softcopy URL and provided suggestions on design. Lesley applied her expert organisational skills to editing and version control. I learnt how to use HTML so our stories could be wrangled into the online environment in a consistent format. We juggled jobs, writing and families while we tried to keep up the tempo to complete publication.

Since its launch in May 2015, Softcopy continues to be a success. With more than 1000 unique views in its first two days, Softcopy has proven to be an exciting platform to showcase the work of emerging writers.

The road from concept, through writing and editing, to publication, was a journey of around six months. When I’m asked what I think the key learnings from this experience have been, three things come to mind:

  1. Have the courage to back your ideas
  2. Build a team that shares the vision and has complementary skills
  3. Never lose sight of the important cultural work that storytelling performs.

A few months on, and with rucksacks stuffed full of ideas, we are ready for the next contour on the cultural landscape.

Softcopy Edition 2 will shortly be calling for submissions from emerging writers.

ChristineMcPaulChristine McPaul is a member of the HARDCOPY 2014 alumni, and is also a founding editor of the e-journal, Softcopy, launched in May 2015. Christine has written shortlisted fiction, published academic articles about literature and women’s writing, book reviews, and a biography for the Australian Dictionary of Biography. Christine was awarded a PhD from the Literature and Theatre Studies Department of the Australian National University in 2009. She tweets @christinemcpaul and muses about writing, reading, and finding that illusive inspiration on her blog, Capable of Anything.

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