Ebooks Interview with Matthew Simmons
Instant Future is an ebook-exclusive imprint of Future Tense Books. Run by Matthew Simmons, Instant Future stood out among the many different ebook models that Adam Robinson and I researched when coming up with a business plan for Ebook Flights. Nearly a year old, the imprint has published books from Litsa Dremousis, Elissa Washuta, and Zach Ellis. I asked Matthew Simmons some questions about the series he runs and ebooks in general.
What inspired you to start Instant Future?
Kevin Sampsell from Future Tense Books reached out to me to see if I might be interested in helping him edit a series of ebooks. I happened to have a little extra time, so I said sure.
What kind of feedback have you received?
It’s been positive so far. I’m lucky enough to have been working with some really smart, really talented writers. Litsa, Zach, and Elissa are all remarkable, and it’s easy to get positive feedback on a project when the work is as good as the Instant Future books have been.
Why not also create the books in print?
Print books are expensive and the production process is longer. Instant Future allows Future Tense to work with a bunch of new or established voices to produce good work that can react quickly to the culture.
Do you read ebooks? What’s your device of choice?
I do. I read with a Nook. I looked around to see if I could find a reader that allowed for the least amount of non-book related distractions—no email, no apps, no video. I just wanted an ereader that allowed me to read books.
Do you think there are subjects or styles of writing that are more appropriate for ebooks than others?
I don’t, no. I do think, though, that the ebook is an opportunity for work at certain lengths to finally get a fair shake at finding publication. Pieces that are too short to be a book—and don’t make sense padded out to small book length (here I’m thinking of the 50k Brave New World National Novel Writing Month benchmark as a guideline for a small book)—but too long to be a story. Something that would take up too much space in a journal or magazine. 15k words, say. A small- or medium-sized topic dug a little more deeply into.
This is a relatively new ground to explore with the expansive ebook field still relatively unknown. How do you feel about Instant Future’s future?
Like all new small press endeavors, I think you assess from book to book. I’d like to keep going.
Have writers come forward and said “yes, this is the perfect place for my kind of writing”?
A couple, yes. Honestly, though, I’m still trying to figure a lot of things out, so I’ve been working with people I know pretty well. Which, sadly, means that Instant Future has had a bit of a Seattle bias. Trying to expand. Doing my best. I think regional success is a good first step for a writer and a publisher, though, so I’m okay with starting close to home.
As a writer, do you feel that there is still a lot of unknown territory when it comes to how literature is made for the electronic reader?
Actually, I don’t think there’s much unknown territory here. Can an ebook be a little more interactive? Maybe. Does that make it “better,” or a richer reading experience? I kind of doubt it. I like books as they are, and really see the ereader as another way of engaging with them. Moving illustrations? Sure. Integrated maps or keys that lead to expanded context? Sure, I guess. I don’t think these things, though, are really revolutionary kinds of innovations. I think they are exciting little possibilities. But the book is the revolution. The ideas are the powerful things. The story is the keeper. I love a bell or a whistle, but I need the conveyance that you strap those things to. I like that maybe the ebook gives us some interesting visual or audio or interactive possibilities, but I need the story, and that’s my priority.
What’s next for Instant Future? Do you want to grow and make your own empire or do you want to make a specific niche for these kinds of ebooks to live and thrive in?
My ambition right now is just to get more attention to the books we’ve published, and to find new books that are as powerful to me as the ones we’ve already shared with the world. Maybe it’s the right way to go about this or maybe it’s the wrong way, but I am working one title at a time. I’m hoping care and concern for each individual title can build a foundation for growth from their, but I’m spending the first couple of years here concentrating on close attention to each book and letting the future build itself. I’ll re-evaluate after, say, six titles, probably.