Ebury has commissioned a “Debretts style guide” for internet manners with US rights sold in a three-publisher auction last month.
Digital Etiquette: Welcome to etiquette 2.0, the future of good manners is billed by the newly bolstered Penguin Random House imprint as an “irreverent journey through the murky world of digital etiquette” to negotiate quandaries such as colleagues’ weird emails and mansplaining.
Commissioning editor at Ebury Robyn Drury dreamed up the idea which “took on a life of its own” and approached Wired journalist Victoria Turk to write the guide last year, in a deal for world rights negotiated by agent Emma Paterson, who was at Rogers, Coleridge and White at the time but moved to Aitken Alexander in October.
Some chapter headings include: “Please take me off this thread: The art of work, Sliding into your DMs: The art of romance, Memes, mansplainers and Milkshake Ducks: The art of community”.
“It is something that we had been thinking about for a while here,” Drury told The Bookseller. “The idea that we couldn’t believe there is not a book about navigating online, like a Debrett’s style guide. We couldn’t believe that this wasn’t already published.
“We had talked to a few people who were tech journalists and then Vicky [Turk] came in and we really clicked. She knew how to make it digestible and accessible.” Before becoming senior editor at WIRED, Turk was technology editor at New Scientist and UK editor at Motherboard, VICE’s tech and science channel.
In December an auction between three publishers saw Drury sell the US rights to Jill Schwartzman for the Plume list, in a “good five-figure” deal concluded by Ebury rights agent Rae Shirvington. Digital Etiquette will be published on 7th March in hardback, retailing at £9.99 with the American deal newly signed.
“It was interesting selling the US rights because we weren’t sure how much that it would travel,” Drury said. “The US deal was done quite quickly, in December, and was a strong sense of interest.
"It is a really interesting book at time when there is such an influx of information coming through all the time, from your Twitter feed to your Whatsapp and the lines between work and life are increasingly blurred. It’s necessarily not practical to take a digital detox but is there a way we can all be kinder. Is there a collective set of rules where we can all be kinder to each other?
“We moved away from trolling and fake news towards how we live our physical lives and online lives merge. It has taken on its life of its own… it became a real wild card."
Drury, formerly an agent who joined Ebury in 2017, revealed that the only Americanised editorial tweaks will be regarding WhatsApp because the app is apparently less popular in the US. She is taking the translation rights to the London Book Fair and believes it could work well in Germany in particularly but is hoping for wide international appeal.
The news comes amidst several internet-related books last month including Quadrille signing an exploration of the female relationship with the internet, Mixed Feelings, by Refinery29 editor Sarah Raphael and campaigner Naomi Shimada, while Hurst journalist Hussein Kesvani’s debut, Follow Me, Akhi, about how young Muslims use the internet.
Last week it was revealed that Ebury was forming two new non-fiction hubs and Drury hopes that Digital Etiquette could mark a significant new aspect in the genre.“I think there is a real feeling that not only about ‘tech’ issues but about something wider… we recently published Jamie Bartlett - a few years ago it may have been seen as a niche interest. It is all so far-reaching, the means of how people live their everyday lives and it is about privacy and data issues, people are thinking about these much more."
She added: "We are interested to see if this is the direction of new digital writing."