In late August 2015, Massey University Press began with a single employee: respected former Random House New Zealand publishing director Nicola Legat.
When Professor Glyn Harper, the historian who chairs the Press’s editorial board, announced her appointment, he said “With Nicola, we are in excellent hands … (Her) appointment as publisher is a strong signal that the Press is a serious venture and will be a force in New Zealand book publishing.”
So, big expectations and a big job: build a new publishing house from scratch! Nicola regards the challenge as “professionally enormously exciting. It’s no small thing for a university to set up a Press in these difficult times. They have invested a great deal of trust in me and I fully intend to earn that trust.”
Nicola has hired former Random House project editor Kimberley Davis as managing editor – a part time role for now – and well-known freelance book publicist Sarah Thornton will handle all the publicity for the list. David Bateman Publishing is handling sales and distribution. A new website www.masseypress.ac.nz will launch shortly.
Ten books are scheduled for publication in 2016, the first being the April release of Experience of a Lifetime, another volume in the very active Centenary History Programme publishing enterprise. Nicola describes its 16 chapters as an interrogation of the traditional narrative of the First World War as a total disaster and a waste of millions of young lives.
It’s followed in June by the first volume of The New Zealand Land & Food Annual, a punchy collection of pieces on issues facing New Zealand’s agricultural and food sector. “This book expresses the core mission of the Press,” says Nicola. “Agricultural science is pivotal to Massey’s DNA given it began life as an agricultural college. The university has worked in lock step with the nation’s farmers, foresters and horticulturalists for over 80 years.”
“Massey University sees itself as part of shaping our nation and taking the best of New Zealand to the world,” Nicola continues. “Our publishing will reflect that and will tap into the depth of its experience and expertise in agricultural science, food research, veterinary science, public health, Māori Studies, security and international studies, the humanities and social sciences, education, business and social work. For me as a publisher it’s a wonderful opportunity to publish serious and important books. When I left Random House at the end of 2014 I’d decided that that would mark the end of my time in publishing. I intended to seek new directions. But this new role has so much potential that I am very pleased I changed my mind.”
Nicola continues to be deeply involved in other initiatives that support New Zealand literature and publishing. She is chair of the New Zealand Book Awards Trust and deputy chair of the Auckland Writers and Readers Festival Trust.