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Boutique publisher RSVP lives up to its name

By Featured Members Archive

RSVP Publishing Company is an imprint launched by Stephen Picard in 1990, initially to publish his own first novel. They now have a very diverse catalogue of 20 titles, and the company follows the principle of some US publishers in keeping every book they publish in print.

It is also a point of honour with Stephen (pictured right) to live up to the company’s name: RSVP receives about 100 unsolicited manuscripts a year and the company responds to each one personally.

He is also adamant about keeping RSVP’s book production and printing onshore. Pre-production is in-house, and the titles are put out to tender among local printers. For a small publishing house, it is also a plus that smaller print runs of say 500 are currently economical.

Setting up RSVP was a lifestyle choice, as the former press officer and journalist had ‘had enough of working for other people’. Stephen lives on Waiheke Island but also has a small city office. One of RSVP’s books Waiheke Island is written and photographed by him: the Christchurch Press said “Picard – an island resident and former journalist – has done a fine book, with his own and historical photographs about island life. You get not just pretty pictures (plenty of those) but a real feel for what island life must be like.”

In many ways, the Waiheke title is the most mainstream on RSVP’s list. A publisher that uses the words eclectic and metaphysical to describe their list has to be putting out some unusual titles and RSVP doesn’t disappoint. What’s more, Stephen is taking them to Frankfurt this year.

Crystal Mission, Trail of the Hawk and Search for the Feathered Serpent are all titles by Dr Cornelius van Dorp. The firstleads the New Zealand doctor into fantastic territory – the discovery of a planetary electro-magnetic grid, and its connection with ancient foundation points like the Great Pyramid of Giza, a crystal mountain in Arizona, and secret sites in Tibet and New Zealand. Trail of the Hawk recounts contact with Native American Indian tribes, and Search for the Feathered Serpentfocuses – via a mystical stone-trail to Mexico and its ancient peoples, from whom the timing of the Harmonic Convergence came – on a search for Quetzalcoatl, the Feathered Serpent.

In contrast the balance of the list includes two children’s picture books; novels by Picard, Florence Kiss, Carl Hoffman, Julia Sutherland and Carolyn Young; Pearls, the conversations of a pre-teen with her elderly neighbour, Yoga of Heart, Self Healing and Phoenician Myths.

A title that has sold internationally is the well reviewed Like a Fish in Water – Yoga for Children Aged Five Years and Up by Isabelle Koch.

Add in books with Maori Tarot cards, travel advice, an ethical approach to sustainability, bio-tech time bombs and the best seller of the range, Picard’s own book Waiheke Island… eclectic is definitely the encompassing word. In addition, e-book versions of two titles in the catalogue are almost ready for release.

Stephen sees the reluctance of Whitcoulls to take two recent titles as a step backwards for small Kiwi publishers. “At one time, Whitcoulls would take at least five of a title. Then when the title was sold, replacements would be ordered.

“I was stunned when they didn’t pick up our last two books. One was a Maori title, Vision of Maui by Joyce Paraone Hemara, about an ancient system of divination for prophesy used by the Maori seers and prophets, modernized into a Tarot for use today.”

To counter this, RSVP’s new website went online in November last, offering direct-to-customer sales. “We needed to take a little more control of this as our traditional sales channels, bookshops, were becoming increasingly challenging,” says Stephen. “It is working well and enabled us to connect directly with our customers.”

The new website followed Stephen’s partnership with businessman Chris Palmer who now handles sales and marketing for the imprint, though for both their work is part time.

Stephen has represented RSVP Publishing at the London Book Fair and has been to Frankfurt three times. “The first time I found an overseas distributor, the second I sold foreign rights to a book, but the third time I drew a blank.” He is hoping for a fourth time lucky in our Frankfurt Guest of Honour year, and has a shelf for RSVP on the New Zealand stand and a new title to release at the fair.

Skylight publishing offers practical support for tough life situations

By Featured Members Archive

2 May 2012

Skylight is a charitable trust which provides support for people of all ages through life crises, with “warm, engaging and honest titles that don’t dress things up,” according to Tricia Irving Hendry (left), Skylight’s Deputy Chief Executive and publisher.

Skylight is a specialist agency assisting children, young people, adults and families – and those supporting them – through change, loss, trauma and grief, whatever the cause. They offer a range of support services, but began publishing in 2000 in response to constant requests for good information about tough life situations for children, for teens and for adults. Skylight has steadily built up their title list to 62 publications including topics such as suicide, sudden death, family break up, blended families, protection orders, addiction, domestic violence, anger management, mental illness, heartbreak and bullying.

Beyond Words: Grieving When Your Child has Died (a handbook for bereaved parents) is their most recent publication. It offers the words, perspectives and suggestions of many bereaved parents. Like all of Skylight’s publications it aims to be comforting, encouraging, informative and practical. Orders have already been received from Australia as well as locally. Beyond Words will be printed in small runs subsidised by funding grants, the norm for their titles.

Other issues Skylight has tackled include a guide for the parents of teen mental patients; What Happens to Babies, their only fiction title supporting the parents and family of stillborn or miscarried children; and After Suicide, aimed at teen peers of young people who have taken their own lives.

When Canterbury’s earthquakes struck it was to Skylight that many agencies turned, including government, to find tools to support children, teens and adults traumatised and grieving multiple changes and losses – as well as coping with ongoing quakes: “Once I had the books in my hands I felt like things weren’t quite so out of control. The kids got very engaged with the books and we had conversations about things we would never have discussed together without them. I learned things about them I hadn’t known and could now do something about. Your info for us as parents also opened our eyes and gave us hope that we actually could get through this okay.”

When Trauma and Grief Comes to Work was awarded a special commendation award at the 2011 New Zealand Workplace Health and Safety Awards for its role in assisting employers and managers after the Canterbury earthquakes.

Likewise, after the Australian bushfires and floods in recent years, Skylight was the ‘go to’ agency for support publications. Their reputation for such specialist publications has expanded as people have discovered the significant gains made possible by well targeted information about life’s tough topics that’s straight talking and very, very practical.

One of the benefits of Skylight publications is that their content is informed, tested and shaped by what is learned by its other services, including its all-age counselling and support groups services and its school programme. They never publish any title that they wouldn’t have 100 per cent confidence in using themselves in their own practice.

One Wellington counsellor reported recently that a ten-year-old boy shared more about his life in 40 minutes playing Skylight’s Getting Stronger Game with her than in the previous three-hour-long sessions.“We’re able to complement our counselling skills by using Skylight’s support resources, not only during the sessions but for our clients to take home. They make a huge difference and knowing that Skylight’s experience is built into each one is even better.”

Publication formats range from books to fold-out leaflets, boxed card sets and a board game. Whatever the topic, Skylight publishes to make the information accessible, affordable and above all else, genuinely helpful.

Skylight sells its publications directly online as well as to independent bookstores in New Zealand. People can also access them by phoning Skylight’s free phone line. Currently Skylight is having its publications trialled in the UK and the Middle East by companies interested in seeing them in use in their education and youth sectors.

Four of Skylight’s titles Something Has Happened, When Tough Stuff Happens, The Children’s Support Booklet Series and The Getting Stronger Game were selected for the Frankfurt catalogue and Skylight will be represented at the Frankfurt Book Fair later in the year.

“We have repeatedly seen and heard of examples of publications having genuinely changed lives,” says Tricia. “That inspires us to continue as innovatively as we can, serving those groups who can so often go unsupported. Our challenge is that the market for such specialist information is not large in New Zealand, but the needs of people in traumatic and grieving situations are always significant.”


Featured Member: Cervin Media – directory publishers with a difference

By Featured Members Archive

Cervin Media may have gone from cottage industry to corporate entity over 23 years, but in Anne-Marie Cervin’s hands it retains the feel of family with a very flat hierarchy and a supportive work atmosphere.

The company started off with two part-timers working from the Cervin home; now it has 20 staff in their Auckland offices. The beginnings were in producing Auckland Council directories, and today they produce eight annual directories, including NZ Medical Specialists and Hospitals, NZ Primary Health & Community Services, one on tertiary study options for school leavers and Excellence NZ, a directory of primary, secondary and tertiary education.

For Australia they do Medical Specialists Australia annually – with separate editions for each state. There is one quarterly publication, New Zealand Principal. Each has a mix of advertising and editorial content.

The print runs for the directories are all big numbers – Courses and Careers, the school leavers’ guide, requires a print run of 30,000 each year.

While there is gravitation to electronic media, with Cervin Media websites for health ( and education (, Anne-Marie says that doctors really like the print book. “They can use it in their hands while talking to patients and show them the information – if it were computer based, they would have to turn their backs to patients to get material off the screen.”

So far, so much like regular publishing. Cervin Media takes great care in the selection of cover art for their publications but they take that a step further than most: they often buy the canvas of an existing artwork for the offices and with that the rights to use the art for covers. One of Pamela Wolfe’s flower paintings makes an appealing cover for the latest edition of the NZ Medical Specialists and Hospitals Directory.

But here is the big difference from other publishing houses: all their publications are distributed free to the end user, because their directories are advertising supported.

Rob Skeen (pictured right), a former Yellow Pages marketing manager, is now head of sales and marketing for Cervin Media, the biggest team within the company and one which works over both the local and Australian markets. The other company teams are IT, finance, operations and creative/graphics. They have also recently hired a web designer.

Directories have a big responsibility to get every fact, every detail, every spelling correct. Cervin keeps strong databases and audits and updates them constantly. Anne-Marie: “We just can’t make mistakes.” Directories also have to be good looking and their information easy to find.

When book trade identity Mary Egan (pictured above, centre) joined Cervin Media last year as operations manager, there was some déjà vu invoked. Mary and Anne-Marie have been close friends since they met as young married women with families. When Mary was a pioneer in computer typesetting, Anne-Marie was putting out her first trade directories and they often worked together… literally on kitchen tables!

Cervin Media today has spacious, well-situated offices in Freeman’s Bay. However, the atmosphere is as relaxed as a home office… Mary’s large black labradoodle Lucca greets everyone enthusiastically each day.

Anne-Marie has assembled what she calls a “dream team” that can work hard and also have fun. In return, she has people who are professional, hard working and are happy to contribute skills and ideas. Learning and development is an important part of working at the company.

As a result, Anne-Marie has been able to cut down to three full-time days a week. Maurice Cervin, her husband, was a director active in the company for many years, but semi-retired six years ago. He remains company board chairman, and since art is his passion, sources the artworks that become cover designs for the directories.

In 2010, Anne-Marie and Mary both undertook the SME Owner Manager programme run by the Icehouse in partnership with The University of Auckland Business School which is aimed at fostering business growth. The course ran over five months, and was a “substantial commitment” for Anne-Marie and Mary. Anne-Marie found it a real refresher, having time to step away from the day to day and be inspired by an amazing line-up of speakers and facilitators. “I found it re-energising, after 20 plus years, and the saturation of new knowledge continues to provide focus to the development of the business. It also gave me a wider network to plug into,” she says.

Her new shorter work week allows Anne-Marie to spend more time with family and the five grandchildren. She is also a passionate birdwatcher, and has travelled to Ireland, Nova Scotia and Vietnam in search of bird species.

That’s probably why there is a recent addition to the Cervin Media logo – a wide eyed owl.

Te Papa’s Claire Murdoch: creating significant books

By Featured Members Archive

Claire Murdoch’s role as Te Papa Press publisher is unique in New Zealand and distinctly different from other New Zealand publisher roles. The print runs for the books she publishes may sometimes be smaller, and the profit percentages for Te Papa Press books perhaps a little more generous than those of the big trade publishers – but then again, as she points out, “there are no celebrity cookbooks to fill out the list at Christmas time.”

Nevertheless the accolade she is most proud of winning with Rita Angus: An Artist’s Life is the Nielsen Booksellers Choice Award in 2009. “Institutional books can sometimes have the deathly whiff of vanity publishing about them and not seen as commercial – which of course we strive to avoid. So when real booksellers give a book this award, and you know it has appeal to the whole book trade, you do feel you’ve got something right.”

Other publishers would perhaps see the other award the book won that year, the Montana Medal for Non-Fiction 2009, as greater cause for pride.

While Claire believes the privileges of being the publisher for the national museum and art gallery outweigh the restraints of a public institution, her desire for success at bookshop level comes from her initial training with Allen & Unwin in Sydney.

Claire’s first post grad job was as an editorial assistant at the Dominion in Wellington. Then the bright lights across the Tasman called. A flatmate’s aunt was an international agencies rep whose bookshelves overflowed with covetous imported titles and rock bios. The answer to the question “How did you ever get all these great books?” meant Claire, then studying film production and working in a commercial photo library, decided to switch to publishing.

She was put through many hoops before being accepted as a publishing assistant at Allen & Unwin – having to present ideas and essays as part of her selection to her future boss, the late John Iremonger. Like John, Claire’s primary interest was and is in serious non-fiction, but the exposure she had to various sides of publishing soon broadened her horizons. Another plus for Claire was working under top publisher Elizabeth Weiss – now academic and digital production director at A&U – for one of the four years she spent there.

In 2002, Te Papa advertised the role she now occupies, and the self-described Aussie-born NZ diplomat’s kid returned here to take the position, lured by the possibility of publishing “big books, significant books; using the museum’s collections, research and scholarship to tell great stories.”

In this not for profit environment, budgets are stringent and production costs tightly controlled. One major asset is Te Papa Press’ ability to use the museum’s photographic team on some of the titles.

What Te Papa does with great success, says Claire, is “translate the great big amorphous every-possible-thingness of a concept-driven museum like Te Papa into discrete blobs of book that are as good as they can be, and make sense to readers.” There is no need to ask if the approach has been successful. Over a four-year period, Te Papa Press won three Montana Medals for Non-Fiction. In 2006 for Pohutukawa and Rata: New Zealand’s Iron-hearted Trees, the following year for Eagle’s Complete Trees and Shrubs of New Zealand and in 2009 for Jill Trevelyan’s Rita Angus biography. An Illustrated Guide to New Zealand Hebes was the reference and anthology section finalist in 2007.

Just last year, the Athol McCredie-edited Brian Brake: Lens on the World was a finalist in the Illustrated Non-Fiction section of the New Zealand Post Book Awards.

The range of Te Papa Press titles is impressive: things botanical, art related, taonga Maori, Pacific culture, historical, ornithology and fashion. The Press also produces journals, calendars and books related to the museum’s own collections.

Equally remarkable is that apart from Claire, there are only three other full time staff, among them senior editor Odessa Owens and Sue Beaton who is in charge of sales. Claire rates both as “amazing” and values their long-term association with Te Papa Press.

Claire is aware that Te Papa Press is facing a challenging future as museums and public institutions experience funding cuts at the same time as pressure to make publicly available as much knowledge and content as possible – alongside the many big changes affecting publishers everywhere. “We need to look at how to reach people, what media to use and do it all on a limited budget.”

Claire Murdoch also has a big year ahead of her: she is one of the New Zealand delegates to the Leipzig Book Fair later this month. In June she will take up her Winston Churchill Memorial Trust research grant and meet people in similar roles to hers all over the United States at trade publishing houses, media production businesses, and museums and galleries like the American Museum of Natural History and Museum of Modern Art in New York, and the Getty in Los Angeles. “I’m one of a kind in New Zealand, so it will be great to meet people facing the same issues.”

She will also be going to Frankfurt in October. It will be a follow-up to her 2008 trip, and she is grateful for the prior experience. “I won’t be as overexcited as I was the first time and will be able to build on existing relationships to make the most of the opportunity when New Zealand is the Guest of Honour.”

Featured Member: Hana Pomare from Hana Ltd

By Featured Members Archive

Hana Ltd, publishers of a variety of Maori resources for schools, had a star-gazing start. Hana Pomare had been studying for a teacher diploma when a lecturer recommended her for a position at the Carter Observatory – to develop an audio-visual project on the Maori creation myth. So she threw herself into the observatory project and many twists and turns later became, as Hana Ltd, a specialised supplier of multimedia educational resources in te reo Maori.

Mind you, there was always a chance she could have faltered on the first hurdle. 

Asked to do an a/v, she turned up on her first day to discover the observatory had just bought a new video projector and wanted her to produce a video. Resourceful Hana then phoned all the film makers she knew and got herself some help and a crash course in film making.

The result was Te Ao Hurihuri, a big success for Hana and the help she had co-opted.

What about taking that project forward into books, music and other media, Hana wondered? Carter Observatory was happy to let her pursue further opportunities, so Hana went to the Ministry of Education with her ideas. Educationalists encouraged her, and today Te Ao Hurihuri is the first of seven ranges of multimedia resources published by Hana Ltd.

It received immediate critical success as a finalist at the 2001 TUANZ Awards.

The company and its projects grew organically, says Hana. She had some great professional help along the way, with librarian Miria Simpson a kuia who loaned her skills. “Miria was a legend as an editor with a red pen,” Hana recalls. “She told me ‘I have turned your pedestrian Maori into poetry.’ Only twelve lines of my original remained untouched, but Miria told me I should be very pleased with that!”

Hana’s timing was also good; she arrived on the scene just as a need for good Maori language resources became apparent. Hana’s husband Simon Wi Rutene (Aitanga-a-Mahaki and Ngati Porou) is also involved in Hana Ltd. (If his name sounds familiar, you’ll possibly remember him as an Olympic skier for this country.)

Despite the Pomare heritage, Hana (Rongomaiwahine, Rongowhakaata and Ngati Mutunga) was not brought up a Maori speaker. As a third former, she signed up for Maori language classes at Onslow College. Told there were not enough choosing the option to make a class, she found that 15 kids had signed up, which should have been sufficient but did not move school authorities. Later she found an educator and began Maori classes one night a week in Johnsonville. Her father, Dr Eru Pomare, and other local whanau came to classes with her.

Since then she has enrolled in classes at Polytech, Victoria University, and Te Wananga o Raukawa. However, Hana cites working alongside native speakers in various work roles, as being the most valuable and enjoyable way to learn.

So what can comprise a Hana Ltd theme? Te Ao Hurihuri now includes a talking book, winter and summer night sky charts, a lunar planting and fishing guide, lyrics and a song mixer – and that is only the interactive part. Backing it up is a video, an audio tape of waiata and story, a large format textless book, a web based resource and CD-Rom.

And while we can talk themes and media, nothing will prepare you for the outstanding graphic qualities of the various series – check them out on

Ahurea ki Tua, an adaptation of a mainstream school resource in Maori is a simpler package of print resource and downloadable pdfs.

He Puea,he Iwi tells of the Ngati Tuwharetoa migration and is available in Hawaiian as well as Maori and English; Ka Puna Karikari is based on Kai Tahu legends and written in that dialect, with print media, website resource and a CD-Rom.

Ka Roimata is books, music and animation again recounting a period of Kai Tahu history; Tera Ia Nga Tai are graphic novels on three ancestor stories with interactive talking books.

Hina, the last series to date, is based on the goddess Hine and the part she played in the origins of kapahaka, the coconut and tapa – again with six books for students, posters, online resources and a teacher’s resource book.

Hana’s Hina books were highly commended at the recent CLL Educational Publishing awards in the primary education category, and won the LIANZA best non-fiction publication in te reo Maori.

To get the treasured stories of ancestors, creation and other aspects of Maori culture, Hana’s heritage and the time she is prepared to devote to talk and discussion with iwi and whanau unlock stories in depth that could not be gathered by casual contact. Hana is also protective of the intellectual property of the stories to tribal groups.

As you flick through the various series on the Hana website, the stunning qualities of the artwork concepts and execution are wonderfully apparent. Hana says she likes to use artists who are not normally associated with children’s education books. She chose Chris Slane through reading his graphic novel about Maui; Turi Park she discovered through a mutual friend on a film project; Maiangi Waitai has merged Maori graphic tradition with her experiences of living in Japan and Mexico to colourful effect. Ellie May Logan is a friend who put enormous care and hours of work into Hina. Hana encourages the artists to bring their own sensibilities to a project “and then give the brief back to me of how they see it.”

The Ministry of Education has worked with the New Zealand Libraries Association, striking a recent agreement to allow public libraries to access Hana Ltd’s book and media output.

For her next project, Hana says the current gleam in her eye is for fairy stories and magic!

Maori and New Zealand education should be proud: Hana and Simon have created a considerable taonga for this country.

Featured Member: Sally Greer from Beatnik Publishing

By Featured Members Archive

Some publishers begin with a background of writing, editing or book sales. Sally Greer fell into publishing from her graphic arts background and love of other art forms.

The first book she was involved with was The Artists 2007 – 2008. Sally was working at Sanderson Contemporary Art in Parnell at the time. The experience was so inspiring she has since done two further arts books in a similar format (The Artists c2009 – 2011, 96 pages French fold covers, accessible price of $39.99) as Beatnik Publishing.

The most recent, The Artists: 21 Practitioners in New Zealand Contemporary Art c2011 – 2013 (140 pages, hardcover $49.99) received a glowing review from Warwick Brown in the Listener issue of October 22.

It is a measure of Sally Greer’s skills as a graphic artist that the design supports the artists’ works and text seamlessly – her aim is to make art more accessible. Beatnik is one modern stylish enterprise – Sally has space in a trendy brick building in New North Road, Auckland which comes with signage rights. The other offices and studios in the building house e-zine developers, fashion labels, an artist and a photographer. It is an environment where the creative types enjoy the ability to bounce ideas around as an informal collective.

“I jumped in the deep end – but then I’m known for it,” says Sally of her start in publishing. Beatnik was just her part time from 2007, but she became full time in 2009. She has a contract support staff of two, editor Janet McAllister and pa/junior designer Ande Kuric. Others from her wide network of contractors come in on bigger projects, so the number of people in the office changes constantly.

Beatnik as a name? “It connotes the subculture from the fifties: Beatniks – a group of organised free spirits – intriguing,” Sally says. She loves the fifties era, particularly its kooky illustration style.

Sally’s talents are not limited to graphic design, she is also an accomplished photographer.

She designed Gran’s Kitchen, Natalie Oldfield’s collection of her grandmother, Dulcie May Booker’s, recipes and took all the food photographs.

Vibrant design is also notable in Ripe Recipes, Angela Redfern’s cookbook of dishes served at Ripe Delicatessen – it has a stand out graphic cover with Ripe’s signature red on a spare black and white illustration. Sally was the photographer for this book also.

Another book Beatnik has published also flaunts its graphic design with bold colours, geometric and circle shapes. It is Who You Are is What You Do, an informative workbook that helps teenagers make good decisions for life after school by career consultant Heather McAllister. It is a niche claimed by no one else, and the book has been well accepted and continues to sell through.

And if all that sounds a bit adventurous for a graphic artist turned publisher, Sally really chose the high dive at the deep end by taking Beatnik Publishing to Frankfurt this year. “It was a big investment to get there,” she confesses.

Her first reaction to the Fair: “Just so thrilled to be there – I had no meetings booked, I just turned up. But it was insanely overwhelming.”

For a moment, Sally’s natural confidence and optimism deserted her. She found herself hiding in the comforting dark and quiet of the Iceland pavilion which was set up as a home interior. “A friend back home happened to call and I told him the thought of trying to sell rights was freaking me out.” The friend turned out to be a huge support, reminding Sally that she was great at making friends and to forget about selling, telling her to just go out there and make new friends.

Set on the right path, that’s exactly what Sally went off to do – and with some success.

New Zealand stand colleagues also offered practical advice including Exisle’s Benny St John Thomas, ESA’s Mark Sayes and Peter Dowling – “Who knew my Dad at Oratia School.” Geoff Blackwell was also generous with help and contacts. At the famous New Zealand stand drinks function Sally made three good contacts.

One result of going to Frankfurt is that she sees there could also be an international market for Beatnik’s design and packaging skills.

Now she has the measure of Frankfurt and firm ideas about paths to take and support material like catalogues etc she needs to have, Sally is long past her nervousness and definitely plans to be back in 2012. “I’m so excited about next year. I’ll be aiming to take five new books or concepts.”

The good reviews her books have received are strengthening her resolve, and there have been awards too, a Storylines certificate and a Bronze Award in editorial and books at Designers Institute Best Awards, both for Who You Are is What You Do.

“It is nice to get awards and recognition in reviews,” Sally acknowledges.

Featured Member: Mark Sayes from ESA Publications

By Featured Members Archive

ESA began life after hours from a spare bedroom, when Mark Sayes was a third-year teacher at Auckland Grammar School. It started with a "we can do better than these useless UK Chemistry books" followed up by hours of blood, sweat and tears. That was back in the days of 6th and 7th forms, UE and Bursary.

An IBM golf ball typewriter, with extra balls for the chemical symbols set the text, via “A wife who could (and would) type,” quips Mark. Letraset was used for headings and serious check reading was done by teacher colleagues.

Luckily, as it turns out, Mark's resulting manuscript for a University Entrance Chemistry revision book was turned down by a then well-known educational publisher.

Undaunted, Mark went ahead and published the text himself. Later and very fortunately, with two more revision books offered to him by colleagues, one of the first Apple Mac computers available in Auckland, Pagemaker 1 and a 400K external disk drive, a publishing business was born.

That was 23 years ago, and ESA continues in Mark’s hands as a privately owned publishing company specialising in educational books for the New Zealand market. The spare bedroom has long been outgrown, and today the company has a warehouse and offices at Manukau with a longstanding and loyal staff of nine plus several contract editors and typesetters helping out in the production end of things. ESA will finish this year with some 36 new editions and 16 new titles, all created or revised in the course of 2011.

In the last couple of years ESA, like other educational publishers in New Zealand, have been busy developing books for another new Curriculum and more changes to NCEA while still figuring out and developing products for the fast arriving digital world.

ESA's mainstay continues to be their well-known Study Guides, A5 titles covering most subjects at secondary school level for any particular year of study. Several Study Guides are now in their sixth or seventh edition as they respond to the never ending changes in education. The range is their biggest seller.

ESA also publishes a series called Learning Workbooks for secondary schools to cater for the growing numbers of students who find write-in books specified on their school stationery list each year. Print runs are growing as it is catching up fast with Study Guide numbers.

For end-of-year revision and to practice NCEA exam questions, ESA have a third series called AME workbooks – the title comes from Achieve, Merit, Excellence, the NCEA grades. For primary school (Years 3 to 8) ESA has their Start Right series of nearly 40 titles.

While ESA has some highly successful individual titles, they are best known for the four series just mentioned. “Each series follows a template from which different subjects can be ‘sausage factory’ produced quickly and efficiently,” comments Mark.

ESA prints mostly in Singapore and also in New Zealand. “They are not coffee table books!” says Mark, acknowledging most of the titles follow the template in the way they are written and laid out.

What is catching ESA and other educational publishers out these days is the frequent changes of curriculum: “Too many, too fast”. Adding complications with NCEA is the fact that NZQA guidelines for what is to be taught in the very near future are not rubber-stamped until the last possible minute, “Late, piecemeal and incomplete,” says Mark.

Currently ESA has seven level 2 course books for 2012 unfinished – the full scope of the course contents won’t be notified to teachers until the first week of December. “We have no show of getting them out for the start of term,” Mark laments. The process is made even harder by the fact that NZQA “doesn’t tell the publishers anything” according to Mark.

ESA has a huge variety of subjects covered – even Latin for which there is only about 200 students at the moment – but the basic criteria is “if it has an exam, ESA will cover it”.

Frustratingly, there is a visual study guide that has sat unfinished for 18 months while NZQA sort out how to assess several Achievement standards.

Mark is happy to participate in publishing industry affairs and has been on the Board of Copyright Licensing for some years, including a stint as Chairman. “It has been an enjoyable experience and one in which as an educational publisher I have a special interest.”

Outside of publishing, his time is spent with family and friends and involvement in sports administration, in this case squash. “Sports administration is what you do when you no longer play the game due to ongoing back problems!”

Mark will be at his third Frankfurt Book Fair right now to try and build on a couple of small successes and to catch up on what other educational publishers are doing, especially in the digital arena. A busy and enjoyable time, where for a few days he can perhaps ignore the problems created by very late curriculum announcements.

Featured Member: Tracey Borgfeldt David Bateman Ltd

By Featured Members Archive

Because David Bateman has a healthy New Zealand nonfiction publishing list, it is easy to forget that they also have a sizeable market as international book publishers and packagers. They have had at presence at Frankfurt for over 25 years and their own stand at the Book Fair for the last 20 years.

Case in point: Encyclopaedia of Tropical Plants, a full colour 725 page tome with photographs of over 3000 plants. The book, by NZ based authority Ahmed Fayaz, was first presented at Frankfurt three years ago. Last month copies with respective Bateman, Australian and North American imprints debuted internationally.

But Bateman’s are accustomed to producing significant books like Bateman New Zealand Encyclopaedia (six editions), Contemporary Atlas of New Zealand, Vaka Moana: Voyages of the Ancestors; Pacific Jewellery and Adornment and five volumes on Contemporary New Zealand Art.

This year at Frankfurt a new round of titles is being presented, including Kenya’s High Country: The landscapes, wildlife and people of the Laikipia Plateau. It is by Tui De Roy and Mark Jones who both have written and photographed a number of very successful international wildlife books for Bateman. It is to be published next year, and the stunning summary should ensure a good international reception.

Attending Frankfurt Book Fair is a two-way street as Bateman’s also buy NZ publication rights for international titles, however this is only a small part of their current list.

An astute eye is needed to see international sales possibilities – and they are often found in unlikely places.

Publishing director Paul Bateman and associate publisher Tracey Borgfeldt were in conversation with floral artist Fionna Hill, when Paul noticed an article she wrote about microgreens. Fionna was asked to write book on the subject, and How to Grow Microgreens has now sold rights for Austrian, German, Swiss, French, American and Chinese markets.

There’s only a small in house team working on the 20-25 titles Bateman produces each year, just Paul, Tracey and senior editor Caroline List. Much of the editorial, proofing and all design work is outsourced. The firm uses Hong Kong based printers – with whom they have worked for 30 years – for the bulk of their print work.

Bateman are also important distributors in the local market, not only for their own titles but for other publishers such as David Ling, Annabel Langbein and Graham Stewart, Land Transport’s Road Code, and international publishers Rizzoli and Sterling. They recently received a PaperPlus Award for excellence in distribution.

The international publishing climate has changed in the last few years, as it has here, Tracey notes. Where once a 3000-5000 copy print run was normal, now that’s considered a good figure. Bateman has to turn down projects they would like to take on but consider there is an insufficient market for the title to be viable. The upside is seeing more projects which have likely been turned down by bigger publishers but which they believe will work for Bateman.

Finding good sized niche markets is important – while it might be considered that there are plenty of New Zealand histories, Stevan Eldred-Grigg’s People, People, People: A Brief History of New Zealand fills the gap for a colourfully illustrated short history that’s accessible for tourist and student markets.

Travel is a new genre for Bateman – Ian Robinson’s prizewinning Tea with the Taliban will be joined by Gods of the Stoneslater this month, and both are in the catalogue for Frankfurt. Gods of the Stones is Wellington writer Peter Riordan’s travels through a number of countries in the Middle East in the steps of 30’s classic travel writer HV Morton.Peter has two other travel books under his belt – Motorcycle Masala and Strangers in My Sleeper, a great book about his travels by train around the subcontinent.

And for a change of subject, two books on knitting by designer Mel Clark – Knitting Everyday Fineryand Knitted Gifts for Babies – both due out in 2012 will be shown at Frankfurt by Bateman.Astonishingly, both are already sold into the UK and North America market, so they are looking for foreign-language editions at the Book Fair. Mel’s first knitting book was with Tracy Ullman and sold over 60,000 copies in the US!

Tracey sums up the market change for Bateman internationally by noting there are fewer deals for larger format coffee table-style books and more for books with practical information, but in smaller print runs.

She also notes the need for authors to be able to do their own publicity. “When they have written the book, they can think that is the job done, but the second half, getting out there and selling the book, is just as necessary.”

With an author like Mel Clark, that’s not a problem – she already has her own popular knitting website and blog following on SlipSlipKnit.

As with other publishers worldwide, Bateman are in the process of converting new titles and some backlist to e-book formats, but have not started distributing these yet.

Right now the publishing department is flat out with Frankfurt preparation – five working days to print catalogue deadline – and four covers still to be created!

Featured Member: Ian Watt from Exisle Publishing

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Gold Start, Exisle’s new title last month, is a book for parents by Andrew Lendnal on how to teach children financial savvy. And gold it has proved to be, with Exisle’s New Zealand publisher Ian Watt already having pushed the reprint button.

And Gold Start is as good a place as any to see how a small publisher with offices in Australia’s Hunter Valley and three executives working from their homes in Auckland manages the trans-Tasman divide. It is a title that Ian Watt discovered and developed so it would work for both Kiwi and Aussie parents. Andrew Lendnal was an author willing to be involved with the media, and he currently has a regular spot on television’s Good Morning program and is in constant demand for interviews on Australian radio.

The Australian and New Zealand publishing arms work together but with relative autonomy, but apart from a few specifically local books, Australian titles are expected to sell in New Zealand and vice versa. Exisle doesn’t publish fiction, only adult nonfiction specialising in biography, history, military history, parenting and self help. Sport also features regularly on the New Zealand list, the most recent example being For the Love of the Game, a photographic book on grassroots rugby in New Zealand.

Of the 20 – 25 books per year Exisle releases, around 8 – 10 are of New Zealand origin, says Ian Watt. Crossovers occur: Ian is the military historian on the team, so that sees him as editor of the titles Exisle publishes in conjunction with the Australian War Memorial Museum in Canberra. He also published the substantial official history New Zealand’s Vietnam War by Ian McGibbon last year. “It is ploughing through its print run,” says Ian with pride.

Other recent NZ releases are Purple Dandelion by Farida Sultana with Shila Nair and Jill Worrall’s account of travels in Iran called Two Wings of a Nightingale. Exisle has three markets, says Ian, the third being “the world”. A book’s global potential is always a factor when considering a new title. The company is pursuing rights sales for Purple Dandelion in the Middle East and India.

An upcoming title is Max Cryer’s Preposterous Proverbs. Previous language books compiled by Cryer have all been sold internationally, and Ian expects this one to follow suit. Cryer’s last book, Who Said That First? is selling in both UK and US editions.

Ian’s Kiwi colleagues are administrator and NZ sales manager Carole Doesburg, publicist Lorraine Steele and design consultant Alan Nixon. In Australia are the company’s owners Gareth and Benny (Bernadette) St John Thomas, and three employees who work out of the company offices in the Hunter Valley. Like Ian Watt, Australian publisher Anouska Jones works from a home office. Company founder Gareth is often on the move for Exisle and regularly visits his staff in New Zealand. The two arms of the company are also in regular contact by phone, email and Skype – very 21st century.

In fact it was one of the earliest events of 21C, the 9/11 Twin Tower attacks in America that saw the company begin to work in this fashion. Gareth and Benny were living in New York at the time, and the crisis prompted a move back to Auckland. Gareth, who had extensive publishing experience in England, had established Exisle as a hobby business in the early 1990s while studying for his MBA here. More of the backstory: Benny worked in publishing in Australia for Doubleday and ABC Books. When they returned, Exisle was revitalised, and Ian was the first to join the company as their New Zealand publisher in 2002 from HarperCollins.

After two years in Auckland, Benny wanted to be nearer to her son in Australia. She and Gareth relocated, and so the modern era of Exisle began. Ian finds the distance contact “not as isolating as it might seem.” And from the company’s progress since, it is obviously not inhibiting business. Distribution of Exisle titles is by HarperCollins in New Zealand and Macmillan in Australia.

Exisle is firmly focused on the future, with almost every new title now also published in four to five e-book formats. The company is keen to explore new ways of producing books in the digital age. Ian believes they also have to keep up with the way retail is changing, and an increasing percentage of every print run is now being sold through online booksellers and other websites.

In the meantime, print runs are not noticeably smaller, mainly because of judicious acquisition and developing non-traditional sales opportunities. “With Australia, we have a market of 24 million, not four million.” But, Ian says “We are more careful with what we choose to publish. We look for authors who can self promote and who handle the media well.” Exisle also sets up a web page for each new title as a promotional tool.

As Exisle faces the future, its list continues to expand and its international sales continue to grow. “The Frankfurt Book Fair is very important to us,” Ian says. “Some of our titles are available in more than 20 international editions. We want more of that.”

Featured Member: Jenny Thomas from Cengage Learning

By Featured Members Archive

Cengage Learning New Zealand publishes around forty completely new texts or workbooks a year for Kiwi secondary school students, most in full colour. The small publishing team that turns the texts out like a very well oiled machine is headed by Jenny Thomas.

Her first introduction to educational publishing was as an author. She and Tania Roxborogh were both teachers at Orewa College when they co wrote English Basicsin 1999 and More English Basics in 2000 for publishers New House. Tania has since gone on to write young adult fiction, but Jenny’s text book author tally is now 16. “If you count second edition rewrites it gets to twenty one, then add in seven teacher resource publications.”

Of course, over the years things have moved on: New House is now an imprint of Cengage Learning and their New Zealand arm now covers every subject in the secondary school range at every level, plus providing workbooks and resources.

“We have 237 titles in print at the moment,” says Jenny. Given that curriculum revisions are frequent and that in turn involves revisions of titles, that’s a lot of balls in the air.

Jenny’s office alone – that’s her working as publishing editor alongside contract editor Graham McEwan – turns out forty titles a year, NZ texts for NZ schools. Of course the writers are specialist school teachers under contract, but given the size and complexity of many of the texts, that is impressive. While editing and design work is handled here, the press ready file goes off to Australia and a production manager there takes over; five to six weeks later Jenny is holding advances of the book in her hands.

For Graham and Jenny, the roles are a switch from their New House publishing days where Graham published many of Jenny’s titles. “Graham taught me everything I know,” she acknowledges. Today they still enjoy a warm working relationship.

The rest of the New Zealand team comprises a sales manager and a sales rep and two support staff in the sunny offices in Rosedale Road, Albany. The sales team also carry Cengage’s wider list including Nelson Austalia and Hodder UK education titles. Cengage Learning has also recently acquired the McGraw Hill secondary list.

It seems the best of both worlds kind of arrangement with an offshore principal. Cengage Learning Australia, part of an even bigger worldwide organization of the same name, also handles order processing and distribution. IT and digital resources are also handled out of Melbourne, so the Kiwi office tasks can be concentrated entirely on commissioning, editing, design and other preparation of texts, plus all important sales and marketing.

For Jenny it is a good balance, “You can run independently, but help is at hand if needed.” Other former New Zealand lists part of Cengage include Price Milburn (PM), but editorial for that list now comes out of Melbourne.

The marvel of full colour textbooks, astonishing to those over 30, came about in New House days for this arm of the company.

“When even junk mail and shop flyers started coming through the letterbox in full colour rather than just spot colour on black and white, we knew we had to move on,” explained Graham. So move they have, and scholars of ye olde days can only envy the engaging results.

Cengage Learning New Zealand concentrates on the secondary school curriculum, Year 9 – 13, and reckons there isn’t a subject they don’t cover. English, social science, the sciences, maths, accounting and even physical education have lively texts.

A recent addition to the list is Part One of a Te Reo course and workbook with accompanying audio CD is, with part two to follow shortly. Cengage New Zealand also produce some intermediate level texts.

When Jenny says “We are committed to being a leading provider of learning solutions,” it is far from corporate-speak. And she is quite upfront about being “Passionate about publishing resources to meet the needs of both teachers and students in New Zealand.” She is also proud of the fact that Cengage New Zealand’s Year 9 Graphics was chosen as the Best Educational Book at last year’s PANZ Book Design Awards.