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.