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Comics the powerhouse for Beyond Reality Media

By Featured Members

Bill Geradts_smallBeyond Reality Media is a recently established graphic novel, comics and anime publisher headed by Bill Geradts and based in Christchurch.

As a founder of the Armageddon Expos held in centres throughout New Zealand, and a shareholder in one recently established in Melbourne, Bill has the necessary street cred in this area.
For those few fogies not in the know, Armageddon Expos are an explosion of stalls and events for adventure and fantasy film buffs – including top line Hollywood and Kiwi movie acting talent –  people interested in comics and graphic novels, fans of science fiction and fantasy books, cosplay events, special effects makeup displays and competitions, and online game enthusiasts.

Bill established the first Armageddon in Auckland in 1995, and the one coming up in Auckland is from 24 – 27 October. Armageddon shows are held in several cities around the country, and number four to five each year.

Beyond Reality Media was set up just over four years ago, when Bill saw the opportunity of expanding the comics/graphic novel offering using the talents of local and international graphic artists and designers illustrating Kiwi authored stories. “The genre was almost non-existent in New Zealand but hugely popular in most international markets.”
bill geradts_cartoon
Initially the approach was digital, but Bill soon discovered digital publishing alone offered ‘no way to get your money back.’ He switched to a mix of printing books alongside digital distribution, aiming to reach the combined market at the high end.

“Over the last two years we’ve produced eight books which we’ve written or co-written or own outright and will have ten to display.“We’ve been holding off on big presentations till we’ve got enough titles to make a critical mass, and able to impact on the market. That will be at the Armageddon in October.”Bill has turned author himself for some of the Beyond Reality offering, with writing credits for One Must Break and co-writing The Darwin Faeries. Other series titles on offer include The Inspiration DuncansThe Time Travelling TouristWarden (what if the world’s great superhero is something else entirely?); Attica (Pollux and Hercules both come to terms with their fates); Alice on Mars with Alice knee deep in trouble on Mars.He has been co-writing a number of the titles with Auckland writer/illustrator Richard Fairgray and American comic creator Christian Gossett.Popular writer/artist Robert Rankin will deliver his third book for Beyond Reality Media The Kiwi Chronicles in time for release at Armageddon.

If you haven’t dipped into comic books since childhood, you will find more sophisticated artwork and out-there storylines than you might expect.

Also at Armageddon is the release of 24,000 free comics, featuring issue one of The Time Travelling Tourist – just one episode of the many possible titles. Normally a TPB would be four episodes in one book.

Bill describes his involvement in cartoon series as “Writing in increments – always doing something with a book, having fun.”

The Beyond Reality/ Armageddon offices are in Christchurch. Bill and his family shifted there five years ago from Auckland, and despite earthquake turmoil he has no plans to return “Which says a lot for Christchurch!”

South Pacific Press – educational publisher competes in major markets

By Featured Members

Neale Pitches IMG_1563_250

South Pacific Press CEO and co-founder Neale Pitches spent January in the UK dodging blizzards and helping launch CSI Literacy to the Brits. In March and April he was trekking around the US, “re-booting” SPP’s educational profile in that country.

As a company, South Pacific Press began in 2005, in a small office in Wellington, founded by Neale and Meryl-Lynn Pluck, of Rainbow Reading fame. Education runs in Pitches’ blood – former teacher then principal of Onslow College, followed by nine years as CEO of Learning Media.

SPP’s mission has always been to remain close to the classroom, to be nimble and to move into niche markets to address real needs in literacy. In 2007, SPP bought educational contractor Lift Education from its founder, Dr Sue Watson (now Global CEO of the KEA network).

SPP works mostly in joint or co-development projects. “We are quite small, so we like partnerships,” says Pitches. CSI Literacy, a growing suite ofevidence-based literacy resources for years 4 to 9, is a strategic joint venture between SPP (the co-publisher) and Californian-based Pacific Learning, who also distribute the resources in the US. CSI Literacy is SPP’s current major product range, and CSI Literacy Kit 3 won Best Educational Resource or Programme for Export at the CLNZ Educational Publishing Awards in 2012.

“We began development of CSI Literacy in 2007, published the first edition in 2008, and had strong success in the US market in 2010,” says Neale.

Following its early success in the US, CSI Literacy was introduced into Australia and New Zealand, and most recently the United Kingdom and Europe. SPP has distributors in the UK, USA, Australia and Singapore; local warehousing and distribution is undertaken in Nelson by Rainbow Reading.

However, the timing of the CSI Literacy rollout was not ideal – the recession began to be felt in educational publishing in 2007, with a lift from the US market in 2010. Only now, in 2013, trading is up compared with previous years, but from a low base.

“It’s challenging,” Pitches says. “The high NZ dollar and the rush to digital resources mean schools demand resources in formats ranging from completely hard copy to completely cloud-based. We create blended solutions… they’re aimed at needs that we’ve researched, and the solutions are elegant and contemporary, comprising books, digital interactive texts, audio texts and iPad apps.”

Excellent school data, especially for Māori and Pasifika students from New Zealand schools, showed Pitches that CSI Literacy had hit the “sweet spot” long sought after in education – the ability to accelerate student achievement in literacy in the troublesome middle years of schooling.

Pitches has just finished a round of seminars in the North Island on this issue, addressing and gathering feedback from teachers, principals, resource teachers of learning and behaviour and resource teachers of literacy.

“SPP has a positive DNA,” Pitches believes. “What drives us is doing work that is vitally important; doing things no one else is doing and walking on the edge of viability… though we do manage risk carefully.”

The core team numbers around 10 in their Tory Street office, but SPP has a pool of around 100 contractors who have skills they can call on at peak development times.

Recent good news for the company is that SPP’s Lift Education has been contracted by the Ministry of Education to develop the Connected series. This is a series of three science-oriented publications in hard copy and digital formats that includes mathematics, technology and literacy support. The series will focus on the nature of science and have perspectives that include Māori and Pasifika.

Lift Education provides specialist services across the education sector, including publishing services in English, Māori and Pasific languages. It developed the Volunteer Recruit Programme for the New Zealand Fire Service, highly commended in the category of Best Book in Higher Education Publishing at the CLNZ Educational Publishing Awards last year. The SPP/Lift Education team also collaborates with Core Education through their Literacy for You online professional development course.

SPP is a regular attendee of the Frankfurt Book Fair. “Our big focus coming from successive Frankfurt negotiations (these deals can take time) is the UK. In 2012, we signed a deal that was two years in the making, with education heavyweight McGraw-Hill Education UK. We have been very busy developing ‘standard English’ (UK, New Zealand and Australian) editions of three of the CSI Literacy kits and all of the CSI Chapters – a big job.”

This year, McGraw-Hill Education UK launched CSI Literacy as one of its premium new products. These new editions are now moving into UK, European, Australian and New Zealand schools. McGraw-Hill UK has rated it an exciting programme and Pitches sees “green shoots” for SPP in the UK market.

“We attend Frankfurt to keep pace with the industry and to spend quality time with our US and other international contacts. So it is important for us to be there.

“Our big distribution deals are done face-to-face in the markets,” says Neale. “But we do some small deals at the fair. We travel to and from Frankfurt via marketplaces where we have relationships so we make it a business round trip.”

It was CSI Literacy’s innovative, world-first, digital teaching interface that helped seal the deal with some of their international partners, and it is changing literacy teaching in classrooms around the world.

“The SPP team members are innovators and we’re all passionate about education,” says Pitches. “Accelerating student literacy is the key to accelerating overall student achievement in the troublesome middle years. We have a product that has proven results – now we just need to keep moving forward with more world first products.”

Otago University Press – small team, big output

By Featured Members

Rachel Scott otago042589Rachel Scott began as Publisher of Otago University Press in April this year and happily settled into her new role, enjoying the long and gorgeous end of summer in her new home city. An affordable house with both harbour and sea views has been an added bonus of her move to Dunedin.

 Taking over from Wendy Harrex, Rachel has a small team, which achieves a large output for the imprint; eight new titles will be released in October and November alone. Though the list already had titles with subjects as diverse as dolphins and diplomats’ wives, Rachel has added two new titles to this year’s list; Maire Leadbeater’s Peace, Power & Politics about how New Zealand became nuclear free, and Creature Comforts, an illustrated history of our relationship with pets by Nancy Swarbrick. “They are solidly researched titles yet very readable,” says Rachel.As Otago is the medical school’s home, you’ll also find related titles on the list. Reconstructing Faces is about the work of wartime surgeons Gillies, Pickerill, McIndoe and Mowlem; Being a Doctor: Understanding Medical Practice is another with a medical connection, and both were released this year.The eclectic Otago University Press 2013 list includes sociology titles, two issues of Landfall, history and natural history, Pacific and religious titles, Brasch’s journals and Erik Olssen’s photographic essay Working Lives 1990.Like all university presses, Otago takes on a lot of “sub-commercial” publishing – important short-run books that no one else could afford to publish, Rachel says. “But there is an increasing expectation that we aim to publish some books that bring in a bigger financial return to cushion the deficits of releasing some of the academic titles.” An editorial advisory committee meets quarterly to review and guide the Press’ operations.

It needs to be observed that the small team must be talented and relentlessly efficient to produce 20-plus titles each year, with Rachel and production editor Fiona Moffat the only two full-time staff. The rest of the team are editor Vanessa Manhire, editorial assistant Imogen Coxhead, publicist Rhian Gallagher and Glenis Thomas in administration who all work part-time. The team are collegial, meet regularly and work to each member’s strengths. (And before you ask, Vanessa is daughter-of-Bill.)

“I was practically solo at Canterbury University Press,” says Rachel. “But I’ve discovered it is amazing what you can do with a wonderful team behind you!”

Currently, contract casual staff – usually students – undertake dispatch of Otago University Press titles. However, the possibility of contracting out this function in the future is being investigated.

New Zealand must have an enormous number of would-be authors, as Rachel says she receives an average of one submission every working day. This is on top of a backlog of submissions awaiting her consideration when she started the publisher role. With some publishers shutting up shop or retrenching, competition to get published has intensified and the decisions of which titles to accept and which to refuse have never been more difficult.

“There are so many great manuscripts and book ideas; I wish I could say yes so much more often. It is a tough time for authors. I’m having to hone my ruthless gene.”

Meanwhile, there is one more challenge for Otago University Press to tackle in the immediate future: none of their titles are yet available as digital editions. Because of the photographic and art content of many OUP books, this will not be straightforward – but there is every chance you’ll see digital versions of many OUP books within the next year.

Overall, the new publisher is relishing her role. “I’ve never been busier, but never been more fulfilled. OUP is a great press, and I have fantastic support from staff and the university. I am completely confident in the future of books, and eager to continue to contribute to the mix. New Zealanders have a wealth of wonderful stories to tell.”

Blind Foundation is a multi media publisher

By Featured Members

phil turnerIt is just another day at the Blind Foundation. A trigonometry text in braille with tactile diagrams is going to one student. Specially printed and bound children’s readers in three different print sizes – 18, 24 and 36 point complete with equivalently scaled illustrations are awaiting dispatch. In one of the recording studios, a reader is covering the day’s National Business Review while in another office braille text is being proofread.

Phil Turner (left), Accessible Formats Production Manager and Lyviana King, the Accessible Formats Facilitator, are responsible for the department’s workload, serving the 11,700 clients of the Blind Foundation.

Audio books and magazines – CDs with five narrated books on each – are the most popular outputs of the service. The aim is to have them circulated with one CD in the hands of the recipient, one on its way out to them and another being returned. Twenty thousand CDs a month are circulated this way in a service courtesy of NZ Post and the Ministry of Social Development. These all have DAISY content management system which means various parts of the content can be located easily.

Current copyright laws prevent the sharing of resources, but the process of change has begun. As PANZ members know from Neil Jarvis’ address to the recent AGM, the Marrakesh Treaty will ratify the sharing of reading material for the blind across most countries; the delay will be that those same countries will most likely have to amend their respective copyright laws to allow this to happen.  Read Neil Jarvis’ full speech from the PANZ AGM here.  Jarvis pictured below.

Neil’s other drive is for the blind and those with low vision to have access to appropriate formats at the same time, and for the same price as regular consumers. There is a lot to do to achieve this – it is estimated only 10 percent of all book output is currently available to the blind.
He would also like to have ebook reader hardware devices for blind and low vision people which are easy to use and affordably priced. This is important when two thirds of the blind community is over 65.

The Blind Foundation is now working with New Zealand publishers to make more of our local fiction and non-fiction accessible and is grateful for the support they are receiving. They are also trying to liaise more closely with public libraries to access audio books among others.

Currently the Foundation’s expenses for educational Braille, audio and large print format publishing is supported by the Ministry of Education. They also earn income providing local and government material such as census, election information forms in accessible formats.

Nevertheless, they are heavily dependent on the charitable dollar to support the work of 30 staff working to meet the needs of their community.

Balancing cost versus benefit is a major exercise for Phil and his team. They have had to outlay as much as $60,000 to make a single maths textbook available because of the number of diagrams required and the technical nature of the content. This is an exception, as publishing in formats for the sight disabled are on a par with the costs for normal publishing, Phil says.While the Blind Foundation personnel have to look at the best allocation of funds and resources, they must also bear in mind that access to information is a fundamental human right. Also, education is by government philosophy an equal opportunity in New Zealand, so services such as textbooks in Braille are mandatory.So ‘just another publisher’ maybe, but one with added degrees of difficulty not usually encountered in the mainstream!


Edify Ltd – a sales team that ‘fuels learning’

By A - F, Featured Members

edify-ltdWhen Adrian Keane successfully negotiated a contract with Pearson Australia to become the sales agent for Pearson lists in New Zealand some eleven months ago, he faced two immediate challenges. One was staff and premises, the other ‘what do we call our new company’.

The first need was the easiest to meet. Adrian and his wife Ingeborg had identified spacious, sunny office premises in Auckland suburb Northcote, literally down the street from their home. Staff did not present any problems either, with key team members available including ‘molto experienced’ tertiary rep Max Loveridge.

Adrian KeaneFinding the name for the new business was much harder. Words were proposed, dictionaries consulted and Edify was the choice. Adrian (pictured right) says that all dictionaries include a ‘helps you learn’ interpretation of the word, as in the use ‘edifying experience’. Younger people thought the ‘fy’ ending related to technology, an analogy that appealed and the all important web domain name was available. Now the word is part of company lore… as in “Have you Edified that document yet?”

Edify Ltd is the sales team for Sunshine Books in New Zealand as well as being the sales agents for Pearson. There’s a quiet hum in the large main office, with workstations around the perimeter. So far, so normal, but the patch of green in the centre of the room isn’t pot plants, it is a pool table. Friday night drinks always means pool challenges – of the 17 Edify personnel, only one does not play! Pictured below at the pool table Irene Agar, company accountant (left) and (right)  marketing executive Holly Robinson.“Educational publishing is in an incredibly transforming and disruptive era,” Adrian believes. “It is like a learning engine in which print is only one of the parts. Everything is on the internet; the student can access many new sources of information without going near the traditional print based sources of learning.

“The traditional text industry will have to continue to make radical change to stay relevant in an environment where books can be sourced from around the globe.

“We are losing business and university bookshops are losing business – we’re all having to reassess what our position in the value chain really is, and whether our customers share our view of how much value we’re actually providing.”

Edify office pic_small

Irene Agar, company accountant (left) and (right) marketing executive Holly Robinson.

Edify supplies books to all three education levels beginning with primary, which Adrian rates the toughest market. “Primary schools are all individual economic units who make their own decisions about content and learning materials. Buying can sometimes appear to be ad hoc. When our reps arrive for appointments at schools they are often told

“You should have been here last week – we spent our budget then.”

“There is an incredible amount of digital and print resources for primary schools, but they’re expensive to provide, yields are lower and schools are reluctant to pay for digital despite it representing extreme value compared to print. At the same time, publishers need to monetise their digital investment if they are to continue to innovate.”

The scenario is better at secondary level, but it is tertiary texts and material which remain the most remunerative area, says Adrian. Edify also represents Pearson’s computer list in this country.Edify Ltd manages the sales and marketing of Pearson products locally, but uses United Book Distributors based in Australia to manage the physical distribution.

A unique aspect of Edify, particularly in the primary school market, is that the sales team are on salary rather than commission: “I think people on salary do the best job, as they tend to focus on selling what the customer needs, even being prepared to walk away from an opportunity if the product is not really aligned with the customer’s goals. With commission sales people, they push the products that will give them a sale ‘now’ and this doesn’t always equate to the best interest of a customer.”

Currently Edify has no publishing wing, but that is an ambition for the future, Adrian admits. “We’re negotiating with Pearson to take over the New Zealand lists, particularly in secondary and tertiary. We’re excited about the opportunity to put a fresh lens on what is arguably the broadest and most successful domestic educational publishing list ever produced,” he says. “Watch this space!”