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Featured Member: Belinda Cooke from New Holland Publishers

By March 16, 2011April 11th, 2014No Comments

alt100% Pure Non Fiction at New Holland

Belinda Cooke is explaining that you can sell really good numbers of many books in New Zealand without relying on overseas sales, when a wonderful cross cultural confusion is revealed. New Holland’s best selling title beach bach boat barbecue and its sequel have sold over 50,000 copies, and only a few not in New Zealand. As Belinda explains, the London office of New Holland took some of the first title – against her advice. “It turns out that they thought it was beach, (JS) Bach, boat and barbecue…”

New Holland’s New Zealand company turns out to be a bit like an iceberg: you might think you know everything it does, but look closely and there’s a lot more under the surface. They are an autonomous but linked part of the South African based company, which also has publishing arms and sales offices in Australia and the United Kingdom, a mapping division and a foreign rights team based in London. Most divisional heads meet in annually for a strategy conference in South Africa immediately after Frankfurt. “We talk, and we are able to make informed decisions,” says Belinda. “But we are pretty much left to run our own show.” They have been in New Zealand for exactly 13 years this month.

In 2011 they will publish about 30 books, and reprint about as many – backlist is important for the company. The figure is up from last year’s 25, says Belinda, and some years they publish more than 30. New Holland’s concentration on illustrated books of New Zealand, travel, natural history, self sufficiency and eco lifestyles plus great cookbooks and gardening guides are areas that often go into many reprints – the Photographic Guide to Birds of New Zealand is on its tenth reprint this year, and a twelfth title, Rocks and Minerals of New Zealand, has just been added to this successful series.

All this is run by a ‘lean machine’, a staff of seven with only two in the publishing department, boosted at present by an intern from the Whitireia course. Editing and design are mostly contracted out, a flexibility allowing for the right teams for different projects.

Belinda handles major sales accounts herself with the assistance of Sales Administration Manager Toni Hayman, and Murray Brown’s team at Books R Us all other bookshop sales. Random NZ distributes New Holland books.

New Holland gave itself a good start in the New Zealand market by buying the lists of Kowhai Publishing (pictorial and travel) and CJ Publishing (lifestyle and cookery). Evidence of these lists still exists, in particularA Portrait of New Zealand, which has sold over 225,000 copies since it was first published in 1988 and is still going strong, with a smart new flexicover edition released recently. And the CJ acquisition brought a number of high profile food writers into the New Holland fold, relationships which continue to this day with Alison Holst, Julie Biuso and Annabelle White.

Early on they also bought the rights to AW Reed’s Maori Myths and Legendary Tales – now on its ninth printing. It is a title Belinda hopes will receive Creative NZ funding for a digital version. Reed’s Maori Tales of Long Ago was brought back into print last year, complete with original AS Paterson illustrations, thanks to Ray Richards’ negotiations and New Holland’s belief in the title as it stood. A belief that has paid off – the reprint button has just been pushed.

New Holland moved into the children’s market three years back, naturally without a picture book or YA novel to be seen! (Though Belinda does admit to New Holland breaking its own rules, with its first picture book to publish in May, Gypsy Day on the Farm from award-winning children’s author Jennifer Beck. “But while it is fiction, it does have a very strong link to real New Zealand events, in this case one of the most important days in our rural calendar.”)

Dave Gunson’s pictorial All About New Zealand series for 6 – 9 year olds covers birds, insects, plants, wild life of the past and the sea shore. For a slightly younger age group there is I am a Penguin/Whale/Seal/ Dolphin. The popularity of the two series of books is such that the children’s category has quickly become almost ten per cent of the New Holland list.

The niche areas of eco living and self sufficiency are other subject areas New Holland pays attention to: Living Green has a fresh updated edition and Mastering the Art of Self Sufficiency in NZ had to be reprinted within a month of publication!

And it wouldn’t be a New Holland list without a strong cook book component. It is no surprise to learn that Belinda is a self-declared passionate foodie! The joy of this area is that it also produces most of the company’s overseas sales. Julie Biuso’s Never-ending Summer has been sold for Dutch, German and Polish translation as well as in English speaking markets.

Divine Cupcakesby Tamara Jane has had considerable export success, and is in its fifth printing. Belinda expects the author’s new title Celebration Cupcakes to do equally well, with over half the print run going offshore. But she emphasizes her determination to do the best books that appeal to the New Zealand market first and foremost. “If they sell on the overseas market, that is just the cream…”

Part of the below-the-water New Holland iceberg is the overseas agencies they represent here, including Taschen, Kyle Cathie, Lion Hudson and titles from New Holland’s other companies. Belinda also buys NZ rights for some lines – the “500’s” series of eye catching cookbooks (cupcakes, cookies, cocktails¬† casseroles and more) has sold “tens of thousands” here.

Another surprise comes in the revelation that they are making some very nice revenue from a new stationery list launched recently by their Australian company, under the slightly cheeky name of Spank. “We’ve just come back from exhibiting the range to a very good reception at the Gift Fair,” says Belinda.

So after success in New Zealand, does Belinda aspire to climb the company ladder elsewhere? No way, she says. “I’ve finally just picked up my New Zealand passport and I’m very proud of it!”