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Featured Member: Jenny Thomas from Cengage Learning

By May 25, 2011April 11th, 2014No Comments

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.