I came into the book trade in 1983 by being in the right place at the right time. I’d returned from three years in Australia, where I’d worked as a sales rep in the medical supplies industry. I was hoping to make a new start in publishing. With no experience or tertiary qualiﬁcation, my best hope was in sales, so I started ringing publishers’ sales managers. My local bookshop in Pukekohe suggested I get in touch with Hodder & Stoughton. By pure coincidence, their Auckland central rep had resigned earlier that morning, so the sales manager called me in for an interview and gave me the job.
Following a later stint as sales manager at Hodder, I spent a short period in retail as the buyer at The Book Corner, and also worked as a rep and then as sales manager at Pan Macmillan. As a result of some industry reshufﬂing, I then formed the Samuels, Brown partnership with Margaret Samuels.
By the early 1990s, Australian publishers were starting to see New Zealand as an opportunity to grow their markets. Our role initially was to act as commission sales reps to the New Zealand market for publishers based in Australia. Those publishers distributed the books directly to booksellers here. We were the ﬁrst, and for some time the only, agency doing this, and we were soon approached by other Australian publishers, and even some based in the UK. These arrangements involved organising locally based distribution, as we had no warehouse facility.
As the business grew, we also became more active in marketing and publicity roles. Over time, asI’ve been lucky enough during this time to be involved with some truly groundbreaking titles the market in New Zealand changed, and publishers’ needs changed, so Samuels, Brown changed, and it is now known as Archetype Book Agents. We trade as Archetype/Allen & Unwin to reﬂect the importance of our key partner, Allen & Unwin. We now also represent a number of New Zealand publishers.
I manage Archetype, for many years also with my partner Heather McKenzie. My role is to sell the books published by our partners to booksellers and libraries around the lower North Island. This is what I most enjoy doing, as it allows me to travel around the country I love, talking about the books I love. I’ve been doing this now for over twenty-ﬁve years, and I never get tired of it. Every month there is a completely new batch of great books to read and talk about and sell.
I’ve been lucky enough during this time to be involved with some truly groundbreaking titles, to witness ﬁrsthand the Harry Potter phenomenon unfold, and to help turn a few unknown writers into bestsellers. This has been a period of great social, technological and political change around the world, and working in publishing has allowed me to be a part of an agenda-setting business.
Books can and do change the way people think, and I’d like to believe that in some way, I may have helped make somebody’s world a little better.