How many New Zealand publishers you know can tell you their best-selling book has clocked up sales of 277,000 – and their second best seller is not far behind at 259,000 currently?
Neil Hyndman is one very focussed publisher and much of that focus comes from his 19 years as a bookseller. He is the third generation of Hyndman Booksellers, begun in Invercargill, shifted to Dunedin in 1906 and somewhat shockingly, sold by Neil when the business was 97 years old.
He had already dipped his toes successfully in local publishing, and that gave him the courage to move on and become a publisher. Original location was Dunedin, but for the last five years it has been a 17 acre property in the Waipara Valley, some 10 minutes north of Amberley.
Life began at forty, the way Neil tells it. Sold the shop, took up running – he’s done the exhausting 60k Kepler Challenge Mountain Run four times. He’s adamant his bookstore experience was an important contributor to his success as a publisher, reckoning time behind the counter paid off in identifying topics “you know there is an interest in”, and above all, “you should price it well.” Also standing him in good stead is the commerce degree he did between school and joining the family business.
So what is the Hyndman publishing focus? Cookbooks, gardening, home and leisure, sport and regional publishing, calendars, diaries and gift stationery. There are 30 cookbooks authored by Alison Holst, Simon Holst or both jointly. None are priced at more than $24.99 (apart from one “double” book at $34.99), and the other price points are $9.99, $12 99, $16.99 and $19.99 – and most have colour photos of every recipe.
Cookbooks are perhaps the most important category, and the ways Neil manages this is indicative of his policy over and above price. All titles are kept in print, and stock is never allowed to run out. Titles are not withdrawn until they really come to the end of their life. (Only oneHolst title has been left out of print over their long association with Hyndman’s.)
The Holsts have been very loyal authors for Hyndman Publishing. It is Alison’s Marvellous Muffins which is the all time top seller, but it is likely to be overtaken shortly by runner up best seller, the more recent 100 Great Ways to use Slow Cookers and Crockpots, jointly authored by Alison and son Simon Holst.
There are currently seven home and gardening titles in the Hyndman list with Dennis Greville’s Growing Vegetables Year Round the best-selling. There have also been home decorating and DIY titles with Dave Cull – now Dunedin’s mayor. The threeregional titles are all tourist related for the Dunedin area, and sport is also three titles on various types of fishing.
The gift stationery offer consists of four diaries, one calendar, two journals and boxed sets of cards. Watercolour artist, Nancy Tichborne has greatly contributed to the success of this stationery range.
Additions to the Hyndman list are carefully considered through discussions with authors and a watchful eye on the market place.
All layout and book design for Hyndman is done by Wellington designer Rob DiLeva. Rob is a wonderful designer, says Neil, who has worked with him since he started publishing.
The first print run for books is usually done in New Zealand, and Hyndman’s Christchurch printer dispatches all initial orders. After that, dispatch is from his Waipara property and office, courtesy of the rural postie.
Over recent years Neil has grown the Australian market for Hyndman books, and another offer is fund raisers for churches, schools and community efforts. Neil develops an order form personalised for a charity and then collects and dispatches orders, giving the charity a share of the profits.
But Neil is determined not to be stuck in the ink and paper era. “We are commencing work on an iPod, iPad app – early days yet, likely to be large initial costs and an uncertain income stream but an exciting project!”
Neil and Gillian Hyndman love their Waipara Valley property – ‘Dry Paddocks’, and have joined the accommodation industry by adding a self-catering guest cottage www.drypaddocks.co.nz. Neil confesses to a new talent – expert bed maker. They’ve had minorearthquake damage to their property, but Neil’s been personally involved in the effects of the February Christchurch quake.
His mother’s retirement village is now unliveable, and he hopes to hear soon whether there is suitable accommodation elsewhere in Christchurch. There have been a number of difficult issues arising from the earthquake Neil says, but also many instances of people going out of their way to be kind and helpful.