Some publishers begin with a background of writing, editing or book sales. Sally Greer fell into publishing from her graphic arts background and love of other art forms.
The first book she was involved with was The Artists 2007 – 2008. Sally was working at Sanderson Contemporary Art in Parnell at the time. The experience was so inspiring she has since done two further arts books in a similar format (The Artists c2009 – 2011, 96 pages French fold covers, accessible price of $39.99) as Beatnik Publishing.
The most recent, The Artists: 21 Practitioners in New Zealand Contemporary Art c2011 – 2013 (140 pages, hardcover $49.99) received a glowing review from Warwick Brown in the Listener issue of October 22.
It is a measure of Sally Greer’s skills as a graphic artist that the design supports the artists’ works and text seamlessly – her aim is to make art more accessible. Beatnik is one modern stylish enterprise – Sally has space in a trendy brick building in New North Road, Auckland which comes with signage rights. The other offices and studios in the building house e-zine developers, fashion labels, an artist and a photographer. It is an environment where the creative types enjoy the ability to bounce ideas around as an informal collective.
“I jumped in the deep end – but then I’m known for it,” says Sally of her start in publishing. Beatnik was just her part time from 2007, but she became full time in 2009. She has a contract support staff of two, editor Janet McAllister and pa/junior designer Ande Kuric. Others from her wide network of contractors come in on bigger projects, so the number of people in the office changes constantly.
Beatnik as a name? “It connotes the subculture from the fifties: Beatniks – a group of organised free spirits – intriguing,” Sally says. She loves the fifties era, particularly its kooky illustration style.
Sally’s talents are not limited to graphic design, she is also an accomplished photographer.
She designed Gran’s Kitchen, Natalie Oldfield’s collection of her grandmother, Dulcie May Booker’s, recipes and took all the food photographs.
Vibrant design is also notable in Ripe Recipes, Angela Redfern’s cookbook of dishes served at Ripe Delicatessen – it has a stand out graphic cover with Ripe’s signature red on a spare black and white illustration. Sally was the photographer for this book also.
Another book Beatnik has published also flaunts its graphic design with bold colours, geometric and circle shapes. It is Who You Are is What You Do, an informative workbook that helps teenagers make good decisions for life after school by career consultant Heather McAllister. It is a niche claimed by no one else, and the book has been well accepted and continues to sell through.
And if all that sounds a bit adventurous for a graphic artist turned publisher, Sally really chose the high dive at the deep end by taking Beatnik Publishing to Frankfurt this year. “It was a big investment to get there,” she confesses.
Her first reaction to the Fair: “Just so thrilled to be there – I had no meetings booked, I just turned up. But it was insanely overwhelming.”
For a moment, Sally’s natural confidence and optimism deserted her. She found herself hiding in the comforting dark and quiet of the Iceland pavilion which was set up as a home interior. “A friend back home happened to call and I told him the thought of trying to sell rights was freaking me out.” The friend turned out to be a huge support, reminding Sally that she was great at making friends and to forget about selling, telling her to just go out there and make new friends.
Set on the right path, that’s exactly what Sally went off to do – and with some success.
New Zealand stand colleagues also offered practical advice including Exisle’s Benny St John Thomas, ESA’s Mark Sayes and Peter Dowling – “Who knew my Dad at Oratia School.” Geoff Blackwell was also generous with help and contacts. At the famous New Zealand stand drinks function Sally made three good contacts.
One result of going to Frankfurt is that she sees there could also be an international market for Beatnik’s design and packaging skills.
Now she has the measure of Frankfurt and firm ideas about paths to take and support material like catalogues etc she needs to have, Sally is long past her nervousness and definitely plans to be back in 2012. “I’m so excited about next year. I’ll be aiming to take five new books or concepts.”
The good reviews her books have received are strengthening her resolve, and there have been awards too, a Storylines certificate and a Bronze Award in editorial and books at Designers Institute Best Awards, both for Who You Are is What You Do.
“It is nice to get awards and recognition in reviews,” Sally acknowledges.