Thursday 13 December 2012
Conferred last night, Tony Fisk’s citation for Life Membership by Karen Ferns outlines his immense contribution to New Zealand publishing:
Tony, in July of this year and in your absence, your lifetime membership of the Publishers Association was proposed and accepted with acclamation by PANZ members. Now with your return to New Zealand we are delighted to be able to honour you in a public way and therefore deliver the sense of occasion that you deserve.
In the recent week as I prepared this glowing citation I have talked about you to a number of people, asking for some thoughts about your work on behalf of the industry. Everyone has been quick to acknowledge your contribution and their gratitude for your work within the industry and, if they had a HarperCollins connection, for your leadership of that company.
The bar would be drunk dry if I was to mention all the ways in which people who know and have worked alongside you in your many industry roles wanted to recognise you. So by necessity this is a record of selected highlights only – but will serve to remind us of all your many years of service for which we all owe you a debt.
Whether it was meeting Agatha Christie as a boy or your father’s career with Collins in the UK, your DNA seems imprinted with the likelihood of joining the book trade and so you did, starting as a sales rep in London. But fortunately for those in this room you came to New Zealand in 1983 and so began your local career.
As David Joel reminds us, 1983 – less than 30 years ago – were the days in which there was no PC on the desk, no email, cell phones and even fax machines were absent. No doubt transmissions from head office came by telex. So the changes Tony saw and was responsible for in his time at HarperCollins were immense. As David says, “That you rose up the ranks to become Managing Director in 2004 is a great tribute to your ability to change and an indication of your true character…”
HarperCollins staff describe you as loyal and always looking to add value – a personable and accessible leader who knew how to be a team player. They talk about your passion for the industry, your hunger to embrace new technology and your dedication to them and the industry as a whole.
As well as being the head of a sizeable company by New Zealand standards with all the demands from overseas principals, Tony was willing to make himself available for industry matters. He was an advocate for many logical ideas which he pursued with enthusiasm, pragmatism and drive. He was on numerous committees, from standardising returns procedures for the industry through to industry training. He was also deeply involved in trade liaison between booksellers and publishers.
Tony also bridged the breadth of membership within the publishing association. Bridget Williams of BWB, mostly recently distributed by HarperCollins, valued “Tony’s ability to see and understand the dynamics of independent publishing … inevitably, different from those of the multinational firm in which he himself has had such a significant role all his working life.”
Tony was able to walk in others’ shoes. “During his time at PANZ Tony had a particular ability to bring a range of views to the table,” said Bridget. “This is never easy but he was committed to sharing information, to objectivity and to fairness, which gained him respect from all quarters of the industry.”
With the experience of many years on industry boards and committees, in January 2008 Tony became President of the Publishers Association. He held this role for 18 months at a time of great change.
Two initiatives he shepherded through as president was firstly the search for new funding for Frankfurt and he found it in Creative NZ who continue to support publishers.
Second, always a supporter of the Book Design Awards, Tony was enthusiastic about revamping the awards, making them a standalone event and highlighting good design as an important aspect of book production. As well as increasing the number of award categories, a new sponsor structure was introduced, along with the much coveted award for the Young Designer of the Year.
Council members of the era and Anne de Lautour acknowledge Tony was an inclusive president who listened and gave wise advice and skilfully guided the Council during his term. The time Tony spent in industry meetings is probably incalculable but he did this with enthusiasm and possibly without his bosses’ blessing or perhaps even knowledge. This gift to the rest of us helped shape and develop an industry in which we can all be proud members.
Tony has given greatly and repeatedly to the NZ book industry and we all owe him and his family a huge debt. There are few occasions when an industry can acknowledge someone for their longevity in business, including negotiating massive technological change and their consistent leadership within the book publishing industry overall.
This is one of those special occasions. We salute you and thank you Tony.
Karen Ferns, Managing Director Random House Australasia