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Featured Member: Peter Dowling Oratia Media

By November 15, 2010April 11th, 2014No Comments

Peter DowlingAddressing industry peers from around the world was a highlight of the 2010 Frankfurt Book Fair for independent publisher Oratia Media. The Waitakere-based company’s Managing Director Peter Dowling took the stage in an Australasian panel discussion that helped profile New Zealand books to the global flock at this year’s essential book event.

But there were other milestones, including breaking through to get invited to the Italian Publishers Association cocktail. “We’ve been working all year to get on the radar of Italian publishers so the networking at Frankfurt was unbelievably valuable – even if the New Zealand stand put on a much better party!”

Connecting New Zealand with the world is a key part of the vision for Libro International, the books imprint launched in 2009.

Libro means ‘book’ in Italian, while the international reflects the business profile of Oratia Media, the publishing services business that Peter and his Italian wife Alessandra Zecchini established in 2000. “From the start much of our work was for clients overseas, so the logical extension was to continue that in our own publishing.”

The Libro story begins with the end of Reed Publishing (NZ) at Christmas 2007. Until then publishing manager of the Birkenhead-based Reed, Peter felt that opportunities beckoned for a niche publisher to take up some of what the original Reed firm did so well – history and culture, Maoritanga and children’s books, education and business in English and Maori.

Libro International launched its publishing in May 2009 with a reissue of junior novel Kura Toa, by Tim Tipene, followed by the Outrageous Fortune Family Album, published in collaboration with South Pacific Pictures. Eight more books have followed.

In April this year Oratia Media began an associate relationship with New York-based Blooming Twig Books for North American distribution. Then in May this year Dowling was at the Turin International Book Fair (the only representative for Oceania), making valuable contacts with Italian and other publishers.

“We’re committed to publishing New Zealand authors who we can keep in print and take to the world,” Dowling says. “We’ll also publish as much as we can in languages other than English, principally Maori – there’s such a dearth of new books in te Reo.”

The Oratia Media website is in Italian as well as English, and a te Reo version is in the works. In July Libro released its first Maori language publication, children’s book Te Pā Kaha kei tō Tātou Iāri, by Malcolm Paterson.

“As the book business develops, we hope to bring more Italian and then other Latin language authors in to Australasia,” Dowling foresees. Turin-based Paola Della Valle, whose history of Maori writing From Silence to Voice released in late October, is Libro’s first Italian author.

Getting close to market, Dowling and creative director Zecchini spent several months based this year north-east of Milan, developing contacts and presence in this market of 60 million people. “It augurs well – Italians are eager to engage more with New Zealand culture, beyond a passion for rugby and The Lord of the Rings,” Dowling says.

“It’s been a matter of getting to know the market in Italy and other parts of Europe, and now we’re taking up the opportunities.”