Thursday, August 16, 2012

A grumpy publisher writes

This item appeared in last week’s email newsletter of the NZ Society of Authors. Kevin Chapman, president of the NZ book publishers’ association PANZ, had requested a right of reply to the two items on the Frankfurt Book Fair’s Country of Honour programme published in the latest issue of the NZSA’s magazine New Zealand Author. That is not online as far as I can see but it’s clear enough from his comments what he is complaining about:
1. The criteria for selection of writers for the programme were approved by a Reference Group that included authors (including a NZSA representative), publishers, Creative NZ, NZ Book Council, Copyright Licensing, and a literature festival expert. The criteria has been misquoted repeatedly. Nobody has been made part of the programme unless they meet the criteria. These criteria, very importantly, are being promoted by the book fair to other Guest of Honour programmes as a sterling example of how criteria should be structured.
2. The criteria were designed to sell more rights into the foreign language markets and sell more NZ-authored books specifically to the German public. They were designed to get greatest long-term author and publisher benefit from the substantial moneys expended by the government and the industry. This is already succeeding in 2012 and titles signed for 2013 publication are growing already. We will exceed substantially every target we agreed with the government.
3. Our opening press conference last October featured Witi Ihimaera , and I spoke at length about what was special about NZ writing and books.
4. Books and authors are the centre-piece of our programme. The vast majority of events under our programme are writers. The largest part of the performance budget is around writers. We will have delivered over 80 author visits to Germany to book fairs, literary festivals, and publisher-run author tours. Incidentally, we were only funded for 52.
5. The cultural programme that seems to be such an issue is actually required of every country undertaking Guest of Honour. It is part of the contract with the book fair.
6. Tourism has had very little involvement with the programme and has had no impact on the author programme. The chefs and “NZ is Cooking” event that seems to be a problem is not a NZ invention, but was inspired by the very successful “Iceland is Cooking” event last year. Oh, and cookbooks are books.
What seems to get repeatedly lost is that the GOH programme is not an opportunity to put a bunch of writers into Frankfurt for five days in October. It is an invitation to showcase a country’s cultural goods, in the whole of Germany, for much of the year. That is what we are doing. The book fair staff we deal with are mystified by these criticisms.
Do I sound grumpy? Yes I am. The repeating of groundless information does not make it valid. Some of us have spent some years working on a very special task, that of putting NZ books and authors at the centre of a national showcase in Germany. It is very close to reaching its high-point, and is delivering exactly what our hosts have hoped for, so I think we will now return to that task.
Yours sincerely
Kevin Chapman
Good for him.

1 comment:

Stephanie said...

Quite right, too.