Thursday, May 30, 2013

A week is a long time in publishing

Martin Taylor writes in eReport:
It’s been a bad week for New Zealand publishing.  On Tuesday, Pearson Education announced the imminent closure of its New Zealand office. The global publishing giant is restructuring to focus on ‘core’ and ‘emerging’ markets, and New Zealand is neither. And yesterday, Harper Collins joined the exit, announcing its plan to move most of its New Zealand operations, including editorial, to Australia.
That’s a slight overstatement about Pearson: what they said was that they were “entering into a consultation period to determine how they run their business in New Zealand” and that this “may result in the closure of their office”. But yes, all gloomy news. Typically, though, Martin is upbeat:
Our major publishers grew by buying up successful local publishers and winning most of the top talent, so there’s only a tiny independent industry left. There’s now a chance for a renaissance, led by independent publishers — and by new ventures formed from the break-up of global publishers as they exit. Expect to see pieces sold to local management and investors, or picked over by staff to form new start-ups.
How auspicious for Renée Lang of Renaissance Publishing. And as for authors:
One of the first places we need to look is our own authors, especially the top talent that sells thousands rather than hundreds of books. With few exceptions, most of them publish with the multinational imprints, leaving very lean pickings for independents. But quality authors are the cashflow lifeblood of any publishing business.
The time is right for our best authors to consider the role they can play in supporting a renaissance of local publishing. I’m not advocating a wholesale exit from multinational publishers. That would be bad for everyone, and bad for the industry. But there’s plenty of room for new titles and some digital rights to help rebuild an independent local industry.
He ends with a message that could almost be intended for the NZ Society of Authors:
Finally, it’s important that New Zealand continues to be a place where global publishers will want to do business. We certainly need to work hard supporting ventures that are rooted here, even tipping the balance in their favour as we struggle to rebuild. But in doing this, we shouldn’t create an environment hostile to offshore suppliers.


Linda said...

This triggers so many thoughts, even though it is not surprising news. I do agree that there should be opportunities for small, smart publishers with a clear focus and an understanding of the new media that are rapidly changing publishing. But what I miss the most in New Zealand are literary agents with the ability to sell international publishing rights of work published in New Zealand. These could be inhouse, or independent from publishers. As it is, even the largest publishers in New Zealand lack the skills to do this, even though they often control the international rights to the works that they publish for the local market. In my own case, I would never have been published internationally if I had trusted my NZ publisher to sell the rights to my first novel. And it is not until NZ authors are read internationally that it will be possible for more of them to be able to live off their craft. And when this happens, then perhaps the big international publishers will find it worthwhile to take a closer look at what is published here.

Stephen Stratford said...

International rights are a big issue - not for most NZ writers but definitely for writers like you. One can always give the NZ publisher the international rights for two years, limited, so they revert to the author if no deal has been struck at Frankfurt or wherever. It's not either/or. A NZ author friend is very amusing on the difference between London and New York agents. Guess which are sharper? Will bloggit.