Self-publishing or using small, boutique publishers is now the norm for writers in New Zealand. The websites of the few mainstream publishers that remain in NZ tend to display the message, “Due to the high volume of submissions, we are not currently accepting unsolicited manuscripts.” That message may stay there all year round.
No surprise then that most NZ writers self-publish or share production costs with small publishers. But after production comes the challenge of distributing and publicising the books.
Groups such as The Sapling, The Coalition for Books, New Zealand Society of Authors, Storylines and Read NZ/ Te Pou Muramura offer considerable support for NZ books and writers. However, they are not book distributors.
Using an organisation such as Nationwide Book Distributors is a costly option, eroding to virtual zero the already minimal return for publishers after book printing costs and bookshop commissions have been met.
Once books are published, it is undeniably difficult and costly to distribute and publicise them. Bookshops prefer to deal with acknowledged distributors rather than buying from authors or small publishers. New publishers are also not always aware of what/where/ how to do the best for their books.
Malcolm Burgess of Creative New Zealand (CNZ) has recently been asked to comment on these concerns.
He said that CNZ encourages people to discuss funding options with CNZ before they begin the application process. He noted the need for quality control on self-published work if a more general distribution system were to be set up.
He was asked if CNZ could provide information and links to appropriate groups that may offer practical tools for both publishers and writers trying to get their work published. Publishers and writers could be informed of who does what best to avoid confusion of services.
A further question put to him was how small publishers could together publicise their books to other countries? And could CNZ facilitate a hui where all interested parties might consider these challenges and explore possible options and solutions?
All of this raises interesting possibilities for this fast-growing sector. The much-anticipated responses from CNZ will be noted in a future blog.