In this edition: Lani Wendt Young delivers the NZBC lecture, a day in the life of a publishing student, class field trips, hard-sell vs soft sell in book marketing and a student reflects on being published.
I don’t like telling people I’ve written an essay collection. For one, I worry that when it’s published they might read it. They’ll find out things – about the time I got arrested for stealing tuna fish, about my sexuality, about everything embarrassing and confusing in my life. Luckily, outside the industry, people will rarely ask you what your book is about. If you are in the process of writing a book, they’ll say, ‘Oh, really? How far through are you? How much have you written?’ Sometimes they’ll follow this up with, ‘I started writing one too,’ and they’ll give you the rundown of their own plot.
If you tell them your book is being published, there are some who’ll say, ‘Where will I be able to find it?’ and when you say, ‘In bookstores,’ they’ll reply, ‘Oh really? Real, actual bookstores?’ Sometimes I wonder if it’s only twenty-four-year-old women who get asked this question, or if all book publishing is suspect in the minds of the general public.
Others will say very little, and when you ask them what they do, they’ll be embarrassed and introduce it with a disclaimer. ‘Oh, it’s nothing. It’s really very boring.’
Sometimes, though, I think about telling for petty reasons, like when people meet me in my capacity as a cleaner and assume that I do that full-time.
The reality though, is that I am much more intimidated by the prospect of my book’s publication than anyone else is. But it did me more damage to have those stories burning through my subconscious, unwritten. Now they have form. Now, everything damaged will be packaged in success, like ripped denim on a runway.
Madison Hamill is a Whitireia Publishing student for 2019. Specimen, her collection of personal essays – completed during her MA at the IIML – will be released by Victoria University Press next year.
By Madison Hamill
It’s 9 am at Whitireia Polytechnic’s Te Auaha campus. Mojo’s coffee is grinding, the dancers are stretching, the beauticians are arriving in a waft of hairspray and the publishing students are eating breakfast over manuscripts and cover designs.
A few early-morning emails fly between project teams and authors, media, printers, publishers and designers before we settle in for our first class of the day. Whether it be a guest speaker from the industry, our hands-on InDesign and Photoshop tutorials or one of our favourite lessons, marketing or editing, it’s sure to be both absorbing and challenging. A quick break in between classes allows our brains to cool down before we’re back to work.
After lunch, it’s project time. We students each work on three-year-long projects, and this is where we exercise our newly acquired editing, marketing, typesetting and managing muscles. An Oxford comma here, a book launch date there; the building shudders and hums with the cadence of the performing arts students jumping around above us, and the music students playing Metallica.
We meticulously typeset text, insert folios and footers into our master pages (albeit cursing occasionally when we have to panic-press Ctrl + Z), enhance images, correct grammar, design marketing posters or bookmarks, manage the project’s social media accounts and perhaps attend a few production meetings. At every stage, it’s exciting to see our projects coming together.
When the day is done, we’ll devote an hour or two to an assignment or go out to a pub quiz together. Or maybe we’ll just stay home and read a book.
Gem MacDuff is a Whitireia Publishing student, Class of 2019.
By Gem MacDuff
My husband and I bought our house by shouting terrifyingly enormous numbers at strangers in a room. It is the biggest purchase of our lives, and we made it at auction.
This is generally not how we sell books in te ao pukapuka (the book trade/publishing industry). Book marketers tend to sell on the softer side: ‘here are the books we make and why you might like them’ rather than ‘BUY NOW OTHERWISE THE BOOKS WILL BE GONE AND YOU WILL FALL BEHIND!’ Both approaches have pros and cons.
The danger of selling too hard is that you'll put people off and thus don't make the sale. ‘Hard sell’ tactics often prey on people’s fear of missing out. In te ao pukapuka, rather than creating a time-pressured panic (as at auction), we might instead hint that unless you buy this book you will miss out on some important cultural cachet.
The danger of selling too soft is that you fail to urge the reader to take any action at all, and thus also don't make the sale. Books are both a commercial and a cultural product, although we often concentrate on the latter and distance ourselves from the former. There can be a weird belief that, for example, authors who are good at self-promotion are somehow cheating.
I find the best approach is to persuasively articulate what the book is, what kind of reading experience the reader can expect, how the book can be purchased – and then leave readers to make their own decisions in their own time. No auctioneer necessary!
Elizabeth Heritage teaches marketing and publicity to Whitireia Publishing students and is a Wellington-based freelancer working in the book trade and the media.
By Elizabeth Heritage
This year’s Whitireia Publishing students are excited to work with the New Zealand Book Council to present Pacific Laureate and bestselling author Lani Wendt Young as a speaker for the 2019 NZBC lecture.
Stories from the Wild: Reading and Writing in the Digital Age addresses institutional racism in the publishing industry, the growth of Pasifika literature and the way that digital technologies are disrupting traditional publishing and offering new opportunities for readers and writers.
The digital era is challenging the status quo for what ‘quality’ literature is and who gets to define it. ‘For so long it has been white cis males’, and then white females’ standards of quality control. They decide who gets admitted to the castle and who is rejected,’ Lani says.
Lani is known for her bestselling young adult series TELESĀ, as well as her essays and blogs on feminism, motherhood, Samoan culture, Pasifika literature, and digital and self-publishing. She has long been vocal about child sexual abuse and domestic violence in Pasifika communities and has raised the profile of these issues on a global scale.
Dave Agnew, Olive Owens, Dom Visini and Michaela Tapp have been working hard on the event and would love to see publishing course graduates there. The lecture is full of wisdom and anecdotes from Lani’s career, and she explores industry issues with her distinctive honesty, humour and passion.
The lecture will be held at Wellington High School on Wednesday 28 August, at 6 pm. To purchase your ticket for the event, follow this link.
By Olive Owens
The publishing students recently stepped out of Te Auaha and journeyed on a field trip to Grenada North, where we visited book printing company YourBooks and Micrographics NZ, which specialises in document preservation and management. We’ve also visited Unity Books a couple of times as a class – the latest was to hear Toby Faber speak about his book Faber & Faber: The Untold Story of a Great Publishing House.
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