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Saturday, 15 February 2014

Jenny Harrison - proud of NZ indie publishers

The future is bleak. New Zealand books written by New Zealanders about their land and its people may soon be a thing of the past. Because of the changing nature of world economics, many of the big publishing houses have deserted us. Over the recent past we have lost Penguin, Hachette, HarperCollins and a bunch of others, leaving hundreds of bright, creative and accomplished writers with no opportunity for ‘big-time’ publication and having, in the final score, to fend for themselves.

There are budding Eleanor Cattons, Janet Frames and Lloyd Joneses among us but, given the problems we now face, they may never see the light of day.

But wait, as the advert says, there is more! And that ‘more’ is the proliferation of self-publishing or, as we prefer to call it, ‘indie’ publishing.

To say that we Kiwi writers have taken to self-publishing like the proverbial ducks to water is an under-statement. In spite of indie publishing being challenging and scary, New Zealand writers are finding their feet in this demanding new arena and are set to reach new heights.

There are downsides to indie publishing, one being the inability of media book reviewers to see beyond their noses and give us the opportunity to prove ourselves. Another challenge is that the big book sellers are reluctant to stock our books, largely due to bookkeeping problems. Small independent book sellers are far more accommodating – if you want a good book then go there first! The other is that libraries, our mainstay, have shrinking budgets. They tend to buy a limited number of books and then shuffle them around to their branches. In my humble opinion, it would probably be cheaper to buy more books than spend the money on petrol ferrying them to and fro. However....

Another downside is the technology, a fearsome ogre to anyone who isn’t on first name terms with their computer.

On the upside you have cart blanche to make as big a mess as you like of chaotic editing, a book cover designed by your wife and loads of grammar- and spelling mistakes. Just kidding! Those are elements that define a self-published book and you, being smart, modern and savvy, are not going to make those errors. You are going to get a professional editor and a book cover that looks as if it was designed by Gucci.

I’m one of a happy bunch of writers called the Mairangi Writers’ Group. We operate in Auckland and have been going for about thirty years. Our members have written and published upwards of thirty books in a variety of genres, from children’s books to non-fiction to chick-ick lit. If you don't know what chick-ick lit is, you’re in for a gory surprise!). We blog, we arrange seminars while still writing prolifically and, at present, are busy organising an all-out book fest for March where we celebrate our prodigious output and our general expertise as writers.

We’re not going to let desertion by the ‘big boys’ stop good New Zealand books from getting to readers. No way!

Jenny Harrison





  1. Well said, Jenny! Kiwi writers doing it for themselves - and increasingly for each other in flourishing co-operative groups. Readers still want stories and writers still want to tell them - it's only the delivery method that's changed.

  2. 'Times they are a changing.' 'The only constant is change.'
    Yes Jenny, New Zealand writers are fighting back. Inherent in our Kiwi blood is Barry Crump's 'give it a go mate' credo. The confidence and professionalism as displayed by MWG is being emulated around our small islands. My wish is that all NZ writers work together to create an unstoppable force. The late Miles Hughes, , successful and well regarded indie publisher, recently proposed his thoughts on forming the NZSA into a more relevant platform to embrace all writers. See Feb 2014 minutes NZSA.
    Meanwhile we keep on plugging away... Mad Mary