Wednesday, May 17, 2006

interesting week

It's been an interesting week and it's not all over.

Firstly, congratulations to Leon Davidson on winning the NZ Post award for non-fiction for our Scarecrow Army. We were thrilled the book was short-listed and blown away it won. We're not New Zealand publishers but we are publishing stories that both countries share, and they're often stories that mean a huge amount to both of us. So I'm appreciative that the judges must have seen something in that too. And Leon did a beautiful job of the writing.

I heard there were mutterings from one NZ publisher about non-New Zealand publishers getting awards (but I'm not sure what they'd choose to call a Penguin or a Random House). And I have sympathy with that viewpoint and a not dissimiliar debate is going on here. It's important to encourage local writers and it's important to encourage the local publishing industry too, but does it help to reduce the options that writers have? And does it encourage the best books or does the quality of the books suffer through over-protection?

Scarecrow is an example of a book that I think black dog does particularly well. (And congratulations to Ali Arnold for nurturing it through the editorial process.) It was a concept and format generated by black dog that Leon executed with heartfelt emotion and Ali gave Leon that support a new writer needs.

And it was interesting to read the Blue News today. Lisa Hanrahan (ex Random House) is establishing a new literary agency which, among other things will look to take on "established writers already published by smaller publishers who are ready to move into larger fields". Is this poaching? What's the advantage of moving? Larger is good for its own sake? it could have been the other way round: establish writers already published by large multinationals who are ready to move into independent fields where they receive editorial commitment, support and attention. I think advances are smoke and mirrors - money the author should be receiving as royalties anyhow, if the publisher is doing their job. Sometimes (occasionally) a change of publisher benefits a writer but generally given the lonely nature of the work a writer benefits from consistent long-term support from their publisher. In those circumstances I think the writer will maximise the return from there work and that includes the financial return. I do wish Lisa the best of luck with her new venture though.

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