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Special Publishing Opportunities In Small Countries

Special Publishing Opportunities in Small Countries

Head shot of New Zealand author Dawn Grant

Indie author Dawn Grant, from New Zealand

Indie author Dawn Grant calls for traditional publishers and indie authors in her home country of New Zealand to work together to enjoy the special opportunities that arise from operating within a relatively small country. Her rallying cry will resonate with author-publishers in other small countries around the world.

Why can’t indie writer and traditional publishers work together instead of against each other? This is a question I posed to three representatives of publishing houses here in New Zealand at a publishing workshop early in November last year. My remark was met with silence.

It appears that the publishing world had devolved into an ‘us and them’ scenario:

  • The ‘us’ – the indie writers, doing what we will with our manuscripts even, shock and horror, publishing them ourselves and thereby eroding the hold that publishing houses have over book content for which they have had market share for so long.  Previously their only competition was other publishing houses.
  • The ‘them’ – the traditional publishers, the so-called ‘gatekeepers’ who hold the sword of acceptance/rejection over manuscripts.  But now that sword has lost its edge and rejected manuscripts are appearing as self-published works thus affecting sales of both the publishing houses and the bookstores who are their customers.

Special Position of Small Countries

I live in New Zealand, a small country with a population of 4.5 million.  This, I understand, would be the population of a small city in America. However, we punch above our weight in many things – breath-taking scenery, a great rugby team, a successful pop star and a Man Booker Prize winner. As a small country, we have the ability to do things that cannot be done in countries with a larger population; we can be nimble, innovative, and ground-breaking, and we often are.

We have the ability to set up a publishing model that could be followed around the world by having traditional publishers offering their services to indie publishers and working together for the best outcome for both parties.  It doesn’t have to be an ‘us and them’ situation.

There are certain things that publishing houses do incredibly well – edit, design and distribute books, particularly print books, and here in New Zealand, readers still seem to like print books. There are things that indie authors do well – write good books and believe in those books enough to spend money to ensure that they produce a quality product.  So, I asked this collection of publishing representatives, why can’t we work together to produce a product that is of benefit to both parties, without becoming another Author Solutions scenario? While other countries have juggernauts that are the traditional publishers, New Zealand publishers are smaller and therefore able to act and operate in the same way as an independent. In this way, traditional publishers here can keep on doing what they do well while helping local writers to produce a quality product with a distinct New Zealand feel.

I gave my card to each of the representatives and asked them to contact me if they wanted to discuss this further. I have yet to hear from any of them. Not that I expected to, quite frankly.

While traditional publishers continue to believe that working with the indie community is beneath them, they are condemning themselves to the path of oblivion, while indie authors rise to new heights, free of the need to be published by a traditional publishing house. It could mean the end to the last remaining publishing houses in New Zealand. A disaster in my opinion, for then our reading choices would be determined by the internationals and our unique New Zealand flavour would disappear from our books.

And when that happens, it will be a sad day indeed.

Author: Dawn Grant

D C Grant writes for boys because she reads books for boys. Her favorite authors are Lee Child and Bernard Cornwell and with these influences she was never going to be a romance writer. D C Grant currently lives in Auckland, New Zealand but was born in Manchester, England and lived for twenty years in Durban, South Africa. She lives in a New York style loft apartment with a slightly psychotic cat called Candy.


This Post Has 9 Comments
  1. I like the useful facts an individual supply to your articles. I am going to book mark your current website and examine all over again here typically. Now i am moderately specific We’ll understand lots of new things correct listed here! All the best for an additional!

  2. Certainly the question does arise “who needs them?” when considering traditional publishers but they do provide a conduit to the booksellers who continue to sell to New Zealanders who do indeed still buy print books. Genre fiction has more success with ebooks internationally but books with a NZ flavor still seem to need a print distribution partner for success. With so many of the NZ publishers moving offshore, it did occur to me that a good way to ensure success for everyone was to work together. And with those publishers closing/moving we lose so many of the talented people who work for them, people whose talents could be used in conjunction with indie authors for mutual benefit. We may never know if such a model could have worked in our small country.

  3. A great article by Dawn Grant, and some excellent comments from other writers. I don’t see why we can’t work together. I do think marketing/distribution is a huge area waiting for someone to pick up and run with. For myself I plod on, about to publish books 4 and 5. I write poetry for kids, and retailers are terrified of it as they say there is no demand. I say they don’t know how to market it, as I’ve sold almost a thousand books myself in limited time and with limited capital. Indie authors are here to stay, and perhaps when publishers realise that, things may change.

  4. It surprises me that the New Zealand public still prefer print books. The price of a print book in New Zealand has always been exorbitant. I love the freedom that has come with e-book publishing and will continue to work towards educating readers in New Zealand about the flexibility and availability of good quality e-books.

  5. While a partnership such as you have described would clearly be beneficial to both parties, I don’t know if it’s a necessary move. I’d love for there to be some sort of distribution partnership, as Bev described.

    I think as long as kiwi authors are writing, the New Zealand flavour will continue to be in our work, both within NZ and internationally. In some ways, indie authors in NZ have a more far-reaching global distribution than those traditionally published.

    Just want to add on to the indie author strengths – beyond believing in our work, marketing & promotions is a necessity for us and would be of benefit to a partnership.

  6. I think that Dawn has some very good ideas and agree with the other two writers that a way forward for the publishing houses in NZ is to offer their services at a cost to the self published author. One of the biggest issues I see with the traditional publishing is the length of time it takes from receiving the manuscript and its arrival in the bookshop for sale. I believe we do have a few small printing business’s who are now offering from print through to marketing.

  7. There are a couple of ways for publishing houses to benefit from indie authors. Indie authors retain their independence by purchasing the publishing services they need, and this could be from publishers just as easily as freelance editors/designers.

    The second way is through acting as distributors, as indie authors need to reach those existing channels into bookstores if their print books are to reach readers around the country. Bookstores are slow to adjust to the new indie publishing model and prefer to deal with existing publishers and distributors.
    The problem there is that the pie is too small for so many slices.

    The benefits of working with a publishing house depend on the type of book being produced. If it has strong NZ content and needs to reach local print readers, then a publisher might be useful. But if the book is genre fiction then it can reach its readers perfectly well through ebooks and Print on Demand, so a publisher is unnecessary. (Given that the book has had decent editing and production, of course.)

    I’d love to see greater co-operation once the trad publishers and booksellers catch up with the new publishing model – but I suspect it will be a case of ‘who needs them?’

  8. I have so far independently published 11 guide books. They have been bought by Auckland Libraries and a librarian friend has seen that they are being borrowed. I wrote the books to provide a service. I am using my computer skills to market them as I do not have the money to splash out.
    It would be of benefit to the public and the publishing houses if we could form a partnership. But until an avenue is created, I will not be pursuing it.

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