Welcome to the Spring 2016 edition of our newsletter. In this issue you can read about our adventures in marketing books, as well as our tutor Elizabeth Heritage’s thoughts on teaching us how to market them. You will also find Stacey Kendall and Tracey Wong’s experiences as students of the Whitireia Graduate Diploma in Publishing (Applied), and information on how you can get involved in the course next year.
This is my second year teaching the sales, marketing and publicity module on the Whitireia Publishing course, of which I am myself a proud graduate. My goal is to convince at least half the student body – who generally aim to be editors – that what they actually want to be is book marketers. I have yet to achieve this goal, but by golly I am going to keep trying.
I find book marketing both intellectually and professionally fascinating. The way we talk about books, the way we value them, the way we treat them as both a commercial and a cultural good – these all tell us important things about, on the macro level, our society, and on the micro level, the often strange ways our brains work. What is it about particular book covers that attracts us? What does it take to make us take a leap of faith on a new author, and purchase their first book instead of the fifth book of an old favourite? How much should ebooks cost? How do you measure the success of a book launch? What is it that books give us, and how is the internet changing this?
When you market a book, there are so many different ways to think about what you’re selling: a paper or digital object; a reading experience; information; a story; a way to express one’s ideas or tribal loyalties; the gateway to a change of mind, or pleasurable escape, or painful empathy. Reading is so personal and quiet, and yet marketing is so public and loud. Figuring out how to balance these things and how to talk to readers in the face of the digital revolution and its accompanying informational overload is constantly challenging and always changing. There’s always something new to learn – which means there’s always something new to teach. It’s a great job.
Who's watching who: Stacey Kendall, Marketing and Publicity
L.J. Ritchie – Like Nobody’s Watching
Like Nobody’s Watching is Escalator Press’s first young adult novel, written by Whitireia Creative Writing Programme graduate L.J. Ritchie. We are fortunate to be working alongside Escalator Press to take this publication from manuscript to bookshelf, and as the marketing and publicity team member for this project, I am experiencing firsthand the joys and challenges that come with reaching buyers and readers of young adult novels.
Instead of focusing on dystopian state surveillance, Like Nobody’s Watching considers the relationship between everyday digital technology and self-surveillance. Ritchie’s interest lies in the various forms of surveillance that encourage conformity in schools. Like Nobody’s Watching explores these issues through the story of high school hacker Oscar, who steals footage from his school’s surveillance system to blackmail the bullies. When it all goes wrong, the cameras turn against Oscar, monitoring his every move and forcing him to replay his every flaw. In the end, he must conform to blend in. These themes of cyber-bullying and conformity position Ritchie’s book within the current New Zealand surveillance debate. We reached out to journalist Nicky Hager, who provided us with a shout quote for the novel, describing it as a ‘clever story about the seductive power of surveillance ... until it goes wrong’.
This novel also offers an opportunity to engage with our local champions of New Zealand writers and stories, who can help get the novel into the hands of teen readers. My marketing strategy included contacting Hooked on Books and the New Zealand Book Council, two organisations that encourage young New Zealanders to read local writers. The novel’s themes of surveillance will appeal to fans of gripping young adult stories, as well as to parents, teachers and librarians, who will appreciate the novel’s relatable New Zealand protagonist, navigating today’s digital world. We hope to see Like Nobody’s Watching in many schools and public libraries across the country.
Feel the fear and do it anyway: publishing students
The popular and highly regarded Whitireia Graduate Diploma in Publishing (Applied) is New Zealand’s only training course for publishing. As students, we work on multiple projects – from novels to memoirs to children’s books and everything in between. The course helps us to gain skills and experience in areas such as project management, editing, marketing and design. Throughout the course, we interact with industry professionals on a daily basis – during project work, class visits and work placements. The relationships we have built this year are invaluable to us as students hoping to join the industry.
Taking the plunge into something new is nerve-racking, but we guarantee that the skills you learn on this course will be essential for a career in publishing, and are also transferable to many other professions. The working environment is professional, just like a live publishing environment. We have all made lifelong friends and look forward to working with each other on projects in the future.
If you are interested in applying, we suggest starting your application process sooner rather than later (this advice applies to just about everything you will encounter in publishing). Be sure to proofread every component of your application, and even proofread your proofreading (you can never be too careful). Your application represents you and, as with anything, you want to put your best foot forward. Take as much effort with your application as you would applying for a job, and good luck – we hope to be working with some of you in the future.
Behind the book covers: Grace Thomas, Bethany Garland, Erin Craig and Estelle Best
This year our students have been working on two different collections of poetry – Keel and Drift by Adrienne Jansen and Everything Is Here by Rob Hack. We’ve found that working with poetry poses different issues and concerns from a publishing point of view, and often requires a different thought process in terms of editing, design and marketing.
Grace Thomas on the editing process:
Before I began, I was intimidated by the thought of editing poetry. It seemed like I would need to bring an especially intelligent sensitivity – to know editorial rules, when to break them and when not to break them. I wasn’t just editing words, but how they were spoken, their rhythm and how they looked on the page. Unlike the more technical editing I’ve done, I read this manuscript aloud three times, then read each change again. Each query to the poet was a question, because even though ‘seventeen-year-old’ might normally be hyphenated, sometimes what was right grammatically didn’t ring true to the work. What a beautiful challenge!
Bethany Garland on typesetting:
When I was told I was going to typeset Adrienne’s wonderful book Keel and Drift I was quite nervous. When you read a book, you don’t think too much about the work that goes behind ensuring that every word is in the right place and that the spacing between each letter, word and line is correct. However, I found typesetting a poetry book quite relaxing, as I could work with each poem separately and make each one look as clear and engaging as possible. Playing around with fonts, glyphs and page numbers took quite a bit of time but I am so happy with the way it turned out, and I’m glad that I took the time at the start to figure it all out.
Erin Craig and Estelle Best on marketing decisions:
Erin: From the start I knew that marketing poetry was going to be a little different. Author/publisher Adrienne Jansen warned me of this and suggested that we needed to be a little bit ingenious about it. As with marketing in general, a lot can come from who you know. I was lucky enough to get a great shout quote from poet James Brown, a friend of Adrienne’s, which has worked well in the marketing and promotional material for Keel and Drift.
Estelle: Creating marketing material is tricky because everything needs to have an angle – ‘New Book!’ doesn’t quite cut the mustard. Rob Hack’s Everything Is Here explores Rob’s Rarotongan heritage and his connection to Niue and the Kāpiti Coast. Because of this, I put together two sets of marketing material; one to target the Kāpiti Coast media, focusing on Rob’s local status, and another for the wider New Zealand media. You need to engage the potential reader and make them care about your new book, and getting people to recognise their hometown in Rob’s poems has been a good way to do that.
Ride on: Tracey Wong
We often hear stories about how the publishing course offers a new way of looking at the world around us and takes people in unexpected directions. Little did I know that cycling books, an area in which I previously had no experience (or, admittedly, interest) in, would become a regular part of my student life.
I volunteered at this year’s New Zealand International Film Festival (NZIFF) in Wellington, and one session that caught my eye was Le Ride, a 2016 documentary by The Amazing Race host and cycling enthusiast Phil Keoghan. This film focuses on Harry Watson, the first New Zealander to ride in the Tour de France in 1928, and Keoghan’s attempts to retrace his journey. Being an Amazing Race fan, and lover of a good story, I quickly made plans to watch Le Ride. Soon after, I discovered that the film was inspired by a book associated with a familiar name to our publishing class: the Kennett Brothers.
Harry Watson: The Mile Eater tells the story of the ‘forgotten’ cycling champion and was published by the Kennett Brothers in 2006 with the help of Whitireia Publishing. Keoghan was inspired to make his documentary when he picked up the book at an airport bookshop six years ago. You can read more about the backstory for the New Zealand Cycling Legends series and Whitireia Publishing’s involvement with the books on our Facebook page.
To this day, Whitireia Publishing continues its working relationship with the Kennett Brothers. I am currently managing the production of Tour Aotearoa Official Guide: Bikepacking Cape Reinga to Bluff, a two-volume set of guidebooks with step-by-step instructions, route maps, and insider tips on how to cycle the length of New Zealand. The guidebooks will be released later this year on 1 November, and I can’t wait to share them with you.
Staying in touch
Do you know about the following useful links and ways to stay in touch?
Check out our Facebook page for updates on what's happening in class, job listings and interesting links. Employers, please send us upcoming jobs if you'd like to reach this group of graduate, current or prospective students.
Follow us on twitter @PublishingWhiti or use the hashtag #Twittireia to connect with us.
We have a Careers page on our website which includes profiles of people in a range of publishing roles and FAQs about working in publishing and the New Zealand publishing scene. Please link to this page from your own website if you find yourself fielding this kind of enquiry.
Graduates can join our Graduates Facebook group for job opportunities and other information of interest.