Friday, May 13, 2016

AUP host authors and friends

Sam Elworthy, (right-Gil Hanly pic), Director of Auckland University Press, hosted AUP authors and friends at a very pleasant cocktail party last evening.I was fortunate enough to attend and was impressed with Sam's speech to the gathering. He has kindly allowed me to publish it here on the blog.

Tena Koutou, kia ora koutou katoa

My name is Sam Elworthy and I’m director of Auckland University Press. It’s great to have you all here tonight at the start of this amazing event that the Auckland Writers Festival has become.
I’m going to speak very briefly just to call out the three things that we’re celebrating here tonight.

First, we salute our Ockham Book Award finalists Lynn Jenner and Chris Tse, and Chris again for wining the Jessie Mackay Award for the best first book of poetry (Chris also won the best dressed man award from the Spinoff). Chris and Lynn—raise your hands and congratulations from us all.

Second, we welcome all of the Auckland University Press authors who’ll be up on stage over the next few days. The Auckland Writers Festival gets over 60,000 readers on seats to listen to authors and buy books. So as we walk over and meld into the crowds at the Aotea Centre tonight, I think we should all be filled with a robust confidence in the future of writing and publishing in Aotearoa New Zealand. 
So, we salute our authors who are heading on to the stage this year: 

Chris Tse
Lynn Jenner
Fiona Farrell
David Hastings
Roger Horrocks
Jolisa Gracewood
Gregory Kan
Anne Kennedy
Selina Tusitala Marsh
Hazel Petrie
Chris Price
Dan Salmon
Elizabeth Smither
CK Stead
Albert Wendt

Finally, we’re here to celebrate an award. At the London Book Fair last month the Press managed to bring home a large piece of glass that recognizes Auckland University Press as the London Book Fair International Excellence Awards ‘Academic and Professional Publisher of the Year’. Now academic and professional publishing is a $50 billion dollar business and it includes everyone from Oxford University Press to Reed Elsevier to one of our competitors for the award—a huge Chinese scholarly publisher turning out 1000 books a year called Higher Education Press; and all of them were there at the London Book Fair.

So how on earth did Auckland University Press win? Well it seemed to come down to this. A publisher like Auckland University Press faces a very basic problem: we publish scholarly books in a local market of only 4.5million people. If Princeton University Press in the US can only sell 400 copies of a literature monograph, then proportionally in New Zealand we should sell 4 copies, which means we probably should shut up shop and go home. We don’t sell 4 copies and we haven’t shut up shop because we do three things at Auckland University Press that bigger scholarly publishers in bigger markets do not do as well as we do.

First, we publish scholarly books for general readers. That’s why that great bunch of authors are heading on to the festival stage, it’s why we occasionally pop up on the bestseller list, it’s why we can always sell more than 4 copies and sometimes more than 4000.

Second, we publish books for international audiences. At London, we settled on a US rights deal for Robyn Toomath’s FAT SCIENCE, met the Oxford University Press copublisher of Alan Bollard’s new book A FEW HARES TO CHASE, talked to people interested in buying Australian, English and US rights to Warren Moran’s forthcoming book on the wine industry.

And finally, we reach a lot of our readers direct. Of the 10,000 or so New Zealanders who buy an AUP book in any one year, we have direct contact with about two thirds of them—they buy books on our website or show up at events, they read our e-newsletter or follow us on facebook.
Publishing books for general readers, publishing books for international audiences, and reaching our readers direct. Those three things we do down here seemed to make us stand out from other professional and scholarly publishers internationally and win us a prize in London.

They’re also what help us succeed back at home. And they couldn’t be done without the all-out effort of our great Auckland University Press team who take scholarship and turn it into a great read, who make books that the most prestigious scholarly publishers in the world admire, who spend all the time reaching readers in emails and facebook and twitter and making events like this happen. So I’d like us to salute Anna Hodge, Katrina Duncan, Louisa Kasza and Margaret Samuels for all the work that they do.

Thanks again to all of you for coming and I wish you all the best for the festival ahead.

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