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Book & Print in New Zealand : A Guide to Print Culture in Aotearoa

Author and publisher

Author and publisher

The first publishing in New Zealand represents a primitive sort of commissioning process. The Church Missionary Society trained the printer William Colenso and sent him to New Zealand; the missionary William Williams was charged with preparing the copy for the first publications, Māori translations of Scripture. The few earlier publications created outside New Zealand but intended for circulation in New Zealand had similarly been generated or commissioned by their publishers. The New Zealand Company's propaganda exhorting settlement in the antipodean Brighter Britain was also a publishing programme entirely instigated by the publishing organisation.

The pattern of publishing in the early years of European settlement was for an author to pay for the issue of a work, and most of these works were political and religious pamphlets. Despite the presence on the title page or elsewhere of a printer's or perhaps a bookseller's imprint, this was essentially self-publishing. McEldowney identifies the first memorable locally-published book as F.E. Maning's Old New Zealand (1863) issued in Auckland by Creighton and Scales, proprietors of the Southern Cross newspaper, who evidently already saw a New Zealand market for tales of the 'Good Old Times', as Maning's subtitle put it. A parallel edition was issued for another market by Smith, Elder in London.

By the mid 19th century in Britain an author's contract with a publisher might involve the outright sale of the copyright, or a profit-sharing arrangement. The Copyright Act 1843 had strengthened authors' interests, and in 1887 the Berne Convention on Copyright gave both publishers and authors further protection. The author's contract determines the details of the commercial relationship between author and publisher, defines the responsibilities of both parties in particular areas, and is intended to protect both parties.

If a work is commissioned, the publisher sets the parameters: the subject and its treatment, length, general style (in terms of the audience), inclusion of illustrations and other matter such as appendices, bibliography, and indexes. In any case author and publisher sign an agreement setting deadlines, the author's responsibilities (for instance, involvement in proofreading), the degree of editorial control to be exercised by the publisher, and the author's remuneration—royalty payments, advances against royalties, or a lump sum or other agreement. The contract also normally addresses the extent to which the author takes responsibility for defamation or breach of copyright, whether the author will offer an option on future work, and the conditions under which the contract may be terminated by either party.

By the turn of the century Whitcombe & Tombs had a standard printed agreement along these lines which they asked their authors to sign, offering a royalty of 10% or more on the retail price, and giving themselves a free hand to make most of the editorial decisions. This contract was still being used six decades later, although some authors struck out the latter clause. Authors' contracts now include clauses to cover new technological and cultural developments, such as motion picture rights and electronic publication options. These days a publisher may claim a greater degree of control than previously, but is also likely to be making a significantly larger investment in the marketing of a book. Most publishers offer a standard contract but are usually willing to negotiate terms. Standard author contracts are described by Anna Rogers (1994) and in First Edition (1995). The New Zealand Society of Authors provides its members with a minimum terms agreement and an annotated model contract. See also A.W. Reed's address to PEN, The Author Publisher Relationship (1946) and his section on contracts in Stuart Perry's The New Zealand Writer's Handbook (1952a).

An author may employ a literary agent to carry out contractual negotiations. The agent receives a percentage of the author's royalty. New Zealand's first formally constituted literary agency was Ray Richards, formerly of A.H. & A.W. Reed, who set up his agency in 1976. Although literary agents have not yet risen in New Zealand to the power and prominence they hold in Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States, a relatively small number of commercially successful and therefore sought-after authors have found it worth their while to employ the bargaining skills of a professional in their dealings with the larger New Zealand publishing houses, and an agent is a necessity for entrée to overseas publishing contracts. First Edition lists 11 of the New Zealand agencies of various kinds in 1995, including publishing consultants and book packaging services, mostly established during the mid 1980s.

Book packagers solicit manuscripts to fit concepts that are marketable to a publisher, usually as all-inclusive packages—commissioned, edited, designed, illustrated and sometimes even printed. The packager takes care of all dealings with the publisher, and the author's agreement (including royalties) is with the packager. Publishing consultants provide another kind of agency for both authors and publishers, offering assessment of manuscripts to publishers, assessing authors' drafts and assisting in bringing manuscripts to a publishable standard before they are offered to a publisher. To a degree these agencies have made redundant the role of the publisher's reader, potentially a position of considerable influence with the power to shape a list and determine the progress of an author's career (though in New Zealand probably not a significant force). In non-fiction publishing, the reader is usually a specialist outside the world of publishing. The rise of literary agents in New Zealand and their effect on the industry are discussed in articles by Jandene Dyson and Lesley Hanes in Endnotes (1995).

In order to deal more effectively with such issues as contracts and remuneration, authors have formed themselves into societies to promote their common interests. Writers' organisations are described briefly in E.C. Simpson's A Survey of the Arts in New Zealand (1961) and in Art Facts (N. Scotts et al., 1987).

The short-lived Fellowship of New Zealand Writers, founded in 1929 by Pat Lawlor, Johannes Andersen, A.E. Currie and others is described by Rachel Barrowman in The Turnbull (1995). Some of the Fellowship's records are to be found in the papers of its founders at the Alexander Turnbull Library. Soon after, the New Zealand Centre of the international writers' organisation PEN was founded in 1934 by Lawlor, and was the organising force behind the first New Zealand Authors' Week in 1936. The Authors' Week Committee produced occasional bulletins and a publication, Annals of New Zealand Literature, commemorating the Week itself, which was held during March 1936. Subsequent PEN publications for New Zealand have been Alan Mulgan's Literature and Authorship in New Zealand (a lyrical overview which now smacks strongly of colonial cringe, published in London by Allen & Unwin for PEN in 1946) and Perry (1952a). Now the New Zealand Society of Authors, the organisation produces a regular bulletin (originally the PEN Gazette and now The New Zealand Author). Through energetic lobbying it was instrumental in the setting up of the State Literary Fund in 1946 and the Authors' Fund in 1973, and continues to attempt to keep state agencies and other non-authors toeing the line.

Other writers' societies include the New Zealand Women Writers' Society, formed in 1932 and initially chaired by the ubiquitous Pat (for Patrick) Lawlor, which produced a Bulletin from 1951 until its demise in 1991. It is described by Anne Else in Women Together (1993) and its records are in the Alexander Turnbull Library. Two publications were produced to celebrate the Society's 50th jubilee in 1982: Women Writers of NZ 1932-1982 (a history and anthology by Margaret Hayward and Joy Cowley), and History of the New Zealand Women Writers' Society (by Thelma France et al., 1984). Other organisations have been the Penwomen's Club, New Zealand (formed 1925) and Ngā Puna Waihenga, the New Zealand Māori artists' and writers' society, founded in 1973. The New Zealand Writer's Guild, most of whose members are radio and television scriptwriters, is lively and active.

New Zealand's high per capita output of books suggests it has a correspondingly high population of authors. An indication of the numbers might be gained from an analysis of New Zealand Authors' Fund returns. The Fund, which compensates authors for sales lost through library lending, is described in an article by J.P. Sage in New Zealand Libraries (1987). In 1984-85, according to a survey by % identified themselves as full-time writers). In Andrea Williamson, 850 authors were registered with the Fund (although only about 201995 the Fund made payments to 1,332 authors for 4,844 titles. Those afflicted with the need to be published may attend the evening classes and short courses in creative writing which are a feature of university extension programmes and other adult educational institutions, for example the WEA. Polytechnics offer journalism studies, and Victoria University of Wellington's creative writing course, founded in 1975, was the first of a number of tertiary courses and has produced some notably high profile writers. The effects of individual courses on writing styles, and the success or otherwise of their graduates in getting their work published, has yet to be studied. Bill Manhire's course at Victoria is documented in Mutes and Earthquakes (1997).

Aside from the work of the authors' societies such as PEN, practical guides for writers who want their work published have appeared from time to time, covering topics from manuscript preparation to publishers' contracts and proofreading. Changing times and conditions might be examined by a comparison of these over the decades. Daphne Double's New Zealand Writers' and Publishers' Yearbook did not reappear after its 1969 debut. Others include the works by Arnold Wall (1973), Anna Rogers (1994) and John Parsons's New Zealand Writer's Handbook (first issued in 1990, most recent edition 1994). A more specialised guide is Gavin McLean's Local History (1992).

Authors' papers and their accounts of their dealings with publishers are also a rich source of information. Noel Hilliard contributed his views on 'Authorship in New Zealand' to the 1973 Book Council seminar, The Changing Shape of Books (1974). Peter Gibbons notes in his chapter on non-fiction in The Oxford History of New Zealand Literature in English that M.H. Holcroft's autobiographies offer much detail on the vicissitudes of authorship and its remuneration. Gibbons's thesis on J.C. Andersen (1992) offers a wealth of information relevant to scholarly publication in Andersen's era. Other biographical and autobiographical sources worth investigating for this topic are:

Robin Dudding (ed.), Beginnings (1980)

Frank Sargeson, Sargeson (1981)

Denys Trussell, Fairburn (1984)

Lynley Hood, Sylvia! (1988)

Janet Frame, An Autobiography (1989)

Ross Galbreath, Walter Buller (1989)

Lauris Edmond, An Autobiography (1994)

Michael King, Frank Sargeson (1995)

Keith Ovenden, A Fighting Withdrawal [Dan Davin] (1996)

Anthony Dreaver, An Eye for Country [Leslie Adkin] (1997)

Ian Richards, To Bed at Noon [Maurice Duggan] (1997)