Who are the New Zealand publishers?

While for many people ‘publishing’ means trade book publishing – that is, the books that you buy in general bookstores – the sector is broader than that. New Zealand’s educational publishers are world-leading, we have active specialist publishers working in areas such as legal, medical and scientific publishing, and there is a great deal of publishing work done in the public sector.

At the core of the publishing industry are the educational and trade publishers. There are over 100 of these in New Zealand, ranging from single-employee companies and independent presses to the local branches of large multinationals. About three-quarters of these firms employ fewer than six staff.

New Zealand trade book publishing is made up of independent presses (such as Gecko Press, Awa Press, Annabel Langbein, Steam Press, David Bateman Ltd and Huia Publishers), presses attached to institutions (such as VUP, AUP and Te Papa Press) and the local arms of multinational or international publishers (such as Random House and Allen & Unwin).


Where are New Zealand publishers located?

Wellington and Auckland are the main centres of publishing in New Zealand, with Wellington dominated by independent publishers and Auckland the home of the multinationals. Other cities are also represented, with university presses at Canterbury and Otago, and Potton & Burton in Nelson.


What kinds of publications do New Zealand publishers produce?

According to the Publishers Association of New Zealand, nearly 2000 new titles are published in New Zealand each year. The majority of publications are educational or reference texts. Non-fiction makes up over half of all book publishing, while children’s books and fiction take about a quarter each of the market.

As is the case throughout the world, the biggest-selling books tend to be sports and lifestyle books. Children’s books can do very well, with series such as Lynley Dodd’s Hairy Maclary leading sales year after year. And every now and again, New Zealand fiction takes the popular imagination by storm and produces a bestseller – think Mr Pip, The Vintner’s Luck and of course Man Booker-winning The Luminaries.

For a more detailed overview of the New Zealand publishing industry, get a copy of An Introduction to New Zealand Publishing, published by the Publishers Association of New Zealand – and put together by students on the Diploma in Publishing (Applied).


What are the different jobs in publishing?

A common misconception is that publishing is mainly editing and working directly with words. Another is that all editors work directly with words. Both are untrue.

Like any business, publishers need employees with a wide variety of skills. Here are some common publishing jobs:

  • Commissioning editor: The commissioning editor put together a publishing company’s ‘list’ – its selection of titles to publish each year. They perform market research to find gaps in the market, and commission authors and illustrators to create books to fill those gaps. Commissioning editors are usually in-house employees.
  • Editor: Editors (of the non-commissioning kind) work with a manuscript, usually in direct contact with the author, on everything from the shape and content of a manuscript to line-by-line corrections for grammar and style. In New Zealand, editors may be either in-house employees or freelancers.
  • Project manager: The project manager looks after a book from commissioning to publication, ensuring that tasks are completed on time and within budgetary restraints. They liaise with editors, illustrators, designers, printers, and the sales and publicity teams, and are usually in-house employees.
  • Sales: Sales people directly liaise with bookstores and other customers to push sales of a publisher’s list. They must be familiar with the books on a list, current sales trends and customers’ own preferences. People in sales may be in-house employees or self-employed sales representatives who work on commission on behalf of a range of publishers.
  • Publicity: Publicists drive a book’s public image. They work with media outlets to showcase a publisher’s authors and new titles, securing reviews, interviews and feature articles in regional, national and international venues. Increasingly publicists and others in marketing roles use social media platforms to get the message out. Good networking skills are a must. Publicists may work in-house or be freelance.

In a large publishing house, jobs may be strictly delineated – a publicist will work within the publicity team, doing publicity. However, in a smaller publisher, employees may take on several roles, so a broad skill set and the willingness and flexibility to try new things is vital.


What are salaries like in New Zealand publishing?

Salaries in the publishing industry vary according to job type and industry sector. Due to the varied nature of New Zealand publishers it is difficult to report accurately on average salaries. It is generally true those working in trade book publishing earn lower salaries than those in the corporate or public sector. Editors in the publishing industry usually earn between $35,000 and $90,000 per year, depending on experience and the organisation. See Careers.govt.nz for more details about job opportunities.


Are there long-term career prospects in publishing considering the current changes in the sector?

Although publishing is in a period of significant change, most in the industry believe the new environment is bringing opportunities and growth, especially for smaller and niche publishers. People are still reading, and booksellers are reporting record sales figures in recent years, especially around Christmas. The process of professional publishing is one of adding value and quality to that reading experience.


Anyone can publish a book these days by putting it up on Amazon, why do I need to study for a year to learn about publishing?

It depends what you mean by ‘publishing’. Putting a book in the Amazon store certainly makes it available, but is the book as good as it can be and will it find its widest possible audience? The traditional publishing process can make a good book great. We believe it gives authors the best opportunity to reach their readers, to sell internationally and to develop their careers. And it gives readers the best experience of reading a cleverly commissioned, carefully edited, beautifully designed and accurately targeted publication – and in whatever format they want.


 See also our Publishing Courses FAQ  page.

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