Our seminar presentations have just wrapped up for the year, and each of us were keen to have an opportunity to research more about a particular issue of the publishing industry that interested us for the assignment. Subjects ranged from considerations of genre and current issues surrounding markets and readerships in New Zealand to examinations of the roles that author and press publicity play in our industry. Here is what some of the students had to say about their seminar topics:
Mish: One of the things I’ve always wanted to do is to encourage middle readers to read, and a recent Book Council report had interested me in the idea that New Zealand fiction was gloomy, dull and not a marketable feature. So, for my seminar I ran focus groups to find out how widely read YA New Zealand fiction is, and whether readers knew it was New Zealand YA. Other than the big names; Margaret Mahy, Joy Cowley or Maurice Gee, there were no authors that the kids recognised off the top of their heads as New Zealanders. However, many authors such as Brian Falkner, Jane Higgins and Sheryl Jordan were known to them, but not as New Zealand authors. What I found through this research was a need to integrate more New Zealand YA into the curriculum and school libraries, where kids can explore New Zealand books without preconceptions.
Hannah: My seminar topic focused on branding because I think it is very visible and necessary for any business, but currently has little-to-no publishing industry engagement. My responses from publishers tended to show that there is disconnect between the idea of branding their press/company as a whole and the idea of marketing their individual products. Penguin Random House is a company that has successfully used branding to promote their products to consumers far beyond the general publishing industry. I think that branding has real potential to help expose consumers to publishing presses.
Emily: I wanted to do a seminar that focused on the New Adult genre. This was sparked by a growing feeling of a lack of representation. People read to escape, but people also read to anticipate what’s ahead – YA caps out at 18 with these important life decisions yet to come and there is a feeling that Adult starts after those important life decisions have been made.
My survey results showed that a gap in the market for New Adult titles exists; readers within the demographic age group are actively searching for it. The results also showed that readers outside the age demographic are interested. Other mediums like TV have been creating New Adult focused content, with shows like Girls, Please Like Me, and Lovesick. It is also already being done with great success in the Romance genre, with many publishers now actively asking for New Adult content.
New Adults and non-New Adults, both older and younger, want stories about themselves and will happily pay for them – all the industry needs to do is provide them.
Zsenai: I like games. Interactive fiction is the middle ground between gaming and publishing, so it made sense for me to do my seminar research on how the genre can be used to reach new markets. In today’s world, digital interactive fiction can be perceived as a book, as well as a game, and my research from publishers and survey respondents found that there needs to be a change in publishing industry perceptions to fully integrate it.
Jasmine: My seminar research looked into how non-Māori in the publishing industry can engage with te reo and tikanga Māori. I wanted to know whether we are equipped to publish Māori content, and whether we have sufficient knowledge to manage it in a way that is respectful and culturally appropriate. I think that many Pākeha and other non-Māori want to do ‘the right thing’ but don’t know what that is and are too afraid to ask.
From conversations with industry professionals and my own research, I found a number of things that can – and must – be done, both in the short- and long-term. We have to actively seek solutions, educate ourselves, step outside of our comfort zones and allow the right people to guide our processes. As one publisher said to me: ‘The treaty saw the two cultures working collaboratively and as experts in their own areas.’
Allie: My seminar asked the question: did Twitter kill the long-hand blog? I chose this because I think it’s important for authors to have the confidence to promote their own books, and knowing how to use social media to do that is a huge publicity tool. It turns out the blog is not dead (surprised you!), and my research shows that marketing teams need to support authors in learning how to best use the various forms of social media for themselves.