Rachel and JuliaRachel Lawson (pictured left with Julia Marshall) is the Diploma in Publishing’s programme leader, and she is taking a sabbatical in 2015 to work at Wellington children’s book publisher Gecko Press which is run by Julia Marshall.

I’m currently three months in to what I’m calling a ‘sabbatical’ year at Gecko Press. (Academics are supposed to get sabbaticals, right?) I’m working on production and marketing. It’s a chance for me to front up and do things I’ve banged on about in the classroom for years: I’m doing my best to keep good records and use my checklists, to make every word count, consider the big picture without losing the detail, focus on readers, put myself in booksellers’ shoes, to be human on the end of email…

My role combines the very familiar and with the brand new. On the new: I now know how to calculate the extent of a boardbook (4pp per spread!), how stupidly expensive it is to ship books to Australia, and how to impose – nay, celebrate! – US punctuation styles.

Mostly I’m learning about having a worldwide perspective. I have on my desk French, German, Swedish, Finnish, Mexican and Belgian editions of books we’ll be publishing in English over the next 12 months; on my email, messages from Gecko’s publicists and sales reps in London, Sydney, Minneapolis and Auckland; and on the hard drive, manuscripts and PDFs from all over the world, about which we need to decide whether or not they are curiously good – curiously good enough to be one of our 16 new books for the year ahead.

I enjoyed listening to Henry Rosenbloom from Scribe at the recent PANZ conference. He has started up a UK branch of his Australian publishing house and has been fighting to split the traditional Commonwealth rights deals that have our part of the world firmly under the wing of London. His is not exactly a new idea, but it may be an increasingly important one for New Zealand publishers. I’m certainly loving being part of the absolutely international business of Gecko Press.

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