An exciting publishing programme is now underway at the newly revitalised Te Papa Press, publisher Nicola Legat told our members on recently.

Nicola set the scene for us by giving a potted history of publishing in New Zealand. “Until relatively recently, there were many publishers, magazines had good editorial resources, and budgets and print runs were healthy. The GFC, however, coincided with the onslaught of e-books, worldwide hard copy book sales sank, publishers closed or merged their New Zealand operation and their lists were savaged,” she said. Many well-established bookshops closed including Borders, Dymocks and many independents such as Roy Parsons Books here in Wellington. A few years on, however, e-book sales have plateaued. Book buyers are back in force and sales are on the up-and-up – particularly in the non-fiction and children’s categories.

Parallel to this is the huge increase in writers’ festivals that are now held all over the country. Nicola is deputy chair of the highly successful Auckland Writers Festival that, in 2016, had 66,000 attendances. (This year’s event is being held on 16-21 May.) “People want intelligent debate at these writers festivals, and to share ideas and views about literature and the issues of the day,” she said.

After a couple of years of uncertainty around its future, in July last year Te Papa Press came under the wing of the newly-established Massey University Press. Nicola is the publisher for both imprints, and Te Papa Press retains a full-time managing editor and an editorial assistant.  Nicola has developed a significant publishing programme that goes well into the early 2020s. “Te Papa Press will have a tighter list than before, and will focus very much on the museum’s collection and the scholarship of the curators.”

Of the four books that Te Papa Press plans to publish in November, Nicola mentioned two in particular.  Coinciding with the opening of Te Papa’s beautiful new art galleries, Ten X Ten Art at Te Papa takes an intimate, yet expert, look at the national art collection. Ten curators each pick 10 works and tell us why they love/admire/revere/are moved by them.

The Great Art Activity Book for Young New Zealanders by Helen Lloyd follows her highly successful The New Zealand Art Activity Book : 100+ Ideas for Creative Kids that was sponsored by the Friends of Te Papa. Based on 50 paintings from the museum’s collection and original works made just for the book by leading New Zealand artists, it also includes biographies of all featured artists. The Great Art Activity Book will be a great way for young people to learn about art while exploring their own creativity.

Thank you Nicola for your time to present a truly interesting commentary on New Zealand publishing and, in particular, on the plans for Te Papa Press. We look forward to seeing the new books in November.