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  • Writer's pictureNZ Booklovers

Everything I Know About Books: An Insider Look at Publishing in Aotearoa


As the title says, this is an insider look at the publishing and book trade in New Zealand, and it covers everything from editing, publishing a book for the first time, nurturing Māori storytelling, how to design a great book cover, and what it is like for our bookselling reps on the road. This is an eclectic collection of around 70 articles from our leading publishers, booksellers, writers, editors, festival organisers and many more, which provides a fascinating and informative glimpse behind the scenes of the publishing world in Aotearoa.


With an insightful foreword by Witi Ihimaera, there are many standouts for me in the book. I really enjoyed Claire Mabey’s excellent chapter about organising literary festivals, something she is well qualified to write about. She thinks of festivals ‘as a home into which you are inviting people who you love and respect.’


The chapter, ‘Having your book edited is a bit like going through a breakup’ by Madison Hamill, had me in stitches, especially when the author is asked to clarify a sentence, and the hapless author adds another chapter about these unwanted words!


I loved Lynette Evan’s chapter about the joys and unique challenges of publishing for children, and the importance of keeping the audience in mind, and that children choose to read for fun.


‘What is your worst typo?’ is a gem of some of the things that can go wrong. An example: Printing a book with the author’s surname on the spine as ‘Hell’ instead of ‘Hall’!


But it is not all hilarity. Elizabeth Caffin provides a quick history of publishing through two centuries in Aotearoa. Rachael King shares the eloquent story about inviting Behrouz Bochani to the WORD Christchurch Festival and shares that audiences at a festival can be ‘rallied, or moved, or enraged.’ Jenny Hellen talks about the magic of creating a bestseller, and ‘the book as a kaupapa or project needs to be nurtured and tended with care and love if it is to come to its full potential.'


Hopefully, this brief review gives you an insight into the diversity, depth and range of this lovingly created guide to publishing on our fair shores.


Selina Tusitala Marsh beautifully sums up the publishing world in her poem at the end of her chapter, ‘Wild Card’ – which I won’t repeat here – but instead encourage you to buy the book and read her words directly, along with the many other gems in this excellent collection.


Reviewer: Karen McMillan

Whitireia Publishing

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