Coalition for Books: Inaugural meeting held

Melanie Laville-Moore, Chair of The Coalition for Books and New Zealand Director, Allen & Unwin reports



After a year filled with much talking, lots of enthusing and perhaps just a little bit of cajoling, the Coalition for Books finally achieved lift-off during last week’s Booksellers Conference. The inaugural meeting unanimously voted to incorporate a new society that would be charged with driving increased visibility for New Zealand books and writers, building resilience, effectiveness and opportunities for organisations from across the literary sector. As I type this, the Incorporation Certificate has arrived from Companies House – so there is no turning back now!In case you’re not across the planning, the Coalition for Books will be an umbrella organisation that aims to pull together the available resources from festivals, booksellers, publishers, writers, librarians and anyone/anything else that might want to invest their time and resource. Supported by Creative New Zealand funding, it will have the leanest of secretariat’s (a part-time contractor is to be recruited), and its success will ultimately depend on solid strategies, but moreover equitable collaboration from all concerned.

It’s an exciting new development that hopefully most PANZ members will welcome. It’s been heartening to receive a steady stream of feedback, suggestions and approaches from individuals and organisations keen to be involved and kept abreast of developments. There is certainly no shortage of early goodwill that the Coalition’s Board will need to harness as it sets about initial goals.

So for publishers and their writers especially, what will the new Coalition mean, and what will it do? Immediately, there are plans being made for books and writers to feature prominently at Auckland’s Pasifika festival next March and if the formula proves successful, to be repeated at Matatini 2021. So if you’re a publisher of Pasifika writers – expect to be hearing from the Coalition soon. For our trade publishers, imagine being able to purchase advertising space for a fraction of the usual cost? That’s precisely the aim of a large-scale print advertising campaign to be mounted during the winter months, and any PANZ members will be able to participate in. This will be repeated in the spring/summer of 2020. And for those members that feel overwhelmed by the cost and complexities of the digital space (audio especially), there are plans afoot to hopefully make things more accessible and easier for you to navigate.

But you should also feel the presence of the Coalition in existing campaigns. As the designated ‘sector champion’ and ‘pivot point’, there will be plenty of activity around joining the sector dots to leverage and increase the available noise. So whether that be around the Ockham New Zealand Book Awards, the Children’s Book Awards or New Zealand Book Month, we should all start to feel greater strength in the numbers championing the same cause at the same time. And in turn start to see some increased sales and more good news stories.

On the initial Board, our membership will be well-represented. I’ll be chairing a committee of eight that includes PANZ Director Catriona Ferguson, Massey University Press’ Nicola Legat (and Book Awards Trust Chair), Auckland University Press’ Sam Elworthy (and member of the International Publisher’s Association Exec) and One Tree Hill’s publisher, Jenny Nagle (also Association Director for the Society of Authors). The first meeting of the new Board will be in two weeks and the hard work will start in earnest. If you have any feedback or contribution to make – you’ll find willing ear amongst all of us.
Listen to founding board members Juliet Blyth, Melanie Laville-Moore and Paula Morris speaking about the Coalition for Books on Standing Room Only with Lynn Freeman