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Independent publishers and university presses triumph in this yearís New Zealand Post Book awards
September 2013

All four of the country's top book awards for 2013 have gone to independent publishers and university presses.

The result comes just as a number of multinational publishers have recently announced they are closing the local editorial arm of their companies.

Steve Braunias's searing yet tender portraits of places and people off the map in New Zealand, Civilisation, published by Wellington independent publisher Awa Press, was a clear winner in the non-fiction category. The judging panel, convened by TV3's John Campbell, called it "an exceptional New Zealand book, beloved by us all'.

The book's publisher, Mary Varnham, said she sensed a new mood in the air, among both writers and publishers. "We Indies have all experienced very tough times lately with the recession, the swarms of cheap imported best-sellers, internet obsession diverting people from reading books, and the impact of ebooks. But at the same time independent publishers have continued to pour heart and soul into projects that ensure great local writers get their place in the sun, and this is starting to pay off."

Varnham said most independent publishers worked on "the smell of an oily rag" and so were often able to publish books that would enjoy strong but modest sales. "We're not out there looking for huge instant best-sellers, although it's always nice when they come along."

And New Zealanders seem to be appreciating books by local authors a lot more than they used to, according to Varnham. "Social media such as Twitter and Facebook have helped create a buzz around new New Zealand books. They enable authors to talk directly to readers, and this can be a boost to sales."

The independent clean sweep extended to awards for first books as well, with all three going to independent publishers. And the Maori Language book award was scooped by Wellington independent Huia Publishing.

 
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