PS: if you’re finding the facts in the first bit boring then skip to where it starts being written ALL IN CAPITALS!

We thought it was a great idea: find out what might be putting people off reading, and reading New Zealand fiction in particular. Though accurate stats were hard to find – Nielsen’s Book Scan data doesn’t include all New Zealand booksellers, and it doesn’t include New Zealand writers whose primary publisher is an international one – the stats we did have seemed to show that of the fiction we buy, a low percentage is penned by New Zealand writers. Again, it was hard to know what our total share of the market was in terms of published works, but it looked higher than the number being bought. In other words, New Zealand writers seemed to be missing out on sales – on readers – and we wanted to know why.

It’s a topic that has been covered before – in the Sunday Star Times in 2009, in a 2011 issue of North and South, and in a Listener editorial last year. But the people asked for comment were all industry people: publishers, authors, reviewers. No one had gone to the source and asked the people who actually buy and read books. Huzzah – we would do that!

By ‘we’, I mean Paula Morris and I. We’d been discussing this research for over a year with New Zealand Book Council CEO, Catriona Ferguson. She’d applied for funding and got some, but it was not the tens of thousands quoted by a traditional research firm. Paula and I offered our services to her because a) we were fascinated to find out what readers would tell us, and b) we both have significant professional experience in qualitative research.

I won’t list all our credentials (although I have been really tempted to over the last few days). We know our stuff. Our methodology kicks arse – it gets to the heart of what really shapes people’s decisions and actions. It does not ask leading questions or for people to rate stuff on a scale of 1 to 10. It has been proven time and again, and it works better than anything we have both experienced in our respective careers in marketing and advertising.

First, we looked to see what other reader research had been done. Feck all: one study by Victoria University Masters student, Pia White. It didn’t ask the kind of questions we wanted to, but the reader comments tallied with the theories of the industry pundits quoted above. We were interested to see whether our study would confirm or contradict.

We set up 11 focus groups around the country with keen readers who were in book groups. Our total sample (c. 85 people) has a margin of error of around 7% or a confidence level of 93% (this is how likely it is that the findings correlate with the true population average.). We were skewed to 45+ women, but that fits exactly with the national and international research about which groups are the highest consumers of books. So – not perfect, but (we thought) pretty darn good.

Besides, we had always envisaged this research as a start, not the be-all and end-all. We hoped that it would encourage other industry participants – publishers, booksellers, author associations – to club together and fund bigger and more regular research. Clearly, we were still in a positive frame of mind.

We did the research. We gained some fascinating insights. We discussed these at length and wrote them up carefully and with great thought into a report. The Book Council published the report. We were excited to see what kind of response it would get.

Answer: SHIT STORM!

A Listener article – and other media – latches on to the least interesting but most controversial aspect of the report: DOOM, GLOOM, NEW ZEALANDERS HATE NZ FICTION. WE WOULD RATHER TONGUE KISS MIKE HOSKING THAN READ IT!

A genre fiction writer publishes a furious ranty blog: THE LISTENER ARTICLE IS A TRAVESTY OF JOURNALISM! THE RESEARCH METHODOLOGY SUCKS! THE BOOK COUNCIL IS USELESS! CREATIVE NEW ZEALAND IS SATAN! THE LITERARY ESTABLISHMENT CONSPIRES TO EXCLUDE GENRE FICTION!

MANY people share this blog, with each other and, natch, with Paula and me. They post the link on social media with comments like ‘BOOK COUNCIL SUCKS! THIS RESEARCH SUCKS! GO FURIOUS RANTY BLOGGER, YOU ROCK!’

We are attacked by the literary establishment! (They obviously decided to give genre fiction writers a break and turn on us instead.) A renowned publisher with a beard tweets: ‘If for years you tell people they think NZ books are boring then ask them if they think NZ books are boring…’

Strangely, because we are not actual cretins, we didn’t ask them that. And is the logic weird, or is it just me? Who’s the ‘you’? who’s telling people they think New Zealand books are boring? FIND THEM! HUNT THEM DOWN! IT’S ALL THEIR FAULT!

A university professor emails Paula and asks in a delightfully formal manner whether we have considered that people think New Zealand books are dark and depressing because they are, in fact, ipso facto, QED, dark and depressing? I picture Paula face-palming as she forwards this to me.

We are attacked as anti-Janet Frame!

It is like Doctor Seuss’s I Had Trouble in Getting to Solla Sellew. “And new troubles came, from above and below! A Skritz at my neck and a Skrink at my toe!”

No one reads the original report. No one sees that it does NOT say that New Zealanders hate New Zealand fiction. Around 75% did have an initial negative reaction but this was overcome when they read it…I could go on but I’d rather you read the report. Please. Thank you. Here’s the link, the report’s in a box on the right.

No one asks the Book Council for their opinion. No one asks us for our opinion. Everyone seems to prefer standing behind the critics, shaking their fists and yelling ‘YEAH!’

OK, not everyone. On a lone Facebook comment thread numerous people decide the furious blogger’s rant is formless and weird, and his comments about old ladies are sexist. They wonder why Paula and I would want to diss genre writers when we are genre writers (I write commercial women’s fiction and Paula writes fantasy YA). Paula and I want to hug these people.

A famous genre fiction writer tells me I am awesome for all the advocating I’ve done for genre fiction. I want to hug her.

I have a go at correcting some of the misconceptions and wrong information. I get somewhere. I tell Facebook friends who are sharing the blog that I wrote the report. They read the report. They are interested. They call it “excellent”.

Mostly, though, it is like stopping a tide. I feel depressed and beleaguered. We wanted to shed a little light on the barriers that might prevent readers enjoying terrific New Zealand books, of all genres. We wanted to get people thinking about the opportunities for raising awareness and creating more enthusiastic advocates for our work.

What we got was dumped on from a great height.

I know, poor us. But really, I don’t give a monkeys what anyone thinks of me. I do despair at the knee-jerk reaction, the acceptance of supposed truths without a shred of scrutiny – and this from people who foam at the mouth about the death of good evidence-based journalism and the crap that is spewed by social media.

I despair that what Paula and I believe is really quite a great little piece of work has been buried in a shit-pile, and the opportunities it shines a light on will be ignored.

I despair that an ‘us’ vs ‘them’ mentality prevailed – people wanted to lash out at an enemy, whether it was Paula and I, the Book Council, Creative NZ, the literary establishment, who or whatever. People wanted to accuse, criticise and create divides, when what we need to do so very badly is join together, be united as a stronger voice and force.

I wanted to hug UK author, Chris Cleave, when he gave the keynote address at the inaugural National Writers Forum (which rocked! Unity, sharing, generosity!). He said: “My first very practical suggestion, for how we as writers can make ourselves useful in these new times, is that we should make sure we stand for something, rather than against everyone else.”

Paula and I did that research because we believed it would be valuable and useful. Despite the shower of shitty Skritzes and Skrinks, we still do.

Comments ( 35 )
  1. Helen Lowe
    September 19, 2016 at 6:23 am
    Reply

    Aaargh! “Read” it.

    Plus no caps when comment posts… (Rolls eyes at self.)

    • Catherine Robertson
      Catherine Robertson
      September 19, 2016 at 6:34 am
      Reply

      I’m such a techno numpty I can’t figure out how to make the link a different colour! Glad you figured it out 🙂

  2. Stephen olsen
    September 19, 2016 at 6:29 am
    Reply

    Go catherine! Go Paula! Kia kaha.

  3. chaz
    September 19, 2016 at 8:20 am
    Reply

    Chris Cleave’s comments are encouraging but even he would concede that all is not well in his homeland. British libraries are being closed at alarming rates and the division between writers doing well and writers doing badly is the widest in history. It’s unlikely that a senior NZ writer speaking at a UK festival would delve too much into domestic doom and gloom as it hardly uplifting stuff. Interestingly I’m not sure how long Chris Cleave would last as an author based in NZ with so few publishing options available to him and the longest unemployment queue of skilled writers in the Commonwealth. The anger/overreaction/ranting whatever you want to call it directed at the Book Council is a representation of people’s frustrations at a historic low point in our literature scene. The way out of this mess is very unclear and many authors are becoming despondent.

    • Catherine Robertson
      Catherine Robertson
      September 19, 2016 at 8:35 am
      Reply

      Thanks Negative Person – you’ve really got with the spirit of this whole blog!

      • Nicky Pellegrino
        September 19, 2016 at 9:44 am
        Reply

        Just replying to chaz. A historic lowpoint in nz literature? seriously? have you read the latest fiona kidman? the new book by kelly ana morey? Or lindsey dawson’s latest? publishing may be a tough business but there is no shortage of talent and plenty of good fiction being published locally. oh yes and perhaps add to your reading list everyone brave is forgiven by Chris cleave…….

        • Catherine Robertson
          Catherine Robertson
          September 19, 2016 at 9:49 am
          Reply

          Thanks, Nicky – I didn’t have the strength to reply in more detail! You’re so right – there is so much great NZ fiction being published (and poetry, non-fiction, comics and more). And with the internet and the growing interest of the world in fiction beyond borders, there have never been more opportunities for NZ authors, here and overseas. But you need the right attitude to go after them.

  4. Angela
    September 19, 2016 at 8:52 pm
    Reply

    i WISH i COULD HAVE BEEN A PART OF YOUR SURVEY! i READ A FAIR AMOUNT OF nz LITERATURE, AND HAVE ENJOYED BOTH THE WORKS OF YOU,caTHERINE rOBERTSON (ALL BUT ONE), AND pAULA mORRIS (ONLY ONE, SORRY!).

    mANY OF THE nz gENRE AUTHORS SEEM TO GET BURIED AMONGST THE INTERNATIONAL AUTHORS, AND i SUSPECT THERE ARE A NUMBER OF READERS WHO DON’T EVEN REALISE THAT THEY’RE READING AN nz AUTHOR (SUCH AS nALINI sINGH)UNLESS THEY READ THE AUTHOR BIO.

    PERSONALLY, i AM A BIG FAN OF nz GENRE AUTHORS AND WISH YOU ALL A TON OF SUCCESS BOTH NATIONALLY AND INTERNATIONALL – WHERE THERE ARE MORE READERS TO DISCOVER YOUR WORDS (AND i’VE BEEN TOLD BY A ROMANCE WRITER, THAT TO amERICANS, THE nz LOCATION IS EXOTIC AND EXCITING).

    • Catherine Robertson
      Catherine Robertson
      September 19, 2016 at 9:05 pm
      Reply

      Yes! Overseas readers think NZ is really hot! NZ romance writers who set their books here are advertising the NZ setting on their covers. The advice I was given over 10 years ago that you should set your book in the country you’d like it to be published seems completely wrong now – which is so pleasing. Thanks for your kind wishes.

  5. pETER kING
    September 19, 2016 at 9:46 pm
    Reply

    I DON’T WANT TO “SHOUT” BUT THIS COMES UP AS CAPS WHETHER CAPS LOCK IS ON OR NOT. personally I THINK YOU HAVE DONE nEW Zealand LITERATURE A GREAT SERVICE BY STARTING THIS DEBATE. I PERSONALLY DO HAVE MY DOUBTS ABOUT FOCUS GROUPS BUT PLEASE DON’T TAKE THAT PERSONALLY. iN FACT I DON’T THINK YOU SHOULD TAKE ANY OF THIS PERSONALLY. yOU DID AN EXCELLENT JOB WITH LIMITED FUNDS. you’ve SPARKED PASSIONATE DISCUSSION ABOUT nz STORIES IN A WAY NOBODY ELSE HAS FOR A LONG LONG TIME AND WE ARE ALL THE RICHER FOR IT. tAKE A DEEP BREATH. hIDE IF YOU MUST. BUT DON’T SEE THIS AS ANYTHING OTHER THAN A BLOODY TRIUMPH.

    • Catherine Robertson
      Catherine Robertson
      September 19, 2016 at 9:57 pm
      Reply

      Ha! I’m definitely not a hider! A triumph – that’s kind, but I still feel the message and aim we were trying to achieve with the research has been lost, which is a shame.(And I don’t know what it is about the caps – sometimes the comments come through un-capped, sometimes not, will talk to my blog techie person)

  6. Sarah Forster
    September 19, 2016 at 9:55 pm
    Reply

    Hi Catherine, I think you guys did a good job with a tough assignment. i read it as soon as it came out & was baffled by the reactions. we will have a piece in an upcoming The read about it, and I’ve had several supportive responses directly to the release from booksellers – a fairly unusual occurence, so it struck a chord. CHEERS, sARAH

    • Catherine Robertson
      Catherine Robertson
      September 19, 2016 at 9:58 pm
      Reply

      I will be interested to read The Read – it always has well written, well researched pieces on it!

  7. Fergus barrowman
    September 19, 2016 at 9:58 pm
    Reply

    But is it a shitstorm? To me it looks like a few people having the same old arguments and no one else paying any attention. As Kevin Chapman put it with his usual eloquence, Yawn.

    I’m sorry to come across as negative, Catherine, because I know your intentions were good, but I honestly don’t think the survey says anything new, and it’s just caused another outbreak of “New Zealand books are boring” “No they’re not” “Yes they are”, and we’re all useless, hasn’t it?

    (Sorry about the Caps lock. I’m really not feeling shouty.)

    • Catherine Robertson
      Catherine Robertson
      September 19, 2016 at 10:11 pm
      Reply

      But, Fergus, that’s my whole point – the research DOESN’T conclude that people think NZ books are boring! What we found – bear with me – is that most people’s first reaction to the words ‘NZ fiction’ was negative, and that this negativity seemed to have been instilled a long time back in their lives. It was worth noting because our primary/first emotional reactions determine our decisions/action, so it could well have an influence on people’s reading choice. Beliefs influence actions BUT subsequent actions/experiences influence and can alter beliefs (not always, we do love confirmation bias). The research found that once we started asking about people’s actual experiences with NZ fiction, they were very nearly universally positive! The major concern in the research for us was the low to non-existent awareness of new NZ titles and new NZ authors, despite all of our collective best efforts in the channels we have. People DO enjoy NZ fiction so our job, I think, is to find new ways to raise awareness, and encourage more trial.(And it may not have been a shit-storm by internationally accepted shit-storm standards, but it felt like we were being pelted with the stuff at the time 🙂

  8. Kirsten Mcdougall
    September 19, 2016 at 11:26 pm
    Reply

    Hi catherine
    one of the things i’ve noticed doing publicity for nz titles only, is that we are competing in limited (print) media for space for nz books against a raft of incoming international titles. book publishing is a saturated market! while i love the fact that i can read books from africa and china as well as from those strongholds of literary culture, london and NY, it does make it really hard to for Nz Lit to cut through. not that i personally care whether readers notice a writer’s residency status or not.

    I’ve noticed a bit of a change this year – our books (at vup, where i work) have gotten some good media attention (which could be just that they’re books that people want to notice!) but I feel far more positive about what’s going on in our lit culture than i did when i first started working in this industry. online sites like pantograph punch, the spinoff, book council (i love steph soper’s new spot on jesse mulligan), are great at getting notice out. ODt under helen speirs continues to be a fantastic supporter – one of the only newspapers who still publish poetry reviews. kim hill has poetry, kate de goldi reviewing and loads of nz writers throughout the year. sunday magazine is doing some fab stuff under emily simpson, and sally blundell is shaking things up at nz listener. we are also lucky to have stalwart supporters like anne o’brien at AWf, Rachael king at WORD Christchurch and claire mabey of litcrawl.

    on the separate point of high/low culture – no artists worth their salt and that I respect make this distinction themselves. if artists start to label themselves as high art producers i would make the call that their next book/album/film/installation will be a piece of shit.

    best of luck getting the shit umbrella up in the next gale!
    Kirsten mcDougall.

    • Catherine Robertson
      Catherine Robertson
      September 19, 2016 at 11:34 pm
      Reply

      Kirsten, I think knowing that there IS so much good advocacy work being done made the overall lack of awareness feel even more disheartening. But the fact that people wanted to hear about NZ work, and were more than ready to be open and positive was the plus side. Until we get our collective heads together and figure out even more effective ways to promote and advocate, then all I can say to everyone who’s doing great work – KEEP GOING! Attitudes and behaviours take time to change, so we need to be persistent. I agree – things feel much more positive than they did even a couple of years back and that’s thanks to the efforts of all the people you mentioned, plus yourself! I thank you!

    • Fergus
      September 20, 2016 at 12:28 am
      Reply

      Hear hear Kirsten! we’re on the road – waipukurau – AND MAYBE i will have something eLse to say later.

    • Elizabeth Knox
      September 20, 2016 at 12:51 am
      Reply

      well put kirsten (said she, unaccountably shouting)

      • Catherine Robertson
        Catherine Robertson
        September 20, 2016 at 1:02 am
        Reply

        I have to get to the bottom of this weird caps business. And let me re-state what I said in reply to Kirsten – there’s NO doubt that there’s a raft of amazing, wonderful people producing great work and going out there and advocating for it with passion. And my belief is that this advocacy does and will continue to pay dividends. But is there more we need to do – the research suggested that even keen readers (even librarians for pete’s sake) weren’t aware enough of new works and new writers – two whole groups hadn’t heard of ANY of our crime writers featured in the Sunday Star Times article – I was horrified. I’m not saying for a minute that the work we are all doing is NOT working or is wasted, but what other tactics could we employ, who else do we need to influence, are there more opportunities for joint ventures, [insert other ideas here]. At the risk of being repetitive, our research showed that people WANT to know, that they are open and willing to be positive. What else can we do to get our work in their hands?

        • Catherine Robertson
          Catherine Robertson
          September 20, 2016 at 1:24 am
          Reply

          By the way, Elizabeth, I introduced Justin Cronin at Unity Wgtn last week and they gave him a copy of Wake! Great choice (I told him I loved it), and another great example of advocacy from the team at Unity.

          • Elizabeth Knox
            September 20, 2016 at 6:24 am

            I was chuffed that they gave him wake.

          • Paul Gilbert
            September 29, 2016 at 4:35 am

            this is not a dig at anyone, but “HANDING JUSTIN CRONIN A COPY OF WAKE” being described as “GREAT ADVOCACY” is symptomatic of the problem. Surely, advocacy would involve introducing Justin to a range of NZ GENRE novels and LetTing him choose?

            THe distinction is illustrative, as a metaphor, of a problem with how the NZ industry appears to function: always walking people over to the chosen few, which becomes self-fulfilling, closing the circle on what gets published, promoted and bought, leaving a wider POtential readership, and writers, out in the dusty wastes. ANd a narrow perception of what NZ writing is, As research indicates.

            NOW, IT IS BETTER THAN It has been – as the BC report indicates – but I think it’s fair to say the modern business model for publishers and booksellers is not going to make things EASIER on independents, any more than AN OCKHAM JUDGE is going to throw a longlist BONE to a “GENRE” NOVEL, regardless OF THE TEXT’s relative strengths. AS KIRSTEN MCDOUGALL said, there is so little public space in NZ, and the convergence from booksellers & publishers, evident in their own press releases, tends towards crowding out diversity in favour of pushing higher volume of fewer publications.

            I ACCEPT THERE IS PROBABLY A NARROW segment OF PEOPLE WHO CAN AFFORD TO BUY BOOKS IN OUR ECONOMY, AND PUBLISHERS ARE ENTITLED TO INCLINE TOWARDS THEIR TASTES, AND BOOKSELLERS THE SAME. This being so, The single best “advocacy” for all NZ WRIters would be SOMETHING like a Gazette that records all NZ PUBLICATIONS released that month, with simple blurb, publisher and AUTHOR, where to buy, etc – a genuine ONE-STOP shop for anyone wanting to follow NEW NZ WRITING. THat way readers can see what catches their fancy rather than have their choices filtered by industry. And their perception of NZ writing will duly widen.

          • Catherine Robertson
            Catherine Robertson
            September 29, 2016 at 5:15 am

            To be fair, the book for Justin Cronin was a gift to a busy man on tour, but I take your point. And yes one source of info about NZ books would be ideal, which is why I am working on exactly that. Early days yet but lots of interest (including from people who can actually contribute to funding it). Thanks for your thoughtful comments – very welcome!

  9. Adrian MCdonald
    September 19, 2016 at 11:59 pm
    Reply

    One thing that seems apparent in all of this when reading on both sides of the debate is that the perception of how “literature” and NZ writers and genre are viewed is shifting. A paradigm shift has occurred in recent years and perhaps the current model of how things are done/viewed needs to reflect that and move with the times. I personally had no inkling that a survey was being conducted and would have liked to have been involved if i had known. Where I live I am part of a writers group and we have 5 published authors in it. We encourage each other to write and to read NZ authors but we are not always connected into the traditional model of how things work. we know people are reading nz authors but perhaps wouldn’t put themselves into a book club or a focus group but these are voices that fall through the gaps. After reading your article above I can appreciate how your methodology works but (and there are always buts) the perception remains, due in part to the way the listener article was written up, that the New Zealand writer pool is very small is seen in a certain negative light. Now, after being able to draw breath and talk in our writers group this survey does demonstrate, as you mentioned, that there is a need for a more exhaustive survey because it seems obvious that as much as there was revealed in the survey there is a huge unknown within the whole local literary scene (literary in the general sense rather than the alluded to elitist sense). I would love to see an exhaustive survey done to show the true sense of where the NZ writing scene is at in New zealand.

    • Catherine Robertson
      Catherine Robertson
      September 20, 2016 at 12:06 am
      Reply

      I would love to see regular research done – let’s really understand our readers, so we can create the most effective strategies for reaching them. It is expensive, so it will probably have to be a joint industry venture, unless CNZ or a fab wealthy patron stumps up. I’m so happy that your group discussed the research – and that you’re keen to be involved in finding out more. I will make a note of that!

  10. Majella
    September 20, 2016 at 6:26 am
    Reply

    Hi there, I’d be interested to see if similar research has been done outside nz to see if there are comparable situations in other countries. For example, do Irish people necessarily read Irish fiction, or dutch read dutch fiction, Australians…, etc.? what are their attitudes to their national literature? positive, negative? it might give this study context, not to mention see if any strategies or approaches have worked overseas in order to connect with a national readership. [sorry about caps] 🙂

    • Catherine Robertson
      Catherine Robertson
      September 22, 2016 at 5:31 am
      Reply

      We didn’t look to see, feeling that it would not be relevant to NZ. But it would be interesting, yes, to find out why some countries prefer their own writers. Does size of population make a difference, or how long a tradition of writing – what are those factors? Worth a google perhaps

  11. Matthew Wright
    September 22, 2016 at 5:26 am
    Reply

    For some reason your comment box only permits capitals! Caps lock on or off or otherwise.

    My personal experience of New Zealand writing – as an author whose publications now extend over 30 years – is that the effective market does veer more towards non-fiction than fiction. I think it’s partly because we have so much overseas fiction. But there is also the issue of cultural cringe, from which NZ is still suffering to some extent. But there is also the issue of pretension, the idea that to be valid, fiction has to be ‘literature’ and not ‘genre’. I think we still suffer from that.

    That said, my primary experience, mostly writing non-fiction – is that New Zealand’s writing world in general has its closed in-crowds, some of whom have skilfully positioned themselves atop sources of funding, and who act as very efficient gatekeepers. It’s meant that those such as myself, approaching those gates with all hope and enthusiasm, are then confronted with a violent rebuff and a virtual inability to get support.

    This did not stop me publishing A very extensive range of non-fiction, mostly with Reed, Random House and Penguin, all on my own initiative, commercial merit, and with returns solely from royalties on sales. But all that this triggered from at least one of the ‘in-crowds’ was an extended and very vicious crusade of public worth-denial, abuse – even personal confrontation such as one very unpleasant moment in the Archives New Zealand reading room. All of it came from strangers who lacked the guts to introduce themselves for a reasonable discussion but did seem quite happy to abuse me for my efforts in their personal fields. Couple that with my experience of “NZBooks” – that VUW quarterly rag – which has a repeated track record of publishing pretentious and over-intellectualised denials of my calibre as a historian and writer, along with flat out lies about my supposed motives and intent when writing – all of which I regard as derogatory to my good name and character – and I have to agree with Peter’s commentaries about New Zealand writing being, one way or another, characterised with some very tightly closed and very well defended groups.

    • Catherine Robertson
      Catherine Robertson
      September 22, 2016 at 5:44 am
      Reply

      I read your piece in NZ Books, Matthew, and understand that you have had some negative experiences. However, I started with no profile and no connections in the writing world, and all I’ve done to build networks in both genre and literary worlds is to go and talk to people. Conversations have lead to opportunities, like reviewing and being at festivals. I suppose I’ve just always proceeded under the assumption that no group or organisation is barred to me, and I’ve found most people in the NZ book industry to be really welcoming. Criticism is always tough, and people are a lot braver in print than in person, so I can understand your reluctance to engage. And you should continue to do your work the way you believe it should be done – please yourself first, and your readers, nobody else really matters.

      • Matthew Wright
        September 23, 2016 at 5:10 am
        Reply

        Like you, I’ve always been forward in approaching people to pursue my career,if I hadn’t I wouldn’t have got as far as I have. I have also approached those launching these criticisms, and got nowhere – apparently my reward for writing in their territories is to be persona non grata. The criticism is so blatantly intended to damage that it speaks more of those doing i than of my calibre – though I do worry about the financial loss it causes me through damage to book sales. The more crucial issue for me is the profound ethical void so revealed, and I don’t see why I should be the target of hostile conduct by strangers whose own writing is funded by my tax money, one way or another – but who are so personally gutless they can’t even respond to my approaches when reasonably querying allegations they have made about my professional integrity.

  12. Iola
    September 27, 2016 at 12:08 am
    Reply

    GRUMPY. i’M ALSO GETTING THE CAPS LOCk problem.

    I’ve read the report, and all I can say is despite being female and over 45, i fall into the 7% margin of error. perhaps this is because i’m a book blogger who reads genre fiction almost exclusively, so rely on online sources like Netgalley, Facebook groups, and goodreads. And I read a lot more than four books a month, as can be seen on my goodreads profile – Probably 90% of those are ebooks.

    Yes, I’m definitely in the 7%. But goodreads say i’m in their 1%, so that doesn’t surprise me.

    • Catherine Robertson
      Catherine Robertson
      September 27, 2016 at 12:22 am
      Reply

      And as a book blogger, you’ll be more knowledgeable than the readers we talked to – my feeling is there is a ‘book-aware bubble’- anyone who’s blogging, writing books, in publishing or bookselling seems to be significantly more aware of sources of book info because we actively seek them out. In my view, awareness of new books and authors was the major issue (or opportunity, half glass full!) that the research highlighted – even the keenest readers (of all ages) had only a few regular sources they used to find out about new books. I’m interested that Goodreads says you’re in their 1% – is that the amount of books you read or the type/genre?

  13. tONI
    September 29, 2016 at 6:38 am
    Reply

    Hi KatherinE. i’M SORRY ABOUT THE CAPS LOCKS, AND EVERYONE RANTING AT YOU FOR THE REPORT. i HONESTLY DON’T KNOW WHY THEY GOT SO MAD. i THOUGHT THE RESEARCH FINDINGS WERE REALLY INTERESTING BECAUSE WHEN i WAS A TEENAGER i DIDN’T LIKE NEW ZEALAND FICTION AT ALL, DESPITE BEING AN AVID READER. i WANTED ESCAPISM, AND READING ABOUT HOME IS NOT ESCAPING. BUT MAYBE WE CAN LIKEN IT TO OUR MUSIC SCENE AS WELL, BECAUSE i DIDN’T LIKE MUCH nz MUSIC, AND NOW I’VE BECOME OBSESSED WITH SO MANY NZ BANDS. I THINK IT’S JUST YOUR PERCEPTION OF WHAT’S ‘COOL’, AND MAYBE WE NEED TO TAKE MORE PRIDE IN OUR COUNTRY AND BE MORE AWARE OF THE AWESOME CREATIVE STUFF THAT WE MAKE. LIKE, HOME CAN BE COOL TOO. AND THAT’S WHY I REALLY LIKE THE POINT IN THE REPORT ABOUT ADVOCACY, AND HOW THAT HELPED IN THE BOOK CLUBS WHERE THEY WERE ACTIVELY TRYING TO READ MORE NZ FICTION. AND also THAT’S WHERE i THINK THE REPORT CAN BE HELPFUL, because if YOU’VE FOUND THAT PEOPLE HAVE A KNEE-JERK NEGATIVE REACTION THIS INITIAL BELIEF CAN BE CHANGED IF THEY ACTUALLY PICK UP A GOOD LOCAL BOOK AND READ IT. SO MAYBE WE NEED MORE CHANNELS TO RAISE AWARENESS ABOUT NZ FICTION, TO SHOW THE BREADTH OF WORK OUT THERE, THE DIVERSITY, THE AMAZING SHORT FICTION, FLASH FICTION, POETRY, COMICS, AS WELL AS ALL OUR AWESOME GENRE FICTION, TO SHOW PEOPLE THAT THIS IS OUT THERE, THIS IS COOL, AND THE PERCEPTION OF NZ FICTION BEING BORING, OR gloomy and DEPRESSING, IS JUST THAT – A PERCEPTION, ONE YOU CAN EASILY CHANGE. Anyway, just wanted to let you know that i like the advocacy thing, and i hope we can raise awareness of a wider range of local titles to get more people reading and interacting with new zealand literature, because we rock just quietly 🙂

    • Catherine Robertson
      Catherine Robertson
      September 29, 2016 at 6:50 am
      Reply

      I can only agree with absolutely everything you say!

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