Topic: Oceanbooks - from conception to birth
On a bleak midwinter evening in 2011, six members attended a regular meeting of Tauranga Writers. Outside was decidedly chilly, which could explain the low turnout, but the half dozen present were all writers of novels, and this was unusual.
Tauranga Writers are a cross section that includes among its memberships poets, short story enthusiasts, children’s writers and writers of non-fiction. Even among those present, there was a wide range of genre: mysteries, thrillers, historical and contemporary narratives and a Biblical theme.
Inevitably, the conversation turned to publication. Once written, what could writers do with their work? All that effort had to lead somewhere, didn’t it? Sad to reflect on the number of worthy manuscripts in New Zealand that will never see the light of day.
Some had sent off query letters to publishers, only to be told: “Sorry, your story has potential - but it’s not for us.” Some had published through subsidy publishers big on promises, but reluctant to deliver. The catch was that such publishers and printers make their money directly from authors, not from promoting and selling their books.
Long faces around the table ...
One possible answer: independent publishing. A daunting and difficult road. As we contemplated that solution, our faces grew longer ... Bryan Winters had recently self-published his own novel, Finding Sampson and knew exactly what was involved.
Now he had a moment of inspiration.
“Aha!” he said. “I know what we can do. We can form a co-operative. Then we can help each other take our work out to the world.”
A writer’s mutual aid society! A great idea, we all agreed - but how exactly? Surely it was not that simple?
Even mainstream publishers, both in New Zealand and overseas, were going through hard times. How could a small group of writers in a remote corner of the world hope to succeed where others had failed?
Fortunately, Bryan had the courage to put his words into action.
Soon he had enlisted Jenny Argante and Lee Murray alongside others with both knowledge and enthusiasm. The project became unstoppable. A steering committee was formed, a company registered and a website set up as the cornerstone of the enterprise we had named Oceanbooks Limited.
The steering group also put in place basic procedures to ensure our publications were of a good standard and began recruiting shareholders. On 30th March 2012 we launched Oceanbooks at the Nautilus, Sulphur Point, Tauranga.
By then we had over fifty shareholders and more than thirty titles for sale as paperbacks or e-books on the Oceanbooks website (www.oceanbooks.co.nz.)
Our ‘christening party’ attracted a crowd of over two hundred guests. Simon Bridges, our local Member of Parliament, was there to wish us well, and our guest speaker was Richard Webster, arguably New Zealand’s biggest-selling author, whose titles have sold ten million books around the world.
Oceanbooks held its first Annual General Meeting on 12th May 2012 and voted in its board of directors with Bryan Winters as Managing Director, Suzanne Singleton as Treasurer, and Wendy Graydon as Company Secretary. The company continues to grow, with the number of shareholders and books on sale increasing steadily. You can follow us on Facebook and Twitter.
Oceanbooks remains what it was set up to be - an independent publishing co-operative run by writers for writers. Writers working together to publish and market their books.