Mark Broatch from the NZ Listener on book reviewing in NZ

Elizabeth Heritage interviewed Mark Broatch, Books and Culture Editor from the NZ Listener, about the state of book reviewing in NZ. This is what he had to say:

Simply put, the books we choose to cover are Listener deputy editor Mark Broachthose that are good and salient. If they are local, so much the better. Because there is so much for a national weekly to cover, we pick the eyes out of what’s on offer in books and culture. We know that the Listener‘s readers – our brilliantly loyal, smart, fussy readers – are fascinated by the big ideas (would anyone else put Thomas Piketty or ISIS on the cover?), and value being part of national and international conversations. Do they care if a book is local? Sometimes.

We love to see NZ authors and publishers doing well. We put Eleanor Catton on the cover ahead of her Man Booker win. We try to cover every substantial local release in some way. We want to sell books. Every week we’ll typically cover about 10 books in some way or other, either interviews, profiles, reviews or, often, upfront feature pieces. That’s 500 books a year. I doubt anyone else comes close.

Listener_book_coversAmong our usual reviews and interviews, we do seven regular roundups: contemporary fiction, speculative, kids & YA, crime, overseas non-fiction, NZ non-fiction and poetry. Still, hundreds of books don’t get covered, sometimes simply because we don’t think they are any good. Having been briefed by most of the local publishers now, I am excited by many of the titles due out this year. Although sometimes we differ on the idea of what’s interesting. Occasionally I’d like to say: perhaps you want to think about that one again? We would like to see like more quality local non-fiction books, especially science. And even given the flood of overseas books I regularly have to ask if a brilliant title I’ve seen elsewhere will make it into the country – a lot don’t.

We have no separate plan for independently published books (i.e. self-published, or published by very small enterprises), and some go out to the roundup reviewers in a form of triage, but often they are let down by substandard writing, editing or production.

The reason we often want first-run or exclusive deals from publishers is because we are in competition for eyeballs and eardrums. If people have read or heard something before and they just turn the page, I have wasted my time and, worse, my employer’s money. That’s Bauer, by the way, a publisher of dozens of magazines, not the other two media groups.

What do I think of local books coverage? Judging from the Friday Preview of Reviews email, it has held up well. Our reviewing culture is surprisingly active, thanks largely to a few dedicated editors and a community of reviewers and writers. You might argue the general coverage elsewhere is wide but thin, and it’s true it could be better, but my view, as someone who has been in the business for 23 years, is that New Zealand has never been able to afford very much of the journalism we really want. As my mother used to say, we have champagne tastes and lemonade money. The internet has brought many gains, but its ability to distract attention and disrupt traditional funding models and deliver digital delights for free has only made life harder for media.

The mainstream media gets no public subsidies. Cultural journalism – as vital for a fully functioning, vibrant society as the current affairs we also run – costs money. Many in the book business talk about supporting local titles, local authors, local publishers, but local print media needs your support too. Subscribe. Advertise. Mention us in social media. Praise when you think we’ve done well, and criticise, constructively, when we haven’t. I am bored by point-scoring. In this job I get advice from every direction: more of this, less of that. But our readers’ needs always come first.

by Mark Broatch, Books and Culture Editor, NZ Listener

Preview of Reviews: Friday 17 January


This newsletter is intended to provide an overview of the book reviews and features that will be on the Booksellers NZ blog, as well as in The Listener, NZ Herald Canvas magazine, Otago Daily Times,The Herald on Sunday, and Your Weekend inserts in the Fairfax weekend newspapers, Graham Beattie’s stint on Radio Live, as well as on Radio NZ National next week. Not all newspapers are represented every week.
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Welcome to the first issue of Preview of Reviews for 2014. This newsletter gives you a heads-up about which papers and magazines to check out for the latest weekend book reviews. We have had input from a whole range of media across New Zealand. If you are a bookstore, this is what your customers are excited about. If you are a reader, this is what you have to look forward to!

Week beginning Monday 20 January

A Deal’s a Deal, by Stephanie Blake (Gecko Press) 9781877579844

Everything I need to know I learned from a Little Golden Book, by Diane Muldrow (Golden Books) 9780307977618

Close to the Wind, by Zana Bell (Choc Lit) 9781781890264

Changing Times: New Zealand since 1945, by Jenny Carlyon & Diana Morrow (Auckland University Press) 9781869407827

Your Weekend, Saturday 18 January

Holiday crime wrap:

After Her, by Joyce Maynard (Morrow) 9780062291844

Cross My Heart, by James Patterson (Century) 9781780890142

Dust, by Patricia Cornwell (Hachette) 9781847445339

Eyes of Madness, by David Cole (Pampas Books) 9780473247737

He Who Kills the Dragon, by Leif GW Persson (Doubleday, $37.99) 9780857520739

The Gods of Guilt, by Michael Connelly (Allen & Unwin) 9781743317532

Saturday 19 January

Lonely Planet’s Beautiful World (Lonely Planet) 9781743217177

The New York Times 36 Hours: 125 Weekends in Europe (Taschen) 9783836526401  

Wild About New Zealand: A Guide to Our National Parks, by Gus Roxburgh (Random House NZ) 9781775533337

Moron To Moron, by Tom Doig (Allen & Unwin) 9781743311264

Granta 124: Travel (Granta) 9781905881697

Sunday, 19 January

The Company Man by John Rizzo (Scribe) 9781922070845

The Gods of Guilt by Michael Connolly (Allen & Unwin) 9781743317532

The Lives of Stella Bain, by Anita Shreve (Little, Brown) 9781408702970

The English Girl, by Margaret Leroy (Hachette) 9780751551761

Story: The Triple Package by Amy Chua, Bloomsbury (Guardian)

Issue 3846 – Books & Culture

The HBO Effect, by Dean J DeFino (Bloomsbury, $27.99) 9780826421302

Difficult Men: From The Sopranos And The Wire To Mad Men And Breaking Bad – Behind The Scenes Of A Creative Revolution, by Brett Martin (Faber and Faber, $39.99) 9780571303809

A Song for the Dying, by Stuart MacBride (HarperCollins, $34.99) 9780007344314

God’s Dog, by Diego Marani (Text, $35) 9781922147714

He Who Kills the Dragon, by Leif GW Persson (Doubleday, $37.99) 9780857520739

Broken Dolls, by James Carol (Faber and Faber, $24.99) 9780571302734

Bad Blood, by Arne Dahl (Harvill Secker, $36.99) 9781846556777

The Trip To Echo Spring: Why Writers Drink, by Olivia Laing (Canongate, $39.99) 9781847677945

Jim Henson: The Biography, by Brian Jay Jones (Virgin, $39.99) 9780753555149

Pat-A-Cake: Nursery Rhymes, by Annie Kubler (Child’s Play’s, $13) 9781904550822

The Noisy Book, by Soledad Bravi (Gecko, $25) 9781877467523

Lets go Baby-O, by Janet and Andrew McLean (Allen & Unwin, $15.50) 9781743317655

Baby Beats, by Karen Blair (Walker, $27.99) 9781922179074

Pantone Colours (Abrams Appleseed, $19.50) 9781419703294

Animal ABC (Allen & Unwin, $18.99) 9781743317693

Animal 123 (Allen & Unwin, $18.99) 9781743317686

Hey Baby!, by Corinne Fenton (Black Dog, $18.99) 9781922179180

Dark Sparring, by Selina Tusitala Marsh (AUP, $27.99) 9781869407865

Life & Customs, by Bernadette Hall (VUP, $25) 9780864739001

Rising to the Surface, by Latika Vasil (Steele Roberts, $29.99) 9781927242124

After, by Elizabeth Cunnane (Steele Roberts, $24.99) 9781927242094

Your Weekend, Saturday 18 January

Holiday crime wrap:

After Her, by Joyce Maynard (Morrow) 9780062291844

Cross My Heart, by James Patterson (Century) 9781780890142

Dust, by Patricia Cornwell (Hachette) 9781847445339

Eyes of Madness, by David Cole (Pampas Books) 9780473247737

He Who Kills the Dragon, by Leif GW Persson (Doubleday, $37.99) 9780857520739

The Gods of Guilt, by Michael Connelly (Allen & Unwin) 9781743317532

Saturday,18 January

Reform: A Memoir, Geoffrey Palmer (VUP) 9780864739056

Above the City: A History of Otago Boys’ High School 1863-2013 (OBHS Foundation) 9780473247720

The Men Who United the States, Simon Winchester (HarperCollins) 9780007532391

Birthright, T.K. Roxborogh (Penguin) 9780143567783

Sense and Sensibility, Joanna Trollope (HarperCollins) 9780007527342

Crime bites:

The Gingerbread House, Carin Gerhardsen (Penguin) 9781405917179

Sins of the Flesh, Colleen McCullough (HarperCollins) 9780732298036

The Gods of Guilt, by Michael Connelly (Allen & Unwin) 9781743317532

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