It’s more clicking on emails from a swivel chair than red pens and comfy armchairs, writes publishing assistant Lauren Donald.
All week on The Spinoff we are delving into our relationship with the world of work in Aotearoa. For more Work Week stories, click here.
This week I open my laptop from the dining room of my parents’ farm in Geraldine. There are cattle down in the front paddock and birds feasting on the pears in the garden. Dad’s making coffee in the kitchen, muttering about the likelihood of rain. It’s a respite from the hustling commute into the Auckland CBD, the smell of armpits and stress, the inevitable downpour on a muggy day.
I usually take the bus to the top of Symonds Street and walk through the university campus to a nondescript corner of the law building. Few people know that this is where Auckland University Press has its office. New couriers struggle to find us, yet new students continue ringing the doorbell for LAW141 despite the many signs politely asking them to look elsewhere. If it’s a Tuesday, we have rare full attendance in the office. We plunge and pour five cups of black coffee to start the day.
Once in my office, I open up the devil’s den of Twitter, Facebook and Instagram to make sure the world is still ending. I check the AUP inbox and clear the usual morning offerings: print solutions in Russia, a hundred ways to increase website traffic, queries about out-of-print books, promises of ChatGPT running me out of the job, manuscripts from aspiring poets, marriage proposals from affluent strangers… I delete most of them.
My job is less red pens and big comfy armchairs and more about clicking emails from a swivel chair. I scan through and see what the day actually holds. There’s a query from finance about our web orders. An academic journal looking for a review copy. A new deadline for our 2023 book data. A query about low stock in the warehouse. A recent poetry review. An editor’s query about image captions. A reminder to pay an invoice. We’ve been starting to hear murmurs about a certain week in May, with its particular set of festivities. With lips sealed, I send off books to festivals, share author bios and photos, and stare at longlists to try and predict shortlists.
I continue an email chain with Claudia Jardine as we plot out her Biter book launches for April. A double launch in Wellington with AUP New Poets 9 is a certainty, and an event at Scorpio Books in Christchurch too, but what about the poetry in Dunedin? What about Timaru? I play around in Photoshop to make the draft promo material – final details TBC.
We have a 10.30 production meeting that starts with a quick go-around: how we’re all getting on, who’s in and out of the office this week, what’s coming up in the calendar. Our production manager leads us through every book, from those about to be published to those entering production. We can also see what the future holds; we have books scheduled for release until the end of time. We laugh nervously but zero in on what’s happening now. Which edits are out? Will the authors like this cover? Has anyone accounted for Easter? Will we need to row a boat out into the Hauraki Gulf to find late books?
I go back to my desk and open up the latest Word file of a new index. The final few pages of a book are often skipped over by the reader, but looking at an index in isolation can tell its own story. In this instance, it’s filled with names of New Zealand artists and writers, as well as galleries, art schools, West Coast beaches. I check over for formatting and spot check the page numbers before sending it to author Gregory O’Brien. Later in the day he sends me back some corrections and a photo of the painting he’s working on in his Wellington studio.
In the mid-afternoon the AUP team joins a Zoom call with our kaiako. E whakatau ana mātou ki runga i te kaupapa o te rā, te akoranga o te reo Māori. Kia kī noa ake au he kaiako pai tō mātou. He ringa mākohakoha, he tino aroha ki te reo me te whakaako. We’ve been studying te reo Māori for a couple of years now, and our kōrero always continues on beyond our karakia mutunga.
Eventually we drift back into te ao pukapuka, and I turn to check the final corrections on a new bilingual pukapuka – Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet / Rōmeo rāua ko Hurieta nā Te Haumihiata Mason i whakamāori. I email with the Kotahi Rau Pukapuka team to amend outstanding macron and grammar issues, and also check in about publicity and marketing details for the pukapuka hou from Tā Pou Temara.
All this goes to say that as a team we’re juggling a dozen books at any one time, at all stages of the publishing process. Every month is publication month, and every author has readers that don’t yet know their book exists. Every day is a step towards making that happen.
I close all the open PDFs and sign out of my computer, lock the door to the office and make my way back up the hill, back through the university campus. Another ride on a sweatier, more agitated bus. Or, as is the case this week, I just shut my laptop and go see what my mum’s digging up in the garden.
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