Recently I published my own book – Poems by a Parliamentary Messenger. It consists of nineteen poems reflecting on my experiences and observations working within Parliament and seven illustrations of MPs. So exciting! Unexpectedly, it even got publicised by Duncan Garner on TV3’s ‘The AM Show”. I was both terrified and proud.
Publishing was something about which I initially knew absolutely nothing about. I’ve learned heaps now.
I had written the poems and illustrated the sketches when I worked at Parliament as a Messenger many years ago. I kept them in folder which I put into a box in the garage. Late last year I found the poems and decided to publish them.
I sent duplicate copies of the folder to Victoria University Press and Auckland University Press to see if either would consider publishing them. Nope. However, I asked Victoria University Press if they could recommend a publisher as I had no idea who was a good one. They recommended a company which is based just north of Wellington and I contacted them. We discussed what I wanted, the publisher gave me a quote and with my agreement, the publishing process started.
The poems had to be typed a certain way with certain margin edges. This was beyond me. The publisher advised I get a secretarial service to do it. Fortunately, an administrator friend kindly did this nightmarish work. I then started liaising with the designer at the publishing company. She was great. We discussed a cover for the book, and she came up with one I loved. I needed to include a ‘blurb’ for the back of the book. I found that hard but did it. I then had to check for errors in the text. It took six texts going back and forth between the designer and me to finally be the way I wanted. I also had to scan the illustrations and send these to the designer.
The publishers were very good. We liaised by email and phone. I don’t live in Wellington where they’re based, so I never even met them face to face. They explained everything that had to be done, step-by-step.
Something that I had to do also was get an ISBN number. This is a book safety number and is printed on the back of the cover along with the barcode. The publishing company were very good at explaining all this to me and how to get the number.
When everything was finalised in terms of the cover, ISBN number, text and illustrations, I was sent a proof copy. It was so exciting to hold that in my hands. All was agreed and I paid the required amount for publishing and delivery into the publishing company’s account.
The Lockdown happened so printing couldn’t take place until Level 2. It took about two weeks for printing to be completed and then, joy of joys, eighty printed books in a box were delivered to my house.
It was an exciting moment to open the box. My family were all very supportive and encouraging.
Part of publishing is that a book (or two depending on how many are printed) is sent to the National Library along with a Publication for Legal Deposit form. The publishing company had explained this to me, and I found the National Library were very helpful with any questions. I completed this part of the process.
Next, I contacted a couple of good book shops to see if they were interested in selling my book, and with great joy, one quality bookshop accepted some to sell. I never intended to make money though. Publishing was more about a sense of achievement and leaving a legacy. I’ve given half of the books away – to family, friends, colleagues and some MPs and other fellow Parliamentary workers. I popped a few of them into storage area of my garage for my grandchildren for the future. I sold a few myself through contacts who wanted them, and my son put them for sale on Trademe.
Publishing has been a wonderful experience. I learned heaps, enjoyed the project, have left something for my descendants and feel incredibly proud. I’m happy I did it.