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Exports of New Zealand published books (October 2003)

In 2002 the government provided an additional $1 million annually to support New Zealand authors and literature. Part of this funding is for on-going audience development and marketing off-shore. To develop a strategy for this, better information on New Zealand book publishing activity was needed than was currently available.

In 2003 the Ministry commissioned Dialogue Consultants Ltd to undertake research comprising a survey of the full population of publishers and sample questionnaires and interviews. The report, Exports of New Zealand Published Books, was completed in October 2003. Its authors are Murray Ellis, Dr Tom Ludvigson and Dr Peter Phillips.

Read the full report as a pdf  (3.7mb)

Key findings included:

  • annual turnover for the New Zealand book publishing industry was assessed at over $204 million in 2002;
  • forex revenue from book publishing is around $117 million, comprising $19 million from exports through New Zealand ports, $93 million from New Zealand published books printed overseas, and $4 million from the sale of rights and royalty income;
  • 645 publishers were identified by the researcher - nearly two-thirds are sole operators;
  • a few specialized publishing companies account for the great bulk of publishing turnover in New Zealand, while there are many small boutique publishers with an annual turnover of less than $100,000;
  • 18 wholly overseas-owned publishers were in the survey - they published an average of 64 titles each in 2002 and each exported an average of 35 titles;
  • 3,600 titles were published in New Zealand in 2002, of which 2000 were exported;
  • educational books, mostly bound for Australia and USA and particularly early childhood literacy resources, made up 66% of export titles from New Zealand publishing companies;
  • literature genres made up 20% of the titles published and 16% of the titles exported;
  • $7 million is earned through exporting New Zealand literature mainly to Europe, Australia, Britain and Canada;
  • sales of New Zealand literature titles within New Zealand are at around $15 million, which represents 18% of the domestic market for all New Zealand published books;
  • the publishing of New Zealand literature is considered risky and will generally only be undertaken if support is available – either through a government grant, or from an academic institution or through cross-subsidy from a commercial best seller;
  • many publishers specializing in literature are small operators whose attempts to export result in a net loss;
  • the majority of small publishing operations have little expertise in international marketing and have ineffective mechanisms for collecting revenue from overseas;
  • New Zealand's largest exporters of books have achieved success through understanding their specific target markets and forging strong connections with relevant networks.

Updated on 23rd July 2015