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Sunday, December 9, 2012

Why don't Kiwis buy Kiwi crime fiction?

Fixated on Hobbits, instead?

New Zealanders, I hastily point out, are great readers.  I have been told that the average Kiwi reads almost as many books per year as those winter-bound bibliophiles, the Icelanders. 

Yet local writer, publishing consultant, and general guru Geoff Walter points out, in an interesting article on the back cover of the current New Zealand Author, that "actual sales of NZ crime fiction haven't been meeting expectations."

There is even evidence that a couple of the big local publishers are pulling out of the genre.  Yet local crime writers Paul Cleave, Vanda Symon, Paddy Richardson and Alix Bosco (Greg McGee) are doing well overseas, Germany in particular.

Says Harriet Allan, who publishes fiction at Random House New Zealand, "local readers will buy overseas crime but very few will buy local titles."

So what is going wrong?

Harriet Allen theorizes that it is part of the "tall poppy" syndrome -- a perception that something local can't be good.

Geoff Walker's suggestion is that because crime fiction is essentially escapist, having a mundane local setting doesn't work as well as somewhere exotic like North Carolina, London, or New York.

Do I have a theory?  Of course I do. A LOT of Kiwis have read the Wiki Coffin series.  I know that, because they keep on nagging me to write another, or complain because it is so hard to get hold of an Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine down here. But that doesn't mean that they have handed out hard-earned cash for the books.

No, indeed.  They have borrowed them from the library.  New Zealanders are not just great readers.  They are are great patrons of their local libraries, too.

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