Historians set a sales target

Sandra Metcalfe and Alan Hall address those attending last week’s Heritage Month presentation at Te Awamutu Library. Photo: Dee Atkinson

The Te Awamutu community is being asked to help preserve its history by supporting a pre-sales format to bring a unique publishing project to fruition.

Sandra Metcalfe and Alan Hall – both members of the Te Awamutu branch of the New Zealand Society of Genealogists – have for the past seven years been working on a book entitled ‘A Bricks & Mortar Legacy: Stories of Commercial Buildings in Te Awamutu 1890 – 1957”.

They have led genealogy group research into the 32 buildings selected for inclusion, with Hall writing up their findings.

Now at the curly end of the project, Hall is currently finishing off the final two of 32 chapters, and momentum is building to secure sufficient support to make a print run of 500 financially viable.

Part of that push was a Heritage Month talk they gave at Te Awamutu Library last week covering the book’s contents and offering a guide as to how locals can help bring it across the line, particularly as a sticky old ruling governing the use of museum photographs could prove burdensome.

“It is very easy to self-publish a book if you have the money, but with only 28 members, the Te Awamutu Genealogy Group doesn’t have that sort of financial resource,” Metcalfe said.  “Neither do we have the required marketing and sales channels.  Another challenge is the difficulty in getting funding grants when you don’t have a finished book to show potential backers.

“It is really thanks to the Te Awamutu Chamber of Commerce that we have been able to get this far.  Their support has provided us with the marketing expertise we need and the sales channel via their website.  Their time, and that of Alan and myself, has all been pro bono.”

Metcalfe said early discussions with the Chamber focused on budgets.  They wanted to avoid potential financial losses and ensure the finished product wasn’t advertising heavy – hence the decision to go down the pre-sales route.

“We decided on a print run of 500 copies to give us the option of overseas printing so as to keep the per-unit cost down,” Metcalfe said. “If we can pre-sell 250 of those copies, it gives the Chamber the confidence to underwrite the project so we can go to print.  By the start this week, we had pre-sold 120 books, so we’re nearly at the 50 percent target for the number we want to pre-sell by March 31.”

Needing covered are printing costs (the biggest segment), editing and graphic design, and the licence fee from the Te Awamutu Museum for the use of their photographs.

Sandra Metcalfe taking questions at the end of the presentation around the pre-sales option for purchasing the book. Photo: Viv Posselt

“That licence fee is a contentious issue,” Metcalfe added.  “The museum is caught in the middle here as that policy was set by [Waipā District] council many years ago, and they don’t have any discretion to make exceptions. At the moment, the best the mayor and staff can offer us is to apply to the Community Discretionary Fund.  We will certainly do that but the fact that there is only $8452 left in the fund for Te Awamutu/Kihikihi makes that suggestion laughable when the cost to use the Museum photos is estimated to be $2500 to $3000.”

She said it is worth noting that the book is one of ‘community good’, with no-one, not the genealogy group nor the Chamber of Commerce, standing to make money from it.

The idea for the book came from a 2016 talk by Heritage New Zealand’s Ben Pick about a similar project intended for Dargaville.   It has been a labour of love for both Metcalfe and Hall.  The latter said he was delighted the book contains comprehensive information about the design and construction of the buildings and how they went on to be used.

Some of the buildings are well over 100 years old, and the book is packed with memorable facts about the people who built them and those who went on to use them through the decades.

Te Awamutu Chamber Chief Executive Shane Walsh said: “The research has given us great insight into the commercial development of our town, and the contribution the businesses made to the local and national economy – it’s information that needs to be preserved and shared.”

Metcalfe and Hall also hosted a Heritage Month walk in Te Awamutu on Wednesday and may do another if there is sufficient interest.

Alan Hall outlines details around the book’s contents. Photo: Dee Atkinson

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