TUMBY BAY - Pukpuk Publications came into being in 2013 when I was looking for a cheaper alternative to the Port Moresby-based publisher we'd used for the 2011 and 2012 editions of what had become the annual Crocodile Prize Anthology.
Birdwing Books had done a good job on the first two anthologies but their prices were too high for our very limited budget.
Birdwing used a traditional publishing model where they designed the books in Papua New Guinea but sent them to China for printing.
This resulted in both high costs and time delays that didn’t fit our tight scheduling, there being only a couple of months between the close of the Crocodile Prize contest and the launch of the anthology as close to Independence Day as we could manage.
In fact the 2012 anthology made it to the awards ceremony at the Australian High Commission halfway through .
After several false starts we finally fixed on Amazon’s CreateSpace print-on-demand and e-book service.
CreateSpace gave us enough control over process and was cost effective.
This was until Amazon dropped its orientation to supporting the little guys and became the ruthless leviathan it is now.
But there being no one else to match their service, we had to swallow our misgivings and stick with the Bezos Behemoth.
From that initial foray into publishing, Pukpuk rapidly expanded its reach and began producing books by Papua New Guinean writers and then books by Australian writers who had lived and worked in PNG.
As a not-for-profit publisher we often found ourselves financing these publications with no discernible returns.
The anthologies were a case in point.
We would sieve through hundreds of Crocodile Prize entries to find those worthy of publication, provide editing and design services, drum up sponsorships and grants to fund cash prizes for the winners and pay for printing hundreds of books, and then arrange for the anthologies to be distributed by volunteers to schools, libraries and writers around the country.
Quite a task.
By 2015, the fourth year of the Crocodile Prize, the annual anthologies seemed well-established, manuscripts had started to roll in from more Papua New Guinean authors and we were pleased with what was being achieved.
But the Croc was running on a wing and a prayer. And it really needed to be transferred to the rich literary soil of PNG. With the production of the 2016 anthology, the prize was staggering.
It staggered until 2020, when it propagated a new, home grown literary movement.
Michael Dom and a small, enthusiastic team valiantly decided to keep the spirit of Papua New Guinean literature alive.
Link here to visit the Ples Singsing website and you’ll see that this spirit is still very much alive and kicking.
Meanwhile, with the help of a few others, I was able to continue Pukpuk Publications and do what I could to get PNG’s growing pool of emergent authors into print.
The original idea had been to churn back any profits from the books into getting authors published. This worked to some extent but mostly it was a case of digging into our own pockets.
My policy was to price the books at the absolute minimum possible.
As the owner of the Amazon account, I order books on behalf of the writers at the wholesale price so they can take care of the sales themselves and add whatever profit margin they choose to the retail cost.
No royalties came to me, it was a true labour of love. My compensation was the satisfaction of seeing writers – people of great talent who deserved to see their manuscripts turned into books - get published.
Along the way, we’ve assisted several writers to set up their own Amazon accounts and operate as publishers themselves. The late Francis Nii was a good example of this.
We also found ourselves editing many writers’ works at no cost. This has been crucial especially for those Papua New Guinean writers whose great talent was obscured by their struggles with literary English.
Over the years, several Australian volunteers were corralled to take on some of this editing.
From my point of view the Amazon service has been useful.
When stocks of my own books, which had been published by traditional publishers became exhausted, I was able to assert my copyright and republish them myself.
And as we print on demand, not in multi thousand runs, I don’t have to maintain cumbersome stocks.
Boutique publishing, which is essentially what Pukpuk evolved into, is hard work and with increasing age I have had to discontinue my publishing activities except for very special cases and my own personal work.
Nevertheless, there are some 66 books that bear the Pukpuk Publications imprint which are still in circulation and available for sale.
It’s interesting to see the monthly sales figures that Amazon provides.
Apart from my Inspector Metau books, a perennial favourite, the top sellers are Rashmii Bell’s My Walk to Equality, Graham Taylor’s A Kiap’s Story, Leonard Fong Roka’s Brokenville and Chips Mackellar’s Sivarai.
Many of these books are reviewed in PNG Attitude and anecdotal evidence suggests that readers go on to buy copies from Amazon.
It is also very interesting to see where the books are sold.
The top destination is the United States, followed closely by the United Kingdom.
Australian sales have never been great but are now picking up since Amazon established itself in this country.
Papua New Guinea sales are virtually non-existent but this has a lot to do with Amazon’s decision to cease shipping books there because so many consignments went missing. (Their literary contents subsequently being seen in markets around the country.)
Why Papua New Guinean readers do not order e-books is a mystery and a disappointment, because that would be a good, economical way to get books by Papua New Guinean writers into the circulation.
Elsewhere, the split between e-book and paperback sales is about 25% - 75%.
I find it gratifying that readers still prefer the look and feel of books made from paper.
People interested in Pukpuk titles can refer to the following list. Each of the books can be ordered from Amazon Australia as either paperbacks or e-books which, as noted earlier, are very cheap.
Pukpuk Books Available from Amazon Australia
The Crocodile Prize Anthology 2011
The Crocodile Prize Anthology 2012
The Crocodile Prize Anthology 2013
The Crocodile Prize Anthology 2014
The Crocodile Prize Anthology 2015
The Crocodile Prize Anthology 2016
Top Crocs: The First Five Years
Small Steps Along the Way (PNG memoir) by Paul Oates
Life on A Coral Atoll (Cocos Island memoir) by Paul Oates
Phascogales and Other Tales (Qld memoir) by Paul Oates
Around the World Before Covid (Travel memoir) by Paul Oates
The Pomong U’tau of Dreams (poetry) by Leonard Fong Roka
Moments in Bougainville (short stories) by Leonard Fong Roka
Brokenville (memoir) by Leonard Fong Roka
Bougainville Manifesto (long essay) by Leonard Fong Roka
A Contemporary Voice (poetry) by Jimmy Awagl
My Journey (poetry, short stories & essays) by Jimmy Awagl
My Struggle (poetry, short stories & essays) by Jimmy Awagl
Dee’s Long and Shorts (short stories) by Marlene Dee Gray Potoura
Emotionally Famished (short stories) by Marlene Dee Gray Potoura
My Brother Warrollu (juvenile literature) by Marlene Dee Gray Potoura
Paradise in Peril (novel) by Francis Nii
The Resonance of My Thoughts (essays) by Francis Nii
Walk My Song (poetry) by Francis Nii
Ku High School Anthology (student writing) by Francis Nii
Reading Comprehension Textbook by Francis Nii
Remember Me and Other Stories (essays) by Daniel Kumbon
Can’t Sleep (poetry & essays) by Daniel Kumbon
I Can See My Country Clearly Now (memoir) by Daniel Kumbon
Survivor (memoirs of Two Engan women) by Daniel Kumbon
Victory Song of Pingeta’s Daughter (history/biography) by Daniel Kumbon
Legend of the Miok Egg (biography) by Daniel Kumbon
The Old Man’s Dilemma (novel) by Daniel Kumbon
Dogger (novel) by Philip Fitzpatrick
Haven: Harry Flynn’s Final Odyssey (novel) by Philip Fitzpatrick
Inspector Metau: The Case of the Angry Councillor (novel) by Philip Fitzpatrick
Inspector Metau: The Case of the Missing Professor (novel) by Philip Fitzpatrick
Inspector Metau: The Case of the Good Politician (novel) by Philip Fitzpatrick
The Unusual and Unexpected Case of the Rise and Rise of Inspector Hari Metau as told by his good friend Sergeant Kasari Aru (novel) by Philip Fitzpatrick
Inspector Metau: The Case of the Great Pumpkin Heist (novel) by Philip Fitzpatrick
The Floating Island (novel) by Philip Fitzpatrick
White River Road (novel) by Philip Fitzpatrick
Black Huntress: Seven Spears (novel) by Philip Fitzpatrick
Just Another Stray (novel) by Philip Fitzpatrick
Bamahuta: Leaving Papua (memoir) by Philip Fitzpatrick
Fighting For a Voice: The Inside Story of PNG Attitude and the Crocodile Prize by Philip Fitzpatrick
Midnight Blue: Growing Up in Elizabeth in the 1950-60s (memoir) by Philip Fitzpatrick
Two Sides to Every Story: A Short Guide to Cross Cultural Awareness in Papua New Guinea by Philip Fitzpatrick
Man Bilong Buk: The Francis Nii Collection by Philip Fitzpatrick (with Keith Jackson)
Full Circle: A Personal History of the South Australian Aboriginal Heritage Branch 1974-1994 by Philip Fitzpatrick
Sivarai Short (stories/memoir) by Chips Mackellar
A Kiap’s Story (memoir) by Graham Taylor
My Walk to Equality (women’s essays & poetry) by Rashmii Bell
Sibona (novel) by Emmanuel Peni
Saidor Story (memoir) by Norma Griffin
ABCDreams (poetry) WD Barry Igivisa
Drugs & Their dangers in Papua New Guinea (textbook) by Philip Kai Morre
A Bush Poet’s Political Blossom (poetry) by Jimmy Drekore
In Search of Heritage in the Midst of Change (stories & essays) by Bomai Witne
Where the River Destroys (novel) by Samantha Kusari
The Master Marksman (novel) by James Smith
An Uncertain Future (novel) by James Thomas
Daddy Two Shoes (poetry) by Diddie Kinamun Jackson
Tingting Bilong Mi (student essays) by Michael Dom
Lost in His Land (novel) by Winterford Toreas
Beauty of Enga Culture (anthropology) by Tony Sulupin