09 November 2010

Jack on the Giller Script

The National Post carried a thoughtful article on the Scotiabank Giller Prize today written by Jack Illingworth, the Executive Director of the Literary Press Group of Canada. In the article Jack makes an excellent explanation of the clash of cultures that takes place when literary presses find themselves nominated for prizes like the Giller, which are usually dominated by the giant multinational book factories in Toronto.

Says Illingworth: “This may seem like willful eccentricity on the part of Andrew Steeves and Gary Dunfield, Gaspereau’s co-publishers. It’s actually something much more interesting: a commitment to a thoughtful, rigorous, refined mode of publishing. While publishing is usually discussed as a business, or an industry, all of the finest small press publishers practice it as an art form. The books that they choose to publish aren’t chosen to fill out a season with a handful of products that stand a reasonable chance of selling. Their lists are cultural projects, embodying a few individuals’ ideas of what literature can be.”

ANDREW STEEVES ¶ PRINTERS & PUBLISHERS

38 comments:

Anonymous said...

Where's the "like" button? I like.

Jennifer Zimmer said...

Gaspereau Press: Very happy to hear about the Giller prize - As a Nova Scotian I have always been very proud of your artistic and literary excellence! Carry on the good work, prize or no prize...

Oren said...

I feel horrible for Johanna that she got stuck with you as printers! Instead of relishing in the afterglow of Giller success which she rightly deserves she will be relegated to an afterthought because you obviously do not have the capabilities, the inclination or worse yet the mental fortitude to ensure that you take advantage of the honour bestowed her.

I really hope for Johanna's sake that she moves on and finds herself a publisher that can help her career flourish.

Muriel Zimmer said...

Dear Gaspereau Press,

So happy for your success at the Giller prize! Without your press and its focus on creating works of art that happen to be brand new books, most likely no one would be aware of this book or its author. Bravo! Please let me know when I can buy a copy of this book from you.

Best wishes,
Muriel Zimmer

Whisky Prajer said...

Congratulations to Ms. Skibsrud and to Gaspereau. I daresay the Gaspereau philosophy in action will have a salutary effect on the sales of Ms. Skibsrud's novel, as well as her larger career for years to come.

whisper said...

Boy, that Oren who commented should go stick his/her head in a platen press. This is a wonderful story that turns contemporary concepts such as 'success' and 'art' on their heads. Good on you for doing what you do and Johanna for having the sublime taste to use a real printer... as if there was any choice!

Green Willow Studio said...

Congratulations on such a wonderful acheivement!
My father was a linotype operator and bemoaned the lack of artistry in printing when all those presses were sent to the scrap heap.
As a fairly new Nova Scotian, I applaud your attention to detail and to your artistry.
Flora Doehler
Bear River

Jeet Heer said...

It seems to me that three stake-holders here: 1) Gaspereau, which wants to publish high quality books 2) Skibsrud, who obviously values the high quality books that Gaspereau makes but also wants to as wide a readership as possible and of course the money that comes from that readership and 3) the readers who are now interested in the book and want to read it or give it as a gift.

However much I admire Gaspereau’s commitment to craft values, I don’t see how it’s possible to support their stance without working against the interests of Skibsrud and her readers. It’s not enough to say that people can get her novel as an e-book. This is precisely the type of book people will want to have on their shelves or to give as a gift. The value of the book comes not just from the paper and type and craft care that went into the making of it but also the craft care that Shibsrud put into the writing of it. To prize the book as an object so much that you’re willing to keep it out of the hands of readers means you are devaluing the book as literature.

It seems to me that the happy medium here would be for Gaspereau to outsource the printing of a mass market edition to another publisher, but also continue making the higher quality book for readers who want it. There are lots of books that are available in different editions at the same time aimed at different readers. Doing a two-track printing would make it possible to get the books to 1) readers who are eager for it now as well as 2) readers who want the book printed as Gaspereau originally made it.
Jeet Heer

JenniferMorgan said...

I don't see why Gaspereau isn't outsourcing this book. Your catalogue says that it's a trade edition, offset book. The only negotiating point left is the paper quality--something that I would think could be arranged without any substantial loss of quality. (I write as a printmaker, fan of Gaspereau's work, and of letterpress books.)

Thomas Murphy VI said...

I am fascinated to see what the e-book
interest will be. It's somewhat ironic
to me that most exposure to The Sentimentalists may be via digital data rather than via the sensual experience of holding the book.
Or will the Press make the electronic version limited edition as well, only allowing so many downloads a week?
I'm getting the paper-and-glue book, myself.

Anonymous said...

Oren:

Such a shame that you have to be an extremely bad sport! One may think that you represent one of the UNSECESSFUL printers in Toronto. Your negativity on a celebratory segment of the Gaspereau's blog disgusts me. I truly believe that Johanna knew what she was doing by working with an organisation as great as Gaspereau Press. I know that they will support her every step of the way. Some of you on here are so bitter, jaded and twisted. Go about your business I say and to the winners go the spoils.

TO GASPEREAU PRESS:- CONGRATS! Please continue to make books with honour, care, dedication and beauty! Reading a book is not just about digesting words on a page. The story sings when the page smacks of tangibility!

Sally Chow said...

I have not bought a new book in ages, preferring either to borrow it from the local library, or to buy a used copy. Thank you for maintaining the call to craftsmanship in an age where cheap often rules the day. Your "commitment to a thoughtful, rigorous, refined mode of publishing" has given me a compelling reason to order two copies of The Sentimentalists, which I have placed directly with you via email. I look forward to holding and reading one of your beautiful books shortly.

Anonymous said...

Congrats to all at Gaspereau Press on a job well done! Thanks as well for initiating a thoughtful discussion on how we value and disseminate art.

All the best,

Ken Schwartz

dickmcgill said...

I agree with Jeet Heer. You're doing the Author a huge disservice at this time. At the end of the day it's about Johanna Skibsrud not you guys. Get her book out there so an audience can appreciate what she's written not be held back by your personal code of conduct. Selfish

noodles said...

I bought the book for $9.89 on kobobooks. At that time, it was listed in the way that non-agency books are--with a standard price and then a discounted price. That meant that you could use coupons, etc.

It appears that Gaspereau Press decided to end that option as now it is listed for $14.95 with only that one price listed--the indication that the publisher is dictating the price, which cannot be discounted.

I hope the extra money is going to Johanna. Let Gaspereau earn their profit from their printing press.

pemoore said...

I too agree with Jeet. There are three stake holders here. The question is how can all three be satisfied. Gaspereau's committment to craft values is admirable. But does that committment trump Skibsrud's committment to her readers which is , in my opinion, to make copies of her book readily available to all those who wish to read it. Is Gaspereau's dedication to the making of high quality books more important than a reader's right to readily acquire a copy to place on his or her shelf or present as a gift?

Heer's suggestion - that the printing of a mass market edition be outsourced while Gaspereau continues to make the higher quality book for those who want it -makes sense - a win/win solution.

Anonymous said...

I think you're overestimating the future popularity of this book. I think a run of five to 10 copies of 'The Sentimentalists' a month should be plenty of supply to satisfy demand.

barnacle said...

It's too bad Gaspereau chose to pit its commitment to handcrafted book manufacturing against a young writer's chance for success because it is totally unnecessary. Wining the Giller is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for Johanna that no responsible publisher has the right to deprive her of by indulging in quaint publishing methods that other literary presses gave up long ago. It would have been a simple thing to make an exception for her sake (publishing is a partnership after all, in which the writer's interests should have at least equal weight with the publisher's)and to have jobbed out a 20,000 print run to some high-volume printer using Gaspereau design specs and imprint. This could have been done with little risk after the shortlist came out and it could shipped direct to Indigo where it would have been waiting when the publicity broke about the win. Cormorant did something like this when Ricci's first book won the GG. Instead, Gaspereau has made itself the target of criticism in a situation that should have been an umitigated triumph for all parties. Unfortunate.

Rose said...

seems like barnacle and Jeet Heer have offered a fair and thoughtful analysis of the situation - why put Skibsrud in the position of having to make a choice between sales & craft & her commitment to her writers?

there are lots of novels, new and old, out there which have multiple editions and I personally have purchased one over another because I've preferred the cover art, or the type of paper, or what have you.

printing a quick-quantity run and continuing with the quality/letterpress run makes everyone a winner - Gaspereau included.

as for "anonymous" who said 5-10 copies/month would do - get your google goggles back on and read a bit more, you're outta whack. Gaspie can't keep up right now with 1,000 copies a week, silly!

Anonymous said...

I just had to check this website after seeing a few online articles. News flash - this is a business - businesses in fact exist to make money. If it was your business you need it to make money to pay the bills - if you were a shareholder you expect it to make money. For people to say this publisher is screwing her by not dropping the contract - what?!

If you have a contract for a company (say as a business owner) to supply you with something - if they can get a better deal (because they won a prize) you all would be a-ok with them ripping up the contract and going to someone else for more money?

You people complaining are expecting a small business to trash a contract so the author can make more money - I sure hope not to do business with any of your like.

The author chose this relationship! So lets support the author for getting more because she won a prize, BUT, lets not support the other half of the contract for keeping the deal in house and also profiting from this?

I would recommend though Gaspereau - a nice news release about the extra shift you are running to double the output would go over well.

Maureen said...

I applaud your commitment to beauty and quality and view criticism of it as typically Canadian attacks on excellence. We so often succumb to mediocrity and the ugly 'mean' instead of recognising the worth and value of craft.

jodi (bloomingwriter) said...

Congratulations to Gary, Andrew, Johanna, and the team at Gaspereau Press for their Giller win. I know you're on the horns of a very large dilemma, and I feel badly for all involved as you strive towards a solution that will make everyone happy.

But on the other hand, I'm delighted beyond words that you are filling orders with your loyal customers--the independent bookstores of this country--first, and leaving the high and mighty Indigo, etc to cool their heels a bit. They're part of what is wrong with publishing today, not just in Canada but beyond.

Stay the course, guys. If anyone can resolve this in a winning way for all, it's you guys.

dickmcgill said...

Jodi and Maureen you couldn't be more naive. It's about the author not this press and their lack of commitment to their partner, Johanna Skibsrud, is selfish. If Johanna had come out and said I endorse wholeheartedly what Gaspereau is doing I wouldn’t be writing here. But the fact is they’re hurting her career and no matter how you look at it it’s selfish.

Anonymous said...

Please, please, will someone contact the author, and have her speak for herself. The author is the creator of the work, and the person who received the award. Yes, the publisher is instrumental in the production of the printed word, but the words are hers.

WesternThoughts said...

Quickly, print a trade edition.
The author deserves to sell her book.
Keep making your lovely editions.
Tell the Toronto media and Chapters Inc. to flag off - they don't care about books, beauty or literature.

Maureen said...

No, I'm not naive at all; thanks for the ad hominem, dickmcgill.

The author signed with the publisher and accepted their terms when other publishers wouldn't give her the time of day. There wouldn't be a book or an award if they hadn't accepted the manuscript. They aren't refusing to make her book available; they are maintaining the standard they have previously set.

There are other values besides those of the marketplace. If the book is as good as the Giller says it is--and I'm not saying it isn't--it will draw readers no matter how long they have to wait.
And the author will still no doubt be invited to give Harbourfront readings and interviews and the big box bookstores will eventually get their share of the pie too.

jt said...

Literature is not a fad, and integrity is not elitism. In the age of I-want-it-now, the Me Generation could stand to learn patience. Fuck 'em if they can't, and good on you all for holding your ground. Let them eat McDonalds, these fast food faddists.

Anonymous said...

Yup, integrity for sure. Stick to our process, starve the artist of deserved sales, but at least those books will be, as the publishers said, "nice."

AW1635 said...

First of all, there are some serious pictures missing from the Nova Scotian kitchen party: where're the musicians?

I agree with posts re horns of dilemma: maintaining artistic integrity, supporting authors' needs, etc. If this publisher is seen as ignoring author's needs, who will submit manuscripts? On the other hand, if this publisher has built their reputation on hand crafted books, what happens to it when people buy Random House paper covers? Was Gaspereau Johanna's first submission, or were they the ones to take the risk when others refused?

It appears Gaspereau was not in the least ready for a win, unprepared for the controversy. Hopefully they ramped up production the moment the book was nominated. Maybe PR should have been ready, but negative press jumped in first, and the selfish, scrambling tag is the one that sticks.

People DO wait for products: for the next iPhone, iPad, computer game (Grand Theft auto when I had kids at home), movie (Lord of the Rings trilogy), and they aren't issued until the maker feels the quality is sufficient.

Was there a book at the Giller ceremony? Were press releases ready to go with photos of its production, of rural area and some apple trees, of the book, some press on the artistic super-blend of the writing and the physical book?

If Canadians travelled to New England, or Hungary, or Thailand, and found this quaint press they'd be enchanted.

There was a real hook here for Gaspereau that they seemed not to realize. Maybe it wouldn't have made a difference in the decision they'll have to make re a combo of hand crafted and mass produced books, or maybe they would have been laughed at for being hokey, but they sure would have come out looking much more positive and prepared and thoughtful, which would boost them in the long run.

Beth Craig said...

Comment copied from: the cartywheel blog in response to other comments about the conflict between art and commerce incl. criticism of a rush to only buy books suggested by Oprah…
Oprah could very well recommend Johanna’s book. What then? Her picks are pretty amazing. Have you ever read Ken Follett’s Pillars of the Earth? It’s one of my all-time favorites that I might not have bought had it not been so easily accessible at Wal-Mart – not my favorite or even most frequent place to shop. It happened to be an impulse purchase, reinforced by the Oprah Pick sticker. And I loved the paper choice the publisher made for the book – nice cream shade, light to hold given the number of pages. I’m betting based on the review of The Sentimentalist that I just read in the National Post, that Johanna herself would love Follett’s book. His latest one will certainly be on my Christmas list.
What a shame that we’re all talking about the supposed conflict between art and commerce and not the content of the book itself. It sounds very interesting. Once Gaspereau has resolved the supply issue, I’ll be looking for a copy myself. For now, here’s my two cents worth on the subject. Actually, I’ll see your nickels worth and raise it by ten cents worth as a marketing professional and in my experience as a former employee Scholastic (larger publisher based in Toronto providing easy access to children’s books by promoting and selling them through school book clubs – you may have read one or two of their books as a child) as well as being a current employee of Webcom Inc (a book printer based in Toronto). Webcom is not a particularly large company but we do provide services to a large community of small, medium and large publishers based in provinces all across the country as well as the U.S. and even the U.K. for those who distribute titles in Canada.
Does this background make me a big bad national out to poison the world with commercialism? Commerce is a good thing that can complement art (of good literature) by making it more accessible to large numbers of people and communities. In particular, commerce is good for books and the tens of thousands across the country who love to read good literature like Johanna Skibsrud. She’s fresh and new to the publishing scene, a Giller prize-winner. Who wouldn’t love that?
The urgency of supply is real. It’s grounded in known facts of historic rates of sale. The average number of Giller books sold in the first three months is 39,000 according to BookNet Canada data. Sales for each one of the past three winners increased by at least ten times what they had sold in the six months leading up to the awards ceremony. Linden MacIntyre’s 2009 Giller book far exceed a ten-fold growth that may have been associated with his high profile as co-host of CBC’s The Fifth Estate or it may be due to the marketing efforts of his publisher. Johanna may only be starting with a base of 400 books that a ten-fold increase could easily be accommodated by four weeks of handcrafted books. I’d bet more than ten cents though that she achieves more and could even rival Linden given the novelty of her age and newness to the scene. Popular opinion says she deserves it. The CanLit community alone will fuel high sales.
Urgent sales or “fast books” are not even remotely similar to “fast food” as was described in The Toronto Star article “Don’t be pressing this publisher” yesterday about Gaspereau’s position. “Something of worth” as you describe in your blog is not defined by how easy or quickly it is distributed to the market place. That would suggest the Harry Potter books were the “chicken nuggets” of publishing with the pipelines of the big retail stores well-filled to accommodate a midnight madness event. The book is hardly worthless or diminished in its wonder due to its commercial success, it is just more accessible. How many young writers have been inspired by the Harry Potter books they bought through big retail stores, or children inspired to reading by exposure to the literary works of JK Rowling.

Beth Craig said...

Comment copied from: the cartywheel blog in response to other comments about the conflict between art and commerce incl. criticism of a rush to only buy books suggested by Oprah…
Oprah could very well recommend Johanna’s book. What then? Her picks are pretty amazing. Have you ever read Ken Follett’s Pillars of the Earth? It’s one of my all-time favorites that I might not have bought had it not been so easily accessible at Wal-Mart – not my favorite or even most frequent place to shop. It happened to be an impulse purchase, reinforced by the Oprah Pick sticker. And I loved the paper choice the publisher made for the book – nice cream shade, light to hold given the number of pages. I’m betting based on the review of The Sentimentalist that I just read in the National Post, that Johanna herself would love Follett’s book. His latest one will certainly be on my Christmas list.
What a shame that we’re all talking about the supposed conflict between art and commerce and not the content of the book itself. It sounds very interesting. Once Gaspereau has resolved the supply issue, I’ll be looking for a copy myself. For now, here’s my two cents worth on the subject. Actually, I’ll see your nickels worth and raise it by ten cents worth as a marketing professional and in my experience as a former employee Scholastic (larger publisher based in Toronto providing easy access to children’s books by promoting and selling them through school book clubs – you may have read one or two of their books as a child) as well as being a current employee of Webcom Inc (a book printer based in Toronto). Webcom is not a particularly large company but we do provide services to a large community of small, medium and large publishers based in provinces all across the country as well as the U.S. and even the U.K. for those who distribute titles in Canada.
Does this background make me a big bad national out to poison the world with commercialism? Commerce is a good thing that can complement art (of good literature) by making it more accessible to large numbers of people and communities. In particular, commerce is good for books and the tens of thousands across the country who love to read good literature like Johanna Skibsrud. She’s fresh and new to the publishing scene, a Giller prize-winner. Who wouldn’t love that?
The urgency of supply is real. It’s grounded in known facts of historic rates of sale. The average number of Giller books sold in the first three months is 39,000 according to BookNet Canada data. Sales for each one of the past three winners increased by at least ten times what they had sold in the six months leading up to the awards ceremony. Linden MacIntyre’s 2009 Giller book far exceed a ten-fold growth that may have been associated with his high profile as co-host of CBC’s The Fifth Estate or it may be due to the marketing efforts of his publisher. Johanna may only be starting with a base of 400 books that a ten-fold increase could easily be accommodated by four weeks of handcrafted books. I’d bet more than ten cents though that she achieves more and could even rival Linden given the novelty of her age and newness to the scene. Popular opinion says she deserves it. The CanLit community alone will fuel high sales.
Urgent sales or “fast books” are not even remotely similar to “fast food” as was described in The Toronto Star article “Don’t be pressing this publisher” yesterday about Gaspereau’s position. “Something of worth” as you describe in your blog is not defined by how easy or quickly it is distributed to the market place. That would suggest the Harry Potter books were the “chicken nuggets” of publishing with the pipelines of the big retail stores well-filled to accommodate a midnight madness event. The book is hardly worthless or diminished in its wonder due to its commercial success, it is just more accessible. How many young writers have been inspired by the Harry Potter books they bought through big retail stores, or children inspired to reading by exposure to the literary works of JK Rowling.

Beth Craig said...

Comment copied from: the cartywheel blog in response to other comments about the conflict between art and commerce incl. criticism of a rush to only buy books suggested by Oprah…
Oprah could very well recommend Johanna’s book. What then? Her picks are pretty amazing. Have you ever read Ken Follett’s Pillars of the Earth? It’s one of my all-time favorites that I might not have bought had it not been so easily accessible at Wal-Mart – not my favorite or even most frequent place to shop. It happened to be an impulse purchase, reinforced by the Oprah Pick sticker. And I loved the paper choice the publisher made for the book – nice cream shade, light to hold given the number of pages. I’m betting based on the review of The Sentimentalist that I just read in the National Post, that Johanna herself would love Follett’s book. His latest one will certainly be on my Christmas list.
What a shame that we’re all talking about the supposed conflict between art and commerce and not the content of the book itself. It sounds very interesting. Once Gaspereau has resolved the supply issue, I’ll be looking for a copy myself. For now, here’s my two cents worth on the subject. Actually, I’ll see your nickels worth and raise it by ten cents worth as a marketing professional and in my experience as a former employee Scholastic (larger publisher based in Toronto providing easy access to children’s books by promoting and selling them through school book clubs – you may have read one or two of their books as a child) as well as being a current employee of Webcom Inc (a book printer based in Toronto). Webcom is not a particularly large company but we do provide services to a large community of small, medium and large publishers based in provinces all across the country as well as the U.S. and even the U.K. for those who distribute titles in Canada.
Does this background make me a big bad national out to poison the world with commercialism? Commerce is a good thing that can complement art (of good literature) by making it more accessible to large numbers of people and communities. In particular, commerce is good for books and the tens of thousands across the country who love to read good literature like Johanna Skibsrud. She’s fresh and new to the publishing scene, a Giller prize-winner. Who wouldn’t love that?
The urgency of supply is real. It’s grounded in known facts of historic rates of sale. The average number of Giller books sold in the first three months is 39,000 according to BookNet Canada data. Sales for each one of the past three winners increased by at least ten times what they had sold in the six months leading up to the awards ceremony. Linden MacIntyre’s 2009 Giller book far exceed a ten-fold growth that may have been associated with his high profile as co-host of CBC’s The Fifth Estate or it may be due to the marketing efforts of his publisher. Johanna may only be starting with a base of 400 books that a ten-fold increase could easily be accommodated by four weeks of handcrafted books. I’d bet more than ten cents though that she achieves more and could even rival Linden given the novelty of her age and newness to the scene. Popular opinion says she deserves it. The CanLit community alone will fuel high sales.
Urgent sales or “fast books” are not even remotely similar to “fast food” as was described in The Toronto Star article “Don’t be pressing this publisher” yesterday about Gaspereau’s position. “Something of worth” as you describe in your blog is not defined by how easy or quickly it is distributed to the market place. That would suggest the Harry Potter books were the “chicken nuggets” of publishing with the pipelines of the big retail stores well-filled to accommodate a midnight madness event. The book is hardly worthless or diminished in its wonder due to its commercial success, it is just more accessible. How many young writers have been inspired by the Harry Potter books they bought through big retail stores, or children inspired to reading by exposure to the literary works of JK Rowling.

Beth Craig said...

Comment copied from: the cartywheel blog in response to other comments about the conflict between art and commerce incl. criticism of a rush to only buy books suggested by Oprah…
Oprah could very well recommend Johanna’s book. What then? Her picks are pretty amazing. Have you ever read Ken Follett’s Pillars of the Earth? It’s one of my all-time favorites that I might not have bought had it not been so easily accessible at Wal-Mart – not my favorite or even most frequent place to shop. It happened to be an impulse purchase, reinforced by the Oprah Pick sticker. And I loved the paper choice the publisher made for the book – nice cream shade, light to hold given the number of pages. I’m betting based on the review of The Sentimentalist that I just read in the National Post, that Johanna herself would love Follett’s book. His latest one will certainly be on my Christmas list.
What a shame that we’re all talking about the supposed conflict between art and commerce and not the content of the book itself. It sounds very interesting. Once Gaspereau has resolved the supply issue, I’ll be looking for a copy myself. For now, here’s my two cents worth on the subject. Actually, I’ll see your nickels worth and raise it by ten cents worth as a marketing professional and in my experience as a former employee Scholastic (larger publisher based in Toronto providing easy access to children’s books by promoting and selling them through school book clubs – you may have read one or two of their books as a child) as well as being a current employee of Webcom Inc (a book printer based in Toronto). Webcom is not a particularly large company but we do provide services to a large community of small, medium and large publishers based in provinces all across the country as well as the U.S. and even the U.K. for those who distribute titles in Canada.
Does this background make me a big bad national out to poison the world with commercialism? Commerce is a good thing that can complement art (of good literature) by making it more accessible to large numbers of people and communities. In particular, commerce is good for books and the tens of thousands across the country who love to read good literature like Johanna Skibsrud. She’s fresh and new to the publishing scene, a Giller prize-winner. Who wouldn’t love that?
The urgency of supply is real. It’s grounded in known facts of historic rates of sale. The average number of Giller books sold in the first three months is 39,000 according to BookNet Canada data. Sales for each one of the past three winners increased by at least ten times what they had sold in the six months leading up to the awards ceremony. Linden MacIntyre’s 2009 Giller book far exceed a ten-fold growth that may have been associated with his high profile as co-host of CBC’s The Fifth Estate or it may be due to the marketing efforts of his publisher. Johanna may only be starting with a base of 400 books that a ten-fold increase could easily be accommodated by four weeks of handcrafted books. I’d bet more than ten cents though that she achieves more and could even rival Linden given the novelty of her age and newness to the scene. Popular opinion says she deserves it. The CanLit community alone will fuel high sales.
Urgent sales or “fast books” are not even remotely similar to “fast food” as was described in The Toronto Star article “Don’t be pressing this publisher” yesterday about Gaspereau’s position. “Something of worth” as you describe in your blog is not defined by how easy or quickly it is distributed to the market place. That would suggest the Harry Potter books were the “chicken nuggets” of publishing with the pipelines of the big retail stores well-filled to accommodate a midnight madness event. The book is hardly worthless or diminished in its wonder due to its commercial success, it is just more accessible. How many young writers have been inspired by the Harry Potter books they bought through big retail stores, or children inspired to reading by exposure to the literary works of JK Rowling.

Beth Craig said...

Sorry about that quadruple comment, we were having some technical difficulties and couldn't tell when they were posted.

Beth Craig said...

Final CC cont’d: My comments are not an official statement from Webcom and should not be construed in that way. Like you, I share a passion for the brand of the company that I’m affiliated with combined with a passion for as many people as possible to have easy access to good literature, esp. a Giller prize. I’ll finish with one comment about e-books. While e-books are a fast growing (still minority) segment, no one will be more pleased by the short print supply of The Sentimentalist than the retailer who has since reportedly increased the price and making a healthy profit on it as we speak. Good business decision for them.

Beth Craig said...

CC cont’d: It could be there are also some well-crafted, specially preserved editions of Harry Potter books in existence as a form of art but it’s a niche audience who buy them. The distinction is that the art of the book and the art of the literature are not mutually exclusive from healthy profits of commerce. The conflict in this public debate is not between art and commerce but in the brand that the publisher had defined for themselves. There is an inherent contradiction in promoting a Giller prize title as a publisher versus producing low volume handcrafted book product for the love of art as a printer.
Any company committed to their brand value should rightfully defend their brand as Gaspereau has done. The Giller award brings its own brand definition and audience demanding easy access to books. The publisher needs to make a business decision with the author and end-consumer in mind while respecting the Giller brand.If the decisions are too much of a compromise on their brand then the right decision might be to defer to a different publisher with a more compatible brand. It is more likely that Gaspereau will choose to keep the profit and use the money to grow their brand for e.g., by investing in another Vandercook press. The notion of a virtually bespoke book cottage industry thriving in Nova Scotia is a wonderful thing for the publishing community, and it can coexist with the commercial success of the Giller book. There are likely many Maritimer born and raised types like me who would love to get their hands on a first edition, handcrafted Giller prize winner from a Nova Scotia publisher. As a marketer, I contend that handcrafted story should only be the first chapter in the lifelong success of Johanna Skibsrud.
Okay, let’s talk about paper! One would hope anyone reading your blog will know enough about the paper of books to know that mass production does not equate to the “use of paper that’s barely a half step over newsprint”. It’s simply not true. Selection of paper varies widely depending on the intended audience and the lifecycle stage of a title e.g., 1) norms for hardcover editions, 2) to bulk-up the size of a low page count, 3) a cream shade for quality appearance, 4) smooth surface ones for appealing touch and feel, 5) groundwood choice for the latter stages of a books’ life or 6) an environmentally friendly recycled option of any of the above. Any printer can provide these options.
Environmental considerations are another important subject that I’ll confess is directed at Gaspereau as much as it is to the publishing community as a whole. On Friday, Webcom presented an offer to Andrew and Gary about a new program, just now being launched by our company, which addresses the issue of risk of returns. It means that publisher will be able to manage inventory in a way that they do not have to throw away thousands of copies as suggested in the Toronto Star to be the current industry norm. The quote from Dunfield in the article claiming “You must make books as cheaply as possible, with the lowest quality of paper, to make that model work” is a fallacy with our new model. Our recent press release explains how we achieve this with investments in new technology and highly efficient presses and binders that produce a quality book on quality paper including recycled options in controlled volumes to match market demand. Given that Webcom is the only printer in the country with this technology, it would be a newsworthy-first for the Giller book to be the first novel to be printed on our new press as a complement to the handcrafted first editions. For those interested, here’s a link to the press release www.webcomlink.com/about/2010gillerprizepressrelease.pdf

Amanda said...

i have a number of excellent Gaspereau titles and am looking forward to purchasing more, particularly JS's poetry. thanks for being such a wonderful and hard working press.

Sharon said...

Lots of interesting comments here to which I can't add much. But I was struck by the comment on Nov. 11 that Kobo had raised its price to $14.95 at the publisher's insistence. Having just purchased a copy from Kindle for $9.99,I felt I needed to check it out. As of today, at least, Chapters is selling the book for $9.99.