Even if you're a book lover, you've probably never given more than a passing thought to the process that makes the ideas from a writer's imagination available to you. Book publishing in Canada is a growing industry and is a far more complicated operation than you'd ever imagine. Phil Surguy set out to talk to a range of book people across Canada, who form links in the publishing chain that joins writer and reader. As individuals they are representative of the imagination, skill and enthusiasm that brings millions of hours of enjoyment and fulfillment to Canadian readers.
Trade books are the books ordinary readers buy in bookstores. Many books are commissioned by publishers from specialist writers or writers of established reputation, but many books also originate from the suggestions of authors; fiction and poetry invariably originate in this way. The first step is usually a meeting between the writer and the publisher, followed by a contract. Then the writer begins to create a manuscript in consultation with an editor, who encourages, advises and criticizes—a stage that could take years or just months____
Robert Harlow Writer
Robert Harlow was raised in Prince George, B.C., and left there in 1942, aged 19, to become an RCAF bomber pilot. In 1947, at the University of B.C., he was admitted to Earle Birney's writing workshop on the basis of stories he'd written while working as a CNR rodman. From 1948 to 1951, he was at the Iowa Writer's Workshop; and, while there, he sold a story to CBC Radio, his first sale.
His first novel, Royal Murdoch, came out in 1962. By then he was an executive at CBC Radio in Vancouver. It was the first of his three Linden (Prince George) books, and was published by Macmillan. So was his second, A Gift of Echoes, which came out in 1965, the year he became head of the new Creative Writing Department at UBC. The third Linden novel, Scann, was published by Sono Nis in 1972. This past fall Harlow's comic fourth novel, Making Arrangements, was published by McClelland & Stewart. Another novel, The Lover, is now at M&S.
When he's working on a novel, Harlow is at his desk by 6:30 a.m. "I put my best energy into the writing at the very beginning of the day. If I do anything before I write, I'm distracted. I can't even take out the garbage."
The rest of the day is spent teaching and pursuing various interests, such as mastery of the alto sax. And always there are piles of student manuscripts to read, a task that has never diminished his faith in the future of Canadian writing. "God, there's a lot of good kids coming up," he says.
Clyde Rose Publisher
Six years ago, Clyde Rose, 41, the founder and publisher of Breakwater Books in St. John's was a tenured English professor at Memorial University. Then he got into publishing. "I believed there was a lot of writing in Newfoundland that wasn't getting a fair chance in this country. Given the reaction to our books in Canada and the U.S., that has proven to be true."
In its short lifetime, Breakwater has produced over 30 titles, some going into five and six printings. This year they are extending their program to include children's literature, art books and educational works.
When asked if Breakwater could be seen as Canadian publishing in miniature, Rose replies, "There's no doubt about it. Every problem is here, particularly the lack of working capital and the lack of government policy in educational publishing, the stranglehold of American publishers on that market."
Yet Rose obviously relishes every minute of his work. "It becomes so satisfying you don't mind the long hours and weekends." And he believes strongly that "Canadians reading books about each other will do more for national unity than any pretentious government program."
Jan Walter Editor
Jan Walter, 30, the managing editor of Macmillan of Canada's trade division, got into publishing by working in bookstores. She grew up in Toronto and Montreal. And, while attending Ottawa's Carleton University, worked for two summers in an Edmonton store owned by Mel Hurtig, a distant relative. She also put in a summer at Duthie's in Vancouver.
In 1971, after graduation and a stint in an Ottawa Classic's shop, "I wrote to Mel asking for another bookstore job.
He wrote back that his editor was about
to leave, and would I like a job in his publishing company. It was a dream come true."
So until 1975 she was the editor-inchief at Hurtig. She was also the only editor and was thus involved in almost all phases of book production. "It was a very heady time to be in Canadian publishing, a very political time," she says about that era when new houses such as Hurtig, Anansi and James Lorimer were getting off the ground.
In 1977, she joined Macmillan, where she oversees the production of all trade titles. "Plus, I have my own books on which I act as editor. I handle four a season. I have the privilege, which I didn't have at Hurtig, of bringing new books into the house—and that's the magic of publishing."
As the manuscript approaches completion, the production manager begins mapping out the stages that will transform manuscript into finished book. He assigns it to either a staff or freelance book designer and signs a contract to have the book printed and bound____
Peter Scaggs Production Manager
After a house has decided to publish a book, and settled on what it's going to look like, the production manager goes to work. He has to fit the book into his firm's production schedule and determine the specifications the printers will need before they can bid on the job—the number of colours on the jacket, the type of binding required, the number of pages, what illustrations might be used, the projected print run and many other factors must be considered. It's largely a matter of balancing costs against a book's estimated market.
Peter Scaggs, the production manager at McClelland & Stewart in Toronto, believes that one of his greatest assets to the company and the performance of his job is his extensive background in the printing trade. Born in England, he worked there as a typesetter and a teacher of printing. He came to Canada in 1959 and worked in printing plants as a production planner, then as a production manager. He also sold printing machinery for six years.
He joined M&S in 1969. "It's really just the other side of the fence, the same job from another point of view." He describes his work as "hectic. We publish a lot of books in two seasons a year. A production manager's position is full steam ahead full-time."
Rolf Harder Book Designer
Unless he is among the few working fulltime at publishing houses, a Canadian graphics artist cannot make a living by working exclusively as a book designer. So says Rolf Harder, 49, a Montreal graphics artist who has won many prestigious awards for his book work. He is particularly well known for the nine prize-winning designs he has done for Tundra Books, which is also based in Montreal. Among these are Mary of Mile 18 and Beyond the Sun/Au Dela Du Soleil.
A graduate of the Academy of Fine Arts in Hamburg, Germany, Harder came to Canada in 1955. He returned to Germany in 1957, and was back in Canada for good in 1959. He has worked with different partners, but now has his own company.
Properly speaking, a designer should be responsible for the look of the whole book, everything from the cover to the paper and typeface. However, Harder says, "That doesn't always happen. A book should be a unit. The inside pages and the cover should complement each other. But it's primarily a budget matter. Sometimes the publisher commissions a cover and hands the rest of the job to the typesetter, which often doesn't make for a very well-designed book."
Yet, he says things have improved over the past ten years. "Publishers are now more aware of the benefits of good design."
Guy Upjohn Printer
Guy Upjohn, 46, is the vice-president and general manager of Hunter Rose, one of Canada's major book manufacturers. He was raised in Toronto. His father was a vice-president of Macmillan of Canada and later president of St. Martin's Press in New York.
Upjohn joined Hunter Rose after getting a general arts degree at the University of Toronto. "I was a young man looking for a job and wanting to learn something of book manufacturing," he says. The company sent him to England to work at two associated printing plants. For three years he learned typesetting and the mechanics of printing, attended trade schools and performed various administrative duties. He rejoined Hunter Rose as an assistant production manager in 1958, and today supervises a staff of about 150 plant personnel and 30 sales representatives.
He is also actively concerned about the future direction of the book industry as a whole. "We're in a world marketlace now and we've never been in one efore. It's the most interesting period in my career so far—interesting and frightening, but I tend to be an optimist. The question is, can we marshal the technical and human resources to compete? Can we effectively work within the book community in Canada in order to concentrate the publishing, printing and labour resources to get into the world market? Actually, the question is not, can we? It's how can we?"
While the book is in production, publicists and sales representatives begin planning promotion and sales campaigns, aimed at booksellers first and later at the book-buying public. As the book arrives at the bookstores, the author is involved again, giving interviews and perhaps autographing copies in the store. And that's where the reader comes in.. .we hope.
Heather Pringle Publicist
"I'm never at a loss for things to do," says Heather Pringle, 26, the publicist at Hurtig Publishers in Edmonton. She grew up in that city and has a B.A. in English from the University of Alberta and an M.A. from the University of B.C. She has worked as a research officer for the Alberta government and was the fiction editor of Branching Out, a feminist magazine.
Five months ago, she was looking for a new job and wrote to Hurtig. "Being the only large publishing company in Edmonton, it seemed like an obvious place to look." By luck, someone was leaving and she got the job after an interview with Mel Hurtig.
Pringle's official title is assistant editor and, as such, she reads incoming manuscripts. But most of her day is devoted to promotion. She writes ads, distributes review copies to reviewers (a task that takes up a lot of time in the fall) and arranges authors' tours. The latter part of her job requires co-ordinating the tours with Hurtig representatives in the rest of Canada and escorting visiting authors to interviews she's arranged on radio and TV in Edmonton. As we talked to her, she was setting up a tour for Peter Gzowski to promote his new book, Spring Tonic.
Heather Pringle likes her job. "It's really challenging. When I came in I knew nothing about book publishing, but Mel has taught me a lot about it. I guess he thought I looked eager and keen."
Mark Stanton Sales Representative
Mark Stanton, 41, came to Toronto after being raised and educated in New Brunswick. He worked briefly in several branches of the advertising world. Then, in 1963, "I went to work for J.M. Dent, producing their advertising material, and around 1967 I got rather intrigued by their trade publishing." He ended up as Dent's sales co-ordinator.
Around 1970, he joined the new Van Nostrand Reinhold publishing operation ("I was about the fourth person hired.") as a sales rep and quickly became their trade sales manager. His territory was all of Ontario and Quebec.
Then, in the spring of 1972, he went out to B.C. to join Scott McIntyre and Jim Douglas, who headed a sales agency
which handled, among others, Van Nostrand's titles. Douglas was getting into publishing then, so McIntyre and Stanton bought control of the agency from him. The partnership continued until a couple of years ago, when McIntyre joined Douglas as a publisher and the sales agency became Stanton and MacDougall.
The agency represents about a dozen publishers in B.C. and Alberta, from biggies like McClelland & Stewart (B.C. only) to the relatively new Ottawa firm of Deneau & Greenberg. They have i nine people on the road and, ever since the original partnership, have had an invigorating effect on book sales in the West.
One of their major innovations is an elaboration of one of Jim Douglas's ideas. They introduce each new batch of Canadian titles to booksellers from all over B.C. simultaneously at an event in Vancouver they call "Canadian Day." That way, Stanton says, "The independent booksellers are not left waiting for two months while the big buyers are taken care of."
Bill Roberts Bookseller
Bill Roberts, the president of Shirley Leishman Books in Ottawa, was born in Aberdeen, Scotland, in 1931. He came to Canada in 1952 and took a variety of jobs. He had always been interested in books, but didn't get into the business until 1962.
"I was passing through Ottawa and went into Shirley Leishman's to buy books and took a job instead. I was out of work, and she was saying how hard it is to get help at bookstore pay." So he volunteered. "I've always felt selling is one of the most satisfying business activities, and selling books brings that satisfaction to a very fine point."
In the late Sixties, Roberts and one of Leishman's original partners bought control of the firm, and a few years later opened another store, Books Canada, also in Ottawa. The second store has recently been sold to its staff and Roberts and his partner are about to open a new suburban store in a shopping mall.
Roberts says his day is spent "flying a desk," dealing with administrative problems, seeing sales representatives and trying to judge what his customers will buy. He is keenly aware of the cultural context of his business and its attendant problems.
"The root of the problem is that, in Canada, books are generally not seen as an essential part of people's lives. The whole business is predicated on a small demand and that's why it's sick. There are occasional peaks, of course, and the satisfactions are all the greater for the difficulties. If you can sell books in Canada, you can sell books anywhere."
Phil Surguy comments frequently on the Canadian publishing scene for Books in Canada.
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