Special Report 2016

P U B L I S H E R S W E E K LY . C O M

An In-Depth Look at the Year
in Canadian Publishing
Inside
● We look at trends affecting
large and indie publishers
● Indigo’s Krishna Nikhil talks
about the chain’s changes
● How children’s publishers
are expanding
● What’s new at seven
indie publishers

Reading helps us know what’s going on. Join us in doing
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Canadian Publishing

The World Needs
More Canada
The country’s innovative publishing
industry celebrates its unique cultural
identity
By Ed Nawotka

B

eing Canadian mean[s] that we are comfortable with the idea that books are
more than just things to be sold, more
than just units or ‘content.’ They are the
container of a country’s dreaming, its
stories and arguments and history, its
most dangerous suggestions and serious thought. Books
live at the intersection of culture and commerce, with
businesses, policymakers, and consumers all crossing
paths, a source of pride, heritage, and identity with
which we as Canadians are entirely familiar.”
This quote comes from Michael Tamblyn, CEO of
Michael Tamblyn, CEO of
Rakuten Kobo, the Japanese-owned Canadian e-book- Rakuten Kobo
seller. He was speaking at the Economist’s Canada Summit
this past June. The theme of the conference was disrupting the status quo, and it is an
appropriate theme—one that could just as easily be adopted by the entirety of Canadian
publishing as the country prepares to celebrate, in 2017, the 150th anniversary of the
establishment of the Canadian Confederation. Certainly some of the increased media
attention given to the country has been prompted by the November 2015 installation
of Justin Trudeau as prime minister: the hunky new head of the nation is generating
international buzz.
Indigo, Canada’s dominant bookstore chain, has long displayed signs in several of
its stores and in its headquarters reading, “The World Needs More Canada.” And, in
an unruly presidential election year just south of the border in the United States, that
may very well be true. “Canada is a bearer of hope,” says House of Anansi Press president Sarah MacLachlan, who jokes that there is probably Trudeau fan fiction being
published on Toronto-based Wattpad already.

“The Golden Age of Independent Publishing”

Small press publishing drew national attention last year, with three of the 2015 finalists for Canada’s top fiction award, the Scotiabank Giller Prize, coming from two

independent presses: Toronto’s Coach
House Books, which won the prize with
André Alexis’s Fifteen Dogs, and Windsor’s
Biblioasis, which touted two books on
the shortlist.
“I’ve been saying it all over the place,
but this really is the golden age of independent publishing in Canada,” says Dan
Wells, publisher of Windsor-based
Biblioasis. “We’ve had a long run of publishing great books—Kevin Hardcastle’s
Debris just won the Trillium Award this
summer—and it gave us increased visibility, and that helps us do a better job
for our authors and makes it easier to get
review coverage.” Last year was the company’s best yet, with sales up 20%–25%
over previous years, which had averaged
around half a million Canadian dollars
annually.
What’s changed? According to Wells,
since Penguin Random House said publicly that it is expecting higher profits
from each of the books on its literary list,
“we are getting some books they may
have passed on.”
Alexis may have been just such an
author. He was picked up by Coach
House after being dropped by McClelland
& Stewart several years ago.
With Alexis’s Giller win, Coach House
Books had its best year ever in 2015, says
editorial director Alana Wilcox. Fifteen
Dogs sold 110,000 copies and attracted
several foreign rights deals. The company even managed the immense pressure of fulfilling orders for the book (the
indie continues to print and bind books
in its downtown Toronto headquarters).
“This year will be a bit closer to
normal,” Wilcox says. “We usually do
about 18 books: six to seven poetry titles,
four to six works of fiction, including
some translations from the French, as
well as some Toronto nonfiction and
some drama titles. Our list is entirely
literary. And we are proudly Canadian,
down to the typefaces we use.”
Despite the success of the past year, the
day to day can be a struggle for Coach
House. “Managing human resources and
competing for market share with firms
that have much larger marketing budW W W . P U B L I S H E R S W E E K LY. C O M

3

Canadian Publishing
support for 115 small and midsize publishers.
gets surely ranks among our biggest challenges
“That may sound good until you realize that it
as independent publishers, but the lack of access
has been C$39.1 million for 15 years.” Edwards
to capital is major,” Wilcox says. “It is very difficult
says the ACP has actively lobbied to see that
for smaller houses to get substantial bank loans
number raised and is currently asking for an
or any other kinds of credit.” She says publishers
increase to C$54 million.
“feel fairly well-supported” by the government,
Only Canadian-owned publishing companies
but adds that, under terms set by the Canada
have access to that money. Accordingly, Hachette,
Council for the Arts, a house remains an “emerging
HarperCollins, Penguin Random House, and
publisher” until it has released 16 books and,
in the case of Toronto-based publishers, the
Simon & Schuster are excluded from soliciting
province-level Ontario Media Development
these funds, though the Canadian Publishers’
Corporation also requires several publications Brad Martin, PRH Canada
Council (CPC) is working to revise that rule. “We
CEO
before offering grant support. The result is that
are not asking for grant support in Canada,” says
you “really do need enough capital to bankroll yourself for a
Brad Martin, PRH Canada CEO and past president of the CPC,
few years.”
“but we have floated the idea that the government could provide
Many in the industry are wondering whether the government
us with assistance for promoting our Canadian authors abroad.”
will increase its annual fund to support Canadian publishing,
which many small-to-midsize publishers depend on to balance
In 2015, PRH’s Doubleday Canada published the country’s
the books. Kate Edwards, the executive director of the
top-selling book, The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins.
Association of Canadian Publishers (ACP), says the government
The other bestselling books were also no surprise: All the Light
is planning a sweeping review of the budget used to support
We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr and Grey by E.L. James.
publishing. “The overall budget dedicated to books is C$39.1
Nonfiction got a boost from adult coloring books and The
million per year—of which C$30 million goes directly to supLife-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo.
port publishers, says Edwards, whose organization provides
Another publisher that had a good
year in 2015 was Simon & Schuster
Canada, which only started its domestic
program two years ago. “You can still
really make books in Canada,” says president and publisher Kevin Hanson.
“Last fall on the domestic side, we had a
strong list; we had a bunch of #1 bestsellers.” Those included Clara Hughes’s
Open Heart, Open Mind, Bob Rae’s
What’s Happened to Politics?, Jody Mitic’s
Unflinching: The Making of a Canadian
Sniper, and Shift Work by Tie Domi.
According to BookNet Canada, which
covers 85% of the print trade market, the
print book market in Canada had a 0.8%
increase in units sold (52.6 million) in
2015 and a 1.6% increase in value
(C$983.4 million) over 2014. Fiction
unit sales fell by 0.9% (accompanied by a
3.5% increase in value), nonfiction unit
sales were up 5.5%, and overall value rose
by 2.8%. For the first six months of
2016, unit sales of print books were down
approximately 0.2% compared with the
same period in 2015, with the topselling book being Harry Potter and the
Cursed Child, which gave the juvenile
books category a 1.7% increase. Sales for

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print and e-books have remained
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to 2% between 2013 and 2015.
“There’s a myth that you can hit
the Canadian bestseller list by selling
just a few thousand books,” PRH’s
Martin says. “But that is just that: a

“It’s frustrating to have such a wonderful book...
and get so little attention from American reviewers
and booksellers.”  —Alana Wilcox, editorial director, Coach House
myth. We routinely see bestsellers in the
range of 20,000, 30,000, 40,000 books
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6

P U B L I S H E R S W E E K LY ■ S E P T E M B E R 2 6 , 2 0 1 6

North American territory with its sister
company in New York.
Coach House, which also distributes to
the U.S., has struggled to gain traction
in the States for its titles. “It is frustrating,” Wilcox says, “to have such a
wonderful book be recognized in Canada,
win the country’s most prestigious prize,
and get so little attention from American
reviewers and booksellers.”
MacLachlan, of House of Anansi, has a
similar take. “So much is marketing
driven in the United States, and the U.S.
publishing world is driven by large
sales,” she says. But MacLachlan adds:
“Our numbers in the states are really
good. We make our catalogues for the
U.S. market to try and give ourselves an
identity there.”
MacLachlan cites Anansi’s effort this
fall to relaunch the works of the Canadian
mystery writer Ian Hamilton in the
United States as an example of works
that a Canadian publisher might handle
better than a U.S. publisher on the U.S.
market. “He was at Picador for four
books, and they sort of didn’t go anywhere, and we worked really hard to get
him back,” she says. “We are going to see
how it goes.”

ecwpress.com

Several publishers we surveyed noted
that it is important to be seen as Canadian
publishers in Canada, but, in the United
States and further abroad, many would
prefer to be seen as global publishers.
Export sales are particularly important
for Canadian publishers, with many
reporting between 60% and 80% of their
sales coming from the United States.
Ottawa-based Livres Canada Books is the
nonprofit organization tasked with promoting Canadian books abroad,
including rights and finished products
for English- and French-language titles.

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Canadian Publishing
The group puts out a rights guide for its
“The biggest problem we have is exchange
150-plus members prior to both the
London and Frankfurt book fairs, where
rate.... The cost of everything for us has gone up
the organization runs the Canada stand
by 30%. That has put a lot of pressure on us.”
and assists with the travel and housing
allocations for some publishers. Executive 

— Brad Martin, CEO, PRH Canada
director François Charette calls the organization a “force multiplier for Canadian publishers.”
Charette says. Exports to the U.S. rose as Canadian books looked
“We are looking at selling rights abroad, for publication,
suddenly cheaper, he says, but they can also take a hit when the
translation, and licensing,” says Charette, who adds that several
loonie strengthens against currencies, as it did against the U.K.
companies report having seen significant foreign rights sales
pound in the wake of June’s Brexit vote. “This is something that
with the increased activity. “We worked very hard to open marwas totally unexpected,” Charette says.
kets in Asia, China, and Korea in particular, and it is now paying
Livres Canada Books has worked to support publishers travdividends.”
eling overseas to sell books to such markets. It should be interOne of those companies is Orca Book Publishers, a children’s
esting to see what impact the loonie’s exchange rate with the
publisher in Victoria, British Columbia. “We have been working
euro has on a proposal to have Canada become a future guest of
on it for years, but suddenly China has become our largest
honor at the Frankfurt Book Fair, which is currently being
market for foreign rights,” Orca publisher Andrew Wooldridge
reviewed by Canadian Heritage Minister Mélanie Joly. Though
says. “It seems like, suddenly, the market has matured, and they
that could cost several million dollars and would be a big comare buying books all across the board, from across our list,
mitment in other ways, Charette says, “it would be very good
including books for struggling readers and ESL. Korea was, as
for Canada and Canadian books.”
of last year, our most active buying market.” Though Orca still
does 65% of its business with the U.S.—enough to maintain a
warehouse in Ferndale, Wash., from which it also distributes for
Québec Amérique publisher Caroline Fortin, who is leading the
a dozen other Canadian publishers, such as Second Story press
committee for Frankfurt, says the proposal is “more modest”
and Nimbus—foreign rights are a growing opportunity, with
than what some other countries attempt. “Prior to this new era,
Germany and the Scandinavian countries showing a lot of
we had years of Stephen Harper, so we are used to doing things
interest in Orca’s titles as well.
on a very tight budget,” she says.
Overall, the top export markets for Canada have consistently
Fortin points out that the relative weakness of Canada’s dollar
remained the U.S., France, and the U.K., with China now taking
hasn’t stopped the biggest publishers in France, such as
the fourth slot—previously occupied by the Democratic
Gallimard and Hachette, from dumping overstock and remainRepublic of Congo, which consumes many French-Canadian
ders into the Quebec marketplace. “We’re always facing down
truckloads of books from them,” she says. “Though we have a
titles. “Our agenda is always to open as many new markets as
tightly regulated market—and a strong indie booksellers assopossible,” Charette says. “We took a mission to Israel and will
ciation, with 30%–40% of the marketplace—they also control
be taking another to Colombia next year, and we’re working on
much of the distribution,” she adds.
a market survey about Brazil.”
Furthermore, Fortin says, the currency fluctuation has made
printing locally more challenging. “We don’t print anything in
One issue that continues to have an impact on publishers is
the U.S., but now that it is cheaper, a lot of Americans are
fluctuations in the value of the Canadian dollar, which has
coming to Quebec, which means we can no longer get a good
traded at about 75 cents to the U.S. dollar since last year; just
deal at our local printers—we need to order paper and confirm
over three years ago, the loonie was at parity. “We really see the
our orders well in advance. The printers are getting hungrier,
impact of the dollar fluctuations two and three years out,”
and we are all suffering for it.”
Charette says, “but there is no denying that it was huge, with
This has all made for a more volatile situation at home, and
it has become increasingly tough to get a sense of the market—
publishers making a lot of adjustments.”
even for veterans like Fortin. “That said, it is important for the
Martin, of PRH, concurs: “The biggest problem we have is
world to know that we are publishing high-quality world-class
exchange rate. You can’t price or reprice quickly, and you can
work,” she says. “Unfortunately, outside of Canada it isn’t easy
only price books to a certain level before the rules of elasticity
to communicate that. I had a trip to Germany and they didn’t
start to blow things to pieces. We also do all our printing out
know there was a market [in Quebec], yet we have to compete
of the United States—the cost of everything for us has gone up
with the French publishers in Germany, which makes it hard to
by 30%. That has put a lot of pressure on us. All the shipping
comes out of the American warehouses too.”
sell rights.” Fortin concludes that “Canada really needs a good
Conversely, it can have a significant impact on exports,
opportunity to tell its story better.”

Books in Quebec

The Loonie’s Ups and Downs

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LOG
IN

DA
NA
CA

C E L E BR

SINCE 1991

I
AT

N

G

25

Y E A RS

Canadian Publishing

A Book Lover’s
Cultural
Department
Store

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By Ed Nawotka

O

ne area in which Canada may be leading the
United States is the stability and even viability
of its leading bookstore chain. Indigo operates
89 superstores under the Indigo and Chapters
banners, with a further 123 small-format stores
under the names the Book Company, Coles, and

Indigospirit.
Here, leadership seems to matter. While Barnes & Noble has
cycled through three CEOs in less than three years, Heather
Reisman has remained firmly at the head of Indigo. She spun
off the company’s e-book business at the right time and now
appears to have settled on a management plan than allows the
company to be nimble enough to respond to changing times.
As further evidence of this forward-thinking view, the company opened a new concept store in Sherway Gardens, an upscale
shopping mall in western Toronto. The 30,000-sq.-ft. store is
spread over two floors, offering what Krishna Nikhil, Indigo’s
executive vice president of print and chief strategy officer, calls
“a book lover’s cultural department store.” The first floor focuses
in large part on sidelines and lifestyle items, many of which are
arranged in thematic “rooms,” such as the women’s oriented A
Room of Her Own, which offers pricey handbags, jewelry by
local designer Jenny Bird, and other items; another room is
devoted to food and cooking under the moniker Eat Real Food.
Many of the store’s sidelines originate from the bookstore’s
design studio in New York City and remain unique to the bookseller. In addition, the bookseller is the exclusive retailer of
American Girl products in Canada and has built stores within
stores for the product line.

10 P U B L I S H E R S W E E K L Y ■ S E P T E M B E R 2 6 , 2 0 1 6
FirstBookHalfPage.indd 1

9/6/16 9:25 AM

Canadian Publishing

“Whatever we don’t have in store,
we offer through kiosks that provide
direct access to our website, with
seven million products” 
— Krishna Nikhil, executive v-p of print and
chief strategy officer
The concept store also offers 70,000 titles, of which 100 are
discounted up to 40%. Nikhil says the selection is now a “handcurated assortment,” and staff picks are actively promoted,
including those from Reisman. Nikhil says the CEO-selected
Heather’s Picks have created Canadian bestsellers, such as The
Book of Awesome by Neil Pasricha. “They are books guaranteed
to please,” Nikhil says.
Earlier this year, news broke that Indigo had let go of
numerous long-term book buyers and others who dealt directly
with publishers in its head office, creating consternation among
people who saw the move as counter to the company’s late-2015
proclamations that it was “refocusing on books.” However,
Nikhil says the company now “has more buyers who are special-

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Above: Many of the sidelines on offer at the
Sherway store are exclusive to Indigo and originate
from its New York design studio, and most are
displayed alongside books in themed rooms.
L.: Krishna Nikhil.

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W W W . P U B L I S H E R S W E E K LY. C O M

11

Canadian Publishing
ized. We now have buyers for science fiction and graphic novels,
for example.”
As for refocusing on books, Nikhil says 60% of Indigo’s revenue derives from books. The company has been shifting to
more streamlined inventory management, which may result in
the appearance of fewer books in stock at one time. “What we
have been working toward is more same-day and rapid replenishment at our locations,” Nikhil says. “Publishers have been
incredibly responsive.” Of course, this may also be the result of
the store’s needing to consider the future—one in which rents
in prime locations can only increase. “And, whatever we don’t
have in store, we offer through kiosks that provide direct access
to our website, with seven million products,” Nikhil says.
Nikhil also champions Indigo’s new Reco app, which offers
a social media network centered on book recommendations.
“The app is meant for global use and is built on the premise that
the best book recommendations come from friends and people
you trust,” Nikhil says. It was created in partnership with
Kinetic Cafe, a Toronto-based innovation lab. Upon the app’s
launch this summer, Reisman told TechCrunch that Indigo is
open to developing or “incubating tech startups in the future,
provided their goals align with Indigo’s core interests.”
All these various moves have helped Indigo reap rewards,
with the company reporting strong gains in sales and earnings

for the fiscal year that ended March 31. Revenue rose 11% over
the previous year, to C$994.2 million, and the chain had net
earnings of C$28.6 million in fiscal 2016, compared with a loss
of C$3.5 million in fiscal 2015. Comparable store sales (on a
52-week basis) rose 12.8% at Indigo’s superstores in the year,
while sales through indigo.ca grew 15.3%—helped, in particular by the company’s American Girl boutiques and the adult
coloring book trend last year.

Pop-Up Shop Popularity

In contrast to Indigo’s “cultural department store” in the outer
suburbs of Toronto, several publishers are working to open
modest bookstores in their own buildings as experiments,
including ECW (which has had plans afoot in this regard for
several years) and House of Anansi, which has moved into a new
building and is planning a retail and events space. The Anansi
Academy will also offer art classes and provide space for an
artist-in-residence.
In late 2015, the book editor Martha Sharpe—who served as
publisher of Anansi for a dozen years and, more recently, was
the editorial director of Simon & Schuster Canada—opened
up Flying Books, a quartet of pop-up bookshops that offer a
rotating curated selection inside four different downtown
Toronto businesses.
One notable opening was the Penguin
Shop bookstore on the first floor of the
tower that houses the offices of Penguin
Random House in Toronto. The 158-sq.ft. store, which previously housed a shoeshine stand, offers a flexible space for the
company to experiment with customer
engagement and, according to PRH
Canada COO Robert Wheaton, will
function as “both a sales outlet and a kind
of R&D lab.”
The store offers a flexible display space
featuring giant painted book spines with
a range of current titles done up to look
like classic Penguin editions. The spines
then slide out from the wall to reveal
library-style shelving offering either
books or merchandise. In addition to a
large selection of Penguin-themed sidelines, from tote bags to mugs, some 300
books are on offer.
“It’s a real investment in our ability to
glean consumer insights,” PRH Canada
publisher Kristin Cochrane says. “And,
what’s more, it gives our staff the opportunity to interact with book buyers. The news
that we were opening a store has really
ignited some of their creativity and the way

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FROM THE AUTHOR OF THE
GILLER PRIZE WINNER
FIFTEEN DOGS

Canadian Kids
Publishers Extend
Reach into U.S., TV
AN HONORABLE THIEF,
AN AGING HEROIN ADDICT,
FIVE MYSTERIOUS OBJECTS,
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The appeal of social justice titles and
YA series is increasing as more deals
are struck for adaptations
By Ed Nawotka

C

anada has a pretty good reputation on the world stage when it comes to
publishing children’s books,” says Orca publisher Andrew Wooldridge.
“We punch above our weight.” He notes that last year was Orca’s best
year ever: “We saw some good growth. We were up 15% over the year
before, on the strength of a number of good projects. The Secrets series
of linked novels by Kelley Armstrong sold 80,000 copies combined.
That’s a big number for us.”
Another top seller was My Heart Fills with Happiness by Monique Gray Smith.
“The book was inspired by her work with the Truth and Reconciliation Commission
in the residential schools, and it sold 15,000 copies, helped along by a PW starred
review,” Wooldridge says. For the upcoming season, look for prequels to Orca’s YA
series Seven, which sold 150,000 copies.
Annick Press is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year. Paper Bag Princess—which
has sold 12 million copies over the life of the book in various formats—is the publisher’s
all-time bestselling title and continues “to pay the bills,” says Rick Wilks, director
of Annick. “So many people tell me that it was their favorite book as a child and
now they are buying it again for their own children,” Wilks says. “Even better, this
year there has been renewed interested in turning it into an animated film or television series.” More good news for Annick came earlier this year when it announced
that it partnered with Pearson Canada to sell the publisher’s trade books in the
education market.
Publishing for the “diversity market” is increasingly important, Wilks says, with
an emphasis on positive stories featuring indigenous characters. “We want to say, ‘Look
around, there are amazing things happening,’ ” Wilks says. “While it is always important to acknowledge the difficulty of history and of the residential schools and the
hardship, it is also important to point out that there is kind of a creative renaissance
happening. We want to look at the community’s struggles, but also its achievements,
in an effort to change the conversation here.”
Sheila Barry, publisher of Groundwood Books, is also proud of her house’s breadth
of diversity titles, which have also been marketed in a special catalogue called “Windows
and Mirrors.” “It’s a great tool for booksellers, libraries, and schools who want to add

14 P U B L I S H E R S W E E K L Y ■ S E P T E M B E R 2 6 , 2 0 1 6

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more diversity to what they can offer to customers,” she says. “We have always had the
books, and now—maybe it’s the election year—buyers, in the U.S. in particular, seem
more courageous in what they are going to put in their general trade bookstore,” she
adds. For the fall, Groundwood has a book titled A Boy Named Queen, which is about
the fact that children don’t need to be cognizant of gender identity.“This season and
last season, more than half our books have been written or illustrated by nonwhite
people,” Barry says. “Diversity for us is like breathing.”
In other good news for Groundwood, The Breadwinner by Deborah Ellis— 
Groundwood’s bestselling book of all time, with four million copies sold in 30
languages—is being turned into an animated film by Cartoon Saloon of Ireland and
will be released in 2017.
Second Story Press marketing and promotions manager Emma Rodgers says the
“more thoughtful, educated buyer” is attracted to some of the more challenging material coming out of Canada. “It’s our agenda over the next year to reach those readers.
We’re both a feminist press and a social justice press, so that is part of our mandate.”
Rogers notes that Second Story is making more deals internationally. She points to
Hana’s Suitcase by Karen Levine as an example: Second Story sold rights to Random
House in the U.S. last year. The book is the press’s all-time bestseller, with 40 overseas
rights sales and more than 100,000 copies sold in Canada.
But the publisher’s top author of the moment is Rosemary McCarney, Canada’s
ambassador to the United Nations. McCarney’s new book, Where Will I Live?, features
images from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and will be published in 2017.
“We also want to publish more indigenous stories, so we ran an aboriginal writing
contest last year,” Rodgers says. “We got 100 submissions. The first winners are a picture
book called Stolen Words by Melanie Florence and The Mask Who Sang by Susan Curry.
Meanwhile, Owlkids is looking at offering titles for the young adult market that
are “issue oriented but don’t always hit you over the head,” says Karen Boersma. One
example of these is The Art of the Possible, which as aimed at 10–14-year-olds and discusses politics in a positive light, and has sold 5,000 copies. Another is Why Do We
Fight? by Niki Walker, which came with the subhead Conflict, War and Peace.
Boersma says that the YA nonfiction titles are most likely to sell internationally and
get picked up for rights deals. “The Asian markets in particular are interested in these.”
Finally, Canada’s largest independent children’s publisher, Kids Can Press, has seen significant changes over
the past year, following its merger with the children’s
entertainment company Corus Entertainment and
switch in distribution to Hachette, which kicked in this
past spring. Kids Can president Lisa Lyons Johnston says
the change has brought some interesting strategy to the
way the company is acquiring books. “One of our creators, the author-illustrator Ashley Spires, creator of
Binky the Space Cat, has struck a development deal with
Corus,” Johnston says. “This means for us at Kids Can,
when we are acquiring, we are now looking for a minimum of first rights and TV. We are thinking, why not
Lisa Lyons Johnston,
take advantage of the synergies?”
president, Kids Can
Earlier this year Kids Can announced its first foray
into YA publishing, with the KCP Loft imprint. The first titles will arrive in stores
in the spring. These include a pair of teen romances, Wendy Brant’s Zenn Diagram and
Lindsey Summers’s Textrovert; Kim Turrisi’s Just a Normal Tuesday, about a young
woman coping with her sister’s suicide; and Bridget Tyler and Jeff Norton’s Keeping the

Beat, about an up-and-coming English rock band.

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Canadian Publishing

Indie Spirits
By Ed Nawotka

Canadian publishing remains robust, in large part due to the
commitment and integrity of the country’s independent publishers, which offer titles from diverse voices on many subjects.
Some of these books have local or regional appeal, others sell
well in the U.S. and abroad.

Arsenal Pulp

Vancouver-based Arsenal Pulp had an unexpected hit last year with an unconventional
cookbook: Decolonize Your Diet by Luz Calvo and Catriona Rueda Esquibel. Associate
publisher Robert Ballantyne says the book, which is about indigenous Mexican-American
food, has sold 12,000 copies to date. “It kept us buoyant, stronger in the U.S. than in
Canada,” he adds. The Canadian market has been solid, he says, but there “haven’t been
gains in independent bookselling as there have been in the U.S., and Indigo have been
shortening up their orders a lot for books that are not obvious bestsellers.”

Arsenal Pulp is
focusing in part on a
trio of graphic
novels for the fall:
Becoming Unbecoming
by Una, a feminist
manifesto about
sexual violence; Such
a Lovely Little War
by Marcelino Truong, about the Vietnam
War; and The Case of Alan Turing by Eric
Liberge and Arnaud Delalande. “Graphic
novels sell better in the U.S. than in
Canada,” Ballantyne says. “Sales vary from
book to book, so we start with print runs
around 3,000 copies.”
Arsenal Pulp is also putting out its first
children’s book: The Boy & the Bindi, in
which a five-year-old boy becomes fascinated with his mother’s bindi.“It’s by Vivek
Shraya, who we have done several books
with, and, fortunately, he wanted to stay
with us for this one, as well,” Ballantyne
says. “We’re very excited to see how it goes.”

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Canadian Publishing

Coach House

After last year’s Giller Prize for André Alexis’s Fifteen Dogs,
Coach House Books is starting this season with Alexis’s The
Hidden Keys, the third in a promised “quincunx” of novels that
all experiment with traditional forms, such as the pastoral and
the adventure story. “It is a signature title from Alexis and should
have a broad appeal,” says Alana Wilcox, editorial director of
Coach House.
Coach House’s other lead fiction titles for the last half of 2016
include two novels in translation, The Island of Books by Dominique
Fortier and Baloney by Maxime Raymond Bock. Both authors
hail from Montreal. “I sometimes think that the general enthusiasm these days for translated books and reading other cultures
doesn’t include French Canada, sadly,” Wilcox says. “But we’re
committed to trying to grow a broader audience for the amazing
writing coming out of Quebec. These two novels are brilliant.”

Dundurn

Vice president Beth Bruder says Dundurn is riding the wave of
enthusiasm for the new prime minister, having published Justin
Trudeau: The Natural Heir, an unauthorized biography by
Huguette Young, translated by George Tombs. “It was the first
book of its kind on the market and something we were proud
to have published,” Bruder says. The press is building

momentum with other political books,
including the just-published Campaign
Confessions: Tales from the War Rooms of
Politics by the political campaign manager John Laschinger, which is also likely
to draw significant press attention.
Invisible North: The Search for Answers on
a Troubled Reserve by Alexandra Shimo is
the title that has Dundurn the most
abuzz. The book chronicles a Toronto
journalist’s experience living on an indigenous reserve in remote
northern Ontario, combining memoir with intense reportage.

ECW

Many publishers find themselves facing the question of “how
Canadian” they want to be when chasing sales. “We simply want
people to enjoy the books, so the only question that comes up
for us with regard to publishing for the Canadian or, say, the
U.S. market, is ‘what kind of spelling do we use for this?’ ” says
David Caron, co-owner of ECW, an independent press based
in Toronto.
For example, ECW dropped the Canadian u from the title of
John Jantunen’s A Desolate Splendor, a dystopian novel scheduled
for release in October. “We realized that the book was likely

W W W . P U B L I S H E R S W E E K LY. C O M

17

Canadian Publishing
going to be read more in the U.S. market, where we sell 80%
of our titles,” Caron says. ECW distributes in the U.S. through
Ingram. “We don’t hide the fact that we are Canadian, but,
when it helps, we do,” he says.
Of course, some books are clearly typically Canadian. ECW
will add several titles to its line of hockey books this fall,
including Ken Reid’s One Night Only, about players who
played a single game in the NHL, and Stat Shot by Rob Vollman,

a book on hockey analytics.
ECW is also willing to push agendas when the opportunity
presents itself.
To that end, ECW’s lead nonfiction title for the fall is about
fresh drinking water. Maude Barlow is an expert on global environmental issues, and her new book, Boiling Point: Government
Neglect, Corporate Abuse, and Canada’s Water Crisis, addresses water
management and waste. “We seem to have a smug attitude about
water,” Caron says, pointing out that “the
amount of drinkable water is a lot less than
we think.” He adds: “We have a problem
that we have to address and this book does
just that. We hope that the right readers in
the United States will take notice, as well.”

Firefly

Another water-themed book will be
released in October by Firefly Books,
which publishes some 100 titles a year and
specializes in large-format, heavily illustrated editions. Water: Exploring the Blue
Planet “addresses an area of personal
interest that is also relevant to the world,”
says president Lionel Koffler. Likewise,
Koffler is counting on interest in indigenous issues to push sales of Strangers in a
New Land: What Archaeology Reveals About
the First Americans by J.M. Adovasio and
David Pedler. “We’re expecting to move
10,000 units in a year or two,” says Koffler.

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18 P U B L I S H E R S W E E K L Y ■ S E P T E M B E R 2 6 , 2 0 1 6

House of Anansi

House of Anansi looked outside Canada’s
borders for I Hid My Voice, a new novel by
Parinoush Saniee, translated from Farsi
by Sanam Kalantari. I Hid My Voice is the
follow-up to Saniee’s first novel, The Book
of Fate, which was one of World Literature
Today’s 75 most notable translations of
2013.
Anansi also has a debut novel from
award-winning poet Katherena Vermette;
The Break is about an indigenous woman
who witnesses a crime on her land and sees
the impact it has on several people in the
community. And in August, the press
published The Path of Most Resistance, a
collection of stories from Giller-shortlisted
author Russell Wangersky.
On the nonfiction side, in September,
Anansi published The Return of History by
Jennifer Welsh, a book-length version of
the author’s CBC Massey Lectures.

Canadian Publishing

Univ. of Toronto

University of Toronto Press is committed to bringing a broader
audience to indigenous issues, as well as finding new ways to
bridge academic and trade publishing. “Our native studies list
is really growing,” says Brian MacDonald, UTP’s sales and
marketing manager. “We publish 10 books a year and have a
backlist of some 100 titles.”
MacDonald says Yakuglas’ Legacy: The Art and Times of
Charlie James is a key title of the upcoming season. “James was
a pioneering native artist, and this is the first comprehensive
look at his career,” he says. What’s different for the press is
that this volume will have some 130 illustrations—making it
closer to a trade-oriented illustrated book than has been
customary for the press.
Though UTP serves what is generally acknowledged as the
country’s top university, not all of the books it puts out are
strictly “Canada-specific.” MacDonald cites The First World Oil
War by Timothy Winegard as a book that is clearly aimed at
the global general reader. “It was originally written for a trade
house, but it was given to us and sailed through our manuscript review committee,” says MacDonald. “It is the first
history of the role of oil during the First World War, the point
when the world shifted over from coal to oil as a fuel source
and oil became a commodity that started shaping the role

of history.”
MacDonald says Lisa Benton-Short’s The National Mall: No
Ordinary Public Space, which is about Washington D.C., is
another example of how UTP crosses borders. “This is definitively not a Canadian book,” MacDonald jokes. “But there has
been a lot of growing interest in reading about cities.”
UTP has also had success with an evolving line of books
affiliated with the Rotman School of Management, which has
a backlist of 25 titles.“We’re putting out seven or eight titles
a year, targeting the same market as the titles coming out of
Harvard Business School,” says MacDonald. “These are actionoriented and -focused books by leading scholars and leaders
themselves. They are often focused on how to address the
challenges different levels of management encounter daily.”
The list’s 2016 titles include Achieving Longevity: How Great
Firms Prosper Through Entrepreneurial Thinking by Jim Dewald,
Wicked Strategies: How Companies Conquer Complexity and
Confound Competitors by John C. Camillus, and The Thoughtful
Leader: A Model of Integrative Leadership by Jim Fisher.
While a typical UTP title might have a print run of 300 or
so, these books have print runs in the thousands, MacDonald
says. “The books are meant for a global audience and are
reaching readers across the world. They are our bestselling
titles by far.”

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W W W . P U B L I S H E R S W E E K LY. C O M

19

Canadian Publishing

Big Books for a
Big Country
By Ed Nawotka

Canadian publishing is dominated by some familiar names:
Penguin Random House, Simon & Schuster, and HarperCollins.
Each company is competing with the others to produce titles
that can succeed in Canada and, because they are parts of larger
conglomerates, also have an impact on the world stage.

Penguin Random House Canada

Large conglomerate Canadian publishers are focused on the domestic Englishlanguage market, which Penguin Random House Canada CEO Brad Martin says is
rather small. “Canada has about 35 million people in it,” Martin says. “Take out
Quebec and all the people in Toronto who were born overseas and don’t read books

New voices. New translators. New Perspectives
The very best of a new generation of Québec storytellers
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20 P U B L I S H E R S W E E K L Y ■ S E P T E M B E R 2 6 , 2 0 1 6

in English, and what have you got?”
Well, according to the latest government statistics, it’s about 20 million
people who read in English.
This means that PRH Canada needs to
produce titles with broad appeal. Its list
for 2016 shows a lot of diversity,
including the last book edited by celebrated McClelland & Stewart editor
Ellen Seligman before her death: By
Gaslight by Steven Price. It’s a doorstop
of a novel that is drawing comparisons to
Caleb Carr and Susanna Clarke. It is also
a good example of how PRH Canada
works independently of its larger sibling
company in New York, which is not publishing the U.S. edition. Though
Seligman worked most closely with the
author, who lives in Victoria, B.C., the
rights were sold to Farrar, Straus and
Giroux in the U.S. and to Oneworld in
the U.K. “It’s not his first book, but we
are treating it like a debut,” says Kristin
Cochrane, PRH’s president and publisher. She says another of the publisher’s
potential bestsellers, the mystery thriller
The Hatching by Ezekiel Boone, is being
published by Atria in the U.S. and
Gollancz in the U.K.
Cochrane also cites several other titles
that are expected to be bestsellers,
including 99: Stories of the Game by
Wayne Gretzky, which is timed to coincide with the NHL’s 99th anniversary,
and Mike Myers’s Canada. Both stars
have agreed to extensive promotional
tours, says Cochrane. “These are the type
of anchor publications that will bring
readers into stores and will have a cascading effect across the trade,” she says.
“The names alone draw attention from
media and booksellers.” Bobby Orr’s
autobiography, Orr: My Story, sold
300,000 copies in 2013, and the press is
expecting similar sales for 99.
Chris Hadfield, the astronaut who
famously sang David Bowie’s “Space
Oddity” on the International Space
Station, is another author with name recognition. His first book, An Astronaut’s
Guide to Life on Earth, sold 350,000
copies. Hadfield’s new picture book for
children, The Darkest Dark, recounts the

Canadian Publishing
moment that inspired him to become an
astronaut. The book is illustrated by
Toronto’s the Fan Brothers, who had a hit
earlier this year with The Night Gardener,
published by Simon & Schuster.
And, next year, PRH will also celebrate the 150th anniversary of the establishment of the Canadian Confederation
in its own way, says Martin. “Back in
1967 for the centennial celebration,
M&S put out 19 books of Canadian history,” he says. “Until this year, all but one
were out of print, but we’re republishing
them—as e-books, which we think is a
perfect way to mark the 150th.”

Simon & Schuster
Canada
President and publisher Kevin Hanson is
most proud of the success of Simon &
Schuster Canada’s domestic list. “Nearly
all our native nonfiction from last year
and much of our fiction for this year hit
the bestseller list,” he says. “Our foray
into domestic publishing has been strong
and will continue to be. We started just
two years ago, and it already represents
10% of our business.”
Hanson is looking forward to several
nonfiction books in the fall. First is The
Promise of Canada by Charlotte Gray,
which delivers the country’s history
through nine individuals, including
Margaret Atwood. “It’s tied to the sesquicentennial and is already being called
a masterpiece,” says Hanson. Second is
The Science of Why by the television star
Jay Ingram, which should tap into the
same market that turned What If? into a
bestseller. Hockey, naturally, has its place
on the list. “This year is the first year the
Toronto Maple Leafs had the first pick in
the draft in a very long time,” Hanson
says. “The last time that happened, their
pick was Wendel Clark, so we are publishing Wendel’s memoir Bleeding Blue in
November—and he’ll be doing an extensive tour around Ontario.”
Finally, S&S will be publishing Secret
Path, a graphic novel by Jeff Lemire
based on poetry written by Gord Downie,
the lead singer of Canadian super group

Hill’s The Illegal won the CBC’s annual
Canada Reads competition, making Hill
the only author to win the prize twice.
The book has since sold in excess of
150,000 copies, but it is the The Nest by
Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney that has
moved the most copies for the company
this year, with some 200,000 sold. “I
think we’re coming off of a banner year
here in Canada,” said Iris Tupholme,
senior v-p and executive publisher of HC
Canada. For the fall’s sesquicentennial,
Tupholme says the company is proud to
publish Jane Urquhart’s A Number of
Things; Stories About Canada Told Through
50 Objects and new books by Barbara
Gowdy and Alexander Trudeau.
On the marketing side, HarperCollins
began promoting Women’s Voices, a
website to help bring more attention to
women writers on its lists. “We’re very
happy with the result and are already
planning to do more like this in the
future,” she says.

the Tragically Hip. Downie, who
revealed that he is suffering from terminal brain cancer earlier this year, also
produced a downloadable musical album
that will be bundled with the book,
which tells the story of Chanie Wenjack,
a 12-year-old boy who died after he fled
a residential school for indigenous children some 50 years ago and tried to walk
400 miles back to his home.
“We worked closely with Gord’s management team and are really happy to be
involved and help him realize his vision
for the project,” Hanson says. “It is set
up as a charitable project, with all proceeds from the book donated to the
N a t i o n a l C e n t r e f o r Tr u t h a n d
Reconciliation.”

HarperCollins
Canada
HarperCollins Canada had some good
fortune earlier this year when Lawrence

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STEPHEN COLLIS

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In Reading Sveva, Daphne
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W W W . P U B L I S H E R S W E E K LY. C O M

21

Small Press.
Important Books.

Canadian Publishing

Georgetown Group
Celebrates 50 Years
By Ed Nawotka

«A Booklist Starred Review
“Residential and
boarding school stories
are hard to read,
but they're vitally
important.”
—Debbie Reese, American
Indians in Children’s Literature

“A moving glimpse into
a not-very-long-past
injustice.” —Kirkus

Written by Jenny Kay Dupuis
and Kathy Kacer
Illustrated by Gillian Newland

The Ontario-based book distributor services
more than 40 clients from the U.S., Canada,
and the U.K.

T

he little theater attached to
the library in the town of
Georgetown, Ontario, about a
45-minute drive west of
downtown Toronto, is named
for John Elliott, the father of
Brenda Sisnett, president, CEO, and
owner of the Georgetown Group. “My
father was involved in politics, but he
needed something else to do,” Sisnett says.
“So in 1966, he took over a building and
started picking, packing, and shipping
books. I started in 1971 and it was supposed to be a three-month gig before I
went off to Toronto to work in a bank,
but I have been here ever since.”
The Georgetown Group has three divisions: Georgetown Terminal Warehouse
does the distribution, including logistics,
stock management, and back-office
administration; Georgetown Publications
offers sales and marketing services; and
Elliott Custom Brokers facilitates import
and export. Business is conducted out of
an 80,000 sq.-ft. facility that has been
added onto several times over the last
half-century.
In all, the company counts 21 U.S., 17
Canadian, and three U.K. publishers as
clients. Among its American clients is
Hachette, for which Georgetown provides
some specific distribution services. While
it does not provide sales and marketing for
Hachette, it does perform those services
for seven U.S. houses under the Georgetown
Publications banner. The company also
provides freight forwarding for Simon &

Schuster and ships books for Chartered
Professional Accountants of Canada.
Larry Sisnett, who serves as president
of Georgetown Publications and is
Brenda’s husband, notes that the cost of
distribution in Canada is greater than in
the U.S. “The costs are higher because of
the size of the country and the spread of
the population,” he says. He feels that
Georgetown’s competitive advantage
over other, larger distributors is its personalized service and flexibility. “There
are different models for what we do and
we find that no publisher is the same, so
we adjust to exactly what the customer
wants.”
For example, at Georgetown, all invoicing
is done under the publishers’ names. “We
are one of the few distributors that do
that, so sometimes we don’t get the
credit for the distribution—we don’t win
awards for it,” Larry says. “But it is our
work and we are very proud of it.”
Over the years, Brenda has seen distributors come and go. And while she
admits that the company has dabbled in
work outside the publishing industry, she
says: “We always come back to books.
That is what our strength is—it is what
we know best and what we do best. To us,
the stabilization of the e-book business
and the increase in the print business is
good news. We are in the physical book
distribution business and we love it.” ■

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Simon & Schuster Canada

Promising great
books to come

simonandschuster.ca