The publishing business mirrors the natural world in many ways: it’s a fertile, creative process influenced by myriad conditions, some as unpredictable and unforgiving as weather. The coming of the e-book and digital publishing to the Canadian book industry can be compared to the approach of climate change. Although the digital revolution was long predicted, there were e-book deniers and those who predicted the end of publishing and bookselling civilization. In recent years, Canadian publishers prepared, digitizing their frontlists and backlists as fast as they could, while watching the effects of the phenomenon as it washed through the U.S. industry first.
As fall approached last year, many publishers in Canada told PW their digital book sales were in the 5%—6% range with the highest reported levels at 10%–12%. This year, digital is estimated to be about 12%–13% of the book market, with publishers surveyed for our annual look at the Canadian industry reporting e-book sales that ranged up to 17%. That’s still lower than U.S. levels, but Brad Martin, president and CEO of Random House of Canada, which is based in Toronto, attributes that partially to Canadian consumers not having purchased the critical mass of devices that American consumers have. But the market is still growing.
The rise of digital in Canada has caused multiple ripple effects throughout the Canadian book world, particularly because it coincided with the global economic crisis. So far, however, those effects have not been cataclysmic. Many publishers say digital sales have not taken a discernible bite out of print sales and that e-book sales are helping the bottom line significantly.
Nevertheless, Darwinian effects of the digital age can be seen throughout the Canadian publishing ecosystem. This year’s Canadian supplement examines those effects and the ways in which publishers, distributors, and booksellers are showing their resilience, creatively adapting to survive and even thrive in the new environment.
BookNet Canada has been tracking print book sales in Canada since it was founded in Toronto in 2003. CEO Noah Genner says 2012 has generally been a difficult year so far in the Canadian market, but it is an improvement over last year, which was especially tough in Canada. Sales of E.L. James’s Fifty Shades series, published in Canada by Random House of Canada’s Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, are “having a huge impact” and giving the whole market a lift, he says. “The sales of that are much larger than anything we’ve seen in quite some time in print and in e, I think. They are definitely starting to hit Twilight kinds of ranges.” RHC’s Martin said that three million copies of the series in all formats have been shipped in Canada.
But even if you back the Fifty Shades spike out of the sales figures, Genner says 2012 still looks better than 2011. “We’re trending down, but we’re not trending down at the 11% or 12% that we were the year before.” He says he thinks part of the improvement is due to a leveling off of e-book sales, but that is based only on BookNet’s new survey of book buyers and anecdotal information from publishers, because BookNet is still developing a system to track Canadian e-book sales statistics. Genner notes that trend is not unexpected in the context of the plateauing that has been seen in U.K. and U.S. e-book sales. “It’s still a growing segment, but it’s not growing at the 35% and 40% per quarter that we saw before,” he says.
Retail Environment Indigo’s Evolution
Heather Reisman, CEO of Indigo Books & Music, Canada’s only large-scale book retail chain, says that digital book sales are about 12% to 13% of the market at the moment, but she too says the pace has slowed somewhat. Indigo is now back to being a print books–only business, but it was only in January of this year that it sold the digital arm it created, Kobo, to the Japanese Internet company Rakuten for C$315 million (C$146 million of which went to Indigo). “What we’ve seen is obviously this massive growth in digital relative to the standing start, but it does seem to be tailing off a bit at the moment,” says Reisman. Nevertheless, e-book and online sales are still growing, and that has put Toronto-based Indigo and all bricks-and-mortar bookstores under immense pressure.
Last fall, Indigo embarked on what Reisman describes as a “five-year evolutionary process,” diversifying into its own lines of designer gift and lifestyle products—home decor items, body and bath products, and accessories. News of the shift in its product mix, and that there would be reduced space for books, was met with dismay from many worried publishers, but Reisman spoke of it as a necessary adaptation for Indigo to survive the changes in the industry. The closure of Borders underlined her point, as many Canadian publishers keenly felt the loss of that account.
“I am sympathetic with Indigo,” says Kim McArthur, president of McArthur & Company, which is based in Toronto. “They are adjusting as fast as they can.”
Publishers, in turn, have adapted, but there are costs and casualties. “There are smaller orders and fewer titles,” says Toronto’s ECW Press copublisher David Caron. Publishers have moved to smaller print runs and hope for more frequent reorders, but it is that much more difficult to introduce new writers. “The hardest part is that [Indigo will] pass on a title entirely,” says Caron. In the past, he says, Indigo used to try to make most Canadian authors’ books available, at least on a limited basis, but that is not the case anymore. “I guess part of it is that they say, ‘We’re a business, we can’t take on that role.’ But for a lot of people, Indigo is the only game in town..., so authors especially wanted to see their title in Indigo,” he says.
One year into Indigo’s five-year plan, Reisman says it is still too early to judge its net result, but Indigo’s sales have not declined by the full 12%–13% of the market that has moved to digital. The new product mix is a “wonderful success with our customers,” she says. “We’re seeing it continue to grow month over month in double digits, and we see it as an additional reason that people come into the store.” She added that Indigo aims to have more of its lifestyle products influenced by writers and words. (For example, the phrase “Love you to the moon and back,” quoting children’s book author Sam McBratney, is embroidered onto a throw pillow.) “There is a connection between what we’re doing because at our heart and soul that’s what we’re about.”
Asked if Indigo might increase the proportion of nonbook inventory, Reisman says she thinks the current balance is working. “At the moment, we have no plans to put less emphasis on books [or give them] less space, but there’s no question that depending on the category, we are finding ways to do way more book facing.” For example, she says, Indigo tries to display as many cookbooks face out as possible, but books that are core to the assortment, such as more technical books that the stores just have to have, might be on the shelves spine out.
Another adaptation Reisman says she would like to see evolve is a closer coordination with publishers even before books are published, so that they can discuss and create opportunities for promotion. For example, Reisman says, when Penguin Group Canada’s new president, Nicole Winstanley, told her about Penguin staff holding a quinoa cooking challenge, making recipes from their new fall title Quinoa Revolution by Patricia Green and Carolyn Hemming, Reisman suggested extending it to Indigo customers, who could participate and discuss the book online and possibly at events in stores. While it may be possible to do this in the short runup to the book’s release on October2, Reisman says much more promotion could be done with more time. “If you wait all the way until the buying team in our company sees the catalogue and then presents it to our marketing people, it is too late to plan something. Of course, you are not going to do it with all [books], 10,000 titles,” she says, “but imagine if you do it with a couple of hundred. You generate much more of a buzz, more heat, more of a focus on what’s between the covers.... That to me is a whole other way of operating in the 21st century, where the writer, the publisher, the editor, the book retailer, and consumers engage together.”
Target Flies North
There is another species that has played an increasingly important role in retail ecosystems in recent years—nontraditional book retailers such as Costco, Wal-Mart, and grocery and drug stores. They are now all important accounts for many publishers in Canada.
Publisher Marc Côté of the Toronto-area indie house Cormorant Books says the company has “had the best first six months of the year we’ve ever, ever had. Sales were up 50%.” He says a large part of that is thanks to the sales force at Thomas Allen & Son, which began representing Cormorant after the two companies agreed to work symbiotically last year. The reps presented Cormorant’s titles to Loblaws and Shoppers Drug Mart, and they bought them. Voilà! A 50% increase in sales. But Côté is aware of the risk of those accounts. The orders are big, but the returns can be too. “We’ll see how it all pans out,” he says.
That’s territory that ECW’s Caron knows well now. “It’s great when they take on a book that fits,” he says. “A good example is Costco out east taking the [Nova Scotia author] Anne Emery titles. When they do, it works out very well because the people out east support local authors, and so they buy up a lot of those books when they are there.” ECW is careful to pitch books that fit Wal-Mart and other big nonbook retailers. Some books sell through well, others don’t, says Caron. It’s important to understand that the retail experience is very different from a bookstore. “The books are just going to be there. They’re not going to be merchandised. There will be a small array of titles, and so it’s our job to get people into those stores. Knowing that, we really sort of blitz in terms of publicity for the window of time when we know they will be in Wal-Mart.”
This year, American retail giant Target is expanding into Canada with plans to open 125 stores across the country in 2013 and more in 2014. Kevin Hanson, president of Simon & Schuster Canada, which is based in Toronto, says he thinks Target’s arrival in Canada will be an important one for book publishers: “I think it hits a sweet spot in Canada. It’s midmarket, it’s discounted, it’s a broad offering.” He notes that book buyers in many secondary markets such as smaller cities are not well served in Canada and that consumers might benefit from Target moving into their communities. Based on what Target does in its U.S. stores, Hanson expects to see a broad selection from bestseller fiction, midlist, and literary fiction that might appeal to book clubs. He notes that the U.S. stores also have author signings, picks, and featured books.
For the Independents, Survival of the Fittest
While consumers may be happy to see Target enter the market, its presence will only add to the pressure on independent booksellers, already beleaguered by increasing costs, competition with the deep discounts offered online, and a growing e-book segment of the market.
Closures of prominent stores have made headlines across the country this year. Vancouver’s Sharman King announced that he was retiring and would close his four Book Warehouse locations. Nicholas Hoare announced he would close both his Montreal and Ottawa stores due to drastic rent hikes, but the Montreal location was saved in June when the mayor of Westmount intervened to negotiate a temporary deal with the landlord. Toronto lost one of its oldest independents in January when the Book Mark closed, and in the spring the Toronto minichain Book City closed one of its five stores.
Canadian Booksellers Association president Mark Lefebvre said earlier this year that there hadn’t been a dramatic drop in CBA membership, though there are always changes as bookstores are sold, open, and close. While closures of prominent stores are emotional blows to communities, Lefebvre says he takes heart in seeing new bookstores still opening “against all odds in a really, scary dark season.” Indeed, there were bright points, such as Black Bond Books co-owner Cathy Jesson buying and saving the Book Warehouse flagship store in Vancouver, and her brother, Michael Neill, opening a second location of his Mosaic Books in Kelowna, B.C.
Login Canada has also stepped in to offer independents help selling e-books. The Winnipeg-based science, technical, and medical distributor has relaunched what used to be called its Virtual Bookstore as its Affiliate program, and through it will create a site, for free, for independent bookstores to sell e-books along with their print books. “We used to have a nominal charge for maintenance, but this year we decided to do away with that,” says president Mark Champagne, “because we wanted the bookstores to have an opportunity to be in the e-book game and actually make some kind of money out of it if there are sales in e for the particular books they might be selling.” Champagne says more than 70 bookstores have signed on for the service, and about a dozen more agreements are just being finalized.
Kobo also recently announced a deal with the American Booksellers Association so that its 2,000 members will soon be able to sell e-books via a link to Kobo, along with Kobo e-readers and accessories. So far, there is no similar deal with the Canadian Booksellers Association, but Todd Humphrey, Kobo’s executive vice-president for business development, says that Kobo is “having conversations with booksellers’ associations around the world, and we feel like we are the perfect platform to power the independent booksellers.”
One other e-book option is available to independent bookstores in Canada. In June, Calgary-based Enthrill Entertainment launched its e-book gift cards in 102 mass retail stores, primarily grocery chains, and in 10 independent bookstores. Seven other independents have since joined. Participating publishers include D&M Publishers (Vancouver), House of Anansi (Toronto), Coach House Books (Toronto), and Orca Book Publishers (Victoria). “We serve every single device,” says Enthrill president Kevin Franco, “so you can buy an e-book for anybody and not have to worry about them not being able to read it.” The response so far has been overwhelming, and there are plans to expand to more stores before Christmas.
Publishers Adapting to Survive and Thrive
Louise Dennys, of Knopf Random Vintage Canada, sums up the challenges publishers in Canada are facing: “We have to work with the fact that there are fewer bookstores. We have to work with the fact that space in bricks-and-mortar stores is at a premium for books. Indigo is very wisely, I think, having to diversify from a bookstore into something much broader in order to bring customers into the stores, and I think Heather is doing that brilliantly. But it also means that the shelf space is less, and so we have to find ways to make the book attraction even greater than it has been before.”
PW takes a look at how publishers are evolving, adapting, and finding clever and creative ways to publish, market, distribute, and draw readers to their titles.
Random House of Canada Grows
Random House of Canada was already the biggest house in Canada, but this year it has evolved by growing larger still. In January, RHC acquired McClelland & Stewart and its children’s publishing division, Tundra Books. M&S and Tundra were already part of Random’s extended family, since Random bought a 25% share in M&S in 2000. (Then-owner Avie Bennett donated the remaining 75% to the University of Toronto.) Over the next decade, M&S gradually became more closely integrated with Random House, sharing its sales, production, human resources, and accounting services. When the acquisition was announced, RHC president and CEO Brad Martin said that M&S had been “experiencing financial challenges” that he attributed to a difficult economy and digital-driven transitions. With M&S “fully within the Random House of Canada family we will more effectively be able to meet these challenges to ensure the growth and long-term stability of this iconic Canadian publisher.” And with that, extended family became immediate family.
The sale of one of Canada’s oldest and most prestigious publishing houses to a multinational raised nationalist hackles, and many saw it as another sign, along with the sale of Kobo to Japan’s Rakuten, that the Canadian government is no longer enforcing a longstanding policy of restricting foreign ownership within cultural industries. But many in the industry also acknowledged that the sale was only the final step in a gradual integration that had been happening over the past decade. Random House made commitments to maintaining the publishing program, including the eponymous McClelland & Stewart imprint and the New Canadian Library, Emblem Editions, and Signal imprints. In fact, Martin tells PW that Random House is growing those publishing programs. For example, he says Tundra has signed nine new children’s authors, and its title list is growing by 25% with 34 titles in 2012, 54 in 2013, and 59 in 2014.
In June, Random House of Canada announced the creation of the McClelland & Stewart Doubleday Canada Publishing Group to be headed by executive publisher Kristin Cochrane. In addition to bringing Doubleday Canada, M&S, and Tundra together into one division, it will also include the Fenn-M&S sports imprint and the Appetite lifestyle imprint. Announcing the creation of the new division, Martin said that the new structure would allow each imprint to develop a sharper focus, though authors would not be moved from imprints where they have established relationships. Cochrane said that one example of that sort of refining of the lists going forward might be that a sports book that Doubleday Canada might have published in the past would go to the Fenn-M&S imprint, where publisher Jordan Fenn has exclusively focused on sports.
Cochrane, who had been head of Doubleday Canada, which is celebrating its 75th anniversary this year, is careful to emphasize that the editorial identities of the imprints will be maintained. “The group itself will evolve in how it works organizationally and as we come together, but individually we have a really clear sense of those imprints and really strong publishing heads of each,” she says. “Across the group there’s a really lovely sense of cooperation and collegiality. Everyone’s really excited to get to know each other’s lists better and find ways we can work together within that group to publish better.”
Having more people on the frontlines paying close attention to each title can be an advantage at a time when conventional publishing wisdom is changing. For example, Cochrane speaks about the company’s variations on the traditional formula that a paperback should be released 12 months after the hardcover is published. The current thinking is that it could be six months or nine months or longer than a year, depending on the book and circumstances in the market for it. “That’s what’s so frankly fun about it,” she says. “Each book and each author demands its own unique set of considerations, whether it’s the marketing plan, the format, the price, the publicity plan, everything. So as publishers we now get to look more specifically at the timing for the paperback, the price for the e-book, the price for the hardcover.”
Louise Dennys offers a good explanation of the evolutionary advantages of RHC’s new size and number of imprints. She notes that each imprint is similar in size and staff to a midsize Canadian publishing house and can therefore devote more close attention to each of the books on its list. “We have a very different ship behind us, but as imprints, we can still operate with as much nimbleness and speed as a midsize publishing house in terms of how we handle our own publications in Canada,” says Dennys. “We act rather like a very fast sloop. A lot of the larger publishing houses in the old days used to be rather like the Queen Mary. Now we whip around the place like a much faster boat.”
Penguin Group (Canada) Heads South
Penguin Group (Canada) has launched a new imprint at Penguin U.S. this year. The imprint is named Pintail, after a bird that migrates between Canada and the U.S., says Penguin’s new president, Nicole Winstanley. The imprint consists of titles for which Penguin Canada has rights and which it believes have significant U.S. sales potential, she explains—Penguin Canada is publishing the book, but Penguin U.S. will do sales and marketing. The fall list includes such books as Chef Michael Smith’s Kitchen; the Scotiabank Giller Prize finalist Better Living Through Plastic Explosives, a short story collection by Zsuzsi Gartner; and Sarita Mandanna’s first novel, Tiger Hills. Mandanna has already been picked to be featured in Target stores as an emerging author. “It is a great opportunity to extend our reach,” says Winstanley.
HarperCollins Canada Grows at Home
HarperCollins Canada (based in Toronto) is launching a new imprint, Patrick Crean Editions, which will be home to renowned publisher Patrick Crean, who joined the company this month. Crean left Thomas Allen & Son and the publishing program he founded there 12 years ago on a high note after publishing the 2011 winner of the C$50,000 Scotiabank Giller Prize, Canada’s top prize for fiction—Esi Edugyan’s novel Half-Blood Blues. Crean also published Austin Clarke’s Giller winner, The Polished Hoe, in 2002. His authors’ books have also won Governor General’s Literary Awards for fiction and nonfiction and the Pearson Writers’ Trust Prize for Nonfiction.
HarperCollins president and CEO David Kent says Crean’s talent will be well served by the resources of a larger publishing house. Crean is an ideal addition to the company’s editorial staff, Kent says, noting that Crean’s extensive experience means that he could help Phyllis Bruce, vice-president and publisher of Phyllis Bruce Books, mentor the next generation of young editors at HarperCollins Canada.
The editorial staff is also growing with the hiring of editor Jane Warren, who acquired and edited Edugyan’s Half-Blood Blues while at Key Porter Books. At HarperCollins, Warren will acquire Canadian and international fiction and nonfiction, as well as doing substantive editing on selected adult and YA books.
House of Anansi Launches Two Imprints
House of Anansi is celebrating its 45th anniversary by launching a new imprint: A-List. The idea was sparked by the twist of fate that allowed Anansi to reclaim the rights to Survival, Margaret Atwood’s seminal study of Canadian literature and national identity. In the 1980s, former Anansi owner Jack Stoddart sold the rights to McClelland & Stewart, but with a clause that returned the book to Anansi if M&S was no longer Canadian owned. That reclamation inspired Anansi to create an imprint with a selection of Canadian works from its backlist, redesign their covers, and add introductions from well-known Canadian writers. It’s an eclectic list including poetry from Atwood, Dennis Lee, and Al Purdy, as well as fiction from Graeme Gibson, Anne Hébert, Roch Carrier, Rawi Hage, Lisa Moore, and Gil Adamson.
Anansi is also starting a digital imprint, and another Margaret Atwood project will be the lead title. In 1966, Atwood and the artist Charles Pachter created a series of 15 artist print books in boxes called Speeches for Doctor Frankenstein. Pachter illustrated Atwood’s poems. Those 15 copies were the only editions of the books that ever existed. “It’s a fine-art object,” says Anansi president Sarah MacLachlan. “You could go to the expense of sending it to Switzerland and making a beautiful print book out of it and sell 100 copies,” but once Atwood saw a digital edition of her first illustrated children’s book, Up in the Tree, that Anansi’s children’s publisher, Groundwood Books, had produced, she suggested producing this the same way.
Fitzhenry & Whiteside: An Acquisition
This summer Toronto-based publisher and distributor Fitzhenry & Whiteside expanded with the acquisition of Whitecap Books, the Vancouver house best known for its culinary list. Whitecap co-owners Michael Burch and Nick Rundall say the business is healthy, but, approaching retirement, both wanted less responsibility. Rundall has stayed on as sales manager for Whitecap. “We think it is an important part of the adult publishing program,” says president Sharon Fitzhenry. She adds that as Whitecap’s distributor since 2011, Fitzhenry & Whiteside knows the high quality of the company’s books and “we think it was a good mix.”
McArthur & Company Gets Smaller and Nimble
McArthur & Company has adapted in the other direction by contracting. When Hachette UK moved its Canadian sales and distribution to Hachette’s U.S. offices in 2010, taking all of its agencies and bestselling authors such as Maeve Binchy and Ian Rankin off McArthur’s distribution list, representing about C$11 million in revenue, president Kim McArthur says, the company had to quickly regroup and refocus on its Canadian publishing program. Now, she says, “We are nimble. We are like a small speedboat darting in and out, finding our spots.”
Firefly Adapts to the Evolving Reader
Lionel Koffler, owner and publisher of Firefly Books, says that readers these days are demanding more return for the money and time they invest in a book. They want to learn a new skill or save more money or be healthier, he says. “We’re doing very little these days which used to be the core of our list, which is wildlife photographs and botanical paintings and the like, celebrating the beauty of the natural world,” he says. Instead Firefly is producing many more how-to books. “It might be instead of some great photographer’s pictures of wildlife, it is how to take your own pictures,” says Koffler. One of the lead titles this fall is The Brain Book, edited by Ken Ashwell, an encyclopedic guide to the brain that also offers advice on maintaining a healthy brain.
The digital translation of location, location, location is discoverability, discoverability, discoverability. Here are some of the ways publishers in Canada are adapting to make sure they, their books, and their authors get noticed.
One way to manage the media is to create your own. This fall, Random House of Canada unveiled its own online magazine, Hazlitt, named after the 19th-century author and journalist William Hazlitt. It is a venue to showcase the company’s authors and content, but it is intended to be a fully realized online magazine, examining culture and current affairs on a daily basis. Robert Wheaton, vice-president and director, strategic digital business development, says, “The mission is to provide a compelling, entertaining, informative online magazine and the things that online magazines do best, and to publish work at its natural length, whether that is a 500-word blog post or a short online film or a marquee online feature.” Random House of Canada has hired two prominent journalists to make it all happen: Christopher Frey, as director of digital publishing and Hazlitt editor-in-chief, and Alexandra Molotkow, as Hazlitt senior editor.
The company has also created two other magazine-style Web sites. “Crave” features culinary and lifestyle content from all of RHC’s imprints, particularly from publisher Robert McCullough’s new imprint, Appetite, but also from houses that the company distributes in Canada such as Crown’s Clarkson Potter. Retreat features fiction and literary nonfiction. “There’s book club content if people are having conversations about the books—and also for people who want to talk about books, hopefully this is a great forum,” says RHC’s director of marketing and corporate communications, Tracey Turriff.
And while Random House has taken the biggest step into the realm of magazine publishing, it is not the only or the first publisher to do so in Canada. In 2011, HarperCollins Canada started creating and publishing Frenzy, a small-format print magazine for teens. Designed in-house by Jessica Anderson, creative coordinator, traditional, Frenzy closely resembles a teen or fashion magazine. But Vikki VanSickle, marketing specialist and outreach, says all of the content is 100% related to HarperCollins Canada’s books. It includes author interviews and information about books, but also quizzes and celebrity and fashion spreads. The current issue includes a fashion spread based on a fall title set in the 1920s. About 2,000 print copies go out to public and school libraries each season as well as to individual subscribers. Marketing director Cory Beatty says Frenzy is an effective tool for connecting with booksellers and readers. “Some of the dedicated teen booksellers at Chapters/Indigo, for example, have it in their stores, so they’re aware of what books are out. That has sometimes led to extra placement or even handing [the magazine] out to other staff to keep them informed about what books are coming out.” Bloggers were invited to an exclusive Frenzy event at the Toronto HarperCollins offices for a behind-the-scenes view of the publishing program and upcoming YA titles. The department is also building Frenzy’s online presence.
As a part of Corus Entertainment, one of Canada’s largest media companies, Kids Can Press has some evolutionary advantages stemming from its integration with Corus’s television stations such as Treehouse and Nickelodeon (Canada). Working with Corus’s Nelvana, one of the world’s leading creators, producers, and distributors of children’s and animated programming, Kids Can’s Franklin the Turtle has become a global brand that is about to get much bigger still. “We’re just at the front end of the Franklin tsunami that is about to hit,” says Kids Can president Lisa Lyons.
This fall, Kids Can will release storybooks based on episodes of the Nelvana-made CGI Franklin television series in Canada. The television series began airing on Nickelodeon in February this year, and the storybooks will release in the U.S. next fall in tandem with a big merchandising push that will appear at Christmas 2013 throughout North America. The books have also been licensed internationally in such markets as France and Poland. Franklin now has 60,000 friends on Facebook.
If you aren’t part of a media conglomerate or can’t make your own media partnerships, serendipitous connections with other media can give a book a big boost. And a dash of celebrity never hurts.
ECW Press has published numerous music books, but the house has never had one like Clockwork Angels. Rush drummer Neil Peart teamed up with science fiction writer Kevin J. Anderson to expand the story told in Peart’s lyrics on the latest Rush album, of the same name. Rush’s record companies Atlantic and Roadrunner are helping to promote the book with some flashy results. On August 31, Rolling Stone magazine ran an excerpt. In exchange, ECW is promoting the album with flyers inside the book and at events.
Tundra Books also has a rock-and-roll connection this season. It’s a picture book for six-to-nine-year-olds, a biography of the Somali-Canadian rapper, singer, and songwriter, K’naan. Titled When I Get Older, the book is based on his song “Wavin’ Flag,” which is his personal story, and it was chosen as a theme song for the FIFA World Cup in 2010. “It’s really a refugee story,” says Tundra publisher Alison Morgan. K’naan grew up happily in Mogadishu until civil war shook up his life, and he moved to New York then Canada, and struggled to settle in. The book comes with a history of Somalia, sheet music, and the lyrics.
In August, HarperCollins Canada published Such Wicked Intent, the sequel to Canadian YA star author Kenneth Oppel’s This Dark Endeavor, about a young Victor Frankenstein. Hadley Dyer, executive editor of children’s books, said Oppel does not intend to write a third book for a trilogy, but since the producers of Twilight have optioned the first book, he isn’t entirely closing the door. HarperCollins will have more Hollywood sparkle in December when Peter Jackson’s first film of J.R.R. Tolkein’s The Hobbit is released and will undoubtedly boost sales of the HarperCollins edition of the book.
House of Anansi was ahead of the trend with its long-standing partnership with the CBC to publish the Massey Lectures, an annual series of five lectures delivered by a noted thinker on five campuses across Canada, broadcast nationally on CBC radio, and streamed on the Internet. This fall’s lectures, “The Universe Within: From Quantum to Cosmos,” are by theoretical physicist Neil Turok. “The catch line we use, and we want to get T-shirts made with it, is ‘We are analog beings living in a digital world facing a quantum future,’” says Anansi president MacLachlan. “He’s really talking about how... we are actually the authors of many of our problems, but we can be the authors of our solutions,” she says. Anansi will publish it directly into the U.S. and is already fielding several international offers.
The Stone Thrower, a memoir by Jael Ealey Richardson about her father, Chuck Ealey, who became a star in the Canadian Football League when racism kept him from playing professionally in the U.S, will also benefit from the airing of a television documentary about Ealey. The film was commissioned by TSN for the 100th anniversary of the Grey Cup. Thomas Allen & Son are publishing.
McArthur & Company is also benefiting from the sale of rights for Paul Almond’s seven-book historical Alford saga to Toronto’s Cream Productions, which is now creating a television miniseries for CBC Television of the first book, The Deserter. McArthur has also sold the rights for Margaret Atwood’s series of children’s books, Wandering Wenda and Friends, to Toronto-based Breakthrough Entertainment, one of Canada’s largest television production and distribution companies.
Toronto-based Annick Press is working with New York–based Open Road Media to help create and market some of its e-books, including 20 books by children’s favorite Robert Munsch that are enhanced with audio of Munsch reading the story, music, and sound effects. “The whole story with e-books is discoverability,” says Annick director Rick Wilks, who credits Open Road’s good relationships with e-tailers for the success of the books.
“Open Road has such good relationships with all the e-tailers. They are into Amazon, they’re talking about it, they are offering specials,” he says. “I think The Paper Bag Princess got to #5 on the kids’ book bestseller list at Amazon. That was just a few weeks after the e-book was released this summer. It just rocketed.”
Orca Book Publishers in Victoria is partnering with the Vancouver school board in a pilot project, providing about 175 e-books to about 90 schools. “The purpose is really to see how it works,” says publisher Andrew Wooldridge. “It allows them to gather information on who’s reading what and how and how fast and which building is progressing faster than which other one and to try to gauge how to increase reading scores.”
Marketing with a Sense of Humor
In the absence of in-house magazine production and media deals, marketing with originality and a sense of humor still works in the digital age.
In August, indie house Coach House Books offered a Sex Trade-in Sale to promote its spring release of Tamara Faith Berger’s novel Maidenhead. Readers could trade in their copies of Fifty Shades of Grey for a discount on Berger’s novel. Those who could not physically bring their book into Coach House’s offices in downtown Toronto could e-mail a photo of themselves with their copy of Fifty Shades of Grey along with their favorite or least favorite passage from the book in order to get the print edition of Maidenhead for C$12 or the e-book for C$8. Berger’s book published this month in the U.S.
Timing Is Still Everything
If the timing is right, newspaper headlines and the nightly news may contribute to a publisher’s marketing efforts. As the world watches the current turmoil in the Middle East and tries to understand the intricacies of power struggles, religion, oil, influence, and uneasy alliances in the region, Dundurn Press is publishing Maclean’s magazine’s foreign correspondent Michael Petrou’s book Is This Your First War? Travels Through the Post-9/11 Islamic World, out when many people might be reaching for a book with some answers.
Groundwood Books author Deborah Ellis will also offer readers of her new YA novel, My Name Is Parvana, insights into Afghanistan and its people in a sequel to her critically acclaimed Breadwinner trilogy, which has sold more than two million copies in 28 languages.
OwlKids Books is creating an enhanced e-book app for Elin Kelsey and illustrator Soyeon Kim’s picture book, You Are Stardust, but Kelsey’s inspiration couldn’t be more down-to-earth. She is concerned that today’s kids don’t have enough opportunities to connect with nature.
New Generation of Leadership
Trena White, publisher
In March, D&M announced that White, 36, would take over as publisher at D&M when cofounder Scott McIntyre stepped out of the role of CEO on July 1. White is now in charge of running both Douglas & McIntyre and Greystone programs, but both McIntyre and Rob Sanders remain actively involved in the company in various roles. McIntyre continues as chairman and director of both D&M and BookRiff Media, and Sanders as senior vice-president, new business development, international, and publisher at large.
White started her book publishing career at McClelland & Stewart, editing nonfiction after graduating from the Simon Fraser University’s master of publishing program. But after six years at M&S in Toronto, the opportunity to work at D&M and return to her home province of British Columbia arose and White started at D&M in May of 2010 as an acquiring editor in nonfiction. She was appointed associate publisher of Douglas & McIntyre in mid-2011.
“I have a lot to learn but that’s part of what makes this exciting,” says White.
Buzz book: A political satire from Chris Cannon and Brian Calvert, America but Better, which began as a YouTube video of Canada declaring its candidacy for the American presidency that went viral and got a million hits in a couple of weeks.
Jesse Finkelstein, chief operating officer
Finkelstein, 36, was appointed as COO at the same time as White was appointed with the intention that they would work as an executive team.
“It’s an incredible learning curve and a tremendous opportunity to work with Trena, and also to be able to work with the senior management team here, including Scott,” says Finkelstein.
Finkelstein, also a graduate of SFU’s master of publishing program, began her career working for small publishers in her native Montreal. An internship at Raincoast Books led to a job after she graduated from SFU. After Raincoast closed its publishing division, Finkelstein was hired at D&M in 2009 as digital assets and foreign rights director.
Penguin Group (Canada)
Nicole Winstanley, president and publisher
In July, Penguin Canada announced that Winstanley, 38, its publisher, would immediately add president to her duties, following Mike Bryan’s decision to retire as president in order to return to his native U.K.
When Winstanley first graduated with an English degree, she found work in Toronto’s financial industry, but had to read a book a day on her commute from the suburbs “to keep afloat because it just wasn’t where my heart was,” she says. She took a publishing degree at night at Toronto’s Ryerson University and took the first publishing job she could find—as an assistant at a publishing directory company called Sources. After graduating, she was hired at Westwood Creative Artists and became the agency’s international rights director. In 2005, she began work at Penguin as a senior editor. She was appointed publisher in 2009.
Winstanley says reaction to her appointment has been warming. “People are happy to see that the company is in the hands of a Canadian and a book person, which isn’t always the case with publishers,” she says.
Buzz book: Winstanley will continue to edit a boutique list of authors with the Hamish Hamilton imprint. She edited a debut novel from Canadian author Marjorie Celona, titled Y, the story of a baby left on the doorstep of a YMCA and her life, but it is also her mother’s story. “It’s all things. It’s heartbreaking and wise, but also funny and dark. It’s one of those unforgettable books that rarely comes along,” says Winstanley. It has been longlisted for Canada’s biggest fiction prize, the Scotiabank Giller Prize.
Barry Gallant, chief operating officer
Gallant, age 45, Penguin Canada’s vice-president of finance and operations, was promoted with Winstanley to chief operating officer. He has worked with Penguin Canada in several financial and operational capacities for 16 years. After starting in a financial role, Gallant moved to the operations side of Penguin, focusing on client publisher management, inventory control, distribution, and customer service. “In terms of the new role, I’m really excited about it, and we have a great team in place to face the challenges ahead.”
Random House of Canada
Kristin Cochrane, 41, executive publisher of the McClelland & Stewart Doubleday Publishing Group and executive vice-president of Random House of Canada
In June, Random House of Canada announced that Cochrane, publisher of Doubleday Canada, was being promoted to oversee a huge pool of talent as executive publisher of the McClelland & Stewart Doubleday Publishing Group. The group she heads includes Tundra Books, McClelland & Stewart, Signal, Fenn-M.S., Doubleday Canada, Doubleday Canada Books for Young Readers, Bond Street Books, and Appetite by Random House.
After graduating from Queen’s University in Kingston, Ont., Cochrane attended the Banff publishing immersion workshop and then was hired as a sales and marketing assistant at HarperCollins Canada. She held various senior sales and marketing positions there between 1995 and 2006. Then she joined Doubleday Canada as associate publisher and was promoted to publisher in 2010.
Cochrane expects it will take some time for the new publishing division to knit together, but, she says, “Across the group there’s a really lovely sense of co-operation and collegiality. Everyone’s really excited to get to know each other’s lists better and find ways we can work together within that group to publish better.”
Buzz book: “One of the books we are most excited about is [Canadian author] Miranda Hill’s collection of short stories, Sleeping Funny. She won the Journey Prize for a story that’s in the collection. She’s just a fantastic writer,” says Cochrane.
Kobo Aims for Global Appeal
When Kobo first entered the digital reading and reader fray in 2010, CEO Michael Serbinis spoke of the company as a David taking on Amazon’s Goliath. And in many ways, Kobo still is a David in the field, even though its acquisition by Japan’s Rakuten in January this year meant that it now has a giant (albeit a smaller one) on its side.
In Canada, where Kobo has its deepest roots and connection with consumers and a large share of the market, publishers and others in the industry have observed the growth of e-book sales slowing somewhat. ECW Press’s co-publisher David Caron says that what was once 300% growth year over year in ECW’s monthly e-book sales has slowed to about 85%. Caron and BookNet Canada’s CEO Noah Genner have speculated that the slowdown probably indicates that the wave of early adopters buying devices and e-books has peaked. But Todd Humphrey, Kobo’s executive vice-president of business development, says Kobo’s growth is still accelerating and exceeding expectations. “Our growth month over month from day one has been ahead of where we thought it would be,” he tells PW. “We set some pretty lofty goals for ourselves, and we continue to see, both in Canada and around the globe, a faster adoption, and not only in converting people into e-book customers—the rate at which they are then making purchases continues to accelerate, so our business domestically and globally continues to accelerate.”
While Amazon still dominates the U.S. market with Kindle, Kobo meets it toe to toe. Early in September, Kobo unveiled its three new devices—the e-ink Kobo Mini, Kobo Glo (with a front light), and its new tablet, the Kobo Arc, in the same week as Amazon’s Kindle Fire. Humphrey promoted the Arc’s user interface Tapestries as a feature that brings “content to the surface that is really personalized to the user that is on that device at that moment. It allows for easier movement through the device, allows for greater discovery whether it is music or movies or books or Web pages—the device does a lot of that heavy lifting for the consumer.” He added that the Arc is also on an open Android 4.0 platform. “It’s got access to Google Play, which is the Google App store, more than 600,000 applications.”
Kobo recently made a new inroad, partnering with the American Booksellers Association to allow independent booksellers to sell e-books and Kobo devices. Giving Kobo access to 2,000 independent booksellers, Humphrey says the deal “allows us to begin to service, from an independent standpoint, a market that has otherwise been typically untouched to this point.” While there is no similar deal with the Canadian booksellers, he says, Kobo is in conversation with bookseller associations around the world. While he could not disclose the financial details of the deal with the ABA, Humphrey says, “The independent bookseller is affiliated with that customer, so there’s a nice revenue share. We didn’t want to walk in and just presume the independents wanted to hand over their customers, so it really is a partnership in the truest sense of the word.”
But Kobo’s strategy has always been a global one. “From day one we said we are going to be an open platform and a global company, and I think that the acquisition by Rakuten has allowed us to accelerate that,” says Humphrey. One approach Kobo has used to appeal to customers in other markets is to offer service in the local language.
“It’s another layer of complexity, but it really has been a critical piece of the way that we have gone to market is to say, ‘We’re here to serve you as a customer and we’re here in your local language, and I think that has spoken volumes about the way we approach our customer experience.” Even if Kobo never beats Amazon in the U.S., the world is a big place. Humphrey says that Kobo has plans to launch in Brazil. Such emerging markets offer lots of opportunity to companies willing to venture there.
For printer Webcom, adapting to changes in publishing has required a speed that might be closer to revolution than evolution.
In the past two years, the printer has invested more than C$20 million in inkjet presses and in developing its BookFWD production model. BookFWD is designed to help publishers print and manage their inventories and meet the changing demands of the market, whether that is shorter print runs and quicker cycle times or more customization, says president and CEO Mike Collinge.
With a capacity to print two billion pages a year, Webcom now is the second-largest digital inkjet printing company in North America. Collinge says that about 30% of Webcom’s business has now shifted from offset printing to high-speed inkjet presses. The average order size has dropped by 53% since January 2011, but he says, the number of orders placed has grown 68%, so the number of books being printed has actually increased.
The publishers’ challenge is not to produce more books than they can sell but enough to meet the demand, he adds. “Our ability to run many smaller orders that are just geared to the demand that they are confident in is helping our publishers become more profitable and responsive to their market, and even still, the total number of books is significantly growing for us.”