A Canadian book blog: Publishing, marketing, books and technology from a Canadian perspective

Douglas & McIntyre

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Vancouver Sun Book Club Reads The Sentimentalists by Johanna Skibsrud


My review of The Sentimentalists is going to be one of those long, slow, percolating posts as I’m actually reading/reviewing the book as part of The Vancouver Sun’s re-launched book club.

Each week we start out with a group questions, converse via email and then Tracy Sherlock, books editor for the Vancouver Sun distills the conversation into its tantalizing bits and posts to the blog and Saturday print edition ( http://www.vancouversun.com/covertocover ). We finish things off with a live chat with author Johanna Skibsrud, winner of the 2010 Giller Prize, in early April.

You can also follow the conversation on Twitter @VanSunArts and use the hashtag #VanSunBooks to comment. Or comment here, I’d love to know what other people thought, and if you have any questions that I should ask Johanna.

My fellow panelists include Angela Haaf, VPL librarian; Julia Denholm, Langara English Instructor; Sean Cranbury, founder of http://BooksOnTheRadio.ca; Ian Weir, author of the novel Daniel O’Thunder; Mark Medley, National Post books editor; and from The Vancouver Sun, Brad Frenette, social media and community newsroom editor, and Tracy Sherlock, books editor.

Check out this week’s Vancouver Sun Book Club conversation about The Sentimentalists by Johanna Skibsrud…

Original edition
by Gaspereau Press
Redesigned Giller Prize edition
by D&M Publishers

Monday, April 12, 2010

Book Review: Small Beneath the Sky by Lorna Crozier

Not only does Greystone publish beautifully written books, they design them beautifully. This petite package is absolutely lovely. The Amazon thumbnail below does not do it justice.

One word review: Eloquent

Crozier is a fine, fine writer. Her memoir’s style is like a novel, or a Canadian long poem for those of you who know what that is. The vivid narrative, wistful poetry and snippets of daily life take us to Crozier’s childhood and adolescence in Swift Current, Saskatchewan. The poverty of the prairies is mixed with the stoicism of prairie folk—hard-working toilers of the land who love to stand in the wheat, feel the wind in their hair, and can’t imagine a better place. (And, of course, there are the town drunks, the self-righteous, the nosy neighbours, and all variety of friends.)

Small Beneath the Sky was a slow read for me, each sentence so tightly crafted that I needed to savour it like a popsicle on a hot summer day.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Douglas & McIntyre Launches “Imagine That” Campaign

Chris Labonté, Douglas & McIntyre’s Assistant Publisher & Acquiring Editor, imagines a fiction program that features extraordinary writers. “Extraordinary writers willing to push the bounds of literature; to mess around with form and content and style; to bend genre and explore new ways of telling good stories.”

The result is the Fall 2009 “Imagine That” campaign and the Speak Easy podcast, hosted by John Burns.

Featured in my press kit are the following books.

Daniel O’Thunder: a Novel by Ian Weir


Heading South: a Novel by Dany Laferriere, translated by Wayne Grady


Red: A Haida Manga by Michael Nicoll Yahgulanaas


Also in my kit was a reminder that Douglas & McIntyre has been publishing Quebecois and French-Canadian literature in translation for nearly two decades. Included on the list are several works by Monique Proulx (I want to read Invisible Man at the Window) and works by Daniel Poliquin.

I’m looking forward to more podcasts and great fiction. Thanks for keeping me in the loop D&M.


Sunday, June 07, 2009

Gratis vs Libre: Giving Books Away for Free

BookCampTO was this weekend and it stimulated my brain.

Mitch Joel, who I admire greatly, was in attendance and we had a couple of excellent thought exchanges, one of which is playing out on his blog.

Here’s a fleshed out version of my comment “Gratis vs. Libre.”

The thing of value that publishers and authors have is the content of their books. Setting the value of that content at zero is not the way to go. (Although there are interesting examples of free PDFs that lead to great value for the publisher and author. See the D&M case study on The Tar Sands (PDF).—Thank you Alison for sharing!)

Giving the content away for free (in whatever format the book takes) is like my fellow apartment dwellers who toss books into the “free” box in the laundry room. Those books are gratis. They are one step above being thrown away. The value exchange between giver and taker is “meh”.

Freeing the content, as in libre, is what publishers and authors are after. It’s the quest to give—as in a gift—that allows the value exchange of the content to remain in tact.

Why did the D&M campaign meet its goals with the free PDF? Partly because it’s still early days for free PDFs. D&M captured our attention by giving away the entire book because there are few people doing that as a marketing strategy. There is value in the rarity.

More important though is that there was a strategy to this campaign. They set measurable goals in advance. And they didn’t set the only goal as increasing sales because they recognize that there’s not a direct correlation between a single marketing campaign (with multiple facets) to sales. But most important of all, they treated the PDF as a gift.

It was available for a limited time. And it was available, in particular, to journalists and bloggers as a file that they could gift to others. It was libre—free to travel, free to be shared.

And, quite cleverly, there are still reasons for us to talk about Tar Sands: Dirty Oil and the Future of a Continent by Andrew Nikiforuk because the publisher has created this case study to share as a gift to other publishers and authors who are debating the merits of posting a free PDF. Thank you again for sharing!

Book publishing is an industry in a cribbage game—and it’s not about avoiding getting skunked by your fellow publishers, it’s about avoiding getting skunked by every other industry vying for consumer attention. You are playing as an industry, not as individual players.

BookCampTO is one example of how we can work together and I really hope to bring that conversation to the west coast. Thank you for the Toronto hospitality.

I’ll be posting my BookCampTO notes at http://www.breakthespine.com/. If you’re interested in attending the Vancouver debrief session sign up for email alerts at Break the Spine, email me, DM me on twitter—chose your means.

Email Alerts from Break the Spine

Website: http://www.breakthespine.com/
Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/breakthespine or http://www.twitter.com/somisguided


Monday, March 16, 2009

SXSW: No Think for Old Publishers

New Think for Old Publishers panel at SXSW drew a lot of frustration from the crowd of book lovers and supporters.

The official description of the session was:

This is not a discussion of whether ebooks are killing treebooks, or whether it’s possible to get cozy with an Amazon Kindle. It’s about how participatory culture and the online world interact with good olde book publishing.Clay Shirky, author of Here Comes Everybody, Deborah Schultz, and fellow panelists will share with the audience a variety of perspectives on what’s going right and what’s going wrong in publishing, assess success of recent forays into marketing digitally, digital publishing, and what books and blogs have to gain from one another. Penguin Group (USA), which houses some 40 plus imprints and publishes an extremely broad variety of physical and digital products everything from William Gibson’s first ebook in the 90’s to Michael Pollan’s In Defense of Food to Charlaine Harris’ Sookie Stackhouse novels (the source for HBO’s True Blood) is deeply involved in exploring ways that old and new media might better collaborate. Audience members are invited to speak up about what they think book publishers could/should be doing to better provide relevant information and content to blogs, websites, and online communities. Come tell old media what you want and how you want it.

Clay Shirky ITP
John Fagan   Mktg Dir,  Penguin Group (USA)
Deborah Schultz   Founder/Chief Catalyst,  deborahschultz.com
Peter Miller   Dir of Publicity,  Bloomsbury USA
Ivan Held   Pres GP Putnam’s Sons,  Penguin Group (USA)

They certainly told publishers what they think. The summation was “you suck at this is the biggest way possible.”

I think it’s unfair to attack the folks on that panel but as representatives of the industry they do have to go back to their houses and understand that they need to convey, not that bloggers are an unruly bunch, but that publishers need to get off their asses and get involved with social media. Enough is enough.

BookSquare says
If you’re going to hold a session called “New Think for Old Publishers”, you gotta come with some new thinking. Either that or tell the audience that it’s a research session…and the audience is supposed to bring the new thinking. Good idea, needed better execution. Nobody read the panel description to mean “we want the audience to tell us what we’re doing wrong and how we can fix it”.


The publishing people on stage said, essentially, tell us what we’re doing wrong and how we can fix it. You have 300 people who give up an hour of their lives to hear the cool things the traditional publishing business is doing…and you can ask them to consult on your business?

Watch a video of the panel here.

Other links to conversation about this panel:
Medialoper has a fairly neutral assessment of what unfolded.

Twitter stream of comments on this panel #sxswbp

Monique’s summary
What went wrong is this:
* Publishers have not listened to the crowd for a long time.
* The crowd is restless.
* Publishers wring their hands about the web.
* The crowd offers options publishers don’t like.
* Publishers weep into their hands.
* The crowd wants to help and offers other suggestions.
* Publishers act like deer in headlights.
* The crowd plows down publishers and reinvents the industry without them.

What this panel really came down to is that the wisdom of the crowds is not being tapped. The crowd is now sick and tired of trying to help people who won’t help themselves.

Hold me to this: I’m going to organize a panel in Vancouver. We’re going to create a model for publishing and marketing books. We’re going to move forward as an industry. Leaders will be identified. Roles will be assigned. If you’re not open to totally change everything you’re doing, then you are not ready for this revolution. Don’t come.

Who’s in?


Peter Miller Glibness. “Do As I Say, Not As I Do: Tips from a panelist who barely survived” in Publishers Weekly.
Read the article.

Michael Tamblyn of BookNet Canada on 6 Things That Revolutionize Publishing

Sunday, August 17, 2008

James Glave: Trailers and Almost Green

James Glave, author of Almost Green (now in stores), has some new trailers up for his book.

I like James and his enthusiasm.


ALMOST GREEN is a quirky look at one man’s quest to build an eco shed, a sustainably designed writing studio. This “green” house was one work of wonder in terms of battling opinions, neighbours, suppliers and the land itself.