Posts Tagged: 2009

The Canadian Book Industry Supply Chain Initiative: The Inception and Implementation of a New Funding Initiative for the Department of Canadian Heritage


By Heather Maclean

ABSTRACT: During the late 1990s and early 2000s the Canadian book publishing industry was facing many challenges – most notably a crisis in and systemic problem with book returns. In response to entreaties from the book community to Parliament, the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage commissioned research and sought input from the publishing community. It then released a report highlighting the precarious operational climate in the country for the production and sale of books. The report’s recommendations and responses by the Government of Canada led to a new funding initiative – the Canadian Book Industry Supply Chain Initiative (SCI). This research report documents the development and implementation of the SCI between government fiscal years 2002-2003 and 2007-2008; detailing how the new initiative improved and modernized the Canadian book supply chain. It also provides insight into the development, launch, and performance of the book supply chain agency for English-language Canada, BookNet Canada.Replicas Inflatable Cemento




I have many people to thank for their help during the writing of this project report. A special thank you to David Schimpky for being a great boss and industry advisor. Thank you also to Rowland Lorimer, John Maxwell, and the irreplaceable and amazing Jo-Anne Ray.

This work is dedicated:

To my parents, Bill and C.C. MacLean – as always, for your love, support, and guidance. The accomplishments I have achieved and the dreams I have fulfilled are thanks to you both.

To my sisters, Aynsley and Sheila – my best friends and my cheerleaders.

To Andrew (Oni) – for a lifetime of friendship, love, and laughter.

To Kathryn and John – for giving me shelter from the storm, and for being such awesome friends.

To Carolyn – for your constant encouragement and faith in me. You are a light in my life, sweet girl. And I am lucky to be your friend.

To Jenny, and to Turner – for always being there for me, day or night.

And finally, to Brendan – because you carry me; always have. And I will always be grateful.

NOTE: The views or opinions expressed in this report do not necessarily represent the views or opinions of the Department of Canadian Heritage or its staff, nor do they necessarily represent the views or opinions of any entity of, or entity affiliated with, the Department of Canadian Heritage.




List of Tables

Part 1
+++1.0 The Need for a More Efficient, Technology-Driven Book Supply Chain
+++2.0 The Operating Climate for Canadian Publishers in the Late 1990s and into +++the Millennium − an Overview
+++3.0 The Involvement of the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage
+++4.0 The Government of Canada – Support for the Canadian Book Publishing +++Industry

Part 2
+++5.0 The Hearings of the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage, 1999-2000
+++6.0 Recommendations from the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage to +++Improve the Book Supply Chain
+++7.0 Creating a New Book Supply Chain for Canada
+++8.0 The Canadian Book Industry Supply Chain Initiative
+++9.0 Establishing Book Supply Chain Fundamentals

Part 3
+++10.0 The Launch of the Canadian Book Industry Supply Chain Initiative, 2002-+++2003
+++11.0 The Canadian Book Industry Supply Chain Initiative – Chronology
+++12.0 The Development of a Canadian Book Supply Chain Agency for English-+++language Canada
+++13.0 Bibliographic Data Certification – A Priority
+++14.0 The Canadian Book Industry Supply Chain Initiative: 2002-2003 – 2007-+++2008 Results
+++15.0 The Ongoing Function of the Canadian Book Industry Supply Chain +++Initiative
+++16.0 Conclusion

+++A. Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage
+++B. Six Key Questions from the Roundtable Discussions
+++C. Names of the Supply Chain Initiative Steering Committee and Affiliations
+++D. The Supply Chain Initiative Working Group for BookNet Canada
+++E. Founding BookNet Canada Member Organizations and Founding Board of +++Directors
+++F. Gantt Chart of The BookNet Canada Timeline (Set Up To Completion)
+++G. Current Bibliographic Certification Standards for BookNet Canada
+++H. Publisher Opinion of the Impact of the Supply Chain Initiative, 2004
+++I. Publisher Opinion of the Impact of the Supply Chain Initiative, 2008









ACP Association of Canadian Publishers
ATP Aid to Publishers
BTLF Société de gestion de la banque de titres de langue française
BNC BookNet Canada
BISAC Book and Serial Industry Systems Advisory Committee
BPIDP Book Publishing Industry Development Program
CBA Canadian Booksellers Association
CBIF Canadian Book Industry Forum
CBISAC Canadian Book Industry Systems Advisory Committee
CPC Canadian Publishers’ Council
CTA Canadian Telebook Agency
EDI Electronic Data Interchange
GDS General Distribution Services
ONIX Online Information eXchange
POS Point-of-Sale data
SCI Canadian Book Industry Supply Chain Initiative




This report presents a case study of how, after much interaction between the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage and representatives of the Canadian book publishing industry, the Department of Canadian Heritage responded to the need for a program to specifically address the book supply chain in Canada.

The late 1990s and early 2000s were a tumultuous time for the Canadian publishing industry. Industry functioning had destabilized as a result of a crisis situation in book returns, the retail market dominance of Chapters Inc., the expansion and bankruptcy of General Publishing Co., the impact of digital technology advancements (including the growth of the online retail sector, the anticipated rise of the e-book market, and issues pertaining to digital rights management), ongoing foreign competition in the Canadian book market, and succession planning into the new millennium.

To address the concerns of the industry, in 2000, the parliamentary Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage undertook an inquiry into the operating conditions in Canada’s book industry. The Standing Committee conducted a series of meetings in which members of the book publishing industry were invited to provide testimony on the current state of the industry.

These discussions lead to the development of a report entitled The Challenge of Change: A Consideration of the Canadian Book Industry released in 2000. The report presented recommendations from the Standing Committee for dealing with areas of concern and moving the industry forward. The Government of Canada then responded to the recommendations in a subsequent report released in 2001 called The Government’s Response to the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage’s Report: The Challenge of Change: A Consideration of the Canadian Book Industry. These reports became the impetus for the development and implementation of the Canadian Book Industry Supply Chain Initiative (SCI) in the government’s fiscal year 2002-2003, as part of the Book Publishing Industry Development Program in the Department of Canadian Heritage.

This research report focuses on the development and evolution of the SCI, working with the timeframe of 2002-2003 to 2007-2008. It highlights the partnership between the Canadian book publishing industry and the Government of Canada in recognizing a barrier to growth – and perhaps even sustainability – and working together towards a solution.

While we would have had to replace our system [the current book supply chain method] anyway, we could have neither justified nor afforded such a quantum leap without BPIDP assistance. Comparing what we now have compared to what we otherwise might is the systems equivalent to the difference between a Volvo and a Model T Ford.[1] – Nicholas Hoare, President, Nicholas Hoare Ltd.


The New Century Ahead

During the late 1990s, as the new millennium approached, the world was awash in discourse about life propelled into the twenty-first century. In Canadian book publishing circles – for publishers around the world, in fact – the question dominating conversation remained – what would become of print? In an industry already steeped in centuries of tradition, what would this new century bring? Would Canadian book publishers have the ability not only to adopt, but also to embrace digital technology and its many implications successfully, for the future health and longevity of the industry?

Publishing and printing industries are no strangers to the challenges of new technology. However, it would have been unwise during that time not to recognize the fact that the printing and publishing industries were in the throes of enormous technology-driven change. The book industry as a whole would have to prepare to respond to technological challenges, and this response had to be phrased in the context of the “New Economy,” which meant a need for new thinking and new mindsets, as much as new business plans. According to Bill Martin, author of the journal article Publishing in the New Economy,

Any industry hoping to survive in the networked economy must ensure that it has an appropriate technology infrastructure capable of providing the kinds and levels of service that that customers want. This requires the building of enterprise information architectures that integrate telecommunications and computing systems, front and back end operations, the supply chain, digital data flows, and enterprise management systems of all kinds.[2]

Chief among preparations for the new marketplace for books was to ensure that books moved through the Canadian supply chain efficiently and effectively. A fluid book supply chain was necessary to ease congestion and confusion (and problematic returns), and provide a solid foundation for which to build on the Canadian publishing proposition.

The following sections will describe in detail the constraints under which Canadian publishers were operating as they entered the new century. It will also illustrate how the traditional supply chain model, with its systemic problems, was struggling in this new context. It will emphasize how actions undertaken by the Department of Canadian Heritage aided Canadian publishers in addressing the issues they were facing, particularly with regard to the book supply chain – thus ensuring the continued success of Canadian-authored books for readers in Canada and around the world. (While there were important issues for French Canada related to the book supply chain, this research report focuses primarily on English Canada.)




1.0 The Need for a More Efficient, Technology-Driven Book Supply Chain

In his book, The Art and Science of Book Publishing, Herbert S. Bailey Jr. makes note of the fundamental fact that “the function of publishing is to supply books to the world.”[3]

In order to fulfill that mandate, an effective and efficient supply chain for book publishing must be in place. Book publishing is not just a social and cultural activity; it is also a commercial activity which relies on the physical movement of books through a supply chain. “Books are vehicles of ideas, instruments of education, vessels of literature, and sources of entertainment. But the task of bringing them into existence and of purveying them to their readers is a commercial one requiring…resources and skills…”[4]

Books travel from publisher to reader through many passageways – from publisher to printer, to distributor to book retailer, library, or school, and most often times, back. It is a complicated process of operations, fulfillment, and accounting, further complicated by returns.[5]

Because there are often operational difficulties in the book supply chain, books are not always available, customers are unsure which distributor to order from, accounts are disputed, payments are late, and unsold books are returned to publishers for credit.[6]


The Problem with Returns

Publishing is one of the few industries that sells merchandise on a fully returnable basis. Returns have been part of the North American publishing industry since the mid 1930s, during the time of the Depression. It was a tactic used to overcome booksellers’ wariness toward authors who were unfamiliar to them – if customers didn’t buy those books, booksellers could return the books for full credit.

This consignment system has many negative business implications, chief among them that returns distract the publisher from its primary business of selling books; returns reduce sales and accounts receivable, and therefore cash flow; returns increase inventory levels and reduce inventory turnover; and finally, returns add more cost to the publishing process, especially to warehousing and fulfillment costs.[7]

The reasons for high returns are many and include publishers overprinting books, publishers overpricing books, lack of promotional and marketing support for a book, poor market research, poor coordination of sales and marketing information, publishers overselling and accounts overbuying, and publishers reprinting too many, too soon.[8] To some degree, also, returns are inevitable in a system that attempts to have available every one of the 16,000 new titles in any bookstore into which a reader might walk.

Richard Curtis, author of This Business of Publishing, called the book distribution system “a ridiculously antiquated one.”[9] He goes on to state that,

This system is grossly inefficient, wasteful, costly, and risky. In its worst manifestations, however, it is pernicious and very close to fraudulent. Unsold books, under a consignment system, are a form of currency, and like any other form of currency, are subject to manipulation…All bookstore people understand this concept perfectly: When times are tough, stores that don’t have cash “spend” their returns, buying new titles with credits on books that aren’t moving fast enough in order to keep cash flowing. Publishers, like anybody else, can only live so long on credit – then they start to bleed.[10]

Returns are inherently a systemic problem which causes much disruption to the book supply chain. Curtis also notes:

The consignment system is the principle cause of hostility between bookstore and publisher, and between publisher and author. Publishers condemn bookstores and chains for their profligate ordering. But why should bookstores restrain themselves? They have, after all, nothing to lose, as they can always invoke the privilege of sending back what they can’t sell. To meet the demand of these bloated orders, publishers have no choice but to overprint. Then, when the books fail to move out of the stores, the publishers are compelled to eat huge returns. The only people who prosper from this insane process are the remainder jobbers or the shady characters who illegally sell stripped paperbacks. In their frenzy to keep stores from returning books, publishers are compelled to offer incentives, politely referring to as “slotting allowances,” “display fees,” and “co-op contributions,” that border on institutionalized bribery.[11]

Returns had been problematic for many decades, the largest reason being that returns create unpredictability and instability in the book publishing business. The task into the year 2000 was to alleviate some of the stress returns had on an already temperamental book supply chain in Canada.


Rethinking the Book Supply Chain into the Millennium

It was during the early years of the new millennium that, according to Marshal L. Fisher in an article in the Harvard Business Review,

Never before had so much technology and brainpower been applied to improving supply chain performance. Point-of-sale scanners allow companies to capture the customer’s voice. Electronic data interchange lets all stages of the supply chain better hear that voice and react to it by using flexible manufacturing, automated warehousing, and rapid logistics. And new concepts such as efficient consumer response, accurate response, mass customization, and agile manufacturing offer models for applying this new technology.[12]

An efficient supply chain characterized by effective communication and fast delivery between trading partners is key to the success of any industry. Moving products quickly, partnered with the ability to anticipate and fulfill demand results in reduced costs related to storage, shipping, returns, and the destruction of returned goods. As publishing industry consultant Mike Shatzkin noted in a Quill & Quire article written in the late 1990s:

Too often, books that would sell are not in the store, while far too many copies of other titles soon to become returns, occupy the shelf space…publishers or distributors will have to develop understandings and systems that apply the point-of-sale data to make good stocking decisions, so that they can justify increasing their shelf space by pointing to successful financial results with the space they have. This implies the development of whole new skill sets among publishers and distributors…the technology tools to help are immeasurably better and the stakes, given the current trends of shorter shelf life for each title and increasing return, couldn’t be higher.[13]

In a study commissioned by the Department of Canadian Heritage by Turner-Riggs entitled Book Distribution in Canada’s English-language Market, marketer and business strategist Craig Riggs notes:

Any serious consideration of the supply chain quickly turns to how the logistics and systems of moving books around the country can be made more efficient. Customers at every level in the chain, perhaps the end consumer most of all, expect the books they want to be quickly and readily available.…virtually every publisher, distributor, and retailer in the market is on the hunt for improved sales and profitability, and this in a marketplace where overall sales are flat, prices are falling, margins are shrinking, and input costs keep creeping up. Part of the answer to this challenge lies in more efficient management of the supply chain: in ensuring, to the greatest extent possible, that the right numbers of books are available in the right places when they are needed.[14]

An improved supply chain for books in Canada using digital technology would result in increased efficiencies and fewer returns, improved industry viability, and an industry better able to produce, promote, and distribute Canadian-authored books.[15] The challenge would lie in identifying inefficiencies within the current book publishing operational context (itself laden with its own challenges), working with members from the industry in all sectors, researching international best practices, and implementing a new system.


2.0 The Operating Climate for Canadian Publishers in the Late 1990s and into the Millennium − an Overview

The 1990s were an uncertain time for the Canadian publishing industry, and none so much as the turbulent latter half of the decade leading into the new century. The following section illustrates the stressful working environment for Canadian publishers.



The mid-to-late 1990s may be categorized as the birth of the big-box bookstore in Canada. It was also a time of great worry for publishers, as the consolidation of book retail outlets succeed in drastically condensing their client base.

A retrospective of this decade in the Canadian book publishing industry noted that,

At decade’s end, it was the companies that thought big or got big, the ones that looked to the international market, expanded or merged, that had the greatest impact on the Canadian book industry this decade…While the story for publishers in the first half of the 1990s was about recession and downsizing, the second half would concern market growth and expansion. The superstore phenomenon drove sales up, but international consolidation left fewer publishers sharing in the profits.[16]

In May 1994, Pathfinder Capital (created by Lawrence Stevenson in 1993) and Canadian General Capital (CGC) purchased SmithBooks’ 253-store chain for $21.5 million. In August 1994, Pathfinder and CGC then proposed the purchase of the 181-store Cole’s bookstore chain. The purchase and merger would create a 434-store chain owned by Stevenson. Many publishers objected to the merger and made known their concerns about the impact of a dominant chain of book superstores.[17]

Despite warnings from the Association of Canadian Publishers and protests from the Canadian Booksellers Association,[18] and after a review by the Competition Bureau, the merger was given approval in the spring of 1995; the official acquisition took place on April 15, 1995. The newly merged chain, comprised of the Book Company, Chapters, Classic Books, Coles, Librarie Smith, SmithBooks, and the World’s Biggest Bookstore brands, was named Chapters Inc. Stevenson was appointed CEO of the new book retail corporation.[19] Shortly thereafter, the landscape of book retail in Canada began to change.

The Chapters superstores, at least ten times larger than an average bookstore, began opening in prime retail locations across the country in November 1995.[20] The first Chapters superstore, a 20,000-square-foot store in Burlington, Ontario, was soon followed by Chapters Metrotown in Burnaby, British Columbia. Within five years, Chapters would build seventy-one superstores throughout Canada. In 1999, Chapters Inc. had achieved estimated sales of $648 million, for a total share of 65.4 percent of the English-language market.[21]

A number of independent bookstores, in existence for decades, closed their doors – attributing the closings to their inability to compete with the big-box stores. The closing of independent booksellers restricted Canadian publishers’ domestic market. Chapters superstores were effective retail vehicles for creating bestsellers, but selling literary fiction, history, children’s books, or regional titles, remained a specialty of independent bookstores.[22] To market those genres effectively requires an ability to marry customers with the right book, known in the book publishing trade as “hand selling.” The hand-selling skill has always been considered the strength of independent booksellers. By 2000, since many independent booksellers had closed, Canadian literary, regional, and children’s publishers had lost significant market share.[23]

Domestic publishers had another operational barrier with Chapters – prime placement for their titles. Consumers browsing the chains’ bestseller walls or new releases displayed face-up on tables located in prime retail real estate assume the books had merited that placement because of their popularity or quality.[24] Suppliers and publishers, in fact, pay high premiums to have their books placed in those lucrative locations. Unlike foreign multinational publishing houses, most Canadian publishers could not afford the coveted retail space, and thus their titles were placed spine-out, lost among the thousands of other titles on the shelves.[25]

In May 1999, Chapters converted its warehouse and distribution centre into a wholesale operation called Pegasus. The new wholesaler demanded a discount from publishers of 50 percent-plus, instead of the 45-48 percent publishers had already been giving to Chapters. Publishers reported high returns from Pegasus – between 50-60 percent – whereas the industry average in Canada was between 20-30 percent. Money owed to publishers for paid inventory was taking much longer than the standard ninety days. These operating conditions were a tremendous strain on publishers across Canada.[26]

(The French-language market was not immune to consolidation by large conglomerates. One month later, in June 1999, Renaud-Bray acquired the Champigny and Garneau mini-chains in Quebec.[27] )

During 1999 and 2000, Chapters found itself in a state of economic fragility. The company was having financial difficulty and was in debt.[28] After five years of rapid growth, Chapters had expanded too quickly and had to close unprofitable stores.[29] Trouble also abounded with the Chapters Online and the Pegasus wholesale operations, both of which were losing millions of dollars.[30]

Because the company was struggling financially, a business opportunity had presented itself – in November 2000 Trilogy Retail Enterprises (a private limited partnership headed by Heather Reisman and Gerry Schwartz) made an unsolicited takeover bid for Chapters Inc. Reisman started Indigo Books & Music in 1996. In September 1997, the first Indigo book superstore opened in Burlington, Ontario, operating with a similar business strategy as Chapters.[31] Indigo was the biggest threat to Chapters’ market share. By 1998, Indigo had opened stores in Toronto, Richmond Hill, Calgary, and Montreal, with plans to open stores in Vancouver and Edmonton. While other large retailers like Wal-Mart and Costco focused on mass-market bestsellers and remainders, Indigo targeted the same “boutique-buyer” consumer as Chapters.[32]

On January 31, 2001, Trilogy Retail Enterprises was successful in its takeover bid of Chapters, with Chapters shareholders accepting a $122 million deal. On February 1, 2001 Trilogy acquired control of Chapters Inc.[33] The Competition Bureau undertook a review of the proposed new super chain. On April 5, 2001 the Bureau announced it had reached an agreement with Trilogy Enterprises Ltd. regarding Trilogy’s acquisition of Chapters and the future merger of Chapters and Indigo. While the deal was approved, the Competition Bureau conceded that the mega-chain would lessen competition, and thus subjected the merger to several provisions agreed to by the parties in the Consent Order.[34]

As one term stipulated in the agreement, Trilogy agreed to abide by a detailed Code of Conduct setting out fair terms of trade with publishers for a period of five years.[35] The five-year agreement placed limits, to be lowered in stages, on the chain’s permissible return levels and payment periods.[36] To address competition issues in the marketplace, another requirement was the divestiture of nine Chapters and four Indigo superstores, ten small-format mall bookstores, the Indigo distribution centre, and the online store.[37] Trilogy officially and legally merged Chapters and Indigo on August 14, 2001, under the corporate name Indigo Books & Music Inc. to form the largest book retailer in Canada. The merger also brought about the demise of the Pegasus wholesaler venture.

At that time, the Indigo Books & Music Inc. chain (Chapters/Indigo) represented ninety-two of the ninety-six Canadian book superstores, 231 small-format bookstores, and two online book retailers.[38] Much as they found themselves in the mid-1990s with the advent of Chapters Inc., publishers were uncertain as to how the newest megachain would operate going forward.


The Collapse of General Publishing Co.

The end of the 1990s also signaled the beginning of the end of General Publishing Co. and its distribution arm, General Distribution Services (GDS). General Distribution Services was the heart of the industry’s distribution network, but General Publishing Co. was a company in crisis.

General Distribution Services handled the order fulfillment for approximately two hundred publishers (sixty-two of them Canadian) and processed $87 million in annual sales.[39] General Distribution Services had a serious problem processing returns, causing a crisis of confidence in the industry as well as a severe lack of cash flow to GDS clients.[40] The company withheld payment from publishers while it attempted to clear its backlog of unprocessed returns and resolve disputes regarding return levels.[41] There was insufficient cash flow to run the company and, as many publishers felt, there were insufficient staff to process returns by getting them onto warehouse shelves so that they could be shipped back out to Chapters or other booksellers.[42]

After a series of unsuccessful business ventures during the late 1990s and into early 2000 (including facility relocations in both Toronto and Vancouver, and computer problems with a system upgrade to prepare for Y2K), General Publishing Co. could not secure refinancing with a Canadian bank. It did find refinancing with an American lender, the Finova Group. However, the Finova Group itself went into bankruptcy protection in the fall of 2001, causing General Publishing Co. to lose access to its credit line.[43] In November 2001, the Department of Canadian Heritage approved a loan guarantee from its loan-loss reserve program, backstopping a new line of credit for the company.[44]

Operations seemed to get better for a short period of time until late April 2002, when General Publishing filed for bankruptcy protection.[45] The company reported debts of $45.7 million. This included $16 million due to the first secured creditor, the Bank of Nova Scotia, $13 million to unsecured GDS clients and agency publishers (of which approximately $5 million was owed to Canadian firms), and $1.5 million to authors.[46]

With the collapse of General Publishing Co., and in turn, GDS, hundreds of thousands of books were caught in the bankruptcy proceedings. Despite arguments to the contrary by former clients of GDS, the books were deemed by the courts to be owned by GDS rather than the publishers.[47] By August 2002 GDS had officially declared bankruptcy, owing publishers millions of dollars and seriously destabilizing the book publishing industry.

The Canada Council for the Arts as well as the Book Publishing Industry Development Program (BPIDP) intervened and offered emergency funding to small publishers affected by the GDS collapse. To qualify, the publishers had to submit financial statements, cash flow projections, publishing schedules, an outline of their new distribution arrangements, and a list of unpaid author royalties.[48]

In the government fiscal year (April 1 – March 31) 2002-2003 $2.2 million was given from the BPIDP as special assistance to twenty-five client publishers affected by GDS.[49] The objective of this special funding was to ensure the ongoing production and marketing of Canadian-authored books by publishing companies that were clients of GDS. When asked to describe the impact of the funding, publishers reported that the funding helped them to meet their cash flow requirements during a particularly difficult time, thus lessening the impact of the GDS failure.[50]

The Book Publishing Industry Development Program also provided a special emergency fund for authors through the Writer’s Union of Canada for those subject to not receiving royalties on account of the GDS dissolution. According to publishing consultant and author Roy MacSkimming:

The provision of special bridge financing to GDS client publishers through advances on Book Publishing Industry Development Program contributions… did result from a sturdy, time-tested relationship between the Association of Canadian Publishers and the Department of Canadian Heritage. From that relationship, a government commitment has evolved toward maintaining the financial viability of the domestic book publishing industry as a cardinal tenet of Canada’s cultural policy.[51]

After the GDS collapse in 2002, the Literary Press Group Distribution Collective was established. The collective, called LitDistCo, is the distribution arm of the Literary Press Group (a not-for-profit association of Canadian literary book publishers) and handles the centralized distribution of publishers’ titles. The formation of LitDistCo was an important symbolic and financial act of reclaiming power in the wake of the GDS bankruptcy.[52]


The Rise of Digital Technology in Book Publishing

The proliferation of digital technology was on the forefront of current affairs in the late 1990s. The rise and expansion of digital technological innovations created much uncertainty in the book publishing industry, namely the accession and implications of selling books online, and publishing and distributing e-books. In a Quill & Quire magazine article from 2000, Dalia Riback wrote,

The main attraction right now may be novelty, but eventually consumers will turn to e-books for convenience. The Internet has created a whole generation of readers and thinkers who rely on the immediate availability of information. E-books will not see mainstream acceptance overnight, but publishers need to be prepared.[53]

Albert Greco, author of The Book Publishing Industry, noted that in regards to the impact of digital technology on the book publishing leading up to the millennium:

Starting in the mid-1990s, and picking up momentum by the late 1990s, most people on the planet seemed immersed in the “wired information world” and electronic publishing technologies and opportunities (sometimes called the “new media”) dominated the popular press. Week after week, articles appeared touting the end of the printed book and the inevitable acceptance of electronic books (e-books) and electronic readers (e-readers). Publishers were warned to convert to electronic products before convergence displaced them and their employees. Indeed, most book industry insiders found it difficult not to be aware of the tremendous enthusiasm electronic publishing engendered.[54]

Publishers had many questions about digital technology, from digital rights management and encryption to e-book pricing, e-book format, and the utilization of print-on-demand technology. At a Book Publishers Professional Association panel discussion about e-books held in Toronto in 2000, publishers were asking, “Can e-books be made secure against piracy? How should an e-book be priced for consumers? What is an appropriate discount for booksellers? How much should the author get? How much should a publisher spend marketing an e-book?”[55] The answer from panelists at the conference was that publishers faced a chicken-and-egg scenario with e-books, and to approach the impending e-book force, “as an evolution, not a revolution.”[56]

Digital technology also dominated the conversation at Book Expo America in the spring of 2000. Quill & Quire writer Carol Toller noted, “The latest wave in the online revolution – following print-on-demand and e-book developments, which have caused stirs at the last two shows – is clearly electronic rights sales and management.”[57]

Besides the buzz around the digital technology movement, there was also the immediacy of mobilizing the Canadian publishing industry into the new century. This process involved tools as simple as new computer equipment, to as complex and expensive as upgrading to Y2K compatibility, and building more consumer-friendly websites to encourage and promote online book retail. Publishers and booksellers spent thousands of dollars preparing their businesses for Y2K[58] (which placed demands on many small publishers’ already tight operational budgets).

The Y2K computer system upgrade did, however, force many publishers to assess their internal computer operating systems. The upgrade made for welcome pruning of outdated, unnecessary data and applications.[59] However, “as several Canadian booksellers discovered, creating a viable e-commerce site required not only a powerful computer, but a massive budget.”[60]

A 2001 report by Divine Whittman-Hart entitled Canadian Book Industry: Transition to the New Economy states that during the late 1990s and early 2000s the publishing industry continued to struggle with challenges brought about by market size and conditions, a complicated and costly supply chain, consolidation among retailers and publishers, and lack of access to capital. The report notes that “these constraints have made the industry slow to adopt new technologies which can streamline business processes, leverage economies of scale, and provide valuable market insight by gathering timely data on sales and consumer behavior, exacerbating structural inefficiencies.”[61]


Foreign Competition and Ownership in the Canadian Market

The Canadian book industry is saturated with titles published and/or distributed from foreign-owned multinational houses. Foreign imports dominate the domestic market for Canadian books. The importation and distribution of general trade books are done by three foreign-owned multinational companies – Random House, Pearson-Penguin, and HarperCollins.[62] These companies have become the publishers of many Canadian authors and have great influence on the literary landscape in Canada.

By the end of the 1990s Canadian publishers still published more first books by Canadian authors, and between 70-80 percent of all Canadian titles; however, Random House/Knopf/Doubleday, HarperCollins, and Penguin were beginning to dominate bestseller lists with books they published in Canada.[63]

According to a Statistics Canada report from 2000, on average, foreign-controlled companies generated more revenue ($23 million) than Canadian-controlled companies ($3.8 million) although they accounted for only 8 percent of all book publishers and exclusive agents in Canada (note that this is based on a firm-to -firm comparison).[64] According to the same report, imports accounted for 41 percent of domestic book sales reported by Canadian-controlled firms, and the percentage increases to 65 percent for foreign-controlled publishers and agents, indicating an even greater reliance by these companies on the sale of imports.[65]

One of the fundamental challenges in the book publishing industry in Canada is that Canadian publishers bear the production costs of their titles (which is substantial due to inherent diseconomies of scale), but titles are sold at prices determined by foreign imports. The Canadian market operates within the larger North American market – where the average Canadian print run is one-tenth the size of the average print run in the United States and thus the economies of scale are extremely disparate.[66] For a country as geographically vast as Canada, the size of its population is relatively small. At approximately thirty-two million, the Canadian population is one-tenth that of the United States. For publishers this translates into a small market of potential book-buyers in which to recoup their up-front investment, and high expenses in terms of overhead, production, and marketing.[67]

The foreign-owned triumvirate of Random House, Pearson-Penguin, and HarperCollins is also able to operate at a loss with their Canadian publishing programs because they can cross-subsidize their Canadian publishing with simultaneous publishing of titles originated in the United States combined with importing and distribution.[68]

Finally, because of the proliferation and ubiquity of American media, a book promoted in the United States rapidly speeds its way onto the bestseller list not only in the United States, but in Canada, the United Kingdom and elsewhere.[69] The scope of the reach and the pervasive marketing power behind its authors allow foreign-owned multinational firms to capture the public’s attention through retail shelf space, as well as with advertising through their assets in film, television, magazines, and newspapers. Without the clout, power, and money it takes to achieve such marketing, Canadian publishers have a difficult time competing.


The Next Generation: the Problem with Succession

As the millennium approached, the generations who founded many of the nation’s independent publishing houses in the 1960s and 1970s were preparing to retire. The question remained – who would lead the charge into the next century? In a Quill & Quire article printed on January 1, 2000, the question of succession in the Canadian book publishing industry was raised. As Scott Anderson pointed out,

Few [publishing houses] have successors, and finding a buyer in Canada won’t be easy. Canadian media giants like Hollinger, Maclean-Hunter, Canwest…have never shown an interest in owning book publishers, and Canadian book publishers simply don’t have the cash to buy each other…[70]

The end of the 1990s leading to the new millennium denoted challenges in a cultural industry already fraught with challenging daily operational realties. The operating climate was “a mix of domestic and international forces tied to technological innovations and concurrent shifts in the way books were produced, manufactured, and distributed.”[71] These challenges had the potential to compromise the long-term health and sustainability of the Canadian publishing industry.


3.0 The Involvement of the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage

For many years, since the Massey Commission report in the early 1950s, the Government of Canada has considered the availability of Canadian books to Canadian readers to be a high priority. Because the outcome of connecting readers to Canadian-authored books produced by Canadian publishers seemed uncertain leading into the new century, the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage became involved in December 1999.

A Committee is a group of parliamentarians, from either the Senate, the House of Commons, or both, selected to consider matters referred to it by the Senate or the House of Commons. Standing Committees are mandated to examine one or more departments. The Standing Committee examines relevant legislation, the activities and expenditures of the department, and the effectiveness of the department’s policies and programs. Standing Committees are empowered to: examine and inquire into all matters that the House refers to them; report to the House; attach dissenting or supplementary opinions to reports, and retain the services of experts and professionals.[72]

The mandate of the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage is to oversee issues and legislation pertaining to the Canadian Heritage portfolio. “With respect to the book industry, the Committee’s mandate is to monitor the link between the Government of Canada’s support to the book industry and the provision of increased choice of Canadian-authored materials to Canadian readers.”[73]

The Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage (herein referred to as the Standing Committee; for names of the Committee members, please see Appendix A) met during the thirty-sixth Parliament, in the second session which took place from October 12, 1999 to October 22, 2000. Of the forty-four meetings the Standing Committee had, fourteen were dedicated to the topic of Canadian book publishing. [74]

In order to fully understand the Canadian book publishing, the Standing Committee held a series of meetings in order to assess the current publishing operating environment and to learn firsthand, through interviews with representatives of the publishing industry, the operational struggles the industry was facing.

After hearing much testimony from key publishing industry representatives, the Standing Committee concluded that there was sufficient cause for government involvement beyond its traditional support. The subsequent Standing Committee hearings were a catalyst for the congregation of key stakeholders from all facets of the industry – providing a venue for discussion, and in the end, presenting recommendations to be brought before the Canadian government on behalf of the Canadian publishing industry.


4.0 The Government of Canada – Support for the Canadian Book Publishing Industry

Cultural industries are an intrinsic element of society that make substantial contributions to social cohesion and social capital that pays off nationally and internationally.[75] Culture is valued by the Canadian federal government as a means of building social cohesion.[76] As cultural artifacts, Canadian books are an expression of the culture, ideas, and the experience of the nation, and as such, they are valued by the government for their contributions to Canadian life, culture, and national identity.

Canadians, as a population, are devoted readers. The report Reading and Buying Books for Pleasure: 2005 National Survey, states that 87 percent of those polled were readers (having read at least one book per year), with 54 percent reading for pleasure every day. Forty-three percent stated they greatly enjoy reading, and 85 percent of respondents reported that “reading is very important to them.” The average number of books read for pleasure is approximately seventeen per year, while 13 percent of the population, considered “heavy readers,” read more than fifty books per year. One half of the Canadian population (the median) reads more than seven books per year. Fifty-nine percent of Anglophones for whom English is the mother tongue stated they regularly read books for pleasure, the same is true for 45 percent of francophones and 44 percent of those whose mother tongue is neither English nor French.[77]

Direct financial support programs by all levels of government contribute to the structure of the marketplace for books in Canada.[78] Financial and operational difficulties encountered by Canadian publishers are the primary reason the federal government provides support to the Canadian book publishing industry.[79] The federal government’s direct support to Canadian publishing is made through the Book Publishing Industry Development Program (BPIDP) within the Department of Canadian Heritage.

The Department of Canadian Heritage is responsible for national policies and programs that promote Canadian content, foster cultural participation, active citizenship and participation in Canada’s civic life, and strengthen connections among Canadians.[80] The growth of Canadian literature over the last thirty years can be attributed, in part, to a strong framework of public policy instruments that have promoted Canadian publishing and nurtured Canadian writing.[81]


The Book Publishing Industry Development Program

Established in 1979, the Book Publishing Industry Development Program (BPIDP) provides formula-based funding to publishers across the country. With an annual budget of approximately $39 million, BPIDP is the federal government’s most important and comprehensive instrument for book publishing in Canada and strengthens the capacity of the Canadian-owned book industry.[82] The principal objective of the program is to ensure access to a diverse range of Canadian-authored books in Canada and abroad. The program’s four components – Aid to Publishers, Supply Chain Initiative, Collective Initiatives, and International Marketing Assistance – are designed to foster a strong and viable Canadian industry that publishes and promotes Canadian-authored titles.[83] The Book Publishing Industry Development Program supports over 200 Canadian publishers of both official languages every year.

Program literature describes the Aid to Publishers (ATP) component as the “cornerstone” of the BPIDP program. This main component of BPIDP is designed to support the ongoing production, marketing, and distribution of Canadian-authored books by Canadian owned-and- controlled publishers. Aid to Publishers promotes public access to Canadian content by providing assistance to eligible publishers through financial contributions based on their previous year’s sales of eligible books in a variety of genres.[84]

Only book publishing firms are eligible for ATP funding. At the time of application, the publishers must have completed at least thirty-six months of operation as a book publisher. The publisher must also be at least 75 percent Canadian-owned-and-controlled; have its headquarters and at least 75 percent of its employees based in Canada; be a private-sector firm or university press; be financially viable, and have fulfilled all contractual obligations with authors with regards to royalty payments and all other forms of payments. A publisher is not eligible if the net sales of its own titles were $20 million or greater in the reference year and the average profit margin for the three financial years ending with the reference year was 15 percent or greater. [85]

By the end of its reference year, the publisher must also have published a minimum of fifteen new Canadian-authored trade books or ten new educational or scholarly titles. During the three previous years ending with the reference year, a firm must have published a minimum of twelve new Canadian-authored trade books or six new Canadian-authored educational or scholarly books. During the reference year, it must have published at least one new Canadian-authored book. Normally a firm must have minimum annual sales of its originated titles of $200,000, or $130,000 for official-language minority publishers and Aboriginal publishers. A list of ineligible title, besides vanity titles, includes directories, calendars, maps, games, colouring or sticker books, catalogues, books underwritten by a political party, software and musical recordings, books that contain advertising other than the publishers’ promotional material, periodicals, and books that contain content such as hate literature, obscene or pornographic, material that is denigrating to an identifiable group, and excessive and gratuitous violence.[86]

Eligible books must be either written by a Canadian author or adapted or translated by a Canadian; at least forty-eight pages in length, except for children’s books, which can be less than forty-eight pages; clearly and publicly attributed to the author(s) or translator(s); the publisher’s own title and bear an ISBN assigned to or acquired by the publisher; published under the publisher’s imprint or under an imprint for which the publisher has acquired publishing, management and marketing rights, and be printed in Canada, except for co-published books or books with an acceptable justification.[87]

Aid to Publisher contributions must be used to offset spending for activities that support the production, marketing and distribution of eligible books, including editorial, design, printing, author development, author royalty, salary, overhead, promotion, advertising, packaging, shipping, and capital expenditures.[88]

Other support mechanisms for publishers within BPIDP are under Collective Initiatives and include funding for two main areas: the marketing and promotion of Canadian-authored books, and strengthening the infrastructure of the industry. Subcategories of Collective Initiatives include funding for marketing and promotion, professional development, industry research, business planning, and publishing internships.

Funding under International Marketing Assistance is intended to aid in the development of foreign markets and increase export sales of Canadian titles. This funding is primarily for promotional and logistical assistance, and well as for research to gain insight into foreign markets.[89]

The funding activities in the Supply Chain Initiative will be described in full detail further into this report; however, a brief synopsis is that supply chain funding provides support for publishers’ adoption of innovative publishing, marketing, communication, and data management technologies. The supply chain component was designed to build the industry’s capacity to use new information technologies to improve ordering, shipping, inventory control, and sales-tracking processes. From 2002-2003 to 2007-2008, the primary focus of the supply chain funding for publishers was on the development of bibliographic data.




5.0 The Hearings of the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage, 1999-2000

The first meeting the Standing Committee held with regard to the Canadian book distribution industry was on December 7, 1999. Briefings were provided from representatives from BPIDP, the Canadian Booksellers Association (CBA), and two independent booksellers.[90] Sheryl McKean, executive director of the CBA, said at the time:

Like many other sectors of the economy, Canada’s book selling business has undergone tremendous changes in the last ten years. Technological innovation has affected every stage of our business, from writer to reader, including publication, marketing, distribution, and retailing. These changes are significant enough to justify a close examination by parliamentarians of the legislation and regulations in place in order to ensure that they still respond to public policy objectives.[91]

Given the concerns in the industry during the late 1990s and early 2000s, the Standing Committee determined there was sufficient reason to undertake a background study of Canada’s book industry – particularly on the circumstances of distribution, wholesaling, and retailing.

A background study of the Canadian book publishing industry was conducted between December 1999 and February 2000 by Library of Parliament researchers in collaboration with expert consultants. In order to develop a solid understanding of the Canadian book distribution industry, the research team began its study by contacting government agencies including the Department of Canadian Heritage, the Canada Council for the Arts, Statistics Canada, and key industry stakeholders, including the CBA, for example. The information requested by the researchers included:

  • Longitudinal data on federally-funded publishing grants and programs.
  • Available information on the outcomes of federal grants on publishing in Canada.
  • Longitudinal data on the number of Canadian-authored titles and their sales.
  • Publisher viability before and after federal subsidies.
  • Information on the current state of wholesaling, distribution, and retailing practices in Canada and elsewhere.
  • Relevant data on domestic and international book buying and selling patterns.
  • Longitudinal data on independent booksellers.
  • Relevant data on electronic commerce and its impact on book distribution.
  • Data on the evolving nature of market share in Canada’s book selling industry.[92]

Database and literature searches, as well as telephone interviews and meetings with select industry stakeholders were also conducted.[93]

Following the results from that fact-finding study, the Standing Committee decided to conduct a more focused review. Four televised roundtable discussions were held in Ottawa on February 24 and 29 and March 2 and 14, 2000. The first roundtable addressed the experiences and concerns of Canada’s largest retail booksellers. The second discussed the related concerns of some of Canada’s smaller, independent book retailers, while the third brought together some of Canada’s publishers and distributors. The final roundtable was a forum for other individuals with a vested interest in Canada’s book industry.[94] (For the questions which were addressed at the roundtable discussions, please see Appendix B). The Standing Committee heard testimony from over fifty-five witnesses representing publishers, writers, wholesalers, retailers, librarians, consumers, industry analysts, government officials, and industry analysts.[95]

The discussions were centered on three shifts in book industry practices noted during the late 1990s and into 2000:

  • Innovations in information technology, which have fostered the possibility of new types of computer-mediated commerce (e-commerce).
  • The arrival of the retail superstore, which is reconfiguring the book retailing and distribution landscape.
  • New trends in book wholesaling practices and ownership, representing a threat to the distribution and availability of Canadian-authored materials to Canadians.[96]

During the testimony before the Standing Committee, publishers emphasized the low profitability of the publishing business, their limited access to capital, and how overwhelmed they were at the rapid rise of digital technology and its impact on the marketplace. It was also noted that despite the growth and the national and international acclaim for Canadian writers and writing, the majority of Canadian-owned publishing ventures would simply not be profitable if it were not for support from the Government of Canada. A briefing submitted by The Writer’s Union of Canada stated, “There is a desperate need for all government departments to recognize that cultural marketplaces are like no other…in a cultural marketplace, there has to be a measure beyond fiscal concern.”[97]

Independent book retailers also commented on the erosion of their livelihoods when faced with the competition of books sold in book super-chains, supermarkets, department stores, and through e-commerce. Peter Woolford, senior vice-president of policy for the Retail Council of Canada testified:

The real challenge for booksellers of all sizes today is that their competition is international…it’s even tougher today that it was ten or fifteen years ago, when the independent grocers or the independent pharmacist or the independent hardware store went through this process. They at least did not have to face large multinational companies working from a low cost case in the United States, out of a warehouse in an industrial suburb. These folks do today. They’re going head to head with every day.[98]

Through the witness testimony and information gathering and assessment, the Standing Committee wrote a final report in June 2000 entitled The Challenge of Change: A Consideration of the Canadian Book Industry and the report was presented to the Government of Canada. The report examines the numerous issues and influences bearing on the state of the Canadian publishing industry at the turn of the twenty-first century.


6.0 Recommendations from the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage to Improve the Book Supply Chain

The Challenge of Change: A Consideration of the Canadian Book Industry documented twenty-five recommendations made by the Standing Committee to the Government of Canada on behalf of the Canadian book publishing industry. These recommendations encompassed a range of issues pertaining to the industry – from data collection, foreign investment, book taxes, author royalties and book tours, to support for the National Library of Canada and literacy programs, the development of Electronic Data Interchange standards, and technological assistance start-up programs.

Of the twenty-five recommendations made by the Standing Committee, the following four are relevant with regards to the Canadian book supply chain: Recommendation 6.1, 6.4, 6.5, and 6.6. (For the purpose of this report, only the recommendations specifically relating to the book supply chain will be discussed.)

These are:

Recommendation 6.1
The Committee recommends that the Department of Canadian Heritage establish a five-year technological transition program to strengthen all segments of the Canadian book industry. This must include authors, publishers, distributors, wholesalers, marketers, retailers, and libraries.[99]

Recommendation 6.4
The Committee recommends that the Department of Canadian Heritage assist in the development of an industry standard for Electronic Data Interchange within Canada’s book industry.[100]

Recommendation 6.5
The Committee recommends that the Department of Canadian Heritage co-fund a study with key industry players aimed at developing workable strategies to reduce and eventually eliminate book returns. The outcome of this work should be an agreed upon initiative to reduce returns by a measurable amount for a set number of years.[101]

Recommendation 6.6
The Committee recommends that the Department of Canadian Heritage introduce a technological assistance start-up program to assist smaller independent, Canadian-owned booksellers and small publishers with electronic commerce initiatives.[102]

Prompted by the report from the Standing Committee, the Government of Canada committed to assisting the publishing industry in its transition to the new economy. A section from the Speech from the Throne on January, 2001 states, “The Government will assist the book publishing…transition to the new economy. It will continue to support the development of digital content for the Internet and other new media in French and English.”[103]


The Government of Canada Responses to the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage

Approximately one year after the Standing Committee’s report was published and presented, in May 2001, the Government of Canada responded with The Government’s Response to the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage’s report. The Government’s report addressed the concerns and recommendations presented by the Standing Committee.

The Honorable Sheila Copps was the Minister of Canadian Heritage at the time of the reports. In a letter addressed to the Chairman of the Standing Committee, Clifford Lincoln, Minister Copps notes,

The report [The Challenges of Change: A Consideration of the Canadian Book Industry] presents the Government with a very accurate reflection of the state of Canada’s book industry, and a thorough examination of the issues facing all sectors of the industry…The Government’s framework for support of culture is designed to provide assistance to the cultural continuum, which in the case of the book industry includes authors, publishers, retailers, wholesalers, distributors, and libraries. The Government of Canada accepts the Committee’s assessment of the industry’s needs, and is working towards identifying appropriate means of addressing them….The Government of Canada believes in that responding to the Standing Committee’s report, it can assist the Canadian book industry in its efforts to adapt to the unique challenges and opportunities presented.[104]

The following are the government’s responses to the recommendations made in the report from the Standing Committee pertaining to the book supply chain:

Response to Recommendation 6.1 and 6.6
The Government recognizes that the book industry is undergoing dramatic transformations as a result of the evolving technological environment, and continues to adjust its support to meet the industry’s needs…. In keeping with the 2001 Throne Speech commitment to assist the book publishing sector to make the transition to the new economy, the Government is enhancing and restructuring its existing support to all sectors of the Canadian book industry….Strategic investment in the technological and information infrastructure is needed for the entire industry to achieve the benefits of better supply chain management. The Department is developing a number of initiatives which will help lay the groundwork for the collection system, the adoption of a standardized communications format, and the development of an accurate and up-to-date bibliographic database. The Department will assist publishers, booksellers, distributors, and wholesalers in their adoption of these efficient-creating technologies.[105]

Response to 6.4
The government agrees that in order to enhance the capacity, within the Canadian book industry, for fast and efficient exchange of information, a standard for electronic data exchange must be established. Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) standards currently in use by the Canadian book industry are those established by the Book Industry Systems Advisory Committee (BISAC), the American EDI standards body. The Canadian Telebook Agency (CTA) currently acts as a mediator between the BISAC and the Canadian industry, in order to ensure that the standards maintained for the American industry are appropriate for, and can be used by, the Canadian industry. Additional research into the feasibility of encouraging the use of EDI is required. The Department of Canadian Heritage has initiated a study of the industry’s current EDI enablement, and will support the industry’s efforts toward developing and using a standard, if required.[106]

Response to 6.5
The government agrees that problems which have cross-sectoral implications, such as book returns, should be addressed through collective efforts on the part of industry stakeholders and government officials. While publishers depend, to some degree, upon the unlimited returns policy as a means of ensuring shelf space for as many of their books as possible, most witnesses appearing before the Committee agree that the uncertainty as to the number of books that will be returned, and the cost of handling them increased the overall cost of publishing books. The Department of Canadian Heritage has taken steps, within the context of the Canadian Book Industry Forum, to begin the process of facilitating collective solutions to industry issues. The Department of Canadian Heritage, with the support of the Canadian Book Industry Forum, has initiated work on a study of the issue of book returns, the impact of this practice upon the health of the industry, and possible strategies to reduce that impact.[107]

The Government of Canada’s responses to the recommendations made by the Standing Committee regarding issues related to the supply chain management were the catalyst for the creation and implementation of a new component of BPIDP – the Canadian Book Industry Supply Chain Initiative.


7.0 Creating a New Book Supply Chain for Canada

The work towards creating the Canadian Book Industry Supply Chain Initiative (herein known as SCI) stemmed from the Government of Canada’s response to the recommendations made by the Standing Committee on behalf of the Canadian book publishing industry. As previously indicated, at that time, the book publishing industry was facing a crisis situation surrounding the issue of book returns, and a long-term strategy for alleviating the problem was necessary. The birth of the SCI began as a partnership between the Publishing Policy and Programs Branch of the Department of Canadian Heritage (at the time, the Heritage branch responsible for book and magazine publishing) and members of the Canadian book publishing industry.

Because the Canadian book industry is international, with books published not only by Canadian publishers, but by publishers from around the world, the Canadian marketplace is saturated with domestic and imported books. The sheer number of titles available for readers makes the Canadian industry vulnerable to the negative effects of an inefficient supply chain. According to Ed Carson, president of Penguin Group Canada at the time,

Bibliographic standards and certification, as well as the accuracy of data shared among publishers, retailers, and wholesalers, is an ongoing challenge for publishers and distributors in Canada. It’s not sexy, but in a country where just about every book in English (and French) from the rest of world is published or distributed, maintaining clean lines of information and rights management is complex and evolving almost daily.[108]

To distribute such a wide array of books in a manner that is fast and cost-efficient, the Canadian book industry needed to develop cross-sectoral relationships, gain access to accurate information about the availability of titles, and adopt a means for fast and effective communication among all industry partners.[109]

One of the characteristics of an efficient supply chain is visibility – the ability of publishers and retailers to accurately access the performance of titles in the market. At the time, Canada was the only English-language book market that did not have a sales tracking-and-analysis service. The United Kingdom (UK), the United States, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa all collected data from retail point-of-sale and provided reports and analysis to publishers and booksellers. This market data analysis allowed publishers to make effective printing and reprinting decisions, better manage their marketing budgets, and focus their sales efforts.[110]


Examining Best Practices in the UK – a Book Supply Chain Model for Canada

The Canadian Book Industry Forum (CBIF) was an industry and governmental group formed by the Department of Canadian Heritage in order to discuss issues of cross-sectoral concern. One of the recommendations (Recommendation 6.2) from The Challenge of Change: A Consideration of the Canadian Book Industry, stated:

The Committee recommends that the Department of Canadian Heritage contribute to the creation of an industry-wide forum for Canadian book industry stakeholders to deal with industry (e.g. developing a strategy to reduce book returns. This forum would meet on an annual basis and be co-sponsored by the Department.[111]

The CBIF was established by the Government of Canada as a result of the hearings from the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage as an advisory group. It represented the interests of each individual sector of the Canadian book industry. Members of the CBIF included directors of the major Canadian publishing associations – the Association of Canadian Publishers, the Canadian Publisher’s Council, the Canadian Booksellers Association, the Book and Periodical Council, the Association of Canadian Book Wholesalers, The Writers’ Union of Canada, the Literary Press Group, as well as a representative from the National Library of Canada.[112] By the early spring of 2001 (May), the French and English member of the CBIF had six meetings, worked in conjunction with the Department of Canadian Heritage official in researching a POS data system, and had developed terms of reference for a study of book returns in Canada.[113] Through the CBIF international supply chain models were examined for their applicability to the Canadian marketplace.

The UK employed a high level of technological enablement, the availability of value-added services, and strong cross-sectoral industry relationships. These factors had contributed to an efficient and productive book industry in the UK, providing a good example for the Canadian industry to emulate.[114] As a result of this interaction with the UK, the Publishing Policy and Programs Branch in the Department of Canadian Heritage built strong relationships with key UK book supply chain representatives, including UK firms, associations, and service providers.

In the spring of 2001, the Publishing Policy and Programs Branch initiated dialogue between the Canadian book industry and UK supply-chain specialists. (UK return rates were known to be as low as 12 percent, where the return rate in Canada was 30 percent or higher.) Many of the strategies used to solve the problematic supply chain in Canada would be based on examples from the UK book market, as the two markets were similar in size and scope.

In March 2001, Richard Knight of Whitaker BookTrack (Whitaker BookTrack provides market information on sales through UK bookshops, which is supplied to publishers and other businesses) attended meetings in Ottawa hosted by the Department of Canadian Heritage with French-and-English-language market industry representatives. The discussion centered around point-of-sale data collection and analysis.

Later that spring, in June 2001, the Publishing Policy and Programs Branch organized a delegation of UK supply-chain specialists to Canada. A panel discussion was held at BookExpo Canada with UK supply chain representatives Richard Knight from Whitaker BookTrack, and Peter Kilborn, a publishing consultant from Book Industry Communication (the book industry’s independent supply chain organization, committed to improving the efficiency of the trade and library supply chains, reducing costs, and automating processes, based in London). A UK book publisher, a UK book retailer, and Canadian publishing representatives from both official-language markets were also in attendance. Both Knight and Kilborn spoke about the various services available in the UK market which had resulted in the benefits Canadian publishers sought in Canada. The UK publisher and retailer both provided first-hand accounts of how their businesses and the UK industry had benefited from better supply chain management.[115]

In July 2001, the Publishing Policy and Programs Branch then consulted with members of the Canadian book publishing industry to identify Canadian supply chain issues and areas for improvement. This groundwork was the foundation for the SCI.[116]


The Formation of Committees to Move the Supply Chain Initiative Forward

Over the summer of 2001, work relating to the SCI was driven by two committees: A Steering Committee (made up of predominately English-language publishing representatives including publishers, retailers, and distributors, and representatives from the Department of Canadian Heritage. For member names and affiliations of the Steering Committee, please see Appendix C), and an Information Technology (IT) Committee (made up of over thirty technology experts from all sectors of the industry, representatives of industry associations, the Department of Canadian Heritage, and the National Library of Canada).

The Steering Committee was established to oversee work on supply chain improvements and to act as the initiative’s champion. It also aimed to secure total industry participation in practices to improve the supply chain for books. The goal of the IT Committee was to assess the objectives identified by the Steering Committee and develop strategies for their implementation.[117] The two committees were set up and overseen by the Department of Canadian Heritage and its advisory group, the CBIF.

A similar SCI project was already underway by members of the Francophone book publishing market, as they faced many of the same challenges as the Anglophone marketplace. As the two groups moved forward in their efforts, they exchanged ideas and approaches, and coordinated actions where appropriate.[118]


8.0 The Canadian Book Industry Supply Chain Initiative

Officially formed in September 2001, the mandate of the SCI was to identify inefficiencies in the Canadian book publishing supply chain (the movement of books from one point in the chain to another; from the author to the publisher to the warehouse to the library and bookseller and often times, back), to recommend strategies for improvement, and to implement change in the industry. An improved supply chain for books in Canada would result in increased efficiencies, resilience to change in supply and demand, and improved industry viability.

According to long-time Canadian publisher James Lorimer,

Everyone with computer access will soon be able to find out, in real time, at no cost, whether a book is actually available from its publishers in Canada or not. They’ll be able to find out, accurately, who its author is, what its title is, what its price is – and a lot more besides. Publishers will be able to tell the world tomorrow that one of their books went out of stock today – instead of waiting for weeks or months for the bibliographic sources of data to catch up with a reality that won’t stand still.[119]

In the fall of 2001, the Steering Committee agreed upon the importance of meeting the following objectives for achieving book supply chain improvements in the Canadian market:

  • To realize an improved means of collecting and maintaining bibliographic data, and ensuring access to a clean, complete database for all titles available in Canada.
  • To ensure industry-wide access to an efficient and accessible electronic communications platform which adheres to international standards.
  • To gain the capacity to collect and share point-of-sale data on the Canadian market for books for the purpose of strategic business planning and the management of returns for all sectors.[120]


9.0 Establishing Book Supply Chain Fundamentals

An improved supply chain meant an examination of and strategies for improvement and implementation of the following three book supply chain fundamentals: bibliographic data, electronic data interchange (EDI), and point-of-sale (POS) data collection.


Bibliographic Data

Having access to up-to-date source and publishing data on Canadian books would result in improved efficiencies in retail ordering and inventory management processes. In addition, accurate bibliographic data is a key component to sales data analysis.[121] It allows for the facilitation of online sales and promotion, and enables retailers to make more informed purchasing decisions.

The challenge in the industry in the early 2000s was that there was a lack of timely and accurate bibliographic data, which was preventing access to information on the availability of titles. This was impeding the implementation of efficiency-improving technologies.

In order to address that issue, dialogue with bibliographic data aggregator RR Bowker was initiated in December 2001 (the English-language industry had been using Bowker’s Books in Print since 1994).[122] The company outlined its commitment to improving the level of service to the Canadian industry and detailed a plan for future product innovations and participating in ongoing dialogue with the SCI.[123] The model used in Quebec by the Société de gestion de la banque de titres de langue française was also reviewed. Also, an assessment of the industry’s technological capacity to create and transmit bibliographic records, the benefits to be achieved in pursuing improvements to the data, and the issues related to data collection in the market was undertaken.[124]

Research into international standards for bibliographic data management was also conducted, as was the proposed creation of a bibliographic data utility-and-certification agency.[125]


The Importance of ONIX in Bibliographic Data Management

Established in 1991, the international book industry consortium, EDItEUR, made up of members from seventeen countries, including Canada, the United States, and the UK, was created to coordinate the development of international standards infrastructure for electronic commerce in the book and serials sectors. The company’s specialties lie in Electronic Data Interchange and other e-commerce standards for book and serial transactions, bibliographic and product information, standards infrastructure for digital publishing, and rights management and trading.[126]

In 2000, EDItEUR partnered with the Association of American Publishers to develop and release ONIX for Books Release 1.0, in order to standardize an electronic system for transmitting universally recognized data among publishers, data aggregators, wholesalers, booksellers, and any other party involved in the sale of books.[127] ONIX is an international, XML-based markup language used to tag metadata elements, such as ISBN, title, author’s name, title description, artwork, subject category, etc. ONIX uses 148 element tags, of which forty-two are considered the minimum bibliographic data required for a book.

ONIX carries both core data about the book, such as title and ISBN, and enhanced metadata, such as book reviews and cover art. XML was considered ideal for the transmission of complex documents between computers, is easily enhanced and modified, and many databases include tools for importing and exporting data between ONIX and other formats.[128]

ONIX 2.0, or Online Information eXchange, was released in 2001 and recommended by the IT Committee as the official bibliographic data transmission standard for use in Canada. Although not in widespread use at the time, ONIX was gaining support throughout the international bookselling community.

With ONIX, when publishers export bibliographic data from their databases (on a weekly or monthly basis), the receiving supply chain partners can receive all of the data via the ONIX message, allowing them to refresh all of the title information in their databases – ensuring that partner databases contain the most accurate title information, direct from the publisher’s own database, with every new transmission.[129]

The result of standardized bibliographic data across the Canadian publishing industry would allow for better access to information on availability of book titles and is integral to selling books online. Solid bibliographic data is necessary for building electronic ordering systems and sales data tracking capability.

Publisher compliance with the bibliographic certification process was considered essential for facilitating the movement of bibliographic data through the supply chain.


Electronic Data Interchange (EDI)

Thomas Woll, author of Publishing for Profit (2002) states that “it is axiomatic today that anyone providing publishing fulfillment, whether an in-house function, an outside service, or a distributor, must use electronic data interchange.”[130]

Increased use of common transactional electronic data interchange (EDI) documents results in faster, more accurate fulfillment of orders and payment of invoices. The use of EDI better informs decision making and helps in cost savings for all industry trading partners. Electronic data interchange allows for the electronic interchange of orders and of accounting information, directly from the buyer’s computer system to the publisher’s, and vice versa. “Orders and returns can be processed quickly and effectively, without the need to generate hard copy orders, chargeback, and other forms of transaction data that were the norm before computers revolutionized the process.”[131]

A large issue in achieving common EDI practices was that industry participants were using a range of technologies for order transmission, customer service inquiries, and account resolution, including EDI, Internet-based communication, telephone, fax, and mail.

The challenges in implementing EDI were a lack of technological capacity to support EDI documents, and a lack of specific information on the industry’s existing level of technological enablement.[132] This lead to the need to identify specific areas for improvement.[133]

An examination of a set of EDI document specifications currently in use in Canada was undertaken by the SCI Committee. Consensus was reached that the EDI specification to be adopted in the Canadian market would be ANSI X.12 version 4010. X.12 was a well-developed standard in wide use throughout the North American industry. The book industry variants of X.12 are reviewed and maintained by the Book and Serial Industry Systems Advisory Committee (BISAC) in New York and by the Canadian Book Industry Standards Advisory Committee (CBISAC) in Canada (an industry body which had provided a forum for the discussion of industry standards, their formats, specifications, and implementation.[134]

Five EDI documents forming the core of the book industry EDI were identified for adoption in the Canadian book publishing industry. They were revised and certified by CBISAC. The five documents were:

  • Purchase Order (850)
  • Purchase Order Acknowledgement (855)
  • Advance Shipping Notice (856)
  • Invoice (810)
  • Bill/Ship Notice (857)[135]

Adopting standardized EDI documents would lead to faster and more accurate fulfillment of orders, better customer service, and timely payment of invoices. This would help reduce costs related to order processing and customer service. The earlier Canada Telebook Agency (CTA; which was an initial attempt at a standardized EDI program for the Canada book trade, but later failed to gain industry acceptance) relied on leased telephone lines for transmission and was therefore relatively expensive. The new EDI system used the Internet for connectivity, so transmission costs were next to zero.[136]

Canadian industry representatives would also be participating in the ongoing evolution of EDI standards through active memberships in international standards organization like EDiTEUR and BISAC.


Point-of-Sale Data Collection (POS)

A lack of access to current and accurate data on book sales results in an inability to track inventory and predict customer demand. Access to point-of-sale (POS) data results in more informed decisions regarding printing, distribution, and marketing, and improved market intelligence leading to more targeted sales and fewer returns. The challenges of implementing a POS system were many: the quality and timeliness of bibliographic data currently available in the Canadian market would not support a POS system; the benefits to Canadian publishers and support of the retail sector were yet to be quantified, and finally, barriers to technological implementation by retailers had to be determined.

To address these challenges dialogue between the SCI Committees with existing POS service providers was undertaken, including John Whitaker and Sons, AC Nielsen, and the Book Manager.[137]




10.0 The Launch of the Canadian Book Industry Supply Chain Initiative, 2002-2003

In May 2002, the Steering Committee drafted a report presenting recommendations for action in support of supply chain improvements in English-language Canada. The plan focused largely on means of providing access to accurate bibliographic information, providing a common and accessible electronic communications platform, and eventually securing a POS data analysis service for Canada.

Later that month, support for the 2002-2003 SCI component of BPIDP was introduced. The Book Publishing Industry Development Program committed an amount of $1.2 million in project funding for the SCI, and $1 million to publishers for improvement to bibliographic databases.

In June 2002, at a book industry summit held at BookExpo Canada in Toronto, three hundred-and-fifty book publishing industry representatives attended a presentation by the Steering Committee, IT Committee, and the Publishing Policy and Programs branch of the Department of Canadian Heritage on supply chain improvement strategies. It was a panel discussion entitled Making Every Book Count: The Canadian Book Industry Supply Chain Initiative, and was hosted by the Steering Committee and the Book and Periodical Council, and sponsored by the Department of Canadian Heritage. The Steering Committee unveiled its business plan, and funding priorities from the Department of Canadian Heritage were released at this gathering.[138]

The following priorities for the SCI were made in 2002-2003:

  • Publishers – the assistance to create, populate, and maintain high-quality bibliographic databases.
  • Distributors and wholesalers – the acquisition of computer hardware and software, and equipment for the implementation of standard EDI documents (including invoices, shipping notices, order confirmation, and receipts).
  • Retailers – support for the adoption of a unified electronic communications platform and the improvement and availability of bibliographic data.[139]

Priority for funding supply chain initiatives was given to projects that involve the adoption of functions complementary to the industry’s access to better bibliographic and point-of-sale data, as well as its adoption of EDI. This included investment in computer hardware and software, the acquisition of warehouse infrastructure, the purchase of services, and the acquisition of training.[140]

The SCI contribution specifically for book publishers was based on the level of the applicant’s net sales of titles eligible under the ATP component of BPIDP:[141]


Table 10.1 SCI contribution specifically for book publishers, based on the level of the applicant’s net sales of titles under the ATP component of BPIDP


During its first year of funding in 2002-2003, contributions were provided to sixteen industry organizations and one hundred and forty-four publishers.[142]


11.0 The Canadian Book Industry Supply Chain Initiative – Chronology

The following table illustrates the chronology of the SCI:


Table 11.1 The Canadian Book Industry Supply Chain Initiative Chronology


12.0 The Development of a Canadian Book Supply Chain Agency for English-language Canada

In addition to the BPIDP funding through the SCI for publishers, distributors, and retailers and to meet its supply chain objectives into the future, the Steering Committee had to ensure that full-time resources were available. To have access to full-time resources, the industry had to rely to funding from the Department of Canadian Heritage. (The Department would only provide full funding for projects if the request came from a not-for-profit organization.)

The Steering Committee therefore recommended the creation of a new, not-for-profit agency that would:

  • Promote and oversee a strategic approach to supply chain management.
  • Provide training and assistance to trading partners during the transition period.
  • Choose international bibliographic and EDI standards to be used, and implement a certification process to ensure compliance across the industry.
  • Maintain membership in, and participate in, regular meetings of international standards organizations.
  • Supervise and approve the work of the Canadian Book Industry Systems Advisory Committee (CBISAC).
  • Merge the Canadian Telebook Agency’s (CTA) role into its expanded mandate.
  • Identify means of achieving new efficiencies for the supply chain on an ongoing basis.[143]

After having looked at models from similar POS data collection systems, including Whitaker Book Track in the UK and BookSpan in the United States, it was agreed that a Canadian version was feasible.

The Steering Committee recommended that the new agency should not be an aggregator, but a facilitator for the transmission of accurate and timely bibliographic data to a preferred aggregator. The new agency would also serve as the industry facilitator for the exchange of electronic documents between trading partners. And lastly, the agency would encourage sales tracking.[144]


An Operational Plan for the New Agency

The Steering Committee proposed an operational plan for the establishment of the new agency to oversee the supply chain improvements in Canada. The first step was its creation. This involved merging the CTA into the new agency. This would expand the new agency’s mandate to promote and oversee a strategic approach to supply chain improvement. Services provided by the new agency would include training and assistance to trading partners, the selection of international standards and certification of practices, and participation in the activities of international standard organizations. It would also supervise the work of CBISAC.

Next, a board of directors had to be created. It was proposed that the board of directors be comprised of two representatives from the Canadian Booksellers Association (CBA), two representatives of the Association of Canadian Publishers (ACP), two representatives of the Canadian Publishers Council (CPC), one representative of the Canadian Libraries Association, one representative of the Association of Canadian Book Wholesalers, and one representative of the Book and Periodical Council (for a full list of the BookNet Canada founding board members, please see Appendix E). The board would then elect a chairman, a vice-president, and a secretary-treasurer whose term of office would be two years.

A funding request then needed to be submitted to the Department of Canadian Heritage for the agency’s operational budget. Major costs related to the new agency would be salaries, consultants (hired to provide training and assistance, and conduct research for the new agency), and travel expenses (members of the new agency would be traveling to visit members of the industry to promote the new agency’s initiatives). After the funding was secured, hiring a managing director for the new agency would be the primary priority.

The Canadian Book Industry Systems Advisory Committee (CBISAC) would continue monitoring ongoing international standard development. (CBISAC was at that time a participant in North American standard development through its membership in EDItEUR.) The new agency would then expand its role in keeping the industry informed of all ongoing standard development.

A survey of booksellers’ readiness had to be prepared and conducted by the new agency, as would selecting a preferred bibliographic data aggregator through requests for proposals by potential bibliographic data aggregators for the Canadian market. The new agency would play a role in monitoring the quality of the aggregator’s bibliographic products and also in monitoring data collection from publisher and distributors. Following that, the implementation of EDI standards would have to be overseen by the new agency.

Finally, the identification of sales tracking needs and the selection of a preferred sales tracking method would have to be evaluated and adopted by the new agency. The Steering Committee believed that a survey should be conducted to identify what level of information should be made available to the whole industry, and how it would be used. A request for proposal was also to be sent to potential sales tracking partners. The request would have the final objective of integrating the services of a sales data aggregator into the Canadian market.[145]

Other priorities for the new agency were to facilitate the adoption of a standard and accessible platform for electronic communication, and to examine options for implementing POS data collection for the Canadian book trade.

It was understood that the new agency would undertake the following activities to achieve its objectives:

  • Conduct research related to supply chain improvements.
  • Liaise with Canadian stakeholders, share results of research, recommending standards and best practices, lead industry discussions related to supply chain improvement.
  • Assist stakeholders in the implementation of recommended supply chain improvements, which include measuring companies’ ability to adopt standard practices, and develop bibliographic data and EDI certification processes.
  • Liaise with third party service providers to ensure the supply chain needs of the Canadian industry are addressed.
  • Represent the Canadian book industry on international book industry and supplychain related organizations.[146]

The new agency would also take on the role of the CTA, which would then be wound down. The agency would assume the CTA’s role in promoting EDI usage and standards.[147]

The timeline for achieving the objectives in the operational plan for the new agency was anticipated to take place from August 1, 2001, and ending April 1, 2003. (For more detail, please see Appendix F.)

In December 2002, the newly-created, not-for-profit agency – called BookNet Canada – was formed. Governed by an industry-appointed board, BookNet Canada’s mandate is to introduce innovation into the supply chain for books in English-speaking Canada.[148]

BookNet Canada introduced its plan to the industry at BookExpo Canada in the Spring of 2003. It immediate priorities were:

  • To ensure the industry had access to a cost-effective and efficient electronic communications platform.
  • To improve the quality and accessibility of commercial databases available to the Canadian book trade (i.e. RR Bowker’s Books in Print).
  • To work toward the provision of point-of-sale aggregation services.
  • To explore a scheme for group buying of supply chain enhancing products and services.

Once BookNet was created, the Steering Committee and the IT Committee were disbanded. The Department of Canadian Heritage announced $2.5 million per year in long-term support for BookNet in June 2003.[149] A Working Group consisting of industry members from the ACP, the CPC, and the CBA was formed in order to oversee the development and roll-out of the new agency. (For names and affiliations of the Working Group, please see Appendix D.)


BookNet Canada and the Société de gestion de la banque de titres de langue français – setting a Canadian standard for Bibliographic data certification, EDI, and POS data collection for Canadian publishers

After much research into proven industry supply chain practices, input from the Canadian book publishing industry, and a detailed operational plan tabled by the SCI Steering Committee, BookNet Canada (BookNet) was also developed with the assistance and expertise of its French-language predecessor, Société de gestion de la banque de titres de langue française (BTLF). Established in 1996, BTLF had been successfully operating and managing the French-language supply chain requirements in Quebec. A representative from BTLF was on the SCI Steering Committee, providing knowledge and guidance for the formation of BookNet.

Both BookNet and BTLF are agencies providing supply chain solutions across Canada. Both are assisted by BPIDP.


13.0 Bibliographic Data Certification – A Priority

Since its inception in 2002, BookNet’s immediate priority was to ensure the industry had access to clean, complete bibliographic data.

BookNet used a three-level approach for meeting bibliographic standards and for moving electronic information around the supply chain: Bronze, Silver, and Gold. Publishers obtained a Bronze certification by using a standard Excel document with the minimum amount of basic bibliographic information required (title, author’s name, ISBN, etc). Silver was reached when the same information in the Bronze template is converted into an ONIX file. (BookNet has a converter which publishers can use which takes an Excel template and converts it into an ONIX XML file.) At the Gold level, publishers were expected to supply dense, well formatted, metadata rich ONIX files (additional marketing elements such as title descriptions, author biographies, and images. For detailed BookNet bibliographic data standards, please see Appendix G).

As part of a successfully functioning book supply chain, it is pertinent for publishers to provide information about their books in an ONIX-compatible format in order to reach their target market. The more metadata fields a publisher fills out in ONIX, the higher their bibliographic certification level, and thus the better chance a reader will find the publisher’s book. Titles with as much rich metadata as possible, most notably images, outsell those without rich metadata eight times to one.[150]

The Société de gestion de la banque de titre de langue francais houses over one million bibliographic records for French publishers. Their bibliographic certification standard is ONIX version 2.1, revision 2. The Société de gestion de la banque de titres de langue française has two levels of certification: Minimal and Enrichi. Like BookNet, these are based on the number of ONIX fields provided by publishers.[151]

Besides bibliographic certification, BookNet services also includes Pubnet (an EDI service contracted from RR Bowker), and BNC SalesData (a POS tracking system). These investments represent major steps toward improved gathering, management, and flow of data throughout the supply chain.[152]


14.0 The Canadian Book Industry Supply Chain Initiative: 2002-2003 – 2007-2008 Results

From 2002-2003 to 2007-2008, the SCI provided nearly six million dollars to support over 200 publishers in establishing high-quality nationally-standardized bibliographic data. The SCI has also supported the development of national sales data analysis infrastructure in both official languages, leading to greater knowledge of Canadian book industry trends and improved inventory management for publishers, distributors and retailers. The following information documents quantitative bibliographic data results from the SCI from 2002-2003 to 2008-2009:


Table 14.1: Supply Chain Initiative Recipients and Funding Provided


Table 14.2: Bibliographic Certification Results – English-language Publishers*


Table 14.3: Bibliographic Certification Results – French-language Publishers*


Table 14.4: Cumulative Certifications (English and French Publishers)

* Note: a number of BPIDP recipients, most notably those in the educational sector, do not sell to retail outlets. Therefore, they may not see value in obtaining bibliographic certification.


Summative Evaluations from the Department of Canadian Heritage

In order to fulfill Treasury Board reporting requirements, the Department of Canadian Heritage undertakes a summative evaluation of BPIDP every four years. These evaluations address the issues of program design, effectiveness and efficiency by program relevance, impact, cost-effectiveness, and alternatives.

The summative evaluation undertaken in the government fiscal year 2004 indicate that among publishers who had applied to the SCI, “more than 70 percent believe that the SCI is still needed to ensure the strengthening and modernization of the supply chain for books in Canada.”[153] Two-thirds of the publishers surveyed said they expect the Canadian book industry to become more efficient in responding to changes in supply and demand as a result of the initiative. And among successful SCI applicants, “70 percent said that the SCI has enabled their firm to make investments in technology that would otherwise have been impossible, and 72 percent expect their firm to become more efficient in responding to changes in supply and demand as a result of these funds.”[154]

Several publishers noted that the SCI was an important initiative that will ultimately result in greater efficiency in the supply chain for books in Canada, and that the SCI was successful in orientating the book industry toward the need for technological advances in areas such as EDI, bibliographic data, and POS data.[155]

The last summative evaluation took place between January and July 2008 and covered the years of BPIDP program activities from the government fiscal years of 2003-2004 through 2006-2007. The evaluation focused on three major issues: relevance, success in achieving program outcomes, and whether the program delivers good value for Canadian taxpayers.[156]

The 2008 summative evaluation indicated the following percentages of publishers reporting some or considerable positive impact of the SCI on aspects of their business:

Creating and exporting ONIX – 67%
Improved access to large retail chains – 73%
Management of bibliographic data – 82%
Developing efficiencies – 96% [157]

With regards to the SCI, the summative evaluation concludes that:

There is ample anecdotal evidence from publishers who reported that SCI had some or considerable positive impact in several areas of their business. These include their capacity to produce, transfer and manage electronic bibliographic data, digitize business processes, improve access to large retail chains, and develop efficiencies overall.[158]

In terms of the relevance of the SCI, the 2008 evaluation notes that, “The SCI is relevant given the changes in the Canadian book industry supply chain requiring that publishers use new technologies to create efficiencies and savings.”[159]

The SCI was deemed successful in that it,

Has contributed to industry-wide efficiencies and has assisted publishers to more effectively interact with customers through collective projects and by providing funding directly to publishing firms… Publishers indicated that the SCI has helped improve the strategic orientation and competitiveness of the Canadian-owned publishing industry as a whole.[160]


15.0 The Ongoing Function of the Canadian Book Industry Supply Chain Initiative

For the first six years, from the government fiscal years of 2002-2003 to 2007-2008, priority funding from the SCI was provided in order for Canadian publishers to attain bibliographic data certification, to capitalize on the advances they had made and progress beyond their bibliographic data certification level, as well as for projects delivering an impact to the industry’s technological infrastructure. After six years, the SCI funding structure changed.

In 2008-2009, after a successful six-year investment in bibliographic data improvements through the SCI, BPIDP reoriented its support for new technology initiatives. This was based on the findings from several industry studies conducted by BPIDP which identified the need for increased training and professional development in the area of new technology, including information sharing, print-on-demand publishing, content digitization, and issues concerning digital rights management.[161]

The new SCI funding support is designed to enable publishers to develop the knowledge and skills necessary to take full advantage of the opportunities offered by technological advancements in the publishing, distribution, and marketing of books.[162]

The Book Publishing Industry Development Program currently funds up to 75 percent of eligible expenses for business planning projects with a strong emphasis on innovative technology. Publishers may also receive funding to offset the salary of an intern hired to work primarily on projects related to technology. Technology-focused professional development projects for publisher associations are also eligible for the same level of support. This assistance is not a permanent measure, but rather a limited initiative to help the industry build the foundation for the effective application of new technologies. BookNet and BTLF continue to receive support through BPIDP.[163]


16.0 Conclusion

Over the past ten years – since the initial examination by the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage of the book publishing industry began in 1999 – much has changed. During a time of immense apprehension and strain, the Government of Canada and the Canadian book publishing industry worked together to address constraints and concerns and lay the foundation for building not only an efficient book supply chain in Canada, but building sustainable industry capacity.

The Canadian Book Industry Supply Chain Initiative is evidence of this collaboration. All evidence points to the SCI having succeeded in meeting its objective of supporting the Canadian book industry’s adoption of innovative technologies. Along with sound bibliographic data, EDI, and POS data, the industry now has the capacity to use information and communications technologies to improve and accelerate its ordering, shipping, inventory control, and sales-tracking processes.

As noted by Diane Ouellet with the Société de gestion de la banque de titres de langue française:

The emergence of new information and communications technologies has radically transformed how information is managed in the book supply chain. The increase in editorial production, rising consumer demand, and the pressure to obtain more fully developed data on titles and updates in real time represent a significant challenge to all database administrators. Interventions by BPIDP through support for the Supply Chain Initiative program have assisted in the implementation of a centralized communications and electronic exchange infrastructure.[164]

From its beginnings in collecting and distributing bibliographic data, BookNet has evolved into a multifunctional supply chain management agency. Along with its core focus on bibliographic data, support for EDI (through a contract with RR Bowker’s subsidiary Pubnet), sales data analysis, and international standards to enhance supply chain efficiencies, BookNet also performs market research and manages BNC SalesData – the national book sales reporting and analysis service. BookNet estimates that its BNC SalesData tracks 75 percent of all Canadian book sales.[165]

BookNet Canada is a testament to the labour and commitment made to improving the English-language book supply chain from all members involved in book publishing in Canada, and remains in integral part of the publishing industry into the future.

The Canadian Book Industry Supply Chain Initiative has helped the book publishing industry in Canada become more efficient, viable, and resilient to changing technological standards and practices. By improving the industry’s capacity to take advantage of the opportunities offered by technology, and vastly improving the book supply chain distribution infrastructure, book publishers in Canada continue to be able to produce, market, and distribute Canadian books for readers at home and around the world.





Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage[166]


Clifford Lincoln

Vice Chairs:

Dennis Mills

Inky Mark
Dauphin-Swan River


Mauril Bélanger

Cliff Breitkreuz

Paul Bonwick

Sarmite Bulte
Parkdale-High Park

Irwin Cotler
Mount Royal

Pierre de Savoye

Wendy Lill

Rick Limoges
Windsor-St. Clair

Eric Lowther
Calgary Centre

Mark Muise
West Nova

Alex Shepherd

Caroline St-Hilaire

Bryon Wilfert
Oak Ridges

Clerks of the Committee:

Martine Bresson

Normand Radford

Research Staff of the Committee (Research Branch, Library of Parliament):

Joseph E.F.Jackson

Terrence J. Thomas


David Black

Kevin Burns




Six Key Questions from the Roundtable Discussions

As part of a study of Canada’s book distribution industry, the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage held four televised roundtable discussions with book publishing and distribution associations, book publishers, retailers and distributors, book industry analysts, writers associations, retail and consumer associations and library associations. These roundtables were held in Ottawa on February 24 and 29, and March 2 and 14, 2000.

The Committee was specifically interested in the impact of electronic commerce, the concentration of bookstore ownership, and the ways in which books are distributed to Canada’s booksellers. The Committee also wished to understand how these factors were affecting the availability of Canadian-authored materials. As such, the roundtable participants were invited to address six key questions.

These were:

1. Based on the available evidence, what can be said about the state of book publishing, distribution and retailing in Canada?

2. Based on the available evidence, what information is lacking regarding the state of book publishing, distribution and retailing in Canada?

3. What are your views on current industry trends and challenges (e.g., new technologies, electronic commerce) and their potential impact(s)?

4. What industry trends and challenges do we need to better understand and monitor?

5. What kind of relationship do you see between your organization/association and other industry players?

6. What role can the Government of Canada play to best serve the interests of the Canadian book publishing and distribution industry?[167]




Names of the Supply Chain Initiative Steering Committee and Affiliations[168]

John Dill
McGraw Hill Ryerson

Nicholas Hoare
Nicholas Hoare Booksellers

Valerie Hussey
Kids Can Press

Marc Laberge
Éditions du Trécarré

Kim McArthur
McArthur & Company

John Neale
Random House Canada

Heather Reisman
Indigo Books & Music

Kevin Williams
Raincoast Books


Support members:

Annie Carruthers
Department of Canadian Heritage

Allan Clarke
Department of Canadian Heritage




The Supply Chain Initiative Working Group for BookNet Canada

The Working Group was created at a meeting held by the Department of Canadian Heritage on July 18, 2002. The Working Group met on five occasions – from July 26 to September 9, 2002. The Working Group reviewed the report prepared by Marc Laberge from the Steering Committee and reviewed three issues with respect to the formation of the new supply chain entity: governance, the role of the entity, and roll-out.[169]

Members of the Supply Chain Working Group:

ACP (Association of Canadian Publishers)
Jim Lorimer, Kevin Williams, Monique Smith

CPC (Canadian Publishers’ Council)
John Dill, Harold Fenn, Jackie Hushion

CBA Canadian Booksellers Association)
Todd Anderson, Susanne Brooks, Susan Dayus

(Also invited were Hamish Cameron, Doug Minett, and Brad Fenn)




Founding BookNet Canada Member Organizations and Founding Board of Directors[170]

Member Organizations:
Association of Canadian Publishers
Canadian Publishers’ Council
Canadian Booksellers Association
Association of Canadian Book Wholesalers
The Department of Canadian Heritage

BookNet Canada Board of Directors:
Kevin Williams (Raincoast Books)
Jim Lorimer (Formac Publishing)
John Dill (McGraw Hill Ryerson)
David Clarke (Scholastic Canada Ltd)
Todd Anderson (University of Alberta Bookstore)
Doug Minett (The Bookshelf)
Peter Waldock (North 49 Books)
Victor DiRisio (Indigo Books & Music)
Allan Clarke (Department of Canadian Heritage)




Gantt Chart of the BookNet Canada Timeline (Set Up To Completion)[171]





Current Bibliographic Certification Standards for BookNet Canada[172]

BRONZE – contains the minimum mandatory data required to trade in the supply chain to ensure that titles are listed accurately by key bibliographic databases like Indigo, BookManager, and Bowker Books-in-Print.

Bronze Level:

Product Form Code
Title Text
Publisher Name
Replaced by (ISBN)
Publication Date
On Sale Date
Dimensions (height, width)
Availability Status Code
Price Amount
Currency Code
Pack or Carton Quantity
Returns Conditions Code
Supplier Name
Terms of Trade
Discount Percentage
Territorial Rights and Sales
Contributor Role
Contributor Name (last name)
Contributor Name (first name)
Corporate Contributor Name

SILVER – contains the same data elements found at the Bronze level, but is transmitted through ONIX 2.1. Data elements included in the Silver level of the standard represent a minimum amount of bibliographic data publishers and distributors need to store and transfer when trading in ONIX.

Silver Level:

Bronze level identifiers, plus:
Product Form Detail
Country Code
BISAC Subject

GOLD – contains all Silver requirements plus additional marketing information such as cover image, set and edition details, number of pages and reviews or descriptive text.

Gold Level:

Silver level identifiers, plus:
Barcode Indicator
Number within Series
Series Title of indicator
Year of Annual
Dimension (spine thickness)
Biographical Note
Number of Volumes
Number within a Set
Edition Number
Edition Statement
Number of Illustrations
Illustrations and Other Contents
Number of Pages
Audience Code
Audience Restriction Note
Cover Image
Text Type Code
Text Format
Main Text




Publisher Opinion of the Impact of the Supply Chain Initiative, 2004

The Supply Chain Initiative (SCI) was implemented in 2002-2003 with the objective of “encouraging the industry’s participation in the strengthening and modernization of the supply chain for books in Canada by facilitating the adoption of technologies and practices related to supply chain management.” In its first year, SCI funding was provided to sixteen industry organizations and 144 publishers.

The chart below illustrates the opinions of publishers with regard to the impact of SCI[173] :




Publisher Opinion of the Impact of the Supply Chain Initiative, 2008[174]





1 Canada, Department of Canadian Heritage, Printed Matters; Book Publishing Policy and Programs; Annual Report 2003-2004 (Ottawa, 2003-2004), 32. RETURN

2 Bill Martin, “Publishing in the New Economy: A Knowledge-based Perspective,” Markets for Electronic Book Products, Edited by Bill Cope & Dean Mason (Victoria, Australia: Common Ground Publishing Pty Ltd., 2002), 208. RETURN

3 Herbert S. Bailey Jr., The Art & Science of Book Publishing (Athens, Ohio: Ohio University Press, 1970, 1990), 11. RETURN

4 John P. Dessauer, Book Publishing; A Basic Introduction (New York, New York: The Continuum Publishing Co. 1989), 31. RETURN

5 Thomas Woll, Publishing for Profit: Successful Bottom-line Management for Book Publishers (Chicago, Illinois: Chicago Review Press, Inc. 1998, 2002), 259. RETURN

6 Canada, Department of Canadian Heritage, Creating Canada Together: 25 Years of Support for Canadian Books (Ottawa, 2004), 34. RETURN

7 Thomas Woll, Publishing for Profit: Successful Bottom-line Management for Book Publishers (Chicago, Illinois: Chicago Review Press, Inc. 1998, 2002), 280. RETURN

8 Ibid. RETURN

9 Richard Curtis, This Business of Publishing: An Insider’s View of Current Trends and Tactics (New York, New York: Allworth Press, 1998), 176. RETURN

10 Ibid., 177, 4. RETURN

11 Ibid., 5. RETURN

12 Marshal L. Fisher, “Managing the Value Chain,” Harvard Business Review: On Managing the Value Chain (Boston, MA: Harvard Business School Publishing, 2000), 127. RETURN

13 Mike Shatzkin, “Rethinking book distribution,” Quill & Quire, October 1, 1997, RETURN

14 Turner-Riggs, Book Distribution in Canada’s English-language Market (Report commissioned by the Department of Canadian Heritage, Ottawa, 2009), pblctns/bk_dstrbtn_lv/dst_eng/index-eng.cfm RETURN

15 Canada, Department of Canadian Heritage, “The Canadian Book Industry Supply Chain Initiative Overview” (Presentation to the National Library of Canada, Ottawa, June 25, 2003). RETURN

16 Scott Anderson, “The decade ahead,” Quill & Quire, January 1, 2000, RETURN

17 Erin Elizabeth Williams, “The Chapters Effect on British Columbia-based Literary Publishers” (Master of Publishing Project Report, Simon Fraser University, 2006), 11. RETURN

18 Roy MacSkimming, The Perilous Trade: Book Publishing in Canada 1946-2006 (Toronto, Ontario: McClelland & Stewart, 2003, 2007), 361. RETURN

19 Erin Elizabeth Williams, “The Chapters Effect on British Columbia-based Literary Publishers” (Master of Publishing Project Report, Simon Fraser University, 2006), 12. RETURN

20 Roy MacSkimming, The Perilous Trade: Book Publishing in Canada 1946-2006 (Toronto, Ontario: McClelland & Stewart, 2003, 2007), 361. RETURN

21 Evans & Company Retail Consultants Inc. Retail Market Study: A Review of the Canadian Book Industry (Prepared for the Association of Canadian Publishers, February 2001), 5. RETURN

22 Roy MacSkimming, The Perilous Trade: Book Publishing in Canada 1946-2006 (Toronto, Ontario: McClelland & Stewart, 2003, 2007), 365. RETURN

23 Ibid. RETURN

24 Ibid. RETURN

25 Ibid. RETURN

26 Roy MacSkimming, The Perilous Trade: Book Publishing in Canada 1946-2006 (Toronto, Ontario: McClelland & Stewart, 2003, 2007), 362. RETURN

27 Erin Elizabeth Williams, “The Chapters Effect on British Columbia-based Literary Publishers” (Master of Publishing Project Report, Simon Fraser University, 2006), 49. RETURN

28 Robert Fulford , “The Turmoil Over Chapters Book Chain,” The National Post, July 29, 2000, RETURN

29 Scott Anderson, “2001: What Odyssey?” Quill & Quire, February 1, 2001, RETURN

30 Scott Anderson, “Reversals of fortune,” Quill & Quire, July 1, 2000, RETURN

31 Erin Elizabeth Williams, “The Chapters Effect on British Columbia-based Literary Publishers” (Master of Publishing Project Report, Simon Fraser University, 2006), 41. RETURN

32 Ibid., 55. RETURN

33 Ibid., 77. RETURN

34 Ibid., 80. RETURN

35 Canada. Competition Bureau Canada. “Competition Bureau Reaches Agreement with Trilogy, Chapters and Indigo” April 5, 2001, RETURN

36 Roy MacSkimming, The Perilous Trade: Book Publishing in Canada 1946-2006 (Toronto, Ontario: McClelland & Stewart, 2003, 2007), 365. RETURN

37 Erin Elizabeth Williams, “The Chapters Effect on British Columbia-based Literary Publishers” (Master of Publishing Project Report, Simon Fraser University, 2006), 80. RETURN

38 Ibid. RETURN

39 Roy MacSkimming, The Perilous Trade: Book Publishing in Canada 1946-2006 (Toronto, Ontario: McClelland & Stewart, 2003, 2007), 377. RETURN

40 Erin Elizabeth Williams, “The Chapters Effect on British Columbia-based Literary Publishers” (Master of Publishing Project Report, Simon Fraser University, 2006), 72. RETURN

41 Ibid. RETURN

42 Rowland Lorimer, Ultra Libris: Policy, Technology, and the Creative Economy of Book Publishing in Canada (Vancouver, British Columbia: Canadian Centre for Studies in Publishing, 2009), 157. RETURN

43 Roy MacSkimming, The Perilous Trade: Book Publishing in Canada 1946-2006 (Toronto, Ontario: McClelland & Stewart, 2003, 2007), 378. RETURN

44 Ibid. RETURN

45 Ibid., 379. RETURN

46 Ibid. RETURN

47 Rowland Lorimer, Ultra Libris: Policy, Technology, and the Creative Economy of Book Publishing in Canada (Vancouver, British Columbia: Canadian Centre for Studies in Publishing, 2009), 157. RETURN

48 Derek Weiler, “Small-press GDS clients may receive special Canada Council funding,” Quill & Quire, August 16, 2002, RETURN

49 Canada, Department of Canadian Heritage, The Book Report: Book Publishing Policy and Programs (Ottawa, 1993-2003), 2. RETURN

50 Canada, Department of Canadian Heritage, “Book Publishing Industry Development Program; Publications; Audits and Evaluations; 2004 Summative Evaluation,” cr/evaltn/2004/indexeng.cfm RETURN

51 Roy MacSkimming Consulting, Making Policy for Canadian Publishing: A History of ACP Policy Proposals and Federal Responses, 1970-2002 (Ottawa, October, 2002). RETURN

52 Nathalie Atkinson, “Picking up the pieces after the Stoddard GDS collapse,” Publisher’s Weekly, February 24, 2003, RETURN

53 Dalia Riback, “E-books pose no threat to publishers,” Quill & Quire, September 1, 2000, RETURN

54 Albert Greco, The Book Publishing Industry, 2nd edition (Mahwah, New Jersey: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 2005), 284. RETURN

55 Scott Anderson, “E-book questions,” Quill & Quire, November 24, 2000, RETURN

56 Ibid. RETURN

57 Carol Toller, “Digital Rights Technology and Canadian Politics dominate a quiet BEA,” Quill & Quire, June 6, 2000, RETURN

58 Derek Weiler, “Slouching towards 2000,” Quill & Quire, May 1, 1999, RETURN

59 Ibid. RETURN

60 Scott Anderson, “The decade ahead,” Quill & Quire, January 1, 2000, RETURN

61 Divine Whittman-Hart, Canadian Book Industry: Transition to the New Economy (Report, Ottawa, April 30, 2001), 5. RETURN

62 Rowland Lorimer, Ultra Libris: Policy, Technology, and the Creative Economy of Book Publishing in Canada (Vancouver, British Columbia: Canadian Centre for Studies in Publishing, 2009), 153. RETURN

63 Scott Anderson, “The decade ahead,” Quill & Quire, January 1, 2000, RETURN

64 Canada, Statistics Canada, “Canadian Culture in Perspective: A Statistical Overview 2000 Edition,” RETURN

65 Ibid., 102. RETURN

66 Evans & Company Retail Consultants Inc., Retail Market Study: A Review of the Canadian Book Industry (Prepared for the Association of Canadian Publishers, Toronto, February 2001), 78 RETURN

67 Sarah Dingle, “Canadian books to readers everywhere: An examination of book policy development at the Department of Canadian Heritage” (Master of Publishing Project Report, Simon Fraser University, 2006), 8. RETURN

68 Rowland Lorimer, Ultra Libris: Policy, Technology, and the Creative Economy of Book Publishing in Canada (Vancouver, British Columbia: Canadian Centre for Studies in Publishing, 2009), 154. RETURN

69 Canada, Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage, The Challenge of Change: A Consideration of the Canadian Book Industry (Department of Canadian Heritage, Ottawa, 2000), 1. RETURN

70 Scott Anderson, “The decade ahead,” Quill & Quire, January 1, 2000, RETURN

71 Canada, Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage, The Challenge of Change: A Consideration of the Canadian Book Industry (Department of Canadian Heritage, Ottawa, 2000), 1. RETURN

72 Canada, House of Commons, “Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage,” 1&Parl=36&Ses=1 RETURN

73 Canada, Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage, The Challenge of Change: A Consideration of the Canadian Book Industry (Department of Canadian Heritage, Ottawa, 2000), 4. RETURN

74 Canada, House of Commons, “Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage,” 1&Parl=36&Ses=1 RETURN

75 Rowland Lorimer, Ultra Libris: Policy, Technology, and the Creative Economy of Book Publishing in Canada (Vancouver, British Columbia: Canadian Centre for Studies in Publishing, 2009), 126. RETURN

76 Sarah Dingle, “Canadian books to readers everywhere: An examination of book policy development at the Department of Canadian Heritage” (Master of Publishing Project Report, Simon Fraser University, 2006), 4. RETURN

77 Createc +, Reading and Buying Books for Pleasure: 2005 National Survey (Survey was commissioned by the Research, Analysis and Industry Development Directorate of the Publishing Policy and Programs Branch, Department of Canadian Heritage and its partners, Ottawa, March 2005), 5, 8, 9. RETURN

78 Rowland Lorimer, Ultra Libris: Policy, Technology, and the Creative Economy of Book Publishing in Canada (Vancouver, British Columbia: Canadian Centre for Studies in Publishing, 2009), 114. RETURN

79 Sarah Dingle, “Canadian books to readers everywhere: An examination of book policy development at the Department of Canadian Heritage” (Master of Publishing Project Report, Simon Fraser University, 2006), 7. RETURN

80 Canada, Department of Canadian Heritage, RETURN

81 Canada, The Government’s Response to the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage’s Report: The Challenge of Change: A Consideration of the Canadian Book Industry (Department of Canadian Heritage, Ottawa, May, 2001), 1. RETURN

82 Canada, Department of Canadian Heritage, “Book Publishing Industry Development Program,” RETURN

83 Sarah Dingle, “Canadian books to readers everywhere: An examination of book policy development at the Department of Canadian Heritage” (Master of Publishing Project Report, Simon Fraser University, 2006), 19. RETURN

84 Canada, Department of Canadian Heritage, “Book Publishing Industry Development Program,” RETURN

85 Ibid. RETURN

86 Ibid. RETURN

87 Ibid. RETURN

88 Ibid. RETURN

89 Ibid. RETURN

90 Canada, Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage, The Challenge of Change: A Consideration of the Canadian Book Industry (Department of Canadian Heritage, Ottawa, 2000), 2. RETURN

91 Ibid. RETURN

92 Ibid., 7. RETURN

93 Ibid. RETURN

94 Canada, House of Commons, “Heritage Committee to Hold Roundtable Discussions on the Canadian Book Distribution Industry,” news release (Ottawa, February 10, 2000), =36&Ses=2 RETURN

95 Canada, Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage, The Challenge of Change: A Consideration of the Canadian Book Industry (Department of Canadian Heritage, Ottawa, 2000), 2. RETURN

96 Ibid., 3. RETURN

97 Ibid. RETURN

98 Ibid. RETURN

99 Canada, Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage, The Challenge of Change: A Consideration of the Canadian Book Industry (Department of Canadian Heritage, Ottawa, 2000), 71. RETURN

100 Ibid., 72. RETURN

101 Ibid. RETURN

102 Ibid. RETURN

103 Canada, House of Commons, “Edited Hansard; Speech from the Throne” (Ottawa, January 30, 2001), d=1228739#LINK1 RETURN

104 Canada, Department of Canadian Heritage, The Government’s Response to the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage’s Report The Challenge of Change: A Consideration of the Canadian Book Industry (Ottawa, May, 2001), n.p. RETURN

105 Ibid., 11. RETURN

106 Ibid., 14. RETURN

107 Ibid., 15. RETURN

108 Josh Kerbel, “Canada market in a word: tight: a flat market and supply-chain issues trouble publishers, but burgeoning alternative markets hold out hope,” Publisher’s Weekly, Vol. 254, Issue 19, May 7, 2007, 13. RETURN

109 Canada, Department of Canadian Heritage, Signatures: Newsletter of the Canadian Book Industry Supply Chain Initiative (Ottawa, December, 2001). RETURN

110 Canada, Department of Canadian Heritage, Printed Matters; Book Publishing Policy and Programs; Annual Report 2003-2004 (Ottawa, 2003-2004), 31. RETURN

111 Canada, Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage, The Challenge of Change: A Consideration of the Canadian Book Industry (Department of Canadian Heritage, Ottawa, 2000), 71. RETURN

112 Devin Crawley, “Industry committees seek supply chain improvements,” Quill & Quire, September 18, 2001, RETURN

113 Canada, The Government’s Response to the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage’s Report The Challenge of Change: A Consideration of the Canadian Book Industry (Department of Canadian Heritage, Ottawa, May, 2001), 13. RETURN

114 Canada, Department of Canadian Heritage, “Delegation of Canadian Industry Professionals to the UK,” internal document (Ottawa, n.d.). RETURN

115 Canada, Department of Canadian Heritage, “The Canadian Book Industry Supply Chain Initiative, Government/Industry Partnership” (Presentation to the Association of BC Book Publishers, Ottawa, April 25, 2003). RETURN

116 Canada, Department of Canadian Heritage, Printed Matters; Book Publishing Policy and Programs; Annual Report 2003-2004 (Ottawa, 2003-2004), 18. RETURN

117 Canada, Department of Canadian Heritage, Signatures: Newsletter of the Canadian Book Industry Supply Chain Initiative (Ottawa, December, 2001). RETURN

118 Ibid. RETURN

119 James Lorimer, “The missing links: The supply chain initiative must work for small publishers and retailers too,” Quill & Quire, October 1, 2002, article_id=2495 RETURN

120 Canada, Department of Canadian Heritage, Signatures: Newsletter of the Canadian Book Industry Supply Chain Initiative (Ottawa December, 2001). RETURN

121 Canada, Department of Canadian Heritage, The Canadian Book Industry Supply Chain Initiative, brochure (Ottawa, n.d.). RETURN

122 In a survey by SIBYL FREI DeGros Marsh Consulting commissioned by the ACP entitled Supply Chain Survey (November 2001 – January 2002), nearly 40% of ACP members provided data directly to RR Bowker, from a low of 25% of the smallest publishers to almost 65% of the largest, 7. RETURN

123 Canada, Department of Canadian Heritage, Signatures: Newsletter of the Canadian Book Industry Supply Chain Initiative (Ottawa, February, 2002). RETURN

124 Canada, Department of Canadian Heritage, “The Canadian Book Industry Supply Chain Initiative: Update and Action Items,” internal document (Ottawa, February 20, 2002). RETURN

125 Ibid. RETURN

126 EDItEUR, “About,” RETURN

127 Elizabeth Anne Grabham, “The real world of bibliographic data: managing and exchanging marketing data at Arsenal Pulp Press” (Master of Publishing Project Report, Simon Fraser University, 2007), 5. RETURN

128 Canada, Department of Canadian Heritage, Signatures: Newsletter of the Canadian Book Industry Supply Chain Initiative (Ottawa, February, 2002). RETURN

129 Elizabeth Anne Grabham, “The real world of bibliographic data: managing and exchanging marketing data at Arsenal Pulp Press” (Master of Publishing Project Report, Simon Fraser University, 2007), 6. RETURN

130 Thomas Woll, Publishing for Profit: Successful Bottom-line Management for Book Publishers (Chicago, Illinois: Chicago Review Press, Inc. 1998, 2002), 261. RETURN

131 Ibid. RETURN

132 In a survey by SIBYL FREI DeGros Marsh Consulting commissioned by the ACP entitled, Supply Chain Survey (November 2001 – January 2002), only 25% of ACP members when surveyed indicated that they know – or think they know – whether their current software applications are XML compliant, 7. RETURN

133 Canada, Department of Canadian Heritage, “The Canadian Book Industry Supply Chain Initiative: Update and Action Items,” internal document (Ottawa, February 20, 2002). RETURN

134 Canada, Department of Canadian Heritage, Signatures: Newsletter of the Canadian Book Industry Supply Chain Initiative (Ottawa, February, 2002). RETURN

135 Canada, Department of Canadian Heritage, Signatures: Newsletter of the Canadian Book Industry Supply Chain Initiative (Ottawa, December, 2001). RETURN

136 John W. Maxwell, “PEXOD: The Publishers’ Extensible Online Database,” Edited by Rowly Lorimer, Jillian Schoichet, and John W. Maxwell, Book Publishing I (Vancouver, British Columbia: Canadian Centre for Studies in Publishing, 2005), 330. RETURN

137 Canada, Department of Canadian Heritage, “The Canadian Book Industry Supply Chain Initiative: Update and Action Items,” internal document (Ottawa, February 20, 2002). RETURN

138 Canada, Department of Canadian Heritage, Printed Matters; Book Publishing Policy and Programs; Annual Report 2002-2003 (Ottawa, 2002-2003), 19. RETURN

139 Canada, Department of Canadian Heritage, The Canadian Book Industry Supply Chain Initiative, brochure (Ottawa, n.d.). RETURN

140 Canada, Department of Canadian Heritage, “The Canadian Book Industry Supply Chain Initiative Overview” (Presentation to the National Library of Canada, Ottawa, June 25, 2003). RETURN

141 Canada, Department of Canadian Heritage, Book Publishing Industry Development Program: Support for the Canadian Book Industry Supply Chain Initiative, Applicant’s Guide, 2002-2003 (Ottawa, 2002-2003), 6. RETURN

142 Canada, Department of Canadian Heritage, “Book Publishing Industry Development Program; Publications; Audits and Evaluations; 2008 Summative Evaluation,” cr/evaltn/2008/indexeng.cfm RETURN

143 Marc Laberge, The Canadian Book Industry Supply Chain Initiative Business Plan: Prepared for the Canadian Book Industry Supply Chain Initiative Steering Committee (Department of Canadian Heritage, Ottawa, June 2002), 4. RETURN

144 Ibid., 5. RETURN

145 Ibid., 8-19. RETURN

146 Canada, Department of Canadian Heritage, “BookNet Canada Inaugural Meeting,” news release (Toronto, December 11, 2002). RETURN

147 Ibid. RETURN

148 Canada, Department of Canadian Heritage, Printed Matters; Book Publishing Policy and Programs; Annual Report 2002-2003 (Ottawa, 2002-2003). RETURN

149 Canada, Department of Canadian Heritage, “The Canadian Book Industry Supply Chain Initiative Overview” (Presentation to the National Library of Canada, Ottawa, June 25, 2003). RETURN

150 Meghan MacDonald (Intern, BookNet Canada, Toronto), email correspondence to the author, August 28, 2009. RETURN

151 Société de gestion de la banque de titres de langue française, “A propos de la BTLF,” RETURN

152 Turner-Riggs, Book Distribution in Canada’s English-language Market (Report commissioned by the Department of Canadian Heritage, Ottawa, 2009), pblctns/bk_dstrbtn_lv/dst_eng/index-eng.cfm RETURN

153 Canada, Department of Canadian Heritage, “Book Publishing Industry Development Program; Publications; Audits and Evaluations; 2004 Summative Evaluation” (Ottawa, June 23, 2004), 31. RETURN

154 Ibid. RETURN

155 Ibid., 42. RETURN

156 Canada, Department of Canadian Heritage, “Book Publishing Industry Development Program; Publications; Audits and Evaluations; 2008 Summative Evaluation,” RETURN

157 Ibid. RETURN

158 Ibid. RETURN

159 Ibid. RETURN

160 Ibid. RETURN

161 Ian Wallace (Manager, Book Policy, Book Publishing Industry Development Program, Department of Canadian Heritage, Ottawa), correspondence with the author, August 25, 2009. RETURN

162 Ibid. RETURN

163 Ibid. RETURN

164 Canada, Department of Canadian Heritage, Creating Canada Together: 25 Years of Support for Canadian Books (Ottawa, 2004), 33. RETURN

165 BookNet Canada, “About BookNet Canada,” RETURN

166 Canada, Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage, The Challenge of Change: A Consideration of the Canadian Book Industry (Department of Canadian Heritage, Ottawa, 2000). RETURN

167 Canada, House of Commons, “Heritage Committee to Hold Roundtable Discussions on the Canadian Book Distribution Industry,” news release (Ottawa, February 10, 2000), =36&Ses=2 RETURN

168 Canada, Department of Canadian Heritage, Signatures: Newsletter of the Canadian Book Industry Supply Chain Initiative (Ottawa, December, 2001). RETURN

169 Canada, Department of Canadian Heritage, “Report of the Working Group on the Supply Chain Initiative Agency,” internal document (Ottawa, September, 2002). RETURN

170 Canada, Department of Canadian Heritage, “BookNet Canada Inaugural Meeting,” news release (Toronto, December 11, 2002). RETURN

171 Marc Laberge, Canadian Book Industry Supply Chain Initiative Business Plan: Prepared for the Canadian Book Industry Supply Chain Initiative Steering Committee (Department of Canadian Heritage, Ottawa, June 2002), 24. RETURN

172 Meghan MacDonald (Intern, BookNet Canada, Toronto), email correspondence to the author, August 28, 2009. RETURN

173 Canada, Department of Canadian Heritage, “Summative Evaluation of the Book Publishing Industry Development Program (BPIDP) Final Report” (Ottawa, June 23, 2004), 31. RETURN

174 Canada, Department of Canadian Heritage, “Book Publishing Industry Development Program; Publications; Audits and Evaluations; 2008 Summative Evaluation,” RETURN




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A Lean Start-Up: Building Engage Books as a Publisher in the 21st Century


By Alexandros Roscoe Roumanis

ABSTRACT: Engage Books LTD is a publishing company that I created while in debt, halfway through my Masters program. This paper follows my initial plan to start this company through to the end of my first 14 months in business. I will demonstrate how I began Engage Books as a lean start-up company and built it from the ground up, with the goal of building a list of classic titles that will fund a larger investment in new titles. Furthermore, I will explain how print on demand technology, and world wide distribution have made this possible. I will also examine what the company has accomplished through book sales, events, internet marketing, and the brand that Engage Books has begun to cement in its first year of business. Lastly, I will take a look at where Engage Books stands as a company, and what will take to move it forward.



For my wife Dayna




Throughout my MPub studies, I was fortunate to have direction from amazing teachers, and the many professionals who graced our classrooms. A special thank you to Professor Roberto Dosil for all of his help and encouragement in design strategy and his encouragement in building a publishing company with classic titles, and to Professor John Maxwell, who was an amazing source for technical advice and was instrumental in shaping the topic and focus of this paper.

Thanks to Brian Hades of Edge Science Fiction and Fantasy Publishing for all of his help and support as my industry supervisor. I would also like to thank my classmates from the MPub group of 2007-08 for an exciting year, and for bouncing countless ideas back and forth, especially to Andrew Wilmot for his editorial support.

A special thanks to Paschal Ssemaganda for all of his help in building an online strategy. Without his help would not be what it is today.

Also I would like to thank my parents Victoria Roscoe-Roumanis and Christos Roumanis, and Rick and Pat Martin for all of their encouragement in continuing with my education, and in building a company. I would also like to thank my wife Dayna Roumanis, who has encouraged me more than anyone in following my path through university, and who has always believed in me, even when I didn’t believe in myself.




List of Figures

Part 1: Introduction
++++a. Building a Lean Start-up Company
++++b. Getting off the Ground and Plans for Future Growth

Part 2: Background Strategies
++++a. Engage Books: Background and the Four Imprints
++++b. Building a Brand
++++++– Branding Engage Books and its Four Imprints
++++c. Building a Backlist with Public Domain Titles
++++++– Adding Value to a Classic Title

Part 3: Background Tactics
++++a. Print on Demand
++++b. Lightning Source INC (LSI)—POD Provider of Choice
++++c. Distribution through Ingram, Returns, Warehousing and Shipping

Part 4: Marketing
++++a. How the Online Environment Affects Design & Marketing
++++b. Marketing on

Part 5: Analysis
++++a. Sales: Monthly Analysis of Sales & Trends
++++b. Projecting Future Sales

Part 6: Conclusions

Part 7: Appendix
++++a. Website and Google Analytics
++++b. Events
++++c. Monthly Sales Reports





List of Figures

Figure 1: Engage Books Colour Scheme

Figure 2: Engage Logos

Figure 3: Double Page Spread of an AD Classic Title

Figure 4: AD Classic Cover Images

Figure 5: AD Classic Bookspines

Figure 6: SF Classic Cover Spread

Figure 7: Edition Comparison

Figure 8: AD Classic Earnings

Figure 9: SF Classic Earnings

Figure 10: Promotional Email 1

Figure 11: Promotional Email 2

Figure 12: Books Sold Per Title in the US and Canadian Markets

Figure 13: Books in Print

Figure 14: US and Canadian Sales in US Dollars

Figure 15: Monthly Combined Average Earnings Divided by All Titles in Print

Figure 16: Projected Backlist Earnings in US and Canada Based on the Number of Titles in Print



Part 1: Introduction

a. Building a Lean Start-up Company

This paper explores the strategies and tactics which enabled me in 2008 to establish Engage Books as a publishing company with four imprints. I will discuss the branding strategies for each imprint, and the company as a whole. I will explain how I used works from the public domain and print-on-demand production technology to build Engage Books as a lean start-up company with very little initial investment. I will examine my experience marketing Engage Books, with a focus on how marketing online affects the physical design of a book, and how to successfully market on Finally I will analyze Engage Books’ monthly sales and trends in order to demonstrate where the company is today, and to project where the company will be in the future. I will also explain how the earnings generated from Engage Books’ backlist will help fund new books which require a larger initial investment. But first I’ll discuss how the idea for Engage Books began.


b. Getting off the Ground and Plans for Future Growth

When I first decided to start a publishing company in Vancouver, BC, it was because I saw an open opportunity in the market. Vancouver has over thirty book publishing companies, and not one of them publishes science fiction. Vancouver has a prominent and vibrant science fiction community: various television series such as The Outer Limits, X Files, The Dead Zone, Andromeda, 7 Days, Stargate Atlantis, and Battlestar Galactica are filmed here, as are movies like The 6th Day, Twilight, X-Men, Watchmen, and resident authors such as William Gibson, Spider Robinson, and Sean Russell all call Vancouver home. While I was confident that a Vancouver based science fiction publisher would fit nicely in this diverse community, I expected that I would need about $100,000 and the expertise to make this a reality. As I didn’t have anything close to $100,000 I decided to first search for a school that could provide me with the skills I needed.

It just so happened that the preeminent publishing program in Canada, the Master of Publishing (MPub) program at Simon Fraser University (SFU), was also located in Vancouver. As I didn’t have any experience in publishing, I knew it would be difficult getting into a competitive program, and with only a month before the application deadline, I worked hard at putting together the best application I could manage. On my twenty-fourth birthday, a letter arrived from MPub. It turned out that there were sixteen other candidates with more experience in publishing, and who were better suited for the program, and my application was rejected. Soon after this, I set up a meeting with three MPub instructors: Rowland Lorimer, John Maxwell and Ron Woodward, and asked how I could create a successful application over the following twelve months. The consensus was that I needed experience in publishing, either by getting an entry level job, volunteering, or taking courses. I immediately enrolled in two publishing courses through SFU over the following summer semester, and I sent out applications to all book publishers in the Vancouver area. After several rejections I was contacted by Ron Hatch at Ronsdale Press for a Volunteer position, which I immediately accepted. I learned a great deal from Ron, and was impressed that he was able to run a successful publishing company from his home in Vancouver. In the fall I took a design course in publishing, and eventually I was offered a job as a Pagination Specialist at Canpages, a publisher of telephone directories. At the time of my second application, I had taken three publishing courses, volunteered, and gained entry level experience in publishing. Lo and behold, on my twenty-fifth birthday I was accepted into the MPub program.

Throughout my studies in MPub I had focused many of my assignments on how best to start a publishing house, developing a strategy, tactics, and a brand for the company. Towards the end of my second semester I was working on the layout and design of my first title, The War of the Worlds by H. G. Wells, with the help of my design instructor and director of the CCSP Press, Roberto Dosil. The release of this title occurred at the start of my third semester, on May 31, 2008. In order to make this release possible, I developed a business strategy that would allow for me to create a lean start-up company, build it from the ground up and to create a strong backlist of classic titles, with room for future growth through the release of new titles.



Part 2: Background Strategies

a. Engage Books: Background and the Four Imprints

When I first envisioned starting a publishing company it was with the goal of producing original science fiction titles with both new and established authors. During my time in the MPub program, this vision grew into a multifaceted company that would allow me to publish a variety of genres through the use of several imprints acting symbiotically for one another and for the larger company. While learning about publishing history, I saw how publishers since the time of Gutenberg in the fifteenth century had built their companies without the costs involved in developing new titles and paying authors. In fact, these early publishers were not restricted by modern copyright laws that protected creative works for a specified period of time. Even when copyright laws were developed some publishers started their companies by first publishing titles whose copyright had expired and were now in the public domain.

With this knowledge in mind, my overall strategy was to set Engage Books up as the parent company of four imprints. AD Classic Books represents the greats from the past two thousand years, such as Machiavelli and Mary Shelley. Each book includes illustrations from one or two artists. BC Classic Books showcases the legends from the time of Homer and Plato. Each book will also include illustrations. SF Classic Books are stories from the heroes in science fiction such as H.G. Wells and Jules Verne. These books include classic illustrations from various illustrators, maps, original reviews, author forewords, letters and biographies. This line of books has launched with Journey to the Center of the Earth with an introduction by science fiction author Mark Rich. Engage SF publishes new titles by today’s leaders in the science fiction field.

With multiple imprints I would be able to repackage titles, as I have done with Journey to the Center of the Earth, currently published by AD Classic and SF Classic, and in the future publish it again through the parent company, Engage Books. Repackaging a title gives me the ability to sell the same title with multiple price points, and with different levels of added material, such as illustrations, forewords and biographies. Multiple imprints would also give me the ability to build a distinctive brand for each imprint. The philosophy behind this decision is similar to that of Random House, which originally published anything that was of interest to the company without keeping to one specific genre. However my plans differed from Random House with my decision to start my operations with multiple imprints. The decision to follow this route took my idea of creating a strictly science fiction publishing house in a new and dynamic direction, one that would allow me to publish any title across any genre. In fact, I have taken advantage of this decision by publishing two titles through the parent company, Engage Books. The first title was a lined journal (9.25” x 7.5”, 108 pages) that I published as a fundraiser for my 60km walk for the Weekend to End Breast Cancer in August of 2009, with all proceeds going to the BC Cancer Foundation. My second Engage title was a cookbook (9.25” x 7.5”, 108 pages) entitled Criminal Desserts: Cops for Cancer Cookbook, with all proceeds going to the Canadian Cancer Society.

Developing Engage Books with the flexibility to produce multiple titles in different editions gave me the freedom to publish two titles that would have otherwise had no place amongst a list of science fiction titles, and it provides an umbrella brand for the four imprints AD Classic, BC Classic, SF Classic and Engage SF. While Engage Books has the freedom to publish any title of interest to me, such as the two aforementioned books, the four imprints each have a distinctive mandate.

The first two imprints, AD Classic and BC Classic, were created with the idea of providing Engage Books with a strong backlist of classic titles currently in the public domain. BC Classic would publish classic titles from the time of Homer, Plato and Aristotle, until the year 1 BC, while AD Classic would initially publish any classic title from the year 1 AD until the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, when copyright takes effect. I say initially because AD Classic has the potential of signing contracts with authors or estates that hold copyright to specific titles that are widely considered to be classic literature. The first AD Classic title published was H. G. Wells 1898 novel The War of the Worlds on May 31, 2008. While I was unable to gain permission from the estate of Wells to publish this title in the UK as copyright does not expire until January 1st 2017, I was able to publish the novel in Canada and the US, copyright having already expired in these two countries.

With a publishing mandate in place, I had to decide who my target markets would be, and what trade discount would be optimal in order to reach retailers who serviced those markets. I intended for both AD Classic and BC Classic to be marketed towards libraries, schools and online to individual consumers, with each title being sold at a 25% trade discount as libraries, school bookstores and online retailers will buy books at this percentage.[1]

The idea behind SF Classic is very similar to that of AD Classic and BC Classic, in that the titles published would initially come from classic titles in the public domain, with the potential for future growth through the inclusion of science fiction works that are considered to be modern classics, such as Orson Scott Card’s 1974 novel, Ender’s Game.

The distinction with SF Classic is that a science fiction title published by AD Classic would be repackaged with the inclusion of title-specific supplementary material. Science fiction and its surrounding culture has an established history of collecting merchandise, especially if there is a perceived value attached to an otherwise common item. With respect to books, science fiction fans tend to actively look for collector’s editions, and it is often the inclusion of title-specific additional content that makes an otherwise common book into a collectable. The first SF Classic title published on June 1, 2009 was a repackaged edition of AD Classic’s 184-page edition of A Journey to the Center of the Earth. The SF Classic edition is 260 pages with 50 full-page illustrations by Édouard Riou, several historical reviews ranging from 1871 to 1990, a biography of the author, a poem of tribute written after Verne’s death in 1905, a 10-page interview article on Verne published by Strand Magazine in 1895, and a commissioned introduction by science fiction author Mark Rich.

Since each edition would have a similar assortment of added items, I had to decide how to best reach my target market of science fiction enthusiasts, and what trade discount would be optimal in order to reach them. I decided that Engage SF would be best suited to bookstores, where shoppers could flip through the book and see the supplemental content, which is difficult to do on websites like, where books have a limited search ability through’s Search Inside the Book program. In order to reach bookstores, I made the paperback available at a 40% trade discount, with a 1,000 copy limited edition hardcover available at a 20% trade discount and targeted to online consumers. (For information on trade discount choices see Part 3: c) The hardcover edition is not marketed through bookstores because only 1,000 copies are available, and the profit margin of selling through online retailers is much higher at 20%.

Engage SF would begin by publishing new science fiction titles. While envisioning the company as a whole, I knew that the establishment of the AD Classic, BC Classic and SF Classic imprints would be important for the imprint Engage SF to be able to begin publishing new authors. My goal here was that the backlist created by the first three imprints would create enough income to fund Engage SF. The first three imprints also provides Engage Books with three critical qualities: commitment, consistency and credibility, all of which I needed to achieve before Engage SF could launch. The act of setting up the other imprints and successfully producing quality products establishes my commitment, while the act of releasing titles on a regular basis creates consistency. Both of these elements together builds the credibility that is needed to launch Engage SF.[2] My goal is to have a sound distribution network in place with fulfillment through Ingram (For information on Ingram see Part 3: c), a credible sales force that can successfully market Engage SF to bookstores, while my own marketing gets consumers into bookstores and, at the same time, attracts authors through Engage Books’ established credibility.


b. Building a Brand

Building a publishing company’s identity is important in order for consumers, authors, business partners, and retailers to associate its imprints and books with the company’s reputation and credibility. This in itself will encourage repeat business as people will come to recognize the Engage Books brand. When building Engage’s credibility for the quality of its books, it is important that subsequent books, on bookshelves or in a catalogue, can be seen as belonging to the same line of books. This is necessary in order to promote repeat business. Creating an identity is done through effective branding, consistently implementing logos, colours and fonts, which I knew I needed to develop in order to support a series of books that people would recognize after only having bought or read their first Engage Books title. I knew it would be important to look at how other publishers have branded a series of books, and why branding is important among classic titles when there are various editions of the same title all vying for market share. For Engage Books and its imprints I will examine how and why I developed a particular colour scheme, a set of logos, the choice of an interior font and the cover design. All of the elements I will discuss are visible both online and in bookstores. I will not discuss physical attributes like die-cuts, type indents on the cover and other tactile responses, which are only available to browsers in a bookstore. Before we look at what I have done with Engage Books it is important to look at the strategies that other publishers have already implemented.

Many publishers try their hand at making a profit on public domain classics. Works by authors such as Shakespeare, Dickens, and Melville have been reprinted by numerous publishers ever since they have entered the public domain. To illustrate this, when F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novel, This Side of Paradise, went into the public domain in 1996, nine new editions were published by nine different publishers, with some at bargain prices.[3] While studying the various editions of classic titles by different publishers, I found that the successful publishers were those who understood the importance of grouping titles in a recognizable series. In 1957 McClelland & Stewart created the New Canadian Library in order to brand their collection of classic Canadian literature, which resulted in an increase in sales for each titles added to the series.[4] Other publishers of classics have created their own recognizable series, including: Random House’s trio of Modern Library, Everyman’s Library and Bantam Classics, Oxford University Press’ World Classics, Barnes & Noble Classics and the recent launch of BookSurge Classics by With all of these imprints fighting for market share, I felt it was important that AD Classic and BC Classic be distinctly recognizable, so that consumers would want to collect the series as a whole.

Penguin Classics has had tremendous success at branding their series of over 1,300 titles, all of which were repackaged in 1985 by “making the books look cleaner, with more appealing art [ensuring] all the books will have a uniform look.”[5] In order to be successful in this market, I designed a uniform line of books paying particular attention to trim size, colour, and art. Creating and branding a recognizable line would demonstrably enhance my chances of success. With “a line or series of books, a publisher can increase the likelihood of sales of its books by decreasing the uncertainty consumers experience when making purchasing decisions.”[6] This was accomplished by McClelland & Stewart’s Emblem Edition, which repackaged their own backlist titles as “a 1996 title, which averaged 500 copies in net sales in each of the four years before it was given an Emblem edition, averaged net sales of 8,000 copies per year in the two years following being made part of the line,”[7] demonstrating the power of a book’s inclusion into a branded series. I understood that the success of a series would revolve around branding and how I applied this to my imprints.


Branding Engage Books and its Four Imprints

A comprehensive branding strategy is important for any company to succeed. This section explores the many branding strategies I have implemented for Engage Books and its imprints. I will discuss how I chose a colour scheme, logo design, interior design, cover design, and chose a unique method of cataloguing books on a shelf.

When deciding on a brand for Engage Books and its imprints, I first decided on a colour scheme that would give each imprint a distinctive colour, including a neutral complementary colour that would perform well as a background when all of the colours are placed together. To create a colour scheme, I used the website which allows users to modify the CMYK values to a grouping of five colours and import them into Adobe Creative Suite. I decided on using orange for AD Classic as it is reminiscent of the original 1946 to 1961 line of Penguin Classics, and gave my series a modern classic feel.

With BC Classic I wanted a colour that could speak for the period prior to 1 BC. In ancient times the sun was worshiped as a solar deity and was a major part of mythologies in Greece and Rome, monuments were constructed to track the passage of the sun in the sky from stone megaliths in Egypt, Stonehenge in England, and the pyramid of El Castillo in Mexico. The importance of the sun in ancient times was a deciding factor for choosing yellow, and it complements the orange used in AD Classic.

For Engage Books, Engage SF and SF Classic, I decided to use two different tones of red. Since SF Classic would be publishing classic titles, I felt that a dark rust would be indicative of an older title. In addition, the colours used in the classic lines, ranging from yellow and orange to rust, go from light to dark in a linear progression based on the time periods in which they were written. Science fiction comes last in this linear range as it has its roots in the nineteenth century with authors like Shelley, Verne and Wells. As Engage Books and Engage SF would be publishing new titles, I felt that a vibrant red would make these titles stand out from the muted colours used in the classic imprints. The colour scheme can be viewed on the kuler website, and is labelled Engage.


Figure 1: Engage Books Colour Scheme


With a colour scheme selected, my next task was to create a series of logos for Engage Books and its imprints in a way that would tie them together as a cohesive whole. I wanted Engage Books to have a simple design, and I found that the typeface News Gothic, designed by Morris Fuller Benton and released by the American Type Founders in 1908[8] , spaced open would work with the imprint logos I had in mind. AD Classic and BC Classic were both set in Minion Pro, designed by Robert Slimbach and released by Adobe in 1990. It was “inspired by classical, old style typefaces of the late Renaissance, a period of elegant, beautiful, and highly readable type.”[9] Minion Pro would establish both imprints visually as classic lines with an ease of legibility that is beneficial for a shrunken logo on a book spine. With SF Classic I envisioned a different classic look, and I stumbled on Space Woozies, a typeface developed by Omega Font Labs, which I felt would appeal to a science fiction audience while at the same time resembling the typefaces used in early twentieth century science fiction pulp magazines. I decided to create a new font for Engage SF since this imprint would be publishing stories set in future time periods, and I felt that it needed a uniqueness that would set it apart from the established history invariably provided by other fonts. Lastly, I set each imprint’s name inside a box with rounded corners, colour coded according to each imprint, which unified the imprints in a definitive way that is clearly recognizable when placed side by side.


Figure 2: Engage Logos


When it came to establishing a design for the interior of the books, I had the help of my design instructor from the MPub program, Roberto Dosil. Not only was Minion Pro a fitting font for the logos of AD Classic and BC Classic, it was also used to set the text throughout the series as it is “in the typographic sense, remarkably economical to set. That is to say that it gives, size for size, a few more characters per line than most text faces, without appearing squished or compressed.”[10] I felt that the ability to fit more words on a page was vital for a classic series, as many classics are quite long, and it is important to keep the page count down in order to price a title competitively among other editions in the market.


Figure 3: Double Page Spread of an AD Classic Title


With my logos, colour scheme and interior typography decided on, my next task was to create a cover design solution to be applied consistently for both AD Classic and BC Classic, as these would be the first imprints to launch. I understood that AD Classic and BC Classic would need a uniform design that spans both series, linking them together visually and thematically. In keeping with the simplicity of Penguin Classics, I decided to fill the top 80% of the cover with an image. The style of the cover images are primarily targeted to a university audience, with the use of cover art by well-known contemporary artists such as Caspar Friedrich, John Tenniel and Moretto da Brescia, as well as contemporary photographs that maintain this classic style. I decided to place the title and author name in the bottom 20% of the cover, encased in a simple and economical black box. The font size and dimensions of the box allows for a long title name, while at the same time creating leeway for the title to take up two lines if necessary. When the title is shrunk to a thumbnail, the font size remains legible, which is important because the target market of AD Classic and BC Classic are consumers looking at small thumbnails online, or library buyers browsing through an Ingram catalogue.


Figure 4: AD Classic Cover Images


The differences between AD Classic and BC Classic will be the font used for the book titles; where AD Classic uses the modern classic font Minion Pro, BC Classic will use a Greek style font that is indicative of the period in which they were written. The orange series logo for AD Classic and the yellow series logo for BC Classic will always be on the top right or left side of the front cover, depending on how it best fits with the cover image, and it will also appear at the bottom of each book’s spine. Another design element that brands the series as a whole, and of which I am particularly proud of, is the inclusion of the year of original publication on the spine. This concept is what gave me the idea for the names AD Classic and BC Classic, as the year on the spine would immediately precede the AD or BC logo. During my research of other series I did not come across this design element, and I believe that it will not only set AD Classic and BC Classic apart, but it will organize the series in a visual way that has never before been accomplished. Instead of organizing classic titles by an author’s last name or genre, both series can be organized and shelved by year. For the consumers who adopt this type of categorization, they will be drawn back to AD Classic and BC Classic to fill their shelves.


Figure 5: AD Classic Bookspines


The branding of SF Classic has some similar elements to those established with AD Classic and BC Classic, yet there are still quite a few differences. I felt it was important that I commission new artwork for the cover images, so that I could have complete control over each book in the series visually representing the pulps from the mid twentieth century. From a thematic standpoint, I felt that a resemblance to science fiction pulps would tie the series together visually, and that it would create a collectors feel. For my first title, Journey to the Center of the Earth I hired recent graduate from Emily Carr, Sanjini Mudaliar. With my direction and her creative freedom we were able to create an illustration that represented my vision. The type used on the front cover was also geared to reflect early science fiction pulp magazines, with a progressive change in font size. The author’s name was also enlarged as classic science fiction authors are well known among readers of the genre. The enlargement of the book title and author’s name was important in ensuring that it would catch people’s attention when browsing in bookstores. Since the artwork for this series was being done on commission, it allowed me to work with the artist in ensuring that a suitable space would be left for the title, author’s name and other type used on the cover. As is the case with AD Classic and BC Classic, I placed the logo on the top right or left corner of the cover and on the spine. I also allowed for SF Classic to be shelved by year of publication, by placing the year on the spine. However I understood that science fiction fans are also used to collecting items in a numbered series, and to accommodate this I placed a starred number at the top of the spine.


Figure 6: SF Classic Cover Spread


For the first book published under the Engage SF imprint, I have recently signed a contract with Chris Stevenson for the rights to publish his novel, Planet Janitor: Custodian of the Stars. However, as I have yet to publish an Engage SF title at the time that I write this project report, I will only be able to discuss the specifics of my vision for Planet Janitor. I envision a cover design which builds on past science fiction editions, but is also unique within the genre. I believe that this imprint should also have a collectors feel, attained by using the same numbering and dating system of SF Classic, as well as incorporating a design device that will be seen when several books are displayed spine out on a bookstore shelf. I also understand that “science fiction fans are probably the only category of readers who really care about the quality of art on their books. They know their artists and consider them heroes.”[11] With this in mind, I will ensure that a well known science fiction illustrator is commissioned for each title that Engage SF publishes.

It is my belief that the amalgamation and consistent implementation of these design strategies will help build brand recognition for Engage Books. Not only that, but the branding elements will help to create a readers and collectors loyalty for each imprint, which in turn will encourage repeat business from customers who have enjoyed their first experience with Engage Books.


c. Building a Backlist with Public Domain Titles

Copyright is defined as “the exclusive right to produce literary… work, given by law for a certain period.”[12] The public domain is a collection of works that are not protected by copyright, typically because the copyright term has expired. It is important to understand the different durations in various countries to determine if a title is still protected by copyright. Since Engage Books was going to start by publishing classic titles in the public domain, I also felt it was important to understand how various editions of the same title have done in the market. While publishers have always seen opportunity in publishing public domain books because of the minimal in-house costs of doing so, this creates a fair bit of competition. Although publishers generally print large quantities to lower the per-unit cost to stay competitive with other editions of the same title, it seemed to me that there was another way to attract consumer attention rather than through price point. This section explores the viability of starting Engage Books by publishing public domain books, while focusing on the strategies required to stand out as a company by adding supplementary material that complements the original work.

Before I could choose a list of classic titles to publish, I had to understand how the public domain works in the Canadian, US and UK markets. Various works that are part of popular culture, such as The Lord of the Rings trilogy, still retain copyright. However, due to the efforts of “a select group of copyright holders such as Disney, which actively lobbied for the US term extension to keep Mickey Mouse out of the public domain,”[13] The Lord of the Rings, which was published in 1955, will enter the public domain in 2050 since the 1998 US copyright amendment increased the original copyright term for works published after January 1, 1923 “by an additional 20 years, providing for a renewal term of 67 years and a total term of protection of 95 years.”[14] However, for anything that was published prior to January 1, 1923, the maximum copyright term of 75 years has expired and the work is available for anyone to reproduce, amend, or create spin-off stories. While Great Britain amended their copyright duration in 1989 to a term that lasts for 70 years after the death of the author, Canadian copyright lasts for “the life of the author, the remainder of the calendar year in which the author dies, and a period of fifty years following the end of that calendar year.”[15] With these barriers in mind, it is possible to access a treasure trove of titles that would be of interest to the marketplace.

While the stories that Engage Books has initially published have already been around for decades, they continue to remain popular among both experienced and new readers who have an interest in broadening their experience, and also among readers who wish to relive stories they might have read as a child. There is also a desire to read books that have re-emerged in popular culture through movies, television and word of mouth. Keeping these preferences in mind, I understood that classic titles tend to provide publishers with a steady flow of income, rather than fast earners[16] and that the classics I published would have to reflect this. I looked to Penguin Classics, which is considered the most successful[17] at building a list of titles that will continue to earn a profit. According to Penguin Books president Kathryn Court: “we do want to feel the book has already stood the test of time… It’s really about books we believe will be around 50 years from now.”[18] And so I began to create a list of titles that I believed would continue to be read in the distant and not so distant future.

I researched my first title, The War of the Worlds, in great detail to see if it had stood the test of time, looking at the many editions that have been published since it was first published in 1898. Even though the novel is science fiction, it should be noted that classics in this genre “have transcended their subject matter with universal themes that appeal to a wide and diverse audience.”[19] The War of the Worlds has been continuously in print for over 100 years in no fewer than 362 unique editions.[20] There is no doubt that copyright had an influence on the number of publishers willing to publish H.G. Wells’ stories. Wells died on August 13, 1946, which placed The War of the Worlds in the public domain in Canada on January 1, 1997, and in the US on January 1, 1972. Due to UK copyright extensions, The War of the Worlds won’t enter the public domain in the UK until January 1, 2017. However, the copyright expiration in the US in 1972 resulted in six editions of The War of the Worlds being published that year, three editions in 1973 and eight editions published in 1974. This is a significant rise in publication numbers over the three-year period between 1969-71, when only two editions were published.

With The War of the Worlds already established as a classic, and the clear fact that copyright expiration creates an increase in competition, I wanted to explore the different ways that some publications stood out from the many other editions already produced, and how I was going to set myself apart through my classic imprints. Since AD Classic and BC Classic are targeted to libraries, schools and an online market where the competition from other editions of the same title are many, I knew that price point would be a key factor. With this in mind, I decided to keep the page count low while adding value to the cover art, and including public domain illustrations in the interior. Since I have done the design myself I may be biased in my methods, but I believed that a large cover image, unobstructed by type, would appeal to this demographic. I also believed that the addition of illustrations in each AD Classic title would increase the value of the book over other editions of the same title.

I will spend more time discussing how the target market for SF Classic differs significantly from the target market of AD Classic, and BC Classic respectively. But before I can explain how a science fiction imprint that specializes in publishing classics is a viable way of competing with the other players in the market, I want to explore the culture of the genre. Classics are defined as works that have had a large impact on society: “trailing behind them [are] the traces they have left in the culture.”[21] Science fiction classics are no different.

Science fiction has had a significant impact on popular culture ever since the genre truly began in 1818 with Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein.[22] Since then popular culture has evolved the Frankenstein monster from a naive character to a corrupt one through several film adaptations. Science Fiction has also invented many of the words we take for granted, such as the word robot. Science Fiction writers have labelled artificial mechanical men with that term since Czech writer Karl Capek coined the term in the 1930’s,[23] so that when they were finally created they were called robots. Science Fiction in popular culture has been obsessed with looking at the way things could be through technological change, like robots, and their potential impact on society. It is this “change, continuing change, inevitable change, that is the dominant factor in society today,”[24] making the science fiction classics applicable to an understanding of the future that remains continuously relevant to modern readers.

Now that the science fiction genre is classified as being relevant to classic literature, I can identify the target market. Spencer and Weiss claim “the readers of Science Fiction and Fantasy are as varied as the population. They range from young to old and fans to scholars of fantastic literature themes and techniques.”[25] Not only does the science fiction market have a wide age range, but they tend to come from all walks of life. The reason that SF Classic would appeal to such a diverse audience lies in the reader’s familiarity of a classic work through popular culture. Because of their impact on popular culture, classics “hide in the layers of memory disguised as the individual’s or the collective unconscious”[26] therefore, readers are familiar with the work, even without having read it. In a book purchasing study conducted by Rowland Lorimer and Roger Barnes, “book purchasers made clear that they chose by author, subject and genre.”[27] Science fiction readers love to explore within their chosen genre, and tend to read the classics that have had an impact both on popular culture and science fiction. These readers can also be classified as “bookish in that they do work at it. Sadly, few of them do so to the point of puncturing the comforting bubble of their favourite genre,”[28] however, this trend is all a science fiction publisher could ask for. Since readers are unlikely to venture outside of the science fiction realm, they would not likely be drawn to Penguin’s vast library or even AD Classic’s for that matter. They would most likely purchase from a publisher who can show them a complete science fiction list that would interest them, while offering supplementary material pertinent to the title and genre across that publisher’s line.


Adding Value to a Classic Title

As discussed earlier, adding value to a classic work is vital if it is to stand out among the various editions in the market. Many publishers underestimate that “the need to add value to basic information represents a continuing opportunity for publishers. It is only constrained by the imagination and determination of publishers.”[29] While science fiction publishers such as Tor, Del Rey and BenBella do publish classics, they are inconsistent in adding value to their titles, and seldom even go so far as to add a foreword. In order to understand the value that can be added to a classic, we will examine various current editions of The War of the Worlds that flood the market, and how they rank on The daily snapshot that provides does not offer enough information to make a proper analysis. Therefore, I used a program called TitleZ[30] which was developed by Planning Shop president Rhonda Abrams which “has broken the [] sales history of titles into seven-day, 30- day, 90-day and lifetime averages,”[31] since November 2004. Through this software, we can look at the success of how added content to editions of The War of the Worlds has affected sales.

This comparison of The War of the Worlds supports Lorimer and Barnes’ study that price point is secondary to content. The following three editions all contain supplementary material in varying amounts. The Penguin Classics edition includes four additional items: a biography on Wells, a list of further reading, detailed notes and a foreword by Brian Aldiss. It is priced at $7.00 and has a lifetime sales rank of 199,595[32] . The Modern Library edition includes two additional items: the transcripts of Orson Welles’ 1938 radio broadcast, and an introduction by Arthur C. Clarke. It is sold at $5.95 and has a lifetime sales rank of 260,404.[33] The Scholastic Classics edition includes a foreword by Orson Scott Card, is sold at $3.99 and has a lifetime sales rank of 651,862.[34] These figures (Edition Comparison) suggest that a book’s marketplace value is increased with a greater amount of supplementary material, and can therefore be priced higher than books with less supplementary material, and still perform better in the marketplace.


Figure 7: Edition Comparison


Penguin books had good judgement in determining classic titles in 1946 when they first published The War of the Worlds. In order for SF Classic to compete in the marketplace with a title like The War of the Worlds it is important that content take precedent over everything else, including price. Therefore we will look at unique items that can be added to a title like The War of the Worlds to increase its marketplace value. A SF Classic edition will stand out by including an article ‘Intelligence on Mars’ from The Saturday Review on April 4, 1896 in which Wells “reasoned with great consistency about the probability of intellectual beings on Mars, and even argued that the Martians might be far in advance of the earthlings.”[35] Also, Wells has written several letters regarding The War of the Worlds that were sent to friends, critics, and his publisher, which can be included in the SF Classic edition. In a letter to Elizabeth Healey in 1896, Wells wrote:

“…Also between ourselves I’m doing the dearest little serial for Pearson’s new magazine, in which I completely wreck and destroy Woking – killing my neighbours in painful and eccentric ways – then proceed via Kingston and Richmond to London, which I sack, selecting South Kensington for feats of peculiar atrocity.”[36]

Also, In 1898 there were nineteen reviews of The War of the Worlds, in which one critic wrote that “among the younger writers of the day Mr. Wells is the most distinctly original, and the least indebted to predecessors.”[37] Reviews like this would help increase the collectors value of the edition. While a foreword and biography are commonplace among editions of The War of the Worlds, SF Classic will also include the article by Wells on Martians, snippets of his letters, the most provocative reviews, a hand drawn sketch of a Martian in a copy of The War of the Worlds by Wells himself,[38] illustrations from the original 1898 publication, as well as illustrations from various artists, to make a total of seven distinct categories of supplementary items. Fans of the genre will be receptive to the added value, all of which can be done from the public domain.

The growth of Engage Books, with a backlist of public domain titles through AD Classic, BC Classic and SF Classic, is a concept that has been used successfully by publishers in the past. This publishing model is in line with copyright, which is “to foster the creation of new works that will one day enter the public domain where they can be freely used to enrich everyone’s lives.”[39] Protecting the rights of the creator and their estate for a sufficient period of time is certainly necessary to encourage writers to create new works. And it should also be noted that the efforts by copyright holders to extend the original terms “will not foster further creative activity, it is not required under international intellectual property law, and it effectively constitutes a massive transfer of wealth from the public to a select group of copyright holders.”[40]

Building Engage Books by first publishing classics provides a cultural service. To illustrate this, when Verso Books launched a 150th anniversary edition of Marx and Engels’ The Communist Manifesto it was reviewed “not only as a great work of literature but that, 150 years later, it still has much to teach us for the next millennium.”[41] The availability of public domain works will create competition among publishers, effectively reducing the price point to the consumer, which is possible because the work requires few in-house development costs and no royalties. My decision to publish public domain works is also “important in allowing the ‘inspiration’ so important to artistic success to flourish,”[42] and this type of mentality will ensure that authors will be available when Engage Books is ready to publish new titles in the future.



Part 3: Background Tactics

a. Print on Demand

I founded Engage Books with the goal of providing a wide range of titles in an innovative way. All of Engage’s books are printed on demand (POD), and available for short run orders through Lightning Source INC (LSI). This means that a single copy or multiple copies are printed within 24 hours of an order, and shipped to booksellers around the world. This section looks at why I decided to use POD for Engage Books, and how the technology has changed the publishing industry.

POD technology is responsible for the re-formation of the book market as single copies of books can be printed at a moments notice in various locations around the world.[43] What this means is that Engage Books would not have to produce books by printing hundreds or thousands of copies and warehousing them; rather it would use POD technology to have books printed where they will get to the consumer faster. POD would give Engage Books the “ability to print small quantities – even single copies – of books far more quickly and inexpensively than with traditional processes.”[44] Producing books quickly to meet demand and at a low cost was important to me, since I didn’t have money in the bank. POD would allow the company to reduce printing costs, inventory costs and shipping costs. Speed was also important to me, because in order to gain credibility with booksellers and consumers, I needed to get books shipped within hours of an order. The speed at which POD books can reach the consumer can be seen by Trafford Publishing’s turnaround as “an order came in for one copy or ten copies, the books were printed that day and shipped out.”[45] According to Thomas Woll, the print-and-distribute method is ideal for a company because you are eliminating the risk of the transaction, with no money tied up in inventory and “every penny of gross margin will cover some part of your fixed overheads.”[46] This method will provide Engage Books with a relatively risk-free start, as very little capital is needed to start the company.


b. Lightning Source INC (LSI)—POD Provider of Choice

With a POD model established for Engage Books, I needed to decide on a POD printer to fulfill my orders. It seemed to me that the cost of printing would be a major factor in this decision, with fulfilment and production being just as important.

Before I researched the cost of POD, I made a list of the companies that provide POD services. While researching this, I ran into critics who called the POD process vanity publishing, as the book hasn’t gone through the traditional process, and are perceived to be of a lesser quality because some individuals who publish in this manner lack resources for editing and design, among other things. The vanity accusation assumes that the book is being printed through a subsidy publisher such as Arthur House, BookSurge, Lulu or iUniverse, which “make most of their money by selling publishing and distribution services.”[47] Their primary focus is not selling to bookstores, rather, they compete for authors as income. I didn’t want Engage Books to rely on a company who is more concerned with the upfront costs of setting up a title, than with the actual sale and distribution of the POD book. I wanted Engage Books to follow the same path that traditional publishers have taken to keep their out-of-print books in print and selling. Using this model ensures that “when a copy is ordered, a service such as Lightning Source INC (LSI), a division of the major book wholesaler, Ingram, prints a single copy and sends it to the buyer or the bookstore.”[48] When researching LSI, I found that major publishers, such as John Wiley & Sons, Hachette Book Group, Macmillan, McGraw-Hill, and Simon & Schuster were LSI clients, which increased LSI’s credibility over BookSurge and Lulu in my mind. LSI also has a strict policy of not doing business with authors directly, because they want to deal with professionals who understand the publishing business, and these companies will grow their business at a much faster rate. I also learned that utilizing LSI would greatly reduce the shipping costs associated with traditional print-run publishing. “The economies here are that publishers can avoid single package mailing fees by being part of the large daily shipments between Lightning Source and,”[49] and other retailers.

Lightning Source also provides distribution to various clients including libraries, universities, Ingram, Baker & Taylor, Chapters, and Barnes & Noble. Publisher clients of LSI “are paid the wholesale price of the book, less the printing charge for each book sold.”[50] The set-up cost per title is nominal for this service at $75.00 US and a $12.00 yearly catalog fee. When I first researched the potential of using LSI as a provider I examined POD costs for the different editions and discounts provided by the Engage Books imprints, AD Classic, BC Classic and SF Classic. My research considered the trade paperback and hardcover costs of printing a 6” x 9” copy of Engage’s imprints AD Classic and BC Classic. Both of these imprints are marketed to libraries, university courses, and consumers through online sales, and they are sold at a retail discount of 25% for both paperback and hardcover editions. I will examine AD Classic’s 184-page paperback edition and 188-page hardcover edition of A Journey to the Center of the Earth, since they are both in print and more relevant than a made up number. Both editions provide a reasonable income per-copy, and can create a steady earner over time.


Figure 8: AD Classic Earnings

*LSI Paperback flat charge of $0.90 per unit and $0.013 per page
*LSI Hardcover flat charge of $6.00 per unit and $0.013 per page


Next I researched the trade paperback and hardcover costs of printing a 6” x 9” copy of a SF Classic title. I will demonstrate this research by looking at Engage’s newest SF Classic title Journey to the Center of the Earth (Illustrated Collectors Edition) with a 40% discount and a 20% discount. The 40% discount is the paperback edition already published and is marketed to both online retailers and bookstores. The 20% discount will apply to a 1,000 copy limited hardcover edition, to be marketed to consumers shopping online. The extent of SF Classic’s 6” x 9” paperback version of Journey to the Center of the Earth is 260 pages. The increased page count is due to the content added to this edition; – 50 full-page illustrations, a biography, historical reviews, a poem, a ten-page article on Verne and an introduction by Mark Rich.


Figure 9: SF Classic Earnings

*LSI Paperback flat charge of $0.90 per unit and $0.013 per page
*LSI Hardcover flat charge of $6.00 per unit and $0.013 per page


When deciding on a retail price for a SF Classic’s edition, I wanted it to reflect the extra work that went into producing the title. The profit on a SF Classic paperback is much higher than the amount earned on an AD Classic paperback. The SF Classic hardcover earnings over AD Classic’s hardcover earnings not only reflects the extra work put into the title, but it follows my theory that science fiction consumers are interested in collectors items that have a limited number of copies in the market. In fact other publisher have had success at this, such as SoulWave Publishers, Inc. which sold-out of 200 limited edition copies of Robert J. Sawyer’s The Terminal Experiment at $50 each, and Easton Press’ sold-out limited editions of 1,200 to 3,000 copies of novels by Stephen King, Ray Bradbury and Robert Heinlein at $79.95 each. I was hesitant at first to create a 1,000 copy limited edition hardcover, as I will have to actively put an end to the sale of this title when it reaches its target, unlike publishers of traditional limited editions who initially print all 1,000 copies in one print-run. But, I realized that this was the only way that I could justify pricing the titles so high, and once the hardcover is sold out, Engage Books will earn $22,580. This income would provide Engage Books with a greater ability to publish new titles and new authors.

I knew that the profit after the wholesale discount and print cost, did not reflect the earnings that Engage Books would receive, as there were development costs, and overhead to factor in as well. As stated earlier, the development costs include a one time $75 set up fee, a yearly catalogue fee of $12, and the value of my time in producing each new title. The overhead costs are negligible as I work out of a home office. But, when I researched these LSI print figures I was confident that I would be able to build a list of titles that would sell enough copies to build a strong financial base for Engage Books. However, I still needed to decide on whether or not to accept returns, and what LSI’s return terms and costs were.


c. Distribution through Ingram, Returns, Warehousing and Shipping

Now that I had decided on a POD printer for Engage Books, I needed to look at the distribution model that would get my books out fast, efficiently and at a low cost. LSI titles are distributed by Ingram Book Company, of which LSI is a subsidiary, and from which booksellers around the world can order from over 8,000 LSI publishers or 2.6 million in-stock titles.[51] Or looking at it from the other side of the coin, Ingram “provides librarians and booksellers with immediate access to the largest selection of books and book-related products in the industry”[52] with more than 56,000 bookstores and libraries worldwide, and with libraries making titles available to more than 148 million library patrons.[53]

Suffice it to say, I was very pleased with the wide distribution offered through Ingram. With the research I had done on LSI, I was aware that a title could be printed within hours of an order, and shipped out through Ingram along with a book buyer’s regular purchase. This also meant that I would not have to worry about storing printed books in a warehouse, as books are shipped to order, and I did not have to worry about shipping costs which are handled by the book buyer or Ingram, depending on that companies relationship with Ingram. As I had eliminated two very traditional overhead standards, warehousing and shipping to retailers, I had to decide on what to do with returns and how this process would be handled by Ingram.

According to the Cross River Publishing Consultants study on returns, 31.3 percent of hardcover trade books in the US are returned.[54] If the POD books are only printed when a consumer shopping through an e-retailer wants a copy, the return rate is much lower, however, as bookstores purchase through Ingram’s catalogue, returns are bound to increase. LSI charges a $2.00 per book shipping and handling fee when returning a title to the publisher, therefore according to Lightning Source “publishers must balance the risk of returns versus the opportunity to perhaps sell more books.”[55] Since the goal of Engage Books is operating with the least amount of cost possible, it makes sense to not allow for returns, especially since the addition of a $2.00 per book charge will reduce the prospect of making a profit on a second sale of the returned book, and in some instances create a loss. But I wanted to make sure that a no return policy wouldn’t drastically affect the potential for sales.

Since AD Classic and BC Classic are marketed to consumers shopping directly online, professors choosing a particular edition for their course and placing the order though their school bookstore, and libraries, I decided to flag my books as non-returnable through LSI. Firstly, the returnable status has no bearing on consumers shopping online and e-retailers such as would not be able to return bulk purchases. Secondly, university bookstores would have no choice but to fulfill a professor’s request for a particular title, regardless of its return status. This assumption was proven by Stanford University’s order for 110 copies of AD Classic’s Frankenstein to fulfill Professor Robert Harrison’s order for his Introduction to the Humanities course. However the university bookstore does have the option of ordering a quantity that it expects to sell, and it likely factors in the risk of being unable to return a title. When Stanford requested seven free desk copies of Frankenstein for the instructor and TA’s, they referred to an order to satisfy a 144-person class, of which the bookstore chose to order 110 copies. Thirdly, when libraries order AD Classic titles, they do not have to worry about returning a book that does not sell as bookstores do, however they may be worried that a title will not meet their expectations and that they will be unable to return it. Over time, I expect to change this uncertainty through the credibility of Engage Books in the market. Since AD Classic and BC Classic were not returnable I did not have to worry about Ingram’s return policy.

As SF Classic paperbacks are marketed to Bookstores, I knew that a no-returns policy would not be well received. I did not want to provide a deep discount of 50-55 percent in order to justify a no-returns policy with bookstores, as a deep discount could infer that there is little value to the SF Classic series. My reasoning behind this is that deep discounts are generally associated with books that are not selling fast enough, or have been remaindered. Instead I decided to follow the traditional route. Bookstores expect to not only receive a minimum discount of 40% but they want to ensure that they can return a title that isn’t selling for a full refund or credit. So I decided to place the SF Classic paperback line as returnable, through LSI, which would place Engage Books at risk of being “charged for the current wholesale cost of each book returned, plus a $2.00 per book shipping and handling charge.”[56] When a book is returned through Ingram, LSI will also warehouse them until there are enough returns to cover the amalgamated shipping charge of $2.00 per book. LSI could warehouse 20 copies in order for the $2.00 per book charge to reach $40.00, which should be enough to cover shipping to Canada. When it came to deciding on a return policy for SF Classic hardcover titles, I knew that my primary focus was not on booksellers, rather it was towards online consumers, as the hardcover edition would be limited to 1,000 copies with a 20 percent discount in order to increase the per unit profit on this limited series. Therefore a no returns policy for SF Classic hardcovers made sense, especially since the prospect of paying the print cost of $9.38 for Journey to the Center of the Earth (Illustrated Collectors Edition) plus the added $2.00 shipping fee for a return is quite high.

When deciding on the return policy for Engage Books, I knew that it would depend on who my target audience was. For my first engage title, Breast Cancer Journal, proceeds would be donated to the BC Cancer Foundation. A 20% discount seemed appropriate, since online retailers such as would still list this title, and my intention was to target online consumers and to direct sell short run orders. My second book published under Engage Books, Criminal Desserts: Cops for Cancer Cookbook, was marketed to bookstores, online retailers, and direct selling by the authors, so a 40% discount was appropriate in this case. However when it came to Engage SF I knew that each new title would need to be discounted at 40% since it would be imperative to get each title out to as many bookstores as possible for it to coincide with my consumer marketing efforts.



Part 4: Marketing

a. How the Online Environment Affects Design & Marketing

When I began to research my marketing plans for Engage Books I wanted to understand how the print specifications offered by LSI would reflect on marketing online and in bookstores. I wanted to see how I could use this to my advantage, and how this would affect my design decisions, marketing plans, and costs.

When consumers pick up a book they experience firsthand the weight of the book, the feel of type indents on the cover, the presence of jacket flaps, die-cuts, clothbound covers, and many other tactile stimulus. For this reason, the relationship between marketing and design was closely correlated, yet this is beginning to change. As the selling of books begins to move into an online setting, this relationship seems to be weakening. I think it is a reasonable assumption that “if the book is to sell mainly in bookstores, it will need an attractive jacket [and]… if it is a mail order book, it should be printed on lightweight paper, to save on postage costs.”[57] The contrast between bookselling in the physical world and that of the online world, is that one relies on physical design and the other on information. Other than the cover art, the physical design of a book becomes almost secondary when sold online as there is an abundance of readily available information: book reviews by both professionals and readers, author quotes, a chapter preview and links to other books from an author’s collection. If the website, whether it be an online database or the author’s own, is effective in providing this information, the book can be purchased without the help of the book’s physical design.

It seems to me that instead of dealing solely with a traditional book designer, publishers may now increasingly deal with web designers, as the online presence of a book begins to exceed that of the offline presence. It has also been suggested that “web content developers will become book publishers, or partners with them.”[58] Spending more money on a book’s visibility online allows the book to meet diversified markets. I realized that publishers would have to decide “whether the few grand they might spend in [Publisher’s Weekly], or The NY Times Book Review, would be better spent on Google Adwords.”[59] With an understanding of the value of marketing online and offline, I would be able to decide on how to divide my marketing efforts.

I came to realize that with the selling and consumption of books increasingly shifting into an electronic environment, the costs of selling, promoting and manufacturing books are reduced through effective technology. As for book promotion, an online setting can allow for less pricey means of marketing. Having your book in an online database like, and maintaining an effective website for both the publishing house and the author, can reach more consumers without costing an arm and a leg. And “it is becoming clear that the practices of marketing online reach every corner of the book trade,”[60] which is making costly marketing efforts offline less attractive to publishers. If I were to purchase ad space for Frankenstein through Google Adwords, my advertisement would appear when people searched for Frankenstein on Google Search. With the use of online features like Google Adwords, “you only pay for [the advertisement] if there is ‘clickthru,’ so all the impressions of people just looking, which is, after all, all you get from PW or the Times, are actually free.”[61] Even though consumers won’t see the cover art or Engage’s brand through Google Adwords for Frankenstein, only the consumers who are interested will click through, where they will see the cover and branding. The electronic environment greatly decreases the costs of promotion since a great deal of a book’s online visibility is essentially free for the publisher. Bloggers are acting as promoters by creating online conversations around a book, yet without demanding a dime in return. For this reason, I must consider the notion that a book’s online visibility, as opposed to that of the physical world, deserves greater attention than ever before.

Through online means, books can not only be printed and distributed much more efficiently, but the overall cost per book can be reduced through the streamlined production process offered by POD printers like LSI. In the case of my POD titles printed through LSI, the production specifications are standard and limited to certain formats, and I can’t add extra touches like die cuts, French flaps, or metallic inks. Therefore my marketing focus online needed to take advantage of the many ways to market books cheaply and effectively. As I have previously mentioned, book design is related to marketing in a store setting, and is meant to lure a reader in. In an online setting however, book design is no longer what entices a reader to click on or purchase a book, but rather the comments that are made by other readers or the recommendations made by online retailers like


b. Marketing on

It is crucial for me to place my books on sites like, sites that exist as something similar to an online contemporary book database, which “for most practical purposes, rivals the Library of Congress.”62 Due to the increasing amount of online communication and activity it is essential that I place a substantial amount of marketing and bibliographical data on such online databases in a timely manner so as not to neglect online communities which comprise a substantial segment of those who purchase books. Luckily for me, Ingram provides online sites such as with the bibliographic data from all of LSI’s clients within a week of publication. My book’s bibliographic data, and the front cover are delivered electronically to by LSI, however there are many other ways that publishers can take advantage of if they know how.

Online databases like are beneficial promotional mechanisms, and there are many ways that they bring awareness to titles through cross-promotional strategies manifested in automated referrals and recommendations.63 In order to become successful at selling books on it is necessary to understand how’s automated system works, so that I can take advantage of these benefits. I paid attention to’s cross-promotional email operations after I published Cranford (AD Classic). I had purchased a couple of copies and shipped them to friends in the US, using different accounts. Soon afterwards, I received an email from which read “As someone who has purchased or rated books by Elizabeth Gaskell, you might like to know that Wives and Daughters Complete and Unabridged is now available. You can order yours for just $10.50 by following the link below.” I wondered whether the publisher had paid to send this email out, or if it was an automated system. I soon found out when I published Journey to the Center of the Earth (AD Classic) and I received an email from that read “As someone who has purchased or rated books by Jules Verne, you might like to know that Journey to the Center of the Earth (AD Classic) is now available. You can order yours for just $6.95 by following the link below.” As I had previously ordered a book by Jules Verne for research into this title, the automated system picked up on this and sent out notifications to select individuals in their mailing list that fit similar parameters. I know this is the case because sales for A Journey to the Center of the Earth spiked immediately. With this newfound knowledge I was able to get to send out promotional emails to members of their email lists, for my next titles by purchasing copies of my own book with different accounts within a couple weeks of the book appearing on’s database. And sure enough sent out emails to their lists, but some of the emails were not very efficient or accurate. One in particular read:


Figure 10: Promotional Email 1

“Dear Customer,

We’ve noticed that customers who have purchased or rated The War of the Worlds (AD Classic) by H. G. Wells have also purchased Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (AD Classic) by Lewis Carroll. For this reason, you might like to know that Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (AD Classic) is now available. You can order yours for just $6.95 by following the link below.”


It seemed to me that customers who had purchased The War of the Worlds (AD Classic) would not necessarily be interested in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (AD Classic) as the genre, and target audience is not the same. However, book sales for Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland spiked to 69 copies sold in March 2009, which makes me believe that likely sent out emails that were similar to the one I had received for Journey to the Center of the Earth (AD Classic). But the following email in particular did not make any marketing sense.


Figure 11: Promotional Email 2

“Dear Customer,

We’ve noticed that customers who have purchased or rated Frankenstein (AD Classic) by Mary Shelley have also purchased Breast Cancer Journal (All Proceeds from this Notebook Benefit The Weekend to End Breast Cancer to Support Research into Finding a Cure) Engage Books by A. R. Roumanis. For this reason, you might like to know that Breast Cancer Journal (All Proceeds from this Notebook Benefit The Weekend to End Breast Cancer to Support Research into Finding a Cure) Engage Books is now available. You can order yours for just $8.95 by following the link below.”


Sales for this book did not spike as they did with the aforementioned Journey to the Center of the Earth, and Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, which likely happened because Breast Cancer Journal did not have a famous author which would allow the automated system to send out emails to customers who had purchased other books by that same author.

Tinkering with’s automated system also brought up another key feature of’s inner workings. After purchasing two of my own books, Robinson Crusoe and The Prince together, on three separate occasions, with different accounts, on the same day, linked these titles together on the Robinson Crusoe listing page; “Customers buy this book with The Prince (AD Classic) by Niccolò Machiavelli, price for both 13.90,” and they mirrored this advertisement on the listing page for The Prince. This made me realize that I could prompt to link my titles with other appropriate and popular books on, by purchasing them together with different accounts. Three months after I had linked The Prince and Robinson Crusoe, I noticed that had removed the “Customers who buy this book” link to more appropriate links such as The Revolution: A Manifesto by Ron Paul for The Prince, and Great Expectations (Penguin Classics) by Charles Dickens for Robinson Crusoe. This led me to believe that’s automated system was dependent on shifting trends, which meant that I would have to be sure that I linked two titles appropriately, so that consumers would keep them linked in the future through regular purchases.

The insight I learned from consumer trends in purchases gave me a better understanding of how I could manipulate’s search field. When I first began searching for my books on, I would type in the book title followed by (AD Classic). When I did this for more than a week in a row for A Journey to the Center of the Earth, I noticed that A Journey to the Center of the Earth (AD Classic) appeared at the bottom of’s drop down list, attached to its search field. This drop down list is integrated into’s database and has nothing to do with my own web browser, as I experimented on several computers. As I continued to search for this title in the same way for another week, my search term rose to the top of the suggested search field. I thought that this was a great way to promote my title, as some people who begin by typing in A Journey to the Center… tend to click on’s search suggestions, and since mine was at the top of the list it would remain there. I found out that I was wrong after returning home from a week-long vacation and my search term had dropped to the bottom of the list. People weren’t clicking on it because they did not associate AD Classic with their search, and clicked on other key words, such as the suffix Jules Verne. This brought me to the realization that I would need to come up with a search term that would place my edition in the first two or three spots, and that this search term would be popular with consumers to the point that they would continue to click on this suggestion, thereby keeping it high in the search suggestion field. The search suggestion I came up with was Journey to the Center of the Earth Illustrated, as the key word ‘illustrated’ placed my AD Classic and SF Classic editions in the top two search field spots respectively. And this search suggestion remains within the top three spots, several weeks after I had initially bumped it to the top of the list due to customers regularly clicking on this suggestion.

Experimenting with search suggestions, brings me to various ways to manipulate’s tagging system. Tagging is used by as a secondary method to show customers similar products. Customer tags “feed into normal search results, pairings, and recommendations.”[64] These are all important to take advantage of. When tagging a title such as Frankenstein, there are several types of tags that create the best results. While it is important to specify the genre with tags like, classic, science fiction, horror and undead, it is important to keep in mind that hundreds if not thousands of other customers have used these search terms, and quite a few books have multiple tags for these generic suggestions that reach into the hundreds. This is important to understand because uses tags for search results, pairings, and recommendations, on books that have received top results for a particular tag. Because of this, I suggest that publishers also use unique tags for their books. In fact, some of the best tags can be found by typing Robinson Crusoe in’s search field, and looking at the different suffixes that appear there. Some of the most popular suffixes are, by Daniel Defoe, hardcover, unabridged, illustrated, for kids and Defoe and it is important to use these terms as tags. The first tag, Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe would not only bump my edition up in search results, and possibly pair it with another title, but most importantly it would be used to give customers recommendations. When a customer searches for this exact term, and they click on any title in search results, my edition of Robinson Crusoe will appear on that books profile page with a prompt by stating “Looking for “Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe” Products? Other customers suggested these items:” and a picture of my edition with rankings, the price point, and a link is displayed as a free advertisement. There are no other titles displayed, because publishers such as Penguin, Norton, Modern Library, Oxford, Barnes & Noble and Signet Classics, have not thought to tag their editions of Robinson Crusoe in this manner. When a few dozen such tags are entered, it will greatly increase the exposure of my edition of Robinson Crusoe on, and when customers click on any other edition of Robinson Crusoe they will likely find my book on that editions profile page.

Another area to market a title on is to tag it for Amazon search. Unlike’s regular tags, the search tags only help raise a books status in search rankings when a specific search term is used. There is also a disclaimer that search tags are reviewed by employees to ensure that they are relevant terms. While it is also helpful to insert obscure tags that match customer search results, this is a great place to enter alternate spellings. When typing in Robinson Crusoe in the search field, try mixing the letters up and see if you still get a search suggestion. I found that when I typed in Robinsonc the search field gave me the suggestion of Robinsoncrusoe because other customers had entered this as a search term. With this information, I entered Robinsoncrusoe as a tag for Amazon search and it was approved by an employee three weeks later, and my edition of Robinson Crusoe now appears at the top of the listings whenever this search term is used. (Note: In August 2009 removed the tag it for Amazon search function, however search terms that had previously been entered and accepted by continue to appear in search results.)

A final item of interest is to link a hardcover and a paperback of the same title on so that the paperback is accessible from the profile page of the hardcover edition. allows publishers to link paperback, hardcover, audio, and kindle books through’s Book Content Update form at Generally the hardcover edition will have a profile page (accessible through search results) on while the other formats will not have their own profile page (so they won’t be accessible through search results), but the other formats will have small links to their books (which are hidden within the database) posted on the hardcovers page. This is significant for Engage Books because has started doing this with classic books that have multiple publishers, and they don’t seem to mind that many of these books have differences, such as illustrations, translations, forewords etc. So, currently the AD Classic edition of The Prince (AD Classic Library Edition)(Hardcover) was added to this conglomerate of linked books, and it is the profile page from which 108 other editions are accessible. By profile page, I mean that 108 other editions, whether they are in paperback, hardcover, electronic or audio formats are only accessible on through small links on the page where my edition is sold. This also means that the AD Classic edition receives all of the reviews that the other books have accumulated, which is currently 304 reviews, and it gets ranked high in search rankings. Currently it is ranked #1 on searches for The Prince, which is above Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince, and #3 on searches for Prince. Bumping my edition up in rank is due to the power of having so many editions linked together, because all of the editions’ tags and reviews combined overpower an edition that is not linked to another title. My edition ended up as the profile page purely by chance, and it is likely that will eventually rotate my book out for another one, but currently The Prince has sold an average of four copies a day in both August and September 2009.



Part 5: Analysis

a. Monthly Analysis of Sales & Trends

When I published my first title in June 2008, there was no way of knowing if Engage Books would be a success or not. With a slow start of only two books sold in the first month of business, I wondered what it would take to succeed. It wasn’t until the second month of business with three books in print and 25 books sold, that I was more comfortable, and by the third month with four books in print and sales of 43 books I felt confident that I was building a list of titles that would grow into a successful long-tail business. Each new title added to the backlist of Engage Book would slightly increase the company’s earnings, so that their combined presence in the market would generate a substantial income that would continue growing, and in so doing, provide Engage Books with the ability to fund larger projects.

In order to determine how large a backlist Engage Books must have in print before it generates enough income to fund large projects, we must analyse the sales data since Engage Books began business in June 2008. The following graph shows how many books were sold each month from June 2008 to July 2009 in both the US and Canadian markets.


Figure 12: Books Sold Per Title in the US and Canadian Markets


Since the company grew from one book in June 2008 to thirteen books in August 2009, one would think that there would be an upwards curve in book sales. However, this is not the case, and there are several highs and lows on the graph where an analysis of sales trends can help us understand these shifts. One of the most obvious discrepancies is when one particular book sells in unusually large quantities in any given month. I will explain to the best of my knowledge why certain books sold more than 50 copies in a month. The first occurrence is in November 2008 when A Journey to the Center of the Earth sold 74 copies. This is due to the DVD release of Journey to the Center of the Earth 3D starring Brendan Fraser on October 28, 2008. The marketing for this release ran throughout November until Christmas, which led to an additional sale of 74 copies in December. The third spike occurred in February 2009, when 119 copies of Frankenstein were sold. This occurred when Stanford University placed an order for 110 titles for a Humanities course. The fourth spike in March 2009 occurred when sent out an email to a select list of customers that Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland was available for purchase, which led to 69 copies being sold. The fifth spike in April 2009 for 58 copies of Frankenstein were mostly sold on, and it is my assumption that many of these purchases where from students purchasing copies for their Stanford course which started in May. The sixth spike in June 2009 for Frankenstein is due to another order from Stanford for a second semester of the same humanities course. The reason for the seventh spike in July 2009 for Robinson Crusoe is not known to me. It could be due to a university, or large chain bookstore order. Or it could be in response to Life on a Desert Island based on Robinson Crusoe which was performed as a one-man outdoor spectacle play in Central Park, New York, from July 11 until September 2009. The eighth spike in August of 122 copies and the ninth spike in September of 118 copies of The Prince (AD Classic Library Edition) occurred when placed this book as the profile page from which 108 other editions are available. See Part 4, ‘Marketing on’ for further details on profile pages.

There is no doubt that the global financial crisis which began in September 2008[65] had an affect on book sales. However, since Engage Books does not have prior sales data, and there hasn’t yet been a study on book purchases in North America in 2008/2009, and since Booknet Canada will not provide me with data, there is not a definitive way to determine whether the economy had anything to do with declines in October 2008, January 2009 and May 2009. It is likely that these declines are due to the fact that no significant purchases were made for any one title in these months. And it is probable that the economic downturn has caused declines in overall sales since Engage Books began business.


b. Projecting Future Sales

With any company it is important to understand how it will grow, and how this growth will affect the company’s revenue stream. With an understanding of this I will have a better idea of how quickly I can grow Engage Books. In order to begin projecting future growth, we must look at how many titles Engage Books had in print in each month since June 2008.


Figure 13: Books in Print


While the number of titles in print grows from one to twelve titles, it is certainly not representative of the future output for Engage Books. While there are periods with no growth it is reasonable to assume that the output of Engage Books will increase when this paper is finished, and Engage Books earns enough income to support my full attention. I would estimate that an output of 30 titles a year is reasonable, once I can devote more of my time to Engage Books. This brings us to the question of determining how much Engage Books will earn one, two and three years from now. In order to do this we must look at Engage Books earnings from June 2008 to July 2009.


Figure 14: US and Canadian Sales in US Dollars


These numbers (See Appendix C for exact figures) are vital in order to determine an average earning per book in print for each month. An average earning per book in print will give us a baseline figure from which we can multiply to project future earnings. To calculate this average, I divided the sales of each month by the number of books in print, in order to create the following graph.


Figure 15: Monthly Combined Average Earnings Divided by All Titles in Print


This graph is instrumental in determining an average earning per book in print over a one month period. While my books are priced differently, especially the to-be-published $39.95 edition of Journey to the Center of the Earth (1000 Copy Limited Edition), this sales average will help me calculate a monthly average from which I can calculate future sales. When calculating an average earning per book in print, I added the average sales from each month (except for June 2008) to reach a total of $541, which I divided by 15 months, to reach an average earning of $36.07 per book in print. Overall, $36.07 is representative of earnings so far, and it is a good indication from which to project future earnings, which can be done by multiplying this figure by a projected number of titles in print. But first we’ll take a look at what can be done to increase the average earning per book each month.

The sales spikes discussed in the section on the Monthly Analysis of Sales and Trends may look like random events on the surface, but there are many ways to manipulate these spikes. Firstly, whenever I have published a book with an upcoming movie tie-in or television release, there has been a spike in sales due to the production companies marketing efforts. When I published A Journey to the Center of the Earth there was a sales spike leading up to the DVD release, and there will be another one when it is first aired on television. With this in mind, I have chosen my following AD Classic book releases on the upcoming theatrical release of A Christmas Carol and Sherlock Holmes. Secondly, Stanford University’s order of over 200 copies of Frankenstein over two semesters, has not only caused two sales spikes, but has also driven students to purchase their own copies off of As Stanford found my book on their own, likely from an online database like, I plan on marketing directly to universities across North America through digital and print catalogues, to increase the likelihood of my books being adopted for a course. Thirdly, has sent out emails to their customers when I have released a new title based on the number of purchases in the first few weeks after publication. In order to manipulate this I will market each new release through Facebook, Twitter and email campaigns.


Figure 16: Projected Backlist Earnings in US and Canada Based on the Number of Titles in Print


All other things being equal, this is a growth model for a straight long-tail business. From this graph we can project that Engage Books will make an average of $541.05 in one month with 15 books in print, which would also generate $6,492.60 over a twelve month period. With 35 books in print, monthly earnings would reach $1,262.45 or $15,149.40 over twelve months. With 70 books in print monthly earnings reach $2,524.90 or $30,298.80 over twelve months. And with 100 titles in print monthly earnings reach $3,607 or $43,284 over twelve months. With these numbers in mind it would be reasonable to say that Engage Books would be ready to invest in larger projects when 70 books are in print, or with $30,298.80 in yearly earnings as I would have enough income to both concentrate full time on these projects and to fund them. At an output of 30 books a year, this number would be reached within two years, when including the thirteen books already in print. Within three years, Engage Books is projected to earn $43,284 with 100 titles in print. These numbers assume that there will be no growth on earnings per title, however the average earning per book is likely to change.

While the numbers calculated since Engage Books began operations are accurate, there are a few reasons why the future might look more promising than I have projected. First, Engage Books began in a global recession, which saw a decline in retail sales in both the US and Canada. It is more than likely that as the economy improves, sales will increase, and the average earnings per book would also increase. Second, with a larger number of titles in print, and with increased exposure in the market, Engage Books will experience a growth in brand recognition. This will come from people who have seen Engage Books online (See Appendix A), at events (See Appendix B), or who are among the over 1,700 people who have already purchased a book (See Appendix C). Third, while Engage Books does have worldwide distribution through Ingram, and is present in their online and new release catalogue, Ingram doesn’t actively promote my books to prospective library, retail and wholesale buyers. With the establishment of a sales team to market directly to trade channels such as bookstores, which I plan on contracting out in 2010, Engage Books sales will increase significantly. With these three factors in consideration, it is conceivable that Engage Books could launch an original title in one year.

It is my belief that Engage Books can reach monthly earnings of $2,000 within one year, while experiencing a growth in brand recognition and establishing an agreement with an outside sales force. With this in mind I have just signed a contract with Chris Stevenson to publish a 80,000 to 90,000 word novel entitled Planet Janitor: Custodian of the Stars for Engage SF. Chris Stevenson has agreed to not receive an advance against royalties and this book will be edited by an editor who has agreed to accept payment in the form of a royalty based on book sales. This will reduce the initial investment from Engage Books, and will allow for more funds to be allocated to cover art, print costs, and marketing. Also, I have been accepting short story submissions for some time now, and have agreed to publish two authors for a short story anthology of ten to twelve authors. It is my goal to have Planet Janitor released by September 2010, and to have the anthology, along with one other full length novel, to be released shortly thereafter.

In order to expand the release of original titles it will be necessary to outsource each book to a freelance editor, as I currently have no plans to hire fulltime employees. This is from a personal belief that I should keep my staff lean through outsourcing, until I reach an output that would benefit from a full-time employee and establish the income necessary to pay for this persons salary. To increase profits to fund further growth, I will actively sell subsidiary rights of first serial, video game, theatrical, and foreign rights to third parties. For Planet Janitor: Custodian of the Stars I am working on getting this made into a video game, and am actively approaching game companies such as EA to make this possible. The establishment of a video game for Planet Janitor would not only provide Engage Books with subsidiary income, but it would also boost marketing efforts and consumer recognition as the videogame company would promote and distribute their new title.

Beyond the three original titles planned for 2010, I plan to expand Engage Books further. This expansion will be funded by the projected backlist earnings calculated earlier of $30,298 in year two and $43,284 in year three. I intend on building a stable output in 2011 by establishing two seasons: a spring release of two titles and a fall release of two additional titles. In 2012 I will expand this output further to three titles in both the spring and fall seasons. Beyond this three year projection ending in 2012, I will re-evaluate the growth of original titles to see if I should maintain a three book output or add additional titles to each season. In my projections I find it valuable to maintain consistency in the yearly output of original titles and in the establishment of two recurring seasons. This consistency will ensure that both consumers and retailers, who come to know Engage Books, will expect regular releases in consistent numbers, and timeframes. If I should fail to release original titles in a season, or should I fail in producing the same number of titles in a future year, I will lose credibility from those who have come to expect consistency from Engage Books. Credibility is vital in order for Engage Books to become established as a reputable publisher in the industry.



Part 6: Conclusions

The idea for Engage Books began with what I saw as an opportunity in that there were no science fiction publishers in Vancouver, a city that is very receptive to the genre in many other industries. This opportunity led to the establishment of a set of strategies and tactics that could facilitate such an endeavour. In formulating a plan to have four imprints under Engage Books, I basically gave myself the freedom to publish across multiple genres, as is seen with the recent release of a cookbook under Engage Books. However, having four imprints under one parent company did give me the task of building a branding strategy for all of them. But, had I only focused on branding a science fiction press, I would have never come up with the idea of placing the year of publication on a book spine, which is my most unique branding tactic, and one that I feel will bring repeat business, through brand recognition, back to Engage Books and its imprints.

The process of building Engage Books from the ground-up has been, to say the least, unconventional. While I have started a company in the same way that many publishers have already done using public domain titles, I have expanded on this strategy by publishing through print-on-demand production. This relatively new technology coupled with copyright free works from the public domain, has allowed me to build Engage Books as a lean start-up company. That is to say that very little in the way of an investment, other than my own time, went into the development of each title published, and I was able to build a backlist that would provide Engage Books with the capital necessary to fund the development of new titles.

Having had the experience of publishing thirteen titles for Engage Books, I have discovered many important aspects of marketing online. While a web presence through a website, blog, and social networking is important, it is doubly important to actively market on While marketing on I learned how to manipulate the site’s automated system to my benefit, including automated customer emails, linking books, search field, generic tags, tags for Amazon search, and linking editions. While this knowledge is important, it is crucial that I did not learn this while promoting a new title for Engage SF. Learning marketing tactics on-the-go when publishing a classic title for AD Classic is acceptable to me, because there is little invested in the title. However, when I publish Chris Stevenson’s Planet Janitor: Custodian of the Stars the development cost will be much higher, there will be a substantial marketing budget, and the immediate success of this title will be important for both Engage Books, Chris Stevenson, and the editor involved. Therefore, it is worthwhile for me to have built a backlist of classic titles, so that I could learn from my successes and failures for the betterment of new titles.

As for the future of Engage Books, I have a three year plan in place for success. For the development of new titles I would be able to utilize funds from AD Classic, BC Classic, and SF Classic in order to survive the first three years of operation. This is important because in “each new book season, effectively, small companies bet a very high percentage of the liquid assets of the company on new titles,”[66] and because of the risk involved, banks are reluctant to offer loans, short of a publisher putting up his house as collateral. As I don’t have money to the bank or a house for collateral, utilizing funds from the other imprints is the logical choice. Also in the first three years of operation, Engage Books would not qualify for Canada Book Fund (CBF) assistance, as a criterion for financial aid is that publishers must “have been in business for a minimum of 36 months.”[67] Engage Books does not have the luxury to start business with CBF funding as some Canadian imprints do, since their parent company can transfer their eligibility onto the imprint. Engage Books would have to publish “a minimum of 12 new Canadian-authored trade books”[68] to be eligible for this funding. Therefore, using the backlists of AD Classic, BC Classic and SF Classic as a support mechanism for the first three years is a viable way for a publishing house to enter the industry.

The Engage Books model is a means for a publisher to enter the industry with little up-front capital, with the opportunity to expand business and become a traditional publisher. While “McClelland and Stewart’s great success with its Emblem Series of fiction tapped the accumulated value added or, differently stated, the cultural capital of the firm,”[69] Engage Books’ ability to tap the cultural capital of the public domain to build three of its imprints in order to fund the forth imprint, will give the latter imprint an edge in the industry. No shipping costs, coupled with minimal to no returns and no warehousing fees, and a guaranteed earning on each book sold, will propel Engage Books into a successful business. Currently, “at major online booksellers, the profusion of POD books may eventually eclipse established titles,”[70] and throughout this process Engage Books will compete on equal terms with large publishers. Also, as more and more publishers turn towards POD this in turn should reduce the cost of printing with POD as competition increases and technology improves, thereby increasing the profit on each book sold. The feasibility of Engage Books lies in the use of works from the public domain, printed through POD, in order to have a financial backing from which to create new titles that readers will want to explore, and collect.



Part 7: Appendix

Appendix A: Website and Google Analytics

Appendix A.1


Appendix A.2


Appendix A.3


Appendix A.4


Appendix A.5


Appendix A.6


Appendix A.7


Appendix A.8



Appendix B: Events

Appendix B.1 Appendix B.2



Appendix C: Monthly Sales Reports from LSI

Appendix C.1 Appendix C.2 Appendix C.3 Appendix C.4 Appendix C.5 Appendix C.6 Appendix C.7 Appendix C.8 Appendix C.9 Appendix C.10 Appendix C.11 Appendix C.12 Appendix C.13 Appendix C.14 Appendix C.15 Appendix C.16 Appendix C.17 Appendix C.18 Appendix C.19 Appendix C.20 Appendix C.21 Appendix C.22 Appendix C.23 Appendix C.24 Appendix C.25 Appendix C.26 Appendix C.27 Appendix C.28 Appendix C.29 Appendix C.30 Appendix C.31 Appendix C.32 Appendix C.33 Appendix C.34 Appendix C.35 Appendix C.36 Appendix C.37


1 Dan Poynter, The Self-Publishing Manual: How to Write, Print and Sell Your Own Book (Santa Barbara, CA, Para Publishing, 2003) 146. RETURN

2 Thomas Woll, Publishing For Profit: Successful Bottom-line Management for Book Publishers, Third Edition, (Chicago Illinois, Chicago Review Press, 2006) 3-5. RETURN

3 Stephen Fishman, The Public Domain: How to Find & Use Copyright-Free Writings, Music, Art & More, 3rd Edition, (Berkley California, Nolo Press, 2006) 12. RETURN

4 Medbh Bidwell, New-Format Reprints: Creating McClelland & Stewart’s Emblem Editions out of Backlist Titles, Book Publishing 1, (Vancouver British Columbia, CCSP Press, 2005) 139. RETURN

5 Michael Rogers, Book Reviews: Classic Returns, (Library Journal, November 1, 2002) 134. RETURN

6 Medbh Bidwell; 139. RETURN

7 Ibid; 152. RETURN

8 “News Gothic,” Wikipedia, available from accessed on Oct 13, 2009. RETURN

9 “Minion Pro,” Adobe Font (Adobe Systems Incorporated) available from accessed on June 8, 2009. RETURN

10 Robert Bringhurst, The Elements of Typographic Style (Vancouver, British Columbia, Hartley & Marks Publishers, 1999) 225. RETURN

11 Roy Paul Nelson, “Book Design,” The Publishing Process: Communication 372-4 Course Reader, Comp. Jane Cowan. (Simon Fraser University: Center for Online and Distance Education, Spring 2005) 11. RETURN

12 Webster’s Encyclopedic Dictionary of the English Language (New York. Lexicon Publications, 1988) 216. RETURN

13 Michael Geist, The Upcoming Copyright Clash: A Legal scholar argues for the public use over private interest in Canadian Policy, (Literary Review of Canada, June 2005) 24. RETURN

14 All About Copyrights, (First Gov), available from , accessed on June 3, 2009. RETURN

15 “Copyright Act (R.S., 1985, c. C-42),” Department of Justice Canada, available from, accessed on June 3rd 2009. RETURN

16 Boyd Tonkin, News that stays news, New Statesman & Society 6.n260 (July 9, 1993) 42. Gale. Simon Fraser University, available from, accessed on June 4, 2009. RETURN

17 Edward Bradbury, Literary Supplement: The Penguin Classics, (Contemporary Review; July 1996, Vol. 269 Issue 1566) 49. RETURN

18 Rachel Deahl, Branding: Keeping the Classics Alive and Well, Publishers Weekly, October 2, 2006. RETURN

19 Marshall B. Tymn, Science Fiction; A Teachers Guide and Resource Book, (Mercer Island, Washington, Starmont House INC, 1988) ix. RETURN

20 Chez Zews, The War of the Worlds Book Cover Collection,, accessed on June 9, 2009. RETURN

21 Italo Calvino, Why Read the Classics?, (New York, Parthenon Books, 1999) 5. RETURN

22 James Gunn, The Road to Science Fiction: From Gilgamesh to Wells, (New York and Scarborough Ontario, The New American Library, 1977) 13. RETURN

23 Orson Scott Card, How to Write Science Fiction and Fantasy, (Cincinnati Ohio, Writer’s Digest Books, 2001) 39. RETURN

24 Isaac Asimov, Asimov on Science Fiction, (Garden City, New York, Doubleday & Company INC, 1981) 20. RETURN

25 Hugh Spencer and Allan Weiss, Destination Out of this World: Canadian Science Fiction and Fantasy, (Ottawa Ontario, National Library of Canada, 1995) 21. RETURN

26 Italvo Calvino; 4. RETURN

27 Rowland Lorimer, 130. RETURN

28 John W. Silbersack, “Editing the Science-Fiction and Fantasy Novel” Editors on Editing: What Writers Need to Know About What Editors Do, Third Edition, (New York, Grove Press, 1993) 297. RETURN

29 Rowland Lorimer, 224. RETURN


31 Jim Milliot, Planning Shop’s New Service Tracks Amazon Sales Rankings, (Publishers Weekly, Vol. 254, Issue 13, 3/26/2007). RETURN

32 TitleZ,, retrieved on December 4, 2007. RETURN

33 Ibid. RETURN

34 Ibid. RETURN

35 Ingvald Raknem, H. G. Wells and his Critics, (Oslo Norway, Scandinavian University Books, 1962) 401. RETURN

36 David C. Smith, The Correspondences of H.G. Wells Volume 1 1880-1903, (London, Pickering & Chatto, 1998) 261. RETURN

37 Ingvald Raknem; 400. RETURN

38 Leon Stover, The War of the Worlds, A Critical Text of the 1898 London First Edition, with an Introduction, illustrations and Appendices, Jefferson, North Carolina, 2001) 16. RETURN

39 Stephen Fishman; 10. RETURN

40 Michael Geist; 24. RETURN

41 Michael Rogers, Classic Returns, Library Journal 05/15/98, Vol. 123 Issue 9. RETURN

42 Simon Stokes, The Copyright System: Its Justification and History, Revised Paperback Edition, (Portland Oregon, Hart Publishing, 2003) 19. RETURN

43 Rowland Lorimer; 188. RETURN

44 Jim Wallace, Exploring IBM POD Technology, (Gulf Breeze Florida, Maximum Press, 1997) 82-83. RETURN

45 Rowland Lorimer; 208. RETURN

46 Thomas Woll; 29. RETURN

47 Ann Haugland, Opening the Gates: Print On-Demand Publishing as Cultural Production, (Publishing Research Quarterly, Fall 2006) 5. RETURN

48 Ibid; 1. RETURN

49 Rowland Lorimer; 214. RETURN

50 Lightning Source POD Publisher Operating Manual, Version 4.5, 03/10/07,, retretived on December 4, 2007. RETURN

51 Retailers Accessed on June 15, 2009. RETURN

52 Ingram Digital, Ingram will realign and reorganize to serve the physical and digital content trade “faster, more effectively” May 26, 2009 Accessed on June 15, 2009. RETURN

53 Ingram Content Group, Available from Accessed on June 15, 2009. RETURN

54 Thomas Woll; 323. RETURN

55 Lightning Source; 12. RETURN

56 Lightning Source INC, Print on Demand Publisher Operating Manual, Version 4.11 Retrieved on June 15, 2009. RETURN

57 Nelson, M. (2006)The Blog Phenomenon and the Book Publishing Industry. In Publishing Research Quarterly. Vol. 22 Issue 2, (P 3-26). RETURN

58 Shatzkin, Mike. (2006) Publishing and Digital Change: What’s Next? Presented to the Association of Book Publishers of British Columbia annual retreat at Qualicum Beach, BC on February 11, 2006. 22. RETURN

59 Ibid; 22. RETURN

60 Maxwell, J. W. (2005) PEXOD: The Publisher’s Extensible Online Database. In R. Lorimer, J. W. Maxwell, & J. G. Shoichet (Eds.), Book Publishing 1 (pp. 326-343). Vancouver, BC: Canadian Center for Studies in Publishing Press. RETURN

61 Shatzkin, Mike; 22. RETURN

62 Maxwell; 328. RETURN

63 Ibid; 329. RETURN

64 Aaron Shepard, Aiming at Amazon. Shepard Publications, Olympia Washington, 2009. P. 92. RETURN

65 “Global Financial Crisis in 2009” Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia, (Wikimedia Foundation Inc.), available from, accessed on August 13, 2009. RETURN

66 Rowland Lorimer; 248. RETURN

67 Ibid; 137. RETURN

68 Ibid; 137. RETURN

69 Medbh Bidwell; 139. RETURN

70 Rudy Shur, “The Problem With POD” Publishers Weekly, GS=/hww/results/results_common.jhtml.9, January 16, 2006, retrieved on December 3, 2007. RETURN


Adobe Systems Incorporated. Minion Pro event=displayFontPackage&code=1719 accessed on June 8, 2009

All About Copyrights, (First Gov), available from , accessed on June 3, 2009

Asimov, Isaac. Asimov on Science Fiction, Garden City, New York, Doubleday & Company, INC, 1981

Bidwell, Medbh. New-Format Reprints: Creating McClelland & Stewart’s Emblem Editions out of Backlist Titles, Book Publishing 1, Vancouver British Columbia, CCSP Press, 2005

Bradbury, Edward. Literary Supplement: The Penguin Classics, Contemporary Review; Vol. 269 Issue 1566, July 1996

Bringhurst, Robert. The Elements of Typographic Style, Hartley & Marks Publishers, Vancouver, British Columbia, 1999

Calvino, Italo. Why Read the Classics?, New York, Parthenon Books, 1999

Card, Orson Scott. How to Write Science Fiction and Fantasy, Cincinnati Ohio, Writer’s Digest Books, 2001

Deahl, Rachel. Branding: Keeping the Classics Alive and Well, Publishers Weekly, October 2, 2006

Department of Justice Canada “Copyright Act (R.S., 1985, c. C-42),” available from, accessed on June 3rd, 2009

Fishman, Stephen. The Public Domain: How to Find & Use Copyright-Free Writings, Music, Art & More, 3rd Edition, Berkley California, Nolo Press, 2006

Geist, Michael. The Upcoming Copyright Clash: A Legal scholar argues for the public use over private interest in Canadian Policy, Literary Review of Canada, June 2005

Gunn, James. The Road to Science Fiction: From Gilgamesh to Wells, New York and Scarborough Ontario, The New American Library, 1977

Haugland, Ann. Opening the Gates: Print On-Demand Publishing as Cultural Production, Publishing Research Quarterly, Fall 2006

Ingram Content Group. Available from accessed on June 15, 2009

Ingram Digital. Ingram will realign and reorganize to serve the physical and digital content trade “faster, more effectively” May 26, 2009 accessed on June 15, 2009

Lightning Source POD Publisher Operating Manual, Version 4.5, 03/10/07, =bug, accessed on July 4, 2009

Lorimer, Rowland. Books and Canadian Civilization, Vancouver British Columbia, Canadian Centre for Studies in Publishing Press, 2007

Milliot, Jim. Planning Shop’s New Service Tracks Amazon Sales Rankings, Publishers Weekly, Vol. 254, Issue 13, 3/26/2007

Nelson, Roy Paul. “Book Design.” The Publishing Process: Communication 372-4 Course Reader. Reading 7.2 1-13. Comp. Jane Cowan. Simon Fraser University: Center for Online and Distance Education, Spring 2005

Poynter, Dan. The Self-Publishing Manual: How to Write, Print and Sell Your Own Book, Santa Barbara, CA, Para Publishing, 2003

Raknem, Ingvald. H. G. Wells and his Critics, Oslo Norway, Scandinavian University Books, 1962

Rogers, Michael. Book Reviews: Classic Returns, Library Journal, maincontentframe.jhtml;hwwilsonid=FHDO5WU5Z224NQA3DILSFF4ADUNGI IV0, November 1, 2002, accessed on July 2, 2009

Rogers, Michael. Classic Returns, Library Journal 05/15/98, Vol. 123 Issue 9

Shur, Rudy. “The Problem With POD” Publishers Weekly, incontentframe.jhtml?_DARGS=/hww/results/results_common.jhtml.9, January 16, 2006, accessed on July 3, 2009

Silbersack, John W. “Editing the Science-Fiction and Fantasy Novel” Editors on Editing: What Writers Need to Know About What Editors Do, Third Edition, New York, Grove Press, 1993

Smith, David C. The Correspondences of H.G. Wells, Volume 1 1880-1903, London, Pickering & Chatto, 1998

Spencer, Hugh and Weiss, Allan. Destination Out of this World: Canadian Science Fiction and Fantasy, Ottawa Ontario, National Library of Canada, 1995

Stokes, Simon. The Copyright System: Its Justification and History, Revised Paperback Edition, Portland Oregon, Hart Publishing, 2003

Stover, Leon. The War of the Worlds, A Critical Text of the 1898 London First Edition, with an Introduction, illustrations and Appendices, Jefferson, North Carolina, 2001

TitleZ,, accessed on July 4, 2009

Tonkin, Boyd. News that stays news, New Statesman & Society 6.n260 (July 9, 1993) 42. Gale. Simon Fraser University,, accessed on July 3, 2009

Tymn, Marshall B. Science Fiction; A Teachers Guide and Resource Book, Mercer Island, Washington. Starmont House INC, 1988

Wallace, Jim. Exploring IBM POD Technology, Gulf Breeze Florida, Maximum Press, 1997

Webster’s Encyclopedic Dictionary of the English Language, New York, Lexicon Publications, 1988

Woll, Thomas. Publishing For Profit: Successful Bottom-line Management for Book Publishers, Third Edition, Chicago Illinois, Chicago Review Press, 2007

Zews, Chez. The War of the Worlds Book Cover Collection,, accessed on July 2, 2009

An Examination of Acquisitions: The Case of University of British Columbia Press


By Murray Chun-Kee Tong

ABSTRACT: Although it is one of the seminal activities in scholarly publishing, acquisition of new manuscripts is little-discussed in either academic or professional literature, or in publishing courses or programs in educational institutions. The creative and entrepreneurial aspects of acquisitions may elude description, but many aspects of the process and its major determinants can be described. This report begins with an examination of acquisitions literature and educational opportunities. It looks at the acquisitions process at a mid-sized Canadian scholarly publisher, University of British Columbia Press, the factors that influence it, and results of these influences, providing practical examples of acquisitions in action. From there, the report describes and analyzes strategies employed by the press’s editors to acquire manuscripts, as well as venues and activities where they seek prospective authors. Lastly, discussion turns to UBC Press’s strategies for dealing with future challenges in the scholarly publishing industry.





Preface: Editorial Acquisitions Strategy at UBC Press

Structure and Function of the Acquisitions Process in Scholarly Publishing
A Brief History of UBC Press
Current Areas and Modes of Acquisition
Scholarly Literature on Scholarly Acquisitions
Professional Literature on Scholarly Acquisitions
Education and Training for Acquisitions Editors

Editorial Acquisitions Processes at UBC Press
Pitching UBC Press to Authors
Editorial and production process
Distribution, sales, and marketing
Where to Acquire Manuscripts
A survey of Canadian scholarly publishers
Other acquisitions activities
Vetting a Book Proposal
Acquisitions Meetings
Factors in Acquiring Manuscripts
Peer Review and the Publications Board
Choosing peer reviewers
The publications board
Editor-Author Relations
Competition for Manuscripts
List-Building, Strategy, and the Importance of Series

The Future of Acquisitions at UBC Press
Challenges and Change at UBC Press
Emerging Areas in UBC Press’s List
Workflow, Integration, and Technology


Appendix 1: Survey of Canadian Scholarly Publishers
Appendix 2: Case Studies
Appendix 3: Standard Printing Estimate




My thanks to Rowland Lorimer and Mary Schendlinger of the Master of Publishing Program faculty for their insight, helpfulness, and patience in supervising this project report. John Maxwell provided a deluge of ideas early in this project’s conception.

My internship at UBC Press has been successful, stimulating, and plain fun thanks to my wonderful colleagues in every department. Their efforts make it joyful and humbling to work at UBC Press. In particular, acquisitions editors Emily Andrew, Darcy Cullen, Melissa Pitts, Randy Schmidt, and Jean Wilson took the time to help me understand their mysterious art. Director Peter Milroy provided much encouragement and gave me numerous opportunities to learn every aspect of the craft of scholarly publishing, and took on the task of reading this report and making valuable suggestions to ensure its integrity.

My friends Darryl, Ian, Kathleen & Darryl, Gord, Dave, Lee-Ann, Elissa, Jeff, John, and countless others understood my compulsion to light out for the West Coast and pursue some amorphous adventure. In particular, Alex always gave me a good laugh and an ear during the busiest parts of the program.

My parents, Justina and Frank Tong, offered constant love and support that I could feel from halfway across Canada. My sister, Tracey, reminded me I wasn’t alone and always made sure I was getting enough to eat.

And finally, my dear Catherine has given me all the love, support, encouragement and stimulation I could ever dream of in a friend and partner. This project truly would not have been possible without her.



Preface: Editorial acquisitions strategy at UBC Press

Many aspects of scholarly publishing – including editing, management, accounting, marketing, distribution, and data tracking – are explored in some depth in peer-reviewed journals and business-to-business publications.[1] Yet, there has been little more than general statements and recommendations on the subject of the acquisitions process – that is, the submission of manuscripts from an author to an acquisitions editor, or the solicitation of a manuscript or book by an acquisitions editor from an author, and the factors that influence decisions to publish. This report takes a closer look at the process of acquiring manuscripts in scholarly publishing, and captures some of the determinants in an editor’s – and a press’s – acquisitions decisions.

The foundation of this report comes from my internship between April and August 2008 at the University of British Columbia Press, or UBC Press, in Vancouver, B.C. The internship gave me the opportunity to closely observe the manuscript acquisition process, through attendance of an introductory meeting between an acquisitions editor and a prospective author; editorial acquisitions meetings, where the press’s editors and director decide which manuscripts to pursue; and a major gathering of social sciences and humanities academics in Canada, where many scholarly manuscripts were pitched, discussed, and acquired. Further information on the acquisitions process and decisions have come from interviews with UBC Press’s acquisitions editors.

This report is divided into three chapters. The first chapter provides an overview of UBC Press’s operations as related to acquisitions, a review of scholarly and professional literature on acquisitions, and an examination of the training and education available to acquisitions editors. First, a brief history of the press, its areas of specialization, and the skills and backgrounds of the acquisitions team provide context to decisions about which proposals are pursued. Next, a review of literature on scholarly acquisitions and a consideration of the extent to which theory informs practice aims to give insight into publishing strategy and reasons for acquisitions decisions. This literature cuts a wide swath through some acquisitions-related subjects, including publishing fashions, technology, the scholarly book market, and academic trends, although funding – a major factor in acquisitions decisions – is under-discussed. Finally, the chapter examines the current training and education offered to acquisitions editors, and where acquisitions knowledge resides in the industry. Together, these elements provide the framework within which acquisitions editors learn their craft.

The second chapter gives a detailed description and analysis of the current editorial acquisitions process at UBC Press, based on observations of acquisitions meetings and qualitative interviews with acquisitions editors, to illuminate what factors inform their decisions. Specifically, this chapter describes the venues at which editors seek manuscripts and proposals, and the methods they employ to persuade scholars to publish with UBC Press. From there, the determining factors in accepting a proposal, and then a manuscript, as well as the general relative importance of these factors, are explored. The chapter goes on to discuss forces outside the immediate control of the acquisitions editor, such as funding and decisions of peer reviewers, and ways in which editors can nevertheless influence these factors.

The third chapter identifies some of the challenges facing UBC Press’s acquisitions activities, and suggests ways the press can meet these challenges to enhance future prospects. The press has already employed some of these methods, including the building of new series and collaborations with multi-collaborator research initiatives, with some success. Others, such as increasing integration of departments, have been explored but not yet implemented fully. This chapter also examines some tools, information, and strategic changes that could aid UBC Press’s acquisitions editors in performing their duties more effectively.



Chapter 1: Structure and Function of the Acquisitions Process in Scholarly Publishing

A Brief History of UBC Press

Established in 1971, UBC Press is Canada’s third-largest university press and one of the country’s largest publishers west of Toronto. UBC Press publishes fifty to sixty scholarly monographs and collections in the social sciences and humanities, enjoying a sterling reputation in numerous disciplines. Its large and varied lists in political science, law, western Canadian history, and Asian studies are unparalleled among Canadian university presses, and its titles have won many prestigious awards for scholarly works in the social sciences and humanities, including the Raymond Klibansky and Harold Adams Innis Prizes from the Aid to Scholarly Publications Program, the Donner Prize, and numerous other discipline-specific awards. UBC Press was recently recognized by the Association of Book Publishers of British Columbia (ABPBC) as 2008 Publisher of the Year.

UBC Press’s success and stature among university presses in North America, however, is relatively recent. The press endured a near-death and resurrection in the late 1980s and early 1990s that has been documented by academic studies such as Simon Fraser University Master of Publishing project reports, and internally prepared reports such as the UBC Press Review: 2007 Self-Study. This change was so dramatic that the self-study divides the press’s history into pre- and post-1990 periods.

Pre-1990, UBC Press had been struggling financially for years and was publishing ten to fifteen books a year in a wide array of disciplines. The press’s transformation began in 1990 with the appointment of Peter Milroy, a book publisher with 20 years of experience in trade, scholarly, college, and legal publishing – and arguably Canada’s most experienced acquisitions editor in social sciences at the time – as director. Spearheaded by Milroy, the press underwent a wholesale restructuring that included dismissal of staff members, increased technology use, and expansion into marketing and distributing services for other publishers.[2]

UBC Press also refocused its areas of publication. After the restructuring, Milroy developed the editorial program to more aggressively acquire manuscripts in the press’s more consistent areas of strength, such as western Canadian history and First Nations studies, while cutting acquisitions in areas that were already being pursued by more prestigious and better-financed publishers, such as literary criticism and literary history.[3] Despite complaints from scholars in these disciplines, this strategy allowed Wilson, who was the only acquisitions editor on staff from 1990 to 1993, to focus on areas of strength and build UBC Press’s reputation, rather than spreading her efforts thinly across many disciplines.[4]

The hiring of Laura Macleod in 1993 as the press’s second acquisitions editor was fortuitous, says Wilson. Macleod, who lived in Toronto, became UBC Press’s de facto central Canadian office, raising its national profile while giving her the opportunity to pursue manuscripts and scholars in central Canada. Macleod’s hiring precipitated UBC Press’s expansion into other disciplines, particularly political science.[5] In 1998, Emily Andrew was hired to succeed Macleod, and developed Macleod’s early acquisitions efforts into Canada’s pre-eminent scholarly list in political science, as borne out by the press’s large and varied list, number of awards, and her own prestige in the country’s political science community. She also developed major lists in military history and Asian studies during this time.[6] In the same year, the press hired Randy Schmidt, who had been working in the editorial-production department, to acquire manuscripts in environmental and resource studies, which flourished under his command. Schmidt later developed the country’s dominant list in legal studies and the environment. Melissa Pitts of Toronto joined the press as assistant director and eastern Canada manager in 2005; in addition to managerial duties, she acquires (on a part-time basis) manuscripts in Canadian history and urban planning.[7]

Jean Wilson retired in July 2008. She was succeeded by Darcy Cullen, also formerly of the editorial-production department, who took over Wilson’s files in regional history, First Nations studies, northern studies, and education, among other disciplines.


Current Areas and Modes of Acquisition

At present, these are the acquisitions editors and the subject areas in which they acquire manuscripts:

Emily Andrew: Asian Studies, Political Science and Political Philosophy, Military History, Transnational and Multicultural Studies, Communications

Darcy Cullen: Canadian History, Regional History (i.e., B.C. and other regions), Native Studies, Sexuality Studies, Northern and Arctic Studies, Health Studies, Education

Melissa Pitts: Canadian History, Sociology, Urban Studies and Planning

Randy Schmidt: Forestry, Environmental Studies, Sustainable Development, Geography, Law and Society[8]

While these are the mandated core fields where most editorial activity takes place, the press occasionally publishes books in other areas. In highly specialized projects, Milroy may handle acquisitions duties, as he has in the past with large projects such as the four-volume reference The Birds of British Columbia, and complex, heavily illustrated books such as Chinese Opera: Images and Stories and Vanishing British Columbia.

Several common threads run through the press’s acquisitions team. Each of the four acquisitions editors, as well as the recently retired Wilson, holds a graduate degree related to his or her areas of acquisitions among their qualifications. As will be noted in “Scholarly Literature on Scholarly Acquisitions” (page 6), an advanced degree is often considered a basic qualification for scholarly acquisitions editors, so that they speak the language of academics and understand the scholarly environment. Moreover, Cullen and Schmidt both began at UBC Press in editorial-production, and have manuscript editing experience at the press as well as knowledge of its publishing process. This serves as a major advantage in communicating with authors; Schmidt notes that he can articulate the entire production process clearly to authors writing their first book, or a first book with UBC Press.[9]

Both Andrew and Pitts also have extensive experience in publishing outside of acquisitions, giving them extra insight into the business side of the industry. Andrew has worked in rights at HarperCollins Publishers, and sales and marketing at University of Toronto Press and at a major literary agency, and Pitts’s experience includes sales and marketing management at University of Toronto Press. With these backgrounds, Andrew and Pitts have a deeper understanding of the selling points and challenges of marketing and selling a book while it is still a manuscript or even a proposal, giving them a wider perspective and sense of publishing strategy.[10] The acquisitions editors’ diverse skill sets and experience provide great benefit to UBC Press by covering the spectrum of the publishing process and the Canadian publishing industry.

The foregoing sections examined the context of UBC Press’s list. To understand how the press’s challenges and strengths fit into the wider context of acquisitions in scholarly publishing, this report will next examine literature, education, and training for acquisitions editors to determine how they reflect – or rather, how well they reflect – acquisitions practices at UBC Press.


Scholarly Literature on Scholarly Acquisitions

Despite the “scholarly” adjective in reference to “literature,” there is little academic discussion of the scholarly publishing process, particularly on the subject of acquiring new manuscripts. A survey of recent literature on editorial acquisitions shows that most scholarly articles about acquisitions editing are general and unsystematized, with titles such as “Five Movie Scenes from the Author/Acquisitions Editor Relationship”[11] and “If You Plan It, They Will Come: Editors as Architects.”[12] These articles chiefly discuss the general nature of acquisitions, provide portraits of a “perfect” acquisitions editor, and remind readers of an editor’s mandate to find solid scholarship without regard for profitability.

A number of articles, including many in Chronicle of Higher Education, attempt to demystify the process of manuscript submission, editing, publishing, and marketing.[13] This perhaps reflects academics’ general lack of awareness of the scholarly publishing process, and the role of the editor and publisher in that process; on the flipside, it may also reflect the continuous need for scholarly publishers to educate junior scholars on publishing opportunities as membership in the academy changes. Indeed, Sanford Thatcher writes in the Journal of Scholarly Publishing, “In the new electronic age, when more and more scholars think they need only a computer and the latest version of QuarkXPress to be their own publishers, there is a greater need than ever for us to define what we as publishers bring to the process of scholarly communication.”[14] His subsequent explanations of an acquisitions editor’s functions are intended to help readers – that is, people in scholarly publishing – expound the benefits of the university press. To acquire appropriate manuscripts for publication, it appears that editors at scholarly presses must explain what it is they do with manuscripts and why. Some of the activities UBC Press acquisitions editors engage in to raise awareness of scholarly publishing in general, and of their press in particular, are addressed on page30.

The dearth of scholarly literature is not surprising, given that acquiring new books is considered the most mysterious and subjective process in publishing. Editor Mary Schendlinger has asserted that acquisitions “is the most entrepreneurial part of the publishing business,”[15] the most personal, and the most creative. Director of University of Pennsylvania Press Eric Halpern calls acquisitions editors “the impresarios of a publishing house,” adding that “they must rely on their own inner qualities and motivations, their own judgment, ambition, and, it has to be added, charm … the press can only be as good as what their editors bring in.”[16] The personal and creative nature of acquisitions editing is undoubtedly one of the reasons it is rarely taught explicitly or singly, as will be discussed in “Education and Training of Acquisitions Editors” on page 14.

Another reason for the lack of literature may be related to two characteristics of the scholarly publishing industry: it is collegial, and it is slow. For the most part, acquisitions editors are too busy to keep up with academic musings on acquisitions strategy; instead, they confer with colleagues at both their own and other presses to compare strategy and practice – often in ways that other industries, gagged by competition and proprietary interests, cannot.[17] In addition, the nature of acquisitions is slow and multi-faceted. The success of an acquisitions program – and the acquisitions editors who perform its functions – can be measured in several ways: cohesiveness of manuscripts found, rejection rate, and number of desired manuscripts acquired in competition with other presses. Further in the process, author satisfaction and quickness of turnaround can be linked to the efficacy of acquisitions processes. The measure of a successful acquisition, asserts Doug Armato, director of University of Minnesota Press, does not begin until transmittal, when a manuscript officially moves into production.[18] A major part of acquisitions success is gauged by audience response – strength of reviews, course adoptions, sales, and awards. Even further in the future, success can be measured by number of reprints, demand for updated editions, and influence on future scholarship. Because these many measures of success often stretch into years, there can be little scrutiny of the acquisitions process in the early stages. On hiring a new acquisitions editor, Eric Halpern asserts that “when you’re hiring an editor as a junior editor, it will take, say, five years to build a head of steam in a new field, and almost as long to determine that things aren’t working as you hoped.”[19] This statement easily applies to assessing the effectiveness of an acquisitions program. If it takes years at a minimum to determine the success or failure of an acquisitions program, drawing assertions across several different presses would be an immense labour for any scholarly study, on top of other variables.

The financial factors that influence acquisitions editing are little discussed in the literature, possibly because the mandate of scholarly publishing is to disseminate knowledge in important academic areas where book publishing may not be profitable. Although scholarly publishers are supposed to produce works of worthwhile scholarship with little to no regard for profitability, if not financial viability, the fact is that they do make decisions based on sales potential and funding availability as well as scholarly merit. This phenomenon is more readily acknowledged in professional literature on publishing, such as Quill and Quire, where the majority of articles on scholarly publishing from 1993 to 2008 deal with publishers’ financial difficulties and various efforts to publish more profitable books. Financial influences on acquisitions decisions are further discussed in chapter 2.

There are some exceptions to the dearth of scholarly literature on the influence of financial planning on acquisitions. In a 1999 article, Mike Shatzkin asserts that financial tools such as profit-and-loss (P&L) statements would be more useful if they attempted to quantify factors related to profitability. For example, variables such as price points for books in various formats and subjects, and level of funding for particular academic fields, could be applied to financial estimates of a book’s cost and reward. Taking many such variables into account is no guarantee of an accurate estimate; however, the acquisitions process at many publishers does not even “make any attempt to measure the different degrees of risk associated with different acquisition decisions … almost all acquisition decisions are made with one set of sales assumptions, an idea as hard to defend as it is ubiquitous.”[20] Shatzkin recommends that publishers consider the best, worst, and most likely scenarios when drawing up P&L statements and making sales assumptions.

An article in the Journal of Scholarly Publishing, entitled “The Characteristics of the Ideal Acquisition Editor,” summarizes the model and content of most scholarly literature on the subject. Noting that “a good acquisition editor is the heart and soul of a list and the reason authors come back to a press after their first book,”[21] it suggests several universal qualities in a model acquisitions editor that can optimize a press’s list and retain successful authors. A number of similar articles suggest attributes of the ideal acquisitions editor. Obviously, traits can be manifested in different ways, and some attributes are not appropriate for some editors or their acquisitions strategies, or for some university presses. The table below summarizes selected characteristics from scholarly literature, how they can work to a press’s advantage, and disadvantages they may carry:

Characteristic How it can be applied Disadvantages
Competitiveness with other presses

Can concentrate on developing and improving manuscript ideas, meeting “the highest standards of scholarship and literary quality”[22]

Can lead to “shortcircuiting of regular procedures, the too liberal use of advance contracts, the questionable resort to ‘package deals’” – in short, to dilution of scholarship[23]
Skill and experience in manuscript editing (substantive, stylistic, copy editing, etc.) Can give their manuscripts additional editorial insight, adding a layer of scrutiny to the process; strong understanding of “structure, narrative, style and synthesis”[24] Strong focus on editing may downplay importance of research content; “many publishers have acquisition editors whose sole task is to acquire books, and who have no experience in hands-on editing at all … there is little opportunity to do any substantive work”[25]
Have PhD or advanced degree in field of acquisition Can facilitate better understanding of the practices and lingo of the scholarly research process; recognize strong scholarship May have tendency to focus too strongly on their area of study, losing acquisitions opportunities in other areas
Strong individual vision and confidence Can strengthen personal involvement and commitment to the strength of their list; can help to “serve as activist in using our lists to communicate our message to the public”[26] Must maintain balance of other perspectives from other members of the publishing chain;[27]
“Must remain modest enough to learn from the advice of knowledgeable others”[28]
Good contacts in field of acquisition May be knowledgeable about their subjects; broad scope of knowledge; may be able to acquire desirable manuscripts; more likely to find appropriate peer reviewers May pursue books they want instead of strengthening and diversifying the press’s list; “editors may think the best authors in a field are the ones they happen to know”[29]
Knowledge of emerging trends Up-to-date knowledge of field can help sell more books and influence scholarship[30] May constantly be seeking the next big trend instead of focusing on bread-and-butter manuscripts
Understanding of academic market “Mastering the terrain and culture” of academic readership may be result in higher sales[31] May search for guaranteed sales rather than groundbreaking, controversial manuscripts
Imagine successful books before they approach May help conceptualize success through strong vision May discard too many potentially successful proposals that don’t fit the mould of an ideal book[32]

As the table shows, many characteristics of an ideal acquisitions editor can be contradicted – and are, in the literature itself. This suggests that these qualities are identified subjectively and are highly dependent on factors such as the size of the university press, the breadth of the press’s list, the fields in which the editor acquires, the publishing process at the press, and the qualities of the production, marketing, and distribution departments that work with the editor. Milroy, a 40-year veteran of the publishing industry and a former acquisitions editor, notes that many publishing companies in Canada were started or developed by amateurs who made up strategies as they went along. There may be some generalities to choosing what books to publish, or what characteristics in an editor secures the most desirable books, but “every situation is different and every book is different.”[33]


Professional Literature on Scholarly Acquisitions

In addition to scholarly literature, there is a variety of professional literature on the Canadian publishing industry to be found in periodicals such as Quill and Quire, and newsletters and periodicals from publishing associations, including the Association of American University Presses (AAUP), the ABPBC, the Association of Canadian Publishers (ACP), and the Association of Canadian University Presses (ACUP). Articles in these and other similar periodicals focus on the practical aspects of scholarly publishing and are probably more widely read; at UBC Press, for example, Quill and Quire is circulated as a hard and electronic copy, and association e-newsletters are routinely sent to all staff members. However, like the scholarly literature, the professional literature contains little discussion of acquisitions editing in any form, particularly when it comes to scholarly publishing.

An oft-discussed issue at UBC Press meetings is the shrinking market of individuals purchasing scholarly monographs, the raison d’être of university presses. This is similarly reflected in the pages of Quill and Quire, which published seven articles in the last ten years on various strategies employed by Canadian university presses to raise readership. As early as 1997, Quill and Quire suggested that because “most scholarly books in Canada do not sell more than 500 copies … why not simply make bibliographic records and abstracts available electronically and let libraries print copies of the book – utilitarian ones, admittedly – if and when clients demand them?”[34] This phenomenon has been attributed to shrinking budgets for libraries, once reliable buyers of monographs, and will be further explored in chapter 2.

Professional literature in the 1990s also indicated a trend toward awareness of competition from other scholarly presses as well as trade publishers. At the same time, trade publishing by university presses was being vigorously pursued. Quill and Quire has examined in detail the shift of Canadian university presses to seeking out titles with trade appeal and buttressing them with higher publicity budgets and inventive marketing schemes.[35] However, American university presses that have dipped into trade publishing “have seen mounting deficits due to heavy returns,” and have even abandoned marginal academic fields, in some cases jeopardizing their scholarly mandates, to keep their dubious trade programs afloat.[36] Tracking these trends has allowed university presses and interested scholars to see how colleagues across North America are dealing with industry-wide problems related to lists, if not individual acquisitions.


Education and Training for Acquisitions Editors

In addition to literature, publishing professionals’ training and education informs theory and practice in scholarly publishing. Jean Wilson notes a generational divide in the way new acquisitions editors are trained. When she began her editing career at University of Toronto Press in 1968, she received two years of apprenticeship as a copy editor while on the job, with senior editors going over her work. This practice, she says, has become less commonplace, replaced by publishing program internships and increased use of specialist freelance editors.[37] Laura Macleod agrees, noting that “there’s no time for young editors to apprentice anymore.”[38]

A relatively new phenomenon, publishing programs and courses, are growing in number, and are becoming an important avenue in influencing publishing practices by producing many qualified and motivated – if not experienced – individuals who are entering the industry. Notable publishing programs in Canada include Simon Fraser University’s Master of Publishing Program and Summer Publishing Workshops, Centennial College’s Book and Magazine Publishing Program, Humber College’s Creative Book Publishing Certificate, and Ryerson University’s Publishing Certificate Program. Internationally, prestigious publishing programs and courses are offered at Oxford Brookes University and the University of Reading in the United Kingdom; the National University of Ireland; the University of Stirling in Scotland; and Columbia College, New York University, and Stanford University in the United States. Publishing programs can also be found in Australia, Germany, India, Kenya, Malaysia, and the Netherlands, among other countries. In examining the websites for these programs, I found that none offers any formal course in acquisitions, and few even include it on a list of expected outcomes or skills acquired.[39]

Wilson also noted that she received much benefit and training from meeting industry colleagues in provincial and national associations. Since her career began, the number of these industry organizations has grown, and they have figured more significantly in the publishing industry, continuing to offer education and training for both freelance and staff editors of all types.[40] Some of Canada’s industry organizations include the Editors’ Association of Canada (formerly the Freelance Editors’ Association of Canada, which Wilson helped to found in 1979), ACP (1976), ACUP (1972), and, more locally, the ABPBC (1974).

Macleod noted these absences more than ten years ago when she wrote that higher education publishing programs and editors’ associations offer training in copy editing, managing editing, structural editing, and proofreading, but “very little for acquisitions beyond an introductory lecture or two.” She further argues that, “contrary to the opinion that acquisitions editors are born, not made, many acquisitions skills can in fact be taught.”[41] Her own “wish list” of teachable acquisitions-related topics includes:

  • effective presentation of prospective projects to other members of the publishing team, including both press staff and editorial board members
  • retention of good authors
  • research methods to recognize market trends and indicators
  • contract negotiation and development[42]

In fact, many of these skills are being taught; the latter three, for example, are discussed in detail in Simon Fraser University’s Master of Publishing Program, albeit not as major concepts, and not under the rubric of acquisitions editing. The AAUP, the foremost scholarly press organization in North America, has many educational resources, expert lists, regional and national conferences, and workshops where publishing staff can exchange information and industry wisdom on many publishing subjects, but similarly has relatively few resources on acquisitions editing. One of those resources was a two-day program in 2008 aimed at new and early-career acquisitions editors that explored:

  • list building (defining your niche, building in new areas quickly, pb reprints and co-pubs, and book series)
  • title budgets (from the P&L to the pub plan)
  • contracts (royalties & advances, subsidiary rights, and digital rights issues)
  • the publishing process (peer review, working with support staff, the editorial board)
  • ethics and competition with other presses
  • communications with in-house colleagues (especially working with marketing)
  • managing authors in the publishing partnership process[43]

Again, several of these subjects are explored in publishing programs and courses, including the Simon Fraser University Master of Publishing Program. It appears that many acquisition-related topics are covered in the educational initiatives, but there is no curriculum model for what areas should be covered when teaching acquisitions editing.

Milroy calls publishing “anarchistic,” with a history of entrepreneurs reinventing the rules of the trade with each new venture. While there are certain pervasive industrial models that approach the status of accepted industry wisdom – for example, he says that many financial parameters for scholarly publishing emerged from the model of McGraw-Hill – most publishers had to invent their strategies on the fly.[44] This is borne out by a 2008 AAUP panel session entitled “Finding and Training Acquisitions Editors,” in which three senior members of U.S. scholarly presses discussed strategies for hiring and teaching acquisitions editors. Some general principles were trotted out, but the session mostly demonstrated that even experienced professionals at prestigious university presses do not have systematic practices when it comes to hiring or training new acquisitions editors. For example, University of Pennsylvania Press has no training process; new acquisitions editors are copied on all memos, and attend board meetings and formal seminars for interns – including a new acquisitions editor with no previous scholarly publishing experience.[45]

Because different presses have achieved success in their particular areas of publishing through myriad acquisitions strategies, there is no accepted paradigm for acquisitions success. What may therefore be valuable to educational and training programs in the future is an overview of acquisitions editing strategy with case studies, which looks at strategies employed at different presses, and benchmarking of their results. This would be more easily accomplished with scholarly presses than with trade, as scholarly presses are more structured and generally pursue manuscripts in the same fields.

Generally, publishers think of basic editing as the foundation upon which to build editorial skills, and acquisitions as the cornerstone of creating good books – the decision-making on which manuscripts are worthy of editing in the first place. In a 1991 article, former University of Washington Press editor-in-chief Naomi Pascal demanded that acquisitions editors demonstrate competence in foundational editing skills – such as substantive, stylistic, and copy editing – even if they won’t be doing the actual work: “Very few acquiring editors, it is true, have the time to carry out meticulous line editing of every manuscript they bring in. But shouldn’t all dentists know how to clean teeth, even if they usually leave the actual performance to others?”[46] Milroy adds that experience and knowledge in publishing areas such as marketing and sales provide valuable background for acquisitions editors, as it has for Emily Andrew and Melissa Pitts. Formal curricular programs, he says, help students develop the “vocabulary” of publishing and learn the basic structure and function of the industry, but students don’t graduate with industry-ready skills – only experience in the workplace can equip them with those.[47]

Macleod recommends that university presses “place more emphasis not only on developing formal training opportunities for beginning acquisitions editors, but also on education for those in mid-career.”[48] Milroy agrees, citing short, intensive workshops – such as the aforementioned AAUP workshops – as excellent training opportunities.[49] In practice, however, scholarly publishing staff are already severely taxed on time and forced to operate on skimpy budgets, making mid-career educational activities a challenge to accomplish. At UBC Press, for example, “the level of activity makes if difficult to allow for consistent staff training and professional development”[50] in all editorial activities, including acquisitions.



While many generalizations can be made about scholarly publishing, the unique history, staffing, areas of focus, and strategies of each university press are so varied that one cannot broadly apply a conclusion about one press to another. For this reason, because the nature of acquisitions is itself slow and multi-faceted, and because publishers discuss such acquisitions theory outside the confines of the journal, scholarly literature chiefly offers generalizations that may outline the ideal for acquisitions but often bear little resemblance to reality. Professional literature, on the other hand, tends to be case-specific and to focus on news and market trends. Publishing programs and courses offered by higher learning institutions and professional associations concentrate on bricks-and-mortar subjects in publishing while appearing to teach little about acquisitions, but in fact do touch upon numerous aspects; rather, they lack a cohesive curriculum plan on acquisitions editing because there is no pervasive industry model or strategy. Training opportunities exist for early- and mid-career acquisitions editors, however, and these educational and training avenues may mature and mingle with the apprenticeship model that has been prevalent in “traditional” acquisitions training of the previous generation of editors.

The incomplete picture of acquisitions gleaned from these sources points to a strong focus on the practical aspect – the actual acquiring of manuscripts. As noted previously, despite the valuable lessons that can be learned in an academic environment, being an acquisitions editor is a vocation that requires a great deal of entrepreneurship, on-the-fly learning, and multi-tasking, qualities that are more effectively acquired and honed in the workplace than in the classroom. Chapter 2 will explore the acquisitions process in detail, based on observation and analysis of practices at UBC Press.



Chapter 2: Editorial Acquisitions Processes at UBC Press

Whilechapter 1 examined theoretical constructs around acquisitions, this chapter will look at acquisitions practice at UBC Press. Specifically, I will explore how numerous factors both inside and outside the press influence the decision to publish, examine how the press attracts prospective authors, and look at some strategic concerns related to acquisitions, such as list-building and series creation.

The acquisitions process in scholarly publishing is markedly different from that of trade publishing, with a highly regimented system in place to ensure a work’s academic integrity. After a manuscript proposal is approved for possible publication by the press director (usually seeking consensus of the acquisitions editors), peer reviewers scrutinize the manuscript and offer their assessments. The author then has a chance to respond to any criticisms of or questions about the manuscript. From there, the press’s publications board, composed of scholars independent of the press’s staff, approves publication under the university imprint based on the reviewers’ assessments, the author’s responses, and further input from the editorial staff. The final decision to publish, however, rests with the director.

Acquisitions editors and publishers look for certain things in a book, readers look for others, and board members still others. While these attributes may not be mutually exclusive, the differences often influence decisions on whether a book will be published. Factors outside the direct publishing process, such as maintenance of good relations with the scholarly community at large and competition from other presses for the manuscript, can also affect the publishing decision. Lastly, thinking about an overall strategy for acquisitions will be explored.


Pitching UBC Press to Authors

An acquisitions meeting between senior editor Emily Andrew and Dr. Karen Flynn, a professor of African-American Studies at the University of Illinois, is the foundation for the following discussion. The two discussed Flynn’s proposal for a manuscript that explores the history of the Afro-Caribbean diaspora, focusing on women who have migrated to Canada.

The meeting took place in Vancouver, where Flynn was attending the Congress of the Humanities and Social Sciences, or simply “Congress” (a major scholarly meeting that will be discussed in detail in “Where to Acquire Manuscripts” on page 27). During this meeting, Andrew noted the reasons she was interested in the manuscript: the research explores new terrain in the history and sociology of Caribbean-born women in Canada. Furthermore, the proposed book would fit into several of UBC Press’s traditional areas of strength – Canadian history, gender studies, and transnational and migration studies. The fact that the manuscript has a secondary focus on nursing was of interest; UBC Press, Andrew noted, has recently developed a sub-list in Canadian nursing history with books such as An Officer and a Lady: Canadian Military Nursing and the Second World War, Healing Henan: Canadian Nurses at the North China Mission, 1888–1947, and Place and Practice in Canadian Nursing History. The synergy created by these books, Andrew suggested, could help get Flynn’s book read by more scholars.

In pitching UBC Press to a prospective author, Andrew discusses sales points that can be divided into two parts: creating the best possible book out of the author’s scholarship, and getting the finished book into the hands of as many readers as possible – in other words, the editorial and production process, and marketing, sales, and distribution. Both of these aspects of the prospective author sales pitch will be described below.


Editorial and production process

Andrew cited UBC Press’s record of author satisfaction and high number of repeat authors as credentials of its strong editorial and production staff. She made especial note of the expediency of the publishing process thanks to the press’s better use of technology, greater selectivity, and commitment to a high level of service to authors. If all processes go smoothly, the release of a scholarly monograph can take as little as nine months from the receipt of the author’s final manuscript submission (although ten to twelve months is a more typical time frame). This makes UBC Press twice as fast as other major Canadian university presses at publishing a book – a quality that, while not important to the press in itself, is viewed as important by authors. Furthermore, Andrew said, the press’s acquisitions editors are committed to reading significant portions of a manuscript before the review process, giving the author greater confidence in the work before it is submitted for peer review. (It is an open secret that few acquisitions editors read much of an author’s manuscript at all.) This means that, along with the copy editor, at least two editors – the acquisitions editor and the production editor – will read most or all of the manuscript during the publishing process.

Andrew also detailed the major areas where she could be helpful in making suggestions to the author. These include:

  • smoothing transitions between chapters;
  • identifying opportunities to push scholarship into new directions. For example, Andrew noted that the history and sociology of black Canadians from the 1920s to the 1950s has been little studied. This is an area of focus this book could pioneer if Flynn wishes to examine this time period;
  • pointing out emerging scholarly trends, which could help the author tailor a manuscript for higher readership or course adoption potential.

As the latter two points indicate, Andrew is professionally interested in having a solid overview of an academic field, which can provide helpful counterpoint to a scholar’s specialization.

An important part of a press’s ability to publish any manuscript is available funding. (While presented as a given during the meeting, funding is an under-discussed if not ignored area in scholarly literature. For further discussion, see “Funding” on page 47.) Andrew told Flynn about several major funding sources for scholarly books for which her book is eligible. While Flynn was encouraged to seek out possible funding sources to support publication from her home institution or from research organizations in related fields, Andrew assured her that UBC Press would apply for funding on her behalf to raise the likelihood of publication should the work be accepted.

When an accepted manuscript passes to production, Andrew said, UBC Press employs professional proofreaders, a practice that is becoming less prevalent among university presses due to cost. Attention is also paid to a book’s design; the press employs prestigious freelance designers to give each book a distinctive cover, and many have won design awards. The interiors of many books are designed and typeset using templates created by award-winning book designers, which makes the finished book attractive but still takes advantage of production efficiencies, expediting the production process. Finally, the press’s books have been recognized with excellent reviews and numerous awards in all fields in which it publishes.

Above all, Andrew further encouraged Flynn to find a press that was a good fit for her needs, and, as she noted to me after the meetings, she refrained from speaking of the disadvantages of other presses, such as lack of personal attention. In a small and collegial industry such as scholarly publishing, it is usually counterproductive to berate the competition, even if a press tacitly defines its strengths in comparison with others.


Distribution, sales, and marketing

During the meeting, Andrew emphasized the reach of UBC Press’s distribution network. UBC Press has a distribution agreement with University of Washington Press (UWP), which lists UBC Press books in its catalogue and sells them to U.S. bookstores and book-buying venues. UWP also displays, promotes, and sells UBC Press books at selected U.S. learned society conferences it attends. While many U.S. academics and booksellers view Canadian scholarly books with suspicion, Andrew said UBC Press is expert at getting its books sold south of the border. In addition, Peter Milroy attends major international rights events, including the Frankfurt and London Book Fairs, the AAUP annual general meeting, and BookExpo America, maximizing opportunities for subsidiary rights sales.

Additionally, while it is common practice among university presses to release hardcover and paperback editions simultaneously to facilitate course adoptions, UBC Press releases paperbacks at least six months after the hardcover release. This allows the press to maximize hardcover sales, chiefly to libraries. The delayed paperback release also affords a book a second chance at being highlighted in the press’s catalogue, prolonging its life in the frontlist.

Finally, UBC Press is highly conscious of the timing of book releases. Fall books are aggressively marketed for higher education course adoptions in both the fall and winter semesters, while spring books gain a central presence at the annual Congress of the Humanities and Social Sciences in late May and early June. In fact, books are often rushed through production and printing with an eye to Congress; as noted in the following section, Congress is the most important venue in Canada to launch and display new scholarly works in the social sciences and humanities, and many authors enjoy launching books there to show their colleagues across the country. It is also the major venue to court prospective authors – one of those, of course, being Karen Flynn.

Where to Acquire Manuscripts

Because there are always opportunities to find a manuscript, most editors never really get out of “acquisitions mode.” However, academic and learned society meetings are one of the most effective places to acquire; the critical mass of academics in attendance, the general atmosphere of scholarly enthusiasm, and the myriad papers and presentations prepared for these meetings make them ideal venues at which to hear about cutting-edge scholarship and scoop up manuscript ideas. In turn, scholars expect publishers to attend (or at least send representatives to) these meetings, so they often arrive armed with questions and book proposals to shop around. University presses always showcase their titles at such events, but Milroy notes that book sales don’t make attendance worthwhile at most conferences, especially those in the U.S. Rather, the acquisitions opportunities and goodwill generated for press authors are the chief reasons to attend academic meetings.[51]

In 2008, the University of British Columbia hosted the largest-ever Congress, with over 10,000 delegates in attendance representing sixty-eight learned societies and seventy-two universities, colleges, and academic institutions from across North America. The hub of university press activity is the Congress book fair. Here, publishers display recently published books in hopes of sales and course adoptions, while acquisitions editors meet their existing authors and hunt for new authors and projects. In turn, academics come with papers, presentations and seminars, trying to generate interest in their research among publishers as well as colleagues. There is even a perennial Congress-sponsored session about how to get published, featuring a panel of Canadian university press editors and managers, that is usually well attended.

The 2008 Congress hosted thirty-one scholarly presses, including every established university press in Canada, the international conglomerates Oxford University Press and Cambridge University Press, major U.S. scholarly presses – Harvard, Yale, and the University of Chicago among them – represented by one distributor, the scholarly vanity press The Edwin Mellen Press, and the commercial academic presses Fernwood and Between the Lines Press. Several trade publishers were also present, including the multinationals Penguin and Random House, and the independent B.C. presses Arsenal Pulp Press, Anvil Press, and Talon Books.


A survey of Canadian scholarly publishers

To gain a big picture of acquisitions activities at Congress, I gathered information from representatives of eleven Canadian scholarly publishers.[52] The presses came from six provinces and had publishing programs ranging in output from under ten books per year to over 160. All presses had at least one acquiring editor present: five had one acquisitions editor attempting to acquire manuscripts, three had two editors, and three had three or more.[53] (Even trade presses were trolling for manuscripts; Soucouyant, the acclaimed novel by Simon Fraser University professor David Chariandy, was acquired at Congress several years before by Arsenal Pulp Press.) Furthermore, all presses distributed take-home material encouraging prospective authors to consider them when submitting proposals, usually by referring them to their web site. Only four presses, however – University of Toronto Press, McGill-Queen’s University Press, UBC Press, and Black Rose Books, the three largest and the smallest of the eleven presses – provided hard-copy submission guidelines for authors.

Representatives from all presses were also asked how many meetings they had had with authors (scheduled or unscheduled, with at least one manuscript idea discussed) and the approximate proportion of these meetings that were author-initiated. By the fifth day of Congress, each press had met with between five and fifty academic authors. Among both large and small presses, authors were responsible for initiating a substantial proportion of these meetings; according to the editors interviewed, authors were considered “mostly” the initiators of manuscript pitches at University of Toronto Press (Canada’s largest scholarly press), Broadview Press (a medium-sized press), and the press of the Canadian Plains Research Center (a small press). This information only reflects a portion of the Congress period, and most editors did not keep track of numbers of meetings or who initiated them, but it is clear that both scholarly presses and scholars consider Congress an important venue for acquisitions activity: both initiate meetings that may lead to manuscript submission and publication. And because presses of all sizes are engaged in author-initiated meetings, it appears that a large part of acquiring is making one’s press visible at key events and oneself available to prospective authors.


Other acquisitions activities

Acquisitions editors also actively solicit manuscripts outside of Congress and other learned society meetings. To attract as many interested scholars as possible, the editors tour a cluster of universities – up to five per week for two or more weeks – to give academic book publishing workshops. These workshops ostensibly provide general information for scholars who are interested in publishing, such as characteristics to look for when choosing a publisher, converting a dissertation to book form, and writing an appealing proposal.[54] However, workshops also raise the press’s profile to scholars, particularly those based in central or eastern Canada, and act as fact-finding missions to determine what scholars are working on and whether it might be of interest to the press.[55]

Some authors sign on to UBC Press after making first contact at these workshops, but given the length of the publishing process, these meetings often do not bear fruit for quite some time. As the UBC Press Self-Study states, “this is a long-term investment, and manuscripts rising from these meetings can appear anywhere from several months to several years after our visit.”[56]

Lastly, acquisitions editors read scholarly journals to keep abreast of interesting research and see emerging trends in particular disciplines. Interesting articles often lead to a follow-up cold call to a scholar to express interest in their work. This is obviously a scattershot strategy, and very often a scholar is far from having enough material to complete a manuscript, but a simple phone call can be flattering and remind a scholar of his or her options of where to publish.

The methods and venues for UBC Press acquisitions editors to find prospective authors are varied, as seen in this chapter so far. However, the process of moulding ideas into a fully approved and reviewed manuscript is much more structured.


Vetting a Book Proposal

As stated in “Getting Your Manuscript Accepted” on the UBC Press website, a proposal must contain “a physical description of the manuscript (length, rough number of illustrations, tables, and figures), a table of contents, abstract, and chapter-by-chapter description. The place of the work in the context of other literature in the field should be indicated, as should the level of audience.”[57] Despite the specificity of these guidelines, the level of detail in submitted proposals varies greatly. This affects an editor’s assessment of the prospective manuscript’s level of interest, fitness for publication, and appropriateness for the press’s list. (I will elaborate on this point in “Factors in Acquiring Manuscripts” on page 33.) In some cases, the acquisitions editor may ask the submitting author to revise a proposal – sometimes more than once – to increase the likelihood of smooth acceptance at a subsequent acquisitions meeting. Such a strategy can help the author more clearly articulate his or her work, says Milroy. It forces the author to develop a plan and coherent outline for his or her manuscript on paper, conceptualize an audience, and demonstrate ways in which the manuscript differs from published works and contributes to scholarship.[58]

A proposal is also useful as a preliminary assessment of the author’s writing ability. By judging the author’s ability to articulate and organize ideas, present a compelling argument, and demonstrate competence in grammar and other mechanics, the editor can gauge how much work might be required on a forthcoming manuscript.

Acquisitions Meetings

Any proposals deemed ready for the next step are brought to the bi-weekly acquisitions meeting, attended by the acquisitions editor and the director. In general, all proposals that meet a minimum standard of interest or quality of writing are brought to the acquisitions meeting; this gives other editors a chance to vet a title on its own merits, and see if a questionable proposal could be developed to fill some niche. It is not unusual for an acquisitions editor to bring forward a proposal he or she has some doubt about, as UBC Press is attempting to grow its list. However, the editor should only bring proposals that are sufficiently complete for the other editors and the director to make an informed decision.

While an editor may outline strong reasons to accept a manuscript and advocate its publication at the acquisitions meeting, he or she will also note the faults inherent in the proposal and express his or her reservations about it. From there, the other editors and the director discuss the work informally to decide whether they want to see a completed manuscript.

In the meetings I attended, there was little controversy about proposals. After some initial discussion, the decision to proceed or not is usually heavily weighted in one direction, if not unanimous, and nearly all decisions are reached by consensus. Furthermore, most proposals are accepted, probably because they have already been vetted by the acquiring editor.


Factors in Acquiring Manuscripts

Based on acquisitions meetings attended from May to October 2008, here is a description of the factors mentioned in decisions on which proposals to accept:

Fit into UBC Press list. This is the most commonly mentioned factor in deciding whether to pursue a manuscript. If a book proposal about unsuitable subject matter arrives over the transom, it is usually rejected and referred to a more appropriate press. (Such, as mentioned in chapter 1, is the collegiality of the scholarly publishing industry.) A book’s subject matter is also a major factor in projecting its sales (see “Sales and course adoption potential” on page 35). When discussing a prospective manuscript’s fit in the press’s list, editors frequently compare it to previous books, using them as case studies of sorts to predict the success of the present proposal. Series in which the proposed book may fit are always suggested.

Acquiring in familiar fields also makes future work easier in other departments. Production, sales, and marketing data on previous books in the field can be used to estimate future parameters, such as production cost, number of course adoptions, and library sales, and help inform decisions such as print run and markets to target.

Funding availability and eligibility. As Canadian university presses are not-for-profit organizations, they depend heavily on subsidies to publish. The most important criterion for any piece of work remains good scholarship. However, without any potential source of funding, there is a good chance that a manuscript will not make it to peer review. (Funding is discussed further on page 47.) Exceptions have been made for works where funding is unavailable; a recent example is The Big Red Machine: How the Liberal Party Dominates Politics by Stephen Clarkson, one of Canada’s most famous political scientists and a Governor General’s Award winner for co-authoring Trudeau and Our Times. Clarkson’s fame combined with subject matter that has wide appeal while still fitting into UBC Press’s list made The Big Red Machine viable to publish even without outside funding. (The book has sold 4,000 copies.)[59] Another example, says Schmidt, is the upcoming title Multi-Party Litigation: The Strategic Context by Wayne V. McIntosh and Cynthia L. Cates, a study of class action lawsuits that is expected to do well in reviews and sales. He notes that such a book must be either a work of groundbreaking scholarship, a significant book in a subject area where the press hopes to raise its profile or “break in,” or a book that fills an important niche and is likely to yield high sales.[60]

That being said, notes Cullen, UBC Press often publishes works written by Canadian scholars, which makes many of them eligible for support from the Aid to Scholarly Publications Program (ASPP), the principal source of funding for Canadian scholarly books (further discussed on page 48).[61] Authors are also asked to pursue or provide information on funding opportunities specific to their fields.

Sales and course adoption potential. Despite the scholarly literature and innumerable university press mission statements that claim otherwise, sales play a role in the decision to publish. Books expected to sell well or have many course adoptions are often published more quickly, where possible, to realize greater profits. Sales usually depend most heavily on a book’s subject. Sales also inform other criteria; for example, monographs generally sell better than edited collections (see next item). As noted in “Fit into UBC Press list,” sales and adoption potential are often estimated by looking at how previous books in the same subject areas have fared.

Subsidiary rights are considered a minor factor when acquiring a book, given the narrow focus of many scholarly monographs. Books about the U.S. or Asia have sold successfully in the past in those territories, but subsidiary rights sales generally are no substitute for funding or other criteria when deciding whether to accept a proposal.

Monograph or collection? Monographs tend to sell in higher numbers and pick up more course adoptions, and are less time-consuming and more straightforward for the acquisitions editor (and for production editors and marketing staff). The editor need only deal with one author – or several authors in a multi-authored work – and one set of revisions, instead of multiple versions from different contributors. There are usually fewer concerns about inconsistency, unity, varying levels of scholarship in individual contributions, and authors meeting deadlines. Alison Cairns noted the monograph’s advantages in her Master of Publishing project report, asserting that “UBC Press is becoming more and more adamant that collections must be outstanding before it publishes them.”[62]

Crossover potential in other disciplines. Sanford Thatcher noted in a 1999 article that, “because of their broad view of the scholarly horizon, editors often have a special fondness for interdisciplinary writing, and it is no accident that university presses publish a great deal of it.”[63] In the last decade, there have also been increasing numbers of multi-collaborator research initiatives – such as the Network of Centres of Excellence program – that fund interdisciplinary studies and encourage publication in these areas. Whatever the reason, research with a high degree of interdisciplinarity is fashionable among scholars. From a publishing point of view, an interdisciplinary book can target more than one scholarly audience, which may make it more attractive to publish.

Milroy notes, however, that some disciplines are quite parochial, with scholars gravitating toward “pure” explorations of those disciplines. For example, history and political science do not generally mix well. Interdisciplinary books may also have lower course adoption potential, since most undergraduate courses focus on a single subject area.[64]

Crossover potential in trade. UBC Press’s publishing program is not trade-focused, but the editors and director are conscious of opportunities for particular books to sell well among general readers. In past meetings, however, it is clear that trade crossover potential is not usually a deciding factor in the publishing decision, but merely a consideration when estimating sales potential.

Length. UBC Press tends to publish books consisting of 80,000 to 110,000 words, or 220 to 300 typeset pages. Shorter books may be perceived as having less value for the retail price, whereas longer books take more time and resources to produce, although there can be a certain “economy of scale” associated with large books, since a production editor must devote some time to becoming acquainted with a subject, no matter what the length. Large scholarly monographs are also less likely to be used in course adoptions, as instructors may be reluctant to read, evaluate, or assign them. The optimal length for UBC Press books is only a guideline, but accepted book proposals that are far above or below the suggested word count usually come with a recommendation to the author to adjust length accordingly.

Timeliness. Many scholarly books are necessarily written in retrospect to issues and events. However, whether a manuscript’s subject is in the news, is an ongoing issue, or represents the latest academic fashions, books that connect to ongoing issues are more hotly pursued.

Originality. Books that are the first of their kind, present a unique or pioneering argument, or synthesize areas in new ways, are noted by acquisitions editors. An indicator of the importance of originality is in the marketing of the finished book; many a UBC Press volume will advertise itself as “the first full-length study” on a particular subject.

Organization and structure of book’s argument.In most scholarly books, readers look for an overarching argument, purpose, or observation. This process may be helped along with the book information form, which asks the author to provide a one-sentence summary of the work. The editor evaluates the scholarly strength of a book based on the presentation of evidence and argument in the rest of the text.

Strength of proposal. The author’s success in presenting a convincing proposal can be a litmus test for his or her ability to express ideas. A disorganized, overly general, or poorly written proposal can cast a promising project in doubt. In one case, the director and editors agreed to request a completed introduction or sample chapter of the prospective manuscript because the quality of the proposal raised concerns about the author’s ability to clearly articulate arguments over an entire book.

Completeness and balance of argument, scholarship, and perspectives. Editors are quick to point out a seeming gap, missing perspective, or otherwise absent consideration in a book’s line of inquiry. For example, a recent proposal exploring Canadian infrastructure projects’ effects on local residents explored United Empire Loyalist traditions, but made no mention of First Nations or Acadian traditions despite their importance in the region. The proposal was accepted for review, but the editor was asked to note these omissions to the author.

The balance of theoretical and practical material is also a consideration. While every book approaches its subject differently, and different disciplines have varying general approaches, it is up to the editors to determine whether a submitted proposal has covered enough ground in each area.

Reputation of author. Senior or respected scholars, as well as those with a public profile, may have their reputations counted more heavily. Because their names have some caché, they are usually able to achieve higher sales than a new author. For this reason, a renowned scholar, or one with a saleable name, may be published even without financial support. Stephen Clarkson, who wrote The Big Red Machine, is an example; another is Desmond Morton, a renowned Canadian historian and author of Fight or Pay. Given its tight budget, however, the press will almost never get involved in a manuscript bidding war.[65]

Previous experience with author. Authors who have previously published with UBC Press are noted. For example, Rod Preece has written a number of books on the history and philosophy of animal ethics, creating a one-author mini-list at the press. The level of scholarship in his work is consistently high, and he has been loyal to the press when he could publish with larger, more lucrative presses (one of his UBC Press books was co-published with Routledge). For these reasons, when ASPP funding for one of his books was in doubt, the editors and director decided to publish it even without funding. (The ASPP grant later came through.)[66]
In another case, an author who had previously published with the press submitted a strong second proposal. Although the first book was reviewed well and the author’s reputation in his field is sterling, the experience of working with him was so negative that the press was reluctant to accept this proposal.

These are among the factors that have been discussed when taking proposals into consideration at UBC Press acquisitions meetings. However, they are only the ones I have observed, and many more can factor in the publishing decision.

From acceptance at an editorial acquisitions meeting, it may take months or even years to receive the completed manuscript from the author. During this time, the ideas that were brought forth in the proposal have changed as the author has made progress. This, says Milroy, may lead to an unsatisfactory or inappropriate submission that requires major reworking, or may even face rejection. Communicating with the author between acceptance of a proposal for review and submission of a draft manuscript, he adds, can save time and effort on the part of both the author and the press.[67] This suggestion will be further explored in chapter 3.



A significant proportion of proposals, either complete submissions or casual inquiries, are rejected out of hand. Jean Wilson estimated that one-third of all inquiries result in immediate rejection, due chiefly to inappropriate subject matter, including inquiries about poetry and literary fiction.[68] The earlier a proposal is rejected in the acquisitions process, Wilson notes, the better, because this reserves the staff’s valuable time and effort for accepted manuscripts. As noted earlier in this chapter, UBC Press places great emphasis on getting manuscripts published promptly, which requires all acquisitions and editorial-production staff to maximize the use of their time and resources.

In all rejections, the acquiring editor or director sends a letter politely declining to publish and usually recommending another publisher to approach. This helps maintain good editor-author relations, the importance of which is discussed on page 45.


Peer Review and the Publications Board

When the manuscript is submitted, it is read by three people: the acquisitions editor and two peer reviewers, or readers, who assess it for scholarly value, current relevance of the scholarship, and general fitness for publication. The mandated evaluation period of six weeks is shorter than in other presses because, as noted in “Pitching UBC Press to Authors” (page 23), the truncated publication timeline is part of UBC Press’s strategy to attract authors; commitment to punctuality seems to express to authors that the press cares about the book, says Milroy. In practice, few reviewers meet the six-week limit for reading and commenting on a manuscript; a more typical turnaround is eleven to twelve weeks.[69] However, the acquisitions editor is choosy about which peer reviewers he or she uses, and monitors the peer review period rigorously. A prestigious reader who consistently fails to meet deadlines would be unacceptable at UBC Press because of the time element.[70]

What peer reviewers have to say about a manuscript is a major determinant in whether it is accepted for publication. Their assessments are recorded and used to determine a manuscript’s fitness for publication, forming the core of the dossier that is submitted to both the UBC Press publications board, which approves all manuscripts for publication, and the CFHSS, which considers books for ASPP funding. Books with ecstatic reviews that are considered to incorporate groundbreaking scholarship are given higher precedence in most funding competitions. Thus, peer reviewer selection can make or break a book.


Choosing peer reviewers

Acquisitions editors generally take two weeks to seek out and reach agreements with reviewers to read a manuscript. Reviewers must be free of conflict of interest, and should have some reputation in the area of the manuscript they are evaluating. Moreover, a reader must maintain intellectual rigour but still be open to a manuscript’s ideas; a known climate change skeptic would not be called upon to review a book that takes climate change as fact, for example. Some scholars simply do not make appropriate readers in any case, Wilson notes, for reasons such as mean-spiritedness, tardiness with deadlines, or unhelpful comments, among others.[71] For her successor, Darcy Cullen, Wilson even compiled a list of reviewers in her fields of acquisitions whom she doesn’t recommend approaching. The practice of flagging readers whom experience has shown are inappropriate for particular manuscripts (or any manuscript) is commonplace, as noted by Judy Metro, formerly a Yale University Press editor.[72]

One resource for potential peer reviewers is the author. The editor often asks the author to suggest reviewers, to give a sense of the types of scholars to use, as well as to identify scholars who have a conflict of interest or are otherwise unsuitable. Upon receipt, the editor vets these names for appropriateness and decides upon two reviewers.

Peer review feedback is based on the following questions:

  1. What are the objectives and content of the manuscript? Are the objectives clear?
  2. Is the scholarship sound? Is the author thoroughly acquainted with the literature on the subject? Does the manuscript as it stands make a significant original contribution to its field? How important is the subject?
  3. To what audience is the manuscript directed? Would it serve only specialists in the field? Would you want this work in your personal library?
  4. Do you have any suggestions for the improvement of the manuscript relating to style, inaccuracies, omissions, or any other points, either substantive or editorial? Would this manuscript benefit by being shortened or lengthened? If so, please suggest what might be condensed or expanded.
  5. Is the organization of the manuscript sound and presented in a readable style? Are the author’s techniques for handling notes, systems of citation, and bibliography sound? If included, do the illustrations, tables, graphs, charts, maps, photos, and appendices add to the manuscript?
  6. Is the manuscript as it stands acceptable for publication? Please comment in detail, stating specifically yes, no, or not in its present form. If a revised manuscript may be publishable, please indicate clearly the nature of the revisions required.
  7. How important is it that this work be published? Does this work duplicate or substantially recapitulate other works? Does it add to the scholarly debate in the field?
  8. What is your overall recommendation? Is the manuscript:
    ++(a) a very strong contribution to scholarship that should be published
    ++(b) a strong contribution to scholarship that should be published, with the request that my suggestions for revision be considered
    ++(c) a contribution which, while modest, is interesting, and which can be recommended for publication
    ++(d) the manuscript should be revised and re-evaluated (along the lines of question 6 above)
    ++(e) no contribution to the field; not recommended for publication.[73]

As noted in “Factors in Acquisitions Decisions” (page 33), UBC Press places strong emphasis on originality (#2, #7, #8), strength of scholarship (#2, #8), and organization and clarity (#1, #5). In addition, the breadth of the audience is considered (#3); this can help the editor determine the book’s sales and crossover potential. This list of questions also requests suggestions to improve the manuscript (#4, #6), emphasizing process. These questions are never changed from manuscript to manuscript. Such a practice may seem obvious, but this is not the case with, for example, Metro of Yale University Press, who tailors questions to get a desired response from a reader: “It is appropriate for the editor to voice his or her own agenda with the reader. For example, if I think the manuscript has course-book potential, I might ask the reader in my covering letter on comment on what, if anything would make it more valuable as a classroom text … If the author’s notes seem excessive, I will ask the reader to comment on the balance of notes and text.”[74] One could call UBC Press’s procedures more “fair” that those at other presses, but the Yale example of how an editor’s choice of readers, among other decisions, can dramatically affect the fate of a manuscript.

After receiving peer review feedback, the author, with the acquisitions editor’s assistance, writes a formal response in which he or she addresses any difficulties, criticism, clarifications, or questions in the manuscript, or provides justifications or reasons why the manuscript should be left so. The press’s basic strategy to request clear, cohesive revisions before resubmitting a manuscript is outlined in an internal document, “Main Steps to the Acquisitions Process”: “Ask the author for an informal response. This will help you guide her/him in revisions … When the revised [manuscript] is ready, ASK THE author to email a statement detailing revisions made – paying PARTICULAR attention to the points of intersection between reports [emphasis in original].”[75] A convincing response to one reader’s criticisms may be sufficient to allow a strong manuscript to pass without revision, but if both readers point out the same issues, revisions are strongly suggested.

All manuscripts require two strong reports – at least two “B” ratings, from question #8 – to be accepted for publication. To give an author the opportunity to respond to criticisms and revise the manuscript, the two supporting readers’ responses can come from one or two rounds of peer review. This document then becomes part of the manuscript’s dossier, and the next step cedes control of the manuscript to the publications board.


The publications board

The board, which is currently made up of eleven scholars in the social sciences and humanities, and one in the sciences, gives final approval on whether to proceed with publication. (In general, says Milroy, UBC Press attempts to have at least one scholar on the board who does not work in the social sciences and humanities.)As the UBC Press self-study states, the publications board “authorizes but does not mandate publication, a role left to the discretion of the Press management so that it can consider financial and strategic factors before committing resources.”[76] In theory, this means that manuscripts receiving board approval can still be rejected; in practice, with the time and energy that has already been invested in the project, the director will almost always decide to publish. The most common reason for not publishing even after board approval is financial unviability, says Milroy.[77]
The publications board itself is not expected to determine the financial implications of any project, or comment on its eligibility for funding.

Acquisitions editors attend board meetings but do not usually comment except to clarify any issues or answer questions. Their influence can be seen in the preparation of the manuscript’s dossier and assistance with the author in writing readers’ responses, but the decision is solely the board’s.


Editor-Author Relations

In large part, good acquisitions comes down to the quality of editorial experience that a press can offer its prospective authors. The first point of contact is the acquisitions editor, and, as noted in “Pitching UBC Press to Authors” on page 23, there is a strong emphasis on establishing good rapport with authors and assuring them of a good editorial experience.

Editor Gladys Topkis writes that “the cottage industry aspect of publishing – personal attention to books and authors and the involvement of the whole staff in the whole list – is most likely to be preserved in a professional/scholarly house, where the contribution of each book to the success of the list over time is significant and where relations with authors must be continually nurtured.”[78] Maintaining good editor-author relations in scholarly publishing, she argues, is more important than in trade publishing, even if that author isn’t published by the press. This is because “scholars have a network of their own, more tightly organized than the editors’. Just as a happy author or correspondent may produce leads to publishable manuscripts by others, so an unhappy one may discourage his friends from sending an editor their work or even from adopting a textbook published by the house.”[79] An acquisitions editor cannot work at the top of his or her profession, no matter how talented, if authors simply do not think to submit their manuscripts, or worse, avoid submitting them.

In addition, having special connections in a particular scholarly field gives an editor access to the zeitgeist and trends within that field. As noted in the section “Peer Review and the Publications Board” on page 40, an editor can later use these contacts as peer reviewers for a submitted manuscript – and a positive relationship with a reviewer can lead to a proposal submission. Editor-author relations could be more accurately termed editor-scholar relations to encompass the role of academics who are not writing books but who participate in the publishing process in other ways: as readers, as referrers of manuscripts from their colleagues, as customers and adopters, and as general champions of the press.

These relations can extend beyond editorial functions. Friendly contacts in the scholarly sphere can improve the reach of marketing efforts; they can even suggest new target markets and encourage course adoptions, improving sales figures. Because these contacts are often initiated at the acquisitions level, the efforts of acquisitions editors to build good editor-author relations resonate through a press’s entire operations, influencing its success in both scholarly and financial realms.



Reports of the demise of the scholarly book may be greatly exaggerated, but sales have declined, causing many university presses to pursue the trade market.[80]
UBC Press, however, is committed to its mandate to publish scholarly books. In addition, successful publishing of trade books generally involves financial costs, human resources, and industry contacts that the press does not possess. The UBC Press self-studyindicates that it has not found trade publishing particular profitable, for various reasons including lower pricing, skyrocketing return rates, consumer advertising costs, and author travel, which can easily outweigh revenue:

Publishing popular books aimed primarily at trade markets, while often interesting and enjoyable for staff, has not been particular rewarding for us financially. We watch our trade colleagues and fellow university presses that have strong trade orientations struggle to survive and realize this is not a magic bullet … While we promote to the trade titles that have potential for broader audiences, … we know that our strengths, editorially and promotionally, are in the academic sphere, and we choose what we publish with that clearly in mind. We believe that the primary raison d’être of a university press is to be a publisher of outstanding scholarly research.[81]

However, numerous scholarly books in UBC Press’s list have successfully crossed over into the trade market. The recently published Renegades: Canadians in the Spanish Civil War by Michael Petrou, the lead title for fall 2007, has sold 1,900 copies. Robert J. Muckle’s First Nations of British Columbia: An Anthropological Survey has been successful in both course adoptions and as an introduction for general readers, with 6,200 copies sold. With scholarly integrity and peer oversight firmly in place, the press has accepted a proposal for a manuscript on indigenous peoples in Atlantic Canada that is modelled after Muckle’s book.

University presses need to know that they can actually afford to publish a book they want to publish. At UBC Press, an average scholarly book costs $34,000 CAD to produce from acquisition to production to marketing and distribution.[82] As noted, a book without some supplementary funding has a far slimmer chance of being published. The UBC Press website acknowledges, in its “Publishing with UBC Press” section, that “few scholarly books in Canada can be published without financial assistance … detailed cost-benefit analysis is done for all manuscripts under consideration … to decide whether sufficient resources are available to take on the project.” The site goes on to note that manuscripts containing previously published material, conference proceedings, and unrevised dissertations are ineligible for ASPP, and that “if ASPP is not involved, usually another source of funds in aid of publication is required.”[83] Right up front, these guidelines indicate that money does indeed matter when publishing with a scholarly press.

UBC Press derives approximately 75 percent of its revenues from book sales. The remaining funds come from the Canadian Federation for the Humanities and Social Sciences (CFHSS, the organizers of Congress); specialized academic societies and organizations; the Department of Canadian Heritage (DCH); the Association for the Export of Canadian Books (AECB); the Canada Council for the Arts; and the British Columbia Arts Council. Of these, DCH (through its Book Publishing Industry Development Program, or BPIDP) and AECB contribute block grants toward the overall operation of the press, rather than supporting individual titles, although both demand that UBC Press meet rigorous criteria to be eligible for these funds.

BPIDP has funded the large majority of Canadian publishers, and contributes greatly to UBC Press’s operations. Year after year, it is a reliable source of funding, but the amounts it contributes fluctuate greatly. In 2002–03, it gave the press $149,565; in 2003–04, it was up to $123,778; in 2004–05, that amount again increased to $145,443. While significant, this funding only makes up the overhead and direct costs of publishing for fewer than five books. Furthermore, while funding for distribution assistance was $7 million for all publishers in 1993–94 (through the now-defunct Publications Distribution Assistance Program), it dwindled to zero in the mid-1990s before rising back up to $4.1 million in 2002-03. This figure is not only significantly lower than it was a decade before, it is also distributed among a larger number of publishers.[84]

The main source of external funding for individual titles is the CFHSS-administered ASPP, which is funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC), and is essentially the default place to start the quest for funding for any Canadian work of scholarship. Since April 2006, the ASPP has provided UBC Press with a fixed grant of $8,000 per eligible title. This is an increase over the $7,000 mandated beforehand; however, ASPP funding was as high as $9,000 in 1991, and was based on a variable model (so that more expensive books were eligible to receive more money) until federal government cuts in the mid- to late 1990s severely trimmed back the program budget.

In 2005, the ASPP budget was $1 million distributed among 145 books, and it was still receiving around 300 applications each year; by 2007, it provided $1.5 million to help fund 185 books (with 40 slots set aside for first-time authors), although the number of applications has also swelled in that time.[85] In cases where there is insufficient funding (which is essentially always), the ASPP will subject applications to competitive adjudication.

If UBC Press books do not secure ASPP funding, there are several other options. Scholars with SSHRC funding may be allocated a certain percentage that provides for communication or publication initiatives of their research. This money can be used toward publication of a scholarly monograph or edited volume; however, Milroy notes that many scholars use significant portions of these funds for other communications activities, such as attending conferences, before publication.[86]
In addition, some universities, such as Simon Fraser University and the University of Western Ontario, provide a modicum of support for faculty members’ publishing efforts. Such funds are more common in U.S. universities, which can help UBC Press publish American authors ineligible for ASPP funding. Other sources of funding are generally subject-dependent, such as funds from the Chiang Ching-Kuo Foundation (books on Chinese Studies in the social sciences and humanities), the Japan Foundation (Japanese studies), the International Centre for Canadian Studies (Canadian Studies), and the College Art Association (history of art and related subjects). In other words, aid for Canadian publishers is available, but it varies from year to year based on title output for the year.

In 1995, the University of British Columbia ceased its $200,000 yearly endowment to UBC Press, and stopped funding its warehousing operations, worth an additional $60,000 per year. In its place, UBC Press began receiving an annual grant from its parent institution in the name of K.D. Srivastava, former UBC Vice-President (Student and Academic Services) and member of the press’s publications board. The grant of $49,500 helps publish books by authors or volume editors who have completed a large proportion of their to-be-published research at UBC as faculty members, post-doctoral researchers, or graduate students. This funding is technically a scholarly book prize, but in practice it is used more as an operating fund for books originating in UBC research.[87]

UBC Press has continued to pursue funding from its host university, much in the style of American university presses, or other Canadian university presses. (This was, in fact, one of the motivations for writing the UBC Press Review: Self-Study 2007.) Of its two main competitors, University of Toronto Press exists as a separate entity and owns the U of T Bookstore, which provides minimum transfers of $750,000 to its publishing operations, and McGill-Queen’s receives $350,000 annually from its parent universities. UBC Press received no operating grant of equivalent magnitude until 2008, when the press competed successfully for a $150,000 grant from the University of British Columbia, renewable annually subject to the university’s budget.[88]


Competition for Manuscripts

Most university presses across North America have staked out territories of specialization and acquire most vigorously in those areas. As a leading publisher in numerous areas of social science and humanities scholarship, UBC Press is often the first stop for scholars wanting to publish in subject areas such as political science, law, environmental studies, and military history. Competition still exists for manuscripts in popular, lucrative disciplines such as Canadian history, First Nations studies, and anthropology, and for proposed series based on research from multi-collaborator initiatives.

Not surprisingly, larger university presses are more inclined to offer special inducements to gain the manuscripts they want, according to a 1999 survey of American university presses.[89] Such inducements may take the form of generous advances or fewer initial requirements from the proposal. Canadian scholarly presses are generally not in a position to financially sweeten any acquisitions deals; for UBC Press editors, competing for manuscripts means quickening response time, improving their level of service to authors, and broadcasting the press’s long-term advantages to authors. A high level of scholarship is still required at all university presses and will not be sacrificed in the name of winning competitions; this would be counterproductive if it results in an inferior book.


List-Building, Strategy, and the Importance of Series

Every book acquired by UBC Press editors is considered not only on its own merits, but also for the way it complements UBC Press’s list. Whether by strategy or by chance, acquisitions editing is an activity that builds upon itself. As a press builds a critical mass of books in particular areas, it may develop a reputation in those areas, leading to more submissions. Strategic acquisition is of especial concern to UBC Press, which was reborn by focusing on areas of strength while dropping other fields in which it had traditionally published. It is only natural for university presses to develop series to further boost their reputations in particular fields.

As noted in chapter 1, university presses develop and maintain book series because of their inherent list-building potential: quality acquisitions, showcased in a series, can attract exciting scholarship and respected authors. Lesley Erickson discusses series at UBC Press thoroughly in her Master of Publishing project report, “One Thing After Another,” and I will discuss series only as they pertain to acquisitions.

In developing a long-lasting and respected series at a university press, a good general editor is desirable, particularly in the beginning stages. The general editor represents the series, recruits colleagues old and new as potential authors, and consults on quality of scholarship and subareas in the series, depending on their level of involvement. As Erickson notes, “Unlike an established scholar who can tap into that network of contacts built over the span of a career to acquire manuscripts, it can take a number of years for an acquisitions editor to make themselves known to scholars in a discipline and convince them to entrust their manuscripts to a new series at a Press without an established list in the subject area.”[90] The general editor’s prestige can rub off on an associated acquisitions editor. For example, Peter Milroy persuaded W. Wesley Pue, a respected law scholar who had written the UBC Press-published Pepper In Our Eyes, to act as general editor for the Law and Society series, and Pue became one of the driving forces in building the press’s law list. Randy Schmidt, the law acquisitions editor, has taken advantage of Pue’s influence and vast network of contacts, and is now a leading acquisitions editor in that field in Canada with his own network and reputation among scholars, even as Pue’s role in the series has diminished in recent years.[91]

Although it was Milroy and then Schmidt who developed the Law and Society series, in other cases it is the general editor who envisions the shape of a series. For example, Graeme Wynn, a University of British Columbia environmental historian and UBC Press board member, proposed that the press create its own environmental history series, modelled after University of Washington Press’s Weyerhaeuser Environmental Books. The press accepted his proposal, and the result was the Nature | History | Society series, with Schmidt as acquiring editor, which includes the award winners The Archive of Place, Hunters at the Margin, and States of Nature. Wynn is active in the editing process of this series, and he writes the foreword for each volume.

Series also present opportunities to partner with other organizations, which not only have the reach to attract manuscripts, but may provide monetary support. For example, Emily Andrew’s acquisition of several successful military history titles led her to propose a collaboration with the Canadian War Museum on a series on military history in Canada, a field in which no scholarly press has published significantly. The result was the Studies in Canadian Military History series, co-published by the Canadian War Museum, with Dean Oliver, the museum’s director of research and exhibitions, serving as general editor. This collaboration also secured funding for books in the series: each volume receives $5,000 in co-financing from the museum, in addition to other grants.[92]

As was the case with Schmidt and the Law and Society series, Andrew’s acquisitions skills opened the door to creating a series on military history. Her acquisition of a respected general editor with public clout did much of the heavy lifting in attracting promising new manuscripts in that area.

Another model for series production is to collaborate with another institution on publishing a set number of books. These are usually proposed by the prospective series editor or editors, whose aim is to publish research results from a multi-collaborator initiative. Because these series often have respected scholars attached to the initiative, and because funding for communication projects is built into the proposal, there is greater incentive for a press to collaborate on publishing a series with them. Former Princeton University Press editorial board member Robert Darnton observed this phenomenon a quarter-century ago when he wrote, “Don’t submit a book. Submit a series … as far as I know we have never turned down a series, and we took on a half dozen during my four years on the board.”[93]Such “submitted” series at UBC Press include the Canadian Democratic Audit (nine volumes, from research at the project of the same name at Mount Allison University), Equality | Security | Community (three volumes, from the Equality, Security and Community Project), and the ongoing Globalization and Autonomy series (ten planned volumes, from McMaster University’s eponymous initiative). Not only have books in these series sold well thanks to their origins in prestigious initiatives, but they have also “received substantial series funding that obviates the need to depend on or even apply to ASPP.”[94]

In other cases, series have not paid dividends proportional to the effort required to create and maintain them. For example, Laura Macleod helped develop a Sexuality Studies series, but after much initial interest, few proposals were submitted. Furthermore, previous books in the series have dealt partly with comparative literature, a moribund area in UBC Press’s complement, and manuscripts in that area may have been acquired by more literature-oriented presses.[95] Still, recent acquisitions in sexuality studies may revive the series over the next few years. As Wilson notes, series can help direct and develop a press’s list, but they add a layer of complexity to the publishing process and are not always worth doing.[96]



Stripped to the bare bones, acquisitions editing in scholarly publishing is a highly structured process. A proposal must meet an invisible list of requirements for the editorial team to pursue it further. Although the acquisitions editors and the director comment on different aspects of each proposal before them, common concerns on scholarly integrity, available funding, originality, manuscript length, and crossover into different disciplines and markets, among other things, tend to emerge. For the most significant criteria – compatibility with UBC Press’s list, strength of scholarship, funding – there is little room for negotiation. Peer reviewers are given the same benchmarking questions to evaluate the level of scholarship in each manuscript, which must find approval with both them and the publications board.

Within this rigid framework, however, there is ample room for creativity and entrepreneurship. Acquisitions editors at UBC Press go to the same academic conferences every year, including the Congress of the Humanities and Social Sciences, but they also find manuscripts through cold calls and scholarly publishing informational tours through Canadian universities. The selection of the right peer reviewers requires resourcefulness and perceptiveness, and employs an editor’s knowledge of the field as well as effective use of professional networks. Competition for manuscripts requires editors to deploy tenacity, tact, and persuasive abilities not only to acquire the manuscripts they want, but also to maintain good relations with colleagues at competing university presses and the scholarly community at large. And finally, building the list and developing a robust publishing strategy help the entire press strike the right balance between breadth and depth in areas in which it publishes.

Among Canadian scholarly presses, there are significant gulfs between the conclusions in literature and in practice – particularly in the area of funding and title subventions, which are hardly mentioned in scholarly literature – but the entrepreneurial and personal aspects of acquisitions editing do stymie attempts to package it into convenient theory or a course. Education, analysis, and reporting in the literature are useful, but acquisitions editing is chiefly informed by practice and experience. How these elements can be combined into a useful framework to build upon UBC Press’s strengths and improve upon its weaknesses will be examined in chapter 3.



Chapter 3: The Future of Acquisitions at UBC Press

With firm footing in the context of acquisitions editing in scholarly publishing obtained from literature and educational materials, and knowledge of UBC Press’s operations as they pertain to acquisitions, one can develop strategies to meet present and future challenges. The press’s 2007 self-study identifies several areas that require extra attention or may pose threats in the future. This chapter explores numerous areas that may have a significant impact on UBC Press’s future, and the chapter addresses possible solutions and strategies to deal with challenges and assist in achieving goals.

As an industry, scholarly publishing in the social sciences and humanities has been declared to be in a state of emergency for the last twenty years. Factors such as shrinking library budgets, changing audiences for scholarly books, the rise of the mega-bookstore oligopoly in Canada, and an increasingly influential medium of internet-based commerce and information access pose continuing challenges for all university presses. These non-specific challenges and threats will be addressed as they relate to UBC Press’s goals, but will not be discussed on their own.


Challenges and Change at UBC Press

The size of UBC Press’s list, number of staff, prestige of the imprint, areas of strength and specialization, and general strategy have undergone revolutionary changes – virtually all for the better – in the less than two decades since the 1990 overhaul. Although few current staff members were employed by the press in 1990, the overhaul and refocus still informs the press’s continued efforts toward improvement. This spirit has manifested itself in internal working documents such as the UBC Press Review: Self-Study 2007, a comprehensive analysis of the press’s activities and a steering document in formulating future strategy for the press.

It is instructive to examine the press’s major challenges in the editorial-acquisitions department as articulated in the self-study. The first three are:

  1. We confront daily the difficulties involved in trying to increase the number of titles that we have set as our goal. We are limited financially in our ability to add new staff, which means that individual editors face ever-increasing pressure to bring in more books. Yet the attributes that have led to our growth over the past seventeen years – our personal touch and commitment to timeliness, our sharply focused list, our community outreach activities – are clearly threatened by the imperative to produce more books with the same number of staff.
  2. Our ability to acquire more books in our main areas is declining. For the Press to increase its title output significantly, new areas of publication will have to be pursued. Yet it is unlikely that an untapped area akin to law and society exists, which means that we will probably be competing directly with other Canadian university presses over the same books. Careful research and a well-thought-out strategy are essential for success.
  3. Resource constraints inhibit our ability to commission textbooks, do market analysis of sales in different disciplines, and analyze our own processes to see where things are working and where they are not. Indeed, the limited editorial assistance available means that valuable acquisitions time is lost doing clerical work that could easily be done by an assistant editor.[97]

As pointed out earlier in this project report, the “personal touch and commitment to timeliness” that the press’s acquisitions team brings to its authors are among its major selling points. These personal benefits are always raised with prospective authors in making a case to publish with UBC Press. The point at which growth becomes a liability no doubt describes a fine balance, and the question has become even more difficult to resolve since the writing of this report began: Darcy Cullen has succeeded Jean Wilson, and Emily Andrew has gone on leave and Randy Schmidt is handling her acquisitions files and in-process manuscripts in addition to his regular files.

One suggested solution, noted in #3, would be to increase the “limited editorial assistance” by adding human or technological resources, such as an editorial assistant, a common position at both scholarly and trade publishers. Added resources to perform clerical work, manage author relations, analyze sales data, apply for funding and grants, and track and manage information would free up acquisitions editors to turn their attentions to their files as well as to set goals and develop publishing strategy, components of challenge #2. If these resources took the form of an editorial assistant, some succession planning could also be undertaken. This is, in fact, an issue identified in challenge #4 in the self-study:

  1. The department needs to plan carefully for the imminent departure of the senior member of the department – Jean Wilson who will retire in July 2008. A replacement strategy needs to be developed over the next twelve months to ensure that this retirement does not cause any loss of momentum.[98]

Although Wilson’s succession by Darcy Cullen in August 2008 has been successful, an editorial assistant position would provide another avenue for on-the-job training for a future acquisitions editor.

The other challenges identified in the self-study are:

  1. Our dependence on external sources of funding (primarily the ASPP) also impacts our ability to increase the number of titles published. We are continually competing with other presses over scarce subsidy resources, with the inevitable result that some worthy scholarly books are not being published. A separate, discretionary avenue of funding would almost certainly result in the Press publishing an additional five to ten books a year.
  2. Though this becomes less significant with each passing year, our geographic location on the West Coast and our poor pre-1990 reputation also affect our ability to acquire new titles. The two main presses in central Canada – University of Toronto Press and McGill-Queen’s University Press – remain “default” options for many scholars. We have made significant strides to overcome this difficulty and to raise the profile of the “new” UBC Press, but additional resources need to be committed to this task.

Challenge #5, funding for scholarly books, is common to all Canadian university presses, particularly smaller ones. Discretionary funds would likely come from a press’s home institution, although universities often need corporate partnerships and sponsorships to accomplish their infrastructural goals. As UBC Press is already short-staffed, there would hardly be the human resources or budget to take on a major independent fundraising effort. However, such an effort may be feasible if the press were to utilize the fundraising infrastructure already in place at its home institution, such as its alumni affairs and development office. The press would undoubtedly have to justify the scholarly value it adds to the University of British Columbia’s reputation; it could make a case that publishing in the academic areas in which the university is known would be symbiotic. UBC Press has strong lists in First Nations studies, law, and political science, disciplines in which the university also excels.

Such an effort to boost funding would help tackle challenge #6, the press’s acquisitions ability as compared to its larger competitors. UBC Press has its strengths, but it is doubtful that it can ever challenge the supremacy of presses that publish so many more titles every year. (Toronto puts out 150 to 160, and McGill-Queen’s 110, compared to UBC Press’s 60.) At the same time, efforts to “catch up” for the sake of catching up run counter to the press’s strategy of focused acquisitions and controlled growth in key areas. Future assessments could be revised to reflect a more balanced approach, as acquisitions activity increases in selected new fields as well as in the press’s areas of specialization.

As for the aforementioned problem of geography, having a Toronto presence in Melissa Pitts has already boosted the press’s visibility and ability to acquire significantly. However, as she is only a half-time editor, the press’s list may benefit further by expanding its acquisitions activities in central Canada, either by transferring Pitts’s other duties to a new staff member, or by creating another position in Toronto – both of which, of course, require greater funds. Furthermore, any growth in acquisitions must not come at the cost of UBC Press’s traditional strengths in the editorial process, which could compromise editor-author relations and hurt the press’s reputation among scholars.

The press’s goals for the editorial-acquisitions department for 2007 to 2010 are to:

  1. Continue to work toward increasing the number of books published to seventy to seventy-five titles by 2010. This increase will be accomplished through further expansion in our current areas of strength and incursions into new, carefully selected and researched areas.
  2. Consider adding staff resources (such as an editorial assistant), which would increase the per-title productivity of acquisitions editors.
  3. Continue to increase the profile of UBC Press in other parts of the country through outreach activities.[99]

The first two challenges have been addressed in this chapter. The third is only partially addressed by Pitts’s presence in Toronto. A relatively inexpensive way to reach scholars and audiences in remote areas could be via the internet, a medium that UBC Press has not used very effectively so far: the press’s website is set up for e-commerce but is old-fashioned, contains dead links, and lacks so-called Web 2.0 technologies such as RSS feeds. Bringing some outreach activities to the internet could raise the press’s profile at relatively low cost.

For example, as noted in chapter 2, one of UBC Press’s outreach activities is the travelling informational session on the scholarly publishing process given by acquisitions editors. This multi-university tour has fallen by the wayside in recent years because of increased acquisitions loads. The press could produce a video of these informational sessions at relatively low cost and post it on the web, potentially reaching scholars who cannot attend the real-life sessions. A video could be produced and optimized for search engines, and would provide website visitors with a more memorable experience of the UBC Press website, making them more likely to keep the press top of mind in the future. This is only one example of ways in which internet use can enhance UBC Press’s outreach efforts.


Emerging Areas in UBC Press’s List

The press’s second challenge, to acquire more books per year and to choose the fields in which to acquire them, is faced by all Canadian presses. Publishers face some degree of competition in all major disciplines, so UBC Press must carefully choose the fields where it will build or rebuild a list.

The press has made some headway in various subject areas. Among these, transnationalism and environmental history are touted as emerging areas of scholarship that could grow in scope. UBC Press already has an excellent start in environmental history with its acclaimed Nature | History | Society series, which has featured numerous award-winning titles. Narrower niche areas, such as the aforementioned history of nursing, may seem too focused to be formally pursued, but this can depend on the acquisitions editor’s feel for scholarly fashions and the level of scholarship in that area.

As with the Studies in Canadian Military History series, it is likely that an area of specialization would emerge organically, after the press publishes a critical mass of books in the same field over several seasons, editors link proposed manuscripts to the published works in that field, and scholars submit related proposals to the press based on its burgeoning reputation.

In chapter 2, this report examined the “submitted” series model, in which UBC Press essentially becomes the publishing partner for a preplanned number of volumes. This model is attractive for having built-in funding and production consistencies that can make the publishing process more efficient. For example, the Canadian Democratic Audit has cemented UBC Press’s reputation in one of its strength areas, political science. It could also be a worthwhile risk to pursue submitted series in the press’s areas of emerging rather than established strength, as is the case with the Globalization and Autonomy series, which contains elements of political science but encompasses numerous other fields in its interdisciplinary approach. Such a practice is dependent on whether these initiatives continue to receive funding for book publishing activities, and whether they employ any senior scholars who can serve as appropriate series editors or advocates of communicating their research.


Workflow, Integration, and Technology

UBC Press has already expressed its aversion to dipping fully into trade publishing. However, Kate Wittenberg, Ithaka project director and former Columbia University Press editor-in-chief, argues that the scholarly monograph in its current form is endangered, partly because scholars are getting their information in different ways. Increasingly, students and scholars use technology that not only cuts down the need for multiple copies of the same book, but also moulds the way information is presented.

UBC Press must ensure that the scholarly monograph, its bread and butter, continues to fulfil the needs of scholars and interested readers while still maintaining the depth, logic, and art of sustained argument that characterizes the form. Publishers themselves are in no danger, Wittenberg asserts, unless they remain stuck in the paradigms of the past:

The traditional skills that scholarly-book editors have brought to their work remain as valuable as ever. Identifying, reviewing, and editing the best scholarly work are still very much needed. However, because the traditional forms in which we have published that material may no longer be as relevant as they were in the past, editors must learn as much as possible about our users – how scholars now do their research; read content; use archives, images, data, and technology; and exercise their preferences for gaining access to their materials.[100]

Wittenberg goes on to argue for a more integrated publishing model, where departments cross-pollinate to come up with fresh ideas to appeal more strongly to the end user:

In the new organizational model, editors will develop content for publication in both print and digital form and will play a role in its organization and design; technologists will participate in planning the navigation of content and in designing products that fit users’ needs; production and design staff members will collaborate with authors and provide expertise on content organization and narrative structure. And marketing and sales departments will be involved in all decisions regarding content organization, functionality, product design, and access-and-dissemination mechanisms, so that they can work closely in developing effective relationships with customers.[101]

Readers of Wittenberg’s prescriptions undoubtedly have many reservations about them. Marketing and sales influencing content could dilute or even endanger scholarship, for example, or production and design staff may be more concerned with aesthetics than depth and organization. However, a clear strategy to integrate the university press’s departments can create a final product that is better suited to a scholarly audience in transition. For example, an acquisitions editor may see something distinctive in a manuscript that may appeal to scholars in a particular field, but if this knowledge is not transferred to other departments, an opportunity to more effectively market the book may be lost.

As Milroy notes, the publishing profession is naturally compartmentalized; most people who work in publishing are drawn to one area of specialization, and this pattern resists smooth integration.[102] At UBC Press, there has been some interdepartmental integration. For example, marketing staff members are invited to transmittal meetings – where a manuscript is transferred from editorial-acquisitions to editorial-production – to begin building ideas for a more strategic marketing plan. In addition, editorial-production and marketing staff have collaborated on a copy form that transforms inputted information into tagged XML text and file links. This facilitates the transfer of book-related data (including title, ISBN, price, jacket copy, and cover images) from acquisitions to production to marketing, where they can easily be used to create catalogues, library notices, web pages, and other marketing materials. While such activities can increase efficiency, there is currently little managerial oversight to ensure they are followed up properly; for example, one of the creators of the copy form noted that she did not know when information in the form would be posted to the web, or how exactly it would be used. More discussion will help ensure that further strategic integration of departments will work to the press’s advantage.

All authors approached, and manuscripts and proposals at any stage are tracked through a database maintained by the assistant to the director. This can be a useful tool to develop a future editorial program, allowing acquiring editors, the director, and other staff to see what books may be forthcoming. In practice, however, few staff look at this information; there is no mandate to do so, and delivery dates for proposals and manuscripts are so unpredictable that it is impossible to say whether a manuscript will be accepted, much less arrive on time, much less mesh with other books in UBC Press’s list. However, Milroy says that integrating all data about proposals and manuscripts – including those in review and pre-review stages – into a centralized information package could facilitate smoother workflow and better planning. Further, he notes, many manuscripts drastically change shape between acceptance of a proposal and submission of a first draft – often becoming a text far removed from the press’s expectations. This poses many problems if the manuscript is no longer appropriate for publication. Tracking authors and their progress during this “in-between” stage may help acquisitions editors keep a tighter rein on their projects, saving valuable time and resources for both the press and the author. Over time, Milroy adds, information about how many proposals or manuscripts are at each stage can be used to estimate how many books will be ready for publication at any given time, helping to set acquisitions and transmittal goals.[103]

Both interdepartmental integration and acquisitions workflow can be addressed with some technological tools being implemented at UBC Press. A central database system created by the publishing software company Klopotek, while mainly focused on editorial-production, could benefit other aspects of the publishing process. The system features an “enter once, propagate everywhere” functionality that facilitates the flow of information from editorial-acquisitions to other departments. The setup of this information system also affords the entire press the opportunity to further integrate departments for more efficient information flow. The searchability feature would help make files easier to find, and the system’s centralized nature would make data available to all staff members – especially important for the editorial-acquisitions department, as three of the four editors work off-site.

The Klopotek system also includes a scheduling module that can be applied to acquisitions. This module could help editors keep track of the status of manuscript proposals, deadlines for peer reviewers, and grant applications. Furthermore, learning a new system may encourage editors – and the staff at large – to keep the press’s larger strategic concerns front of mind, and make better overall sense of UBC Press’s workflow. Because all the data is already entered into the system, benchmarking and goal tracking would be easier to accomplish.

Another tool, a dynamic sales database, which was previously suggested by Randy Schmidt and Jean Wilson, is now in place. As a UBC Press intern, one of my first tasks was to develop an interim static sales database of books published in the last five years. The end product had severe limitations in both temporal scope (the available data ended in early 2008) and its static nature. However, a more recent database, with information provided directly by UBC Press’s distributor, University of Toronto Press, gives dynamic sales data over a lifetime, broken down by month. This provides not only a more complete picture of a particular book’s life cycle, but can also capture the re-emergence of any backlist books into the frontlist, and take advantage of “long tail” sales. The database can also help determine emerging scholarly trends, guiding editors toward manuscripts with greater sales and course adoptions. While still in its infancy, it has the potential to make the acquisitions process smoother and allow editors to concentrate on the more creative duties in the publishing process.



While threatened by declining sales of scholarly monographs and increasing costs, the press continues to attract authors based on a sterling reputation for good editor-scholar relations and a high level of service and scholarship, characteristics that will likely help the press weather the storm of technology and a changing readership.

As can be seen in its self-study, UBC Press is very aware of the challenges it faces, particularly those related to resource constraints. It recognizes that its strengths in personal relationships with authors and a focused editorial-acquisitions team could be threatened by the imperative to publish more books and devote resources to sales and strategic analysis. Suggested solutions to these challenges – more human and technological resources dedicated to assisting acquisitions editors, utilization of university fundraising infrastructure, development of a greater presence in central Canada to boost acquisitions, expansion of internet-based communication and outreach activities – are all contingent upon the availability of greater financial and human resources, itself a central challenge to the press.

Other avenues to making greater use of existing resources, such as sharpened focus on emerging disciplines, must be examined with a critical eye. However, UBC Press has already worked toward a more organized workflow and increased interdepartmental integration. The development of a sales database and continuing implementation of the Klopotek database system could help streamline acquisitions and other processes, and reframe the press’s activities in a more integrated context. Despite its many challenges and uncertainty both within the organization and in the industry at large, UBC Press is a forward-thinking institution whose main strengths – rigorous scholarship and editorial quality, excellent editor-scholar relations, and high production values – will carry it far into the publishing future.




1 Chronicle of Higher Education, Journal of Scholarly Publishing, and Publishing Research Quarterly are among the scholarly journals with articles on acquisitions editing. Among business-to-business or professional publications, Quill and Quire and Publishers Weekly also discuss acquisitions. For an analysis of how the literature addresses acquisitions editing issues, see pages 17–25. RETURN

2 UBC Press Review: Self-Study 2007, UBC Press and the University of British Columbia, March 2007, 2; Peter Milroy, interview by author, March 6, 2009. RETURN

3 UBC Press Review, 2. RETURN

4 Jean Wilson, interview by author, October 30, 2008. RETURN

5 Ibid. RETURN

6 Milroy, interview. RETURN

7 UBC Press Review, 3; Wilson, interview. RETURN

8 “Staff directory,” UBC Press :: University of British Columbia Press. RETURN

9Randy Schmidt, interview by author, November 10, 2008. RETURN

10 Milroy, interview. RETURN

11 Edward Dimendberg, “Five Movie Scenes from the Author/Acquisitions Editor Relationship,” Journal of Scholarly Publishing 28, 1 (October 1996), RETURN

12 Peter J. Dougherty, “If You Plan It, They Will Come: Editors as Architects,” Journal of Scholarly Publishing 31, 4 (July 2000), RETURN

13 Some of these articles include: Elizabeth Demers, “Getting a Real Job in Publishing: a Ph.D. in History Finds Her Dream Job as an Acquisitions Editor,” Chronicle of Higher Education 50, 32 (April 16, 2004),; Rachel Toor, “The Book Editor: Midwife, Handmaiden, Groupie,” Chronicle of Higher Education 43, 46 (June 13, 1997),; Clement Vincent, “Don’t Judge a Book By Its Editor,” Chronicle of Higher Education 54, 9 (April 16, 2008), RETURN

14 Sanford G. Thatcher, “The Value-Added in Editorial Acquisitions,” Journal of Scholarly Publishing 30, 2 (January 1999), RETURN

15 Mary Schendlinger, in discussion with author, September 14, 2008. RETURN

16 “Finding and Training Acquisitions Editors,” audio recording of seminar by Doug Armato, Eric Halpern, and Philip Pochoda, presented at Association of American University Presses 2008 Annual General Meeting. July 18, 2008. RETURN

17 Schmidt, interview. RETURN

18 Armato, quoted in “Finding and Training Acquisitions Editors,” July 18, 2008. RETURN

19Halpern, quoted in “Finding and Training Acquisitions Editors,” July 18, 2008. RETURN

20 Mike Shatzkin, “Editorial Decision-Making: Risk and Reward,” Publishing Research Quarterly 15, 3 (Fall 1999): 55–62. RETURN

21Bill Harnum, “The Characteristics of the Ideal Acquisition Editor,” Journal of Scholarly Publishing 32, 4 (July 2001), RETURN

22Ibid. RETURN

23Sanford Thatcher, “Competitive Practices in Acquiring Manuscripts,” Scholarly Publishing (January 1980): 112–32. RETURN

24 Demers. RETURN

25 Rosemary Shipton, “Value Added: Professional Editors and Publishers,” Journal of Scholarly Publishing 27, 4 (July 1996), RETURN

26 Dougherty. RETURN

27 As Shipton argues in “Value added,” “publishers should set up a system that encourages people involved in a book project to talk to one another.” RETURN

28Halpern, quoted in “Finding and Training Acquisitions Editors,” July 18, 2008. RETURN

29 Ibid. RETURN

30 Ibid. RETURN

31 Philip Pochoda, quoted in “Finding and Training Acquisitions Editors,” July 18, 2008. RETURN

32 Ibid. RETURN

33 Milroy, interview. RETURN

34 Scott Anderson, “Publishable or Perishable?” Quill and Quire (November 1, 1997), RETURN

35 Nadia Halim, “The New-Look Scholarly Press,” Quill and Quire (November 1, 1998), RETURN

36 Paul Spendlove, “Pop Appeal: Most University Presses Want It – But at What Price?” Quill and Quire (November 1, 2002), RETURN

37 Wilson, interview. RETURN

38 Laura Macleod, “Education for Acquisitions,” Journal of Scholarly Publishing 28, 4 (July 1997), RETURN

39 An exhaustive list of publishing programs would be lengthy, but some of the university websites explored were: Centennial College Book and Magazine Publishing program, Toronto ON (; University of the Witwatersrand BA in Publishing Studies, South Africa (; Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology BA in Publishing Studies, Ghana (; University of South Queensland Master of Editing and Publishing, Australia (; Oxford Brookes University MA Publishing (; Pace University MS in Publishing (; and New York University MS in Publishing ( Other publishing programs are listed at “SFU Library – Publishing Programs,” Simon Fraser University, RETURN

40 Wilson, interview. RETURN

41 Macleod. RETURN

42 Ibid. RETURN

43 “Annual Meeting: Workshops,” program for acquisitions workshop, AAUP Annual Meeting, June 25–26, 2008. RETURN

44 Milroy, interview. RETURN

45 “Finding and Training Acquisitions Editors,” July 18, 2008. RETURN

46 Naomi B. Pascal, “The Editor: In Search of a Metaphor,” Publishing Research Quarterly 7, 2 (Summer 1991): 53–57. RETURN

47 Milroy, interview. RETURN

48 Macleod. RETURN

49 Milroy, interview. RETURN

50 UBC Press Review, 50. RETURN

51 Peter Milroy, interview by author, March 6, 2009. RETURN

52 The presses were: Canadian Scholars’ Press Inc. and Women’s Press (Toronto); Wilfrid Laurier University Press (Waterloo), Athabasca University Press (Athabasca), University of Alberta Press (Edmonton), Canadian Plains Research Center at the University of Regina (Regina), McGill-Queen’s University Press (Montreal and Kingston, University of Toronto Press (Toronto), UBC Press (Vancouver), Black Rose Press (Montreal), Broadview Press (Peterborough), and Emond Montgomery Publications (Toronto). For survey results, see page Appendix I: Survey of Canadian Scholarly Publishers, page 75. RETURN

53 Not surprisingly, they were the three largest university presses in Canada: University of Toronto Press, McGill-Queen’s University Press, and UBC Press. RETURN

54 Jean Wilson, interview by author, October 30, 2008; Randy Schmidt, interview by author, November 10, 2008. RETURN

55 Schmidt, interview; Darcy Cullen, interview by author, November 10, 2008. RETURN

56 UBC Press Review: Self-Study 2007, UBC Press and the University of British Columbia, March 2007, 24. RETURN

57 “Publishing with UBC Press:Getting Your Manuscript Accepted,” UBC Press :: University of British Columbia Press. RETURN

58 Milroy, interview. RETURN

59 All numbers of copies sold taken from UBC Press Cognos Sales History Database, accessed November 20, 2008. RETURN

60 Schmidt, interview. RETURN

61 Cullen, interview. RETURN

62 Alison Cairns, “An Analysis of the Operation of the University of British Columbia Press with an Emphasis on Scholarly Editing,” Master of Publishing project report, Simon Fraser University (Spring 2005): 31. RETURN

63 Sanford G. Thatcher, “The Value-Added in Editorial Acquisitions,” Journal of Scholarly Publishing 30, 2 (January 1999), RETURN

64 Milroy, interview. RETURN

65 Cullen, interview; Schmidt, interview. RETURN

66 Schmidt, interview. RETURN

67 Milroy, interview. RETURN

68 Wilson, interview. RETURN

69 Milroy, interview. RETURN

70 Wilson, interview. RETURN

71 Ibid. RETURN

72 Judy Metro, “Is It Publishable? The Importance of the Editorial Review,” Journal of Scholarly Publishing 26, 3 (April 1995), RETURN

73 “Questions for Peer Review,” internal document, UBC Press. RETURN

74 Metro. According to the same article, Yale University Press also requires only one reader’s report. RETURN

75 “Main Steps to the Acquisitions Process,” internal document, UBC Press. RETURN

76 UBC Press Review, 18. RETURN

77 Milroy, interview. RETURN

78 Gladys S. Topkis, “The Editor’s Job in Professional/Scholarly Publishing,” in Elizabeth A. Geiser, Arnold Dolin and Gladys S. Topkis (eds.), The Business of Book Publishing: Papers by Practitioners (Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1985), 79. RETURN

79 Ibid., 74. RETURN

80 Nadia Halim, “The New-Look Scholarly Press,” Quill and Quire (November 1, 1998), RETURN

81 UBC Press Review, 12. RETURN

82 This is based on an overhead cost of $22,000 per book (in turn, based on the press’s yearly budget divided by number of books published per year), $6,000 for prepress costs (including copy editing, typesetting, proofreading, and cover design), and $6,300 for printing costs (based on an estimate from UBC Press’s usual printer, Friesens, for a book with typical page count and print run). For more parameters of the printing costs, see Appendix III, page 89. RETURN

83 “Publishing with UBC Press:Getting Your Manuscript Accepted.RETURN

84 Printed Matters: Book Publishing Industry Development Annual Report 2002–03, 2003–04, and 2004–05, Book Publishing Policy and Program, (Ottawa: Canadian Heritage); The Book Report: Book Publishing Industry Development Program Data, 1993.1994 to 2002.2003, (Ottawa: Canadian Heritage, 2004). RETURN

85 Scott Wilson, “ASPP Gets Budget Boost: More Scholarly Books to be Funded, and More Money Given to Each,” Quill and Quire (November 1, 2005), RETURN

86 Milroy, interview. RETURN

87 UBC Press Review, 62; Cairns, 16–17. RETURN

88 UBC Press Review, 62; Milroy, interview. RETURN

89 Barbara Jones, “Changing Author Relationships and Competitive Strategies of University Publishers,” Journal of Scholarly Publishing 31, 1 (January 1999): 3–19. RETURN

90 Lesley Erickson, “One Thing After Another: Book Series and Navigating the Crisis in Scholarly Publishing – A Case Study,” Master of Publishing project report, Simon Fraser University (2007): 38. RETURN

91 Erickson, 36; Schmidt, interview. RETURN

92 Erickson, 32. RETURN

93 Robert Darnton, “A Survival Strategy for Academic Authors,” American Scholar 54, 4 (Autumn 1983): 533–37. RETURN

94 UBC Press Review, 62. RETURN

95 Erickson, 28. RETURN

96 Wilson, interview. RETURN

97 UBC Press Review: Self-Study 2007. UBC Press and the University of British Columbia, March 2007, 28-29. Numbers have been added to facilitate referencing to each challenge. RETURN

98 UBC Press Review, 29. RETURN

99 UBC Press Review, 30. RETURN

100 Kate Wittenberg, “Scholarly Editing in the Digital Age,” Chronicle of Higher Education 49, 41 (June 20, 2003), RETURN

101 Ibid. RETURN

102 Peter Milroy, interview by author, March 6, 2009. RETURN

103 Ibid. RETURN

104 All numbers of copies sold taken from UBC Press Cognos Sales History Database, accessed October 8, 2008. RETURN





Interviews and Personal Communications

Cullen, Darcy (acquisitions editor, UBC Press). Interview by author. Notes. Vancouver: November 10, 2008.

Milroy, R. Peter (director, UBC Press). Interview by author. Notes. Vancouver: March 6, 2009.

Schendlinger, Mary. Personal communication with author. Vancouver: September 14, 2008.

Schmidt, Randy (acquisitions editor, UBC Press). Interview by author. Notes. Vancouver: November 10, 2008.

Wilson, Jean (acquisitions editor, UBC Press). Interview by author. Notes. Vancouver: October 30, 2008.


Internal Documents and Resources

“Main Steps to the Acquisitions Process,” internal document, UBC Press.

“Questions for Peer Review,” internal document, UBC Press.

UBC Press Cognos Sales History Database.


Books, Articles, and Websites

Anderson, Scott. “Publishable or Perishable?” Quill and Quire (November 1, 1997).

“Annual Meeting: Workshops.” Program for acquisitions workshop, AAUP Annual Meeting, June 25–26, 2008.

Cairns, Alison. “An Analysis of the Operation of the University of British Columbia Press with an Emphasis on Scholarly Editing.” Master of Publishing project report, Simon Fraser University, 2005.

“Canadian Federation for the Humanities and Social Sciences, Aid to Scholarly Publications Program: Guidelines, Eligibility Criteria and Procedure.” (Accessed Sept. 10, 2008.)

Dalton, Margaret Steig. “A System Destabilized: Scholarly Books Today.” Journal of Scholarly Publishing 38, 4 (July 2006).

Darnton, Robert. “A Survival Strategy for Academic Authors.” American Scholar 54, 4 (Autumn 1983): 533–37.

Demers, Elizabeth. “Getting a Real Job in Publishing: A Ph.D. in History Finds Her Dream Job as an Acquisitions Editor,” Chronicle of Higher Education 50, 32 (April 16, 2004).

Department of Canadian Heritage. The Book Report: Book Publishing Industry Development Program Data, 1993.1994 to 2002.2003. Ottawa: Canadian Heritage, 2004.

———. Printed Matters: Book Publishing Industry Development Annual Reports. 2002–03. 2003–04. 2004–05.Book Publishing Policy and Programs. Ottawa: Canadian Heritage, 2004–2006.

Dimendberg, Edward. “Five Movie Scenes From the Author/Acquisitions Editor Relationship.” Journal of Scholarly Publishing 28, 1 (October 1996).

Dougherty, Peter J. “If You Plan It, They Will Come: Editors as Architects.” Journal of Scholarly Publishing 31, 4 (July 2000).

Erickson, Lesley. “One Thing After Another: Book Series and Navigating the Crisis in Scholarly Publishing – A Case Study.” Master of Publishing project report, Simon Fraser University, 2007.

“Finding and Training Acquisitions Editors.” Audio recording of seminar by Doug Armato, Eric Halpern, and Philip Pochoda, presented at Association of American University Presses 2008 Annual General Meeting. July 18, 2008.

Halim, Nadia. “The New-Look Scholarly Press.” Quill and Quire (November 1, 1998).

Harnum, Bill. “The Characteristics of the Ideal Acquisition Editor.” Journal of Scholarly Publishing 32, 4 (July 2001).

Jones, Barbara. “Changing Author Relationships and Competitive Strategies of University Publishers.” Journal of Scholarly Publishing 31, 1 (January 1999).

Macleod, Laura. “Education for Acquisitions.” Journal of Scholarly Publishing 28, 4 (July 1997).

Metro, Judy. “Is It Publishable? The Importance of the Editorial Review.” Journal of Scholarly Publishing 26, 3 (April 1995).

Parsons, Paul. Getting Published: The Acquisition Process at University Presses. Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 1989.

Pascal, Naomi B. “The Editor: In Search of a Metaphor,” Publishing Research Quarterly 7, 2 (Summer 1991): 53–57.

Schiffrin, André. The Business of Books: How International Conglomerates Took Over Publishing and Changed the Way We Read. New York: Verso, 2000.

Shatzkin, Mike. “Editorial Decision-Making: Risk and Reward. Publishing Research Quarterly 15, 3 (Fall 1999): 55–62.

Shipton, Rosemary. “Value Added: Professional Editors and Publishers.” Journal of Scholarly Publishing 27, 4 (July 1996).

Spendlove, Paul. “Pop Appeal: Most University Presses Want It – But at What Price?” Quill and Quire (November 1, 2002).

Thatcher, Sanford. “Competitive Practices in Acquiring Manuscripts.” Scholarly Publishing (January 1980): 112–32.

Thatcher, Sanford G. “The Value-Added in Editorial Acquisitions.” Journal of Scholarly Publishing 30, 2 (January 1999):

Toor, Rachel. “The Book Editor: Midwife, Handmaiden, Groupie,” Chronicle of Higher Education 43, 46 (June 13, 1997).

Topkis, Gladys S. “The Editor’s Job in Professional/Scholarly Publishing.” In Geiser, Elizabeth A., Arnold Dolin, and Gladys S. Topkis (eds.), The Business of Book Publishing: Papers by Practitioners. Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1985.

UBC Press Review: Self-Study 2007. Vancouver: UBC Press and the University of British Columbia, March 2007.

UBC Press :: University of British Columbia Press.

“Publishing with UBC Press:Getting Your Manuscript Accepted.”

“Staff directory.”

Vincent, Clement. “Don’t Judge a Book By Its Editor.” Chronicle of Higher Education 54, 9 (April 16, 2008).

Wilson, Scott. “ASPP Gets Budget Boost: More Scholarly Books to be Funded, and More Money Given to Each,” Quill and Quire (November 1, 2005).

Wittenberg, Kate. “Managing an Acquisitions Program: Defining, Creating and Implementing the Job.” Journal of Scholarly Publishing 28, 1 (October 1996).

———. “Scholarly Editing in the Digital Age.” Chronicle of Higher Education 49, 41 (June 20, 2003).



Appendix 1: Survey of Canadian Scholarly Publishers

Questions and results of an informal survey of acquisitions editors for Canadian scholarly publishers attending the Congress of the Humanities and Social Sciences

Appendix 1.1


Appendix 1.2



Appendix 2: Case Studies

Descriptions of manuscript acquisitions meetings attended between June and November 2008

A recent submission was an edited volume of more than ten articles about the physical geography of Ontario and the paleontology of prehistoric Aboriginal peoples. The volume was viewed as too general, more of a museum handbook or popular introduction to the archaeology of a particular area than a scholarly work. Thus, it was not viewed as original research and would probably fail to qualify for ASPP funding. The project was also unattached to other funding sources such as a museum. In addition, its main subject, archaeology, has not been one of UBC Press’s traditional strength areas; a previous series, Pacific Rim Archaeology, had realized mediocre sales and was deemed too technical to cross over as a trade book, leading to the general assertion that “archaeology books don’t sell.” This proposal was therefore rejected.

A submitted proposal concerns the challenges of Aboriginal-state relations in Canada. Examining governance at various levels, it compares intergovernmental relations to current theoretical frameworks on Aboriginal federalism. UBC Press has published successfully and abundantly in this field, with titles such as Navigating Neoliberalism, Aboriginal Autonomy and Development in Northern Quebec and Labrador, Hunters and Bureaucrats (which has sold nearly 1,000 copies and won the Julian Steward Book Prize from the American Anthropological Association), and Citizens Plus (which was shortlisted for two prizes and sold over 1,200 copies).[104] As a result, UBC Press has developed an excellent reputation in the field of Canadian Aboriginal-state relations and governance. In addition, the book is based on a PhD dissertation supervised by three professors who had recently co-edited a well-received volume on comparative Canadian politics; their approval offered some assurance that the submitted manuscript would contain substantial, high-quality scholarship. The proposal was accepted.

A recent acquisition looks at the interrelationships among outdoor recreation, the environment and ecopolitics. As the author is a Canadian citizen and his proposed manuscript is based on a PhD dissertation undertaken at UBC, the project is eligible for both ASPP and K.D. Srivastava funding, making it more financially appealing to publish. In addition, the author noted in his submission that the proposed book would be a natural fit for UBC Press’s Nature | History | Society series, which comprises several award-winning books – including Hunters and Bureaucrats – and is establishing the press as a leader in the burgeoning field of environmental history. This field is also growing in the U.S., expanding the book’s potential market. The book additionally crosses over into the growing discipline of the history and sociology of sport, and could hold local interest, as the research is based in BC and taps into the province’s outdoor recreation culture. The proposal was accepted.

A manuscript was proposed about Canadian foresting policy from the 1960s to 1990s, co-authored by several Canadian senior scholars. The proposal noted that no comprehensive nationwide study of provincial forest policies has ever been published, and that it would be the first book to explore its subject since 1990. The book would complement UBC Press’s significant backlist on forestry policy, environmental policy and resource management, which includes Canadian Natural Resource and Environmental Policy, a bestselling book that has been adopted into several courses and has gone into a second edition. The book is also eligible for both ASPP and K.D. Srivastava funding. The major concern with the book is that the main text of the manuscript is only 57,000 words, which is very short and could be seen as a poor value for the typical monograph prices of $85 for a hardcover or $29.95 for a paperback. However, it was noted that a short book is easier to sell than a very long one, and it would be more likely to be adopted in a graduate or senior undergraduate course. The proposal was accepted, with a caveat to review the length of the manuscript when it is submitted.

A proposed manuscript about the Sri Lankan diaspora and its cultural and political manifestations in Canada, in particular on how the nation’s post-9/11 security measures affect the Sri Lankan-Canadian community. It is a co-authored volume that will total 100,000 words and is explicitly aimed at a multidisciplinary audience with interests in transnationalism, migration, and security studies. Despite some difficulties in understanding the rationale behind the structure of the book’s main argument, it was praised for its timeliness, for exploring the little-studied Sri Lankan community in Canada, and because transnationalism is becoming a fashionable and cutting-edge sub-discipline in sociology and anthropology. The book was recommended for acquisition.

A proposal for a manuscript about governing Canada in the “Age of Terror” was submitted. The manuscript examines post-9/11 security arrangements in Canada through the lens of the politics of security in western liberal democracies, particularly in Europe, and to what extent this framework has come to govern citizens. The subject is timely, but the book was also flagged for its short length and, based on its proposal, for its emphasis on theory where; the editors believe that a practical, real-world analysis would prove more interesting to the target audience. The proposal was approved.

A manuscript about the ties between land and identity of indigenous peoples of British Columbia was proposed. The book would appeal to legal scholars, particularly those dealing with Aboriginal lands in Canada or elsewhere, and could have adoption potential in advanced undergraduate courses on First Nations in BC. The proposal itself was short and somewhat unfocused, about one-quarter of the typical proposal length, and only indicated the titles of its six chapters, not the contents. While it deals with an important subject that would fit naturally into UBC Press’s list, there is already ample scholarly literature on B.C.’s Aboriginal peoples, and specifically how Native beliefs have clashed with western “rational” models in the context of treaty processes and Aboriginal rights. Furthermore, the book’s proposed length was on the short side at only 75,000 words. It was suggested that this could be a “big” book on B.C. First Nations, unifying theory and case studies into a larger picture. Its complementarity with UBC Press’s list, it was decided, outweighed some of the weaknesses. Therefore, it was decided that the acquisitions editor would request a more directed proposal that elaborated on chapter contents before acceptance.

A proposed manuscript would examine how twentieth-century infrastructure “megaprojects” in Canada, such as the St. Lawrence Seaway and nuclear generating stations, have affected local residents and the environments around them. The manuscript consists of six case studies, including reworked versions of previously published journal articles, with a framing introduction and conclusion. The author is a well-regarded scholar in geography and the proposed book would fit well into UBC Press’s environmental history list, possibly in its Nature | History | Society series. Two minor reservations were raised. First, the case studies seem disparate and may make unification into one book problematic. Second, the author’s analyses seemed to place undue emphasis on United Empire Loyalist traditions in certain areas, disregarding, for example, the First Nations and Acadian historical influences. Both concerns were to be noted to the author to ensure that the scholarship in this area is complete. The proposal was accepted.

An edited volume about university education in Canada was proposed. Somewhat unusual for a proposal, the entire draft manuscript was submitted. Also unusual was the breadth of contributions: nearly thirty essays, written by scholars in fields ranging from chemistry to cultural theory, all discussing how the university vision has changed over time. Although UBC Press has published numerous studies on higher education that have been well-received – including Reshaping the University and Multicultural Education Policies in Canada and the United States, which have proven successful in course adoptions – this collection does not have an overarching argument or direction, as shown in its brief introduction. Furthermore, there are too many contributors in the volume (fourteen is an unofficial maximum), which could make for time-consuming logistical difficulties in getting all the pieces assembled. The fact, too, that the manuscript was already completed, albeit in rough form, made the editors especially reluctant to accept it. The book seems more appropriate to a trade publisher than a scholarly one, and the proposal was rejected.

A proposed edited volume of papers about military oral history was put forth. The book would take the best papers presented at a recent conference on oral histories in the military, covering a wide range of topics on various historical conflicts. As noted by the acquisitions editor, it is a natural fit for UBC Press’s expertise in military history, and oral memory and history is currently a big issue in that field. In addition, the editor suggested she correspond with the general editor of the Studies in Canadian Military History series, which would unify the proposed volume with other books in UBC Press’s backlist, and provide $5,000 in funding for production of the volume – not to mention raising potential sales at the Canadian War Museum and other venues. However, there was some reservation about the fact that this collection came out of a conference, since UBC Press generally does not publish conference proceedings, even though the volume would not be presented as such. Furthermore, the tentative table of contents indicated that the articles were to be organized in too many different ways – chronologically and thematically, for example. In the end, the importance of oral military history as a sub-field with little scholarly literature, it was agreed, outweighed the conference proceedings concerns. It was decided that the acquisitions editor should pursue this book.

A proposal for a collection of essays about critical issues and ethics in science journalism was brought forth. The acquiring editor noted that science journalism is currently an unknown quantity but can often be highly distorted, with most lay readers lacking the knowledge to think critically about this. The proposed book, one editor noted, had “curious framing,” with little balance and no overall argument or thrust to the collection. In addition, it is not a “true” collection, most of the essays being written by the volume editor and one other author, and several other contributors seemingly used as padding. Another editor noted that the book’s intent to link science journalism to democracy was intriguing, but found the brief proposal unhelpful in elaborating this point. The acquiring editor agreed, but believed the collection had potential for being intriguing in its critique of a little-examined area, and compared it to another UBC Press book, Morals and the Media, which has sold over 2,000 copies and had some crossover trade appeal. The proposal was accepted, with a caveat that the shape of the essays and framing introduction and conclusion be re-examined once the manuscript was submitted.

A manuscript proposal was submitted about Russians and Ukrainians in the Canadian Expeditionary Force during the First World War. The proposal was scanty, but was presented anyway for timing and approval reasons. The book would be a chronological study of the barriers to enlistment as well as interesting vignettes on how they contributed to the overall war effort. The book was compared by the acquiring editor to Renegades, a successful recent history of Canadians in the Spanish Civil War that has sold more than 2,000 copies. While the intended audience of persons interested in the socio-cultural impact of military service and general genealogical research does not fall into the overall UBC Press mandate, the book was deemed intriguing enough to pursue. However, the publisher requested that the author submit an introduction or first chapter before an agreement would be struck – something of an exceptional case – because the proposal was not wellwritten. Another factor in the book’s favour was is good fit with the press’s military history list. An inquiry was to be made to the general editor of the Studies in Canadian Military History series. If accepted for that series, the book would receive $5,000 in funding from the Canadian War Museum, providing further incentive for publishing. In the meantime, the proposal was tentatively accepted, and would be reviewed upon seeing an introduction or writing sample.

A submitted proposal purporting to be the first comprehensive study of the Canadian homefront during World War II was discussed. The proposal was specific and well written, and the book itself would be an ideal fit for UBC Press’s list, linking with Fighting From Home by Serge Durflinger and Saints, Sinners and Soldiers by Jeffrey Keshen, both acclaimed and successful books. Additionally, the proposed manuscript crossed over into other areas, including social history and the growing field of material history and culture, and came to interesting and surprising conclusions about life at home during wartime. The final push was that the book would be an ideal addition to the Studies in Canadian Military History series, which would provide extra funding for publication. The proposal was approved.

A proposal for an edited volume examining links among health, community development, and the environment was submitted. The collection of essays by an interdisciplinary team of international scholars would look at the tension between science-based and community-based solutions, an under-researched area. There were concerns about the cohesiveness of the disparate topics explored in these essays, and reservations about the expertise of the authors; for example, there was only one political scientist contributing to a policy-heavy collection. These concerns weren’t severe enough to warrant requesting sample essays or an introduction, however, and the proposal was accepted.

A submitted proposal described an edited collection about how community makeup, geography, gender, and economic status can affect health in Canada. The proposal posits a new methodology for understanding how these factors affect health care, which could appeal to practitioners and policy makers as well as academics. The essays are written by a mix of senior scholars, graduate students, and community health practitioners and workers. The editor is a respected scholar holding a research chair, and has worked with UBC Press on a previous edited volume, with an acclaimed book that had decent sales. At present, with a proposed eighteen chapters at approximately 8,000 words each, the collection would be quite long; editors suggested that perhaps two of the selections could be cut, and the remainder pared down to 6,000 words each. However, as the publisher noted, the collection has a strong medical health orientation, and could qualify for health-oriented funding, which is more abundant and lucrative than social sciences or humanities grants, as well as an ASPP grant. Although the length of each essay would still be monitored, potential for more funding would alleviate some of the pressure to pare the book down to size. The proposal was accepted.

An edited collection exploring the cosmopolitanism of Canada, and its status as a prosperous but small middle power was proposed. Most prominently noted was one of the two co-editors, an internationally known author and scholar on multiculturalism who has published numerous books with the largest university presses and been translated into several languages. The editors have also attracted numerous “celebrity” authors (those who have published with trade) to the volume. The book was also determined to be a good fit for UBC Press’s list, complementing such titles as Multicultural Nationalism, Diversity and Equality, and Multiculturalism and the Canadian Constitution. The major concern voiced was that the proposal seemed to emphasize that many of the essays are adapted from other sources, raising concerns that the essays would not be original, or worse, be abridged version of previously published works, posing a logistical nightmare for permissions. The proposal was approved, with a note to the editor to make sure that the proposed essays are original.



Appendix 3: Standard Printing Estimate

Estimate from Friesens printing company for a standard UBC Press book