Posts Tagged: Editorial

Playful Generative Art: Computer-Mediated Creativity and Ephemeral Expressions

WEDNESDAY, February 8, 2017
7:00 pm – 8:30 pm
Room 1800 (SFU Harbour Centre)
Fee: Free (to reserve a seat, please email pubworks@sfu.ca)

“Generative art” is a blanket term for any creative work produced in part through programmatic or algorithmic means. “Playful generative art” makes use of highly technical disciplines—computer programming, statistics, graphic design, and artificial intelligence—to produce chat bots, digital poetry, visual art, and even computer-generated “novels.” These pieces may be motivated by serious social or political issues, but the expressions are decidedly unserious, often short-lived or quickly composed. Creators working in this medium are rarely artists first—as programmers, designers, game developers, and linguists, they use the tools of their trade in unexpected and delightful ways. Generative art also has much to teach us about issues at the intersection of ethics and technology: what is the role of the artist in a human/machine collaboration; what is our responsibility when we design programs that talk with real people; how do we curate and study ephemeral digital works? Digital artists, writers, technologists, and anyone interested in media studies are invited to attend.

Guest Speaker:


lizadalyLiza Daly
is a software engineer and occasional corporate executive who lives in Boston. She is currently focusing on providing technical assistance to non-profits that work to uphold civil rights and protect vulnerable populations. Her personal projects revolve around digital art, interactive narrative, and digital publishing. Formerly she was CTO at Safari and prior to that, founded a digital publishing company called Threepress, which Safari acquired. Her new company is World Writable. She has been quoted about “Digital Detox” and the effects of the iPad on reading (NYT, 2010), ebooks in the cloud (Wired, 2011), and on strategies to help introverts network (FastCompany, 2015). Liza has presented about great engineering teams and digital publishing. She wrote a short book on Next-Generation Web Frameworks in Python (O’Reilly, 2007), which, she says, is “out of date so please don’t read it”.


Data-driven Publishing: Using Sell-Through Data as a Tool for Editorial Strategy and Developing Long-Term Bestsellers

By Amanda Regan

ABSTRACT: This report examines how sell-through reporting has revolutionized the editorial, marketing, publicity, and sales strategies of Sourcebooks and Raincoast Books since the introduction of BookScan and BookNet. It analyzes how Sourcebooks developed its line of college-bound books through data analysis, using Harlan Cohen’s The Naked Roommate as a case study to learn the strategies that the publisher implemented to grow the title into a New York Times bestseller after six years over four editions. The report also explores how Raincoast Books, the distributor of Sourcebooks titles in Canada, analyzes sell-through data to identify concerns in the book’s performance, and its plans to fix the issues. The main goal of this report is to offer insight into the ways that various departments of a publishing house can practically analyze sales data and utilize the information creatively and strategically to grow its editorial vision, guide its marketing decisions, and improve book sales.

 

 


ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

I would like to thank Jamie Broadhurst, Danielle Johnson, Siobhan Rich, Elizabeth Kemp, Crystal Allen, Peter MacDougall, Chelsea Theriault, and everyone at Raincoast Books for your warm welcome and assistance during my internship and for being willing to answer my questions. Special thanks to Jamie for helping me to formulate the topic for my report, and for your invaluable input and insight into the world of book marketing and publicity.

I would like to thank Todd Stocke at Sourcebooks for taking the time to share your publishing experiences. It is very much appreciated. Thanks also to Heidi Weiland for helping to connect me with the right staff person at Sourcebooks.

To the MPub folks, my thanks to John Maxwell and Rowland Lorimer for your input and guidance in completing this report, and to the rest of the faculty and Jo-Anne Ray for your advice and assistance throughout the program.

To my husband, Tyler, thank you for your unwavering support, love, and understanding throughout my time in grad school. It is what kept me going.

 

 


CONTENTS

Acknowledgements

List of Figures

List of Tables

Introduction
+++About this Report
+++Overview of the Topic

I – The Impact of Sell-Through Reporting on the Business of Book Publishing
+++Impact on Editorial Acquisitions
+++Impact on Marketing, Publicity, and Sales Functions

II – Leveraging Sell-Through Data at Sourcebooks and Raincoast Books
+++Overview of Sourcebooks
+++Overview of Raincoast Books
+++Leveraging Sell-Through Data

III – Case Study: The Naked Roommate by Harlan Cohen
+++Beginnings of the Sourcebooks College Vertical
+++About Harlan Cohen
+++Selling The Naked Roommate in the United States
+++Selling The Naked Roommate in Canada

IV – Review and Analysis
+++A Successful Vertical Strategy
+++Considerations for the College Vertical in the Canadian Market
+++Considerations for Other Book Categories and Publishing Scenarios

Conclusion

Appendices
+++A: US Marketing, Publicity and Sales Promotion Campaign
+++B: Fourth Edition Press Release
+++C: Sourcebooks Catalogue Features
+++D: Fourth Edition New York Times Bestseller Press Release
+++E: US Media Coverage and Public Relations Events Confirmed
+++F: Raincoast Books Spring 2011 Graduation Promotion
+++G: Canadian Press Release
+++H: Canadian Media Targeted for Publicity Mailings
+++I: Canadian Media Coverage and Public Relations Events Confirmed
+++J: Sample Topics and Questions for Author Interview

Notes

References

 

 


LIST OF FIGURES

Figure 1 Sales Cycle of College Guides
Figure 2 Sales Cycle of College Survival and Success Books

 

 


LIST OF TABLES

Table 3.1 Three streams of data that Raincoast Books provides to its publishers
Table 3.2 Items listed on Raincoast Books’ Major Sales Grid
Table 4.1 Publication dates for in the United States
Table 4.2 Fall enrolments in degree-granting institutions in the United States
Table 4.3 University enrolment in CanadaTable 4.4 College enrolment in Canada

 

 


INTRODUCTION

The book publishing industry has gone through major changes over the past few decades with the contraction of traditional media outlets and the expansion of new technologies. The persistent issues of poor supply chain practices and massive returns continue to this day. Now added to that are the questions and concerns over adapting to new technologies such as ebooks, web publishing and social media. Technology is always evolving and publishers are expected to be open to adapt to change to keep their businesses thriving.

In the past decade since the turn of the century, one major development in the book publishing industry in North America is the establishment of sell-through data reporting services. Sell-through data, also known as point-of-sale (pos) data, is the information collected at the point when the final business-to-consumer (b2c) sales transaction occurs during checkouts at retail outlets, where the ownership, and typically the possession, of the product is transferred from the seller to the consumer, as opposed to the business-to-business (b2b) sales transaction from the publisher into the bookstore (Wikipedia, “Point of Sale”; BusinessDictionary.com). Sell-through data reveals where, when, and how many copies of a product, in this case a book, is bought by a customer at a retailer.

Nielsen BookScan and BookNet Canada are the organizations that respectively provide American and Canadian book sales data to their industry subscribers. Prior to this, publishers often acted in the dark and could only find out about how their books were doing via returns, which sometimes came back months later. They would have had to maintain close relationships with retailers to keep tabs on how their own titles were doing on a regular, weekly basis. It was a time-consuming process. Now, sell-through reporting services allow publishers to track the performance of not only their own titles, but also those from their competitors, in a timely manner. This development has had significant implications within the industry, and has influenced all aspects of book publishing, from editorial to marketing and sales departments.

As with all advancements in technology, there is need for continued research, gathering of information and understanding of best practices to shape the future of the book and the publishing business in the midst of these changes. This report seeks to examine the practical implications that sell-through reporting has had on some publishers and how sales data can be leveraged successfully in the business of book publishing.

 

ABOUT THIS REPORT

The main goal of this report is to offer insight into ways that publishers can practically analyze sell-through data so that the various personnel in editorial, marketing, publicity, and sales departments can utilize the information creatively and strategically to grow their editorial vision, guide their marketing decisions, and improve sales of their books. To accomplish this goal, this report examines how sell-through reporting has revolutionized the business strategies of Sourcebooks and Raincoast Books since the introduction of BookScan and BookNet in the United States and Canada. It will look at how these two companies leverage sell-through data in the process of developing their list of books, getting them into the market and into the hands of consumers.

The strategies explored in this report are particularly applicable to publishers of non-fiction and genre fiction titles where a specialty reputation can be established within niche communities. The approach can help push sales of mid-list titles, or frontlist titles that are not blockbusters from the outset, and possibly turn them into bestsellers over time.

The information in this report was collected in the period of April to December 2011, which includes the three months of my summer internship with the marketing and publicity department at Raincoast Books. It was obtained from interviews conducted with the staff at Sourcebooks and Raincoast Books, personal staff emails, marketing materials provided by the staff, analysis of bnc SalesData, books and journals from the Simon Fraser University Library and database, as well as blogs, websites, and magazine and newspaper articles found online.

 

OVERVIEW OF THE TOPIC

Raincoast Books is a division of Raincoast Book Distribution Inc., an award-winning, Canadian-owned book wholesale and distribution company based in Richmond, British Columbia. Founded in 1979, Raincoast Books provides comprehensive sales, marketing, and distribution services to a select number of international publishers. It distributes books on a wide range of topics including food, health, kids, pop culture, travel, as well as gift products such as notebooks and stationery.

In 2010, Raincoast Books signed a distributor contract with an independent us publisher, Sourcebooks, and began shipping its titles in January 2011. Raincoast had noticed the big gaps that existed between the American and Canadian sales of some of Sourcebooks’ titles. These gaps were apparent for Sourcebooks’ line of college-bound books, such as The Naked Roommate: And 107 Other Issues You Might Run Into in College by Harlan Cohen. The fourth edition of the book was released in April 2011 and was under-performing in Canada compared to sales in the us, a situation similar to every one of its previous three editions.

The senior marketing and sales management staff at Raincoast Books wanted to put more resources into the fourth edition of the book because of the noticeable difference between American and Canadian sales. Why was it that for four editions now, the book continues to sell so well in the us—with the fourth edition becoming a New York Times bestseller—but consistently does so poorly in Canada? Now that the issue is identified, how can it be fixed?

During my internship with Raincoast Books from April to July 2011, I was assigned to help with marketing and publicity initiatives to boost the Canadian sales of The Naked Roommate. I decided to analyze the case for this report. Using the book as a case study, the report analyzes how Sourcebooks developed its line of college-bound books through analysis of sell-through data, and the strategies it implemented to successfully grow the title into a New York Times bestseller over four editions after six years. The report then explores how Raincoast Books used sell-through data analysis to identify concerns in the sales performance of the book in Canada, and its plans to fix the issues—specifically, its plans to try to close the gap between the book’s excellent American sales and its under-performing Canadian sales.

The report focuses on the college guide market and the decision-making process to provide observations on how the considerations and strategies can be adjusted for future publishing seasons and perhaps be extrapolated onto other categories of books.

 

 

I.THE IMPACT OF SELL-THROUGH REPORTING ON THE BUSINESS OF BOOK PUBLISHING

Book publishing has never been an easy business. If one takes some time to read the books about the industry over the recent decades, it will not take long before one discovers the list of challenges that publishers consistently face up to this day. In the book, In Cold Type, author Leonard Shatzkin (1982, 2-3) provides a sobering description of the stark difference between books and other consumer products that was apparent back in the eighties. Compared to other consumer products, the book publishing industry has a larger number of suppliers (publishers) in relation to distributors (retailers), and the suppliers experience a lack of direct influence over the distribution system. Not many other consumer industries have products with so short a shelf life as books, where each individual product has its own personality and requires different marketing methods (3). As such, sales of books tend to vary unpredictably and at random. Added to that is the “limited replenishment” (3) nature of the business which makes the task of improving sales a unique challenge for publishers because a reader who enjoyed a book does not usually “rush out to buy another copy so he can have more of the same pleasure” (3). Not to mention the limited shelf space of so few retailers. The book trade has always been a rather unprofitable business which operates close to the break-even point (9).

Up until the end of the twentieth century, publishers were mostly acting in the dark due to the lack of access to real-time sales statistics to forecast market trends accurately. It was difficult to discern sales patterns to see how well or poorly a book was doing until much later—sometimes months later—when the publishers receive returns. However, the book publishing industry was in for a turn of events when Nielsen BookScan was introduced in 2001. Previously, tracking of book sales was not done using concrete raw data, but rather by estimation whereby a survey and sampling of sales from a few selected retailers was used to estimate the patterns of the larger population (Dreher 2002). This was evident in the discrepancies between various bestseller lists such as the New York Times, USA Today, and the Wall Street Journal. The rankings would be published without the actual sales figures, which meant that there would be no way to tell the difference between first and second place, or first and fiftieth place. After BookScan was formed, it would eventually be treated as the authoritative source on book point-of-sale data.

Owned by the same company[1] that introduced SoundScan to the music industry in the early nineties, BookScan tracks point-of-sale information from a variety of participating retailers from in-store scanners, and reports to subscribers on a weekly basis the number of copies sold and where they were sold (Nielsen, n.d.; Hutton 2002, 45). Today, it is the world’s largest continuous sales tracking service that provides sales data reports and analysis to publishers and booksellers in the United Kingdom, Ireland, Australia, South Africa, Italy, the United States, Spain, New Zealand, and India (Nielsen, n.d.). Of these countries, BookScan tracks data from more than 31,500 bookstores, presenting the information by market size and market share of different book categories, individual publishers, specific imprints, authors, and price points (Nielsen, n.d.). At the time of writing, BookScan tracks 75 percent of all point-of-sale information in the us, which includes large retailers like Barnes & Noble, Costco, Amazon.com, and Target, as well as many independent bookstores. It does not track sales from Wal-Mart or Sam’s Club (Nielsen, n.d.). Publishers who would like access to these point-of-sale reports must pay thousands of dollars, up to $75,000 per year, for the hefty BookScan subscription fee (Hutton 2002, 47).

Five years after the formation of BookScan, Canada joined many of the other English-language book markets in tracking sales data using BookNet Canada’s bnc SalesData service. The process of setting up this service began in September 2001 with the formation of the Canadian book industry Supply Chain Initiative (sci) for the purpose of identifying inefficiencies in the Canadian book publishing supply chain, recommend solutions, and implement changes to improve the state of the industry (MacLean 2009). sci focused on three priorities that were identified as critical to improving supply chain: bibliographic data, electronic data interchange (edi), and point-of-sale data collection (MacLean 2009). sci funding eventually led to the creation of the not-for-profit agency, called BookNet Canada, in December 2002.[2] BookNet’s website states that the agency “focuses on bibliographic data, electronic data interchange (edi), sales data analysis, international standards and the sourcing of other technologies and services to enhance supply chain efficiencies” (“About BookNet Canada”).

The first few years at BookNet were taken up with finding ways to improve the quality of and establishing a national standard for bibliographic data. It was not until the time between 2005 to 2006 that the agency launched bnc SalesData, a comprehensive Canadian book sales data reporting and analysis service for the English-language market (Canadian Heritage, The Book Report 2006, 17). Today, this service tracks 75 percent of all Canadian book sales—an average of one thousand retail locations—including data from large chains, independents, online retailers, college and university bookstores, and non-traditional channels such as airport shops, grocery chains, and discount stores (BookNet Canada, “BNC SalesData”). The cost of subscription is a minimum of $2,000 per year (BookNet Canada, “BNC SalesData Group Buy Plan”).

 

IMPACT ON EDITORIAL ACQUISITIONS

BookScan did not arrive without controversy. Some publishing professionals—from publishers and agents, to authors and pundits—were concerned about how being numbers-driven would affect the quality of content produced, as illustrated by the impact of the implementation of SoundScan on the music industry (Hutton 2002, 46). Not long after the formation of SoundScan, record labels became increasingly hit-driven and were chasing the artists who could make the charts quickly, namely those in the pop genre. This meant that lesser known artists would be less likely to be given a chance at a record deal. As a result, critics felt that the music charts became gradually filled with songs that were formulaic and of the same “shoddy, market-driven pop music” genre (Dreher 2002). Likewise, with the formation of BookScan, book industry professionals began to fear a similar fate where the bestseller lists would be filled with similar, formulaic books that were perceived as having blockbuster potential to bring in big money (Hutton 2002, 47).

This fear of the blockbuster phenomenon actually began well before the implementation of BookScan. In the latter half of the twentieth century, there was an increasing concern over the widespread consolidation and mergers of publishing houses, declining readership, the growing blockbuster-driven culture, and competition from other media (Greco, Rodríguez, and Wharton 2007, 187-189). In the sixties, trade book publishing was subjected to a major shift: from a predominance of independently owned and run publishing houses, to a predominance of concentrated ownership of such houses under publicly owned corporate organizations (Whiteside 1981, 1-2). These large corporations were in turn absorbed into huge conglomerates.

While mergers were occurring on a small scale since the start of the twentieth century, it was the events during the sixties that set the tone for what was to come, particularly when Alfred A. Knopf was taken over by Random House, which in turn was acquired by rca (Radio Corporation of America) as part of the wider trend towards corporate conglomerates in America (Whiteside 1981, 3). The growing number of corporate consolidations, combined with the unprofitable nature of book publishing, caused many publishers to increasingly place emphasis on chasing celebrity and the blockbuster. Publishers were concentrating their attention on searching for and promoting potential bestsellers, and the trade book business appeared to be “a component of the conglomerate communications-entertainment complex” (22):

“This concentration on the blockbuster is reinforced by other developments that have been occurring in the industry—among them the growth of large chains of retail bookstores, the strong rivalry of paperback publishers for rack space in retail outlets, the computerization of inventory and warehousing systems, the arrival on the scene of a new breed of big-time literary agent, the influence of television talk shows that regularly feature authors as guests, the control by entertainment conglomerates of hardcover and paperback publishing companies as well as motion-picture companies and the like, and the increasingly active involvement of Hollywood in the business of book publishing itself.” (Whiteside 22)

In Greco, Rodríguez and Wharton’s (2007, 188) survey of fifty-seven respondents at all levels within the industry, they found that the chase for profit, celebrity, and the blockbuster, coupled with widespread consolidation, raised concerns among some in the industry for the small independent presses that were bought up by larger companies. The fear was that these small independent presses might be subjected to massive change or be shut down in the process, causing the loss of their contribution of a unique voice and quality of content in the trade. Some publishers were concerned that the blockbuster-driven industry had a detrimental influence on the quality of the content being published—a type of “dumbing down” (187)—as publishers were less inclined to take chances on a risky or unique book whose market is not easily identifiable.

This trend placed pressure on editors in the acquisition process to look for the commercial potential of the manuscript as well as the media-friendly personality and connections of the author. Focusing on a manuscript’s commercial potential to be a moneymaking blockbuster does not reinforce the strategic development of an editorial plan, but rather the practice of making publishing decisions book by book (L. Shatzkin 1982, 13). To this day, the trend towards media platforms is an increasingly important consideration for all books. It has become an expectation that publishers have of authors (Greco, Rodríguez, and Wharton 2007, 184). How well an author performs in media or an author’s pre-existing connections to media outlets are key factors in determining whether a book will be published. Publishing and public relations strategist, Jodee Blanco, puts it this way: “the most vital selling point when pitching a media contact is how much the author will affect and engage the audience, because that’s the producers’ and editors’ first priority” (2004, 3). It is a shift from finding “great writers” with strong writing, to searching for “marketable writers” that can make money at the expense of poorly edited books (Greco, Rodríguez, and Wharton 2007, 184). Even early on, Whiteside also noted of this shift in focus on “the author as a personality rather than the book as a book” (1981, 37).

What publishers deemed as marketable was probably heavily informed by the media and non-substantive bestseller lists, not by studying concrete sell-through data to see what consumers are actually buying. Nonetheless, now with availability of sell-through data provided by BookScan, the concern that poor literary quality content will populate the bestseller lists is still a fear for some publishers. In the early days of BookScan, publishing professionals feared that “authors with prize potential or with prestigious, intellectual, or literary works would be buried” (Hutton 2002, 47), lost in the sea of commercial titles that bring in the money but not necessarily carry the same weight in literary excellence. That fear and controversy linger on to this day. Stephen Henighan’s article, “The BookNet Dictatorship” published in Geist magazine in early 2011, is an example of the worries that some have today about BookNet sales data. Henighan asserts his opinion that BookNet is detrimental to the quality of Canadian literature, that it “incarnates how corporate imperatives are squeezing the creative juice out of our fiction” (2011). He suggests that today’s editors in Canada are enslaved to BookNet sales data and no longer rely on literary taste, stating that “the novel on a deeply personal subject is shuffled aside in favour of the blockbuster that reflects yesterday’s headlines and promises to sell film rights” (2011), a sentiment similar to the long-time concern about the blockbuster phenomenon.

On the other hand, some publishing pundits saw the potential of BookScan early on to open up the book market to new categories that have been previously overshadowed by blockbusters (Hutton 2004, 48). When SoundScan was introduced, previously niche genres of rap and country music that were underrated by big record companies soon garnered more listeners and were brought to the public’s attention alongside pop blockbusters (Hutton 2004, 48; Dreher 2002). Similarly with BookScan, smaller, alternative books by independent publishers that would previously not be noticed can be brought to the public and bookseller’s attention more readily with BookScan. For example, a book that perennially sells a small number of copies per week steadily for many years will never make onto a bestseller list, even though it would technically be on par with a book that had big sales in the opening weeks, made it on the bestseller list, but stopped selling soon after four weeks. BookScan will be able to establish more credibility in the market for the smaller book.

Much like the movie business with a perpetual reproduction of “typical Hollywood” movies and emphasis on opening weekend sales at the box office, there may well be a continuing trend towards the homogenization and “dumbing down” of books among some publishers and categories of books due to the blockbuster phenomenon and its heavy emphasis on sales within four to six weeks of a book’s release (Thompson 2010, 266). However, the availability of sell-through data can help create greater public awareness of non-blockbuster, smaller titles.

 

IMPACT ON MARKETING, PUBLICITY, AND SALES FUNCTIONS

Not only has sell-through data impacted the editorial function in how a publisher decides on which manuscript to publish, but it has also influenced the marketing and sales functions of the business. The publisher essentially has to accomplish two things once an author contract is signed: firstly, to ensure that the book is available in stock where prospective buyers can access it, then secondly, to let these buyers know about the book and give compelling reasons for them to purchase it (L. Shatzkin 1982, 25). To accomplish the former, the publisher employs a sales force that sells directly to retailers, distributors and wholesalers. To do the latter, the publisher will have to engage in publicity, public relations, promotions or advertising. The former is the sales function of achieving sell-in—getting the books onto the store shelves; the latter is the marketing function of achieving sell-through—getting the books into the hands of the end user (Blanco 2004, 10-11).

However, the marketing function also greatly affects sell-in as well. When Leonard Shatzkin wrote In Cold Type in 1982, he observed that much of the publishers’ efforts were placed on selling in. He noted:

“…in contrast to most other industries producing consumer goods, the selling effort is still almost entirely directed to getting the product into the store.” (7)

“Most other industries have reached the point where, it is no longer necessary to negotiate every single unit of every single item, the selling job is to move the product through the store.” (7)

Fast-forward twenty years later, the efforts seemed to have shifted to pushing for sell-through. Jodee Blanco (2004, 12) suggests in her book, The Complete Guide to Book Publicity, that sometimes publishers make the mistake of focusing publicity and promotional efforts too much on sell-through and not enough on sell-in.

Essentially, both sell-in and sell-through are equally important and mutually dependent. A widely held opinion in the book industry is that word-of-mouth is a powerful factor for sell-through (L. Shatzkin 1982, 46). Word-of-mouth is “the passing of information from person to person by oral communication” (Wikipedia, “Word of Mouth”). It is often generated by media publicity, public relations, or strong advertising and promotion. However, if enough word-of-mouth is generated for a prospective buyer to enter the bookstore looking for the specific title, but the bookstore has none in stock, the word-of-mouth reaction can slow down or come to a halt completely (47). For some time in the late twentieth century, publishers sometimes based their decision on whether or not to publish a title, or whether or not promote a title in a big way, on the level of enthusiasm or cooperation by the bookseller to carry the book or promote the book in the store with prominent displays (Whiteside 1981, 46). Thus, the sell-in process of getting the book retailer to place enough advanced orders in the right store locations is just as vital to the life sales of a book as sell-through. The right balance of a publisher’s resources for both the sell-in and sell-through processes would benefit titles tremendously. The efforts to promote a book can be used both for encouraging a retailer to stock up on a book as well as for a prospective buyer to go out and purchase it.

The bookselling process has changed over the past few decades due to the advancements of technologies. Kermit Hummel (2004) described in this article, “The Perishing of Publishing,” about how the business of bookselling has shifted from an enthusiasm-based bookselling method to that of ‘analogy bookselling.’ He writes, “…what makes things tick is the notion that there is nothing new under the sun. We sell books and distribute books by analogy. ‘This book will appeal to the readers of ‘X’. If you liked X, you’ll love Y’.” (160). The old-school bookselling method of relying on sheer enthusiasm for the new title was being replaced in the eighties and nineties by the analogy selling method of providing analysis of competitive or comparable books that are “like” this new title (160). The analogy selling method is used to this day when trying to encourage sell-through, such as Amazon’s “Frequently Bought Together” and “Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought” recommendations on its online store, and it is also used during the sell-in process when sales reps attempt to persuade booksellers to stock the shelves with their books.

This shift towards analogy selling was an extension of the development of new technologies in enabling sales data tracking, first just by booksellers of their in-store products, then later by participating publishers who subscribe to a sell-through reporting service. As such, “instead of raw and uninformed enthusiasm, predictability became a vastly more operative concept in the book distribution system” (Hummel 2004, 161). The irony, Hummel pointed out, is that publishers are trying to market new books as unique and entirely different, but using “a sales and distribution system that increasingly depends entirely upon an assumption of the fundamental fungibility of titles” (161). The process has become less about the content of the book, and more about the sales expectations of a previously published book (by the same author or another). Essentially, the book has been commodified.

To aid the bookselling process, publishers combine sales data with a number of marketing initiatives, which may include publicity, public relations, advertising or promotion. Publicity and public relations events for the author and his or her book have always been crucial. Publicity is media or news coverage that is free, unlike advertising which is paid for by the publisher (Blanco 2004, 4-5). Public relations is “the function of perpetuating an image through a variety of means that connect specific sectors of the public with the product or person that image is attached to” (5), and involves public author appearances, such as at bookstores and seminars, that not only allows live interaction with the audience but also helps place the author and the book in a positive light. As such, public relations can be a means to gain publicity as the media may be invited to be present at the event to report on it. These initiatives create awareness and help to develop word-of-mouth reaction.

According to John B. Thompson (2010, 238) in his book, Merchants of Culture, the real battle that is currently taking place in publishing, and probably always has been, is that of getting a book seen, heard of and talked about—the concept of word-of-mouth. It is increasingly difficult to make a book visible in a crowded, competitive marketplace as the number of books being published is growing almost every year and readers are faced with an abundance of books to choose from.[3] While the challenge of making the book stand out has remained the same for marketing and publicity departments over the past thirty years, today the channels that are available and the timing of when to push books have changed fundamentally (243).

Traditionally, in the sixties, promotion of books was limited to advertisements in the book-review sections of newspapers and magazines, author appearances at bookstores, sending out press releases and a few review copies (Whiteside 1981, 23). Twenty years later, television and radio interviews quickly became a focus in book publicity due to the capability of an author appearance to spike sales, although the opportunity is subject to the personality of the author and what the publishers and producers deem will work best for television or radio (33-35). Today, specialized channels or ‘micro media’ are becoming more important for marketing and promoting books, whereas traditional mass media channels such as print advertising and multi-city author tours have become less effective due to increased competition for limited space, although these mass channels have not become irrelevant (Thompson 2010, 243-246).

Thompson reports that today, most marketing managers tend to agree that they are increasingly focusing their efforts on micro media, “trying to identify specific, fine-grained ways of reaching the people who comprise what they see as the readership, using an array of different channels which, in addition to traditional print media, now include a variety of new media” (246). Digital channels have become a game-changer in book marketing and publicity with the growth of online marketing through online advertising, online outreach, and the management of web properties such as search engine optimization, e-newsletters, reading groups, websites, blogging, and helping authors start their own social networking sites (251-257). With these smaller and specific channels for marketing, a book will require multiple hits—or mentions in the media—before it can generate substantial word-of-mouth reaction. When an individual is exposed to the ripple effects of word-of-mouth and media mentions, research shows that it could take six to twelve touches in the individual’s mind for the person to eventually come to a decision to take action and buy the book (244).

The growth of new media channels has also influenced the timing on when to push books. The timing has shifted from aiming for a great break of publicity on publication date and the weeks after, to be more focused on slowly building pre-publication awareness and momentum through new media channels (Thompson 2010, 248-251). When a marketing campaign is built slowly over time, it can “[get] people talking about a book and [generate] interest and excitement well in advance of publication” (249). This pre-publication interest has shaped the pre-order phenomenon at Amazon, whereby publishers are now able to obtain book sales numbers prior to its physical availability at the retailers—an impossible feat before the development of new media. When physical book retailers notice the buzz online and its status on Amazon’s pre-order list, they can be more easily persuaded by sales reps to increase their initial order. Thus, a pre-publication marketing and publicity campaign built slowly over time is effective not only for creating awareness through multiple touches in the minds of prospective buyers, but also for obtaining healthy sell-in which can in turn act as another touch point in the minds of casual browsers when they see a sizeable amount of stock placed at the front-of-store display.

BookScan has become an effective marketing tool in creating pre-publication awareness. The ability to find out where books are selling, when they sell, and how many are sold can ensure marketing expenditures are allocated more accurately. Sell-through numbers of previous editions of a book, competitive and comparable books and retailers, can influence sell-in decisions. If a seller is hesitant to place an order for an unknown author, healthy sell-through numbers can push a bookseller to increase his initial order on a book he did not initially believe in. This can reduce the risk of not having enough stock in the store, which can kill a word-of-mouth reaction quickly. Analysis of sell-through data can also reduce the persistent problem of returns through more accurate sales and distribution forecasting. Booksellers can use data to discern the effect of a book review and learn about what their customers are looking for (Hutton 2004, 48).

BookScan and BookNet have also allowed for more accurate sales forecasting because they allow publishers to identify which titles or categories of titles are selling well, manage print runs and inventories, reduce returns, and fine-tune pricing, marketing and publicity strategies. This was precisely what those involved in the Canadian book publishing Supply Chain Initiative wanted to accomplish with BookNet Canada, as stated in the Printed Matters report published by Canadian Heritage in 2004:

“Market data analysis allows publishers to make more effective printing and reprint decisions, manage marketing budgets more effectively and focus sales efforts. Retailers also have access to bestseller lists that truly represent the diversity of the marketplace in which they operate.” (31)

Jonathan Nowell, president of Nielsen Book, also touted the benefits of using the point-of-sale system back in 2004, citing that when uk publishers fully adopted it, returns across the industry reduced from 19 percent to 12 percent (Milliot 2004).

The benefits and practical uses of sale data analysis have become increasingly evident over the past decade for some publishers. Sell-through reporting requires publishers to not only monitor data on a daily basis but to also use it to drive their decisions (Thompson 2010, 288). Jean Srnecz, who was the Senior Vice President of Merchandising at Baker & Taylor and a longstanding Director of the Book Industry Study Group with over thirty years experience in the book industry, recommended back in 2004 that publishers need to seriously consider investing into information technology to develop data analysis tools for their books (Milliot 2004). As Srnecz puts it, data should be the dna of the publishing house.

Few are more exemplary than Sourcebooks, one of America’s leading independent book publishers, as well as Raincoast Books, a Canadian book wholesale and distribution company that distributes Sourcebooks titles. In the next section, this paper will explore in more detail how these companies leverage sell-through data in their business operations.

 

 

II.LEVERAGING SELL-THROUGH DATA AT SOURCEBOOKS AND RAINCOAST BOOKS

OVERVIEW OF SOURCEBOOKS[4]

Sourcebooks is one of the leading and largest independent book publishers in North America. Located in Naperville, Illinois, it was founded in 1987 by the savvy and charismatic Dominique Raccah. She started the company with only one title, Financial Sourcebooks Sources, with a focus on publishing professional finance titles. In the nineties, Raccah expanded Sourcebooks into publishing self-help, parenting, business, and reference titles, all of which continue to be the backbone of the Sourcebooks list to this day.

In 1997, Sourcebooks was listed as the sixth fastest-growing small publisher in America by Publishers Weekly. After moving to number two in 1999, it had expanded beyond the “small publisher” classification, with sales figures doubling every two years during that time period. Its growth can be attributed to the acquisition of imprints over the years to include publishers of relationship-, sex-, and wedding-oriented self-help books (Casablanca Press, acquired in 1996), consumer-oriented self-help law books (Sphinx Publishing, acquired in 1997), humour and women’s interests books (Hysteria Publications, acquired in 1998), and gift and history titles (Cumberland House, acquired in 2008).

Another key factor to Sourcebooks’ rapid growth was its revolutionary, entrepreneurial vision. In 1998, the publisher introduced an innovative new genre of publishing, featuring compact discs of integrated content to accompany Joe Garner’s We Interrupt This Broadcast. This book that showcased the creative pairing of live audio with photographs and the written word generated a buzz within the bookselling industry and was Sourcebooks’ first New York Times bestseller. This hit book, together with another called And the Crowd Goes Wild, helped grow the company from a reported $1 million in revenue with six employees in 1992, to $20 million in revenue and fifty-six employees in 2000 (Kirch 2007).

The turn of the century marked the start of a new phase of growth for the company, beginning with the prestigious recognition of being the only book publisher to be listed as one of America’s fastest-growing companies on the Inc. 500 list for the year 2000. Since then, Sourcebooks also launched new imprints such as Sourcebooks MediaFusion (2000) for integrated mixed-media projects, Sourcebook Landmark (2001) for fiction titles and Jane Austen sequels, Sourcebooks Jabberwocky (2007) for children’s books, and Sourcebooks Fire (2010) for young adult titles. With Sourcebooks MediaFusion, the publisher became America’s leading publisher of integrated mixed-media projects, led by Poetry Speaks and Poetry Speaks to Children, a book and compact-disc combination featuring noted poets reading their own work. These poetry anthologies not only helped revitalize the way adults and children experience poetry, but also found their way onto the New York Times bestseller list. Sourcebooks also had success with its fiction imprint, Sourcebooks Landmark, which was led by the 2000 British Book of the Year, Tony Parsons’ Man and Boy, and Michael Malone’s New York Times bestseller First Lady and all of Malone’s backlist. In 2007, the publisher expanded the Sourcebooks Casablanca imprint (previously Casablanca Press) into the realm of romance fiction and quickly established itself as a top ten publisher in the genre. Later in 2010, more than seventy backlist books by children’s and gift book author Marianne Richmond were added to the Sourcebooks list, including the picture book phenomenon, If I Could Keep You Little.

Today, Sourcebooks continues to expand the breadth of its list of titles by publishing authors in various subjects, and in formats it describes as both “classically physical and dynamically digital” (Sourcebooks.com, “The Sourcebooks Story”). It is now a strong vertical publisher and established authority in a number of non-fiction categories—college-bound books, baby name books, gift books, grieving and recovery books—as well as a strong competitor in commercial and historical fiction, romance novels, children’s books and more. Still headquartered in Naperville, Sourcebooks now has satellite offices in New York City and Connecticut, a staff of more than seventy employees, and an annual output of over three hundred titles at the time of writing (Bookjobs.com).

This is an impressive feat for a company that started out in the spare bedroom of a house belonging to someone without a traditional publishing background. Unlike many of her publishing colleagues, Dominique Raccah came from a scientific background. Her father was a physicist who accepted a position at Massachusetts Institute of Technology and moved the family from Paris to America when Raccah was nine (Kirch 2009). She graduated from the University of Illinois with a Bachelor’s degree in psychology and later obtained a Master’s degree in quantitative psychology. She went on to establish a flourishing career at Leo Burnett advertising agency in Chicago for seven years, performing quantitative research for major corporate clients before leaving to pursue her love for books in the publishing industry (Kirch 2009). Her scientific background, while unconventional within the industry, will prove to be integral to Sourcebooks’ business strategy and culture—one that is essentially data-driven.

 

OVERVIEW OF RAINCOAST BOOKS[5]

Raincoast Books is a Canadian-owned book wholesale and distribution company based in Richmond, British Columbia, specializing in providing comprehensive sales and marketing coverage, logistical support, and distribution services to a select number of international publishers. It distributes a variety of genres of books, both fiction and non-fiction titles, for all ages from kids and teens to adults. Its non-fiction titles cover a wide range of topics including food, health, kids, pop culture, travel, as well as gift products such as notebooks and stationery.

Raincoast Books is a division of Raincoast Book Distribution Inc. that also includes Publishers Group Canada, a distribution division focused on specialty independent publishers, and Book Express, its wholesale division. Raincoast Books and Book Express were founded in 1979 by Allan MacDougall and Mark Stanton. The company started with seven employees with a goal to be a small regional wholesale operation. It signed its first distribution deal with Chronicle Books in 1988, and, together with Publishers Group Canada, it has grown to serve over one hundred international publishers today, providing fast shipping service capable of shipping over 20,000 new titles to more than 2,500 bookstores and specialty retailers across Canada.

Over the years, Raincoast has won awards and achieved industry recognition for its services. It won the Distributor of the Year Award as voted by the Canadian Booksellers Association (CBA 1998-2010) in 1999, 2004, 2005, 2006, and 2010, and was nominated in 2008 and 2009—more often than any book distributor or publisher in Canada. Quill & Quire named it the fastest distributor in Canada in its 2003 and 2004 industry surveys. It further won the Marketing Achievement of the Year Award in 2006, and short-listed again in 2007 and 2008 (Raincoast, Always Connected 2010, 17).

In the mid nineties, Raincoast endeavored to publish books as well. Raincoast Publishing was founded in 1995. The spotlight was on Raincoast when it secured the contract to be the publisher and distributor of the Harry Potter series in Canada. In 2003, the company set a record in Canadian publishing history with the largest domestic print run and single-day lay-down for Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, which was later surpassed by the book’s sequel, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince in 2005, and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows in 2007. Books published by Raincoast Publishing were also short-listed or won major literary prizes in Canada, including a Governor General’s Award for literature in 2003. However, the publishing program was shut down in 2008 to focus on its core distribution and wholesale businesses. The publishing program was deemed unprofitable due to the appreciation of the Canadian dollar in 2007 and the subsequent decision to reduce suggested retail prices by 20 percent (Raincoast, “Raincoast Gets Back to Basics” 2008).

Over the years, Raincoast has placed itself in the forefront of the Canadian publishing industry with its investment and use of new technologies to improve its systems and book sales. Responsible for successful online promotional campaigns for the Harry Potter series in Canada and being the first publisher to start a blog and begin a literary podcast series, Raincoast Publishing established itself in the Canadian publishing industry and on the international front as one of the top five publishers to implement new media technologies and strategies (Trottier, “About Monique”). Raincoast’s Chief Executive Officer, John Sawyer, has been an active member in the Canadian book industry sci and BookNet Canada’s edi conference. Consequently, Raincoast was an early adopter of edi and established onix[6] compliance early on in the initiative (Raincoast, Always Connected 2010, 19).

The company strives for what it calls “context-smart technology” (Raincoast, Always Connected 2010, 19), regularly looking for ways to improve its systems through customizing and modifying its programs. Its recent efforts in 2010 include implementation of a customized warehouse management system, the launch of an electronic catalogue for sales representatives to use when selling titles to its accounts, and the expansion of its publisher extranet site[7] which provides one of the three streams of detailed data reports to its client publishers (17, 19).

The first stream of data consists of publisher month-end reports of sales, returns, and inventory movement, customized for some of its publishers to suit their respective reporting systems. The extranet site supplies the second stream of data including demand, stock status, current and historical sales, and channel breakdowns for specific titles that is updated and accessible in real-time. These first two streams of data are based on data pulled from Varnet, Raincoast’s internal database, and then repackaged for its clients. They are not based on BookNet numbers as that data is always one week behind and only covers 75 percent of the market.

The third stream is what Raincoast calls its “most unique” stream of monthly reports designed to help publishers “understand what is going on in our market” (17). This third stream of reports is based on BookNet and BookScan numbers compiled by Raincoast’s in-house Data Analyst and includes information such as the top titles, top customers, detailed titles sales for a publisher’s top five customers, and “peer gap analysis” that tracks Canadian versus American sell-through numbers. Sell-through data is an invaluable resource to publishers for tracking the effectiveness of any promotion, hence Raincoast ensures that its client publishers have access to BookNet data of their own titles. Table 3.1 shows a breakdown of the three streams of data provided by Raincoast to its publishers.

 

Table 3.1: Three streams of data that Raincoast Books provides to its publishers


(Source: Raincoast, Always Connected 2011, 17)

 

Today, Raincoast is headquartered in Richmond, British Columbia, with a second sales and marketing office in Toronto, and employs over ninety people over three divisions (Raincoast, Always Connected 2010, 24).

 

LEVERAGING SELL-THROUGH DATA

Sourcebooks prides itself in being a data-driven company, placing emphasis on the analysis of sales data and looking for trends in the numbers. In an interview with the Vice President and Editorial Director of Sourcebooks, Todd Stocke (2011), he professes the company to be a heavy BookScan user. BookScan is used across all departments at Sourcebooks—editorial, marketing, publicity, and sales—many of whom “can’t really live without it” (Stocke 2011).

At Raincoast Books, both marketing and sales departments are also regular users of BookNet. The company has sell-through data stored in its internal Varnet database so that numbers can be pulled up easily and regularly (Broadhurst 2011).

This section explores how both these companies use sell-through data analysis to their advantage in selling books.

 

Tool for Editorial Creativity

The argument for homogenization of content as a result of the availability of sell-through data persists to this day, and the industry will likely continue to see rip-offs of successful books that validate that line of argument. However, some publishers like Sourcebooks have chosen to use sell-through data in different and creative ways.

Sourcebooks describes its use of sell-through data as a “weapon for creativity” (Stocke 2011). Sourcebooks uses data to identify books that are selling well in the market within the categories it covers. The purpose is not to create a rip-off, but to analyze them and “come out of it in a creatively different place” (Stocke 2011). The end goal is to use data to deliver a better book for readers.

Using this approach, Sourcebooks was able to become a leading publisher in a number of categories in the country, such as the baby names subcategory where it now owns 60 percent of the market share (Stocke 2011). It was able to accomplish that in a crowded category by studying the books at the top of the category at the time, and being creative in developing more substantial, interesting, and contemporary content compared to those previously published books. Chapter Three of this report will further illustrate how Sourcebooks uses this same approach to publish The Naked Roommate in the college guide category.

 

Forecasting, Reducing Returns, and Improving Inventory Turn Rate

Before sell-through reporting, it was difficult to know how well books did after they were shipped. Only the book retailers knew, but their knowledge was limited to information from their own stores. Publishers would hope that once books were shipped out from the warehouse that only a few would be returned. A book with small sales would tend to remain small throughout the course of the year, and it was difficult to know how a big frontlist title was doing until the retailer informed them after some time (Broadhurst 2011). It was thus difficult to make necessary adjustments on time to help with sales of books. For Sourcebooks, the process entailed waiting for faxes from its customers every Monday to see how its books performed (Stocke 2011).

The situation was similar at Raincoast. Raincoast’s Director of National Accounts, Peter MacDougall (2011), explained that before BookNet, his week would involve numerous phone calls and emails to his customers on Mondays and Tuesdays to find out what the week’s sell-through was for the books that Raincoast distributes. That information, too, was limited to only the company’s own books, not the competing titles.

From the get-go, Raccah believed that a service like BookScan could provide information for finding cost savings in the supply chain (Milliot 2004). To achieve cost reduction, Sourcebooks focused its efforts on tackling three areas: advances, inventory and returns. BookScan numbers, such as sales of an author’s previous titles or sales of compatible and competitive titles, are used to “help rationalize the predictive process” (Milliot 2004) and determine the demand for the new book. After analyzing the data, a fair author advance could be more accurately determined and the amount of unsold inventory reduced. According to Raccah:

“Sourcebooks makes its inventory decisions by looking at reprints and first printings. In managing reprints, Sourcebooks examines where the demand for the reprint is coming from, why the reprint is needed and what is the inventory on hand in the channel; the company also reviews sell-through information with its major accounts.” (Milliot 2004)

Adopting this approach, Sourcebooks reduced its first printings quite aggressively and planned for more rounds of reprints by collaborating closely with printers (Milliot 2004). Raccah reported that the inventory-days-on-hand benchmark was very helpful for determining when a reprint run should be ordered (Milliot 2004). She believed that even though smaller first printings and more reprints can increase the cost of goods sold, it could, on the other hand, increase cash-on-hand and reduce returns. This approach helped lower Sourcebooks’ returns by 25 percent in 2003 (Milliot 2004). In a market where returns place huge pressure on pricing and cash flow, working closely with customers and printers, coupled with adjusting first printings and number of reprints to print-on-demand, can shorten lead time and minimize returns for publishers (Milliot 2004).

Similarly at Raincoast, regular tracking of sell-through has also improved sales forecasting and inventory turn rates (how often the stock turns over in the warehouse on an annual basis). Its warehouse does not store stock for six months worth of demand. Sales directors and reps are able to forecast initial orders more accurately, and they track sell-through on a weekly basis to anticipate subsequent orders more precisely on a four- to six-week on-demand basis (Broadhurst 2011). As discussed in Chapter One regarding the importance of sell-in, it would be detrimental to book sales if the publisher could not print fast enough and has to try to catch up with demand because the upward sales momentum could dissipate quickly from a lack of sufficient stock. A healthy inventory turn rate also frees up the warehouse to stock up on a wider variety of titles.

 

Closing the Gaps

Beyond reducing costs, sell-through data can also be used to determine marketing and promotional strategies to increase sales. This is another benefit that Sourcebooks has come to identify and implement. As discussed in Chapter One, in old-school bookselling, the publisher’s team of sales and publicity personnel had to try to cultivate media and author contacts through sheer enthusiasm and strong persuasive skills, and promote its list of titles by developing word-of-mouth. Today, the added benefit of having sell-through data can add to a sales rep’s arsenal of tools to help with his or her pitch to booksellers in the environment of analogy bookselling. The ability to discern sales patterns, and identify the gaps in different market segments and retailers, can help the sell-in process and boost the sales of underrated titles.

Gap analysis has been key to Sourcebooks’ and Raincoast’s marketing and sales strategies to leverage sell-through information to increase sales and create long-term bestsellers. While all departments at Sourcebooks employ data analysis, analysis of gaps is more specific to the sales department who uses the method on a regular basis. Its application is sometimes broad—for example, total sell-through of customer X versus customer Y, versus their market shares (Stocke 2011). Another broad application is to analyze gaps by channel—for example, whether or not the library channel or the Canadian channel is attaining sell-through that is comparable to that of competing publishers (Stocke 2011).

Analysis of gaps is applied to sell-in data as well. Examining the advanced orders of compatible retailers can reveal gaps that help with the sell-in process to persuade the buyer to increase the advance orders if the competing retailer has taken a huge position on a book. That scenario is less likely to occur for Barnes & Noble in the us and Chapters Indigo in Canada as they are the dominant large chain bookstores in their respective countries. However, comparing the chain bookstore orders with that of a dominant online retailer like Amazon, or comparing compatible specialty channels, has been beneficial to both Sourcebooks’ and Raincoast’s businesses.

MacDougall (2011) now finds sell-through data to be an indispensable tool for selling and pitching to his customers. A book sales rep for eleven years, he expresses how enormous the positive impact of BookNet has been to his work: “It is hard to overstate how amazing BookNet has been in terms of selling and being able to look at peer-to-peer data, and comparing what Indigo is doing versus other retailers in Canada” (MacDougall 2011). Now MacDougall can track the data himself to be prepared with the information for his pitches, whereas prior to BookNet only the retailers could to do the work of tracking the data. He can also see which channels a book tends to sell better and make necessary adjustments. The process is now more efficient.

The gap analysis method can be applied at a granular level by title as well, and this level is the most regularly used by both Sourcebooks and Raincoast. Sourcebooks’ sales department generates these reports and systematically reviews them every week (Stocke 2011). According to Todd Stocke (2011), granular level gap analysis has become interesting for Sourcebooks in the area of ebook pricing. He explains that with some variables from the print publishing model eliminated in the electronic realm—inventory is the big one—there should not be any wild fluctuations in sales percentages among online retailers. Gap analysis would then be used in the electronic realm to identify “outliers and look for what one e-tailer might be doing with a title as opposed to others, and [see if you can] replicate it elsewhere” (2011). Oftentimes, gaps appear due to the influence of ebook pricing. Regarding ebook pricing, Stocke notes:

“The effect of pricing is something publishers never had the power to impact, we printed the price on the book and what happened, happened. That’s no longer the case, so most publishers are hiring pricing analysts.” (2011)

Raincoast also does granular, title-by-title “peer gap” analysis on a weekly basis, and provides the results of the analysis to its client publishers on a monthly basis as part of its third stream of data (Table 3.1). From a practical standpoint of applying data analysis in its everyday operations, Raincoast looks at core frontlist titles and identifies significant gaps between BookNet and BookScan numbers—the books that do well in the us but under-perform in the Canadian market (Broadhurst 2011). For those books where there exists a considerable difference in their recent weeks’ sales, they are called out during Raincoast’s weekly Major Sales meetings to discuss further marketing and publicity options so to improve sell-in and sell-through.

The Raincoast staff gathers every Thursday at 1:00 p.m. for the Major Sales meeting. The staff who attends these meeting include all marketing and publicity personnel, select sales staff (Sales Director, Director of National Accounts, Special Accounts rep, and Data Analyst) and some of the warehouse inventory personnel. Once a month the Vice President of Sales, Paddy Laidley, attends the meeting to give a ‘State of the Union’ report of updates and highlights from the past month’s sales revenue and performance of different publishers. To prepare for the meeting, the Data Analyst, Jim Allan, pulls out the key data and creates a grid divided into columns with selected information. This particular set of information is what Raincoast focuses on to base its marketing and sales promotions decisions. The selected data on the Major Sales Grid are listed in Table 3.2.

 

Table 3.2: Items listed on Raincoast Books’ Major Sales Grid

 

The meeting is chaired by Jamie Broadhurst, the Vice President of Marketing, who studies the grid before the meeting to make notes on the titles he wishes to call to attention. The meeting would always commence with updates from the publicists on upcoming author tour events and media coverage for specific titles. The staff then switches their attention to the sales grid. Broadhurst would point out significant gaps in the past week or month, if any, between BookScan and BookNet numbers of specific titles so that the sales reps and publicists are aware of the books that need more push. Furthermore, sell-through information is invaluable for highlighting books that are doing unexpectedly well and for tracking the effectiveness of current marketing, publicity, and promotional efforts.

Therefore, while access to sell-through data is available for all publishers who can afford to subscribe to BookScan or BookNet, the key point is less about having access, and more about being able to do something with the data—dissecting, analyzing, and breaking down the mass amount of information into digestible pieces, such as what Sourcebooks and Raincoast have done with their sales grids and charting of sales cycle graphs—so that it makes sense to the sales reps and retailers and can subsequently be used to sell more books. While a major portion of a publisher’s resources will continue to be used toward pushing the few potential bestsellers on the frontlist, the availability of sell-through data can, in effect, help push the mid-list or under-performing frontlist books. Both Sourcebooks and Raincoast have found this to be so. In the case of The Naked Roommate, as will be explored in Chapter Three, it took Sourcebooks four editions to push the book into a New York Times bestseller, using diligent analysis of sales data and adjusting marketing and sales strategies accordingly. It is Raincoast’s goal as well to use that information and gap analysis to improve book sales in the Canadian market, when traditionally a publisher would most likely have given up on it after it fails to do well in the first season.

According to Broadhurst (2011), one of the factors why Raincoast made the commitment to push The Naked Roommate on a long-term basis was due to the data-driven nature of Sourcebooks and its proactive communication of the American data findings and reports to Raincoast. Within eleven months that Raincoast had been with Sourcebooks, the Canadian book distributor had already recorded a 70 percent increase in sales across all titles compared to Sourcebooks’ previous distributor (Broadhurst 2011). Sell-through data analysis was an integral part of this accomplishment.

 

 

III.CASE STUDY: THE NAKED ROOMMATE BY HARLAN COHEN

THE BEGINNINGS OF THE SOURCEBOOKS COLLEGE VERTICAL

If anyone was looking for a college guide in America, he or she would most likely come across the number one college guide in the country, Fiske Guide to Colleges. The partnership that began ten years ago between Sourcebooks and former New York Times education editor, Edward B. Fiske, has gone on to grow Sourcebooks into a leading college reference trade publisher (Rosen 2003).

Fiske Guide to Colleges was published by Random House for twenty years before Sourcebooks picked it up in 2001 to publish the eighteenth edition. The book did decently well with Random House and was the number six college guide in the country at the time (Rosen 2003). Nonetheless, after conducting some market research on its own, Sourcebooks felt that it could give the book a better marketing push in the broader trade market (Stocke 2011). Todd Stocke (2011) describes how Sourcebooks had talked to several college counsellors at the time and found that even though the Fiske Guide was not the number one college guide in the country, it was the one that was most recommended by counsellors. The publisher wanted to fix that disconnect, and eventually managed to accomplish that goal. It succeeded in tripling sales in just two years, making it the number one college guide in the country in 2003 with the its 2004-2005 edition (Sourcebooks, “Study Aids Overview” 2011, 6; Stocke 2011).

What was crucial to the extraordinary success of the book was the market research and data analysis that Sourcebooks conducted to identify the prime time periods to promote the book. The biggest sales for college guides were during the late summer before the fall semester began, but there was also a sales spike earlier in the year when early admission letters went out to the student prospects (Rosen 2003). Figure 1 shows the sales cycle for college guides in a year.

 

Figure 1: Sales Cycle of College Guides


(Source: Sourcebooks, “Study Aids Overview” 2011, 14)

 

After Sourcebooks identified the key time periods, it “reformatted the book, revisualized it and repackaged it” (Rosen 2003). The publisher updated the book’s design, made the trim size slightly bigger, tweaked how the content was delivered to be “more browsable” (Stocke 2011), changed the publication schedule to be released earlier in June, set up author appearances in media, aggressively pursued drive-time radio advertising in mid-April when rejection and acceptance letters went out, and used traditional marketing methods of offering co-op for end-caps, front-of-store and window displays to “help persuade booksellers that the book could outperform its previous track record” (Rosen 2003). Its efforts paid off, placing the book as the bestselling college guide in many independent bookstores (Rosen 2003).

With the success of the Fiske Guide to Colleges, the publisher quickly identified college-bound titles to be one of the key verticals and categories that it wanted to own. Within the bisac (Book Industry Standards and Communications) subject category system, the main “Study Aids” category can be generally divided into two subcategories: college guides and test prep (Sourcebooks, “Study Aids Overview” 2011, 2). The college guides subcategory includes three groups of books: one group consists of guides that provide information about different colleges to help with choosing a school; another are books that offer advice on successfully getting into college; and a third group of college survival and success books that help with the transition into college life.

While there are a number of college guides devoted to help with choosing the best college, Sourcebooks noticed a hole in the market for the subcategory consisting of books relating to the college transition and survival experience for both students and parents. There is a substantial market base for this subcategory: a 2009 survey by the Associated Press and mtvU revealed that 85 percent of undergraduates experience stress on a daily basis (quoted in Shatkin 2010). This percentage has been growing every year and has been accompanied by increased visits by students to mental health and counselling services (Shatkin 2010). For parents of college-bound students, a study by nyu Child Study Center found that the transition to college can be a stressful time in a parent’s life: “The departure is a significant milestone in the life of a family and ushers in a time of separation and transition, requiring an adjustment on the part of parents, the college-bound teenager and the whole family” (Shatkin 2010). Parents can feel a sense of loss from the separation, feel left out when they find they are “no longer needed in the same ways,” and must relinquish control to let their children make their own decisions (Shatkin 2010).

When Sourcebooks identifies a possible subcategory, its practice is to conduct market research by bringing in all the books in the subcategory to study their content and sales numbers (Stocke 2011). Through its research, it discovered that the two good books in this subcategory at the time was Letting Go by Karen Levin Coburn and Madge Lawrence Treeger, and Been There, Should’ve Done That by Suzette Tyler. However, Sourcebooks found that no publisher was really hitting it out of the ballpark. That was when it decided to publish Harlan Cohen’s The Naked Roommate as its first book in this subcategory of the college transition and survival experience.

 

ABOUT HARLAN COHEN

Harlan Cohen is one of the most widely read and respected advice columnists in America for people in their teens and twenties (Sourcebooks.com, “Harlan Cohen”; apb, “Harlan Cohen”). His areas of expertise include teen issues, college life, parenting, pregnancy, dating, relationships, sex, rejection, risk taking, leadership, and women’s issues (Cohen, “About”). His syndicated “Help Me, Harlan!” advice column is distributed by King Features Syndicate and is read by millions of readers in local daily and college newspapers across the us and internationally. Cohen is also a professional speaker who has toured over four hundred high schools and college campuses to give talks to students, parents and educational professionals. He has appeared on television and radio programs across North America.

Cohen began writing at Indiana University’s school newspaper, the Indiana Daily Student. After interning with The Tonight Show with Jay Leno in the summer of 1995 and meeting a fellow writer who started an advice column in college, Cohen decided he wanted to pen his own advice column. When he returned to Indiana University, he launched his advice column, Help Me, Harlan! He initially started the column by writing his own questions and answers, but soon after, letters from individuals with real questions started to come in. He consulted experts to help with his replies, and provided responses with honesty, humour and practical help. His approachable tone and style turned the column into an instant success on campus. King Features Syndicate picked it up for distribution in 2002 and the column eventually spread across the country and overseas. Cohen has since contributed to such publications as The Wall Street Journal Classroom Edition, The New York Times, Real Simple, the Chicago Tribune, Psychology Today, Seventeen, and Chicken Soup for the Teenage Soul III.

In time, Cohen delved into authoring his own books and is now a New York Times bestselling author in the us. His first book, Campus Life Exposed: Advice from the Inside, was published by Peterson’s in August 2000 (Amazon.com). He went on to write a number of books published by Sourcebooks, The Naked Roommate: And 107 Other Issues You Might Run Into in College in March 2005, Dad’s Pregnant Too! in June 2008, and The Happiest Kid on Campus in May 2010. His newest book, Naked Dating: Five Steps to Finding the Love of Your Life (While Fully Clothed and Totally Sober), will be released in April 2012 by St. Martin’s Press.

Cohen is a featured speaker every fall at college freshman orientations, touring all across North America campuses (Sourcebooks, “Study Aids Overview” 2011, 45; Stocke 2011). Online, he devotes time to build a strong web presence through regular activity on his websites, blog and social media. He incorporates interactivity into his line of books by creating websites that go hand-in-hand with them—HappiestKidonCampus.com, NakedRoommate.com, and DadsPregnant.com—in addition to running HelpMeHarlan.com.

He has since gone on to start social awareness projects to further involve and help his audience. He is the founder of Rejection Awareness Week and president of The International Risk-Taking Project, both of which seek to help those who struggle with relationship rejection (Cohen, “About”).

 

SELLING THE NAKED ROOMMATE IN THE UNITED STATES

Sell-through data was “extraordinarily integral” (Stocke 2011) to the release of the first edition of The Naked Roommate. Through market research and data analysis, Sourcebooks realized that there were not many comparable titles for sales reps and booksellers to look at. While Letting Go and Been There, Should’ve Done That did pretty well in sales, Sourcebooks felt that Cohen’s book could deliver content that was different. Letting Go catered to the emotional experience of parents dealing with letting go of their kids as the kids leave for school; Been There, Should’ve Done That catered to the college-bound students but the content was delivered as a collection of quotes and one-liners from real students. The bestselling competing title, How to Survive Your Freshman Year, was released in 2004 and the content is delivered as a collection of quotes from former and current students as well.

While all of these books were effective, the editorial team at Sourcebooks felt that The Naked Roommate could stand apart from the existing books because of Cohen’s appealing tone of voice and expert advice. Cohen comes across more like a “big brother” whose advice students would listen to, rather than an authority figure giving advice in an adult tone of voice (Stocke 2011). Cohen is personable, funny, sincere, and approachable, and he can bring to the table a vast amount of experience from interacting directly with students on a regular basis in person and online. Even though reading real quotes and stories from students offers honest insight and can be very helpful, sometimes the quotes contradict one another and might leave the reader still undecided on certain concerns at the end of the book. Sourcebooks felt that there is also value in having an author drive the book, filter through those stories, help students make sense of the information, and guide them in making wise decisions (Stocke 2011). This is what Cohen has been doing well for some time as a syndicated advice columnist. He “combines solid expert advice with fun and honest stories, quotes and advice direct from the students” (Sourcebooks, “Study Aids Overview” 2011, 46). Furthermore, The Naked Roommate also covers a wide variety of academic and social topics, such as dealing with roommates, dorm issues, relationships, laundry, cafeteria food, homesickness, social media, succeeding in class, studying, making friends, and more.

The first year that Sourcebooks tried to sell the book, it had to firstly convince booksellers that the book would fill a hole in the market as there were not many compatible books at the time. When the booksellers got on board, Sourcebooks then had to convince them on the timing on when to display the books for in-store promotion. There was a preconceived notion in the industry that back-to-school selling worked best in August, right before school starts in September (Stocke 2011). However, after mapping out the week-by-week sales data from BookScan of competitive titles, Sourcebooks noticed that while sales did spike during the traditional back-to-school selling period in August, there was an even bigger spike in sales during graduation in the spring, from mid-May to mid-June. Figure 2 shows the sales cycle for the subcategory of college survival and success books.

 

Figure 2: Sales Cycle of College Survival and Success Books


(Source: Sourcebooks, “Study Aids Overview” 2011, 54)

 

With this revelation from data analysis, Sourcebooks tried to convince booksellers that the real money to be made for the book was during graduation. This notion was something even the internal staff at Sourcebooks needed to be convinced of as well (Stocke 2011). The data revealed that graduation sales actually started its small build in March. Thus publication date for The Naked Roommate was set on March 16, 2005, and booksellers were persuaded to stock up in March to avoid missing out on a fair slice of book sales. Stocke (2011) described that as difficult as it was to persuade booksellers to change their notion of back-to-school selling when the traditional method has proven to work for years—and it still does—it was really the data that provided a strong, convincing argument for graduation sales.

Sourcebooks did not hit it out of the ballpark for the first edition although sales were fairly decent. This was because retailers did not stock enough of the books. When weekly sell-through percentages started to rise at a surprisingly fast rate—15 percent to 25 percent—the publisher and retailers started to realize that more books had to be ordered quickly (Stocke 2011). Unfortunately, they were unable to keep up with the demand.

In the second year of publication, the sales reps at Sourcebooks had to be aggressive once again at selling the book to the buyers by showing that the publisher believed in the book and was going to promote and market the book in a big way. There was huge potential for bookstores to do much better than the first year with the book. This was also a difficult process because the book was no longer on the frontlist, so the marketing department had to produce numerous special promotions and flyers to remind sales reps and booksellers that these books needed to be pushed in an aggressive way to get onto the in-store graduation displays (Stocke 2011).

This gradual build went on for all four editions, each one building on the previous edition. The subsequent editions of The Naked Roommate have been published every two years. Table 4.1 shows the publication dates in the US.

 

Table 4.1: Publication dates for The Naked Roommate in the United States


(Source: Amazon.com)

 

The sales of The Naked Roommate grew with every edition. The sell-through numbers for the third edition showed a 46.15 percent increase from the second edition (Sourcebooks, January to March Titles presentation slides 2010). While the growth was encouraging, Sourcebooks still saw potential for more growth for the fourth edition and planned a big marketing and publicity push once again.

 

US Marketing and Publicity Campaign for the Fourth Edition

The fourth edition of The Naked Roommate was marketed with a strong campaign. This section provides a comprehensive summary of how the book’s fourth edition was marketed and promoted since its release in April 2011. A detailed list of all aspects of the campaign is provided in Appendix A.

The audience that was identified for the book was college-bound students, their parents, educational professionals, and naturally, the author’s existing fan base. The positioning for the book is described as follows:

The Naked Roommate, the #1 bestselling book on college life with over 200,000 copies sold, is now completely updated and revised. Harlan Cohen is the top voice on college life, and through his speaking engagements, college tour, music, and website, has reached thousands of students helping them find college success.” (Sourcebooks, Data Sheet, 2010)

Sourcebooks summarized the appealing qualities of the books into three key selling points for marketing efforts. Firstly, it was a national bestseller, number one in the college life category with sales climbing every year. It had already sold almost 250,000 copies before entering its fourth edition (Sourcebooks, “Study Aids Overview” 2011, 47). Secondly, the author’s platform is extensive, with active social media participation and regular campus tours year-round. Thirdly, the book has a comprehensive line of accompanying products such as calendars, planners, a First Year Experience (fye) workbook, and a parents’ guide, all creating in The Naked Roommate a “comprehensive off-to-college brand” (Sourcebooks, Data Sheet, 2010). The book and its accompanying products were also appealing gift items. These were all strong points on which to build a marketing campaign.

 

Publicity Goals and Targets

The publicity goals established for the campaign were to secure national media coverage for Harlan Cohen. Sourcebooks wanted to secure appearances on at least one of the morning shows, cable news shows or late-night shows (Sourcebooks, “wam Packet – March 17, 2011”). It also wanted to gain reviews of the book or feature Cohen in major national publications to build enough publicity to push it onto the New York Times bestseller list (Sourcebooks, “wam Packet – March 17, 2011”).

To achieve these goals, the publicity efforts for The Naked Roommate was integrated with other college-bound titles on Sourcebooks’ list. Public relations events involved Cohen being part of a graduation panel that Sourcebooks put together to give back-to-school advice to college-bound students and their parents. Sourcebooks partnered with independent bookseller, Anderson’s Bookshop, to organize a series of panel discussions, called The College Insider Series, to provide opportunities for students and parents to engage with top experts in college lifestyle and college admissions (Sourcebooks.com, “Harlan Cohen and Christie Garton” 2011). Cohen appeared on such a panel with fellow Sourcebooks author, Christie Garton, on July 2011 and September 2011, and other authors such as Edward Fiske will also be featured in subsequent panels (Sourcebooks.com, “Harlan Cohen and Christie Garton” 2011).

Media publicity for the fourth edition included advertising, and mailing out advanced reading copies and press releases[8] to several major television and radio talk shows, national magazines, large daily newspapers and back-to-school issues for reviews or features (Sourcebooks, January to March Titles presentation slides 2010).

Social media and the marketability of the author has been a key marketing tool for Cohen and his books. Cohen’s online presence is crucial to reaching out to teens and those in their twenties who have grown up with the Internet and are surrounded by technology. Students can participate in discussion forums, sign up for The NAKED Daily newsletter, or become a “Naked Expert” on Cohen’s website. He regularly updates his blog and posts Naked Minute videos online. These videos are short quick tips and advice for questions that he has received from his audience. He is an active user of Facebook, Twitter (@HarlanCohen and @NakedRoommate), and YouTube. These online initiatives are a natural extension of his personality as someone who likes to connect with students directly and regularly (Stocke 2011). Additionally, he has continued to tour the country, visiting several high schools and bookstores from March to April, and college campuses from August to September of 2011 to interact with the students and offer advice (Sourcebooks, January to March Titles presentation slides 2010).

 

Marketing and Sales Promotions

Marketing efforts for The Naked Roommate included a Twitter and Facebook campaign for books within the Sourcebooks College category. Sourcebooks also marketed and promoted Cohen and his line of books at trade shows (Sourcebooks, January to March Titles presentation slides 2010). It engaged in aggressive pre- and post-tradeshow marketing with direct mail, email, and phone calls to the National Association of Student Personnel Administration (naspa), First-Year Experience programs (fye), Association of College and University Housing Officers – International (acuho–i), National Orientation Directors Association (noda) and National Association for College Admission Counseling (nacac). An email blast campaign was also targeted at parents of college bound high school students (Sourcebooks, “wam Packet – June 16, 2011”).

The book was given a two-page spread in Sourcebooks’ Spring 2011 catalogue and a one-page spread in the Fall 2011 catalogue[9] to communicate to retailers of its importance on the publisher’s list of titles. Sourcebooks also worked with some retailers to set up theme tables in the spring and end of summer, such as the ‘Dorm Essentials’ theme table at Barnes & Noble, and worked with online retailers such as Books-A-Million to do graduation and back-to-school promotions (Sourcebooks, “wam Packet – March 17, 2011”). Sourcebooks also offered back-to-school promotions for the ebook edition of The Naked Roommate with other college-bound ebook titles for $1.99 in August.

 

Section Conclusion

As a result of the comprehensive marketing campaign and sales promotion that Sourcebooks implemented, the fourth edition has been successful at achieving most of the goals that were set out in the beginning of the campaign. The most significant achievement was the book’s appearance on the New York Times bestseller list at number fifteen on the Paperback Advice and Miscellaneous list, reflecting sales for the week ending May 21, 2011 (New York Times Company 2011).[10] It was also number eight on the Cincinnati Enquirer’s Paperback non-fiction bestsellers list, reflecting the sales for the Great Lakes Association, Upper Midwest Association and Book Sense for the week ending June 5. At the time of writing, Cohen has also been interviewed on radio as well as on television on WGN Midday News in June 2011 and The Gayle King Show in August 2011. All confirmed media coverage and public relations events for Cohen and The Naked Roommate are listed in Appendix E.

This is a reflection of the persistence of a publisher in its commitment to a book and its author, based on concrete market research and data analysis that brought about a strong editorial vision, marketing and promotions strategy. Sourcebooks’ strategy, coupled with its close working relationship with the college and student counselling communities, revitalized the subcategory, and The Naked Roommate now sells twice the number of copies that the top books in the category sold prior to The Naked Roommate’s release (Sourcebooks, “Study Aids Overview” 2011, 5).

 

SELLING THE NAKED ROOMMATE IN CANADA

Gap Analysis of US and Canadian Sell-Through Data

An analysis of the us and Canadian sell-through data for the fourth edition of The Naked Roommate by Raincoast’s senior sales and marketing executives and Data Analyst revealed a stark gap between sales in the two countries. The year-to-date sell-through data retrieved from BookNet at the end of July 2011, before the back-to-school promotions in August, showed that Canadian sales was fifty-six times less than sales in the us, or 1.8 percent of us sales. That is a significant gap. According to Broadhurst (2011), anything under 4 percent is an unacceptable gap for Raincoast; it should be at least 6-7 percent, although even then it still requires an evaluation of strategies for that title.

However, it is important to keep in mind that the market size in the us is significantly bigger than that of Canada—the population in the us is nine times that of Canada according to data from the us Census Bureau and Statistics Canada websites at the time of writing—so there will inevitably be a wide gap between the sell-through figures of both countries and explains why 6-7 percent of us sales would be considered an acceptable minimum percentage by Raincoast.

Comparing the university- and college-bound market sizes of both countries reveal an even greater difference in size. Based on statistics from the us National Center for Education Statistics (2010) shown in Table 4.2, the number of students enrolled in American colleges has been increasing every year, with 20.4 million students enrolled in 2009.

 

Table 4.2: Fall enrolments in degree-granting institutions in the United States


(Source: NCES 2010)

 

The Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada (aucc 2011, 5) reports that almost 1.2 million students were enrolled in degree programs at Canadian universities in 2010. These numbers have been increasing every year as evident from statistics provided by Statistics Canada, shown in Table 4.3.

 

 

Table 4.3: University enrolment in Canada


(Sources: Statistics Canada, n.d.; AUCC 2011)

 

While data for Canadian college enrolment for 2010 is not yet available, the numbers have remained over 600,000 for the past few years since 2004 according to Statistics Canada (Table 4.4).

 

 

Table 4.4: College enrolment in Canada


(Source: Statistics Canada, n.d.)

 

The statistics in Tables 4.3 and 4.4 show that over 1.7 million students were enrolled in Canadian universities and colleges in 2010. It means that Canadian enrolment is about twelve times less than the 20.4 million students enrolled in the us in 2010, or 8.5 percent of the us number, which is an even bigger difference than the national population size. Thus, the Canadian sales for university survival and success books will inevitably be limited by the significantly smaller number of Canadian university-bound students.

This scenario was no different from the performance of previous editions of the book in Canada. The total life sales of the first edition and second editions are not available in BookNet as the first edition was published before BookNet was launched and the second edition only shortly after.[11] According to BookNet and BookScan numbers, the total life sales for the third edition in Canada was only 1 percent of us sales. Normally, when the promotional campaign fails to sell more books, more resources would not be dedicated to push the title further. It would usually be left behind as there would be a whole new set of titles for the marketing and publicity departments to focus their efforts on. Despite three poor performances of the previous editions of The Naked Roommate in Canada, both Sourcebooks and Raincoast felt that there was still potential to keep trying to push the book in Canada. They both felt that the information gained from gap analysis, and the fact that the successful us marketing campaign had placed The Naked Roommate on the New York Times bestseller list, could be extra fuel to create buzz for the book for future selling seasons.

The key piece of information obtained from data analysis by Sourcebooks—that the graduation season in the spring was the prime time for college transition and survival titles—would also be vital to Canadian sales. However, Canadian booksellers are also not accustomed to that idea yet, a similar situation that Sourcebooks had experienced when selling the first two editions (Broadhurst 2011). Canadian booksellers still possess a traditional sense of back-to-school selling which consists of discounted dictionaries and college guides that sell in August (Broadhurst 2011). Raincoast sales reps therefore need to do the same thing that Sourcebooks sales reps had to do: persuade booksellers to start thinking about back-to-school earlier during graduation season in the spring, and to complement their list of back-to-school titles college life books such as The Naked Roommate.

However, this was difficult for Raincoast to accomplish within the first six months of its relationship with Sourcebooks. Raincoast became the distributor of Sourcebooks titles in January 2011. When Raincoast sales reps were selling for the Spring 2011 season, booksellers were not open to stocking up on Cohen’s book. In fact, the booksellers were hesitant to stock many of Sourcebooks’ titles because the publisher was still not a familiar name to Canadian booksellers. Raincoast sales reps reported that for this past Spring 2011 season, they had to spend the time introducing Canadian booksellers to the concept of Sourcebooks as a publisher (Broadhurst 2011). Thus, it was difficult to push The Naked Roommate at the time. BookNet numbers show that not many books were sold this spring. The graduation feature in the May 2011 issue of Raincoast’s Titlewave Newsletter entitled “Good Luck Grads!” and the “Gifts for Grads and Books for Back-to-School”[12] spring promotion to booksellers were not successful, with only four stores participating in the promotion (Rich 2011).

With the problem and cause identified, Raincoast decided to place more resources to push The Naked Roommate for the fall 2011 and spring 2012 seasons. To start, Raincoast assigned its marketing intern to work on market research and publicity for the book in the summer. The research and publicity work that was carried out from May to September 2011 is described in the following section.

 

Canadian Marketing and Publicity for the Fourth Edition

The target audience in Canada for The Naked Roommate is similar to the us market. With guidance from Jamie Broadhurst and Raincoast publicist, Danielle Johnson, some initial background research was initiated for this project. One of the tasks was to find hooks that would catch the attention of the Canadian media so that they will feature Harlan Cohen and his book. More time was devoted to reading through The Naked Roommate to pick out any information that would relate to the Canadian audience. Following that, research into statistics for Canadian universities and colleges was conducted. The results of this research are listed in Tables 4.3 and 4.4. The statistics show that the number of students enrolled in Canadian universities and colleges is growing every year. With the increasing rates of enrolment in Canadian universities and colleges, it means that issues of choosing a degree, excelling in classes, dealing with roommates, dating, finding friends, personal finances, sex, drugs and other mental, emotional and physical concerns that often arise in university life are affecting more and more Canadian young adults. These issues are becoming increasingly relevant in the Canadian context.

In a survey conducted by the Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations in 2009, it was found that more than 55 percent of Ontario’s university professors and librarians believed that students are less prepared for university than even three years prior (Bell Media 2009). The survey received two thousand responses from twenty-two Ontario universities. The Persistence in Post-Secondary Education in Canada report also found from analyzing data from Statistics Canada’s Youth in Transition Survey that about 14 percent of first-year students drop out from university:

“The overall post-secondary drop-out rate was about 16 per cent, suggesting that those who are going to drop out, do so early on. The yits followed 963,000 students who were 18 to 20-years-old in 2000 and participated in post-secondary education by 2005. Survey results from the students who left school suggest that they were already struggling with meeting deadlines, academic performance and study behaviour in their first year.” (Bell Media 2009)

With this information, Raincoast can pitch to the Canadian media that university life is vastly different from high school, and first-year students are finding it a challenge to adapt to the change. If a student’s first year in university also involves moving to a new city and living in campus dorms, the change can be even more acute. Harlan Cohen and his books are thus a valuable resource to precisely these students.

 

Publicity Efforts

Harlan Cohen was scheduled to visit Canada for two days in September 2011. Raincoast’s plan was to try to build publicity around his visit for the back-to-school selling season. The goal was to try to secure some interviews on national morning television interviews in September, plan a college radio interview tour, and pitch for reviews with national newspapers, smaller commuter papers and weeklies in major cities, and university newspapers.

Firstly, to formulate a pitch, a press release and sample interview questions needed to be written and compiled. If a publisher is not in Canada, it is a usual practice for Raincoast to request the original press release used by the publisher and then “Canadianize” the content for the local media. For The Naked Roommate, the task of editing the Sourcebooks’ media release for the Canadian market was assigned to the intern. Appendix F shows a copy of the media release that was sent out to the Canadian media. The main changes implemented were editing the word ‘colleges’ to read ‘universities and colleges’ because unlike the us, the word ‘colleges’ does not account for both universities and colleges in Canada; and including extra information that would appeal to Canadian audiences. Sample interview questions that might appeal to the local media were also included.

Next, a list of media contacts was compiled using Google and a cloud-based marketing and public relations software called Vocus. The contacts that were selected for the publicity mailing are listed in Appendix H. The seventy-three contacts include newspapers (national, city, and university), weeklies, magazines, university radio stations, and national radio talk shows that feature topics on higher education, lifestyle, advice, and parenthood. The publicity mailings went out in June, which included a copy of the book and a press release. After two weeks, a follow-up email was sent to the radio contacts to check in for interest in setting up interviews with Cohen. The email contained sample topics that Cohen would be able to discuss in an interview, as listed in Appendix J.

As a result of Raincoast’s publicity initiatives, an article by Joanne Laucius published by Postmedia News ran in a number of newspapers online across Canada in August, such as The Vancouver Sun, The Ottawa Citizen, The Montreal Gazette and The Windsor Star. A full list of newspapers that ran the article is provided in Appendix H. The article was also published in the print versions of The Vancouver Sun and The Ottawa Citizen. It features a question-and-answer session with Harlan offering advice to university students.

During Cohen’s two days in Canada at the beginning of a new school year in September, he met with students in two cities—Windsor, Ontario, and Sherbrook, Quebec—and did two radio interviews. On September 4, he held a presentation for the new students at the University of Windsor, more than one thousand of whom just moved into the campus residence (Pearce 2011). cbc Windsor interviewed Harlan on that same day (Johnson, “The Naked Roommate” 2011). The Cartier Residence Hall at the University of Windsor also included a brief segment called “Things to Think About Before and After You Get Here” adapted from Cohen’s book in its welcome letter to new students (University of Windsor 2011). The next day on September 5, Cohen spoke to the students at Bishop’s University in Sherbrook, Quebec. During that same week, the University of Manitoba’s radio station, 101.5 cjum-fm, pre-taped an interview with Cohen to air for back-to-school on its Wake Up Winnipeg segment (Johnson, “The Naked Roommate” 2011).

 

Marketing and Sales Promotions

For the July and August back-to-school promotion, Indigo decided to give the title a chance. Using co-op support, Raincoast worked with Indigo to promote The Naked Roommate in-store for the back-to-school season with a prominent front-of-store placement as part of Indigo’s plum reward points promotion. The table ran for six weeks starting August 2, 2011. Indigo was initially hesitant to buy in on Cohen’s book because the third edition did not sell well when it previously tried to promote it for back-to-school (MacDougall 2011). However, after communicating the promising expectations of the book to the Indigo buyer by showing the buyer the us sales data of the new edition and its huge potential, Indigo decided to try it again with the new edition with co-op support from Raincoast.

The results indicated that Indigo’s back-to-school promotion was “mildly successful” (MacDougall 2011). Due to the fact that the front-of-store promotion tied in with media coverage of the book through print reviews, online reviews, radio interviews, and Cohen’s visit to Canada, there was a small increase in sales during the last two weeks of August. The week’s sell-through reported by BookNet on August 28 was the highest year-to-date, and September 4 recorded the second highest. The sell-through was not bad, but it was not good either. Even though those two weeks registered as the highest sales year-to-date for the book in Canada, the total year-to-date sell-through at the end of September 2011 was still less than 3 percent compared to us sales. Of the total number of books that Indigo took for the back-to-school promotion, just over 50 percent sold through, which is not an ideal statistic (MacDougall 2011).

 

Section Conclusion

The marketing, publicity, and sales promotion plans for the 2011 back-to-school selling season did not yield much success in numbers, only a small spike in sales. However, it is a good start in a process that is going to take some time to achieve results. The process will involve having to familiarize Canadian booksellers of Sourcebooks as a publisher, reminding booksellers repetitively of the sell-through data and publicity efforts, and convincing them to rethink traditional back-to-school selling to encompass spring graduation selling as well.

Gap analysis has helped Raincoast in identifying the problem, then in pushing for the Indigo promotion. Raincoast will use data analysis in 2012 to continue to push sales for The Naked Roommate in conjunction with all the titles within the broader college guide category. Broadhurst describes Raincoast’s future plans this way:

“Raincoast will use our multiple sales and marketing channels through 2012, including a weekly bookseller newsletter reaching 1,500 Canadian industry members, to hammer home the message that the back-to-school window is bigger and longer than retailers may think. And sales data is a key part of this ongoing campaign. The vertical that Sourcebooks has identified and which is growing—post-secondary students and their parents—goes far beyond Harlan’s books. We can reach this vertical in Canada, but it will take resources, patience and persistence. Sometimes the most important impact of sales data is the stark presentation of a gap between what is and what could be. We see the potential for this category and we are going to close the gap.” (Broadhurst 2011)

Particularly for The Naked Roommate, if there were to be a fifth edition in the future, Raincoast would certainly position and market it as a big frontlist title and do an aggressive push for the graduation season as well as the back-to-school season.

 

 

IV.REVIEW AND ANALYSIS

A SUCCESSFUL VERTICAL STRATEGY

Sourcebooks’ business model focuses on developing vertical niches and creating online communities in the process. A vertical market is one where “the market for a good or service is confined to a segment constituting relatively few prospective customers (is narrow) but within which most of the customers need the item (is deep)” (BusinessDictionary.com). In contrast to expanding horizontally by targeting a diverse, mass audience, a vertical strategy targets a niche community based on specialized needs and interests.

In a time when new media and technology are evolving, publishers need to reevaluate their business models to best utilize the technologies that are available to keep their businesses thriving. Mike Shatzkin, a respected blogger of the publishing industry, is a strong proponent of publishers exploring ‘verticals’ as he believes that it is how the industry has to adjust to adapt in this digital age. Shatzkin posits that “the horizontal and format-specific product-centric media of the 20th century are inexorably yielding to the vertical and format-agnostic community-centric delivery environment for content that will soon predominate” (2010). In the context of the changing marketplace, Shatzkin (2008) believes that the future of publishing is in vertically integrated niche publishing. He predicts that there will be a rise in vertically integrated niche publishers that focus on a particular subject or category, or a small number of them, and vertically expand the depth of these subjects through various media such as text (printed and electronic), audio, video, social media, and merchandise. Shatzkin (2008) recommends that publishers need to shift their focus from selling the book in its physical form, to being audience-centric, i.e. focusing on selling content that the audience desires or needs, regardless of format.

For a publisher to establish authority within niche communities, a strong presence in the digital environment is crucial and should complement a vertical editorial vision. Today, publishers are able to make direct connections with their audience and service them through multiple channels, new media, and social media tools. Marketing efforts that are focused on driving people to the niche community website or social media accounts that are regularly updated can create a place where people can convene and participate—an active community drives the market through word-of-mouth, in both the online and physical realms, and is a potential revenue-generating opportunity.

Sourcebooks is a good example of such a vertical niche publisher, having built niche audiences around a few specific subjects and categories, such as college guides, baby names, and romance fiction. It has also endeavored to publish in a variety of formats, create dynamic specialized websites and online portals, and utilize social media. Shatzkin has named Sourcebooks’ PoetrySpeaks.com as an example of a “real vertical portal” (2009). Sourcebooks has not only been successful at publishing poetry using different formats in print and compact-discs, but also developed a website which brings together the community of poets and poetry lovers, keeping them connected online. Shatzkin (2009) touts this as an excellent method of providing a service to the reading community—not trying to sell you something—where people can celebrate their love for poetry by posting, critiquing, sharing, and selling poetry. With this model, Sourcebooks generates revenue by selling poetry content and tickets to readings and online performances, but Shatzkin (2009) proposes that it could potentially capitalize further by selling premium memberships to access more content.

Using a similar vertical expansion model and being audience-specific, Sourcebooks has created a similar online community for its college-bound books. It has created a separate section on its website called Sourcebooks College which consolidates all its college-bound books. Categories of books include those for test preparation, college search, college survival and success. This is part of the new education division, Sourcebooks edu, that the publisher recently launched to manage its “biggest existing initiatives, including the leading college-bound publishing program, a Naked Roommate first year experience program, and MyMaxScore.com, and online SAT/ACT test prep solution” (Sourcebooks.com, “New Education Division” 2011). Its mission for this category is “to help students find the right college, support the application and admissions process, including test prep, and successfully transition students into college” (Sourcebooks.com, “New Education Division” 2011). Through this platform, Sourcebooks hopes to provide convenient, solutions-oriented content from top experts in the field through innovative and engaging ways to the community of students, parents, and educators.

The vision and mission for Sourcebooks edu is a key step in building a thriving and active niche community and strengthening the brand of Sourcebooks as a leading provider of content for college-bound students, right up there with competing publishers such as Princeton Review, Barron’s, College Board, Kaplan, Peterson’s, and Spark (Sourcebooks, “Study Aids Overview” 2011, 3). The major brands that Sourcebooks has developed in the Study Aids bisac category are Fiske (college guides and essay prep), U.S. News (law and medical college guides), The Naked Roommate (college survival and success), Gruber (test prep), and MyMaxScore (test prep). Under the Sourcebooks edu umbrella, Sourcebooks has also begun to develop a line of financial aid books that offers help on how to manage money and finance the cost of going to college (Stocke 2011; Sourcebooks.com, “Sourcebooks Adds Financial Aid Resources” 2011). This is a key area in which to expand vertically as financing higher education is a source of daily stress for nearly one in three college students and their families (Shatkin 2010) and cited as “the most challenging aspect of the college process, according to a recent survey of guidance counsellors” (Sourcebooks.com, “Sourcebooks Adds Financial Aid Resources” 2011).

Over the next few years, Sourcebooks intends to continue to expand its vertical platforms. Raccah explains:

“…as the market changes, we have to continue building the infrastructure to accommodate digital, both from an architecture and an innovation point of view.” (quoted in Publishers Weekly 2011)

“Over the next five years, we believe that building vertical platforms will make an enormous difference to our company. For some of our authors, there’s a very real new set of opportunities that we are creating for them—new platforms, new models, new ways to reach readers. It is (I think) going to provide some significant revenue streams down the road.” (quoted in Publishers Weekly 2011)

“And I think you can expect publishers to have much broader relationships—with retailers, digital partners, affinity communities, authors, agents, multimedia resources, and other content providers among them. You can expect us to be “publishing” far more than just printed books and ebooks.” (quoted in Publishers Weekly 2011)

As such, Sourcebooks is moving forward with a format-agnostic mindset and focused on building an authoritative brand reputation within its niches by delivering quality content through the use of multiple media formats and channels to reach its audience. Particularly for Sourcebooks edu, this division plans to make its online tools more easily accessible and deliver content using different formats such as video, webinars, seminars, books, interactive ebooks, and software tools (Sourcebooks.com, “Sourcebooks Adds Financial Aid Resources” 2011). However, Sourcebooks is not the only brand. Its authors are also promoted as brands. Edward Fiske, Harlan Cohen and Gary Gruber are prime examples. The publisher has helped its authors extend their brands from one title to full lines of books. It has not only done so in the Study Aids category, but also in a number of others as well.

Sales data analysis has been integral to Sourcebooks’ business model. Its method of using sales data not only as a “weapon for creativity” to develop a unique editorial vision that encompasses multi-niches and deepens its vertical platforms, but also to aggressively pursue successful sell-in and improve sell-through, is commendable.

 

CONSIDERATIONS FOR THE COLLEGE VERTICAL IN THE CANADIAN MARKET

While these strategies have been successful for Sourcebooks to push sales of The Naked Roommate in the American market, it has yet to be seen if they can likewise help sales in the Canadian market. Raincoast has identified that there is a problem with seriously under-performing sales for The Naked Roommate in Canada, and have plans to push the book aggressively in future seasons based on gap analysis. Time will tell if those plans will be successful.

As previously discussed, the market size for Canadian university- and college-bound students is much smaller than that of the us—about 8.5 percent of the us. Bearing this in mind, perhaps a realistic goal for Raincoast to close the gap could be to push Canadian sales up to 7–8 percent of us sales as that would be a close reflection of the difference in the size of the market in both countries.

Further research or focus groups could also be conducted to canvas the opinions of Canadian parents who are going through the process of sending their children to university or college, and how the students adjust in their first year. That information could better relate to the local audience when used for marketing purposes.

In the future, perhaps Raincoast could consider targeting other university publications that are non-campus-specific, such as the Toronto-based Faze Magazine, which is the largest paid circulation magazine for youth ages 12 to 24 in Canada with the “annual Back-to-School Issue hitting 500,000 copies” (Faze, “The Faze Story”). Campus Life Magazine is another Toronto-based magazine with a circulation of 100,000 that reaches more than forty campuses across Canada (Campus Intercept, “Media”). It is a national student lifestyle magazine, both print and online, “representing the voice of Canadian post-secondary students” (Campus Intercept, “Media”) and a widely distributed campus publication in Canada. Campus Life Magazine is part of the larger brand of Campus Intercept, which is a youth marketing specialist that offers “specially tailored marketing solutions to clients who wish to reach Canada’s student population” (Nicholson 2007). Working with Campus Intercept to promote The Naked Roommate through advertising, media reviews, or interviews could be a good opportunity to increase the book’s sell-through in Canada.

However, the high cost of magazine advertising and collaborating with such marketing companies as Campus Intercept can be beyond what most publishers can afford. As discussed in the beginning of Chapter One, books have a short shelf life, each with its own personality competing with thousands of different books every year, which can require a customized marketing plan for each individual title (L. Shatzkin 1982, 3). This characteristic of books is unlike many other consumer businesses where their lines of products comprise of fewer, more individually distinct items sold at higher price points, making it easier for these businesses to justify a long-term investment of marketing funds towards cultivating lifelong customers. For publishers, it would be more difficult to justify spending on costly marketing initiatives such as advertising which can require multiple impressions to be effective. In this case, Raincoast would have to run a thorough cost-benefit analysis and decide if advertising in niche publications such as Faze Magazine and Campus Life Magazine would be cost-effective in terms of raising sales within a feasible marketing budget.

Some presence at national student trade shows and events might be helpful as well—similar to what Sourcebooks did in its us campaign—such as at the Student Life Expo, which is a large national post-secondary education and lifestyle event in Canada for graduating high school students. As Raincoast does not sell directly to consumers, perhaps collaborating with its retail partners—for example, using co-op support to buy a table—could be a viable option. Nonetheless, Raincoast would once again need to carry out a cost-benefit analysis to factor in the exhibitor’s cost of entry into such trade shows.

A less costly plan would be to engage in online marketing. One major benefit of the digital age is that the impact of Cohen’s active online presence and Sourcebooks edu’s online initiatives know no national bounds and can be helpful for connecting with the Canadian audience as well. It will, however, be limited by the extent to which the content is catered specifically to the American audience as opposed to encompassing a wider market.

 

CONSIDERATIONS FOR OTHER BOOK CATEGORIES AND PUBLISHING SCENARIOS

How could a small publisher without a large budget compete with larger companies like Sourcebooks and Raincoast who have more resources to invest time and money in data analysis? In an article by Peter Grant (2006) in the Literary Review of Canada, he looked at how Chris Anderson’s long-tail theory[13] can be applied to the Canadian book market to benefit Canadian publishers and Canadian-authored books. He reported this statistic:

“Of the new trade [titles] published in Canada in 2004, only 36.5 percent were by Canadian authors. But when it comes to trade titles that were reprinted in 2004, the percentage of Canadian-authored titles rose to 75 percent. That suggests that the Canadian-authored books have shorter initial print runs, a longer shelf life and more frequent reprints, distinguishing features of the long-tail effect.” (Grant 2006)

This statistic means that in the Canadian market, where the majority of books are foreign import titles, Canadian-authored books can have the potential to be pushed for a longer term, beyond the initial weeks of the books’ release. Sell-through data analysis could be used to drive marketing and promotional decisions for reprint editions in the longer term to encourage sell-in.

However, the statistics published in Grant’s article were reported prior to the formation of BookNet Canada and it is unclear where he retrieved that data. The question of whether the number of reprint editions of Canadian-authored trade titles significantly exceeds the number of newly published ones remains to be answered conclusively with relevant current data from BookNet.

Even if the statistics published in Grant’s article were true, the problem for small publishers is in the ability to finance long-term promotions of old titles, as well as cover the cost of subscription to sell-through reporting. To cover the sell-through subscription rate in Canada, BookNet’s Group Buy Plan for up to ten small independent presses could be an option to consider. Promoting old titles will be difficult because resources will need to be devoted to the bulk of new titles that are released each publishing season. One solution might be in exploring a vertical editorial strategy, as discussed earlier in this chapter, which is what Sourcebooks has developed. Trade publishers can work towards becoming multi-niche publishers, focusing on bringing in-depth and rich content to the communities they represent (M. Shatzkin 2008). A vertical editorial strategy allows books within the same category—frontlist or backlist—to be promoted together as a collection. The books will cater to multiple needs on different levels within the same category, which can push the long-tail titles over a longer period of time.

The topic of having a vertical editorial strategy begs the question of where literary fiction fits in the discussion. While categories of genre fiction such as science fiction or romance are easily delineated into individual vertical platforms, literary fiction is more broad scale in subject matter. Nonetheless, the category could potentially stand on its own as a vertical, differentiated from genre fiction. Can sell-through data analysis help with sales in literary fiction, or would it merely homogenize and “dumb down” literary quality as writers like Stephen Henighan fear? Henighan’s (2011) sentiments, as briefly touched on in Chapter One, appear to be an over-simplification of the use of sell-through data. Regarding this issue, Pat Holt, former book editor of the San Francisco Chronicle and now the writer of the online book industry column, Holt Uncensored, responded this way back in 2002:

“BookScan has a lot to tell us when it’s used the right way, but we don’t want to have to be limited by something that records only sales. Publishers are the caretakers of literature, that’s how we get new writing, new ideas. If you publish for trends, it’s just as bad as Hollywood. Majority rules does not have an equivalent in literature.” (quoted in Dreher 2002)

Holt’s point about using sell-through data in the right way is an important one. Sell-through reporting services can help publishers make informed, sustainable publishing decisions so that they can continue to afford to bring unique, alternative and high quality literary voices forward. Sell-through data can be another tool used to foster these voices in an analogy bookselling environment as described in Chapter One, whereby comparisons can be made between a book whose subject matter or author’s style of writing are akin to that of previously published titles with healthy sell-through numbers.

 

 

CONCLUSION

There is no question that there has been a commodification of books and a growing commercialization of the publishing business that is numbers- and profit-driven. The development of digital technologies and new media channels over the past thirty years have caused the business of bookselling to shift towards becoming less about the content and more about the sales expectations of a book. With traditional enthusiasm-based bookselling being taken over by analogy bookselling, sell-through data has been used to serve the solely profit-driven publishers to churn out repeat blockbusters due to the fact that there is a track record of comparable titles to back up those publishing decisions. Within some genres such as literary fiction, new authors may continue to be shunned for their own poor track record revealed by sell-through data. As such, the controversy over sell-through reporting continues to this day, ten years after the launch of Nielsen BookScan.

The persistent disagreements over sell-through reporting among publishing professionals require continued research into best practices in the industry for publishers to adapt to the changing digital environment. This report has striven up to this point to illuminate how data-driven publishing can be an effective model for the business, despite its naysayers. Beyond the immediate benefits of more accurate sales forecasting and better management of print runs and inventory, sales data has the potential to revolutionize all functions of a publishing house, positively affect both sell-in and sell-through decisions, and help publishers thrive.

Contrary to the traditional practice of cultivating mass audiences and finding manuscripts with blockbuster potential, sales data analysis can service publishers in cultivating strong vertical niche markets, creating a public awareness of smaller titles that have been overshadowed by blockbusters, and turning them into bestsellers in the long term. This is precisely what Sourcebooks has managed to achieve with a number of its categories, with its education division being a prime example. Sourcebooks uses sell-through data analysis to study existing content within numerous categories in order to improve it or offer something different. This application of data analysis can be a vital tool in shaping a publisher’s editorial vision and vertically deepening the platforms within the categories that it publishes.

Data has also been an essential tool for shaping Sourcebooks’ marketing and sales strategies. Sourcebooks uses the information it pulls from research and data analysis for effective analogy selling to retailers—“this book will sell better than this other book that did not do so well because of the extra or different content”—as it did with The Naked Roommate. The publisher’s consistent use of data analysis and market research to achieve healthy sell-in, as well as to improve sell-through with targeted multi-channel marketing and promotional campaigns, have led to the growth of Harlan Cohen’s book over four editions into a New York Times bestseller. Such publishers who are willing to think outside the box and experiment with new strategies can use data to their advantage to pinpoint holes in the market, as well as to find and compare similar books—in Sourcebooks’ case, even books that did not sell well—in an effort to push book sales of new authors.

Selling a new author’s book will no doubt still be a difficult process even with the availability of sell-through data. Sourcebooks and Raincoast Books both found this to be difficult in the first year of publishing The Naked Roommate because there were no strong comparable titles. For Raincoast, the task of re-educating its customers on consumer purchasing patterns during the graduation and back-to-school seasons will continue throughout the upcoming publishing seasons. There is great potential for growth in the college category in Canada considering the stark gap that has been identified between us and Canadian sales. The information that Sourcebooks and Raincoast have extracted from data analysis will be integral to the task of closing the gap in Canada by presenting what the potential of the title could be.

The important factor in the success of Harlan Cohen’s first book is in the persistence and commitment of the publisher who stuck to pushing a book year after year based on diligent sell-through data analysis. It will certainly be difficult to achieve the same results as The Naked Roommate for all categories. A careful evaluation of the return on investment on sell-through data subscription and marketing initiatives would have to be made—especially for Canadian publishing companies whose market is substantially smaller that the us—to ensure that the calculated benefits received will be worth the staff’s extra time and finances expensed on sell-through reporting services. For those who can afford the subscription fee, sell-through data is an important and effective tool for their businesses, not just in improving sales but also in encouraging creativity and diverse strategies during the editorial acquisitions process.

 

 


APPENDICES

 

APPENDIX A: US MARKETING, PUBLICITY AND SALES PROMOTION CAMPAIGN

Media Publicity
• Appearance on graduation panels
• Send ARCs and pitches:
++++-National magazines
++++-Large daily newspapers
++++-College/back-to-school issues
++++-Radio stations
++++-Blogs
• National tour (March/April, August/September): High schools, bookstores, college campuses
• Push for presence on mtvU, MTV Networks’ 24-hour college network (reaches 750 campuses and 9 million American college students)

Marketing
• Feature spreads in publisher’s catalogues
++++-Two-page feature spread in Spring 2011 catalogue
++++-One-page feature in the Fall 2011 edition
++++-Big Mouth Mailing
++++-Target 50 Hot Leads from NASPA/FYE Shows
++++-Send DM Piece, Naked Suite of books, letter explaining the books and program, and “10 Naked Tips for First Year Experience”
• Aggressive pre- and post-show marketing at trade shows
++++-Direct Mail
++++-Email
++++-Phone calls to:
++++++++»»National Association of Student Personnel Administration (NASPA)
++++++++»»First-Year Experience programs (FYE)
++++++++»»Association of College and University Housing Officers – International ++++++++(ACUHO–I)
++++++++»»National Orientation Directors Association (NODA)
++++++++»»National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC)
• Email blast campaign to parents of college-bound high schoolers (June)
• Comprehensive website for Harlan for all three books
• Social Media:
++++-Twitter/Facebook campaign for Sourcebooks college
++++-Cross promote on teenfire.com
++++-Harlan Cohen’s blog, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Naked Minute videos

Sales Promotions
• Books-A-Million Online Bookstore: Grad and Back-to-School (May 8)
• Barnes & Noble: Grad Table and Online Promotion (April 15)
• Barnes & Noble: ‘Dorm Essentials’ theme table (August 3)
• eBook: Promo with college-bound titles for $1.99 (August)


APPENDIX B: FOURTH EDITION PRESS RELEASE

The Naked Roommate: The Essential Graduation Gift

Bestselling Author Harlan Cohen Helps Prepare College-Bound Students for Life on Campus

College is stressful.

First-year college students’ self-ratings of their emotional health dropped to record low levels in 2010, according to the cirp Freshman Survey, ucla’s annual, nationwide survey of students at four-year colleges and universities. Only 52 percent of students characterized their emotional health as “above average” while 46 percent of female college students reported “above average” emotional health, compared with 59 percent of their male counterparts.

Enter the #1 college guide, The Naked Roommate, by bestselling author Harlan Cohen.

Don’t let the name fool you. The Naked Roommate: And 107 Other Issues You Might Run Into in College (isbn: 9781402253461; april 19, 2011; $14.99 us; College Guide; Trade Paper), now in its fourth edition, is packed with valuable information, tips, advice, and resources for not just surviving, but thriving, in college.

The Naked Roommate is a work in progress, including research that Harlan has compiled over 17 years at 400 college campuses. The tips and stories have been collected via face-to-face and phone interviews, written requests, submissions to Harlan’s websites, student organizations, and social media platforms.

What’s new in the fourth edition of The Naked Roommate?

• More than 10 percent new content
• New student stories
• New tips and advice for students headed home for break
• A bonus chapter for community college students
• Updated statistics and facts
• New recommended websites, Facebook links, and Twitter feeds

Harlan has also expanded his online presence at www.nakedroommate.com. Students can participate in forums, sign up for The NAKED Daily newsletter, or become a “Naked Expert.” Harlan can also be found on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.

Harlan Cohen is the bestselling author of The Naked Roommate (Sourcebooks), The Happiest Kid on Campus: A Parent’s Guide to the Very Best College Experience (for You and Your Child) (Sourcebooks), Dad’s Pregnant Too! (Sourcebooks), and Campus Life Exposed: Advice from the Inside (Peterson’s). His nationally syndicated advice column, Help Me, Harlan!, is distributed worldwide by King Features Syndicate. Harlan has been a featured expert in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal Classroom Edition, Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, Real Simple, and Seventeen. He has been a guest on hundreds of radio and television programs, including nbc’s Today Show. Harlan is also a professional speaker who has visited over 400 college campuses.

(Source: Sourcebooks. Kelsch 2011)


APPENDIX C: SOURCEBOOKS CATALOGUE FEATURES

Spring 2011 Catalogue Feature

Appendix C-1

 

Fall 2011 Catalogue Feature

Appendix C-2

 


APPENDIX D: FOURTH EDITION NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER PRESS RELEASE

The Naked Roommate: Now a New York Times Bestseller!

Top College Guide Moves to the Head of the Class

NAPERVILLE, IL – May 27, 2011 – The Naked Roommate has moved in—to the New York Times Bestseller List!

The Naked Roommate: And 107 Other Issues You Might Run Into in College (isbn: 9781402253461; april 19, 2011; $14.99 us; College Guide; Trade Paper) by Harlan Cohen made its debut on the New York Times Bestsellers List at #15 on the Paperback Advice list, reflecting sales for the week ending May 21, 2011.

“I’m thrilled The Naked Roommate is being embraced by and helping so many college-bound students,” Cohen said. “I hope this new exposure will help even more students discover ‘the nakedness’ and have the very best college experience.”

Don’t let the name fool you. The Naked Roommate: And 107 Other Issues You Might Run Into in College, now in its fourth edition, is packed with valuable information, tips, advice, and resources for not just surviving, but thriving, in college.

The Naked Roommate is a work in progress, including research that Harlan has compiled over 17 years at 400 college campuses. The tips and stories have been collected via face-to-face and phone interviews, written requests, submissions to Harlan’s websites, student organizations, and social media platforms.

Harlan has also expanded his online presence at www.nakedroommate.com. Students can participate in forums, sign up for The NAKED Daily newsletter, or become a “Naked Expert.” Harlan can also be found on Facebook, Twitter (@HarlanCohen and @NakedRoommate), and YouTube.

Harlan Cohen is the bestselling author of The Naked Roommate (Sourcebooks), The Happiest Kid on Campus: A Parent’s Guide to the Very Best College Experience (for You and Your Child) (Sourcebooks), Dad’s Pregnant Too! (Sourcebooks), and Campus Life Exposed: Advice from the Inside (Peterson’s). His nationally syndicated advice column, Help Me, Harlan!, is distributed worldwide by King Features Syndicate. Harlan has been a featured expert in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal Classroom Edition, Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, Real Simple, and Seventeen. He has been a guest on hundreds of radio and television programs, including nbc’s Today Show. Harlan is also a professional speaker who has visited over 400 college campuses.

(Source: Sourcebooks. Kelsch 2011)


APPENDIX E: US MEDIA COVERAGE AND PUBLIC RELATIONS EVENTS CONFIRMED

Print

Family Circle article on teen rejection (August or September issue)
azTeen college issue (August 2011, page 10)
College Times feature
Journal Star grad guide (circulation 70,000)
USA Today: “Kids bound for college; what’s a parent to do?” (August 4)

 

Television

WGN Midday News (June)
The Gayle King Show (August)

 

Radio

• 3 interviews booked

 

Events

• Anderson’s Bookshop (IL – July 7)
• Saint Leo University (FL – August 18)
• Webster University (MO – August 19)
• University of Texas at Dallas (TX – August 20)
• Trine University (IN – August 21)
• Hiram College (OH – August 24)
• University of Montevallo (AL – August 25)
• Embry-Riddle (AZ – August 26)
• Tiffin University (OH – August 28)
• California Lutheran University (CA – August 29)
• University of Kentucky (KY – August 31)
• Southern Connecticut State (CT – September 13)
• Point Park University (PA – September 14)
• Anderson’s Bookshop (IL – September 20)
• University of South Dakota (SD – September 22)
• Northern Arizona University (AZ – September 23)
• Whitman College (WA – October 11)

(Sources: Sourcebooks. “WAM Packet – March 17, 2011”; “WAM Packet – June 16, 2011”; January to March Titles presentation slide)


APPENDIX F: RAINCOAST BOOKS SPRING 2011 GRADUATION PROMOTION

Titlewave Newsletter – May 2011

Appendix F-1

 

Spring 2011 Grad Promotion to Booksellers

Appendix F-2

 


APPENDIX G: CANADIAN PRESS RELEASE

The Naked Roommate: Now a New York Times Bestseller!

Top College Guide Moves to the Head of the Class

Appendix G

Sourcebooks
5.28 x 7.09 • 544 pages
978-1-4022-5346-1
cdn $16.99 • pb

“I’m thrilled The Naked Roommate is being embraced by and helping so many college-bound students,” Cohen said. “I hope this new exposure will help even more students discover ‘the nakedness’ and have the very best college experience.”

 

Don’t let the name fool you. The Naked Roommate: And 107 Other Issues You Might Run Into in College, now in its fourth edition, is packed with valuable information, tips, advice, and resources for not just surviving, but thriving, in college and university.

The Naked Roommate is a work in progress, including research that Harlan has compiled over 17 years at 400 campuses. The tips and stories have been collected via face-to-face and phone interviews, written requests, submissions to Harlan’s websites, student organizations, and social media platforms. It contains hilarious, outrageous and telling stories including:

• Dos, don’ts, and dramas of living with roommates
• 17 kinds of college hookups; online dating; long distance dating
• Why college friends are different; getting involved on campus
• To go or not to go to classes; how to get an A, C, or F
• Managing money, time and stress
• Sex, drugs and the truth

Harlan has also expanded his online presence at www.nakedroommate.com. Students can participate in forums, sign up for The NAKED Daily newsletter, or become a “Naked Expert.” Harlan can also be found on Facebook, Twitter (@HarlanCohen and @NakedRoommate), and YouTube.

Harlan Cohen is the bestselling author of The Naked Roommate (Sourcebooks), The Happiest Kid on Campus: A Parent’s Guide to the Very Best College Experience (for You and Your Child) (Sourcebooks), Dad’s Pregnant Too! (Sourcebooks), and Campus Life Exposed: Advice from the Inside (Peterson’s). His nationally syndicated advice column, Help Me, Harlan!, is distributed worldwide by King Features Syndicate. Harlan has been a featured expert in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal Classroom Edition, Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, Real Simple, and Seventeen. He has been a guest on hundreds of radio and television programs, including nbc’s Today Show. Harlan is also a professional speaker who has visited over 400 college and university campuses in the us and Canada.

Harlan is available for interviews.

 

 

 


APPENDIX H: CANADIAN MEDIA TARGETED FOR PUBLICITY MAILINGS

National Newspapers

• The Globe and Mail
• National Post

 

City/Commuter Newspapers and Magazines

• 24 Hours (Calgary, Edmonton, Ottawa, Toronto, and Vancouver)
• The Calgary Herald
• The Edmonton Journal
• The Gazette
• Metro Toronto
• The Ottawa Citizen
• The Province
• Quebec Home and School News
• Times Colonist
• Toronto Free Press
• Toronto Star
• The Toronto Sun
• The Vancouver Sun
• Vancouver Courier
• University Affairs
• The Winnipeg Free Press
• The Windsor Star

 

Weeklies

• Georgia Straight (Vancouver BC)
• Monday Magazine (Victoria BC)
• Montreal Mirror (Montreal QC)
• Montreal Review of Books (Montreal QC)
• NOW Magazine (Toronto ON)
• SEE Magazine (Edmonton AB)
• Vue Weekly (Edmonton AB)

 

University Newspapers

• The Ubyssey (University of British Columbia)
• The Peak (Simon Fraser University)
• The Martlet (University of Victoria)
• The Varsity (University of Toronto)
• The Gazette (University of Western Ontario)
• Queen’s Journal (Queen’s University)
• The Fulcrum (University of Ottawa)
• The Silhouette (McMaster University)
• Imprint (University of Waterloo)
• The Eyeopener (Ryerson University)
• The Charlatan (Carleton University)
• The Ontarion (University of Guelph)
• Excalibur (York University)
• The Cord (Wilfrid Laurier University)
• The Link (Concordia University)
• The McGill Tribune (McGill University)
• The Gateway (University of Alberta)
• The Gauntlet (University of Calgary)
• The Manitoban (University of Manitoba)
• The Sheaf (University of Saskatchewan)

 

National/City Radio Talk Shows

Featuring topics such as lifestyle, higher education, advice, and parenthood

• ckcm-am (Grand Falls-Windsor NL)
• ckua-am (Edmonton AB)
• crfm-fm (North Bay ON)
• ckmo-am – Island Parent Radio (Victoria BC)
• cbla-fm – Ontario Morning, CBC Radio One (London ON)
• vocm-am (St. John’s NL)

 

University Radio Stations

• citr 101.9 fm (University of British Columbia)
• cfml-fm (British Columbia Institute of Technology)
• cjsf 90.1 fm (Simon Fraser University)
• cfuv 101.9 fm (University of Victoria)
• ciut-fm 89.5 fm (University of Toronto)
• ckhc-fm (Humber College)
• chry-fm 105.5 fm (York University)
• chrw-fm 94.9 fm (University of Western Ontario)
• cfrc-fm 101.9 fm (Queen’s University)
• chuo-fm 89.1 fm (University of Ottawa)
• ckcu-fm 93.1 fm (Carleton University)
• cfmu-fm 93.3 fm (McMaster University)
• ckms-fm 100.3 fm (University of Waterloo)
• Radio Laurier (Wilfrid Laurier University)
• cfru-fm 93.3 fm (University of Guelph)
• cjlo 1690 am (Concordia University)
• ckut-fm 90.3 fm (McGill University)
• cjsw-fm 90.9 fm (University of Calgary)
• umfm 101.5 fm The Manitoban (University of Manitoba)
• chmr-fm (Memorial University of Newfoundland)


APPENDIX I: CANADIAN MEDIA COVERAGE AND PUBLIC RELATIONS EVENTS CONFIRMED

Canadian Print

The Ottawa Citizen: “Campus Confidential” (August 19)
http://www.ottawacitizen.com/health/Campus+confidential/5279265/story.html

Leader-Post: “Campus Confidential” (August 20)
http://www.leaderpost.com/life/Campus+confidential/5282122/story.html

The Vancouver Sun: “Campus Conundrums” (August 22)
http://www.vancouversun.com/health/Campus+conundrums/5287822/story.html

The Montreal Gazette: “Campus Conundrums” (August 22)
http://www.montrealgazette.com/story_print.html?id=5286718&sponsor=

Canada.com: “Campus Confidential” (August 23)
http://www.canada.com/Campus+confidential/5298731/story.html

The Windsor Star: “Students’ Dilemmas Don’t Make Columnist Squirm” (August 27)
http://www.windsorstar.com/life/Students+dilemmas+make+columnist+squirm/5317348/story.html

 

Canadian Radio

• CBC Windsor (September 4)
• University of Manitoba 101.5 cjum-fm (September 5)

 

Canadian Events

• University of Windsor (ON – September 4)
• Bishop’s University (QC – September 5)


APPENDIX J: SAMPLE TOPICS AND QUESTIONS FOR AUTHOR INTERVIEW

Guest Segment: Back-To-School Advice for Students (and Parents) from Top College and University Expert Harlan Cohen

Harlan Cohen knows about college life.

He’s the author of the New York Times bestselling college guide, The Naked Roommate: And 107 Other Issues You Might Run Into in College, a nationally syndicated advice columnist for teens and twenty-somethings, and an in-demand college lifestyle speaker who has visited more than 400 college and university campuses.

Harlan is available for a back-to-school interview segment featuring valuable information for college-bound students and their parents.

 

Back-To-School Checklist for College-Bound Students

Expect the Unexpected – Try leaving for college with BIG, but flexible, expectations.
Patience, Patience, Patience – It can take up to two years to find your place on campus.
The Ultimate Roommate Rule – Make rules before you need rules.
Homesickness – It’s normal. Medicate with small doses of home, family and friends.
The Fifth Wall of Technology – Don’t stay in your dorm and live online. You’ll miss out.

 

Back-To-School Checklist for Parents of College-Bound Students

Loosen Your Grip – You don’t have to “let go.” Just change your grip.
The 24-Hour Rule – Unless there’s immediate danger, wait at least 24 hours. Most situations will get fixed without your help.
Learn to Text – Texting is the most unobtrusive way to get a response from your student.
• Moving Day – How to say good-bye and what NOT to do.
The First Few Months – What to expect from your college student (and what to do) in the first few months.

(Source: Sourcebooks. Kelsch 2011)

 

 


NOTES

1 The company was previously called vnu (Verenigde Nederlandse Uitgeverijen), which later became AC Nielsen Company, and now known as The Nielsen Company (Wikipedia, “Verenigde”). RETURN

2 Heather MacLean’s 2009 MPub project report, “The Canadian Book Industry Supply Chain Initiative: The Inception and Implementation of a New Funding Initiative for the Department of Canadian Heritage,” presents comprehensive research into the inception and development of the Supply Chain Initiative and BookNet Canada. RETURN

3 Thompson (2010, 239) reports that prior to 1980, the number of new books published in the us was estimated to be under 50,000. The number reached close to a staggering 200,000 by 1998, and 284,000 in 2007. RETURN

4 The information in this section is taken from Sourcebooks.com (“The Sourcebooks Story”), unless otherwise stated. RETURN

5 The information in this section is taken from the Raincoast Books website (“About Raincoast Books”), unless otherwise stated. RETURN

6 onix (Online Information Exchange) for books is the international xml-based standard for representing and communicating book bibliographic data in electronic form (Editeur, “onix”). RETURN

7 The client publisher extranet site is accessible at http://services.raincoast.com. RETURN

8 See Appendix B for the fourth edition us press release. RETURN

9 See Appendix C for the two catalogue features. RETURN

10 See Appendix D for the New York Times bestseller press release from Sourcebooks. RETURN

11 The first and second editions only had one or two stores reporting sales data to BookNet, compared to the 50-100 that reported when the third edition was in print and over 100 stores reporting for the fourth. Thus, the sell-through data is most likely not reliable for the first two editions. RETURN

12 See Appendix F for Raincoast’s spring 2011 graduation promotion. RETURN

13 The long-tail theory is the idea that outside of the few money-making blockbusters, the aggregate of non-hits and obscure titles made up of thousands of niches—the Long Tail—is a substantial revenue-generating opportunity as well (Anderson 2004). RETURN

 

 


REFERENCES

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Anderson, Chris. “The Long Tail.” Wired, October 2004. http://www.wired.com/wired/archive/12.10/tail.html.

APS (The American Program Bureau). “Harlan Cohen.” Accessed October 5, 2011. http://www.apbspeakers.com/speaker/harlan-cohen.

AUCC (Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada). Trends in Higher Education: Volume 1 – Enrolment. Ottawa, on: aucc, 2011. http://www.aucc.ca/wpcontent/uploads/2011/05/trends-2011-vol1-enrolment-e.pdf.

Bell Media. “Students Not Prepared for University, Says Survey.” CTV News, September 21, 2009. http://www.ctv.ca/CTVNews/TopStories/20090921/dropout_university_090921.

Blanco, Jodee. The Complete Guide to Book Publicity. 2nd ed. New York: Allworth Press, 2004.

Bookjobs.com. “Company Profiles – Sourcebooks.” Association of American Publishers, Inc. Accessed on January 6, 2012. http://www.bookjobs.com/viewcompany.php?prmCoID=380.

BookNet Canada. “About BookNet Canada.” Accessed September 27, 2011. http://www.booknetcanada.ca/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=426&Itemid=137.

———. “BNC SalesData.” Accessed September 27, 2011. http://www.booknetcanada.ca/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=434&Itemid=299.

———. “BNC SalesData Group Buy Plan.” Accessed November 8, 2011. http://www.booknetcanada.ca/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=91&Itemid=337.

Broadhurst, Jamie (Vice President of Marketing, Raincoast Books). Interviews by author, July 14, 2011, and October 19, 2011; and email message to author, December 13, 2011.

BusinessDictionary.com. “Point of Sale (pos).” WebFinance, Inc. Accessed on November 7, 2011. http://www.businessdictionary.com/definition/point-of-sale-POS.html.

———. “Vertical Market.” WebFinance, Inc. Accessed on January 10, 2012. http://www.businessdictionary.com/definition/vertical-market.html.

Campus Intercept. “Media.” Accessed November 8, 2011. http://www.campusintercept.com/media.php.

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Canadian Heritage. The Book Report, 20052006 – Book Publishing Policy and Programs. Gatineau, qc: Government of Canada, 2006.

———. Printed Matters: Book Publishing Policy and Programs, Annual Report 200304. Gatineau, qc: Government of Canada, 2004.

Cohen, Harlan. “About Harlan Cohen.” Help Me, Harlan! Accessed October 5, 2011. http://www.helpmeharlan.com/head.html.

Dreher, Christopher. “Random Numbers.” Salon.com, June 25, 2002. http://www.salon.com/2002/06/25/bestsellers_4.

Editeur. “onix for Books – Overview.” Accessed on December 7, 2011. http://www.editeur.org/83/Overview.

Faze. “The Faze Story.” Accessed November 8, 2011. http://www.faze.ca/fazeinfo/fazestory.htm.

Grant, Peter S. “Is Small Beautiful?” Literary Review of Canada 14, no. 9 (November 2006): 6-8.

Greco, Albert N., Clara E. Rodríguez, Robert M. Wharton. The Culture and Commerce of Publishing in the 21st Century. Stanford: Stanford Business Books, 2007.

Henighan, Stephen. “The BookNet Dictatorship.” Geist 78, 2011. http://www.geist.com/articles/booknet-dictatorship.

Hummel, Kermit. “The Perishing of Publishing: The Paradox of Analogy Bookselling.” LOGOS: The Journal of the World Book Community 15, no. 3 (2004): 160-163.

Hutton, Tatiana. “BookScan: A Marketing Tool or Literary Homogenizer?” Publishing Research Quarterly 18, no. 1 (May 1, 2002): 46-51.

Johnson, Danielle (Publicist, Raincoast Books). “The Naked Roommate ~ 2 more interviews.” Email message to Jamie Broadhurst, Raincoast Books; and Ontario sales reps, Kate Walker and Company, August 30, 2011.

Kelsch, Liz (Publicity Manager, Sourcebooks). Email messages to Danielle Johnson, Raincoast Books, June 2011.

Kirch, Clair. “Dominique Raccah: Entrepreneur build Sourcebooks book by book.” Publishers Weekly, April 13, 2009, http://www.publishersweekly.com/pw/print/20090413/17640-dominique-raccah-.html.

———. “Sourcebooks Moving Beyond Its Source.” Publishers Weekly, October 5, 2007, http://www.publishersweekly.com/pw/print/20071008/17178-sourcebooks-moving-beyond-its-source-.html

MacDougall, Peter (Director of National Accounts, Raincoast Books). Interview by author, October 19, 2011.

MacLean, Heather. “The Canadian Book Industry Supply Chain Initiative: The Inception and Implementation of a New Funding Initiative for the Department of Canadian Heritage.” Master of Publishing Project Report, Simon Fraser University, Vancouver, bc, 2009.

Milliot, Jim. “Collaboration, Info Key to Profitability, Panelists Say.” Publishers Weekly, February 13, 2004, http://www.publishersweekly.com/pw/print/20040216/29985-collaboration-info-key-to-profitability-panelists-say-.html.

NCES (National Center for Education Statistics). “Total fall enrollment in degree-granting institutions, by attendance status, sex of student, and control of institution: Selected years, 1947 through 2009.” Digest of Education Statistics, 2010. Accessed on November 4, 2011. http://nces.ed.gov/programs/digest/d10/tables/dt10_197.asp?referrer=report.

The New York Times Company. “Best Sellers, June 5, 2011.” The New York Times. June 5, 2011. http://www.nytimes.com/best-sellers-books/2011-06-05/paperback-advice/list.html.

Nicholson, Kara. “National Campus Marketing Agency Founded by T.O.-Based Agencies.” Media in Canada. December 13, 2007. http://mediaincanada.com/2007/12/13/campusintercept-20071213.

Nielsen Book Services Limited. “Nielsen BookScan.” Nielsen BookScan. Accessed September 27, 2011. http://www.nielsenBookScan.co.uk/controller.php?page=104.

Pearce, Kristie. “U of W Students Start Filling in Residences.” The Windsor Star, September 5, 2011. http://www.windsorstar.com/news/windsor/students+start+filling+residences/5352826/story.html?id=5352826.

Publishers Weekly. “Looking for the 50% Solution.” Publisher News, December 30, 2011. http://www.publishersweekly.com/pw/by-topic/industry-news/publisher-news/article/50017-looking-for-the-50-solution.html.

Raincoast Book Distribution Ltd. “About Raincoast Books.” Raincoast Books. Accessed September 29, 2011. http://www.raincoast.com/about.

———. Always Connected. May 2010. http://www.raincoast.com/images/uploads/raincoast-brochure-may2010(2).pdf.

———. “Good Luck Grads!” Titlewave Newsletter, Raincoast Books, May 2011. http://us1.campaign-archive1.com/?u=2dc45a5040bb71fdf88e5f667&id=2867daa7d0.

———. “Raincoast Gets Back to Basics.” Blog (blog), Raincoast Books, January 8, 2008. http://www.raincoast.com/blog/details/raincoast-gets-back-to-basics.

Rich, Siobhan (Marketing Manager, Raincoast Books). Email message to author, October 19, 2011.

Rosen, Judith. “College Bound: Guide to Schools Gain in Sales.” Publishers Weekly, May 5, 2003. http://www.publishersweekly.com/pw/print/20030505/35815-college-bound-.html.

Shatkin, Jess P., and the Staff of the nyu Child Study Center. “Transition to College: Separation and Change for Parents and Students.” New York: nyu Child Study Center, 2010. http://www.aboutourkids.org/articles/transition_college_separation_change_parents_students.

Shatzkin, Leonard. In Cold Type: Overcoming the Book Crisis. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1982.

Shatzkin, Mike. “End of General Trade Publishing Houses (Completely Retold).” Speeches, The Idea Logical Company, Inc. January 22, 2008. http://www.idealog.com/speeches/2008/01/end-of-general-trade-publishing-houses-completely-retold.

———. “Here’s a Real Vertical: PoetrySpeaks.com.” The Shatzkin Files (blog), The Idea Logical Company, Inc. November 4, 2009. http://www.idealog.com/blog/heres-a-real-vertical-poetryspeaks-com.

———. “With New Opportunities Come New Challenges.” The Shatzkin Files (blog), The Idea Logical Company, Inc. March 9, 2010. http://www.idealog.com/blog/with-new-opportunities-come-new-challenges.

Sourcebooks. Data Sheet for The Naked Roommate, 4th ed. Naperville: Sourcebooks, August 9, 2010.

———. January to March Titles presentation slides. Naperville: Sourcebooks, 2010.

———. “Study Aids Overview.” Presentation slides. Naperville: Sourcebooks, 2011.

———. “WAM Packet – March 17, 2011.” Email message to sales and marketing staff at Raincoast Books, March 17, 2011.

———. “WAM Packet – June 16, 2011.” Email message to sales and marketing staff at Raincoast Books, June 16, 2011.

Sourcebooks.com. “Harlan Cohen.” Our Authors. Accessed September 26, 2011. http://www.sourcebooks.com/author/harlan-cohen.html.

———. “Harlan Cohen and Christie Garton Kick Off College Insiders Series at Anderson’s (July 7).” Publicity, 2011. http://www.sourcebooks.com/publicity/1746-harlan-cohen-and-christie-garton-kick-off-college-insiders-series-at-andersons-july-7.html.

———. “New Education Division at Sourcebooks.” Sourcebooks Next (blog), September 2011. http://www.sourcebooks.com/next-news/1810-new-education-divsion-at-sourcebooks.html.

———. “Sourcebooks Adds Financial Aid Resources to Rapidly Expanding Education Portfolio.” Sourcebooks Next (blog), December 5, 2011. http://www.sourcebooks.com/next-news/1892-sourcebooks-adds-financial-aid-resources-to-rapidly-expanding-education-portfolio.html.

———. “The Sourcebooks Story.” Accessed September 26, 2011. http://www.sourcebooks.com/the-sourcebooks-story.html.

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———. “College Enrolments by Registration Status and Sex, by Province.” Accessed June 8, 2011. http://www40.statcan.gc.ca/l01/cst01/educ61a-eng.htm.

Stocke, Todd (Vice President and Editorial Director, Sourcebooks). Telephone interview by author, November 2, 2011; and email message to author, December 6, 2011.

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———. “Verenigde Nederlandse Uitgeverijen.” Last modified September 29, 2011. Accessed November 7, 2011. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Verenigde_Nederlandse_Uitgeverijen.

———. “Word of Mouth.” Last modified November 9, 2011. Accessed December 7, 2011. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Word_of_mouth.


The Golden Age of Reprints: An Analysis of Classic Comics in a Contemporary Industry

 

By Tracy Hurren

ABSTRACT: This report focuses on the comics reprints environment in 2011 through an analysis of the reprinting activities at Montréal’s Drawn & Quarterly. The report introduces the reader to Drawn & Quarterly by examining the comics environment from which it emerged in the 1980s and exploring the development of the company to the present day. The complete history of comics reprints in North America is explored, highlighting the role of reprints in creating the foundation of the comics industry. The reprints market in 2011 is discussed by analyzing Drawn & Quarterly’s key competitors and their individual roles within the industry, and exploring the idiosyncrasies of the company’s four main reprint series: Nipper, Walt and Skeezix, The John Stanley Library, and Moomin. Finally, the report closes with comments on trends in the marketplace, Drawn & Quarterly’s current stance on comics reprints, and ideas on what reprints may look like in the future.

 

 


Acknowledgements

Thank you to those who have supported and encouraged me, especially Roberto Dosil for his guidance throughout the completion of this report. I would also like to acknowledge the support of Chris Oliveros, Tom Devlin, and Peggy Burns for their patience with me and assistance throughout my internship and subsequent employment at D&Q. In addition, I am grateful for the encouragement and support from my cohort in the Simon Fraser University Master of Publishing Program, and the friendship of Kathleen Fraser, Cynara Geissler, Elizabeth Kemp, and Megan Lau throughout the program and the completion of this report. And of course, my parents, Bryan and Kim, for never once wavering in their support of my ambitions, regardless of how ridiculous they may have been at times.

 

 


CONTENTS

1. Introduction

2. History of Drawn & Quarterly
++++2.1 Comics Culture in the 1980s
++++2.2 Drawn & Quarterly: The Early Days
++++2.3 More than a Magazine

3. History of Reprints
++++3.1 The Creation of the Comic Book
++++3.2 The First Wave of Modern Comics Reprints

4. Reprints Today
++++4.1 Everyman’s Comics
++++4.2 The Reprint Revolution
++++4.3 The Reprint Environment in 2011

5. Reprints and Drawn & Quarterly
++++5.1 Series Acquisition: Copyright and Collector Culture
++++5.2 Series Development: Format, Price Point, and Doug Wright
++++5.3 Context and Walt and Skeezix
++++5.4 Series Design and the John Stanley Library
++++5.5 The Comics Canon and Moomin

6. Conclusions
++++6.1 Collector Culture and Cultural Vogue
++++6.2 The Future of Reprints at Drawn & Quarterly

Notes

Bibliography

Interviews

 

 


1. Introduction

Since their initial appearance within North American popular culture in the late 1890s, comics have existed in many media, from newspapers to dirty magazines, poorly printed pamphlets, and, more recently, between the covers of exquisitely designed and produced books. In their infancy, comics were regarded as lowbrow entertainment; today, society regards them as an art form worthy of further examination and exploration, representative of a range of tastes. With comics’ elevated status within popular culture, the forces that limited the medium in the past have been removed, and the future of comics is as limitless at the imaginations of those involved. Although the maturity of the industry has helped to drive the medium forward, it has also facilitated the revisiting of underappreciated works from comics’ history.

Comics’ ephemeral nature throughout the better part of their existence has left the documented history of the form incomplete. Today, comics publishers like Montréal-based Drawn & Quarterly (D&Q) are investing significant resources in culling forgotten comics treasures, bringing much-deserved attention to those that have been buried in landfills, or later, dropped off at recycling plants. The act of revisiting these classic works in a contemporary setting fills gaps within comics history: new aspects of the classic works are discovered, and the lineage of contemporary cartoonists can be understood more completely.

Reprints have existed within the comics industry in North America since its inception in the late nineteenth century; the shape they currently take, however, is miles ahead of their original form. Contemporary comics are among some of the most exquisitely designed books available today. Collections of comics reprints conform to these high standards—standards that, while in part are a result of the maturity and evolution of the form and the sophistication of the audience, are also a product of the efforts of revolutionary comics publishers, including the reference company for this report, D&Q.

The report starts with an analysis of the comics environment in the 1980s from which D&Q emerged, followed by a brief history of the company’s accomplishments to the present day. The report then explores the history of comics reprints in North America beginning with their first appearance in the late nineteenth century, focusing on their role in building the foundation of the comics industry, and ending in the mid-1990s with the demise of the first wave of modern reprints. A synopsis of the reprint environment in 2011 follows, including an analysis of D&Q’s key competitors. Next, the report focuses on D&Q’s reprinting activities, examining series acquisition and series development. To explore series development, D&Q’s reprints of Doug Wright’s comics are analyzed. D&Q’s reprint series of Frank King’s classic strip, Walt and Skeezix, is also explored, highlighting the effects of placing classic strips in a new context. As the basis for understanding series design approach, the John Stanley Library and the notes of the series designer, Seth[i] , are evaluated. Lastly, this section of the report looks at comics reprints’ role in constructing the comics canon and creating our remembered/documented history of the medium. The report concludes with observations on current trends in collector culture and its influence on reprint publishers, and an examination of D&Q’s current stance on comics reprints.

 

 

2. History of Drawn & Quarterly

2.1 Comics Culture in the 1980s

The 1980s was an important time for comics in North America. The industry was by no means flourishing, but the accomplishments of a new generation of cartoonists and innovative publishers throughout these years formed the basis of the burgeoning industry we see today. Some of the finest contemporary comics artists including the Hernandez Brothers and Dan Clowes got their start during these seminal years by creating some of the first alternative comics[ii] . Evolving from the underground comix of the late 1960s and early 1970s, which created an audience for uncensored, adult-oriented comics in North America, alternative comics provided a less transgressive, more intellectually driven outlet for these adult readers—and artists—to sate their appetites (Mouly in Kartalopoulos, 2005). But the underground comix tradition had not died entirely—it survived in the works of the father of the form, Robert Crumb, including his magazine-sized comix anthology Weirdo[iii], which continued to push the genre in innovative directions, publishing renowned artists such as Gilbert Hernandez of the aforementioned Hernandez brothers, Terry Zwigoff (who would later direct the movie adaptation of Clowes’s most successful comic, Ghost World), Gary Panter, Harvey Pekar, and Kim Deitch. Also published in Weirdo were many artists who would later be published by D&Q, including Charles Burns, Dan Clowes, David Collier, Julie Doucet, Debbie Drechsler, Joe Matt, and Joe Sacco. Weirdo remained an influential publication within the industry until the publication of the twenty-eighth, and last, issue in 1993.

Publishing comics at the same time as Weirdo was Seattle-based Fantagraphics. In 1976 Fantagraphics launched the Comics Journal[iv], the industry’s first trade magazine; the company embarked on publishing activities that extended beyond the magazine in 1982 when it began publishing some of the first alternative comics in North America. Though moving the medium in a direction divergent from underground comix tradition, Fantagraphics began their comics publishing endeavors with close ties to the underground. While underground comix were produced across North America, they especially flourished on the West Coast. Based in the West, the influence of underground comix is evident in Fantagraphics’ early alternative publications. The company published the top artists of the early alternative scene, Daniel Clowes, Peter Bagge, and the Hernandez brothers; in the years to come, these five artists would be cited as inspiration for all those who became involved in the medium, including D&Q publishers Chris Oliveros (Oliveros, interview).

While west-coast Fantagraphics had roots in the underground, emerging simultaneously on the East Coast was something entirely different. Françoise Mouly created Raw Magazine—the highbrow alternative to lowbrow underground comix—In 1980. Co-edited by Art Spiegelman, Raw soon became the seminal alternative comics publication. Although the best known comic to be published in Raw was Spiegelman’s Maus[v], the magazine also published the works of other influential cartoonists of the 1980s, many of whom later joined D&Q’s stable, including Lynda Barry, Charles Burns, Julie Doucet, R. Sikoryak, and Chris Ware, who before contributing to the magazine spent his college days staring at the pages of Raw, mimicking the works of Gary Panter, Jerry Moriarty, and Kaz (Ware in Kartalopoulos, 2005). In an interview with comics critic Bill Kartalopoulos, Mouly describes the intent of Raw:

There was a goal that was to show an audience, a world, or whatever, to make it manifest how good comics could be. I mean, it was to fight the prejudices against comics as toilet literature, that they should be printed only on newsprint, and disposable…So here the large size, and the good paper, and the fact that it was non-returnable, were meant to force people to see how beautiful, and how moving, and how powerful, the work could be. And it should have Europeans and Americans and people from all over. It should bridge a lot of gaps. That was the intent. (Mouly in Kartalopoulos, 2005)

Throughout Raw’s life, Mouly followed these goals—goals that, for those familiar with D&Q, should ring a bell. Mouly’s commitment to quality content, design, and production set new standards for the comics industry.

 

2.2 Drawn & Quarterly: The Early Days

Amongst the budding cartoonists influenced by Raw was Chris Oliveros, founder and publisher of Drawn & Quarterly. At the time of the company’s inception, although Fantagraphics and Raw were driving the medium in new directions, the comics industry was still dominated by superheroes (Bell, 2002). Living in Montréal, Oliveros was privy to a wider range of comics than many: not only did Montréal have thriving anglophone and francophone comics scenes, but, unlike elsewhere in North America, European comics were relatively well represented (Bell, 2002). With exposure to a variety of comics styles, including those represented in Raw, Weirdo, and Fantagraphics’ publications, it was clear to Oliveros that in order for the North American comics scene to mature creatively, it would need to be steered away from its fascination with capes and toward the likes of the aforementioned alternative publications (Bell, 2002). Oliveros published the first issue of his comics anthology, Drawn & Quarterly, in 1990. Early issues of the anthology included the works of Chester Brown, Joe Sacco, and Maurice Vellekoop, who remain leaders within the comics community today. Oliveros entered the scene with a commitment to publishing first-class comics by Canadian and foreign cartoonists; he saw comics as more than a popular form of entertainment—he regarded them as art, and published them accordingly. D&Q emerged in a post-Raw environment in which comics were now clearly aimed at an adult audience, and were, however gradually, being accepted as more than lowbrow ephemeral entertainment (Devlin, interview).

Paramount to the early success of D&Q were the multifarious and provocative nature of its expertly curated list and Oliveros’s dedication to producing books with high production values. In an interview with Canadian Business magazine, Jeet Heer, co-editor of Arguing Comics and author of several introductions to comics reprints series, was quoted saying, “Oliveros was the first publisher who really cared about design…You’d think comics people would be sensitive to that, but the obverse is true” (McBride, 2009). Artist Jerry Moriarty once said, “Françoise [Mouly] would throw her body on the printing press if the work was not up to her standards” (Moriarty in Kartalopoulos, 2005). While Oliveros may not have been the first publisher to pay attention to comics’ production and design values, he certainly was a leader. D&Q’s high standards of quality, like those of Raw, attracted artists, some of the world’s best cartoonists among them, and the company has consistently maintained those standards. The early success of D&Q in pushing alternative comics forward in North America was recently noted by Mouly in an online interview in which she acknowledged that the reason she ceased the publication of Raw in the early 1990s was because she felt the magazine was no longer necessary: Raw was created to fill a niche—alternative comics were underrepresented in North America—but the magazine acted as a catalyst, and publishers, notably D&Q, were able to pick up where she left off, continuing to drive the medium forward (Mouly in Dueden, 2011).

The late 1980s and early 1990s saw the emergence of several alternative comics publishers within Canada; of these publishers, only D&Q remains (Bell, 2002). Whenever Oliveros is questioned about his accomplishments—about how he was able to build, from the ground up, one of the top comics publishing houses in the world—his answer is always the same: “We just publish what we think is good.” Oliveros’s stock answer is as modest as the man himself, and although the statement may be the company’s focusing line, the reality of the establishment and continued success of D&Q is the company’s unrelenting commitment to the form that supports it.

 

2.3 More than a Magazine

Although D&Q began as an anthology publisher, the company quickly expanded into pamphlets[vi] , the first of which was Montréaler Julie Doucet’s Dirty Plotte, followed shortly after by Seth’s Palooka-Ville, Joe Matt’s Peepshow, and Chester Brown’s Yummy Fur, Underwater, and, later, Louis Riel (Bell, 2002). Although the majority of comics we see today are published in book form, the pamphlet format remained prominent in comics for most of the 1990s. As late as the year 2000, D&Q, an industry leader in book-format comics, only published about four books a year. Although Oliveros claims the progression from pamphlet to book format was natural, D&Q played an important role in pushing the industry in this direction: mainstream media outlets were enamoured of the company’s “lavishly, lovingly produced” titles, and the popularity of book-format comics drove their dominance (McBride, 2009). Prior to the twenty-first century, traditional, pamphlet-style comics were only available through the direct market comics shops; in a 2004 article in the New York Times Magazine, D&Q, along with Fantagraphics, is given credit for expanding the comics retail market into traditional bookstores (McGrath, 2004). Although the quality of these companies’ titles clearly contributed to their success in bookstores, the leading factor behind D&Q and Fantagraphics’ success in delivering their product to the book market, which was omitted from the New York Times Magazine article, was their alignment with two of the most prestigious literary publishers of the twentieth century—Farrar, Straus and Giroux and W.W. Norton & Company, respectively.

Still based in the same Montréal neighbourhood—but no longer out of Oliveros’s two-bedroom apartment—D&Q operates with five full-time employees, two part-time, and several interns. Two key members of D&Q’s team—who moved to Montréal in 2002 from New York to take on their new roles within the company—are associate publisher Peggy Burns and art director Tom Devlin. With the addition of their expertise and unrivaled dedication, the company has become one of the leading comics publishers in the world: only ten percent of D&Q’s sales are in Canada. Seventy-five percent of revenue comes from the United States, while the remaining fifteen percent of sales are made in Europe. The esteemed publisher produces thirty books a year; on average, six of these titles are reprints. D&Q’s current reprint series include The John Stanley Library, Walt and Skeezix, The Collected Doug Wright, Moomin, and, beginning in the fall of 2011, Everything, which will be a comprehensive collection of comics legend Lynda Barry’s work. Though not a series, D&Q also reprints collections of Yoshihiro Tatsumi’s short stories.

 

 

3. History of Reprints

3.1 The Creation of the Comic Book

Despite the relative youth of comics as a medium, comics reprints are old hat. In fact, the first comic book ever published in America, which appeared in March of 1897, was a collection of reprints of Richard F. Outcault’s Hogan’s Alley. Titled The Yellow Kid in McFadden’s Flats and published by G. W. Dillingham Company (with permission from the copyright holder, Hearst), the 196 page, black and white, hardcover collection sold for fifty cents (Olson, 1997). Used for the first time in North America, the phrase “comic book” was printed on the book’s back cover (Coville, 2001). Similar in format to the comics reprints we see today, The Yellow Kid in McFadden’s Flats took a much different shape from the pamphlet comics that preceded it. This collection was also unique in that it contained supplementary material written by E. W. Townsend, the strip’s writer (Coville), a feature that, though unprecedented at the time, is now commonplace in comics reprints. On many levels, The Yellow Kid in McFadden’s Flats displays the essential characteristics of contemporary comics reprints.

Although the late eighteen hundreds saw innovation with the emergence of the first comic book, over the next thirty years publishers continued to produce collections in the same vein as the Hogan’s Alley collection, reprinting newspaper strips—either previously published or rejected (Hadju, 2008). While the early collections were generally hardcover, publishers slowly began to experiment with size, colour, and pricing (Coville, 2001). Intrinsically, comics at this time were disposable ephemera, designed to be enjoyed daily and then used to wrap up the trash. Because of this, their value—derived “from their freshness, like produce or journalism”—diminished after they were printed (Hajdu, p. 21). And so in 1933, with no intent to actually sell the comic book, which was comprised entirely of reprinted material that was perceived to be worthless, Harry Wildenberg struck a deal with Procter and Gamble to produce one million copies of a four-colour comic book to be given away as a promotional item (Coville). The comic, titled Funnies on Parade and printed by Eastern Printing, was the first comic book to take the classic comics pamphlet form—saddle stitched, measuring eight by eleven inches (Hajdu).

The success of Funnies on Parade had much to do with the format. Either Wildenberg or his salesman, Maxwell Gaines, discovered that eight pages of a comic could be printed on a single page of newsprint, and that the printing could be done cheaply during the press’s downtime (Hajdu, 2008). With its minimal overheads, Funnies on Parade was so successful as a promotional item that within the year, Gaines created a second book, Famous Funnies, which again featured ads for common household products. By early 1934, Gaines struck a deal with American News Company, a major distributor, and began selling his advertisement-backed comics on newsstands for ten cents (Hajdu). While comics had been trickling onto the newsstands in various forms for several years, Famous Funnies was the first to achieve wide-scale distribution, establishing comics’ presence on newsstands (Hadju). Thus, as a vehicle for advertisements and a venue for devalued newspaper strip reprints, comic books, as we know them today, were born, becoming a prominent element within North American popular culture.

The success of these comics in the first half of the 1930s—still comprised entirely of reprinted material—lead Eastern Printing to form an equal partnership with George Delacourt of Dell Publishing; Gaines later partnered with DC Comics to create All American Comics (Coville, 2001). In 1935, one year after the second issue of Funnies on Parade hit stands, the first comic book containing new material, New Fun, was published by Major Malcolm Wheeler-Nicholson (Hadju, 2008). Realizing there was an alternative to paying newspapers for their previously used or discarded strips, Wheeler-Nicholson commissioned new comics to be created especially for publication within New Fun (Coville). While collections of reprinted material continued to be published, reprints were no longer the only material gracing the pages of comic books, and comics containing new material overshadowed the reprints. Although comics reprints established the foundation for the comics industry, notable developments within the reprint market would not be seen again until late in the 1970s.

 

3.2 The First Wave of Modern Comics Reprints

In spite of the comics industry’s early reliance on reprints, the popularity of these books waned as new material found its way between the covers. One of the first publishers to dive extensively into comics reprints since these foundational years was Kitchen Sink Press. Created by the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund founder David Kitchen in 1969, Kitchen Sink Press began publishing reprinted classics in 1972, including Will Eisner’s The Spirit, George Herriman’s Krazy Kat, Alex Raymond’s Flash Gordon, Al Capp’s L’il Abner, and Milton Caniff’s Steven Canyon (The Comic Book Database). Kitchen Sink was joined in the reprint market by many, often small, independent publishers throughout the 1980s. These emerging reprint publishers tended to pop up and produce reprints for a year or two before folding (Oliveros, interview). While the reprints being published in the 1980s were of higher production values than those produced in the 1970s, they were, nonetheless, cheaply produced, poorly designed paperbacks devoid of context (Oliveros). Confined by the technology of the day, these reprints were little more than photocopies of the original strips placed between monochromatic covers (Devlin, interview). In some cases, when the photostats were not available, the reprints were derived from traced versions of the originals (Devlin). In other cases, in an attempt to make the strips conform to standard comic book format, publishers would reformat the content in various sizes within the same book, creating a jarring experience for the reader.

Of the publishers to venture into reprints extensively in the 1980s, Fantagraphics is one of the few that continues to thrive today—or even exist, for that matter. Fantagraphics’ reprint activities included the magazine Nemo, the Classic Comics Library, edited by comics historian Rick Marschall, and an imprint, the Nemo Bookshelf. The magazine ran for thirty-three issues, and unlike the bare-bones reprints that were common in the 1980s, it went beyond simply reprinting vintage comic strips and included supplementary information on the history of the strips. Fantagraphics’ reprint imprint, the Nemo Bookshelf, included Harold Gray’s Little Orphan Annie, Walt Kelly’s Pogo, Will Gould’s Red Barry, Milton Caniff’s Dickie Dare, E. C. Segar’s Popeye and Harold Foster’s Prince Valiant (The Comic Books Database). Although the production value of these reprints conformed to the standards of the day, Fantagraphics’ early innovation with reprints can be seen with their Popeye and Prince Valiant collections, which were both complete collections in an era when “best of” collections were the norm.

Another publisher to venture into reprinting complete collections during the first wave of modern reprints was industry powerhouse DC Comics with DC Archive Editions in 1989. The editions collect early material previously published by DC Comics, including Batman, The Flash, Green Lantern, Justice League of America, Superman, Teen Titans, and Wonder Woman, as well as some comics originally published by other companies, such as Will Eisner’s The Spirit and Wally Wood’s T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents. Following a rigid design template that makes it difficult to tell the over one hundred books in the series apart, DC Archive Editions is the only reprint series that existed in the 1980s that continues to exist today. Its importance stems not only from the fact that it was among the first series to reprint complete collections—for better or worse—but also that DC was the first publisher to reprint comics in hardcover editions since the early nineteen hundreds. However flawed the series may be, it planted the seed of archiving in hardcover, setting a standard among collectors seeking to read series in hardcover book form, a format that today is the norm for such collections.

Although reprints were common in the 1980s and early 1990s, by the mid-1990s the reprint industry had withered, and the industry saw few collections of reprinted material until the second wave of modern reprints began in 2002 (Oliveros, interview). Many factors contributed to the disappearance of these reprint lines, including the comics industry’s decline during the 1990s due in part to the failure of several major distributors (Devlin, interview). Another reason for the failure of reprints, however, was the packaging. The reprints of the late twentieth century were marketed to their original audience—to collectors and readers who had enjoyed the strips when they were originally published—in a fashion that was nothing more than nostalgic and antiquated (Burns, interview). The reprint publishers during these years failed to introduce the material to new readers, and the limited customer base was not enough to sustain the industry, which, at this time, was still limited to comic shops, as interest from mainstream media and bookstores had not yet been piqued.

 

4. Reprints Today

4.1 Everyman’s Comics

Shortsighted vision and a floundering comics industry effectively killed the production of comics reprint by the mid-1990s; however, by the early 2000s the industry had made an unpredictable comeback, and technological advancements finally made quality reproductions of classic comics possible. Brought on in part by the unprecedented success[vii] of Chris Ware’s Jimmy Corrigan: The Smartest Kid on Earth after its 2000 release by Pantheon Books under the editorship of landmark designer Chip Kidd, the mainstream media began to pay attention to comics, and this attention meant that, for the first time, bookstores began to stock graphic novels (Oliveros, interview). Before this distribution expansion, comics publishers were limited to the direct market; the acceptance of comics into the general book trade meant the production of deluxe, hardback reprints was possible, as the market was finally large enough to make these collections financially feasible (Oliveros). In addition to the hugely successful Jimmy Corrigan, other titles published during these years include Joe Sacco’s Safe Area Goražde (2000, Fantagraphics) and Palestine (2002, Fantagraphics), Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis (2003, Pantheon), Adrian Tomine’s Summer Blonde (2002, Drawn & Quarterly) and Daniel Clowes’s Ghost World (1997, Fantagraphics) and David Boring (2000, Pantheon)—all titles that garnered a plethora of mainstream media attention and were instrumental in gaining mainstream acceptance for comics. The success of these titles was partly because of the building hype surrounding the “graphic novel,” but these books were also building the hype that was helping to sell them. Satrapi and Sacco captured their readers and brought them into war zones, like Spiegelman had done with Maus a decade earlier, bringing vividly to life with the skillful combinations of image and text a world that readers could not enter with text alone; similarly, Tomine, Clowes, and Ware pushed the boundaries of fiction with innovative form that captured the attention of readers in a way that comics that predated this period had not achieved. Although several comics achieved similar mainstream acclaim in the mid-1980s, including Art Spiegelman’s Maus, Gilbert and Jaime Hernandez’s Love and Rockets series, and Alan Moore’s Watchmen, the movement lacked teeth because these quality titles were sparse; the critical mass of quality books required to achieve mainstream acceptance and prolonged media attention was not achieved until the turn of the century (McGrath, 2004).

In a 2004 New York Times Magazine article, D&Q and Fantagraphics were credited as the “enterprising publishers” that “managed to get their wares into traditional bookstores” (McGrath, 2004). This achievement, however, could not have been accomplished without the unprecedented partnerships between D&Q and Farrar, Strauss and Giroux and between Fantagraphics and W.W. Norton & Company. Pantheon Books’ success with Jimmy Corrigan was partly the result of the publisher’s success in selling the book through the book trade, a success that was made possible because of Random House’s book trade distribution. For independent comics publishers, like D&Q and Fantagraphics, the success of this title made it clear that times were changing within the comics industry, and partnerships would need to be formed with distributors that were able to facilitate the transition away from solely the direct comics market and towards the much larger general book trade. D&Q formed its partnership with Farrar, Strauss and Giroux in 2004 after dissolving a distribution partnership with Chronicle Books that was established in 2002; Fantagraphics aligned itself with W.W. Norton in 2001.

In addition to these exceptionally successful titles and expansion in distribution channels, Hollywood adaptations of several comics helped to bring even more attention to the medium, including a film adaption of Dan Clowes’s Ghost World in 2001 and Harvey Pekar’s American Splendor in 2003, as well as a second wave of superhero comic adaptations, including X-Men (2000), Spider-Man (2002), Daredevil (2003), The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (2003), and Hulk (2003), which helped to revitalize popular culture’s interest in the medium.

 

4.2 The Reprint Revolution

With the wider acceptance of comics by mainstream culture, publishers were finally in a position to produce the reprint collections they had been dreaming of for decades, but that previously would not have attracted a large enough audience to make their production feasible. Spring 2002 marked a paradigm shift in comics reprints; the poorly reproduced paperback collections of the past were trumped by a superior product, one that honoured classic comics in a package that represented the contents’ cultural value. The second wave of modern comics reprints—the Golden Age of reprints—began in 2002 with Fantagraphics’ reprint series of George Herriman’s Krazy Kat, titled Krazy and Ignatz because of copyright restrictions. Gorgeously designed by Chris Ware, not only was it the first reprint series to pair a contemporary cartoonist with an influential comic series—a strategy that is commonplace in reprint series today—but the design captured the spirit of the comic, drawing on the time period in which it was originally created. Krazy Kat had been reprinted in the past by numerous publishers, dating back to the first comic books in North America, but unlike its antecedents, the design of the series added a new element to the content, and following the tradition that Fantagraphics began in the 1980s with Prince Valiant and Popeye, Krazy and Ignatz was to be a complete series, including all of Herriman’s Sunday and daily strips. Today, the publication of the dailies is complete, and Fantagraphics has begun reprinting the Sundays.

Krazy and Ignatz is an important series for Fantagraphics partly because Krazy Kat is one of the most popular comic strips of the twentieth century, being the first to break out beyond the lowbrow status of comics with such fans as Gertrude Stein, Picasso, and William de Kooning, but also because the comics were in the public domain, which allowed Fantagraphics to cheaply experiment with the addition of a celebrity designer. The series also includes introductions/tributes by Jeet Heer, Ben Schwartz, and Bill Blackbeard. In addition to everything the paperback series has to offer, it has a low price point ($19.95–$24.95), which has helped to cement the success of the series, and to this date, it is one of the most successful comics reprint series in existence.

Although Krazy and Ignatz was the first reprint series to be published in a deluxe format with a contemporary cartoonist as the series designer, more often Fantagraphics’ The Complete Peanuts series, which did not appear until 2004, is given credit for pushing reprints in this new direction. However, if it were not for the success of Krazy and Ignatz, Fantagraphics may have never published The Complete Peanuts in the format it now takes, a format that has become the norm within the comics reprint industry. Although thousands of books over the past forty years have reprinted various Peanuts strips, no publisher had attempted a complete collection (Douresseau, 2004). Beautifully designed by Seth, The Complete Peanuts, now on its fourteenth volume, is scheduled to span twenty-five volumes, which will include all fifty years of the strip. At a rate of two books per year, the entire collection will be complete in the fall of 2016; each volume includes two years of strips and invaluable introductory material.

Perhaps part of the reason why The Complete Peanuts series overshadowed Krazy and Ignatz as the leader in modern comics reprints was because Fantagraphics bought the rights from United Media, and therefore had the power of one of the biggest and most influential syndication companies today, as well as, and even more important among hardcore Peanuts fans, the explicit consent, support, and promotional assistance of Charles Schulz’ widow, Jeannie Schulz. In addition, every Peanuts books, no matter the subject or format, debuts on the New York Times bestseller list, and as a result so did Fantagraphics’ editions. Because of these factors, Fantagraphics knew their series would sell, and, coupled with the public’s newfound acceptance of comics, launching the most extensive marketing campaign in history in support of a reprint series was not much of a gamble. And, with the new shape the industry was taking, for the first time, the primary focus of the marketing efforts, which included counter displays, promotional posters, and media efforts across all four media—print, TV, radio, and internet—was the book trade (Reynolds in Douresseau, 2004).

Series designer Seth responds modestly to claims that The Complete Peanuts revolutionized comics reprints; however, he does acknowledge the series’ role in steering the marketplace towards complete collections rather than selections from treasuries. Although complete collections had been done in the 1980s, they had never been done with such success, or care, and they were never the rule, but always the exception. While this element of Peanuts is quintessential to the modern reprints movement, similar to Krazy and Ignatz, the other two defining features of the series—the inclusion of supplementary information and the focus on exquisite design—have played an equally vital role in the reprints that have entered the marketplace since the release of Fantagraphics’ Krazy and Ignatz and Peanuts. When questioned about the shift in reprints post Peanuts, Seth responded as follows:

I suspect something in The Complete Peanuts seemed ‘new’ at that moment in time. It did seem to make a dividing point between the reprinting activity from before and the reprinting activity after. I’m not entirely sure why… but it might have to do with the care that was focused on the packaging and format. It was the start of a period where comic related books were starting to be assembled with a lot more care than the collections of previous decades. In life, timing is everything and The Complete Peanuts came at just the right moment. (Seth, interview)

While timing played a role in Peanuts’s success, Seth’s rethinking of Peanuts in a design sense also played a vital role. The Complete Peanuts is perhaps the perfect amalgamation of business and art. What sets Seth’s design apart from that of other Peanuts reprints is that he rethought the strip. Seth added an emotional melancholy element with his design never before seen in a Peanuts book. So while the design is exquisite, the approach to the design is also groundbreaking. Seth saw the melancholy, depressed nature of Peanuts (perhaps from reading it himself as a child) and designed the series using dark, melancholy colors to highlight this aspect of the comic. Previous collections of Peanuts were generally designed using very poppy and kid-oriented palettes. Seth intentionally avoided such colours, in part to make the series more attractive to adult readers (Seth, interview).

Whether it was a result of the marketplace sitting in a prime position, the on-point series design, the effectiveness of the marketing activities, or the inherent quality of the strips, The Complete Peanuts quickly became the most successful reprint series in comics history. More likely, however, it was no single element that garnered the series’ success, rather a convergence within the marketplace. Peanuts’s signature elements, which it shares with Krazy and Ignatz, define the modern comics reprint, and together the two series influenced a flurry of reprint projects that closely follow in their footsteps.

 

4.3 The Reprint Environment in 2011

Following the release of The Complete Peanuts, the reprint industry quickly expanded; publishers across North America began developing their own reprint collections, and, in some cases, devoted imprints solely to reprinting classic comics. Fantagraphics, too, developed several additional reprint series, including two titles that they had previously published as part of their Nemo Bookshelf imprint in the 1980s, E.C. Segar’s Popeye and Prince Valiant. While both these series had been previously completed in softcover, the new editions conform to the deluxe twenty-first-century reprint production standards.

Not only did Fantagraphics set the bar for the modern comics reprint, but Seth’s design of The Complete Peanuts had a major impact on subsequent reprint series. In fall 2006 IDW Publishing released the first volume of The Complete Chester Gould’s Dick Tracy. While Seth played no role in the production of this series—the credited designer is Ashley Wood—the series design is strikingly similar to Seth’s work with Peanuts. While the ethics of IDW’s design decisions are questionable, perhaps it was also a case of Fantagraphics changing the way people looked at comics reprints (Devlin, interview). One way or another, IDW came to the conclusion that Fantagraphics’ Peanuts was how comic strip reprints in the twenty-first century were suppose to look, and IDW carried on this tradition with the establishment of their imprint—the Library of American Comics—in 2007, dedicated to “preserving, in definitive editions, the long and jubilantly creative history of the American newspaper comic strip” (“The Library of American Comics”). IDW now has one of the largest lists of comic strip reprints in the industry. With Dick Tracy volumes being released on a quarterly schedule and Little Orphan Annie volumes being released three times a year (both of which, like Fantagraphics’ collections, have introductions by industry experts), IDW’s list is growing at a rapid pace; fourteen strips are currently reprinted as part of the library, including beloved Archie, Family Circus, and Blondie. All the titles in the library are hardback and of archival quality, and generally include supplementary information.

Deeply involved in comics reprints, IDW has a second reprints imprint—Yoe! Books. Created specifically for the comics collector and accomplished creative mind of Craig Yoe, the imprint draws on his very large, idiosyncratic comics collection (Devlin, interview). Yoe! Books is an example of collectors’ prevalent role in the reprints industry. While Yoe is more than simply a collector—earlier in his career he was the creative director of The Muppets—he represents collectors’ influence on the reprints market. With an industry saturated with reprints sourced from a handful of collectors, the shape of comics history can easily shift to reflect these collectors’ personal taste[viii] .

Another player in the North American reprints game is the Milwaukie-based publisher Dark Horse. While Dark Horse reprints collections of comics from mainstream publisher Marvel, they also reprint Marjorie Henderson Buell’s Little Lulu and Tubby. They began reprinting Little Lulu in 2005. Dark Horse differs from other classic comics reprint publishers today in that their collections focus less on the added value of first-class design and supplementary material, and more on achieving a price point that will put the product in as many hands as possible. The inexpensive format of the mainstream publisher’s paperback reprints is similar to that of their typical publications; it is unclear whether this is a strategic decision to keep the price point low or just a case of the publisher sticking with what they know (Devlin, interview).

Another key publisher producing reprints today is New York–based Abrams. What sets Abrams apart from the rest is that they are not strictly a comics publisher, but rather an art book publisher. Their books are not series, but more often coffee table books that display the art of a particular artist over the years—The Art of Jamie Hernandez—or cover a pivotal moment in a comic’s run—Archie Marries—or the history of a creator—Jerry Robins: Ambassador of Comics. Abrams publishes the art history books of the comics medium. Perhaps the most influential book published by Abrams is Dan Nadel’s Art out of Time, which collects the work of forgotten cartoonist from comics history. This book is discuss in more detail in section 5.5.

These four publishers—Fantagraphics, IDW, Dark Horse, and Abrams—are D&Q’s key competitors within the reprints industry today. The titles produced by these companies share similarities; however, each of them, including D&Q, satisfies unique roles within the marketplace, serving its own niche audience. Each of these publishers represent a certain standard of quality and a certain price point within the market—each company produces a product that satisfies today’s deluxe reprint standards, with the exception of Dark Horse, whose products are marketed to consumers concerned primarily with price point and less with the quality of the packaging or collectability.

 

 

5. Reprints and Drawn & Quarterly

D&Q has a distinctive list; unlike many general trade publishers, the company’s list is cohesive in content and design to such a degree that savvy readers can pull a D&Q book off the shelf and identify it as such without checking the logo on the spine. Regardless of whether the book is hardcover or softcover, verging on pocket sized or covering the top of a coffee table, the high production values of D&Q’s books are an integral element of the company’s brand. D&Q has built its reputation on publishing comics that push the medium forward; the company’s titles that look back—the reprints—are no exception. Despite their differences, the reprints at D&Q, progressive in their own right, share many similarities with their contemporary titles. From the start, Oliveros built the company on one earnest ambition: the desire to publish good comics. Regardless of the decade a comic was created in, D&Q seeks to bring quality content to readers—content that deserves to be read, and demands to be recorded in comics history—in a package that properly denotes the contents cultural value. With its publishing vision, D&Q’s rescued master-of-the-medium Doug Wright from slipping into obscurity, enabled the genius of Frank King’s Gasoline Alley to be fully realized, archived a pack of John Stanley’s rug rats—Melvin the Monster, Tubby, Nancy, Judy and Val, just to name a few—in a package tailored to honour Stanley’s exemplary skills, and introduced Tove Jansson’s daily Moomin strips to a North American audience for the first time.

The comics in D&Q’s early reprint stable pushed the medium forward in their day, and continue to add momentum to the form today through their influence on contemporary cartoonists. Regardless of how progressive a cartoonist may be, the comics they create are a palimpsest of comics history. Not long after Chester Brown’s Louis Riel was released in 2004, readers began noting the similarities between Brown’s artwork and that of Harold Gray in Little Orphan Annie (Heer, 2003). Likewise, only after reading Gasoline Alley does one notice the influence of Frank King on Chris Ware (Devlin, interview). And no matter how hard “alternative comics” readers try to separate their favourite works from superhero genre comics, the quintessentially alternative work of the Hernandez brothers cannot be divorced from its superhero influence. Comics history is intricately woven into the contemporary medium. Classic comics’ vital role in the progression of the medium is highlighted and explored through comics reprints, and this genealogy is something that D&Q’s readers—smart comics readers who care not just about where the medium is going, but also where it came from—are interested in, particularly when one starts to notice elements of a classic cartoonist’s work popping up on the pages of their favourite contemporary artists. Understanding classic comics gives context to comics today, and, as is the case with Louis Riel, adds new depths to already complex titles.

Classic comics’ below-the-radar influence on the industry today coupled with their role in shaping the medium’s remembered history makes reprints at D&Q an important aspect of the company’s publishing activities, from both business and cultural perspectives. While many logistical considerations regarding publishing reprints are similar to those regarding the publication of contemporary comics, there are several aspects of publishing reprints that are unique; these idiosyncrasies will be explored in the following sections of the report, including specific copyright considerations and the impact of collector culture on reprint series acquisition, the value of creating a new context for classic content to exist within, reprint series design best practices, and lastly, the cultural and historical impact of the specific comics that contemporary publishers decide to revisit.

 

5.1 Series Acquisition: Copyright and Collector Culture

D&Q is in the enviable position of being an industry leader. As such, industry members, cartoonists, and readers alike have a lot of faith in the titles that the company selects for publication. For a company producing such a reliably strong list, D&Q’s selection criteria are remarkably simple—the editors simply ask themselves, how much do we love it? (Oliveros, interview). Though relying on one’s personal taste may not be a textbook method to develop a stable enterprise, within publishing, throughout history, most brilliant publishers, including Penguin’s Allen Lane, have been able to anticipate demand, as much as they satisfy it, which means they have a big hand in shaping reading preferences or taste, as is the case with D&Q’s acquiring editors, Chris Oliveros, Tom Devlin, and Peggy Burns. Although the decision to publish reprints essentially comes down to how much the editors like the content, there are several other factors that are considered by D&Q before embarking on a reprint series.

A primary consideration when determining the feasibility of reprinting a classic comic is whether a comic is protected by copyright or it falls within the public domain. Determining who (if anyone) owns the copyright to classic comics is not always an easy task. Because copyright applies to individual issues of a comic and not to a series in its entirety, the rights to each issue within a series have to be checked individually. In text-based publishing, the one aspect of a text that is exempt from copyright is the title; in comics, however, many characters—whose names often double as the series title, as we saw earlier with Krazy Kat—are trademarked, adding one more legal obstacle to an already complex equation. In addition, because of the age of many classic comics, and the drastic metamorphosis the comics industry has been through since many classic comics were created, often the original copyright holder has long ago sold their rights to another party, making it difficult to ascertain who is currently in possession of the rights. The last factor affecting rights is whether or not the copyright has expired. The American copyright act of 1909 (which most classic comics are protected by) ensured protection to all works containing published notice for a term of twenty-eight years, with the option to renew protection for another twenty-eight years at any point within the last year of protection (Devlin, interview). If the copyright is not renewed at some point in the twenty-eighth year, the work falls into the public domain (Devlin). To assist with determining who owns the rights to classic comics, a copyright lawyer is retained by D&Q.

D&Q’s most complex copyright encounter involved the reprinting of Marjorie Henderson Buell’s Tubby. The company released their first volume of Tubby in the summer of 2010 as part of the John Stanley Library,[ix] about one month before another comics publisher, Dark Horse, released their first volume of a reprint series of the same comics. Having purchased rights to reprint Tubby from Classic Media, it came as quite a surprise to Dark Horse that another publisher was reprinting the same material—a situation that negatively impacted the sales of both publishers’ editions (Oliveros, interview). Although the copyright uncertainties have since been resolved, at the time, Classic Media—a company whose sole purpose is to buy and sell rights—maintained that they owned all rights to the material, including the trademark on the stylized version of Tubby Tompkins; however, as copyright to the issues passed hands throughout the years—first from Buell to Western Publishing Company, and then to Golden books, whose assets were later acquired by Classic Media—the rights on several issues of Tubby were never renewed, leaving those issues in the public domain, and available for publication by any interested company, an opportunity that D&Q embraced. Additionally, the trademark on Tubby Tompkins expired in 2007 and was never renewed—again, likely a clerical oversight by Classic Media. While Dark Horse’s edition of the series will be comprehensive, D&Q is limited to the issues in the public domain—twelve in total. D&Q’s first volume contained four of those issues, number nine to twelve, and was published under the no-longer-trademarked title, Tubby. Although D&Q had originally intended to publish more than one volume, the realization that Dark Horse was publishing the same material led D&Q to reconsider the viability of the series. With the lower price point of Dark Horse’s paperback volumes and the saturated market (a common problem with content in the public domain), D&Q will likely not publish a second volume of Tubby, despite the desire to showcase the content within its John Stanley Library.

Determining the availability of a series involves more than assessing the copyright status: unlike with text-based reprints where the entirety of the content is already collected, before a comics reprint series can be given the green light, a complete source for the collected material must be tracked down. In their infancy, comics were ephemeral—disposable entertainment delivered to one’s doorstep in the morning and intended to be placed on the curb with the trash in the evening. With their traditional lowbrow status, extensive archives do not always exist, and publishers often rely on dedicated collectors as a source for their material—someone must have previously invested much time, and often money, in collecting these classic comics of the past before they can be reprinted in the present.

Comics collector culture began to take shape in the 1960s with the development of the direct market. At the time, comics were distributed through magazine distributors who were unwilling to disseminate the adult-centric underground comix that were quickly rising in popularity; underground comix publishers were forced to created their own counter-cultural distribution networks, which, in accordance with the focus of the material, was centred on record stores and head shops, bringing comix directly to their niche consumers (Wolk, 39). While major publishers were unwilling to undertake large print runs at the time because of market uncertainties, underground comix publishers were able to move up to five or ten thousand copies of a book through this direct distribution channel; this distribution system evolved into the direct distribution comic-book stores that emerged in the mid-1970s and still exists today (Wolk, 39). These early comics shops created a place for comics fans to gather and talk about comics. Comic book conventions, which also emerged in the 1960s, were another venue for such activities (Devlin, interview). Together these two emerging forces—comics shops and conventions—formed the foundation for collector culture within the industry.

Even with the extensive collector culture surrounding comics, it has never been easy to compile complete collections. Though fictional, Seth’s Wimbledon Green is a realistic portrayal of the lengths collectors will go to assemble complete collection—and the prices they will pay. When comics collecting began in the 1960s, however, the activity did not necessarily require a fat wallet, simply a lot of time and the patience to dig through crates (Devlin, interview). As time passed, and the prices of aging comics began to rise, it became unreasonable for an individual to acquire a comprehensive collection of any particular comic (Devlin). In 2010, Detective Comics no. 27, the issue in which Batman makes his debut, set the record for highest selling price of a single issue in comics history, $1.075 million; one month later, Superman beat out Batman, and Superman’s debut issue, Action Comics No. 1, sold for $1.5 million (Nguyen, 2010).

Because of the high price of classic comics, reprint publishers often rely on preexisting collections as their source. Although today reprint series are generally dependent on the collections of individuals, there are several public institutions across North America that have extensive archives of artists’ work, and in some cases even own the originals[x] . Within the United States, the largest comics archive resides at Ohio State University. Both in depth and scope, the archive in extensive, and a vital resource to anyone embarking on a reprint series. D&Q utilized Ohio State’s archives for the first volume of Walt and Skeezix. Though the collection at Ohio State is extensive, the use of public institutions is, often, prohibitively expensive, and because of this, many reprint publishers have turned to private collections as a more affordable source of classic comics collections. Although D&Q used the archives at Ohio State for portions of the first volume of Walt and Skeezix, for all succeeding volumes, the private collection of cartoonist Joe Matt was the primary source of content.

D&Q’s Nipper series is another example of a series relying in part on the collection held by a public institution. Although not all of the original art is available, the majority of it was donated by the artist’s family to the Canadian National Gallery. Because of the high price of scanning the gallery’s collection, D&Q paid to have only the best years of Wright’s work scanned, and opted to utilize the private newspaper clipping collections owned by Wright’s family and series designer, Seth, to complete the company’s collection. Since the collection owned by the National Gallery is original art, the strips printed from these scans are superior to those printed from scans of yellowed newspaper clippings; however, with improvements in digital retouching software, publishers are able to restore newspaper clippings much more effectively than they could in the 1980s.

With the advent of the internet, it has become easier, and less expensive, to track down scarce material, making the use of costly public institutions even less of a necessity. When publishers are missing a strip in a series, often all it takes is a digital request sent out to the nerd network—the legions of comics fans trawling comics industry blogs (Burns, interview). Oftentimes, they come though with missing comics almost instantly, whereas, before the internet, that one missing strip could take months, or even years, to track down (Burns). Comics collectors are often so pleased to see collections of their favourite classics being published that they are happy to lend or sell their comics to publishers at a reasonable price.

Determining the availability of a comic—through private or public collections—is just the first step in deciding whether reprinting the material is a viable business decision. The second factor to consider is whether or not there is a viable market for the material, or whether one will have to be developed. Part of the success of The Complete Peanuts was that the strip had not yet faded from the collective memory of North American society. With many of the strips D&Q reprints, the artist’s work is no longer prominent within the cultural milieu. Regardless of the historical significance of a comic, or how well respected a publisher is within the industry, it is not always possible to build an audience for a classic comic within our contemporary environment. D&Q published a collection of Clare Briggs’s Oh Skin-nay! comics in 2006. Despite the quality of the work, D&Q was unable to cultivate an audience for the material, and, sadly, no subsequent reprints of the artist’s work have been published. In some cases, however, all the comic needs is a modern-day champion, a prominent cartoonist to put their name behind the strip—this is where a respected series designer comes in. By attaching a big name within the industry, like Chris Ware or Seth, to a series, publishers can more easily find a home for forgotten or obscure content within our contemporary industry.

As we’ve seen, acquiring a reprint series can be an extensive process; however, there are several financial benefits to reprinting classic content. Acquiring content from the public domain accrues no costs to the publisher. Although acquiring the rights to some copyrighted work can come with an unwieldy price tag, often the rights can be acquired for very little cost. Without having the financial burden of large advances, acquiring reprint series can be an excellent way to expand one’s list with few upfront costs.

 

5.2 Series Development: Format , Price Point, and Doug Wright

Once the viability of a reprint series is established, the extent of the series needs to be determined. The industry trend is towards comprehensive collections, and, for the most part, D&Q’s reprints conform to these standards; however, for a small company like D&Q, committing to a comprehensive series is a major undertaking, especially since sales dwindle as a series progresses (Burns, interview). In France for example, series are the norm—bookstores and libraries are accustomed to stocking complete series and readers look forward to seeing a series through to the end. The opposite is true in North America. Although retailers are becoming increasingly versed in stocking series with the recent success of Harry Potter and Twilight, change is slow. After all, trade bookstores are still learning how to shelve comics, let alone reprint series.[xi] Because publishing series is not a trade tradition in Canada, it is understandable that a retail tradition does not exist either. The push for maximizing return per square foot of retail space controls the products available in bookstores; unfortunately, this means that stocking every volume within a series that is now on its eighth or twelfth volume is not a priority for many retailers, and this unavailability of complete series negatively impacts sales. The success of comics series such as Jeff Smith’s Bone, which was picked up by Scholastic, and Bryan Lee O’Malley’s Scott Pilgrim, which was turned into a major motion picture in 2010, has helped to train bookstores to effectively stock, and therefore sell, comics series, but retailers still have a lot to learn (Oliveros, interview). Even if a bookstore wanted to shelve an entire series, there would likely be logistical obstacles—there is only so much room in bookstores, leaving little room to shelve The Complete Peanuts, for example, which will comprise of twenty-five volumes when it is complete.

Whether due to retailers accustomed to single title promotion/merchandising and pumping bestsellers, or a reading culture that is unaccustomed to the form, declining sales over the life of a series often results in price increases as a series progresses. Selecting a price point—and, therefore, format—that will be sustainable over the life of the series is ideal. The publisher needs to balance the desires of devoted fans, who often want high-end reprints, and newcomers to the material, who need the content and the price to be accessible (Mullaney in Lorah, 2008). Regardless of how strategically the initial format decisions are made, in all likelihood, pricing hikes will still need to occur in order to maintain the production of the series. Luckily, this trend tends to be a reality that most reprint comics readers are familiar with, and once they’ve committed to a series, dedicated readers generally stay faithful to the comics even when faced with the imposition of price increases (Burns, interview). This was the case with D&Q’s Walt and Skeezix: after the fourth volume the price increased to $39.95 from $29.95. Despite this somewhat drastic price increase, the series still has enough faithful readers to support its continued production (Burns). The casual reader, the reader without any previous relationship with the comic, however, is easily driven away by the higher price tag.

Another factor that can prohibit readers from reading books within a series is volume numbering. When readers have no previously relationship with a series they are often reluctant to pick up in the middle of the series and start reading, even though in many cases there is no disadvantage to beginning in the middle. To counteract this problem, with the Moomin series, D&Q chose to exclude numbers from the spines of the books. This decision has helped to facilitate higher sales of later volumes within the series.

Whether as a solution for declining sales, or simply because the original format is not the best fit for the content, adjustments to format can breathe new life into a series. While it is ideal to maintain the format of a series throughout its run, sometimes changing the format is the best solution (Devlin, interview). D&Q’s Doug Wright series illustrates this point succinctly. The first book in the series, The Collected Doug Wright Volume One, was released in the spring of 2009. Designed by Seth, the oversize, metallic-hardcover tome measures nine by fourteen inches, spans 240 pages, and weighs in at just under five pounds.[xii] The first volume of The Collected Doug Wright is a comprehensive look at both the life and career of one of Canada’s most beloved and most successful mid-century cartoonist. Reprinting material from Wright’s family’s and Seth’s personal collections, as well as the National Gallery’s, it includes thousands of pieces of art, pictures, letters, and unique excerpts from the artist’s journals, creating a picture for the reader of not only Doug Wright the cartoonist, but also the individual (Burns, 2009). The book includes Wright’s earliest work through to the early days of his seminal pantomime strip, Nipper. With a biographical essay by Brad Mackay and an introduction by Canadian cartoonist and creator of the landmark strip For Better or Worse, Lynn Johnston, The Collected Doug Wright Volume One is a book all comics collectors and book fetishists should have on their shelves.

The $39.95 cover price is not necessarily prohibitive in itself (though pushing it for some readers); however, the book has several other barriers to entry. Although Doug Wright was a household name at the peak of Nipper’s popularity, the strip was largely a Canadian phenomenon. In the United States, where the majority of D&Q’s market resides, the lovable, bald-headed children in Wright’s strip had no cult following—readers did not know what to make of the deluxe tribute to an unfamiliar cartoonist (Burns, interview). Even within Canada, where the strip was syndicated for over thirty years, the only existing collection of the strip outside of the artist’s family’s belongs to the series designer, Seth. For a cartoonist that today is virtually unknown, especially outside of Canada, the lavish format may have hindered rather than helped sales.

Since the primary goal of The Collected Doug Wright Volume One was to introduce Wright’s work to a new generation of readers, the format was rethought, and the focus shifted from collectability to accessibility (Oliveros, interview). With a new format and stripped down content, the second book in the collection, Nipper 1963–1964, achieved the goal of reaching new readers. With much of the material on the history, carrier, and life of Wright removed, the reader is left with only the meat—two years of the enduring comic strip Nipper, as well as a brief introduction by Brad Mackay. Still designed by Seth, and still lovely in its own right, this paperback edition measures eight by five-and-a-half inches and sits at 112 pages: it’s almost small enough to carry in one’s pocket. At less than half the price of the first volume, Nipper 1963–1964 fared much better in the market than the previous volume, receiving very good reviews, including mainstream media coverage from powerhouses Boing Boing and Entertainment Weekly (Burns, interview). In addition, positive word of mouth within the comics community really helped to sell the book (Oliveros). The inexpensive paperback format does not suit all of D&Q’s reprints—indeed, it is the only series like it—but it seems to be just the (W)right format for Nipper.

The third book in the collection, Nipper 1965–1966, is scheduled to be launched in the fall of 2011 and will continue to be released annually in the same paperback format as the second book. With such a sustainable format, D&Q’s staff is confident that they will be able to keep churning out volumes until they run out of material (Burns, interview). Wright’s body of work, a vital part of twentieth century Canadian cultural history, escaped obsolescence thanks to D&Q’s publishing vision and ability to adapt to the demands of the market, finding the appropriate form to bring Wright’s work to the reader. Learning from the success of Nipper’s new format, D&Q has become increasingly aware of the necessity of selecting the best format for the content, even if at times it means straying from the deluxe packaging that has come to define the company’s brand.

 

5.3 Context and Walt and Skeezix

In 2000, in volume three, issue one of D&Q’s flagship anthology, Drawn & Quarterly, Oliveros began reprinting Sunday pages of the American cartoonist Frank King’s Gasoline Alley, retitled Walt and Skeezix because of copyright restrictions. Beginning as a satire of the post-wwi car craze, Gasoline Alley quickly transformed into the story of a family. The strip was one of the first cartoons to use contemporary America as its setting, and King’s characters age in real time, painting a succinct portrait of life in America—of America’s collective cultural history—in the twentieth century (Burns, 2005). At the time, only reprinting the Sundays, Oliveros did not have grand designs to reprint a complete collection; he did have an interest in reprinting the dailies, but it was still too early in the evolution of the comics industry to conceive of a comprehensive collection that was up to the high production standards that Oliveros had set for the company (Oliveros, interview). In 2000 the comic shop direct market was all that comics publishers had to work with, and with all its limitations, including its limited reach, a reprint series the likes of which we see today would not have been possible (Oliveros). At this time, D&Q was only publishing about four books a year; the remainder of the company’s titles were pamphlets (Oliveros).

By 2004, however, the industry had changed drastically. The inclusion of comics in the book trade created a much larger market for comics; all of a sudden the production of books instead of pamphlets was viable (Oliveros, interview). In addition, the success of Fantagraphics’ Krazy and Ignatz and The Complete Peanuts gave hope to those with aspirations to produce similarly ambitious reprints projects. As the industry transformed before his eyes, Oliveros saw an opportunity to reprint Gasoline Alley in the format he wanted to, but he knew that taking on a reprint series of this nature would be a serious commitment. Indeed, to this day, the Walt and Skeezix collection is D&Q’s most extensive reprint series. Not only would embarking on such a series be a big commitment, but the act of tracking down a reliable source for forty years worth of daily strips was daunting. D&Q artist Joe Matt had been collecting the strip for years, and encouraged Oliveros to publish a comprehensive collection from his own archives; however, because of the nature of syndicated strips, Oliveros knew he would need a secondary source against which he could check Matt’s collection. Since Gasoline Alley appeared in four hundred newspapers across America, some newspapers would print the strips on the wrong day (Oliveros). Luckily, Ohio State University has microfiche copies of the Chicago Tribune, which was the newspaper that held the rights to King’s strip. With the Chicago Tribune’s collection available to check the dates on Matt’s strips and fill in the occasional gap or replace damaged strips in his collection, Oliveros realized that the publication of a comprehensive collection would be possible. At the same time, Oliveros was in contact with King’s granddaughter; to his delight, he discovered that she had extensive archives of her grandfather’s work, including photographs, letters, and other ephemera that could be used as supplementary content within the collection. The collection that Oliveros did not think would be possible back in 2000 was finally fully realizable. With series designer Chris Ware—who often cites Gasoline Alley as one of his favourite comic strips—on board, in addition to series editor Jeet Heer and collector Joe Matt, the first volume of Walt and Skeezix was published by D&Q in 2005. Currently reprinting only the dailies, the series is now D&Q longest running reprint collection.

Walt and Skeezix is the first multi-volume collection of King’s classic strips. Even when the strip was at its peak, no publisher collected it in book form, which meant that after each daily strip graced the newspaper’s page, the content was thrown in the trash, essentially obsolete the day after publication (Burns, interview). The obscurity of the strip posed both an opportunity and a challenge: unlike commonly reprinted comics like Popeye or Little Orphan Annie, there were no competing collections of the work floating around used book stores or being auctioned online; however, Gasoline Alley, undiscovered and underappreciated, did not have much of a built-in audience, which was part of the challenge of marketing the collection (Burns). Luckily, with famous cartoonist Chris Ware[xiii] as the designer, the series received a great deal of attention upon release of the first volume, and despite the fact that the strip was largely unknown, the first volume achieved widespread acclaim.

The annual volumes, now five in total, are each over four hundred pages, cloth bound, debossed, and jacketed, showcasing Ware’s design at its finest. Each volume collects two years of daily strips (beginning in 1927 when the dailies first appeared) and includes a unique eighty-page introduction by Heer, illustrated with photos and ephemera. Part of the magic of Heer’s introduction is that it is a biography within a reprint series; it is a time capsule. Though many publishers have since followed, D&Q was the first to include supplementary material of this magnitude in a reprint series, and with its inclusion, Walt and Skeezix is more than just a reprinted classic comic strip: it is the story of one of America’s finest cartoonists.

The new context in which King’s strips are placed not only creates a stunning package for the material, but also presents the content to the reader in a way that maximizes the strengths of King’s storytelling, making the content even more accessible today than it was when it was originally published almost a century ago and delivered daily to the doorsteps of over thirty million readers across America (Burns, interview). The strip’s pacing is what makes it so unique today. When it was originally published, the continuous nature of the strip made it difficult for casual readers to enjoy. In a newspaper article written by the series editor Jeet Heer and published shortly after the release of the first volume, Heer notes that Gasoline Alley has not been canonized with comics classics such as Peanuts or Krazy Kat because “as a strip that dwelt on the daily travails of ordinary people, Gasoline Alley needs to be read in bulk to be appreciated” (Heer in Rizzo, 2005). In the new context of its collected form, the reader experiences King’s pacing in a much more concentrated way, one that makes King’s strip more engaging and optimizes his story telling abilities. The condensed format also makes the strips more accessible to today’s comics readers who are used to faster-paced content.

Although Walt and Skeezix is the reprint published by D&Q that benefits most from the contextual change brought on by its collection in the book format, regardless of the comic, placing classic comics that were once ephemera into a contemporary package affects the way the comics are perceived and enjoyed. Aside from the obvious fact that collecting classic comics and placing them within the context of a book adds posterity to the content, making it easily accessible to a new generation of readers, the new context also plays a role in how the content is perceived by the reader. For example, Dark Horse and D&Q each placed their Tubby reprints in different contexts: Dark Horse published the content in a paperback format more closely resembling the original context in which the comics appeared, while D&Q produced exquisite hardcovers, with embossing and foil stamping. Neither format is incorrect. Dark Horse’s format does little to alter the context in which the content is consumed, which, it can be argued, is the right way to reprint classic comics, as it most closely resembles the context in which the creator intended the work to appear. Conversely, D&Q’s format highlights the content’s importance within comics history and adds value and collectability to content that was previously ephemeral in nature. Regardless of the approach taken by a publisher, it is important to consider the effect that the new context will have on the material, and select a format that is most suitable to the content. For Walt and Skeezix this meant a comprehensive collection that highlighted King’s gift for pacing, while Doug Wright’s work, widely unknown, benefits from a minimalist approach that keeps the comics affordable, and thus encourages readers unfamiliar with the content to give it a try.

 

5.4 Series Design and the John Stanley Library

Designed by world-renowned cartoonist Seth, D&Q’s John Stanley Library plays a vital role in celebrating Stanley’s underrepresented works. A journeyman cartoonist who made his name on licensed properties like Little Lulu, Stanley’s other work is widely forgotten. The library includes several series written—and sometime drawn—by Stanley, including Melvin Monster, a story about a good little monster who has a tough time fitting in with all the bad monsters in Monsterville, Thirteen Going on Eighteen, which is often considered a smart alternative to Archie, Tubby, an offshoot from Little Lulu where the title character has more time to shine, and Nancy, a comic centred around the title character, a self-assured young girl who spends much of her days outsmarting the boys. Since these works are not among Stanley’s best known, Seth’s role in the series has been instrumental to its success.

Regardless of whether a series’ design is done in or out of house, there are some initial decisions regarding the shape of the collection that need to be made before a designer can begin. When choosing the format and size of a series, not only does it need to reflect an appropriate price point, as discussed earlier, but it also must be suitable for the contents: the format and size of the book needs to work for the entire collection, which in some cases means it must to be adaptable to material of varying sizes (Devlin, interview). While D&Q does not currently publish any collections of reprinted comics that include both daily strips and Sunday pages, other publishers have faced this challenge with mixed results. Published by Abrams, Dan Nadel’s Art Out Of Time is an example of the challenge of finding a format that accommodates the varying sizes of its content. The daily strips and comic book pages in this collection are well suited to the format; however, the Sunday pages, which were originally much larger, and therefore shrunk down considerably, are illegible. Though to a much lesser extent, the varying sizes of the contents played a role in selecting the format for the John Stanley Library. Throughout Stanley’s long cartooning career, comic books became smaller; D&Q’s art director, Tom Devlin, had to select a format for the series that would accommodate content that came from any stage of Stanley’s career.

Another factor in choosing a format is the intended audience. In the case of the John Stanley Library, the content was designed to be enjoyed by children; Devlin selected a large format and decided to only collect three or four comic book issues in each volume to keep the page count low and therefore easily handled by little hands. By keeping the length of the volumes short the books are also quick reads, which preserves the original reading experience. The format keeps the comics in children’s territory, conforming to a classic children’s format, but also accommodates the varying sizes of the works contained within.

The amount of material to be collected in the complete series also affects the length of each volume. When a series’ run is short, like Melvin Monster, these decisions are simple: the series only spanned nine issues so it was clear that each volume would contain three issues. With a longer running series, it is important to plan out all the volumes before the initial design stages begin so pacing is consistent through to the last volume.

Once these initial format decisions are made, the design of the series can begin. Because the John Stanley Library includes several different titles, it was important that that design of the series be adaptable. Seth discusses his solution:

With the [John Stanley] Library I tried to build a design-system based on the very simple idea that these were a “Library.” I have always had a real fondness for children’s encyclopedias and I wanted to get some feeling of these old books into the series. By building the look of these books around a simple grouping of horizontal rules (and the [John Stanley Library] seal) I knew that I could easily create simple variations in the arrangement of these elements on the book covers to allow an almost endless number of new titles to be added to the series. They could look basically the same as the other books—and yet, by simply moving these elements up or down, here or there, they could have their own specific places in the series. This would allow them to sit together on the shelf as a unified whole in a way that wouldn’t be as cohesive if each series was entirely its own design. I also knew, though, that each book could probably stand alone as a nice children’s book because of the bold images on the covers and the bright colours involved. Basically they needed to work individually, and as a title (say Nancy) and as part of an overall library. The idea of a pepped-up encyclopedia model was a simple solution. (Seth, interview)

In addition to his over-arching design concept, Seth selected a colour palette that would appeal to children. With The Complete Peanuts, Seth deliberately chose low-key colours because he wanted to avoid an association with children’s publishing; with the John Stanley Library, however, he wanted to emphasize those elements, so he chose to work in bright tones to create an appropriate mood (Seth, interview). Although Stanley’s reprint history is limited, the previous collections of his work have always been aimed at adult collectors; with his design, Seth hoped to make the books appeal more to children, since they were Stanley’s intended audience, after all.

It was also important to Seth that Stanley’s characters, being central to his work, played a central role in his design. Stanley’s characters were “big and bright and extroverted…eccentric (yet likable),” which were rare traits in comics of that time period as most characters were “remarkably vapid and cardboard” (Seth, interview). The personalities of these characters come alive in Seth’s design, flawlessly expressing their quirks.

Another aspect of Seth’s design, which is visible in all the series he designs in addition to the John Stanley Library, is the attention he pays to creating a complete package for the content: the reading experience begins with the front cover and ends with the back cover, effectively leading the reader into the work and easing them out. As a designer, Seth notes his enjoyment in designing the front matter of books:

Chip Kidd once said to me that the pages between the half title page and the [start of the body text] are the place for a book designer to shine—to use some poetry. He’s right, I never forgot that. I love those introductory pages. They have a rhythm to them that can really be special if you can balance images, the spreads, the text etc. It should roll by the reader like a panorama—setting the emotions for what is to come in the book itself. (Seth, interview)

The success of Seth’s design comes not only from his exemplary design skills, but also his love of the content. In fact, it is Seth’s respect for Stanley’s work that led him to design the series. Years ago when Devlin was editing a special issue of the Comics Journal Seth wrote an essay about Stanley to be included in the journal; years later when Devlin conceived of the John Stanley Library, Seth was an obvious choice for series designer (Seth). Much as Frank King shaped the work of Walt and Skeezix series designer Chris Ware, Stanley had an influence on Seth’s work:

He moved his characters through space and time in interesting ways and my first chapter of Clyde Fans was heavily influenced by Stanley’s signature trait of having characters talk endlessly to themselves while engaged in other matters. I’ve also been a student of how he structured his comic books—the care and thought that went into each decision on how his separate short stories and one-pagers fit together. (Seth, interview)

While Seth’s exquisite design has contributed to the success of the series, the quality of the content, of course, is what keeps readers coming back. Stanley was ahead of his time, writing protofeminist cartoons with women in dominant roles at a time when this was not the norm, and these aspects of his cartooning result in comics that continue to hold up today, where many comics created during these years do not. If Stanley had been working in a different medium, film, for example, he would be remembered by society at large, but instead, he was creating comics in a time when what he was doing was considered the lowest of low culture (Oliveros, interview). Though the design is secondary to the content, Seth’s packaging has been instrumental in introducing this quality content to a generation that may otherwise never have known it existed.

 

5.5 The Comics Canon and Moomin

The first chapter of Douglas Wolk’s comics theory book Reading Comics and What They Mean is titled “What Comics Are and What Comics Aren’t.” Although the opening chapters of other comics theory books may not be so blunt in their intent, they all tend to revolve around asserting some sort of defining statement regarding what should be included in the realm of comics and what should be excluded. Art Spiegelman defines comics as “writing, drawing, and this other stuff that’s somewhere between the two” (Spiegelman in Kartalopoulos, 2005), which, being a non-definition, is perhaps the best definition of comics that I’ve come across. If someone attempted to define comics fifty years ago, surely some of today’s best comics would be excluded from the antiquated definition. An example of this is Lynda Barry’s recent work: when Amazon first received What It Is—having no idea what to make of the thing—they classified it, to Barry’s delight, as science fiction. Similarly, if one were to use Spiegelman’s definition, Maira Kalman’s work, residing as it does in liminal territory, could be classified as comics; others, including Kalman herself, who fervently denies any similarities between her work and comics, would disagree, but to many, the distinction is not so clear. Comics are a young medium, and throughout their century of evolution in North America, the form has grown and expanded in delightfully unpredictable ways. Boxing comics in with definitions—or panel walls, as it were—not only hinders the creativity of the medium, but is also a waste of time, as the defining elements of what makes a comic a comic are sure to expand in the years to come.

Looking forward, with artists like Barry pushing the medium in unexpected directions, the diversity of the medium will continue to expand. Looking back into comics history, however, diversity within the medium it not easily visible. It is not the case that unique works created by fully-formed artists were not being created; rather, for many years, there was no celebration of comics as an art form, and those works that were not greeted with immediate monetary affirmation were quickly dropped by publishers, leaving a plethora of first-class work without support because it lacked mass appeal (Nadel, 2006). These works quickly faded into obscurity, often the moment they were tossed in the trash. Because of comics’ ephemeral nature and low-art status, there is a wealth of history that has yet to be uncovered. The comics documented in history are primarily those that achieved commercial success—although these comics are deserving, they form an incomplete picture of comics history (Nadel).

Enforcing this canon are books like Wolk’s Reading Comics, but also art exhibits like Masters of American Comics and the Comics Journal’s 210th issue, which listed the one hundred best comics of the twentieth century. In addition, by making the material available to readers, comics reprints play an instrumental role in canon construction. To this date, the majority of comics that continue to be reprinted, and therefore shape comics history for society at large, are these canonized works. The literature canon wars of the 1980s were fought to broaden what was being taught in classrooms to include more works by women and minority writers; similar expansion has occurred within the art history canon (Donadio, 2007). Both literature and art have a well-documented history, making the exclusion of widely forgotten works correctable; with comics, however, the history is undiscovered, and therefore malleable (Campbell, interview). The exclusion of works today could mean their permanent exclusion within a generation (Oliveros, interview).

Until recently, the canon was shaped by heavy hitters like Stan Lee and collectors like Bill Blackbeard and Rick Marshall who have connections within the publishing industry (Spurgeon, 2006). The same names—Richard F. Outcalt, Windsor Mackay, George Harriman, E.C. Segar, and Walt Kelly—chiefly belonging to white, American men, pop up time and again (Devlin, interview). These greats were established as such in the 1960s when the fandom began to take shape and comics folks began meeting and talking at conventions (Devlin). Without someone to champion comics from the past in the modern day, their ephemeral nature leaves them marginalized (Spurgeon). Even Fantagraphics, which built its reputation on challenging the status quo, rigorously upholds the canon with its reprint series (Devlin).

As in literature and art, women have long been excluded from the comics canon. Marjorie Henderson Buell, who created Little Lulu, which, until Peanuts, was the most licensed strip in comics history, and Dale Messick, creator of Brenda Starr, Reporter, which ran in newspapers from 1945 to 2011, are rarely mentioned among the great cartoonists of the twentieth century. And although Little Lulu is now being reprinted, for such a popular comic, it is astonishing that it was never reprinted until 2005; Brenda Starr, Reporter has never been reprinted.

Although the majority of reprints today enforce the canon, we are starting to see publications that broaden the lens, focusing less on the established American classics. Forward-thinking publishers like D&Q have played an instrumental role in this expansion. One such comic championed by D&Q is Tove Jansson’s Moomin. Although the strip was syndicated in forty countries around the world and enjoyed a readership of several million, Moomin had never been syndicated in North America and, therefore, was virtually unknown on the continent. Furthermore, despite its popularity in Britain, it had never been reprinted in English, only in Scandinavian languages where Jansson was a celebrity. In addition to being gender exclusive, comics reprints tend to be geographically myopic. Until D&Q began reprinting Moomin in 2006, the only European comics series to be successfully reprinted in the United States was Tintin. Expanding the North American canon on two fronts—gender and geography—Moomin has become the company’s top selling reprint series; with 45,000 copies in print, the first volume is in its seventh printing. Deservedly, and at last, Jansson has been given the position she deserves within the North American comics history. But the D&Q series not only awarded Jansson with the readers she deserved in North America, the series also spawned an international interest in reprinting the work, sparking many foreign editions— most using D&Q’s design.

While D&Q consistently challenges the canon, they are not the only publisher to do so. Dan Nadel, publisher at Picture Box and co-editor of the Comics Journal, is well known for his efforts in bringing much-needed attention to under-appreciated works from comics history. Published by Harry N. Abrams, Nadel compiled two comics history books—Art Out of Time: Unknown Comics Visionaries 1900–1969, and Art in Time: Unknown Comic Book Adventures, 1940–1980. As the titles suggest, these collections focus on the “lost comics” (Nadel, pg. 9, 2006). Nadel saw holes in the documentation of comics history, and, with these two books, found a place for many under-appreciated artists within the narrative of comics history. In addition to giving more obscure works a few moments on centre stage, Nadel has managed to broaden the diversity of work that the industry takes seriously. In Art Out Of Time Nadel takes widely unknown cartoonists like Boody Rogers and Fletcher Hanks and looks at them less as freak oddities and outsiders, and more as individual artists (Devlin, interview). The context in which these works were published—as forty-dollar art books published by an esteemed art book publisher—helps to increase the perceived value to these underappreciated works.

Culturally, reprints’ role in expanding the comics canon is perhaps the most valuable aspect of continuing to publish these works. For publishers like D&Q who have long worked to push the medium forward, reprinting these invaluable works is not only a pleasure, but a duty—an effort to right the wrongs that exist within this “impure medium” (Nadel, pg. 6, 2006).

 

 

6. Conclusions

6.1 Collector Culture and Cultural Vogue

Part of the reason why comics reprints in the 1980s were not sustainable was that the primary audience for the books was comics collectors; today, however, that audience has expanded and it is not just collectors that are interested in classic comics. In part the expansion of the audience is because of comics presense in trade bookstores, but also, as Jeet Heer points out, because the historical consciousness of our current culture is stronger than ever, and people are seeking to learn about the past through other means than history textbooks (Heer, 2002). The success of shows like Canada: A People’s History, historical novels by Margaret Atwood, and biographical comics like Chester Brown’s Louis Riel highlight the current trend towards informing oneself about history through popular culture (Heer, 2002). Reprinted comics, particularly when presented with supplementary information, provide a history lesson for readers. In the case of Walt and Skeezix, the reader learns about the collective history of America during the 1900s.

But it is not just the historical consciousness that is helping to sell comics reprints. Collector culture is creeping its way out of niche countercultural pockets into the mainstream in many ways; similar to complete seasons of television shows presented on DVD, or discographies of artist’s completed works, comprehensive collections of classic comics are aligned with the current cultural trend towards collecting popular culture in complete packages (Taylor, 2005). Although people’s attraction to completeness is nothing new—some anthropologists speculate that our desire to do so stems from our instincts to hunt and gather—its prevalence in mainstream culture has not been this strong since the popularity of stamp collecting waned in the early 1900s (Rubin, 2008). This current trend is favourable to publishers such as D&Q, who invest a substantial portion of resources in the production of volume after volume of reprints.

 

6.2 The Future of Reprints at Drawn & Quarterly

Although reprints are not among the highest selling books at D&Q, they provide a stable and predictable source of income for the company. Despite the success of D&Q’s reprints, the model is still in flux and the future of each reprint series is as unpredictable as the future of the publishing industry itself. Declining sales of a series as it progresses is currently the top obstacle for the company, but D&Q is committed to finding creative solutions—even if it means straying from the preferred hardcover format, as we saw with Nipper—in order to keep its reprint series alive. Initially D&Q approached its reprint series from the same perspective that it approached all of its titles: if the content was good, the company would publish it as a deluxe, hardcover book (Oliveros, interview). Publisher Chris Oliveros is the first to admit that this approach has some flaws. He notes that, as we saw with Nipper, the hardback format is not always the best fit for the content, and, as was the case with an early reprint, Clare Briggs’s Oh Skin-nay!, the company’s assurance of quality is not always enough to sell a book. There are currently no plans to alter the format of any more of the company’s reprints series, but there is constant chatter around the office about ideas for new series, and about innovative formats and approaches that could maintain the sustainability of reprinting classic comics in the years to come.

Likely, particularly with the success of Nipper, D&Q will experiment with other paperback reprint series in an attempt to lower its overheads and keep the editions at a price point that is not prohibitive and places the content in the hands of as many readers as possible. This format will lend itself particularly well to collections of children’s comics, which are likely to be seen from D&Q in the near future. Although various formats will be explored, Oliveros’s personal vision—to publish good comics, which to Oliveros means first-rate content and production—is still the sole driver behind the company’s activities, and will continue to be the reason why comics readers trust D&Q as an authority on quality content.

Although the reprint industry will likely remain similar in form for the next several years, speculations regarding what it may look like further into the twenty-first century produce some interesting questions, many of which, at this point, do not have answers. With comics’ evolution from staple-bound pamphlets to hardcover books, and movement from newspapers’ pages to computer screens, what impact will the art’s increased posterity and existence within more long-lasting formats have on reprint collections in the future? Will the same careful curation be necessary when the work is already available in various forms? How much longer can the reprints industry survive before all the comics considered “worth” reprinting are exhausted? Or will the well simply be replenished as contemporary comics age and become classics? In our current environment, the internet is flooded with webcomics and reproductions of vintage comics, and, brought on by the increased popularity of comics beginning at the turn of the century, the print comics industry has become oversaturated. What impact will comics’ increasingly mass appeal have on the medium? Despite the uncertainties, D&Q’s assurance of quality and role as a gatekeeper will remain valuable to comics readers, and, likely, will become even more valuable as uncurated digital content becomes even more prevalent.

 

 

 


NOTES

i Pen name for Canadian born cartoonist and designer Gregory Gallant. RETURN

ii Although the term “alternative comics” is still used by some, alternative comics are, today, more often simply referred to as comics. RETURN

iii Weirdo was published by San Francisco–based Last Gasp from 1981–1993. Control of the publication was turned over to cartoonist Peter Bagge with issue 10, and then Crumb’s wife, and fellow cartoonist, Aline Kominsky-Crumb, with issue 18. RETURN

iv The last regular print issue of the Comics Journal—issue 300—was published in November of 2009, at which point the publication moved online. On March 5, 2011, The Comics Journal relaunched their online publication, revitalizing the format and changing over the staff. The magazine is now run by Comics Comics (a web-based critical comics analysis blog that was retired with the launch of the new Comics Journal) editors Dan Nadle and Tim Hodler. RETURN

v Maus was later collected in two volumes and published by Pantheon Books (an imprint of Random House). The first volume appeared in 1986; the second in 1991. Spiegelman received the Pulitzer Prize for Maus in 1992. RETURN

vi Traditional comic book form is the pamphlet format, which Unesco defines as a “printed publication of at least 5 but not more than 48 pages exclusive of the cover pages” (Unesco, 2004). Pamphlets are generally saddle stapled. RETURN

vii In 2001 Jimmy Corrigan: The Smartest Kid on Earth won the Guardian Prize for best first book, a prize that had previously been awarded to authors including Zadie Smith, Jonathan Safran Foer and Philip Gourevitch (McGrath, 2004). RETURN

viii Comics collectors and their influence on shaping comics’ documented history are discussed further in chapter six. RETURN

ix John Stanley, being a journeyman cartoonist and scripter, wrote stories for Buell’s characters, and, in some cases, created the art as well. RETURN

x IDW’s The Complete Little Orphan Annie is an example of a series reprinted from archived original art. Harold Gray, the comic’s creator, saved virtually all of the original art, which he donated to Boston University in the 1960s. The superior quality of the strips reprinted in this series is noticeable. RETURN

xi A 2010 article in Publisher’s Weekly talked extensively about the difficultly trade bookstores have in shelving comics, which are a medium, not a genre; since bookstores are organized by genre, shelving comics in one section is exclusive and limits their exposure to a broader bookstore audience (Reid, 2010). RETURN

xii Spare copies around the office are used to weigh down the scanner lid when scanning material with creases. RETURN

xiii Chris Ware was also the series designer behind the first reprint series of the second wave of modern reprints, Krazy and Ignatz. In addition, he is one of the finest contemporary cartoonists today. Volume twenty of his comic series The Acme Novelty Library, which was released in the fall of 2010, has virtually sold out less than half a year later. The print run was twenty-five thousand. RETURN

 

 


BIBLIOGRAPHY

About us. (2010, November 8). Retrieved from http://www.fantagraphics.com

Bell, J. (2002, June 24). Beyond the funnies. Retrieved from http://www.collectionscanada.gc.ca/comics/027002-8700-e.html

Burns, P. (2009, January 12). The collected doug wright volume one. Retrieved from http://www.drawnandquarterly.com/shopCatalogLong.php?item=a4947fe5c97c42

Burns, P. (2005, March). Walt and skeezix: 1921-1922. Retrieved from http://www.drawnandquarterly.com/shopCatalogLong.php?item=a3e53d5c571ae6

Donadio, R. (2007, September 16). Revisiting the canon wars. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/2007/09/16/books/review/Donadio-t.html?_r=2

Coville, J. (2001). The history of comic books. Retrieved from http://www.thecomicbooks.com/old/Platinum.html

Douresseau, L. (2004, January 23). Mr. charlie opens the door. Retrieved from http://www.comicbookbin.com/charlie12.html

Dueben, A. (2011, January 6). Spotlight on francoise mouly. Retrieved from http://www.comicbookresources.com/page=article&id=30211

Hajdu, D. (2008). The ten-cent plague. New York: Picador.

Heer, J. (2003, November 6). Little orphan louis. Retrieved from http://www.jeetheer.com/comics/riel.htm

Heer, J. (2002, February 16). Seth and nostalgia. Retrieved from http://www.jeetheer.com/comics/seth.htm

Kartalopoulos , B. (2005, Winter). A raw history: the magazine. Retrieved from http://web.archive.org/web/20080210081625/64.23.98.142/indy/winter_2005/raw_02/index.html

Lorah, M. (2008, November 25). Dean mullaney on idw’s library of american comics, Retrieved from http://www.newsarama.com/comics/110825-IDWLibrary-American-Comics.html

McBride , J. (2009, November 9). Graphic novels: canadian splendour. Retrieved from http://www.canadianbusiness.com/managing/strategy/article.jsp?content=20091109_10019_10019

McGrath, C. (2004, July 11). Not funnies. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/2004/07/11/magazine/not-funnies.html?src=pm

Nguyen, H. (2010, March 30). Action comics no. 1’s super $1.5 mil sale. Retrieved from http://blog.zap2it.com/frominsidethebox/2010/03/action-comics-no-1ssuper-15-mil-sale.html

Olson, R. (1997, September). The yellow kid in mcfadden’s flats. Retrieved from http://www.neponset.com/yellowkid/news0302.htm

Reid , C. (2010, January 12). A shelf of one’s own: shelving graphic novels in book stores. Retrieved from http://www.publishersweekly.com/pw/by-topic/newtitles/adult-announcements/article/41575-a-shelf-of-one-s-own-shelvinggraphic-novels-in-bookstores-.html

Rizzo, F. (2005). Collection offers perfect chance to appreciate. The Atlanta Journal.

Rubin, R. (2008, April). Amass appeal. Retrieved from http://www.aarp.org/entertainment/leisure-activities/info-01-2008/amass_appeal.1.html

Spurgeon, T. (2006, May 20). Preview: art out of time, dan nadel. Retrieved from http://www.comicsreporter.com/index.php/briefings/commentary/5040/

Taylor, c. (2005, July 24). Funny how life goes on. The Sunday Star Ledger, pp. 10, 5.

The comic book database. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://comicbookdb.com/publisher.php?ID=14

The library of american comics. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.libraryofamericancomics.com/about/

Unesco institute for statistics. (2004, February 17). Retrieved from http://www.uis.unesco.org/ev.phpID=5096_201&ID2=DO_TOPIC

Wolk, Douglas. (2007). Reading comics and what they mean. Cambridge: Da Capo Press.

 

 


INTERVIEWS

Burns, Peggy (Associate Publisher, D&Q). 2011. Interview with Author, January 5.

Campbell, Jessica (Designer, D&Q). 2011. Interview with Author, January 5.

Devlin, Tom (Art Director, D&Q). 2011. Interview with Author, January 24.

Oliveros, Chris. (Publisher, D&Q). 2011. Interview with Author, January 20.

Seth. (Cartoonist and John Stanley Library designer). 2011. Interview with Author, February 5.

 


Editorial Standards and Detail Editing at Lone Pine Publishing

 

By Kelsey Dawn Everton

ABSTRACT: This report examines the evolution and current state of detail editing—including copy editing, proofreading, and other fine-level work—at Lone Pine Publishing, a mid-sized book publisher. Though budget and resource limitations and shifting editorial roles have necessitated some editorial changes, detail editing remains paramount to Lone Pine’s books. This report begins with an analysis of detail editing at Lone Pine, including several specific detail-oriented editorial projects, and establishes how detail editing fits into the larger editorial process. Next, it examines wider editorial trends in Canadian trade book editing, and what they mean: some critics have questioned whether texts are as well edited as they used to be. The report concludes with a case study of ebook creation at Lone Pine, and considers where detail editing at Lone Pine will go in the future.

 

 


DEDICATION

For my mom,

who has always been my editor.

 

 


ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

My sincerest thanks to Mary Schendlinger and Rowland Lorimer for their insightful, patient feedback and assistance in shaping this report. I am also grateful to all the students and staff of the Master of Publishing Program for everything I‘ve learned from them.

Thank you to everyone at Lone Pine Publishing and in the offices for sharing their time and expertise with me, especially Nancy Foulds, Sheila Quinlan, Gary Whyte, Nicholle Carrière, Faye Boer, Tracey Comeau, Wendy Pirk, Gene Longson, Ken Davis, Tom Lore, Glen Rollans, and Shane Kennedy.

Andy, Amy and Rick, and the GAP girls: your encouragement has meant so much to me. Thank you.

And thank you to my parents, Rob and Gisela Everton, for all of their love and support, and for always cheering me on.

 

 


CONTENTS

Dedication

Acknowledgements

Introduction: A Brief History of Lone Pine Publishing

Chapter 1: Detail Editing at Lone Pine
++++Detail Editing Projects
++++Detail Editing in Context

Chapter 2: Editing at Lone Pine
++++Editorial Structure
++++The Evolution of Editing at Lone Pine

Chapter 3: Standards of Detail Editing in Canadian Trade Book Publishing

Chapter 4: The Future of Detail Editing at Lone Pine
++++A Case Study: Ebooks at Lone Pine
++++Looking to Lone Pine’s Future

Notes

Bibliography

 

 


INTRODUCTION

A BRIEF HISTORY OF LONE PINE PUBLISHING

Lone Pine Publishing, a trade book publisher in Edmonton, Alberta, was founded in 1980 by Grant Kennedy and Shane Kennedy. Lone Pine’s regional mandate was evident right from the start—its first book published was The Albertans, featuring profiles of noteworthy and influential Albertans. Lone Pine‘s main focus, however, was nature and natural history, and Lone Pine’s early titles focused on outdoor living in Alberta. One early title was the Canadian Rockies Access Guide, which is still in print.

Regional publishing flourished in Alberta during the early 1980s. From Lone Pine’s beginnings as a regional Alberta publisher, it expanded to become a regional publisher in other parts of Canada and the United States: “We have attempted to be a good regional publisher in every region where we are present.”[1] This ultra-regional business model means that Lone Pine can produce book series like Birds of Alberta, Birds of British Columbia, Birds of Ontario, Birds of Washington State, and Birds of Texas—which may have considerable overlap but will also be tailored to specific regions.

Lone Pine’s editorial mandate is market-driven. Titles in a series are developed and selected based on how previous books have sold and in what markets. In the 1990s, Lone Pine published a series of gardening guides by Lois Hole, who went on to become Alberta’s fifteenth Lieutenant Governor; the success of these titles encouraged Lone Pine to develop its own lines of gardening guides.

A characteristic that sets Lone Pine apart from many other regional publishers is that it handles its own sales and distribution. A large percentage of Lone Pine books are distributed through non-traditional distribution channels, including through Lone Pine racks at grocery stores such as Superstore, businesses such as Canadian Tire, and small retail outlets throughout the country. Since Lone Pine has a distribution system in place, it also sells and distributes books for a number of other small publishers.

Lone Pine is a distinctive brand, especially in certain regions such as Alberta. The publisher’s name is known, and Lone Pine books are identifiable by the public as being published by Lone Pine, which is uncommon for book publishers. This brand recognition is in part a result of Lone Pine’s non-traditional distribution.

As of 2010, Lone Pine publishes twelve to twenty new titles per year, including gardening books, nature guides, popular history books, and cookbooks.

 

 

CHAPTER ONE

DETAIL EDITING AT LONE PINE

During the summer of 2010, I was an intern at Lone Pine Publishing. My job as an intern was to provide editorial support to the in-house editorial team, particularly with detail editing. During the summer at Lone Pine, most titles are in various stages of editorial development. Most books come out in the spring—for example, in advance of the gardening season—which means that books enter production during the fall so that they are in the warehouse for early spring. When one editor went on maternity leave early in 2010, Lone Pine decided that the addition of a summer editorial intern would free up time for the remaining editorial staff to focus on the bigger-picture work on their spring 2011 titles. My vantage point for this report, therefore, is that of a designated detail editor, a new layer of editorial support at Lone Pine, who was in a good position to both observe and experience firsthand detail editing at Lone Pine.

What is detail editing? It’s not a term found in the Editors’ Association of Canada’s (EAC) Professional Editorial Standards. Nor is it found in many other descriptions of the editorial process, most of which divide editing into roles: acquiring editor, stylistic (line) editor, copy editor, proofreader, managing editor, and so on.[2] But editing is practically synonymous with handling detail. Editors “are people who are good at process…Their jobs are to aggregate information, parse it, restructure it, and make sure it meets standards. They are basically QA [quality assurance] for language and meaning.”[3] Detail editing, then, is an encompassing term that differs slightly in meaning from publisher to publisher and from project to project. It covers the myriad of detail-oriented editorial tasks that are necessary in the completion of a project, which may include copy editing, proofreading, fact checking, and other required fine-level work. Since my internship was during the summer, when few titles are in production, my job involved less copy editing and proofreading than might be expected at other times of the year. But it did involve a number of important detail-oriented tasks that all came down to ensuring the accuracy and reliability of Lone Pine’s books.

Every publisher handles detail editing differently. Normally at Lone Pine, one editor handles all aspects of the editorial process for a specific project, including copy editing, proofreading, and other detail work. Typically there isn’t a designated detail editor who takes on those particular tasks. Some detail tasks—ones that aren’t necessarily specific to one project, for instance, or that are specialized in some way—are divided amongst editors according to their workload, skill set, and specific knowledge. For example, many Lone Pine books rely highly on commissioned illustrations of birds, bugs, mammals, and other species. Many of the illustration-tracking editorial tasks are given to one editor, Gary Whyte, because he has the best understanding of how the illustrations database operates. Other detail tasks, such as quickly checking over a reprint file from production before it is sent to the printer, are assigned to whichever editor is least busy at the time. Everyone in the editorial department at Lone Pine, then, is involved in detail editing.

Detail editing is important to all publishers. Publishers strive to avoid embarrassing typos and mistakes in grammar or usage because those convey a sense of amateurism and incompetence. Publishers want to be taken seriously and want to be seen as expert and capable. Mistakes and errors in all sorts of details suggest sloppiness and unreliability. This is true in more than just publishing: job seekers are nearly always encouraged to make sure there are no misspellings in their cover letters and résumés, because those imply a lack of care and responsibility.[4] The importance of detail editing in publishing goes far beyond correcting typos, however. Ensuring attention to editorial detail adds a mark of professionalism to a publication, and with professionalism comes credibility. Credibility is one of Thomas Woll’s three Cs for successful publishing: “Credibility is a fragile trait that is built over time but it is one you ultimately must have to be successful. To be credible, you must focus on commitment and consistency.”[5] Commitment and consistency are absolutely crucial, but detail editing can go a long way to ensuring a publisher’s credibility as well.

Credibility is particularly important to a publisher like Lone Pine, because their brand and reputation are built on small details being correct and trustworthy. Accuracy in details is especially crucial in the information-based types of books that Lone Pine produces, including guidebooks, gardening books, and cookbooks. A photo caption that misidentifies a bird species could be disastrous in a guidebook, which is supposed to be a dependable source of information; the reader, instead of understanding it was just a mistake, could easily assume the author did not know what he was talking about and discredit the entire book. Seemingly minor (and even unintentional) omissions or errors can seriously compromise the integrity of an entire publication. A 2003 issue of the Canadian Tourism Commission’s PureCanada magazine had a number of such small errors, including leaving out Prince Edward Island and misspelling Nunavut on a map; such infelicities call into question the reliability (and biases) of the entire publication.[6] Similar mistakes have occasionally occurred at Lone Pine—a heading for a “Makkard” instead of “Mallard” that had somehow crept into a fifth edition of a bird book had one reader outraged and demanding his money back. Presumably he not only lost his faith in the book, but also in the publisher and the Lone Pine brand. Books like nature guides and cookbooks need to be reliable in their smallest details in order to be credible and taken seriously in their larger ones. The Lone Pine brand and reputation are built on being reliable and trustworthy, and so detail editing work is essential.

 

Detail Editing Projects

The tasks I performed at Lone Pine were many and diverse, but all were detail-oriented. It should be noted that this discussion of detail editorial work is not limited to what I did as a detail editor, but applies also to all editors at Lone Pine, since editors often perform various detail editing tasks on their own titles. Also, many more reprints than new titles were published during the summer, which is why this conversation may refer more to detail editing in reprints than in new titles. But the tasks and theory of detail editing apply equally to all types of projects, including new titles and reprints.

One detail editing project was to do a preliminary edit of and create a style guide for an upcoming cookbook by the executive chef of a local Italian restaurant group, Sorrentino’s. Cookbooks present a number of genre-specific editorial challenges. Cookbook readers expect consistency and clarity. Ingredients must be included in both the ingredient list and in the directions: a reader would be most irate to discover, halfway through making a dish, that the recipe directions include an ingredient that is not on the list and that she therefore didn‘t pick up on her trip to the grocery store. Directions also must be straightforward and complete; leaving out cooking time or temperature would frustrate readers. Bonnie Stern, a cookbook author, demonstrates the importance of details in a cookbook by explaining how one recipe didn’t work: “In one of my books I included a recipe for a ‘magic’ cake. You put the dry ingredients in a baking pan and make three indentations. In one you put the vanilla, in another the milk, and oil in the third. Somehow, I neglected to say ‘stir.’ And no one did!”[7]

To create a style guide for this new cookbook, I looked first to a previous Lone Pine cookbook style sheet. While it was extremely helpful—explaining, for example, to use both metric and Imperial measurements, and to add an s to the end of 2 lbs but not 2 Tbsp—it did not cover things like exactly how to form the telegraphed, or abbreviated, cookbook direction style (“heat milk in pot over medium” instead of “heat the milk in a pot over medium heat”), likely because previous cookbook editors had internalized the rules for doing so. The previous style guide also didn’t cover how to treat some of the rare Italian ingredients that hadn‘t been featured in previous cookbooks: should it be recioto wine or just recioto? recioto or reciota? capitalized or not? italicized as a foreign word or not? Many new decisions had to be made for the sake of consistency and clarity. Equipped with the previous style guide, I went through the cookbook manuscript. Some changes were obvious—for example, adding metric measurements of millilitres and kilograms in brackets behind the cups and pounds. Others were more debatable, and were added to a list of style guide questions. In particular, in the interest of creating a telegraphed cookbook style, should small words like the and a be used? If so, when?

Lone Pine’s offices have a collection of literally hundreds of cookbooks, so those were used to do an informal survey of how other publishers handle cookbook directions. Some used both the and a (“put the onions in a pan”), some used neither (“put onions in pan”), and some used one and not the other. While there were exceptions, a pattern emerged: oversized, photo-heavy, glossy cookbooks, the ones that often featured luxurious travel accounts and profiles, gave directions in full sentences, using the and a. Functional, practical cookbooks omitted the small words altogether and gave directions in terse, economical terms. The tone for this Sorrentino’s cookbook was to be somewhere in between: a beautiful gourmet cookbook by a local celebrity of sorts, but one with recipes that were intended to be made at home by real, everyday people. In consultation with the editorial director, Nancy Foulds, we established a new tone that was appropriate for this project, omitting the unless it was absolutely necessary and retaining a: “put onions in a pan.” A similar process was undertaken for every cookbook style question: a survey of what other publishers and sources did and an analysis of the options, followed by in-house discussion and a final decision. In this case, detail editing was crucial not only for consistency and clarity, but also for establishing and formalizing the tone of the entire book.

Another of the editorial support tasks necessary at Lone Pine is to format manuscripts that have come in electronically from their authors. Usually, the project editor will do this at some point during the editorial process, but a detail editor doing some of the formatting up front will save the project editor time. The production department at Lone Pine requires that all files be submitted to them in Microsoft Word .doc files, 12-pt Times (not Times New Roman), with no styles or heading levels applied. Therefore, any styles that the author has introduced must be removed before sending the file to production—or in this case, before passing the file along to its editor. A number of other detail tasks must be done at Lone Pine when formatting an electronic manuscript, all intended to make the job of the next editor and production staff easier. Double word spaces between sentences—which generations of students were taught to do—are replaced with a single space. Paragraphs are separated by a single blank line. Soft returns or carriage returns, which show up as an arrow (↵) when viewing hidden formatting marks, are replaced by hard returns or paragraph breaks (¶). Extra paragraph marks that manually force paragraphs to start a new page are eliminated and, if necessary, page breaks are added. Lists or tables for which the author has lined up columns using tabs or extra word spaces are properly formatted. Non-breaking spaces between numbers and measurements—for example, 15 cm—are added so that the 15 won’t fall at the end of one line and the cm at the beginning of the next. Of course, all of these things will need to be quickly checked again just before the editor sends the file to production, but getting the bulk of it done at the beginning of the editorial process saves time and aggravation. The exact detail editing tasks performed depend on the manuscript. For one cookbook manuscript, I arranged all the elements of each recipe into a consistent order (recipe title, recipe contributor, story about the recipe, number of people the recipe served, ingredient list, and then cooking directions) and moved some material (such as contributors’ contact information and recipe submission numbers) out of the manuscript and into a spreadsheet. For one gardening book, the project editor, Sheila Quinlan, authorized me to fix any spelling or grammatical mistakes I happened to notice while formatting. Detail editing through formatting aims to create a smooth journey in-house for the manuscript, and therefore a clean final product.

Another example of detail editing work at Lone Pine relates to marketing. Editorial and production staff work very closely with marketing at Lone Pine. Many publishers prepare advance book information sheets (ABIs), or tipsheets, early in a book’s life at the publishing house. At Douglas & McIntyre, for example, an ABI “contains such information as the book’s title and physical specifications, as well as a summary of the book, perhaps a table of contents, an author biography, and a list of the author’s previous work. The ABI forms the basis of all jacket and catalogue copy.”[8] At Lone Pine, editorial doesn’t provide a formal ABI that marketing later draws from; instead, marketing creates two sellsheets (one preliminary and one more detailed closer to the book’s release) in consultation with editorial. Instead of functioning as an in-house guide as ABIs do, sellsheets are targeted more at those outside the house, such as booksellers, and include information like title, author bio, and marketing copy. This marketing copy is written based on information about the book sent to marketing by the editorial director and the project’s editor. Before distributing sellsheets, marketing sends them back to editorial for approval. Attention to detail here is important not only to catch typos and use consistent formatting (for example, the first words on each bullet point on Lone Pine sellsheets is to be capitalized, and the last bullet point is to be followed by a period) but also to make sure that the description and its tone are accurate and that the information (such as number of pages) is correct. As a detail editor, I checked over several sellsheets and made corrections and gathered information when necessary—such as tracking down a gardening-related author bio from an author who had written other Lone Pine books, but not other gardening ones.

The detail editing project that this report looks at most closely is the editorial work that goes into reprinting books. At Lone Pine, books are expected to have a long life and several reprints. Books are intended to make money over the long term (on the backlist), which fits very well with the types of books that Lone Pine publishes: a guide to identifying edible and medicinal plants in Canada, for example, will be relevant not only in the year it is published but for many years to come. Accordingly, every year Lone Pine puts out several reprints. Books are reprinted based on projected sales; a database that tracks sales and returns predicts when a reprint will be needed, and production and marketing staff meet to review which books to reprint. In 2009, 27 books were reprinted.[9] After Lone Pine decides what to reprint, production staff locate the most recent electronic version of the book. Depending on when the book was published or last reprinted, the file may have to be converted from one desktop-publishing format to another; for example, some production files need to be converted from Quark, which Lone Pine used previously, to Adobe InDesign. After production converts the file and makes any design changes that are deemed necessary, the file is passed along to editorial, as either a print-out or an electronic file. According to Gary Whyte, a long-time editor at and former editorial director of Lone Pine, it is Lone Pine policy that absolutely everything production does goes back to editorial for approval.[10]

Checking a reprint is similar to proofreading a new book, but condensed. The same types of things are looked for—errors in type size and style, image placement, text flow, etc.—but it is not read word by word as the first proof of a new book would be.[11] If editorial notices any errors or changes that need to be made to a book after it is published, those are written right in the editorial department copy of the book and flagged. After editorial receives a reprint file, it is checked against the editorial house copy of the most recently published edition—a printed copy of the book in which editors mark any changes, mistakes, or inconsistencies that were discovered after the book was printed (or too late in the publishing process to correct). Any changes that were marked in the book are then marked on the reprint. For example, Container Gardening for the Midwest omitted a few of one photographer’s photo credits on the copyright page, so those were added when the book was reprinted. Any typos that were identified after the book was printed are also corrected in the reprint. For example, a reference to a ganzania that should have been gazania was noticed after Annuals of Ontario was published, and so was noted in the editorial copy and fixed for the reprint. Reprints are an opportunity to correct any mistakes in the previous edition and also a chance to keep the book up to date—for example, websites and phone numbers for nature organizations in Compact Guide to British Columbia Birds were updated in the most recent reprint.

While the reprint file is theoretically virtually the same as the file that was sent to the printer for the previous edition (except for revisions), various infelicities creep in on occasion. Conversion from one file type to another, such as from Quark to InDesign, may (or may not) introduce problems that weren’t in the original book. And, since original image files may have been edited or renamed, a photograph of a rose could be substituted with a different flower or missing altogether. Some of the most important things to watch for when checking a reprint at Lone Pine are photos and illustrations (placement, size, cropping), text flow (does the text wrap around images correctly? have bad line breaks or “rivers” of white space been introduced? is the right material on the right page?), page numbers and headings (does each page have a heading and page number, and are they accurate?) and fonts (are they used consistently?). In Lone Pine‘s bird guide books, each bird species gets a one- or two-page account, with an illustration, an overall description, and detailed information about the bird’s size, colour, nesting habits, bird calls, and so on; accounts are divided into sections based on bird types. In the reprint file for Compact Guide to Atlantic Canada Birds, the headings of one section were in a different font than the headings of the other sections, even though the heading fonts had been consistent in the original book. Editorial identified the inconsistency and production easily corrected it before the reprint went to press. In another bird guidebook, the 348-page Birds of Florida, overall descriptions for each species started with a drop cap. Editorial noticed that in the reprint file, whenever the first word of an account started with the letter A, the spacing around the drop cap was incorrect (but curiously, not when the account started with the indefinite article a). Also, when the first letter of the account started with a W, the justification of the line between the heading and the drop cap—the line that contained the italicized scientific name—was altered. It wasn‘t editorial’s job to determine why this was happening, just to point out the pattern that it was. Production was able to change the file settings to correct it.

After production makes the editor’s changes to the reprint file and the editor approves them—occasionally the document goes back and forth several times until everyone is satisfied with the changes—the reprint is sent to the printer. Lone Pine’s black and white titles are printed in Canada, while full-colour books, such as bird guides and gardening titles, are printed in Hong Kong. After the printer receives the file, they set everything up and return a proof, called a plotter, to Lone Pine. The plotter is a copy of the book as they will print it, although not printed on the same stock as the final book will be. (“Wet proofs” are printed on the same stock and with the exact colour as the final book; Lone Pine requests sample wet proof signatures for new titles but not for reprints.) A plotter isn’t bound, but is gathered into signatures. Production checks the plotter, and then gives it to editorial to quickly check for anything that may have gone awry, such as an image missing or pages in the wrong order. Since changes made to the book after it has reached the plotter stage are expensive, minor errors that editorial notices at this stage, such as typos, will likely go uncorrected (but flagged for correction in the next edition). But any mistakes that were caused by the printer, or that are egregious, or that indicate some other problem, will be fixed. For example, editorial noticed that none of the changes they had made to the reprint file of Birds of Texas showed up in the printer’s proof: for whatever reason, a wrong file had been sent to the printer. Without editors to check for the smallest details, the wrong reprint file would have ended up being printed. Detail editing is not just about the details; the details point to and shape the big picture.

Another example demonstrates the big-picture implications of detail editing. At Lone Pine, front and back covers are handled by a different member of production than book interiors, and the reprint files that are passed to editorial for approval usually don’t include the cover: typically no changes are made to the cover, anyway. The plotters from the printer, however, typically do include the cover. In one case, Lone Pine was reprinting a self-help book that had previously been published by another publisher, and so the design and layout were new. The foreword in the previous edition was removed and replaced by a foreword written by a different individual; the original foreword’s author no longer wished to endorse the teachings of the book. But when editorial received the plotter, complete with the cover, they noticed that an excerpt from the original foreword, credited to the author of the now-removed foreword, still appeared on the back cover. Certainly the author who wanted his introduction taken out also wished the complimentary blurb on the cover to be removed. Fortunately, this oversight could be corrected before the book was reprinted.

While reprints are not typically checked word by word, in some instances certain books, or parts of books, are checked more closely. In one book, a problem in file conversion meant that production had to re-create and rekey an entire table that featured many rows and columns of temperature highs, lows, and averages for different cities. In that case, editorial methodically checked every single word and number on the table against the original in the published book. This example demonstrates that communication between production and editorial is imperative. Had production not informed editorial that the table had been rekeyed, editorial wouldn’t have known to check it so closely and likely would not have done so. While it would be ideal to have each reprint checked word by word and line by line against the original, that would not be practical at Lone Pine (or most any publisher). Nor would it be the most efficient way of doing things. Instead, Lone Pine relies on editors who look for the most common things that can go wrong in a reprint, and on communication between production staff and editors to locate anything that might be an exception to the norm. It’s a balancing situation that speaks to detail editing in general: trying to achieve the best-quality product with the most efficient use of time and resources.

Editorial is a necessary step (or several necessary steps) in the reprint process at Lone Pine. Even though the reprint should theoretically be the same as the original book, which was already approved by editorial before it was printed, the above examples show that it is rarely so straightforward. While most elements of a reprint are correct and do not need adjustment, there are nearly always some details—from the relatively minor to the quite significant—to fix or improve. And whether the details are small or weighty, they are important and worthwhile.

Detail-oriented projects at Lone Pine, whether creating cookbook style guides, formatting manuscripts, evaluating marketing copy, checking reprints, or doing one of the dozens of other everyday detail tasks, reveal much about Lone Pine’s editorial priorities. Because reliability and trustworthiness are essential to Lone Pine’s brand, there must be good quality detail editing. But the company has had to adapt detail editing processes and priorities as new realities have emerged. When Lone Pine had a larger editorial staff, style guide updating was constantly in progress; now it is done more infrequently on an as-needed basis. This practice has disadvantages, as any editor would agree—for one, decisions that aren’t written down can be forgotten and need to be made all over again. But updating style guides less often is also an attempt to address the shrinking time and other resources available for detail editing, and to focus on the tasks that are most crucial. Overall, detail editing at Lone Pine demonstrates the company’s priority for a balance between quality and efficiency, ideally achieving both.

 

Detail Editing in Context

The Editors’ Association of Canada (EAC), a non-profit organization of in-house and freelance Canadian editors, has compiled and published a guide of Professional Editorial Standards, most recently updated in 2009. As its name suggests, this guide provides a list of standards that professional editors will live up to, and details what editorial tasks are carried out at different stages of editing. The first part of the EAC document, The Fundamentals of Editing, explains what all editors should know and do. Among other things, they will have knowledge of the publishing process and the editor’s role within it, and be able to determine and perform the appropriate editorial involvement. Above all, they understand what editing is and what the implications of the editing process are.

The remaining four parts of Professional Editorial Standards establish what needs to be done in the editing process, and divides editing into four stages: structural editing, stylistic editing, copy editing, and proofreading. Structural editing is “assessing and shaping material to improve its organization and content.”[12] In this stage, the editor evaluates a manuscript’s organization and restructures material as necessary. The structural editor may suggest deleting some parts of the manuscript that are repetitive or that detract from the overall argument or narrative, or suggest adding new sections that would enhance the overall work.

Stylistic editing is “editing to clarify meaning, improve flow, and smooth language.”[13] Focus here is on the tone and style of writing, making sure that the sentences and paragraphs clearly communicate the author’s meaning. Stylistic editing can include rearranging sentence order, changing words to be more precise, and eliminating wordiness, all while retaining the author’s voice and an appropriate tone.

Copy editing seeks “to ensure correctness, consistency, accuracy, and completeness.”[14] This stage involves correcting errors in grammar, punctuation, spelling, and usage, and identifying errors in logic or fact. The copy editor applies editorial style consistently—for example, when to use Roman numerals and when to spell out numbers—and either works from a previous editor’s style sheet or starts a new one. The copy editor checks and confirms details and information, such as website links and material presented in tables.

The final stage of the EAC document is proofreading, which is “examining material after layout to correct errors in textual and visual elements.”[15] The proofreader reads the first proof word by word, and ensures that all material is there—headings, paragraphs, images—and that it is presented consistently. This can entail checking the layout against the original manuscript to ensure all content is there and accurate. The proofreader marks changes that need to be made (for example, bad end-of-line word breaks) and then ensures on subsequent proofs that those changes have been made, and that those changes don’t create further layout problems. A crucial part of proofreading is not overstepping one’s boundaries, and not performing other editorial tasks (structural, stylistic, or copy editing) unless otherwise instructed.

There is no category in the EAC guidelines called detail editing, but the difference is only one in naming: different parts of detail editing are found in the EAC‘s categories of copy editing, proofreading, and (to a slightly lesser extent) stylistic editing. Every publisher must handle details somehow, but will approach how to handle detail editing, and how to apply editorial standards, differently. The EAC guidelines themselves, which are very clear about dividing the editorial process into stages, acknowledge that “not all publications go through [all stages separately]…The exact editorial process followed for a given publication will vary, depending on factors such as the quality of the original material, the intended audience and purpose, set practices within the company or organization, production methods and tools, schedule, and budget.”[16] Just as all publishers have different ways of handling the editorial processes detailed in the EAC guidelines, publishers have different ways of handling details, which are most closely aligned with the EAC stages of copy editing and proofreading. Harbour Publishing, a regional publisher in British Columbia, relied on freelancers to perform nearly all of the editorial duties for Birds of the Raincoast (a title quite similar to something that Lone Pine might produce). The project was controlled centrally by in-house personnel, but copy editing, for example, was done by a freelancer; proofing was also done by freelance editorial staff, although the layout was also closely and repeatedly checked by in-house staff.[17] Folklore Publishing, a small history publisher in Alberta with an in-house staff of only two, relies almost entirely on freelance staff to edit manuscripts: one freelancer does a substantive edit and another does a proofread before the manuscript is sent to contract production staff.[18] Proofs in the layout stage at Folklore are usually checked by administrative staff in-house. The University of Alberta Press (UAP), a scholarly publisher that also publishes trade titles (including fiction and poetry), also relies largely on freelance staff, who sometimes do more than one step of editing at a time—such as combining stylistic editing with copy editing. “As for what kind of editing is done, and when, it depends entirely on the project and on the skill level of the editor,” says Peter Midgley, Senior Editor (Acquisitions) at UAP.[19] Final detail work (approving and checking the freelancer’s work, and then proofing after layout) is done in-house. Others, such as Lone Pine, use mainly in-house staff with one editor handling all stages of editing on a project. There is no one correct editing method: “[t]he EAC standards outline tasks that must be done, but I’ve never heard of any company that follows it literally, with different people for each layer, on every project.”[20] Each of these publishers—and indeed, every publisher—has a slightly different way of applying editorial standards in general, including with detail editing.

 

 

CHAPTER TWO

EDITING AT LONE PINE

Drawing from the explanation of detail editing at Lone Pine set out in the previous chapter, this chapter examines the overall editorial process at Lone Pine in order to establish how detail editing fits into that process. Rather than a task-oriented structure of editing, in which different editors perform different duties on the same manuscript, Lone Pine prefers a project-oriented structure, in which one editor has ownership of a project and works on it from start to finish. At Lone Pine, an editor usually works on a book from the time the manuscript is delivered to the publisher to the time the layout is sent to the printer: reordering the text (structural editing), smoothing out the language and tone (stylistic editing), ensuring accuracy in cross-references and information (copy editing), and checking the composed pages (proofreading). Instead of dividing tasks among editors, Lone Pine divides projects among editors, often by category: for example, Sheila Quinlan edits most of Lone Pine’s gardening books.

There are always exceptions to how a project-oriented structure is employed in reality. At Lone Pine, a few big books are the collaborative efforts of more than one editor. The 448-page Mammals of Canada, which was undergoing editorial work during the summer of 2010, was so complicated that multiple editors (and external reviewers) were involved, working on the text, coordinating illustrations, and consulting on design. Occasionally, editors might share other manuscripts in response to workload and availability. Even manuscripts that are handled entirely by one editor get some input from another member of the editorial team: Sheila Quinlan says that the editorial director will still do “a quick read-through” near the end of the editorial process and offer some final suggestions and corrections.[21] But largely, editing at Lone Pine is done on a complete project basis.

 

Editorial Structure

Lone Pine retains an in-house editorial structure, composed of an editorial director (Nancy Foulds) and three or four full-time editors. During the summer of 2010, the full-time editorial staff members were Gary Whyte, Nicholle Carrière, and Sheila Quinlan; I was filling in for Wendy Pirk, who was on maternity leave. A few part-time staff members (usually former full-time editorial employees) and freelance editors supplement the editorial team whenever necessary.

Lone Pine does not accept unsolicited submissions, but does accept book proposals on the topics of natural history, gardening, and outdoor recreation.[22] Most book concepts, however, are developed in-house, with consultation among the editorial department, the publisher, and marketing. Books at Lone Pine are very publisher- and marketing-driven. Shane Kennedy, the publisher of Lone Pine, has a very important and active role in determining the shape and direction of Lone Pine’s books. Often he will see a book in a bookstore that is within Lone Pine’s purview and know that Lone Pine could do a better job on the topic; a wild game and fish cookbook project entered development during the summer of 2010 as a result of Kennedy’s direction. Marketing also provides valuable direction; for example, if a guide for perennial flowers in a certain region has done well, maybe Lone Pine should consider developing a book for annual flowers for the same region. After a book concept is established and developed by editorial, the publisher, and marketing, the editorial director locates an author or authors to write the book. If it is a regional title, as many of Lone Pine’s titles are, Lone Pine will seek to engage at least one author who is a subject expert from within that region. For example, of the three authors of Washington Local and Seasonal Cookbook, one (Becky Selengut) is a chef and culinary instructor who lives in Washington; the other two authors contribute to other titles in the series.

Book concepts and ideas have a long life at Lone Pine. When Nancy Foulds joined Lone Pine in 1995, a book called Wildlife and Trees in British Columbia was in development.[23] It was a massive undertaking, billed as a bible for the forestry people of the province, and Lone Pine saw it as an important and worthwhile project. Because it covered such a wide range of species and locations, several different authors, who were experts in different fields, were working on it simultaneously. As with any large and complicated project, there were difficulties. There was no consistent authorial voice: parts written by different authors took on different tones; even some sentences within a single paragraph sounded vastly different. Contributions from one author in particular were written in an archaic, outdated style that did not fit in with the rest. Even though computer use and publishing technology had come a long way by the mid-’90s, it was still a significant editorial challenge to bring all these different contributions and voices together into one unified whole. One delay led to another, but Lone Pine never shelved the project, and advances in technology made it progressively more possible to compile and edit text electronically. Wildlife and Trees in British Columbia was finally published in 2006, after being actively in development for over a decade. Similarly, an idea introduced in an editorial concept meeting might not fit in with the current list or priorities, but could resurface years later and undergo development.

The relationships that editorial at Lone Pine has with its authors are very hands-on. The editor has a lot of leeway to craft and shape the book, and there is not much back and forth between editor and author. Typically, the author sees the manuscript twice more after submitting it: once after the editor has nearly completed editing, to resolve any queries and make any final changes, and once after the book has gone to production and pages have been composed. The author does see the edited text, but in a final version; that is, the author normally doesn‘t see the marked-up manuscript in either paper or electronic form. The author still has the chance to question and disagree with the editor’s work, but negotiation between editor and author about every change and decision does not take place. One of the points in the Professional Editorial Standards is that editors should “[u]se judgment about when to query the author…and when to resolve problems without consultation,”[24] and at Lone Pine editors certainly have greater authority to resolve problems independently than at some other publishing houses.

Lone Pine’s editorial practices—that books are mainly publisher- or editor-driven, and that little author–editor negotiation is expected—are defined by the type of books that Lone Pine publishes. Most titles are information-based, such as guidebooks, and all are non-fiction. In non-literary non-fiction publishing, many authors are subject experts rather than professional writers; they write books based on their authority and knowledge on certain topics, rather than their skills as writers. Such non-fiction projects require different types of editing than, say, a novel by an established writer. According to what is termed a conservative estimate, 50% of Canadian trade non-fiction books are in practice, if not in name, a collaboration to some degree between the author and the editor (in the United States, the percentage may be as high as 80%).[25] While some of Lone Pine’s authors are full-time professional writers, others are subject experts who are passionate about a particular topic. The nature of non-fiction editing lends itself quite easily to a project-based editorial approach, with a high degree of editorial authority and autonomy and the editor very invested in and responsible for all stages of a manuscript.

 

The Evolution of Editing at Lone Pine

Editing at Lone Pine has changed over the last few years. Five or six years ago, Lone Pine had a much larger in-house editorial team, which included about six in-house editors and four or five in-house authors. Three of these authors wrote Lone Pine’s gardening guides, and two were ghost writers: ghost writers in this case referring not to those who write or rewrite a book that is credited to another author (the usual meaning), but writers who wrote actual ghost stories for an imprint of Lone Pine called Ghost House Books. When Lone Pine had in-house authors, the relationships between editors and authors were very strong; it was easy to have good communication about deadlines and editing suggestions when the two groups saw each other every day. Today, there is a smaller editorial staff and there are no in-house authors, although some of the authors who formerly worked in-house still write books for Lone Pine.

There are a few possible reasons for the smaller in-house editorial department (both editors and authors) over the last few years. A number of existing book series have neared completion, such as the Birds of… series, which consists of around 50 titles for different cities, provinces, states, and regions. There are still ways to repurpose material and continue with bird guidebooks (for example, with books such as Compact Guide to Atlantic Canada Birds; there are currently around 15 Compact Guide bird books), but books in the series are not being turned out as quickly as they were in past years. This slowdown likely also relates to the economic situation in the United States, which has been a huge expansion market for Lone Pine. It was no longer practical to produce as many regional titles for US markets when book sales there were slowing. So a combination of a wrap-up of existing series, slower sales in the US, and a smaller editorial staff—which have likely influenced each other—has resulted in fewer books being published per year: from a high of thirty to thirty-five in the past to around twelve to twenty today.

Since some of the existing series are nearing completion, Lone Pine will be looking to develop some new series to continue their publishing model, and this could demand considerable staff time. When Lone Pine started developing its gardening series in the mid-’90s, it took a lot of time and effort to get started: they had to develop the concept and design, build up a library of photographs, and cultivate relationships with garden writers and photographers. The first two gardening titles published were Perennials of British Columbia (2000) and Perennials of Ontario (2001), and after those years of prep work were done for the first few titles, it became much easier to continue with that series (e.g., Perennials for Northern California) and to expand the concept to other series (e.g., Annuals for Ontario, Best Garden Plants for British Columbia, Tree and Shrub Gardening for Northern California). The latest addition to the gardening series is Vegetable Gardening for…, of which three titles were in development in 2010. So if Lone Pine looks to develop completely new series in the coming years, as the gardening field was new in the 1990s, there could be another increase in editorial staff.

However, even though there could be a high demand on editorial, it‘s likely that the in-house department won’t increase considerably. Lone Pine’s use of technology has made editing much more portable. Editing is done almost exclusively electronically today, rather than on paper. As noted earlier, electronic editing made it much easier to edit a multi-contributor project like Wildlife and Trees in British Columbia in 2006 than it was in 1995. Since technology has made editing more portable, it is possible for personnel to work remotely, which has both pros and cons for Lone Pine and for the editors themselves.

For example, in 2007 and 2008, two editors, Sheila Quinlan and Wendy Pirk, worked for Lone Pine as full-time employees from Barbados. They did virtually the same editorial tasks that they would have done at the office in Edmonton, but did absolutely everything electronically, emailing files and questions and checking in with the office daily via Skype. After files were laid out, the editors worked from PDFs and marked up any changes electronically, rather than shipping paper back and forth. The pros for the editors were that they had the flexibility to set their own hours and the opportunity to experience life in another country, and they were also able to travel to and work from other international destinations during their time abroad. The company benefited because it had a two-year commitment from the editors and a staff presence in Barbados, where some of the company’s international arrangements are based. But there were difficulties as well. Even though it is possible to do nearly all editorial work electronically, some tasks are best done in-house, by hand, such a quickly checking over a reprint, as detailed in chapter 1. While production would have been able to email the reprint file to the editors in Barbados, the editors wouldn‘t have had the marked-up editorial department copy of the original printing, or any copy of the book, for that matter. The tight turnaround times necessary when producing reprints would have made it impractical to ship a copy of the originally printed book to Barbados to be checked against the proofs. Also, Sheila Quinlan notes that communication to and from the office definitely suffered: “sometimes it’s nice to just be able to go over to production and talk to whoever is doing your book about what needs to be done. Email isn’t always ideal when you just have a quick question or comment.”[26]

Even if it isn’t always efficient, technology has made remote editing more possible for Lone Pine than it has ever been before. It has also made it possible to keep the in-house editorial staff smaller: while it is still important for Lone Pine to have a core team in-house, some projects and tasks can be assigned to part-time or freelance staff working outside the office. According to Gary Whyte, one of the major ongoing changes in editing at Lone Pine is that they are trying to make more use of external resources (i.e., freelancers), while retaining central control and communication in-house.[27] Some projects are more easily edited out-of-house than others. Projects that highly depend on illustrations and a lot of technical details are kept in-house, while other, relatively straightforward projects are more likely to be sent to a freelancer. For example, during the summer of 2010, a gardening question-and-answer guide called Just Ask Jerry was assigned to Kathy van Denderen, a regular Lone Pine freelance editor. She worked from outside the office, but would occasionally stop by the office for editorial meetings. It is telling that even though technology makes it possible for editorial work to be done from anywhere in the world, nearly all of Lone Pine’s freelance editors live in Edmonton; it makes it that much easier to pick things up at the office or consult in person.

The smaller in-house editorial staff at Lone Pine has necessitated some changes in editing process, and some sacrifices. Only a few years ago, nearly every book was worked on by at least two editors, or had a “second set of eyes read-through” by a second, separate editor.[28] Having a fresh set of eyes on a manuscript has obvious advantages. When an editor has been closely working on a manuscript for weeks or months, it can be very helpful to have input from someone further removed from the project. The second editor will catch things the first editor did not, and will raise different concerns. The luxury of having a second editor work on a manuscript has largely had to be surrendered now that there are fewer editors. However, Lone Pine‘s commitment to having a core in-house editorial team somewhat mitigates the effect of having only one editor work on a manuscript—there are always other editors around to consult with or get feedback from on tricky points. Freelance editors often feel isolated because they don’t have the opportunity to work closely with other editors. A strong in-house editorial core benefits not only the in-house staff, but freelancers as well if there is solid communication.

Lone Pine’s smaller in-house staff has also meant that there is less time for long-term, forward-looking projects. As discussed previously, house style sheets are updated less frequently than they once were. Another editorial department project that has been long in development is the upgrading of Lone Pine’s illustrations database. For nature guidebooks, Lone Pine commissions illustrations of each featured species, both plants and animals: trees, flowers, berries, birds, bugs, butterflies, mammals, and so on. By commissioning illustrations rather than renting or using stock sources, Lone Pine owns the images and is able to reuse them in whatever manner they wish. With over 5,000 images, Lone Pine’s illustrations collection is a huge and extremely valuable resource for the company. Naturally, it is very important that editors and production staff be able to search for and locate illustrations, which are identified by an in-house numbering system related to the species’ scientific family name. The illustrations database was created around fifteen years ago using FileMaker 2; in 2010, the current version of FileMaker is 11. The illustrations database has been updated with new illustration listings, but databases have changed considerably in the past fifteen years, and the database structure itself is outdated. Maintaining the database requires considerable work-arounds. Possibly the biggest drawback of the current illustrations database is that it does not contain all forms of visual media; photographs are catalogued elsewhere in a separate system. Lone Pine prefers to own photographs outright as well so they can be reused, but in many cases that has not been possible. The current database cannot accommodate details like restrictions on image usage since it was not set up to include that. Also, the database helps only to store information; if it were set up as a relational database, with pieces of text (for example, information about bird habitat and nesting habits), it could be used to assist with production.[29] The task of upgrading the database has long been in development, but more short-term projects take priority, especially with a smaller in-house editorial staff. The current system still works, even though it is not as efficient as it could be, and so upgrading to a new system (and then adapting editorial workflow to the implications of that system) has less urgency.

A final recent change in editing at Lone Pine is a move away from so much paper. Nearly all text is edited electronically with Microsoft Word’s Track Changes function, instead of marking up paper. Also, Lone Pine used to print out a colour copy of a book once it was laid out, and courier it to the author for approval and for any changes; now, the author is emailed a PDF version of the layout, along with instructions for how to mark any changes electronically. Production at Lone Pine typically still prints out layouts for editorial to proof and approve, but increasingly more of that work is done on-screen as well. Working electronically seems relatively straightforward and intuitive today, but the effect it has had on editorial processes and efficiencies should not be underestimated.

 

 

CHAPTER THREE

STANDARDS OF DETAIL EDITING IN CANADIAN TRADE BOOK PUBLISHING

Over the past five to ten years, there has been much debate over the supposedly declining state of editing in Canadian trade book publishing—and in particular, detail editing. In 2006, Rawi Hage’s debut novel, De Niro’s Game, was nominated for the Scotiabank Giller Prize. The Giller is Canada’s most prestigious fiction prize, and can be extremely influential on sales for the finalists and particularly the winner. But critics were quick to point out that De Niro’s Game, published by House of Anansi Press, contained several noticeable typographical and grammatical errors: “[t]he possessive word ‘children’s’ is spelled with the apostrophe after the ‘s’ instead of before it. Led, the past tense of lead, is spelt l-e-a-d. The word lying is written as ‘laying.’ Letters and words are missing from sentences.”[30] These are the types of things that are usually corrected in the copy-editing or proofreading stages, but a certain number of such errors go unnoticed in virtually any publication. However, these mistakes were not only publicly pointed out, but “some seriously raised the issue of whether [De Niro’s Game] deserved to be considered for a major literary award” as a result of those mistakes.[31] Do grammatical or syntactic oversights on the part of the editorial team compromise a book’s merit? The 2006 Giller jury evidently was willing to overlook them, but others disagreed. Indeed, when a reader is constantly pulled out of the world of a novel by glaring typos and mistakes, it can diminish the story’s impact and emotional power.

Debates on detail editing are not limited to literary fiction or to Canada. After the release of each new Harry Potter book, newspaper articles, magazine features, and blogs popped up decrying a lack of attention to detail in the books. “It’s nice to know that despite the billions of dollars involved in JK Rowling’s creation, they still manage to botch things up like proofreading,” one blogger concluded, after pointing out a reference to a “site” in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince that should have been “sight.”[32] Fans also pointed out detail errors in content: for example, a minor character, Marcus Flint, is said to be in his sixth year of school in the first book, but appears again in school in book three, by which time he should have graduated.[33] Editors in the U.K., the U.S., and Canada worked to tailor the books for the markets in their countries, both for language and for continuity, and so different detail editing concerns were raised with each different edition.

In 2010, Penguin Group Australia destroyed and reprinted 7,000 copies of The Pasta Bible for a single typo: a recipe that called for “salt and freshly ground black people” instead of “pepper.” It was called the “worst typo ever”[34] and received significant media attention. An automated spellchecker was officially blamed for the error, and the publishers said they regretted the error but they realized it was extremely difficult for editors to catch absolutely everything. Later in 2010, 8,000 copies of the UK edition of Jonathan Franzen’s highly acclaimed novel Freedom had to be reprinted because an earlier version of the manuscript had inadvertently gone to press. It was “an early draft manuscript, and contains hundreds of mistakes in spelling, grammar and characterisation.”[35] The errors in Freedom were attributed to the typesetters sending a wrong version of the file to the printer, not the editors overlooking some errors as was the case with De Niro’s Game, but it still speaks to the importance of detail editing and detail editors. Effectively, editors ultimately give approval to the quality of what is published.

It could be suggested that editors today rely too much on technology for detail editing. Spellcheckers are common in today’s word processors—and even online, with Google gently asking “did you mean…?” when a word or phrase is typed incorrectly. But spellcheckers are not infallible; whether or not an automated spellchecker actually was responsible for substituting “people” for “pepper” in The Pasta Bible, it’s plausible that it could have been. Automated spellcheckers don’t know the difference between “here” and “hear” and so can’t correct homophones to tell you that you‘ve used the wrong version of their/there/they’re. Likewise, automatic grammar checks can identify some problems, such as subject/verb disagreement: a sentence such as “Bob and Jim was in the room” can automatically be marked as incorrect. But other times a perfectly grammatical sentence will be flagged as incorrect, or an instance of incorrect grammar will go unnoticed. Automated tools have their limitations, as editors are well aware. Besides, even a perfectly grammatical sentence can be very bad writing, requiring an editor to smooth out the words manually. Spellcheckers and the like can be useful tools for editors, catching that one time in a manuscript that a word is spelled incorrectly. But they cannot be relied upon to do an editor’s job, and most of the time, they are not.

Electronic tools can also present new opportunities for editors. Using Find and Replace, an editor can easily switch all occurrences of “color” to “colour” and be confident that all instances of the word have been changed. When editing on paper, an editor would have to go through the manuscript manually to locate each usage—which could be extremely time-consuming, especially if the decision to change from American to Canadian spelling was made at the last minute, requiring a pass through the manuscript dedicated solely to checking for that one thing. Similarly, electronic editing tools make it possible to reverse a bad editing decision quickly and comprehensively: “searching a document [on paper] to undo a bad style decision takes a long time and risks missing a few instances.”[36] Of course, there are downsides to these tools as well. Attempting to automatically change every use of the suffix “-ise” to “-ize” will also create improperly spelled words like “compromize” or “raized” or “dizease.” Once again, nothing automatic is foolproof.

Publishers also increasingly use automated conversion programs to change files from one form to another. Automated conversion from print files to EPUB, along with the editor’s role in ebook creation, is examined further in chapter 4.

Some have suggested that less attention to detail editing and higher reliance on editing technology is having a net negative effect on our society. Responding to the “ground black people” debacle, one copy editor asserted that “cutbacks on editing and increased reliance on technology will result in a decrease in quality and an increase in errors…these measures are helping to make ours a less literate culture.”[37] To call us “a less literate culture” based on trends in detail editing is a strong statement indeed. While it is an extreme viewpoint, there are legitimate concerns about the current state—and future—of detail editing. Why has its role in publishing changed?

There has undoubtedly been a shift in editorial priorities—responding to technological changes and opportunities, certainly, but also reacting to the publishing culture at large. In the past, editors were able to look for manuscripts they felt had potential, and then were able to spend time working with the author on improving them. This process was sometimes extensive, with dedicated, unswervingly committed editors drawing out (or reshaping) the very best from their authors, such as T.S. Eliot with his editor Ezra Pound. The editorial focus was on finding promise and developing it. Today, the focus is increasingly on acquisitions. With smaller budgets for editorial departments, publishers and editors have to look for manuscripts that are cleaner: already well developed in concept and smooth in execution. Editors, then, look to acquire already-polished manuscripts. Also, marketing departments have a much larger role in what is acquired and published than they did in the past. Publishers understandably want and need to sell what they publish, and marketing departments look for books that they can sell and make a profit from. Books that require less developmental editing require less of an investment of time, money, and other resources by the publisher, therefore leading to a greater opportunity for profit. The combination of increased importance of marketing and smaller editorial budgets has causally influenced the shift from development to acquisitions. Similarly, editors have seen acquiring a good title as being potentially more profitable career-wise than editing a good title,[38] and so there is pressure to focus on acquisitions from inside the editing profession itself.

In some types of trade publishing, agents have undoubtedly also affected this shift as they assume some of the responsibilities formerly ascribed to editors: “[t]oday’s agents nurture authors, work closely with them in development of their work, perform a great many editorial tasks, and lend strong emotional and psychological support…agents have become the islands of stability and reliability that were once the province of editors.”[39] Editors rely on agents to send them polished work that meets the publisher’s established criteria; the agent then increasingly plays the role of filter, screening manuscripts before they are seen by the publishing house. It is easy to see how agents have taken on some of the traditional editorial tasks in such a case. But the increased emphasis on acquisitions in editorial departments is not limited to publishing houses that find their manuscripts through the slush pile (or submissions from agents). Most of Lone Pine’s titles are publisher-driven: ideas are conceived and developed in-house and then authors are located and contracted to write them. But while ideas are developed in-house—which requires editorial time and effort—the submitted manuscript does have to conform to the publisher’s expectations. Authors whose manuscripts require considerable extra editorial time to be organized and smoothed out are less likely to be rehired than authors who submit dependably solid, polished works. Even in publisher-driven books, selective acquisitions work is crucial.

Some have bemoaned the loss of editors like Maxwell Perkins, the devoted, compassionate editor of the likes of F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway in the early part of the twentieth century. Perkins is known for the thoughtfulness and care he put into working with authors to truly draw out their potential, evidenced in his well-crafted editorial letters. “‘Where are today’s Maxwell Perkinses?’ is the plaintive cry of authors who discover horrifying grammatical, syntactic, factual, and typographic errors in their freshly minted books, or, worse, have them gleefully pointed out by friends and critics.”[40] Indeed, this same refrain arises again and again when errors are found, such as in Rawi Hage’s De Niro’s Game. The question really being asked is what has happened to the editors of yesteryear, the editors who were nurturing to authors while at the same time ruthlessly conscientious about ensuring accuracy. The reality is that editing today is very different than it was at the beginning of the twentieth century. The editing profession has taken on a myriad of tasks, including developing book concepts and outlines, meeting with sales and marketing personnel and writing marketing materials, tracking copyright information and permissions, applying for Cataloguing in Publication (CIP) listings, coordinating with production staff, corresponding with authors and agents…and somewhere in there, actually doing what is most commonly thought of as editing—working with the text itself. Constantly questioning what has happened to editors like Maxwell Perkins “oversimplifies editing both now and then, and fails to take into account that today’s editors simply don‘t perform the same tasks as their forebears did.”[41]

Stuart Woods quotes an agent as referring to today’s editors as “glorified ‘project managers.'”[42] Woods describes how in-house editors have been increasingly forced to focus on managing projects, with the editors and the publishing company having little or no time or inclination to actually edit the manuscript. To get that editorial attention to the text, authors have had to hire freelancers themselves, without having any certainty of eventual publication. This editing model has been affected by publishers’ desire for more polished manuscripts, and illustrates a significant change in the editorial priorities of publishing houses. The project manager designation, however, does not have to be as pejorative to editors as Woods’s comment suggests. Editors often do have to manage all stages of a project, and they assume a much wider range of responsibility than did editors of previous generations. Hinting that editors are not doing as good a job as they used to does oversimplify the evolving role of editors. It also assumes that editors’ primary responsibility is detail work, when in reality there may only be the time and budget for that to be a very small part of the job.

However, these concerns about shifting editorial priorities are nothing new. In the 1970s and ’80s, publishing houses increasingly employed freelance editors to do tasks like copy editing and proofreading, since the work could be done more inexpensively by freelancers than by in-house staff—not necessarily because in-house staff make more money than freelancers, but because freelancers can be engaged on a project-by-project basis, only when they are needed. As a result, in-house editorial departments shrunk. This shift was also in part a result of a shift in focus to acquisitions and to the editor’s increasing role as a project manager. According to most sources, the biggest things that editorial departments lost as more and more work was sent out-of-house were cohesion and continuity: there was a “loss of personal, day-to-day communication” that comes from people interacting in person on a daily basis.[43] Since these explanations for evolving editorial priorities have been around for at least the past thirty years, what—if anything—is different in the more recent past? Why are publishers, in Canada and around the world, accused of giving lower priority to detail editing in the past five to ten years?

The answer is undoubtedly in part because publishers have given lower priority to detail editing. For all the reasons discussed earlier—lower editorial budgets, a greater priority on acquisitions, diversifying job responsibilities, and a move to freelance editors—some changes necessarily had to be made. And a lower priority on detail editing has been one of these sacrifices. Like good businesspeople, publishers have tightened their budgets and improved their bottom lines by putting less time and attention into tasks that are deemed dispensable, including detail editing. This trend has been seen in publishers large and small; according to Mary Schendlinger, some of the companies that were traditionally “yardsticks” for detail editing standards, such as Penguin, have been “slipping in the proofing department too.”[44] A “sea change in editorial priorities” at Penguin Canada in the mid-2000s replaced most in-house editors skilled at line editing with acquisitions editors.[45] When such a change occurs, the publishing house necessarily relies on freelance editors to work with the text itself, and to conduct many different levels of editing. Detail editing can often then suffer. This is not at all to suggest that in-house editors are better than freelancers; even though in-house editors have access to more training, knowledge, and experience, there is no guarantee that they will be better editors. Nor does it suggest that freelance editors are inferior in skill or ability than in-house editors. Most publishing houses no longer have the resources to train editors in-house, so editors learn the business through training programs, courses, and on-the-job freelance experience. These freelance editors treat editing very professionally, as the creation of the EAC’s Professional Editorial Standards demonstrates. The two editors who were awarded the EAC’s Tom Fairley Award for Editorial Excellence in 2002, David Peebles and Susan Goldberg, were both freelance editors who had not had the opportunity to learn the editing profession from inside a publishing house. Instead, they had taken editing courses and been mentored by experienced editors from within the publishing house; Dennis Bockus refers to this approach to using freelancers as “the new model of publishing in action.”[46] But using freelancers for detail editing (a cost-saving measure) can also result in less detail editing. For example, a freelance proofreader might mark up a laid-out text so that it can go back to production, but the corrected proof might not get back to that proofreader to double-check, because of time limitations or budget concerns. Or that proofreader could fail to notice style inconsistencies that had been discussed at length in-house; for example, in a gardening book, how should the names of varieties of plants be handled—in single quotations, or double, or none? Of course, both situations can also occur with in-house editors—the quality of both in-house and freelance editors can be uneven—but physical distance makes oversights more likely to happen.

Detail editing, then, has been given lower priority largely for economic reasons: some things have just had to be cut. The more interesting question is how publishers have been able to justify deeming detail editing as dispensable—or at least more dispensable than other tasks. After all, there are several good reasons why detail editing is important, such as reliability, professionalism, and credibility (as discussed in chapter 1). Perhaps there are fewer readers (and editors) who are as fastidious about the rules of grammar and word usage than there once were. Quill and Quire points out that “[t]he line between the relaxed grammar of conversation and formal grammar of the printed word is blurring,” and so general readers can often easily make sense of what are technically prescriptive mistakes in language use.[47] It is not uncommon to hear that today’s generation places less importance on things like grammar, but this argument isn’t new, either: in 1986, an editor for Harper and Row stated that “there simply isn’t the old interest in grammatical precision among young people anymore.”[48] What is new today is the cultural influence of, and the opportunities afforded by, technology. Tools like email, text messaging, and Twitter have brought relaxed grammar and language use to the mainstream, with their focus on immediacy, brevity, and communication, not necessarily grammatical correctness. Creative and playful use of language has been around for centuries; it is not the result of new technologies. However, new technologies do make relaxed language use more prevalent and widespread, and they accelerate the speed at which it gains acceptance.

What is different today is that current technologies make correcting many errors simple, and at least theoretically instant. It is common to see articles or news stories posted online along with messages like “This article has been edited to correct a previously published version.”[49] The focus is on getting out content quickly. And it can be made available quickly partly because there is time to fix things later. When an error is discovered in a print newspaper, the newspaper can‘t prevent its readership from seeing the error; all it can do is print a correction in the next issue. Online, however, if an editor or author discovers an infelicity after a piece is posted—or if a reader notices and leaves a comment about it—it can be corrected immediately, and every future reader of the piece will see the corrected version. This ability means that more errors can be fixed, because technology makes it so straightforward, but it could also lead to some editors being less careful, knowing that instant fixes can be made afterward. A similar application of content-first, correction-second can be seen in informal communication habits. A study on the language and literacies of messaging reported that instant messaging users will often fix a spelling mistake made in one message in the next, preceding the corrected spelling with an asterisk, although the reasons behind the development of this convention are unclear.[50] I can anecdotally confirm that although I have no idea how I learned the standard, over the years I have corrected my own typos in MSN Messenger and Gmail Chat in such a fashion. Today’s technology mediates a culture that allows for small errors because they can be instantly corrected.

But how does this culture affect book publishers? Even though ebooks and other forms of digital publishing are becoming increasingly important, print publishing is still the priority of most Canadian book publishers in 2010. Accordingly, the nature of print makes books more like the printed newspapers discussed previously: printed mistakes can’t be retracted immediately so that no one else will see them. But developments in printing technology make it considerably easier than it used to be to fix mistakes late in the publishing process. Not that long ago, in the days before desktop publishing, if necessary changes were discovered after a manuscript had gone to production, editors had to communicate the changes to typesetters, who had to create new hot lead casts for every single change. Fixing mistakes late in the process was a major ordeal—and very costly. At that stage, it was only economically feasible to correct the most serious errors, and so great attention had to be paid to catching detail errors before the manuscript reached the typesetter. Today, it can be quite expensive to make changes after a book has gone to the printer—as seen with Lone Pine’s philosophy to make only the most critical changes after a book progresses to the plotter stage—but before that, it is more straightforward. In electronic layouts, typos can be corrected, text reflowed, or images switched for only the cost of the production staff’s time and perhaps some pages printed out. Not insignificant expenses to be sure, but not nearly as costly or time-consuming as recasting hot lead. As a result, editorial staffs have become accustomed to making last-minute adjustments and changes. Hearing an editor say “We‘ll catch that after it goes to layout” is not uncommon today. In such a climate, detail editing can easily become an afterthought, not a primary focus.

Printing technology has also helped to reduce the number of errors in books. Accidental typos rarely require a publisher to do a whole reprinting; exceptions are made only in special circumstances, such as when the mistake is extremely offensive (e.g., the “ground black people” incident) or when an author commands that type of influence (e.g., the best-selling and critically acclaimed Jonathan Franzen). Most of the time, however, any mistakes discovered are merely corrected in subsequent reprints and editions. Printing technology has influenced this practice; print runs can be more conservative thanks to the use of print-on-demand (POD). There are many possible ways for publishers to use POD; one is to mitigate the impact of a shortage of books by running off POD copies, keeping the book in stock temporarily while reprinting more offset copies (which are cheaper to print, but take more time). Most publishers hope for a second printing of their books—especially if the first can be a smaller printing—and anticipate that any mistakes discovered can be fixed at that point. The much-decried mistakes in De Niro’s Game, for instance, were fixed in the next printing.

Technology has both influenced and made possible an overall tolerance for detail errors. There are undoubtedly still groups that fervently plea for correctness in the written and published word; books like Lynne Trusse’s Eats, Shoots and Leaves prove that some people care about grammar and punctuation, and care about it passionately. Overall, though, many people have become more tolerant of minor errors because electronic communications technology (such as email and text messaging) and online sources (such as news websites) have made them regular, accepted, and easy to fix. Publishers have perhaps capitalized on this overall trend by giving detail editing a lower priority, knowing that things can be changed further down the line—it is one of many ways to justify seeing detail editing as dispensable. Also, editors know that they are able to make changes throughout the publishing process, so it is no longer necessary to catch everything all at once; this can be a cost-effective measure and ensure very high-quality detail editing, but can also result in detail errors if something that the editor meant to review on the next proof is forgotten. These more recent technology-related changes combine with changes in overall editorial priorities over the past thirty to forty years—such as a shift to acquisitions and to editors as project managers—to make detail editing less central than it used to be. Quite simply, detail editing is less central in trade book publishing today because it no longer has to be.

 

 

CHAPTER FOUR

THE FUTURE OF DETAIL EDITING AT LONE PINE

Lone Pine today faces several detail editing concerns and constraints. There is the same amount of detail work to be done by a smaller in-house editorial staff; there is an overall trend in publishing that detail editing is one of the first things to be cut back to reduce costs; there are uncertainties about how to involve editorial in the ebook/digital content creation process (and how to handle that extra workload). None of these concerns are unique to Lone Pine; they are also being faced by other trade book publishers across Canada, the U.S., the U.K., and beyond. The types of publications that Lone Pine produces, however, set it apart from many other trade publishers. Lone Pine produces guidebooks and books that are heavily information-based; minor errors in that information undercut the credibility of all of the information. It is likely that for the information-based publishing that Lone Pine does, detail editing will remain a priority, because it will distinguish the company to its readers as a professional and trustworthy publisher.

If detail editing is to stay as important as it has been, Lone Pine may have to find other ways to reduce editorial time, and/or find other areas to cut back. It is possible that detail editing will continue at the expense of some substantive work. However, for trade publishers of fiction, poetry, narrative non-fiction, and so on, substantive editing will likely continue to have a higher priority than detail work. This is not to say that substantive editing is not important to a guidebook; it is. For example, a guidebook must include the appropriate animals for a region and not leave out any notable ones. But just as a considerable amount of developmental and structural editing of novels has shifted over to agents, the substantive editing needed for Lone Pine’s information-based texts may increasingly shift over to authors and technical reviewers. The substantive work will still get done, but in a slightly different way.

In spite of the trends in the larger publishing industry and the pressures from within the company to reduce costs and eliminate expendable tasks, Lone Pine intends—and needs—to keep detail editing central. Its future depends in part on the quality and credibility of the products it produces, whatever form those products take. As digital reading and publishing become more common, book publishers have to consider other ways to use their content. Lone Pine is already well accustomed to repurposing content in different print capacities (much of the content in Vegetable Gardening for Ontario, for example, is reused in Vegetable Gardening for British Columbia; content from Lone Pine’s full-length bird books is compiled and condensed in the Compact Guide series), but developing content for different, multiple mediums brings new complexities. The concerns are not only production-related (i.e., how do we actually create an ebook?) but also editorial-related (i.e., how do we develop and curate content for ebooks?). The following case study examines some of the practical and theoretical challenges in ebook creation at Lone Pine.

 

A Case Study: Ebooks at Lone Pine

Ebooks are becoming increasingly important for readers and publishers. Statistics released from the Association of American Publishers (AAP) show that in the United States, ebooks generated 9.03% of trade book sales in the first three-quarters of 2010, compared to 3.31% of sales in 2009. In dollars, ebooks account for $263 million so far in 2010, compared to $89.8 million over the same period in 2009—a 193% increase.[51] These are American figures, but the Canadian percentages are likely comparable (if a little lower, owing to several factors such as the Kindle ereader not being available in Canada at all until late 2009). But publishers in Canada (and elsewhere) have faced difficulties in making the transition to digital publishing. When the Giller Prize shortlist was announced on October 5, 2010, Twitter users were quick to point out that only two of the five shortlisted titles were available as ebooks.[52] Adapting to ebooks has not been a fast process for publishing houses, not least because of a confusing tangle of file formats, distribution channels, and price points to navigate. Ebook production has made publishers rethink their entire production processes.

Ebooks present editors with challenges as well. Many ebook file formats reflow text, which makes some traditional editorial proofing tasks, such as looking for bad end-of-line breaks, no longer entirely relevant (because the line breaks will change depending on the screen size, how zoomed-in the reader is, and what font is selected). Until recently, many publishers have treated ebooks as an add-on to their existing print publishing; print production files were converted to a format such as PDF or EPUB and instantly made available for distribution. In such a scenario, editors often don’t have the opportunity to edit the file after it has been converted and “laid out” as an ebook. Sometimes they don‘t have the opportunity to see the ebook at all, or so it seems. For example, in the preface to Brandon Sanderson’s novel The Way of Kings, the author explains that the illustrations in the book are very important to the story—but the illustrations are illegible in the ebook version. Since the illustrations are so important in this case, containing information that is not replicated in the text, the question arises: did anyone—the publisher, the editor, the author—see the ebook before it was made available for purchase? According to Rich Adin, an editor, the publishing industry “treat[s ebooks] as Cinderella stepchildren—as a way to do the work of increasing revenues without being given an opportunity to shine on their own.”[53] The process of ebook development will become more organic with time as publishers adapt, but it is currently a complicated (and groundbreaking) time for editors and editorial departments.

In 2009 and 2010, Lone Pine participated in an ebook conversion project coordinated by the Association of Canadian Publishers (ACP). A number of Canadian publishers worked co-operatively to secure discount ebook conversion pricing from an overseas company; since there would be so many publications sent for conversion at the same time, rates would be cheaper. Lone Pine had recognized the need to participate in the ebook publishing industry but hadn’t been able to devote considerable time to it, especially with a decrease in production staff around the same time. So with the multiple-publisher conversion project and the reasonable rates, Lone Pine decided to convert a significant portion of its backlist and current books, some 350 titles, to ebooks. The conversion company said that they could convert files from any format into EPUB, and so Lone Pine sent files in a number of different formats (InDesign, Quark, PDF, etc.). Some books were so old that there were no electronic files, only film; for conversion to ebooks, film is transferred to what is called copy-dots by using a camera to take a photo of each page. Lone Pine production staff located the 350 final book files (or the file of the most recent reprint) and sent those to the conversion company.

The results of the ebook conversion were extremely disappointing. Many of Lone Pine’s books depend heavily on illustrations and photos. A bird guide, for example, is printed in full colour, with at least one large illustration, and sometimes two, per species account (every one or two pages). In some of the bird books there is also a photograph of a bird’s egg to go along with each species account. The main purpose of a guidebook is to identify species, so illustrations are as crucial as text. In Lone Pine’s print books, illustrations are roughly consistent in size throughout the book—about half to three-quarters of a page is normal. But in the ebook version of Birds of the Rocky Mountains, for example, illustrations are inconsistently sized. Sometimes they take up an entire screen on the iPad or on a computer screen using Adobe Digital Editions, which bumps the caption to the next screen, which contains no other text. When the images are oversized, they are very pixelated and unclear. In other entries, the main account illustrations are just tiny rectangles amongst the text. Some images are correctly sized: they look appropriately balanced and placed with the text, and the image quality is good and clear. But in this ebook, there appears to have been no consistent way of treating the images, and the blurred and stretched images especially give the ebook an amateur and unpolished appearance.

Also, the front of the print book Birds of the Rocky Mountains contains an illustrated reference guide, showing thumbnail images of each bird discussed in the book and what page it can be found on for easy reference. In the ebook, the reference guide images and text were resized and stretched to the point of being practically illegible, rendering the reference guide useless. The reference guide is also not clickable: you can’t click on an image or bird name and be taken directly to that account. Instead, each bird account refers to a barely legible page number that corresponds to the print version, and print page numbers have no meaning in an ebook that reflows according to screen and font size. Even if the images had been properly sized and clear, the reference guide would have been a feature of very limited relevance in an ebook unless it were redesigned.

The images are not the only area of concern in the Lone Pine ebooks: errors were also introduced in the text. Headers in particular are an area of difficulty—which is a big problem, because headers are some of the largest, most noticeable features in the book, and important to readers. In Birds of the Rocky Mountains, “Pied-billed Grebe” becomes “Pieb-billeb Grebe” in the large header at the top of the page, even though just below in the main body text it is spelled correctly. Similarly, “Semipalmated Sandpiper” becomes “Simipalmatid” and “Swainson’s Thrush” becomes “Th1ush” in the headers; in another book, Rocky Mountain Nature Guide, there are listings for “Turkey Valture,” “Rea-napea Sapsucker,” “TownsBnd’S Solitaire,” and “House Spaarow,” among others. None of these misspellings were present in the original print versions; they were somehow introduced during the conversion process. Lone Pine production staff doesn’t have a definitive explanation for how these types of errors were introduced. It could be that in the conversion process, character recognition software misidentified some letters, especially in the particular fonts that were used for headers. It is also possible that certain portions of the text were rekeyed manually for the ebooks: it is easy to imagine that happening where there are headers with missed letters (e.g., “Eurpean Starling”) or where there are periods behind the occasional header (e.g. “Broad-tailed Hummingbird.”) when no other headers are followed by a period.

There are other problems with the text. Extra paragraph breaks appear in the middle of paragraphs; some blocks of text are left-justified while others are centred; italics are not used consistently; hyphens, en-dashes, and em-dashes are often misused; certain character combinations appear incorrectly or don’t appear at all. The most serious problems are ones that can lead to inaccuracy and (in a guidebook) misidentification. For example, a number is inexplicably replaced with a question mark in at least one entry in Rocky Mountain Nature Guide, showing one berry measurement as “?-. in.”

As discussed in chapter 1, Lone Pine has a policy that everything production does must return to editorial for approval. Even reprints, which theoretically should be virtually identical to the previously published book, are proofed and approved by an editor before being printed. In this ebook project, however, the editorial department was completely uninvolved. Production gathered the titles and sent them to the conversion company, and the ebooks were returned in an unacceptable state. There was no opportunity for editorial to review and make corrections; Nancy Foulds says it was almost “like editorial had never happened.”[54] As a result, none of the 350 titles that were converted to ebooks are available to the public; as of late 2010, Lone Pine has no ebook titles available for purchase.

This case study illustrates the evolving role and retained importance of detail editing at Lone Pine. In hindsight, Lone Pine could have converted fewer titles in the ACP project and learned lessons on a small scale from that process.[55] Either way, however, editorial would definitely need to be involved. Editors need to be part of the ebook creation process, the same as they are with new titles and reprints and every other process of publishing. Also, in most cases, ebooks are not—or at least should not be—merely electronic replications of print books. They are their own medium and need to be thought of as their own entity with their own organization and resources; for example, the page number–based reference guide of a print book doesn’t work verbatim in an ebook. In addition, detail editing cannot be fully automated. Just as spellcheckers do not catch everything, ebook conversion software does not recognize and correctly handle everything either. Lone Pine (and other publishers) needs to maintain a commitment to detail editing as publishing transitions continue, keeping it a priority.

 

Looking to Lone Pine’s Future

In today’s quickly adapting publishing climate, there are many changes ahead for Lone Pine. One priority for the near future is to enter the ebook arena. While ebooks are not yet being actively created, production processes have begun to shift in anticipation: print books are designed with later conversion into ebooks in mind, and styles and formatting are applied accordingly. Undoubtedly, the editorial department will become more involved in developing and organizing content as ebooks are given their own status. Information-based texts such as nature guides lend themselves well to new renditions in ebook form, but new media is also not limited to ebooks: publishers have begun to create digital content in other forms. Travel guides are a good example of the innovation publishers are experimenting with. At a very simple level, some travel publishers provide audio tours that augment their print guides: for example, you can download a Rick Steves podcast to your iPod that will guide you through a walking tour of a neighbourhood in Paris. Digital content can also become much more complex: the travel guidebook publisher Lonely Planet offers ebooks and apps (for the iPhone/iPad, Nokia, and Android) that provide city guides with information on accommodations, restaurants, and recommended experiences, all tied to GPS coordinates that pinpoint and respond to your location. Many travel details, such as restaurant information, can change frequently, and travel guides benefit from being able to update that information frequently and instantly in a digital publication or app; also, travellers enjoy the portability—and up-to-date information—of electronic media.

Travel guides are more ephemeral than nature guides, but some of the same principles of digital content apply. It is easy to imagine that a bird guidebook could be a very functional ebook or app, incorporating not only illustrations and text but also audio and video clips of bird calls and flight patterns and interactive maps of birds seen in the area. The National Audubon Society, a nature guide publisher (and a direct competitor of Lone Pine in some markets), has partnered with a digital publishing company called Green Mountain Digital to produce the Audubon Guides—”a comprehensive series of digital field guide apps to North American nature.”[56] There are currently over twenty titles in the Audubon Guide app series, ranging from narrowly focused (Audubon Birds of Central Park, $4.99, and Audubon Birds Texas, $6.99) to all-encompassing (the North America–wide Audubon Guides: A Field Guide to Birds, Mammals, Wildflowers and Trees, $39.99). These apps offer the standard information one would expect to find in a nature guide, plus a library of bird calls and the ability to search for a bird based on characteristics like wing shape and colour, making it even more useful than a print book for identifying different species. These apps also offer the ability to track where the reader has seen certain birds and when; reviewers have pointed out that the function would be even more useful if that information could be shared with other app users, so that birders could see exactly where a fellow enthusiast spotted a rarely seen bird. Developing apps such as the Audubon Guides requires significant investment, and Lone Pine is still a while away from seriously committing to a project of that magnitude. It is likely that Lone Pine will test the digital nature guide world with a few ebooks and proceed from there. But the possibilities that digital media present for nature guides (and other information-based books) are intriguing, and they showcase how much room there is for the guidebook genre to enhance and add to its print form.

Many different publishing alternatives lie ahead for Lone Pine, but what does all this mean for detail editing? The case study of ebooks at Lone Pine demonstrates that the role of editors will continue to adapt and evolve—and even grow—as book publishing expands into other mediums. It won’t be enough for print books to be transferred automatically into digital media: the curatorial role of editors will be magnified as digital content becomes thought of as its own legitimate and separate entity, not just a spin-off. Editors will need to rethink the experience of a book as they develop digital content, and detail editors will be the ones compiling and repurposing content and navigation devices, ensuring internal consistency and thinking through the minutiae behind reader experience. As readers continue to become accustomed to interacting with digital content, the role of the detail editor will incorporate new responsibilities—and perhaps even see an increase in perceived importance. There is an opportunity for detail editors, as those who are skilled and meticulous enough to pull content together in a unified way, to become essential in proper digital content creation and curation.

There is another forthcoming change that will affect editorial processes at Lone Pine. The company plans to implement Adobe InCopy to streamline editing—and detail editing in particular. InCopy works with InDesign to “[e]nable a parallel workflow between design and editorial staff, precisely fit copy to layout, and efficiently meet editorial deadlines.”[57] Twenty years ago, every single editorial change noted after a document went to layout had to be made manually by a typesetter. Today, every single editorial change at Lone Pine has to be marked up manually and returned to production staff, who then make the change and return it to editorial for approval; editorial and production must occasionally go back and forth numerous times over one single little change. InCopy aims to eliminate the need for this laborious process by allowing editors to make editorial changes and corrections to the layout themselves. Lone Pine editors are hopeful that when this software is put into place, it will save them considerable time: detail editing processes should be faster, and editors should have more control. It should also allow editors the opportunity to make small, fiddly, improving but non-essential corrections that might not otherwise be made when one is working with a designer; this could ensure even more accuracy and precision in detail editing. InCopy could even improve collaboration between editors and authors: authors (and editors) would have much greater ability to edit and rewrite text after seeing it in a laid-out, final-looking form. It may be difficult to implement major changes that adjust editorial and production workflow—and that blur the boundaries between editorial and production staff. Publishers have traditionally kept these roles divided, but editorial and production staff have always worked closely together by necessity to finish a publication; with current technologies, the collaboration between the two roles could be increased and be more efficient. The process to incorporate InCopy at Lone Pine could be complex and require some redefining of staff roles, but it could also be a major turning point in editorial processes.

Many contextual and technological changes are currently underway in publishing and at Lone Pine. Given all of these changes, it seems that while editorial processes at Lone Pine will necessarily evolve and adapt, detail editing will remain central as a way to convey the brand’s professionalism and reliability to its readers. Currently many of Lone Pine’s books are edited from start to finish primarily by one editor, and with a trend toward a smaller in-house editorial staff, it doesn‘t seem likely that will change. Perhaps, since the smaller in-house staff simply cannot do everything, freelancers can be brought in more frequently to do task-oriented projects. For example, a freelancer could do an early proofread of a layout before it was returned to the project editor; manuscripts benefit from a fresh set of eyes, and some time would be freed up for the project editor. Freelance editors could become more central to detail editing at Lone Pine than they are currently.

The detail editing that is most important to Lone Pine today has less to do with spelling and grammar and more to do with accuracy of information; these characteristics are absolutely essential to its publishing model. In that way, perhaps Lone Pine is more similar to the overall trends in the evolution of detail editing than it would first appear, and it is possible that some forms of detail editing will take on a lower priority in the years and months to come. However, details like spelling and word usage remain important because they help to ensure that all-important accuracy. In the future, Lone Pine will have to continue devising detail editing practices that balance quality and reliability with the resources available. As well, for Lone Pine and all trade book publishers, new detail editing processes and opportunities will develop and adapt in response to new technologies and publishing mediums.

 

 


NOTES

1 Shane Kennedy and Grant Kennedy, “About Lone Pine Publishing,” Lone Pine Publishing, http://www.lonepinepublishing.com/about (accessed September 17, 2010). RETURN

2 Leslie T. Sharpe and Irene Gunther, Editing Fact and Fiction: A Concise Guide to Book Editing (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1994), 8–22. RETURN

3 Paul Ford, “Real Editors Ship,” Ftrain.com, July 20, 2010, http://www.ftrain.com/editors-ship-dammit.html (accessed July 22, 2010). RETURN

4 For example, see Youth Canada, “Writing a Resume,” Government of Canada, http://www.youth.gc.ca/eng/topics/jobs/resume.shtml (accessed September 25, 2010). RETURN

5 Thomas Woll, Publishing for Profit: Successful Bottom-Line Management for Book Publishers, 3rd ed. (Chicago: Chicago Review Press, 2006), 5. RETURN

6 Douglas Johnston, “By the Look of Things, This Land Isn‘t My Land,” The Globe and Mail, July 14, 2003. RETURN

7 Bonnie Stern, “Recipe for Success: For Cookbook Authors, Cooking is the Easy Part,” Quill and Quire, October 2003, 46. RETURN

8 Iva W. Cheung, “The Editorial Handbook: A Comprehensive Document to Guide Authors through the Editorial Process at Douglas & McIntyre Publishing Group” (Master of Publishing project report, Simon Fraser University, 2005), 29. RETURN

9 Gene Longson, interview by author, Edmonton, October 7, 2010. RETURN

10 Gary Whyte, interview by author, Edmonton, August 30, 2010. RETURN

11 All of these things to watch for while proofreading are listed in Professional Editorial Standards. Editors‘ Association of Canada, Professional Editorial Standards (Toronto: EAC, 2009), 12–13. RETURN

12 EAC, Professional Editorial Standards, 6. RETURN

13 Ibid., 8. RETURN

14 Ibid., 10. RETURN

15 Ibid., 12. RETURN

16 Ibid., 1. RETURN

17 Peter Frederick Read, “Birds of the Raincoast: Some Reflections on Production and Process Management” (Master of Publishing Project Report, Simon Fraser University, 2005), 30, 45, 53. RETURN

18 Tracey Comeau (Administrative Assistant, Folklore Publishing), email message to author, October 12, 2010. RETURN

19 Peter Midgley, email message to author, October 5, 2010. RETURN

20 Mary Schendlinger, email message to author, September 19, 2010. RETURN

21 Sheila Quinlan, email message to author, September 8, 2010. RETURN

22 Lone Pine Publishing, “Book Proposal Guidelines,” http://www.lonepinepublishing.com/about/book_proposals (accessed October 2, 2010). RETURN

23 Nancy Foulds, interview by author, Edmonton, August 25, 2010. RETURN

24 EAC, Professional Editorial Standards, 11. RETURN

25 Rick Archbold, “Who Really Wrote It? The Nature of the Author–Editor Relationship Makes It Sometimes Hard to Tell,” Quill and Quire, September 2008, 11. RETURN

26 Sheila Quinlan, email message to author, September 6, 2010. RETURN

27 Gary Whyte, interview by author, Edmonton, August 30, 2010. RETURN

28 Sheila Quinlan, email message to author, September 8, 2010. RETURN

29 Gary Whyte, interview by author, Edmonton, August 30, 2010. RETURN

30 CBC Arts, “Awards Spotlight Novel‘s Proofreading Errors,” CBC News, November 7, 2006, http://www.cbc.ca/arts/books/story/2006/11/07/hage-proofreading.html (accessed August 15, 2010). RETURN

31 Brian Bethune, “Notes from a Glass House,” Macleans.ca, January 4, 2007, http://www2.macleans.ca/2007/01/ (accessed August 15, 2010). RETURN

32 mcg[pseud.], “Harry Potter and the Search for a Proofreader,” A Pinoy Blog about Nothing, July 17, 2005, http://clickmomukhamo.com/blog/archives/2005/07/17/harry-potter-and-the-typo-error/ (accessed September 3, 2010). RETURN

33 Jennifer Vineyard, “Have You Found a ‘Flint’? ‘Harry Potter’ Editor on How Fans Shaped the Series,” MTV, September 23, 2008, http://www.mtv.com/news/articles/1595414/20080922/story.jhtml (accessed October 6, 2010). RETURN

34 Huffington Post, “‘Freshly Ground Black People’: World‘s Worst Typo Leaves Publisher Reeling,” April 17, 2010, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/04/17/ground-black-people-cookb_n_541817.html (accessed October 14, 2010). RETURN

35 Rowenna Davis and Alison Flood, “Jonathan Franzen‘s Book Freedom Suffers UK Recall,” The Guardian, October 1, 2010, http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2010/oct/01/jonathan-franzen-freedom-uk-recall (accessed October 4, 2010). RETURN

36 Carol Fisher Saller, “Best Practices in Copyediting: Paper vs. Plastic,” The Subversive Copy Editor, June 3, 2010, http://www.subversivecopyeditor.com/blog/2010/06/copyeditors-who-are-allowed-to-edit-on-paper-are-dwindling-in-number-but-judging-from-my-mail-copyeditors-who-would-like-to.html (accessed October 16, 2010). RETURN

37 Peter Rozovsky, comment on “Publisher Attacks Readers Who Complain about Sloppy Editing,” Detectives Beyond Borders, comment posted April 19, 2010, http://detectivesbeyondborders.blogspot.com/2010/04/publisher-makes-mistake-then-attacks.html#7894700019804803455 (accessed August 15, 2010). RETURN

38 Sharpe and Gunther, Editing Fact and Fiction, 3. RETURN

39 Richard Curtis, “Are Editors Necessary?” in Editors on Editing: What Writers Need to Know about What Editors Do, 3rd ed., edited by Gerald Gross (New York: Grove Press, 1993), 33. RETURN

40 Ibid., 30. RETURN

41 Ibid., 30. RETURN

42 Stuart Woods, “Editors-for-Hire,” Quill and Quire, June 2009, 24. RETURN

43 Allegra Robinson, “Strength in Numbers: Should Publishers Hire More In-House Editors and Fewer Freelancers?” Quill and Quire, November 2005, 9. RETURN

44 Mary Schendlinger, email message to author, September 11, 2010. RETURN

45 Stuart Woods, “Editors for Hire,” 24. RETURN

46 Dennis Bockus, “Caution: Falling Standards: Why Editorial Quality is Suffering,” Quill and Quire, November 2003, 13. RETURN

47 Bryony Lewicki, “Canadian Books Communicate Real Good,” Quill and Quire QuillBlog, January 16, 2007, http://www.quillandquire.com/blog/index.php/2007/01/16/985 (accessed August 15, 2010). RETURN

48 Christopher Lehmann-Haupt, “Vanishing Breed of Editors with an Instinct for Order,” New York Times, November 3, 1986, http://www.proquest.com.proxy.lib.sfu.ca (accessed October 14, 2010). RETURN

49 For example, see Greg Quill, “Money Squeeze Forces CBC to Cancel 2 Shows,” thestar.com, March 11, 2009, http://www.thestar.com/Entertainment/article/600071 (accessed October 16, 2010). RETURN

50 Gloria E. Jacobs, “Complicating Contexts: Issues of Methodology in Researching the Language and Literacies of Instant Messaging,” Reading Research Quarterly 39, no. 4 (2004): 402. RETURN

51 Association of American Publishers, “AAP Reports Publisher Book Sales for August,” October 14, 2010, http://www.publishers.org/main/PressCenter/Archicves/2010_Oct/AugustStatsPressRelease.htm (accessed October 17, 2010). RETURN

52 Ten days later, Kobo announced that all five nominees were available as ebooks through their store. RETURN

53 Rich Adin, “The Problem Is: Publishers Don‘t Read Ebooks!” An American Editor, September 15, 2010, http://americaneditor.wordpress.com/2010/09/15/the-problem-is-publishers-dont-read-ebooks/ (accessed September 18, 2010). RETURN

54 Nancy Foulds, interview by author, Edmonton, August 25, 2010. RETURN

55 Gene Longson, Production Manager, suggests that converting three or four titles to EPUB would have been a useful and manageable project. RETURN

56 Green Mountain Digital, “Audubon Guides,” http://www.greenmountaindigital.com/products/audubon/ (accessed November 7, 2010). RETURN

57 Adobe, “What is InCopy?” http://www.adobe.com/products/incopy/ (accessed October 20, 2010). RETURN


BIBLIOGRAPHY

Adin, Rich. “The Problem Is: Publishers Don‘t Read Ebooks!” An American Editor, September 15, 2010. http://americaneditor.wordpress.com/2010/09/15/the-problem-is-publishers-dont-read-ebooks/ (accessed September 18, 2010).

Adobe. “What is InCopy?” http://www.adobe.com/products/incopy/ (accessed October 20, 2010).

Archbold, Rick. “Who Really Wrote It? The Nature of the Author–Editor Relationship Makes It Sometimes Hard to Tell.” Quill and Quire, September 2008.

Association of American Publishers. “AAP Reports Publisher Book Sales for August.” October 14, 2010. http://www.publishers.org/main/PressCenter/Archicves/2010_Oct/AugustStatsPressRelease.htm (accessed October 17, 2010).

Bethune, Brian. “Notes from a Glass House.” Macleans.ca, January 4, 2007. http://www2.macleans.ca/2007/01/ (accessed August 15, 2010).

Bockus, Dennis. “Caution: Falling Standards: Why Editorial Quality is Suffering.” Quill and Quire, November 2003.

CBC Arts. “Awards Spotlight Novel‘s Proofreading Errors.” CBC News, November 7, 2006. http://www.cbc.ca/arts/books/story/2006/11/07/hage-proofreading.html (accessed August 15, 2010).

Cheung, Iva W. “The Editorial Handbook: A Comprehensive Document to Guide Authors through the Editorial Process at Douglas & McIntyre Publishing Group.” Master of Publishing project report, Simon Fraser University, 2005.

Curtis, Richard. “Are Editors Necessary?” In Editors on Editing: What Writers Need to Know about What Editors Do, 3rd ed., edited by Gerald Gross, 29–36. New York: Grove Press, 1993.

Davis, Rowenna, and Alison Flood. “Jonathan Franzen‘s Book Freedom Suffers UK Recall.” The Guardian, October 1, 2010. http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2010/oct/01/jonathan-franzen-freedom-uk-recall (accessed October 4, 2010).

Editors‘ Association of Canada. Professional Editorial Standards. Toronto: Editors‘ Association of Canada, 2009.

Ford, Paul. “Real Editors Ship.” Ftrain.com, July 20, 2010. http://www.ftrain.com/editors-ship-dammit.html (accessed July 22, 2010).

Green Mountain Digital. “Audubon Guides.” http://www.greenmountaindigital.com/products/audubon/ (accessed November 7, 2010).

Huffington Post. “‘Freshly Ground Black People’: World‘s Worst Typo Leaves Publisher Reeling.” April 17, 2010. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/04/17/ground-black-people-cookb_n_541817.html (accessed October 14, 2010).

Jacobs, Gloria E. “Complicating Contexts: Issues of Methodology in Researching the Language and Literacies of Instant Messaging.” Reading Research Quarterly 39, no. 4 (2004): 394–406.

Johnston, Douglas. “By the Look of Things, This Land Isn‘t My Land.” The Globe and Mail, July 14, 2003.

Kennedy, Shane, and Grant Kennedy. “About Lone Pine Publishing.” Lone Pine Publishing. http://www.lonepinepublishing.com/about (accessed September 17, 2010).

Lehmann-Haupt, Christopher. “Vanishing Breed of Editors with an Instinct for Order.” New York Times, November 3, 1986. http://www.proquest.com.proxy.lib.sfu.ca (accessed October 14, 2010).

Lewicki, Bryony. “Canadian Books Communicate Real Good.” Quill and Quire QuillBlog, January 16, 2007. http://www.quillandquire.com/blog/index.php/2007/01/16/985 (accessed August 15, 2010).

Lone Pine Publishing. “Book Proposal Guidelines.” http://www.lonepinepublishing.com/about/book_proposals (accessed October 2, 2010).

Read, Peter Frederick. “Birds of the Raincoast: Some Reflections on Production and Process Management.” Master of Publishing project report, Simon Fraser University, 2005.

Robinson, Allegra. “Strength in Numbers: Should Publishers Hire More In-House Editors and Fewer Freelancers?” Quill and Quire, November 2005.

Rozovsky, Peter. Comment on “Publisher Attacks Readers Who Complain about Sloppy Editing.” Detectives Beyond Borders, April 19, 2010. http://detectivesbeyondborders.blogspot.com/2010/04/publisher-makes-mistake-thenattacks.html#7894700019804803455 (accessed August 15, 2010).

Saller, Carol Fisher. “Best Practices in Copyediting: Paper vs. Plastic.” The Subversive Copy Editor, June 3, 2010. http://www.subversivecopyeditor.com/blog/2010/06/copyeditors-who-are-allowed-to-edit-on-paper-are-dwindling-in-number-but-judging-from-my-mail-copyeditors-who-would-like-to.html (accessed October 16, 2010).

Sharpe, Leslie T., and Irene Gunther. Editing Fact and Fiction: A Concise Guide to Book Editing. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1994.

Stern, Bonnie. “Recipe for Success: For Cookbook Authors, Cooking is the Easy Part.” Quill and Quire, October 2003.

Vineyard, Jennifer. “Have You Found a ‘Flint’? ‘Harry Potter’ Editor on How Fans Shaped the Series.” MTV, September 23, 2008. http://www.mtv.com/news/articles/1595414/20080922/story.jhtml (accessed October 6, 2010).

Woll, Thomas. Publishing for Profit: Successful Bottom-Line Management for Book Publishers. 3rd ed. Chicago: Chicago Review Press, 2006.

Woods, Stuart. “Editors-for-Hire.” Quill and Quire, June 2009.


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.

 


Dedication

For my wife Dayna

 

 


Acknowledgements

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 engagebooks.ca 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.

 

 


CONTENTS

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 Amazon.com

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

Notes

Bibliography

 

 


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: Amazon.com Promotional Email 1

Figure 11: Amazon.com 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 Amazon.com. 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 Amazon.com, where books have a limited search ability through Amazon.com’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 Amazon.com. 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 kuler.adobe.com 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 Amazon.com. The daily snapshot that Amazon.com 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 [Amazon.com] 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 Amazon.com,”[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 Amazon.com 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 Amazon.com 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 Amazon.com, 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 Amazon.com.

 

b. Marketing on Amazon.com

It is crucial for me to place my books on sites like Amazon.com, 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 Amazon.com 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 Amazon.com by LSI, however there are many other ways that publishers can take advantage of Amazon.com if they know how.

Online databases like Amazon.com 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 Amazon.com it is necessary to understand how Amazon.com’s automated system works, so that I can take advantage of these benefits. I paid attention to Amazon.com’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 Amazon.com accounts. Soon afterwards, I received an email from Amazon.com 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 Amazon.com 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 Amazon.com 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 Amazon.com 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 Amazon.com’s database. And sure enough Amazon.com sent out emails to their lists, but some of the emails were not very efficient or accurate. One in particular read:

 

Figure 10: Amazon.com Promotional Email 1

“Dear Amazon.com 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 Amazon.com 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: Amazon.com Promotional Email 2

“Dear Amazon.com 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 Amazon.com’s automated system also brought up another key feature of Amazon.com’s inner workings. After purchasing two of my own books, Robinson Crusoe and The Prince together, on three separate occasions, with different Amazon.com accounts, on the same day, Amazon.com 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 Amazon.com to link my titles with other appropriate and popular books on Amazon.com, by purchasing them together with different accounts. Three months after I had linked The Prince and Robinson Crusoe, I noticed that Amazon.com 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 Amazon.com’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 Amazon.com’s search field. When I first began searching for my books on Amazon.com, 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 Amazon.com’s drop down list, attached to its search field. This drop down list is integrated into Amazon.com’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 Amazon.com’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 Amazon.com’s tagging system. Tagging is used by Amazon.com 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 Amazon.com 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 Amazon.com’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 Amazon.com 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 Amazon.com, 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 Amazon.com is to tag it for Amazon search. Unlike Amazon.com’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 Amazon.com 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 Amazon.com 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 Amazon.com removed the tag it for Amazon search function, however search terms that had previously been entered and accepted by Amazon.com continue to appear in search results.)

A final item of interest is to link a hardcover and a paperback of the same title on Amazon.com so that the paperback is accessible from the profile page of the hardcover edition. Amazon.com allows publishers to link paperback, hardcover, audio, and kindle books through Amazon.com’s Book Content Update form at www.amazon.com/add-content-books. Generally the hardcover edition will have a profile page (accessible through search results) on Amazon.com 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 Amazon.com database) posted on the hardcovers page. This is significant for Engage Books because Amazon.com 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 Amazon.com 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 Amazon.com 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 Amazon.com 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 Amazon.com, 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 Amazon.com placed this book as the profile page from which 108 other editions are available. See Part 4, ‘Marketing on Amazon.com’ for further details on Amazon.com 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 Amazon.com. As Stanford found my book on their own, likely from an online database like Amazon.com, 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, Amazon.com 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 Amazon.com. While marketing on Amazon.com 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 Amazon.com 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


Notes

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 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/News_Gothic accessed on Oct 13, 2009. RETURN

9 “Minion Pro,” Adobe Font (Adobe Systems Incorporated) available from http://store1.adobe.com/cfusion/store/html/index.cfm?store=OLS-US&event=displayFontPackage&code=1719 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, stopfales.gov/smallbusiness (First Gov), available from http://www.uspto.gov/smallbusiness/copyrights/faq.html , accessed on June 3, 2009. RETURN

15 “Copyright Act (R.S., 1985, c. C-42),” Department of Justice Canada, available from http://laws.justice.gc.ca/en/C-42/section-6.html, 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 http://find.galegroup.com/itx/start.do?prodId=CPI, 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, http://drzeus.best.vwh.net/wotw/, 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

30 http://www.titlez.com/. 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, http://www.titlez.com/app/main.aspx, 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, http://3d.openmute.org/modules/mantis/file_download.php?file_id=1261&type=bug, retretived on December 4, 2007. RETURN

51 Retailers http://www.ingrambook.com/default.aspx 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 http://www.ingrambook.com/about/newsroom_detail.aspx?id=247 Accessed on June 15, 2009. RETURN

53 Ingram Content Group, Available from http://www.talktoingram.com/ 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 https://www.lightningsource.com/ops/files/pod/USPODOpsManual.pdf 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 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Global_financial_crisis_in_September_2008, 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, http://vnweb.hwwilsonweb.com.proxy.lib.sfu.ca/hww/results/external_link_maincontentframe.jhtml?_DAR GS=/hww/results/results_common.jhtml.9, January 16, 2006, retrieved on December 3, 2007. RETURN

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Adobe Systems Incorporated. Minion Pro http://store1.adobe.com/cfusion/store/html/index.cfm?store=OLSUS& event=displayFontPackage&code=1719 accessed on June 8, 2009

All About Copyrights, stopfales.gov/smallbusiness (First Gov), available from http://www.uspto.gov/smallbusiness/copyrights/faq.html , 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 http://laws.justice.gc.ca/en/C-42/section-6.html, 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 http://www.talktoingram.com/ 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 http://www.ingrambook.com/about/newsroom_detail.aspx?id=247 accessed on June 15, 2009

Lightning Source POD Publisher Operating Manual, Version 4.5, 03/10/07, http://3d.openmute.org/modules/mantis/file_download.php?file_id=1261&type =bug, accessed on July 4, 2009

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

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

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

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

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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.

 

 


CONTENTS

Acknowledgments

Preface: Editorial Acquisitions Strategy at UBC Press

CHAPTER 1
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
Conclusion

CHAPTER 2
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
Rejections
Peer Review and the Publications Board
Choosing peer reviewers
The publications board
Editor-Author Relations
Funding
Competition for Manuscripts
List-Building, Strategy, and the Importance of Series
Conclusion

CHAPTER 3
The Future of Acquisitions at UBC Press
Challenges and Change at UBC Press
Emerging Areas in UBC Press’s List
Workflow, Integration, and Technology
Conclusion

Notes

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

 

 


Acknowledgments

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.

 

Conclusion

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.

 

Rejections

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.

 

Funding

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]

 

Conclusion

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.

 

Conclusion

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.

 

 


NOTES

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. http://www.ubcpress.ca/company/staff.html. 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), http://www.proquest.com.proxy.lib.sfu.ca. RETURN

12 Peter J. Dougherty, “If You Plan It, They Will Come: Editors as Architects,” Journal of Scholarly Publishing 31, 4 (July 2000), http://www.proquest.com.proxy.lib.sfu.ca. 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), http://chronicle.com/proxy.lib.sfu.ca/weekly/v50/i32/32c00301.htm; Rachel Toor, “The Book Editor: Midwife, Handmaiden, Groupie,” Chronicle of Higher Education 43, 46 (June 13, 1997), http://chronicle.com/proxy.lib.sfu.ca//che-data/articles.dir/art-43.dir/issue-46.dir.htm; Clement Vincent, “Don’t Judge a Book By Its Editor,” Chronicle of Higher Education 54, 9 (April 16, 2008), http://chronicle.com/proxy.lib.sfu.ca/weekly/v54/i09/09c00101.htm. RETURN

14 Sanford G. Thatcher, “The Value-Added in Editorial Acquisitions,” Journal of Scholarly Publishing 30, 2 (January 1999), http://www.proquest.com.proxy.lib.sfu.ca. 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), http://www.proquest.com.proxy.lib.sfu.ca. 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), http://www.proquest.com.proxy.lib.sfu.ca. 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), http://www.quillandquire.com/news/article.cfm?article_id=933. RETURN

35 Nadia Halim, “The New-Look Scholarly Press,” Quill and Quire (November 1, 1998), http://www.quillandquire.com/news/article.cfm?article_id=1232. RETURN

36 Paul Spendlove, “Pop Appeal: Most University Presses Want It – But at What Price?” Quill and Quire (November 1, 2002), http://www.quillandquire.com/news/article.cfm?article_id=2521. RETURN

37 Wilson, interview. RETURN

38 Laura Macleod, “Education for Acquisitions,” Journal of Scholarly Publishing 28, 4 (July 1997), http://www.proquest.com.proxy.lib.sfu.ca. 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 (http://www.centennialcollege.ca/thecentre/book); University of the Witwatersrand BA in Publishing Studies, South Africa (http://web.wits.ac.za); Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology BA in Publishing Studies, Ghana (http://www.knust.edu.gh); University of South Queensland Master of Editing and Publishing, Australia (http://www.usq.edu.au); Oxford Brookes University MA Publishing (http://ah.brookes.ac.uk/publishing/postgraduate/); Pace University MS in Publishing (http://www.pace.edu/page.cfm?doc_id=6619); and New York University MS in Publishing (http://www.scps.nyu.edu). Other publishing programs are listed at “SFU Library – Publishing Programs,” Simon Fraser University, http://www.lib.sfu.ca/researchhelp/subjectguides/pub/schools.htm. 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. http://www.aaupnet.org/programs/annualmeeting/2008/workshops.html. 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. http://www.ubcpress.ca/company/ahgettingaccepted.html. 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), http://www.proquest.com.proxy.lib.sfu.ca. 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), http://www.proquest.com.proxy.lib.sfu.ca. 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), http://www.quillandquire.com/news/article.cfm?article_id=1232. 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), http://www.quillandquire.com/news/article.cfm?article_id=7476. 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), http://chronicle.com.proxy.lib.sfu.ca/weekly/v49/i41/41b01201.htm. 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

 

 


References

 

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). http://www.quillandquire.com/news/article.cfm?article_id=933.

“Annual Meeting: Workshops.” Program for acquisitions workshop, AAUP Annual Meeting, June 25–26, 2008. http://www.aaupnet.org/programs/annualmeeting/2008/workshops.html.

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.” http://www.fedcan.ca/english/pdf/aspp/guidelines_e.pdf (Accessed Sept. 10, 2008.)

Dalton, Margaret Steig. “A System Destabilized: Scholarly Books Today.” Journal of Scholarly Publishing 38, 4 (July 2006). http://www.proquest.com.proxy.lib.sfu.ca.

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). http://chronicle.com/proxy.lib.sfu.ca/weekly/v50/i32/32c00301.htm.

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). http://www.proquest.com.proxy.lib.sfu.ca.

Dougherty, Peter J. “If You Plan It, They Will Come: Editors as Architects.” Journal of Scholarly Publishing 31, 4 (July 2000). http://www.proquest.com.proxy.lib.sfu.ca.

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). http://www.quillandquire.com/news/article.cfm?article_id=1232.

Harnum, Bill. “The Characteristics of the Ideal Acquisition Editor.” Journal of Scholarly Publishing 32, 4 (July 2001). http://www.proquest.com.proxy.lib.sfu.ca.

Jones, Barbara. “Changing Author Relationships and Competitive Strategies of University Publishers.” Journal of Scholarly Publishing 31, 1 (January 1999). http://www.proquest.com.proxy.lib.sfu.ca.

Macleod, Laura. “Education for Acquisitions.” Journal of Scholarly Publishing 28, 4 (July 1997). http://www.proquest.com.proxy.lib.sfu.ca.

Metro, Judy. “Is It Publishable? The Importance of the Editorial Review.” Journal of Scholarly Publishing 26, 3 (April 1995). http://www.proquest.com.proxy.lib.sfu.ca.

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). http://www.proquest.com.proxy.lib.sfu.ca.

Spendlove, Paul. “Pop Appeal: Most University Presses Want It – But at What Price?” Quill and Quire (November 1, 2002). http://www.quillandquire.com/news/article.cfm?article_id=2521.

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): http://www.proquest.com.proxy.lib.sfu.ca.

Toor, Rachel. “The Book Editor: Midwife, Handmaiden, Groupie,” Chronicle of Higher Education 43, 46 (June 13, 1997). http://chronicle.com/proxy.lib.sfu.ca//che-data/articles.dir/art-43.dir/issue-46.dir.htm.

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. http://www.ubcpress.ca/

“Publishing with UBC Press:Getting Your Manuscript Accepted.” http://www.ubcpress.ca/company/ahgettingaccepted.html.

“Staff directory.” http://www.ubcpress.ca/company/staff.html.

Vincent, Clement. “Don’t Judge a Book By Its Editor.” Chronicle of Higher Education 54, 9 (April 16, 2008). http://chronicle.com/proxy.lib.sfu.ca/weekly/v54/i09/09c00101.htm.

Wilson, Scott. “ASPP Gets Budget Boost: More Scholarly Books to be Funded, and More Money Given to Each,” Quill and Quire (November 1, 2005). http://www.quillandquire.com/news/article.cfm?article_id=7476.

Wittenberg, Kate. “Managing an Acquisitions Program: Defining, Creating and Implementing the Job.” Journal of Scholarly Publishing 28, 1 (October 1996). http://www.proquest.com.proxy.lib.sfu.ca.

———. “Scholarly Editing in the Digital Age.” Chronicle of Higher Education 49, 41 (June 20, 2003). http://chronicle.com/proxy.lib.sfu.ca/weekly/v49/i41/41b01201.htm.

 

 


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

 


Gekiga into English: translating the words, images, and culture of Yoshihiro Tatsumi’s A Drifting Life

 

By Andrew Wilmot

ABSTRACT: This project report examines how the editorial process of a graphic novel can turn conventional practices of editing text in English in entirely new directions, not only incorporating traditional text-editing techniques, but also applying these familiar principles to meet the rhetorical and spatial demands of a visual narrative. This process is explored in depth by detailing the editorial process used by Drawn & Quarterly, a literary comics publishing company, in bringing Yoshihiro Tatsumi’s Japanese-language graphic novel A Drifting Life to an English-speaking audience, particularly with respect to the visual, textual, and cultural differences that must be respected when translating a graphic novel from Japanese to English, and how the different reading and comprehension needs of the two audiences have affected the physical, visual, and textual structure of the book.

 

 


ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

This project report would not be what it is without the aid and generosity of Chris Oliveros, Tom Devlin, Peggy Burns, Jamie Salomon, Alison Naturale, Rebecca Rosen, Jamie Quail, Jessica Campbell, and Kit Malo of Drawn & Quarterly Publications in Montreal. I listened and learned from each one of them, and I owe them all a great deal of thanks.

I would also like to extend my gratitude to Dr. John Maxwell and Senior Lecturer Mary Schendlinger, for helping to nurture and shape this report into its final state; Don Sedgwick, for helping to provide the spark that this project report needed in order to take shape; and the Master of Publishing class of 2007–2008, for their energy and inspiration throughout the past year.

Lastly, I would like to thank Julia Horel for her amazing friendship and unmatched editorial skills; and Darrel and Ross Wilmot, for helping me through every step of my educational journey.

 

 


CONTENTS

List of Figures

Part 1: AN INTRODUCTION TO COMICS, GEKIGA, AND A DRIFTING LIFE

Part 2: A BRIEF HISTORY OF COMICS AND COMIC-BOOK PUBLISHING

Part 3: EVOLUTION AND REVOLUTION

Part 4: CHRIS OLIVEROS AND DRAWN & QUARTERLY PUBLICATIONS

Part 5: THE TRANSLATION AND EDITORIAL PROCESS FOR A DRIFTING LIFE

Part 6: TEXTUAL DESIGN AND IMPLEMENTATION

Part 7: THE HOME STRETCH

Part 8: CONCLUSIONS

Notes

Bibliography

 

 


LIST OF FIGURES

Figure 1: A Drifting Life, page 376

Figure 2: A Drifting Life, page 369

Figure 3: A Drifting Life, page 308

Figure 4: A Drifting Life, page 454

Figures 5 & 6: A Drifting Life, page 590 (English & Japanese versions)

Figure 7: Sample from Volume 3 of the Translation Word Document 36

Figure 8: A Drifting Life, page 513

Figure 9: Samples of the “Tatsumi” fonts

Figure 10: Samples of the altered “Tatsumi” fonts

Figures 11 & 12: A Drifting Life, page 393 (English & Japanese versions)

Figures 13 & 14: A Drifting Life, page 763 (English & Japanese versions)

Figure 15: A Drifting Life, page 567

Figure 16: A Drifting Life, page 778

Figure 17: Sample page from the Editorial Summary

Figure 18: A Drifting Life, page 570

Figure 19: Proposed Cover Image for <em>A Drifting Life

All images © Drawn & Quarterly Publications, 2008, used with permission

 

 


1: AN INTRODUCTION TO COMICS, GEKIGA, AND A DRIFTING LIFE

If people failed to understand comics, it was because they defined what comics could be too narrowly! A proper definition, if we could find one, might give lie to the stereotypes and show that the potential of comics is limitless and exciting![1]

–Scott McCloud, author of Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art

Since the late 1960s, the comic-book publishing industry has progressed at a rapid clip, quickly maturing beyond the multi-panel strips and serialized works that defined it in its infancy. It has burgeoned into an industry that is at once a powerhouse of business, with the factory-floor fervour to produce thousands of titles per month from creators around the world, and a prominent medium for the author/artist storyteller, working either as an independent or as part of a team. As this corner of the publishing universe has developed beyond what was once regarded as its limitations, so have its needs and methods of production. New artists and authors are cropping up from around the world, and the comic book and graphic novel publishing industry has expanded beyond large corporations to include smaller, independent publishing houses with focused mandates and methodologies that match the intent and execution of their more traditional counterparts. One such independent publisher is Drawn & Quarterly Publications in Montreal.

Though it is a relatively small company, Drawn & Quarterly has made a prominent mark on the industry, publishing independent and artistic comics and graphic novels from around the world, all with an extremely high – and seldom seen – level of quality. They have done so by maintaining a strong aesthetic mandate: each book’s physical appearance, from its cover and binding to the style in which its interior is laid out, reflects the nature of the work itself. As a result, every book in their stable has a unique look and feel that eschews the conventions and more traditional perceptions of what a comic book or graphic novel should be. It is this focus on quality that has consolidated Drawn & Quarterly’s strong reputation as a groundbreaking publishing house.

In Spring 2009, Drawn & Quarterly will be publishing Yoshihiro Tatsumi’s graphic novel, A Drifting Life. First published in Japanese, the 820-page book is an illustrated memoir of Tatsumi’s life as a writer and artist working in the post-war Japanese manga and rental-book industry. To bring such a work to an English language audience, a myriad of editorial techniques have been applied, turning traditional text editing principles and practices in new directions, and applying said principles as needed to satisfy the unique spatial, rhetorical, and illustrative demands of the book. The purpose of this project report is to further illustrate the strength of Drawn & Quarterly as a publisher by examining how the company has incorporated and advanced the definitions of the traditional editorial process, exhibiting a superior commitment to editorial work while respecting the cultural, visual, and narrative integrity of the original book.

From May to August 2008, I interned at the Drawn & Quarterly office in Montreal. In my second week I was given the initial draft of the English-language translation for A Drifting Life and was tasked with completing the first editorial check. Working together with Drawn & Quarterly publisher Chris Oliveros, Tatsumi editor-in-chief Adrian Tomine, and translator Taro Nettleton, I quickly became involved in the project on a personal level and have stayed with the company to see its production through to the end. The translation and editorial process, which I have documented in this report, took four months from the first editorial check and through to the working first draft of the English-language edition of the book.

 

 

2: A BRIEF HISTORY OF COMICS AND COMIC-BOOK PUBLISHING

Certainly, the more one studies graphic narrative, the more apparent it becomes that the medium deserves to be examined as a powerful art form in its own right, albeit one that has experienced a sometimes difficult and contested evolution.[2]

–John Bell, author of Invaders from the North: How Canada Conquered the Comic Book Universe

Comic books, as a medium, have frequently been denied the benefit of the doubt. Culturally, they have been targeted and persecuted as a degenerate art, a potentially corrupting medium that threatens to irrevocably damage the youth of the world. From their inception, comic books have had no shortage of detractors. As comics have developed over the last century, organizations have formed to keep the industry in check with assumed social and political ethics of the time, trials to threaten or condemn the purveyors of the medium, and even, right after the Second World War, makeshift book burnings in American schoolyards. Despite all of this, comic books have affected our culture in innumerable ways, changing how we read and comprehend literature, and facilitating the worldwide transition to a more visual culture.

 

2-1: Development of a North American Industry

Evidence of the early origins of comics can be seen around the world, in such ancient forms as Egyptian hieroglyphics and traditional Japanese Narrative Scrolls. William Hogarth, an eighteenth-century engraver, painter, and cartoonist, is acknowledged to have pioneered western sequential art through his politically satirical engravings, which were titled “modern moral subjects.”[3] Following Hogarth, Rodolph Topffer, a nineteenth-century Swiss cartoonist, is one of the earliest known creators of modern comics. His first work, which was produced through autography, “a variation of lithography that allowed him to draw on specifically prepared paper with a pen,”[4] was a thirty-page illustrated narrative titled Histoire de M. Vieux Bois (The Story of Mr. Wooden Head), published in 1837 (and published in the United States as The Adventures of Obadiah Oldbuck in 1842). In North America, the first newspaper strips appeared in the 1890s. Though an exact date is difficult to identify, “its origin is most often associated with Richard Felton Outcault’s Hogan’s Alley (later The Yellow Kid), which debuted in New York City’s World newspaper in 1895.”[5]

However, it is Maxwell Charles Gaines (aka M. C. Gaines) who has been widely credited with pioneering the form of the modern North American comic book in the 1930s. Gaines, a salesman with an American printing company, Eastern Color Press, developed the comic book as a means of driving the company’s sales during the Depression. Using pulp magazines and novelettes as inspiration, Gaines produced a ten-cent, sixty-four-page magazine that reprinted, in one volume, many of the Sunday newspaper comic strips that had previously been published by Eastern Color Press. After the success of this project, Gaines partnered with Jack Liebowitz, the co-owner of National Allied Publications, to create All-American Publications, and under this new banner they began to publish original stories in the comic-book form. Several successful superhero icons were developed under the All-American brand, but it was National Allied Publications’ Action Comics No. 1, published in April 1938, that changed the industry forever. It was this issue that introduced the world to Jerry Siegel and Toronto-born Joe Shuster’s creation: Superman. Soon after, Action Comics were selling at a rate of close to 500,000 copies a month. The following year, National Allied Publications, the precursor to the modern day DC Comics, created a separate syndicated Superman strip. “By 1940, Superman comics were selling 1,250,000 copies per month, and the daily strip was appearing in three hundred cities. Newspapers were following the comic books’ lead.”[6]

In just a few short years, Gaines’ modest endeavour had turned into big business, and the so-called Golden Age of comics had begun. By 1941, gross revenues for the comic-book publishing industry had reached upwards of $12 million, with seven to ten million comics moving off the shelves each month.

Once superhero comics had made their mark, the narrative structure of comics began to evolve. As the characters developed into recognizable icons, their stories diverged from the newspaper strip format, where each strip was a single, isolated tale, and narrative arcs that continued through several issues became commonplace. As these stories became more widespread through the early 1940s to the end of World War II, characters were given enough additional space to become more than simple archetypes, and readers were provided with the opportunity to understand and empathize more with the heroes they came to admire.

While many American titles had also found success in Canada prior to World War II, the War Exchange Conservation Act that took effect in December 1940 effectively altered the parameters of the industry. It restricted the importation of all non-essential goods from the U.S. into Canada – including all pulp, newsstand magazines, and comic books. However, it was this sudden cessation of imported materials that helped pave the way for the development of a national Canadian comic-book industry. “Working independently of one another, four publishers rushed to take advantage of the vacuum created by the sweeping economic legislation. One company, Maple Leaf Publishing, was located in Vancouver; the other three – Anglo-American Publishing, Hillborough Studio, and Commercial Signs of Canada – were all based in Toronto… The voracious appetite that Canadian kids had developed for funny books was about to be assuaged by new heroes.”[7]

The sudden boom in the Canadian comic-book publishing industry showcased a sense of independent Canadian nationalism that had not yet been seen in comics. Several monthly titles, such as Better Comics, Big Bang Comics, and Lucky Comics, were quick to assert themselves in the marketplace, along with several soon-to-be-iconic characters of Canada’s Golden Age. The most notable of these was Adrian Dingle’s “Nelvana of the Northern Lights, the first Canadian national superhero.”[8] Like all things, though, the Canadian Golden Age was temporary, lasting only until 1946, when American titles once again made their way across the border.

 

2-2: The Evolution of Comics in Europe and Japan

The comics industry in Europe was decidedly different from that of North America in its development. Whereas North American comics were seen as evolving and separating themselves from their newspaper origins in terms of size and content, eschewing independent week-to-week stories in favour of longer multi-issue narratives, European comic supplements were never entirely removed from their association with newsstand magazines.

European comics also incorporated longer narratives that spanned several instalments as early as the 1920s – almost twenty years before North American comics did. A perennial favourite, Herge’s Tintin is considered to be “one of the most popular comic book series in Europe,”[9] and an early example of proper Belgian comics and a predominance towards extended narratives in European comics. It is also an example of a BD, or bande-dessinée (“drawn strip”), strictly a Franco-Belgian form at the time.Another watershed bande-dessinée, Rene Goscinny and Albert Uderzo’s Asterix le Gaulois (The Adventures of Asterix), first appeared in October 1959 and is still in production in 2008, at which point thirty-three books in the series had been released. Though more popular in European countries than in North America, Asterix le Gaulois has become a world-renowned example of the bande-dessinée and has been translated into more than one hundred languages since its creation. Unlike North American comics, though, European weeklies also continued along the path of the ongoing story, with characters and events continuing in each successive newspaper comic supplements as they would in a separate monthly publication.

In the first half of the twentieth century, boys’ adventure comics were the most successful in Britain. The paper shortages caused by the First and Second World Wars led to a ban on the creation and publication of new comics, which allowed for existing series, namely the 1930s creations The Beano and The Dandy, to dominate the British comic marketplace.

Concurrent with the evolution of comics in both Europe and North America, manga (“whimsical pictures”) was quickly taking over the Japanese publishing industry. Illustrative narrative techniques had long been a part of Japanese culture, but it was the development of the manga style in the years following World War II that defined the contemporary comics environment in Japan. Currently a multibillion-dollar industry, manga has become an identifying style of both illustration and storytelling in Japanese comic books. However, the manga periodicals and book-rental shops that grew to prominence in the years following the Second World War were the force that changed the face of the Japanese publishing industry.

Manga rental shops worked like today’s video rental stores, offering a wide selection of both books and manga that could be rented for a small fee. As manga shops grew rapidly in number and developed a strong post-war presence, they formed the basis for the intense competition and growth that the manga industry underwent after World War II. These shops also led to the alternative subsets of manga that began to emerge in the late 1950s and early 1960s.

The four-panel strip, a cornerstone of manga preceding and immediately following the war, began to fade from prominence through the evolution of periodicals such as Manga Shonen, which had a nearly unrivalled readership among the country’s youth, and further diverged in content through publications such as Shadow Detective Book, City, and Skyscraper. Manga quickly developed beyond simplistic comedy strips and into extensive narrative works. The most prominent creations of the post-war years came from Osamu Tezuka, a manga legend who, it has been said, wrote and illustrated more than 150,000 pages throughout his decades-long career. Tezuka’s work is still popular today, and collections of his work have found a strong North American audience as well as a readership in Japan.

 

2-3: Fear of the Unknown

As comic-book publishing continued to evolve and face challenges around the world, so too did the public’s perception of the medium. More and more children began to take an active interest in comics, and as a result, many parents, schoolteachers, politicians, and community leaders across North America took notice of what children were devoting their time and money to. Fearful that the nation’s youth would be swayed into a life of delinquency and degeneracy by the vivid depictions of sex, crime, and violence in so many of the popular comic books that were aimed at teenage audiences, American politicians and educators founded several organizations aimed at suppressing the emerging comics industry. One of the more prominent of these organizations was the National Organization for Decent Literature.

Founded in 1939, the NODL was created to continue the work started by the Vatican with the Index Librorum Prohibitorum in the mid-sixteenth century: to “not merely keep Catholics from patronizing evil literature, but to keep it out of the community so that it will not be accessible to any, Catholic or non-Catholic.”[10] In very little time, M.C. Gaines found his comics appearing on the NODL’s list of banned materials, specifically Sensation Comics No. 1, published in January 1942, which introduced the world to Wonder Woman with her first comic-book cover. The character was in conflict with the NODL’s “Code for Clean Living” due to her sexually charged appearance and the themes of sexuality presented in each issue. Specifically, the NODL targeted the revealing nature of the Amazon warrior’s outfit and her weaponry: a golden lasso of truth, and bracelets of submission.

The comic-book industry continued to thrive into the Second World War, despite increased pressure from organizations such as the NODL. The Nazi menace provided an antagonist that appealed to an even larger readership, and publishers took advantage of the situation by producing tales of Superman, Captain America, and other superheroes fighting Hitler and the Nazis for the good of the world.

In the aftermath of the war, however, comics once again found themselves on the defensive. In a 1948 radio panel discussion, New York drama critic John Mason Brown labelled comics “the lowest, most despicable, and most harmful form of trash… their word selection is as wretched as their drawing or the paper on which they are printed.”[11] But, as sales of comics continued to rise, several more titles emerged in the late 1940s and early 1950s, many focussing their narratives on tales of crime, horror, or romance, to catch the attention of readers through shock and curiosity. Writers and artists like Will Eisner, whose comic The Spirit began to experiment with darker imagery and a “curious moral neutrality of the noir hero,”[12] attempted to take comics into more adult realms, themselves understanding the potential of the medium and hoping to attract a more respected audience who had already grown up reading comics. By March 1949, fourteen states were preparing laws designed to regulate the sale of comics to children and minors, worried that these titles would glamorize crime and depravity.

The continued success of horror and romance comics led to the formation of a special committee of the House of Representatives whose mandate was to decide whether or not these comics should be considered immoral, offensive, or potentially dangerous. “The witch-hunt psychology was starting to spread, and comics were right there in it.”[13] With the threat of communism and the McCarthy hearings taking over American society in 1953, the sense of fear and disgust tarred the writers, artists, and publishers of comic books. It soon became a point of contention for someone to admit to working in comic-book publishing. Attacks on the industry increased, thanks in no small part to Fredric Wertham, a psychiatrist and author of the 1954 book Seduction of the Innocent. “Comic books are definitely harmful to impressionable people, and most young people are impressionable… I think Hitler was a beginner compared to the comic-book industry.”[14]

In response to Wertham’s campaign, and while it was in process, the Comics Magazine Association of America (CMAA) created the Comics Code Authority (CCA) and its seal of approval in 1954, to reassure the public that it was controlling the offensive content in its members’ comic books. In 1955, Operation Book Swap gained momentum among conservative religious groups across the United States and Canada, and the resulting bonfires presented a reversal of the horrors depicted less than two years earlier in Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451: “In the philistine dreamscape of Fahrenheit 451, a fascistic government institutionalized book burning, banishing all publications that expressed ideas or had artistic merit. The only volumes left unscathed were those deemed of practical value or those beneath contempt: trade journals, pornography, and comic books.”[15]

The CCA had done irrevocable damage to the North American comic-book publishing industry. While the group held no legal sway, the public’s negative perception of comic books was so strong that many distributors would not accept any titles that did not carry the CCA’s seal of approval. At first the CCA focussed on forbidding crime and horror titles to be distributed, arguing that these titles were damaging to the moral fabric of the country, but the CCA quickly grew into a culturally authoritarian group, going so far as to disapprove of issue number 33 of EC Comics’ Incredible Science Fiction because the hero of the science fiction tale was black. The legal push against comics intensified in 1955 to include Canadian distributors of American titles, a push fuelled in part by a murder in 1948 in Dawson Creek, British Columbia, and another in 1954, in Westville, Nova Scotia – both cases reportedly involved comic books as potential motivating factors. By 1956, many North American writers and artists were without work, with worthless portfolios in a climate of public mistrust of the comic medium and those who worked in it. Carmine Infantino, a comic artist and editor who came to prominence during the Silver Age of comics, a period starting in 1956 with the publication of DC Comics’ Showcase No. 4 and its introduction of The Flash, and extending into the early 1970s, summarized the situation as thus: “It was like the plague. The work dried up and you had nowhere to go, because comics were a dirty word… If you said you drew comic books, it was like saying you were a child molester.”[16]

The climate of fear and censorship in the comic-book industry was not unique to North America. In 1949, the French Communist Party sought to ban most American comic publications, those that were “more adult and violent than the classical European ones.”[17] In addition, several Franco-Belgian publishers who had continued to produce during the German occupation faced accusations of collaboration with the invading forces and potential prosecution from French resistance parties. In the end, most were cleared of charges, though many publications did not survive into the years immediately following the war. As a result, the French comics-publishing industry underwent a dense restructuring.

In August 1959, only a few years after the severe persecution of the North American comic-book industry, the Yamanashi Book Renters’ Association of Japan targetted several manga artists and publications, citing several depictions of juvenile crime and amoral behaviour, which were considered reprehensible in a predominantly children’s medium. The group blacklisted many manga artists, such as Masaaki Sato, as purveyors of filth. Some authors, Yoshihiro Tatsumi included, challenged the threats of the Book Renters’ Association and similar groups by creating subsets of manga that would differentiate their work as material exclusively for adult readers. The most successful and influential of these subsets, gekiga, emerged at a time when Japan’s rental comic-book market was especially susceptible to change.

 


3: EVOLUTION AND REVOLUTION

I knew how to keep it simple… We wanted to give kids a good time and give them something positive to enjoy. We didn’t want to change the world.[18]

–Stan Lee, former publisher of Marvel Comics

The comic-book publishing industry in North America began to recover in the early 1960s by shifting the focus of the stories away from crime, horror, and romance titles, and once again embracing superheroes as their bread and butter. Martin Goodman’s Timely Comics, founded in 1939, grew through these characters’ success and became Marvel Comics. A new roster of superheroes, including Spiderman, The X-Men, and The Fantastic Four, emerged onto the field alongside up-and-coming industry talents like Stan Lee and Jack Kirby. However, by the tail end of the decade, a new trend was beginning to take shape on the heels of the hippie movement in the United States. It had the potential to become enormously popular and to subvert the established industry icons. It was the underground comix scene.

 

3-1: The Spark

In 1965, technological advancement in the offset printing process changed the structure of the industry, allowing for small runs of tabloid papers to become economically feasible. Across North America, several small independent groups began releasing their own publications. The Los Angeles Free Press, the East Village Other, and the Berkeley Barb debuted one after the other. Within months, several more independent artist-run publications followed. The origins of the movement remained in San Francisco, but publications of this nature quickly spread across the United States, as far as Chicago, Detroit, and New York.

These independent publications differentiated themselves from mainstream comic-book publishing by providing an outlet for expression and experimentation through counterculture ideas. They rejected many of the taboos enforced through the Comics Code Authority and the national political and religious groups that had risen to prominence in the last few decades. By 1968, underground comix had gained momentum, though their impact was still small overall. The opportunity for free expression for many artists and writers while simultaneously subverting the established codes of ethics that had been enforced until now by the moral right, and they used the spelling “comix” to differentiate their work from that of the mainstream:

Zap Comix was the spark that brought together a nucleus of artists and publishers in San Francisco in 1968. Within five years, there were more than 300 new comic titles in print and hundreds of people calling themselves underground cartoonists. Print Mint, Rip Off Press, and Apex Novelties couldn’t print comic books fast enough to satisfy their customers. Even after their popularity peaked in the mid-70s, many of these artists continued to produce highly personal and potent work. Their unrelenting insistence on complete artistic freedom revitalized the comic medium, and broke it loose from the repressive Comics Code Authority. Comics, long stereotyped as kid stuff, aggressively reclaimed their adult audience with explorations of provocative subjects.”[19]

In 1969, following the American lead, several independent Canadian comics emerged on the scene. The first noted underground comic was SFU Komix, published at Simon Fraser University in Burnaby, British Columbia. In the four years that followed, many more underground Canadian titles were published, including Flash Theatre, Bridge City Beer Comix, and The Time of the Clockmen. Similar to the American underground comix, though not as widely successful, the Canadian titles “explored the major preoccupations of the counterculture, namely, drugs, sex, rock, and radical politics.”[20]

The late 1960s and early 1970s brought a similar underground scene and counterculture rebellion to British comics. While some of the American underground comix and alternative magazines were regularly exported to the U.K. and the rest of Europe, similar publications developed on local soil. Of particular note was the French publication Metal Hurlant, which brought to light many European artists in much the same way that Zap Comix did for the Americans in the underground scene around San Francisco. However, unlike the American underground comix and their success overseas, the European alternative publications had “little impact in the U.S. Despite the success of the American version of Metal Hurlant, translated into American English as Heavy Metal, few other anthology periodicals have appeared in the U.S. market.”[21]

Several American artists rose to acclaim through the underground comix scene: Robert Williams, S. Clay Wilson, Robert Crumb, George Metzger, and Art Spiegleman, to name a few. Their work, and the works of many others from the late 1960s to the mid-’70s, came to define the culture of the time. They changed the direction of the comic-book publishing industry, not only proving the viability of small-press comic runs, but also instilling a need to break from the norm and to challenge the medium and the industry to be more than simple tales of heroics that entertained and placated the mass audience. A particularly strong example of this, Spiegleman’s Maus, a graphic memoir of his father’s life in Poland during the Second World War, was first published in 1972 as a short tale in Apex Novelties’ Funny Animals. Since then, it has been republished several times as a graphic novel, and it even won a Pulitzer Prize in 1992.

 

3-2: Of Gekiga and Graphic Novels

In 1958, Japanese manga was facing its own crisis of maturity. Gekiga, a term created in 1957 by Yoshihiro Tatsumi, and translated literally as “dramatic pictures,” was introduced “to describe the darker, more realistic style of cartooning that [Tatsumi] and his peers were pioneering.”[22] Perhaps best described as a style or subset under the umbrella term “manga,” gekiga was Tatsumi’s answer to the concerns that gave rise to the American underground comix scene and emergent graphic novelizations – the need to create a means of dividing the market into traditional manga on one side, and more adult, experimental gekiga works on the other. It was equal parts an attempt to broaden the readership of gekiga artists’ work and a means to discourage youths from buying titles that might contain offensive or obscene subject matter.

Tatsumi’s work disrupted the established manga culture of post-war Japan by infusing his storytelling with a variety of unique techniques. Heavily influenced by the film industry and the influx of American cinema, Tatsumi and his peers used gekiga to experiment with the physicality of manga, expanding on the origins of the style by moving beyond panel-based works that relied on humour and a minimum of dramatic movement. They created works that relied predominantly on a heightened level of movement and/or tension that would be sustained over multiple panels, often repeating images and quickly moving back and forth between angles in a scene so as to heighten the suspense and drama by drawing out a character’s actions, almost as if quickly cutting between camera angles or scenes in a film.

In subject matter, Tatsumi’s early gekiga works pre-dated the underground comix movement in the U.S., but they dealt with similar themes and examinations of character. In the 1960s, Japan entered a period of intense economic growth. Accelerating development and success in business began to take over people’s lives. It was this element – the personal lives of the country’s citizens, which was being ignored in the face of economic progress – that caught Tatsumi’s attention: “In place of one-dimensional heroes and villains, there were people: faces in a crowd, seemingly plucked at random and then examined down to their darkest, most private moments.”[23]

 


*Figure 1: A Drifting Life, page 376.

The excerpt above illustrates the quick cutting between angles and perspectives that Tatsumi experimented with in early gekiga works.

 

Chronologically following the development of gekiga in Japan, Will Eisner, creator of the 1940s comic The Spirit, sought to change the perception of comic books in North America. He was not the first to take comic books into a form more resembling the size and structure of more traditional books, but he was the first to give the new format a name. A Contract with God has been frequently cited as the first book to be described with the term “graphic novel” to distinguish it from a mere comic book. Published in October 1978, A Contract with God presented more mature subject matter, storytelling style and physical presentation than most comic books had previously done. Since then, publishers of many contemporary titles have adopted the term and modes of production, to present a more mature and serious product, and to add another layer to the industry rather than taking anything away from what had gone before.

In 1977, expanding on the precedent set by Eisner, the Ontario artist Dave Sim embarked on one of the most ambitious and significant comic ventures ever created. Sim titled the work Cerebus the Aardvark and created a three-hundred-issue graphic novel narrative that explored “not only the comics medium, but also other facets of popular culture and society at large, not to mention Sim’s personal life.”[24] Completing its run in March 2004, Cerebus the Aardvark has become “the longest-running original comic in Canadian history.”[25]

A decade later, the British duo of writer Alan Moore and artist Dave Gibbons unleashed what is widely recognized as one of the most important achievements in comics history. From September 1986 to October 1987, the twelve-issue Watchmen series was released by DC Comics, and the collection continues to be published to this day as a graphic novel. As a deconstruction of the superhero genre, Watchmen was designed to question the nature of heroes in an evolving society, subverting the concept of superheroes by placing them within a carefully crafted alternate history of the United States. In content, Watchmen deftly illustrated the maturation of the comic-book publishing industry by tearing down preconceived notions of what a superhero or a comic could be, in a dark and dense tale. The impact of the series has been far reaching, earning the distinction of being one of the few graphic novels to garner mainstream critical and commercial acclaim.

 

3-3: The Emergence of a Visual Culture

The continued evolution of comic-book publishing in the U.S. and around the world has helped to introduce several new modes of comprehension into our cultural fabric, particularly in regard to how we read, understand, and accept comics, books, and magazines as both textual and visual. In North America, comics have paralleled the rise of cinema and television to cultural centrality. From the introduction of mainstream comics in the 1930s and continuing through the evolution and proliferation of magazines, children’s books, and the Internet, all of which are increasingly reliant on creating a strong relationship between text and visuals in order to appeal to an ever-expanding and sophisticated audience, it’s no longer viable for us to be simply textually literate; rather we must also be multiliterate, employing visual literacy with the same importance as textual literacy.

As our culture continues to expand, we are absorbing aesthetic trends that dictate elements such as fashion and design that may be exotic to us from around the globe and incorporating them into our own unique cultural experience. Utilizing our abilities for pattern recognition in the evolution of a more prominent visual culture, comics have helped to instigate widespread social change by engaging our ability to fluently read a story with both images and/or text as the narrative structure. The counterculture aesthetics of the underground comix scene fuelled a departure from the restrained art styles of the Golden and subsequent Silver ages of American comics, allowing the public perception of comics to expand and offering new visual narratives. Similarly, the experimental, almost filmic styles found in many gekiga titles marked a break from traditional manga, compelling the genre to move forward. With increased visual, cultural, and narrative storytelling potential through the dialogues between images and text that are presented in our image-heavy social structure – whether foreign or domestic in origin – the nature of how we read, write, and edit must change as well.

Over the last three decades, evolving technologies in print production and image quality have made it possible to experiment further, and with the Internet providing users with easy and immediate access to a global village of information, the need has arisen for print products – particularly comic books and magazines – to offer something more than what the Internet can provide. As suggested by Ella Shohat and Robert Stam in their essay “Narrativizing Visual Culture,” “The visual… is ‘languaged,’ just as language itself has a visual dimension… The visual is simply one point of entry, and a very strategic one at this historical moment, into a multidimensional world of intertextual dialogism.”[26]

The comic-book publishing industry has continued to grow in recent years through the creative and experimental advancements of mixing text and images to tell stories, the quality of the illustrative work, heightened production values, and the increasing demands of a steadily maturing readership. The industry has found a strong foothold in another medium that shares a similar need for visual literacy – the North American film industry. The critical and popular success of many films based on superheroes and graphic novels has bolstered sales and interest in comics for nearly twenty years. Interest in superhero films began to take shape in 1989, with Tim Burton’s Batman. Though its sequels failed to live up to the quality or impact of the first film, and interest in films based on comics dropped off for a while, a more recent comic-film explosion has proven to be one of the most financially lucrative movements in contemporary film. The Spiderman and X-Men trilogies have consolidated Marvel Comics’ reputation as a major Hollywood studio contender. Christopher Nolan’s 2008 film The Dark Knight became the second-highest grossing North American film of all time with an estimated $528 million in box office revenue, behind only James Cameron’s 1997 film Titanic. The high interest in adapting comic books and graphic novels to film shows no signs of slowing down, with Watchmen, previously thought to be unfilmable due to density of its layered, multi-tiered story, set to premiere in March 2009.

The alternative comics scene has also had its share of successful film adaptations, two of the most recent being the 2005 adaptation of John Wagner’s A History of Violence, directed by Canadian David Cronenberg, and the 2006 adaptation of Alan Moore’s V for Vendetta, by director James McTeigue. The latter grossed more than $132 million worldwide, despite the controversy surrounding Moore’s desire to have his name taken out of the film’s credits due to the disappointing manner in which Hollywood had treated his work in the past. Several other films based on alternative or underground works – Ghost World, American Splendor and Crumb for example – achieved widespread critical success and have developed strong cult followings.

The underground subculture of the 1960s and ‘70s gave way to a more literary style of comic in the 1980s, one that focussed on the quality of writing and detailed, sometimes convoluted narrative arcs that even crossed over from series to series, as in Marvel Comics’ many iterations of the X-Men franchise. This trend has continued into the current marketplace. Despite the continued dominance of Marvel, DC, and the superhero books, many more independent publishing houses have emerged in the North American marketplace.

Several small, independent comic publishers have been given the opportunity to grow and carve out their own niches in the industry through indie or import titles, allowing for a greater variety of books on comic-book store shelves. In 1976, Fantagraphics Books in Seattle began publishing The Comics Journal, a magazine devoted to reporting on the comic-book medium from the perspective of “arts first.” The Comics Journal went on to become a respected trade publication and a valuable resource for the comic-book publishing industry. With comics demanding more respect as a literary medium in the 1980s, Fantagraphics Books established itself as an advocate for the integrity of comic books and graphic novels as a legitimate literary medium. In the years since, several independent comic-book publishers such as Fantagraphics Books and Top Shelf Productions have found success in the medium.

Due to the growing success and vitality of the comic-book publishing industry around the world, respected trade publishers such as Pantheon Books in New York and Jonathan Cape in the U.K., as well as more art house publishers such as Chronicle Books in San Francisco, have all begun acquiring and publishing graphic novels, either incorporating them into their company mandate or creating a special niche for them. Even DC Comics has created a separate imprint, Vertigo, to publish more author-artist-driven works. In Canada, however, this corner of the sky belongs to Drawn & Quarterly Publications in Montreal.

 

 

4: CHRIS OLIVEROS AND DRAWN & QUARTERLY PUBLICATIONS

In most cases, the best graphic novels published over the past 25 years reflect the… unique vision of each respective cartoonist… Quite frankly, the talents of an Art Spiegelman or a Seth… could not have been nurtured through the traditional channels of publishing.[27]

–Chris Oliveros, owner and publisher of Drawn & Quarterly Publications.

Moving beyond the counterculture works of the 1960s and ‘70s, and the renewed interest in mainstream superhero titles that dominated the ‘80s and ‘90s, independent comic and graphic novel publishers have been free to produce works of a more artistic and serious nature – titles that confront political and sociological issues like Palestine and The Fixer by Joe Sacco; or that depict a view of history seldom seen, like Jason Lutes’ Berlin series; or that take readers on a personal journey through places that few people will see first hand, like Guy Delisle’s Burma Chronicles. Since the 1980s, independent comic book publishers have become instrumental in creating and feeding a demand for comics and graphic novels, both mainstream and alternative in content, within the public sphere.

 

4-1: Chris Oliveros, Adrian Tomine, and Yoshihiro Tatsumi

In 1989, Chris Oliveros, a bike messenger and an struggling occasional cartoonist who had never worked in publishing, put together an anthology of underground and alternative comic artists’ work. The anthology, titled Drawn & Quarterly, set the stage for an aesthetic and conceptual drive that would help him in developing Drawn & Quarterly Publications. Conceptually, the Drawn & Quarterly anthology was heavily influenced by Art Spiegelman’s Raw, an alternative comics anthology published by Spiegelman and his wife, Françoise Mouly from 1980 to 1991. “The first issue of Raw was a big inspiration for me,” said Oliveros in a 2007 interview with the Montreal Mirror. “When it came out, I was about 15 and it was like an epiphany… It was the first time I discovered that a comic could be about more than just superheroes.”[28] Throughout the 1990s, Oliveros accumulated a highly respected collective of writers and artists, including Chester Brown, Seth, Joe Matt, Chris Ware, Lynda Barry, Jason Lutes, Gabrielle Bell, and Joe Sacco. These artists and many others in the Drawn & Quarterly stable have become influential and recognized names in the comic book publishing industry.

By 2008, Drawn & Quarterly had become the largest comic-book publisher in Canada. The company continues to emphasize alternative and foreign titles, publishing books such as the African-based Aya, from the Parisian creative team of Marguerite Abouet and Clement Oubrerie; the Finnish artist Tove Jannson’s successful Moomin series; and Rutu Modan, born in Tel-Aviv, whose book Exit Wounds has won wide acclaim for both the artist and Drawn & Quarterly.

With more than fifty artists from Canada and around the world on its list and a yearly output of more than twenty titles, Drawn & Quarterly has quickly become one of the more important comic-book publishers in the industry. The books are distributed in Canada by Raincoast Books, based in British Columbia, and foreign rights to many titles have been picked up by more traditional literary publishing firms around the world, including “Jonathan Cape and Faber & Faber in the U.K., Rizzoli in Italy, Podium in the Netherlands, and Mondadori in Spain.”[29] On October 19, 2007, Drawn & Quarterly, with the assistance from a grant from The Canada Council for the Arts, opened the first and only publisher-run storefront in Canada. Located in Montreal’s Mile End district, three blocks from the company’s main office, the Drawn & Quarterly bookstore has been designed from the ground up to emphasize the company’s commitment to promoting alternative, multicultural literature. As Oliveros describes it, “It is very much a curated selection… There’s no other bookstore in Canada that looks like this.”[30]

In 2003, one of Drawn & Quarterly’s artists, Adrian Tomine, approached Oliveros with the idea of publishing the collected works of Yoshihiro Tatsumi. Tomine, a writer and artist since the age of sixteen, Tomine began publishing his Optic Nerve comic as one of Drawn & Quarterly’s ongoing comics series in 1994. Since then, eleven issues of the series have been released, along with several collections of both his earlier works and his more recent Optic Nerve stories. The most recent compilation, Shortcomings, was released in Fall 2007 to extensive critical acclaim.

As a teenager, Tomine “experienced a crisis of faith,”[31] and had begun to doubt his passion for comics. In an effort to rekindle his love of the medium, Tomine explored alternative comics, and in the process he discovered Good-Bye and Other Stories by Yoshihiro Tatsumi, published in English in 1987 by Catalan Communications in New York. Tatsumi’s compiled short stories showed an unconventional style that combined a potent stark minimalism in both the illustrations and the esoteric writing. In the years since this discovery, Tomine has found success as one of Drawn & Quarterly’s premiere artists. His work has been translated into several languages and distributed around the world. In 2003, he journeyed to Tokyo to promote some of his work, and while he was there he managed to arrange a meeting with Tatsumi . Since that first encounter, Tomine and Tatsumi have been working with Drawn & Quarterly to bring more of Tatsumi’s work to English-speaking readers.

With the release of Tatsumi’s The Push Man and Other Stories in September 2005, Tomine assumed the de facto role of Tatsumi editor-in-chief for Drawn & Quarterly. Since then, two more volumes of Tatsumi’s work have been released: Abandon the Old in Tokyo, first published in September 2006, and Good-Bye, first published in May 2008. Each of these titles represents another year of Tatsumi’s work, starting with the material he produced in 1969 and working up to his works of 1971 and 1972 in the most recent volume.

Tatsumi was born in Osaka in 1935 and grew up in the shadow of the Second World War. As a boy, he developed an intense passion for manga, heavily inspired by the post-war work of Osamu Tezuka, such as the fantasy and science fiction pieces Lost World and Metropolis, and Tezuka’s first long-running serial, Jungle Taitei (translated as Jungle Emperor, but more commonly known in English as Kimba the White Lion), which was published in Manga Shonen from 1950 to 1954 and enjoyed immense popularity.

In post-war Japan, the rental comic-book publishing industry was booming, and manga lending shops did a brisk business throughout Osaka and Tokyo. Tatsumi and many of his peers were entrenched in the highly competitive manga-publishing scene, often producing works for several publications at once, and on occasion completing more than fifty illustrated pages in a single day for some manga periodicals.

Disturbed by their public attacks on manga in the late 1950s, and unsatisfied with the stagnant, somewhat less creative industry, Tatsumi and several others with the need and desire to nurture the growth of manga as a medium, set out to divide the industry into manga that was meant for children, and that which was meant for more mature audiences. The result was the “Gekiga Workshop.”

Though gekiga was a moderate success, it did not have nearly the impact on Japanese culture that the counterculture comics had on American culture in the 1960s and ‘70s. As the popularity of manga grew, the production became more commercialized. Alternative movements such as gekiga quickly faded into near obscurity, and were later replaced in ideology by the Nouvelle Manga movement. The Nouvelle Manga movement is an artistic movement focussed on uniting Franco-Belgian and Japanese comic authors and artists, to explore the potential for the bande dessinée to move beyond genre-based storytelling, and to assist manga that focusses on social criticism, works that are not often translated, in finding an audience beyond Japan.

Tatsumi, however, is still at work to this day. Though not as commonly recognized a name as Tezuka, he is still known for the impact he has had on manga and continues to produce original work to this day. For the past eleven years, he has worked on a single project, an 820-page graphic memoir detailing his career as a manga and gekiga artist, beginning with the end of the Second World War and continuing to 1959, when gekiga began to take shape as an independent force in Japanese manga culture. Titled A Drifting Life, it will be published by Drawn & Quarterly in Spring 2009, continuing their efforts to bring as much of Tatsumi’s catalogue of work to an English-language audience as possible. Though a far more complex and detailed undertaking than any of the three previous Tatsumi books that Drawn & Quarterly has published, A Drifting Life represents the continued efforts of Oliveros and Tomine to bring awareness not only to the quality and breadth of Tatsumi’s work, but to the impact that his career has had on the history of the manga industry in Japan.

 

5: THE TRANSLATION AND EDITORIAL PROCESS FOR A DRIFTING LIFE

And no matter what nationality, most readers will probably be able to relate to the emotions Tatsumi depicts. We may not like them, for some of them are ugly, and some of them are straight out of the collective human id. But we will probably recognize them, and we can probably learn from them.[32]

–Frederik L. Schodt, from the introduction to Yoshihiro Tatsumi’s Good-Bye

While editorial work has been a part of comic publishing since the 1940s, the specific role or roles an editor normally plays in this medium are decidedly different. There is a conceptual rhythm to most comics and graphic novels that demands an understanding of both a textual and an illustrative syntax when making editorial decisions, because even a small change can alter the denotative or connotative meanings of the work. In addition, significant editorial changes to a comic or graphic novel beyond simple proofreading are often impossible when the finished artwork is drawn and lettered by hand rather than digitally, or when an image moves out of one panel and into another, or panels are drawn to specific and unique shapes and sizes. In these situations, it is difficult or impossible to digitally move panels to accommodate editorial needs. Editing such work would be much like editing a painting.

The English edition of Yoshihiro Tatsumi’s A Drifting Life demanded heavy editorial intervention in several areas. Many of these are similar to traditional text-editing functions, but they are unique to this title because it is a graphic work and a translation, and also because Tatsumi has incorporated detailed political, economic, and artistic information to paint a cultural and historical portrait of Japan in the years following World War II.

 

5-1: Translating the Text

The first editorial demand was the most obvious: translating the text. At 820 pages, A Drifting Life is an enormous work that covers a fourteen-year time span – from 1945 to 1959 – and includes rich historical and social information throughout. The translation of a text this long and detailed had to be done in several incremental steps. The first and, one might argue, most important of these was fact checking.

To illustrate the period of time in which the story takes place, Tatsumi placed hundreds of real-life cultural references in the text: the films and music that were popular at the time; incidents and events that shaped the news; novels that inspired Tatsumi’s doppelganger in the book, Hiroshi Katsumi, and his peers; Shakespearean references; and of course, examples of manga publications that shaped the evolution of the industry.

It was the task of Taro Nettleton, the translator hired by Drawn & Quarterly for this project, to study every single sign, label, and bit of text in every panel in the book, researching and verifying the accuracy of everything, be it the historical information and discoveries that characterized the cultural transitions occurring in Japan in the wake of the Second World War, or references to the films, media, and other elements of popular culture that were shaping the consciousness of the country’s youth through the 1950s.

Nettleton, who lives in Japan, was a PhD candidate with the Graduate Program in Visual and Cultural Studies at the University of Rochester in New York, and was introduced to Drawn & Quarterly by Adrian Tomine. Though all three of Drawn & Quarterly’s Tatsumi collections had been translated by Yuji Oniki, who has also translated more than thirty Japanese titles into English, Nettleton had been brought in to the ongoing Tatsumi project during the most recent publication of Tatsumi’s work, Good-Bye, as an additional translator. Nettleton also translated Yuichi Yokoyama: Travel, by the manga artist Yuichi Yokoyama (2008). Following the completion of his work on Good-Bye, Nettleton was hired as the sole translator for A Drifting Life.

 

*Figure 2: A Drifting Life, page 369.

The image illustrates a movie billboard as presented on page 369 of A Drifting Life. The highlighted text next to the fourth panel is an example of the billboard’s information as it appeared in the translated Word documents.

 

With an overabundance of detail in each of the books’ forty-eight chapters, even something as simple as the title of a film carried a myriad of challenges. As a common example, foreign films released in Japan are given Japanese titles that, more often than not, have little to do with the original title. As a result, Nettleton was forced to discover the titles of many of these films, mostly English and French productions, by searching the peripheral details – what actors performed in the film, who directed it, when it was released, etc. A glance at the notational references in figure 2 on the previous page speaks to the difficulty of this task.

The next step in creating an accurate translation of the text had to do with dialect. In different parts of Japan unique dialects are spoken – an Osaka dialect, for example, is considered rough and heavily textured, much different in tone than a native Tokyo dialect. The cultural message in an Osaka dialect is that such an individual belongs to more of a “merchant class.” Finding an equivalent English-language tone or dialect to represent an Osaka dialect was deemed impossible without resorting to North American stereotypes (i.e. the Southern drawl, the New York Jew). By choosing not to employ a similar or comparable North American dialect, which would negatively affect the didactic cultural tone of the work, the editor allows the translated dialogue to present the inflections of the various cultural classes through word choice alone, relying on attitude and slang terminology to convey the differences between the social classes.

 

*Figure 3: A Drifting Life, page 308 (panel 4 isolated in frame).

 

Finally, a common difficulty in translating comics or graphic novels from any language is the issue of onomatopoeia. Comics and graphic novels often use illustrated and stylized sound effects to emphasize elements of a scene where drawings and dialogue alone do not suffice. This feature is especially prominent in manga, where the sound effects are often illustrated prominently, as an integral component to the artwork rather than an additional artistic flourish. However, the trick with translating sound effects from one language to another is that not every culture has a word to denote a specific sound. The clearest example in A Drifting Life is the sound of cicadas buzzing.

 

*Figure 4: A Drifting Life, page 454 (panel 3 isolated in frame).

The Japanese characters that denote the sound of cicadas buzzing.

 

This particular sound effect was used on several dozen pages in the book to help invoke summertime and the sensation of heat, and it was also a sound effect that had no comparable English equivalent. If translated directly it would read incoherently as “MIIIIN MIIIIIIN MIN,” which would be more confusing to an English reading audience than the original Japanese. In the case of cicadas buzzing, and several other sound effects that had no English equivalent, Tomine decided to retain the Japanese sound effects in the artwork so as to maintain the integrity of the work, but also to give an explanation and perhaps a direct translation in the accompanying appendix.

 

5-2: The First Editorial Check

Once Nettleton had completed the translation, the information was compiled into three separate Microsoft Word documents. Volume 1 covered pages 1 to 272; volume 2, pages 273 to 548; and volume 3, pages 549 to 820. All told, there were 448 typed pages of translation notes that needed to be checked. This was the first part of the process that I had been tasked with. The completion of this first English-language check proved to be a three-part process.

The first step, which I found to be the most difficult, especially since I do not speak Japanese, was determining which translated text belonged in which panel. Although Nettleton had translated every page of the text, he had broken up the translation notes into page-by-page blocks, not panel-by-panel ones. Therefore, I read through the translation notes with a photocopy of the original Japanese product beside me, and figured out which text in the translation matched up with the actions or events in the panels on the corresponding page. The task was made more difficult by the fact that it was done without the assistance of Nettleton, who was living in New York at the time. The other complicating factor was the difference in the process of reading and comprehension between Japanese and English, specifically in the direction of reading. Japanese literature and manga are read from right to left, not left to right as with English. While Tatsumi, who does not speak any English, had taken it upon himself to rearrange many of the panels so that the progression would make sense when the reading direction was reversed, there were still many panels that consisted of a conversation between people that had been left in their original positioning – in manga, the dialogue balloons on the right are the first to be read. These panels had to be considered carefully when identifying which selections of the English translation matched up with the corresponding panels of the Japanese original, so that I did not get confused by any disparities between the translation and the original.

Another notable difficulty in discerning which panels and text belonged together had to do with movie billboards; store signs and banners; comic book, magazine, and book titles; and maps and locations. In Nettleton’s translation, these details were lumped together in large blocks of text, again with only page breaks, no panel breaks. To identify the panel breaks on these pages, I took a flexible approach to the translation proof, beginning in whatever manner presented the clearest point of entry. On occasion, that meant beginning with the last identifiable sign or billboard and working backwards through the remaining panels, matching up the text as closely as possible.

Once this first task had been completed, the next step was to go through each page and decide which panels still needed to be rearranged or “flopped.” Flopping is the process of copying a single panel onto a separate Photoshop document, creating a mirror image of the original panel, and pasting the reversed image over the original. Ordinarily, flopping is avoided wherever possible to retain the original illustrations, but in panels where more than one person was talking, it was sometimes unavoidable. In these instances it was a necessary evil to accommodate the habits of English-language readers. While it may sound simple, there is much more to flopping than simply turning the image around. Comics and graphic novels are characterized by a certain amount of illustrative syntax. This illustrative syntax is apparent in the flow of one panel into another, whether on the same row, from one row to the next, or even from page to page. All the images on a page function in tandem with one another as a spatial and literary narrative, and if the physical positioning or direction of one panel is altered in any way, the change can affect the flow of the story, the aesthetics of the surrounding panels, or as in certain extreme cases, affect surrounding pages.

 

*Figures 5 & 6: A Drifting Life, page 590 (panels 4-6 isolated in frame).

Top image: the original Japanese.

Bottom image: the “flopped” English version.

 

The need to flop panels at this early stage occurred several times throughout the book, usually because conversational flow in the translation contradicted the images as they appeared in the original. The top image on the previous page is the untouched original. Hiroshi, the character on the right of the first panel, is the first to speak, introducing himself to a prospective publisher – the white-haired man on the left. To correct the conversation flow for an English-speaking audience, the top panel had to be flopped so that Hiroshi, now on the left, was visibly the first to speak. However, the two subsequent panels also needed to be flopped in order to maintain the continuity of the images in respect to the background details and the lines of sight for each character. Had the two bottom panels not been flopped from their original direction, the page would still make sense on a purely textual level, but the lack of continuity in the details of the images would have disrupted the carefully arranged composition of the page, adversely affecting the illustrative syntax. This is a relatively simple example; the necessity for more detailed and difficult flopping became apparent when the working first draft of the English-language version began to be constructed. Because of the size and scope of the project, as well as the immense variety and relative simplicity of design in the environments and backgrounds throughout the book, there was little concern about having to flop a panel or series of panels in one part of the book, only to have that same environment appear as a mirror image at a later point. The primary concern was the more immediate visual and textual needs of each scene.

The third and final step in completing the first check was to read through the story from start to finish, ensuring that the English translation read as a single cohesive narrative, and simultaneously checking the translation for grammatical and structural errors. At this point, less concern was paid to the historical and cultural accuracy of Nettleton’s translation, which was to be dealt with in the next step, and more to the basics of the language used. Because this was only a link in a chain of editorial passes by several people, all changes were tracked in the actual Word document. That way, Nettleton, Tomine, and I were able to work with the document more efficiently, and to keep the various stages of editing visible on one document.

*Figure 7: A Drifting Life, sample of the translated Word document.

The red and blue boxes on the right side track all editorial changes made on the first proof of the translation.

 

Finally, any significant problems were noted in a separate editorial summary, which listed all outstanding questions on the translation. These questions were to be sent back to Nettleton once the initial editorial passes had been made. For example, in a number of instances, I discovered that a single dialogue balloon on a page had been missed in the translation, or, in the most blatant situation, page 70 had been overlooked in its entirety. Once this editorial pass had been completed, the Drawn & Quarterly offices in Montreal sent the translated document and my subsequent editorial notes to Tomine in California, where, as editor-in-chief of the project, he would go over my work and complete his own editorial pass through it. He would make certain that there were no further questions or concerns on the translation of certain cultural and historical details, and that Nettleton’s translation fit stylistically with that of the three previously published Tatsumi books.

Until this point, much of the work that had been done on A Drifting Life was preparatory. With the translation and the first proof complete, the next step of the editorial process was in the hands of Tomine. His purpose, at this point, was twofold: to stylistically edit the manuscript, improving its readability by finding solutions to some of the more cumbersome Japanese-to-English aspects of the translation, and to match this text to the tone and voice of the three previous Tatsumi books published by Drawn & Quarterly.

 

5-3: The Second Editorial Check

Once Tomine’s stylistic edits to the translation had been digitally tracked onto the same Word document and e-mailed back to the Drawn & Quarterly offices in Montreal, the next step was for me to do a second check of the three documents, again looking for any grammatical mistakes in Nettleton’s original English translation and also checking the changes that Tomine had suggested in his separate editorial notes, not to mention what he had already inserted into the three translated Word documents. Many of Tomine’s suggestions and changes related to the readability of the text in terms of the cultural, historical and pop-culture references throughout the book. In some cases, it was necessary to clean up the translation to exclude some of the more detailed information, to make the book more accessible to an English-reading audience. This tactic was not used in names of famous individuals, but more for obscure information that would not necessarily be important enough to be included in the appendix. For example, the translation of the two panels on page 323 read as follows:

Panel: 1: On September 26th of that year, “Toya Maru,” a Japanese ferry that traveled between Aomori and Hakodate, sank in the Sea of Japan. It was the worst disaster in history to occur there.

Panel 2: The ferry capsized under torrential waves caused by Typhoon 15. It is estimated that 1,155 people aboard were killed or went missing. Sadly, only 159 were rescued.

The issue with this narration was not the name of the ferry that sank, but with the title of the typhoon, “Typhoon 15.” In much the same way that North America names its hurricanes each year, Japan names its typhoons. On September 26, 1954, Typhoon No. 15 – Marie – struck, sinking the Toya Maru ferry. However, rather than an explanation of the relatively unimportant nomenclature of the event in the narration or in the appendix, Tomine’s editorial suggestion was to alter the first sentence of the second panel to read: “The ferry capsized under torrential waves caused by a typhoon.” The change was subtle, but it was practical in keeping the narrative moving at a steady and comprehensible pace, as were many other changes of this kind that followed.

Occasionally, nicknames and slang terms caused difficulty in the translation by creating potentially awkward or uncomfortable moments for English readers. These elements were noted separately in the compiled editorial summary as requiring a second pass by Nettleton to try and find ways to work around these problems without adversely affecting the readability or cultural intricacies of the work. The most obvious example in A Drifting Life is in Hiroshi’s first genuine romantic tryst: Mama. “Mamasan,” a title usually given to the matrons of geisha houses, has come into common cultural use to refer to bar hostesses. This wouldn’t be an issue were it not for the Oedipal theme that blatantly but inadvertently presents itself in the following example:

 

*Figure 8: A Drifting Life, page 513 (panels 6 & 7 isolated in frame).

 

Another critical grammatical issue addressed in the second proof related to proper titles. Per Tomine’s instructions, titles of all books, magazines, manga anthologies, and films were to be italicized, whereas all short stories, comics and comic strips, and songs were to be put in double quotation marks. The difficulty with this step was purely a cultural one: Nettleton had translated all of these elements throughout the book in the same manner: in quotation marks. Because so little information about certain post-war magazines and manga anthologies exists today, there was no ready reference to help in discerning which titles needed to be italicized, and which needed quotation marks; this task could be accomplished only by undertaking multiple read-throughs.

After this had been completed, I created another editorial summary for Nettleton, Tomine, and Oliveros. In this document I compiled all notes, questions, and problems remaining from the previous editorial checks and Tomine’s own suggestions. This way, all parties could see the progress of the editorial work and the difficulties that still remained.

 

 

6: TEXTUAL DESIGN AND IMPLEMENTATION

The durability of Tatsumi’s work is impressive… In terms of tone and style, this work shares an obvious kinship with the ‘alternative’ or ‘literary’ comics that began proliferating in North America in the mid-1980s (and continue to thrive today), yet it predates much of that work by as much as three decades.[33]

–Adrian Tomine, from the introduction to Yoshihiro Tatsumi’s The Push Man and Other Stories

With the editorial work in full swing, production on the book continued to move forward. Photocopies of the manuscript had arrived in the Drawn & Quarterly office, sent by Tatsumi’s agent. Because there were no digital files of the work, the first step was to scan the pages into a computer one by one using a large-format flatbed scanner, a process that took weeks. Once scanned, the digital pages were transferred from the scanning computer, via USB memory sticks, to an external hard drive, where they were compiled in a folder labelled “Gekiga Raw Scans.”

 

6-1: Clean-up and Mute Files

One of the largest and most time-consuming aspects of the production at this early stage was the creation of the “mute” files. In comic-book publishing, a mute file is a page that has had all text – original dialogue, narration, and sound effects – digitally removed using Photoshop. Often this task is done in order to prepare an original English-language title for foreign publication. However, in the case of A Drifting Life, the purpose was reversed: all dialogue, narration, and sound effects were removed so that the translated English text could be imported into the digital pages, once all the editing had been completed.

Before a mute file could be made, the scanned images had to be cleaned up. Every page was scanned upside down, in grayscale, and at the scanner’s maximum resolution of 600 DPI (Dots Per Inch). To ensure a high print quality, four adjustments had to be made to each page. First, each page needed to be rotated 180 degrees. Second, each image would need to be doubled in size to 1200 DPI; at a higher resolution, the images on each letter-sized page would look cleaner and crisper when reduced to a smaller size for printing. Third, the threshold for each image had to be increased from the standard 128 to 144, which was discovered to produce the cleanest and crispest blacks, converting the grayscale of the scanned page into a high-contrast black-and-white image. And finally, each image’s mode needed to be changed from grayscale to bitmap in order to reduce the file to only two colours, a step that was critical to simplify the information, reduce the size of the file and remove the need for halftone screening when printing. Due to the limited capabilities of the scanner, the most efficient way to make these changes for all 820 pages was, using Photoshop, to program a set of Actions that recorded these four steps, and then to apply that set of Actions to an entire batch of files – in this case, those in the “Gekiga raw scans” folder – which would be automatically adjusted as directed, page by page.

Once the actions had been completed, each page was brought into Photoshop and all text was carefully removed from each page, one at a time. In many panels, the removal of the sound effects left a gap beneath the text that needed to be filled by copying another section of the same background and pasting it in place where needed. The new section of background would then be adjusted or redrawn as necessary, but minimally – only enough so as not to disrupt the integrity of the original artwork. The goal with this step was to make the artwork look as if there had never been a sound effect overlaying it in the first place. Once the text was removed, each page was saved in a separate folder called “Gekiga Sanstext.”

 

6-2: The First Draft

With the second check complete, the next part of the process was to produce a functional English-language first draft of the entire book. This would be done by importing the text directly from the three translation documents into the mute panels on the pages in the “Gekiga Sanstext” folder. Before starting, there were several factors regarding style and appearance to be considered.

Tomine, working directly with Drawn & Quarterly, had helped design both a custom font and method of lettering for the previous three Tatsumi books Drawn & Quarterly had published, and this design concept was also to be used in A Drifting Life. The font, called “Tatsumi,” has two faces: regular and bold italic. The regular “Tatsumi” font was the default, used for all dialogue and narrative text throughout the book. The bold italic font was reserved for names of books, magazines, films, and manga anthologies.

*Figure 9: Examples of the two “Tatsumi” fonts used in A Drifting Life.

The regular was used for all dialogue and narrative text.

The bold italic was used for all titles of works.

 

The second element of style that needed to be taken into consideration was the placement of the text in the individual panels. In the previous Drawn & Quarterly Tatsumi publications, the dialogue balloons had been designed with a large amount of white space, as a means of maintaining a strongly minimalist design sense. With these two aesthetic caveats acknowledged, I was ready to begin constructing the first draft.

With one of the three digital translation documents open, I highlighted a selection of text in the Word document – dialogue or narration – and copied it. Next, using Photoshop and the Text tool, I stretched a text box over top of an existing mute dialogue balloon, with all four corners of the box extending past the balloon’s perimeter. With that same tool still selected, I pasted the copied text of the translation into the text box, then manipulated it within the shape of the box so that the dialogue was centred in the dialogue balloon, leaving as much surrounding white space as possible without compromising the readability of the text or hyphenating unnecessarily.

Before deselecting the Text tool, I reviewed the dialogue or narration: first, for any titles that needed to be italicized or put in quotation marks; second, for any last-minute spelling or grammatical errors; third, for one last stylistic flourish: the upper case I. For both the regular and bold italic versions of the Tatsumi font, a variation on the design can be selected by holding down the shift key. This does not create an upper or lower case letter, as both Tatsumi fonts are uppercase by default, but it provides a slightly altered version of the letter.

*Figure 10: Examples of the normal and shifted variations of the two “Tatsumi” fonts.

The capital “I” of the first and third examples never appears in any Tatsumi book.

Instead, only the lower case variations are used.

 

The purpose of this special character is to retain a hand-drawn aesthetic throughout the book, by using a variation of the font whenever a letter occurred two or more times in close proximity in any direction. The one instance where this practice is discarded is in respect to the upper case letter I. As a lettering design choice, in all Tatsumi books the upper case I is discarded in favour of the more minimalist lowercase version. Therefore, in every segment of dialogue or narration that was copied and pasted into a panel, every capital I had to be found and changed into the lowercase character, to keep the stylistic parameters set by the three previous Tatsumi books.

This process, as illustrated by the examples on the following page, demonstrates how to import dialogue or narration into a fairly conventional page. Aside from the need to flop the final panel on the given example, nothing else severely complicated matters. On occasion, though, the need to flop an image could not be recognized in the earlier editing stages. When directly importing the text into the mute pages, it sometimes became necessary to flop a single panel in order to accommodate basic dialogue or narrative text that suddenly did not fit with the images in the panel. Usually this happened as a result of the translated text being reversed to read left-to-right; the artwork in its original form was drawn specifically to accommodate the Japanese text in its original placement, and as such the text would not fit among the images unless the panel was flopped. In a similar fashion, a panel might have narrative text on the right side and dialogue on the left, and if the narrative text were a preamble to the depicted scene, the panel would have to be flopped for the sake of comprehension. However, the instances where greater difficulties lay with flopping, and where the need could not be discovered until editing through the production of the first draft, were in respect to the details of specific page structures or individual illustrations.

 

*Figures 11 & 12: A Drifting Life, page 393 (final Japanese and English versions).

Note the white space in each dialogue balloon, the italicized font in panel 4, and the flopped fifth panel, done to accommodate the conversation’s direction.

 

When multiple panels of conversation were brought into the scenario, the complexity of the page dynamics and illustrative syntax became more complex. In a sense, importing the text into the mute pages was a dynamic editorial structure that relied entirely on visual acumen and the physical needs of the text. While not all of these complexities were obvious during the first and second checks of the translation, they became apparent when the English text was brought into the working document. Page 763 of A Drifting Life (see figures 13 and 14 on the following page) illustrated a prime example of this delicate situation in a conversation between the book’s protagonist, Hiroshi (with the toque), and one of his friends, Masahiko Matsumoto.

In the English first draft, panels 1 to 4 have been flopped, even though only one person speaks in each panel. The reason for this can be seen in a careful examination and comparison of panel 4 on each page. Matsumoto’s two dialogue balloons differ considerably in size. In the Japanese manuscript, the smaller balloon on the right had less dialogue inside, and the larger left balloon had much more dialogue. When translated into English, the smaller portion of dialogue would now be on the left, but the larger portion of dialogue would not fit into the balloon on the right. The panel needed to be flopped to accommodate the larger amount of text in the second dialogue balloon. But there was a catch – the continuity of the page. When the fourth panel was flopped, the lines of sight in the first three panels were altered. First, to compensate for the fact that Matsumoto’s eyes now faced to the right instead of the left, the second panel immediately above needed to be flopped. That way, Matsumoto’s line of sight remained consistent from one row of images to the next. Second, there was now a discontinuity in the conversation, as Matsumoto’s gaze had shifted, but Hiroshi’s had not. To compensate, the first and third panels on the page were flopped in order to “fix” the sight lines between the two characters.

 

*Figures 13 & 14: A Drifting Life, page 763.

Circled: the panels at the heart of the problem.

 

In some instances, an editor may have noted that a panel should be flopped to correct the conversational flow, yet a flop may not have been possible due to other details in the scene. For example, a background detail, most likely text, would be compromised if the panel were flopped. In figure 15 on the following page, the man on the right of the panel is supposed to speak first, asking Hiroshi, on the left, a question about the parcel he is mailing. Such a flop would seem simple, as this panel is isolated from the flow of the panels surrounding it. However, if the panel were flopped, the Japanese text in the background – which, as part of the artwork, is not to be erased and translated into English – would appear mirrored in the English publication. The situation in figure 16 is much the same, though it is the “Nakayamaso” sign at the far right of the panel that would have been compromised had the panel been flopped. While these examples may seem relatively benign, it is not so much a question of readability as it is of maintaining the integrity of the publication. Unless absolutely necessary, the artwork was to be left intact. Even if that had not been the case, in certain instances it would not have been possible to flop the background text. As with several examples throughout the book, the background text in question was often placed or illustrated in such a manner that it could not be separately flopped. This can be seen in figure 16 on the next page, where the “Nakayamaso” sign is obstructed by the vertical shading strokes.

To correct the flow of conversation in either of these two examples, a slight adjustment to the artwork had to be made – Photoshop was used to redraw the dialogue balloons. While interference with the artwork is usually to be avoided at all costs, this is a procedure only used when there is no other way to correct the flow of dialogue. Each balloon is intact, if possible, except that the tail of each that indicates which character is speaking is shifted so that it points to the other character, and then the dialogue in each balloon is swapped. If the swapped dialogue doesn’t fit in the new balloon, the parameters of the balloon are altered as needed, once again minimizing the collateral effect on the surrounding artwork. Any gaps in the background image left by the shifting of the tails is then corrected in the same manner as in eliminating the Japanese sound effects from the mute files. It isn’t the most elegant solution to the problem, but it solves it without compromising the background details.

 

*Figures 15 & 16: A Drifting Life, pages 567 (top) and 778 (bottom).

The circles indicate the Japanese text that prevented these panels from being flopped in order to accommodate their conversational flow.

 

The final task in constructing the first draft was to deal with the question of signs, banners, posters, book titles, and the like. When these elements appeared in a frame as individual objects or signs, with nothing else in the panel that required translation, the mandate was to copy and paste the direct translation immediately under that panel, as in figure 16 on the previous page: the caption “Sign: Nakayamaso” is a direct translation of the part of the panel that has been circled. When several of these elements appeared in a single panel, a caption would be ineffective. In these instances, the translated segments were noted in a separate file to be made into an appendix for the back of the book.

 

7: THE HOME STRETCH

I had a lot of frustration that I wanted to get out in my work, in a way. I wasn’t thinking of my readers. In a way, I succumbed to the idea that my works couldn’t be a big hit anyway so I might as well create the work that I wanted to create and express what I was feeling.[34]

–Yoshihiro Tatsumi, author of A Drifting Life

With the English text in place, there was now a working first draft of the book for all parties to use as the point of reference for all future steps. The bulk of the editorial work had been completed, but the project was still not quite ready to enter the design phase. A number of steps and editorial tasks regarding the English-language first draft still remained, specifically in respect to the changes that still needed to be made, and the material that simply could not be inserted into the individual pages.

 

7-1: The Editorial Summary

Compiled as a series of questions, concerns, and inconsistencies noted for Nettleton, Tomine, and Oliveros to address, the editorial summary for A Drifting Life had gone through several revisions since the beginning of the project. This version of the summary was intended to be a master copy that would pull together the notes taken from the first and second editorial checks, all of the notes made in Tomine’s edit of the translation, and all notes or problems that emerged during the development of the English-language first draft. The final summary was constructed as a Word document with every notation identified by page and panel, and then written out in full detail. The final summary was given a colour breakdown for ease of reference: all queries or notations for Nettleton to review were highlighted in red; all queries direct from Tomine to Nettleton were highlighted in blue; and all production notes, specifically in respect to panels or dialogue balloons that needed to be altered, were left black to be dealt with during the production phase by Oliveros and Tom Devlin, Drawn & Quarterly’s creative director.

 


*Figure 17: page 1 of the editorial summary for A Drifting Life.

 

The most pressing issues pointed out in the editorial summary were in reference to the translation. More specifically, several panels or individual dialogue balloons had been missed in the first translation, one entire page had not been translated, and the names of several characters and locations were occasionally spelled differently in a panel or on a page than they had been previously. Either my first check of the translation or Tomine’s edit had uncovered many of these. Whereas most of the points drawn out for Nettleton after the first proof were technical points – specific panels and balloons needing work – most of Tomine’s notes questioned the historical accuracy of certain events or names, and the viability of some of the more direct translations. Unlike my earlier example referencing “Typhoon 15,” many of these queries were specific to cultural or historical examples, such as magazine titles or certain types of food. On panel 1 of page 343, Tomine requested a more precise definition of “okonomiyaki” for the appendix, as Nettleton’s translation “Japanese pancakes” did not suffice.

Beyond these translation issues, many of the points raised were production-based: namely, which panels needed minor artistic adjustments, such as shifting an object within an image without flopping a panel to compensate for narrative text that would not otherwise fit; which dialogue balloons needed to be redrawn in panels that could not be flopped, and which dialogue balloons needed to be redrawn in shape simply to fit English dialogue that would not fit in any other manner; and which Japanese text that had been eliminated in the creation of the mute files had to be put back in place. This last point became clearer when we inserted the English text and discovered certain panels where the Japanese text enhanced the artwork, and where an English translation would actually have impeded it, such as the headlines or names listed in a newspaper or periodical, or a panel with only text in it and no illustrations, such as the handwriting of a letter (see Figure 18 on page 56). Similar circumstances, if translated into English, would have affected the work more on an artistic level, causing unecessary intrusions into the artwork where a captioned translation would suffice.

Once Nettleton and Tomine had both reviewed the revised editorial summary, it was sent back to me with the changes and corrections noted directly on the Word document. I then implemented the suggested alterations and corrections to the translation into the English first draft as needed. This task required another careful check, this time of the completed first draft. In a specific instance such as the oedipal nature of the bar matron, “Mama,” Nettleton and Tomine decided to use “Madam” instead. Therefore, every instance in the 820 pages where “Mama” was used had to be found and changed to accommodate the new translation. Once these edits to the first draft had been completed, I revised the editorial summary once again to list the problems and questions that had not yet been resolved, and to further delineate the separate tasks that were left to be done, be it translation, editorial, or design, and which party was responsible for their completion.

 

7-2: The Appendix

As previously mentioned, when possible, any sign, poster, billboard, etc., that appeared in A Drifting Life was translated as a footnote under the panel it appeared in. However, in numerous instances this method would not work. On many pages, there was simply too much background signage or information in a panel to fit any translation, even a condensed one, as a caption beneath the panel. Along this same line, many hand-drawn letters, charts, examples of comic strips, and lists of detailed publication information appeared throughout the book. To maintain the integrity of the artwork and the historical accuracy of the examples used, these panels remained unaltered and stayed in their original Japanese.

 

*Figure 18: A Drifting Life, page 570.

The circled panel shows a hand-drawn letter that has been left in its original Japanese for the English translation of the book. A notation below the panel will direct readers to the direct translation of the letter (shown at the right) in the appendix at the back of the book.

 

The solution to this question that Tomine suggested, due to the important historical and cultural information in Tatsumi’s book, was to separate all material that would not fit as a caption under a panel, and to compile that information into an appendix at the back of the book. After the English first draft had been completed, the translation documents were once more sifted through, this time pulling out all pertinent information that did not make it into the first draft and compiling it onto a separate Word document, identified page by page and panel by panel in the same manner as the editorial summary. The resulting 52-page document detailed, in point form, every necessary piece of information for inclusion in the appendix.

 

7-3: Proofing the English-Language First Draft

With the English first draft and the accompanying editorial summary and appendix notes completed, the next step of this project is for Oliveros to proof the pages. This is the first time the book will be read in English, with the text and images in place on the pages. As with the translation proofs, all dialogue and narration will be checked for spelling and grammatical inaccuracies, but a couple of extra elements have been added to the equation.

First, there is the need to check the English text against the translation, to ensure that all panels have been inputted correctly and none have been missed, save for those detailed in the editorial summary. Second, and of equal importance, is to check that all of the narration and dialogue has been inputted in an aesthetically responsible manner, keeping within the boundaries that were set in place before the first draft was started (i.e. all film and book titles in the bold italic font, all short stories, songs, and magazine articles in quotations; enough white space around the placed text), as outlined in part 6 of this report.

 

7-4: Production

After the proof of the English first draft has been finished, the next step will be to take the document out of editorial and into production. First, all of the pages of the first draft will need to be cleaned up in Photoshop. Every single page will be gone through with a fine-toothed comb: eliminating all excess marks in the margins; clearing obvious specks of ink from the interiors of the panels; and making sure that each page is free of all blemishes that can be seen by the naked eye.

To complicate matters, some panels might have been skewed slightly in the scanning process. To correct this, an individual panel will be copied into a new Photoshop document, changed from a bitmap into a grayscale image, and then rotated until the borders can be lined up with the remaining panels. Once that is done, the panel will be converted back into a bitmap and then copied back to the English page, in place of the original skewed panel. If the rotation introduces the risk of altering the in-place narration or dialogue, the text will be copied out into another blank Photoshop document, and then pasted back into the original once the panel has been straightened on the page.

By far, the largest and most time-consuming task of the production at this stage will be the implementation of sound effects. First, in respect to all sound effects that could not be translated because there is no English language equivalent, the original Japanese panels will be copied, cleaned up, and placed into the English first draft. Second, all translated sound effects will be input directly into the panels using a selection of custom fonts, and then placed in the exact same positioning as in the original Japanese document.

Once all sound effects have been put in place and all panels have been cleaned up and made ready for print, the final document will be imported into Quark Express page layout software, where the English draft of A Drifting Life will be constructed for the first time, from cover to cover.

*Figure 19: an early rendering of the cover for Yoshihiro Tatsumi’s A Drifting Life, to be published in Spring 2009.

 

8: CONCLUSIONS

No! I’ll never be done with gekiga![35]

–Hiroshi Katsumi, from A Drifting Life

The editorial process of A Drifting Life has been, to say the least, unconventional by traditional literary standards. Although the final steps in both the editorial revisions and production are yet to happen, the translation and editorial work that has been done to this point has already presented many challenges, with respect to both the difficulty and layered nature of the work, and the traditional methods of editing. This is a work that is representational of both another culture and another time, and the visual and textual editorial alterations taken to this point have been made with the utmost care and respect for the content of the original book. Though changes have been made to the original manuscript, none were done without first assessing the ramifications of such alterations or seeking other, less intrusive alternatives.

 

8-1: An Editorial Retrospective

Considering the size and scope of A Drifting Life, it was no surprise that the editorial design and implementation was as involved as it was. The process from the initial checking of the translation through the editorial and production phases took four months. It was very deliberate and organized in such a way that multiple parties were able to work on different facets of the project at the same time, and all toward the same end – the completion of the English first draft.

The most difficult part of the process was the first check of the translation. Reading it for the first time and having to discern which text belonged with which panel was difficult in itself, made more so because of dense cultural elements and points of reference that appeared on nearly every single page of the manuscript. However, it was the work of flopping panels at this stage that presented most of the early difficulties. Specifically, it was the need to engage foresight in the implementation of the dialogue and narration. We had to be able to see ahead of time not only which panels would need to be flopped for conversational comprehension and flow, but also which subsequent panels would need to be flopped to maintain continuity, and this was a detailed process. Some pages had to be read several times in the original Japanese manuscript, as well as in the proposed English- language version. Once production on the first draft had been started, we found that many of the suggested flops were not necessary, yet a great many others, which we had not identified, were necessary. In the latter cases, the necessity to flop was more often than not dictated by the size of dialogue or narrative text that had to fit spatially within the dialogue balloons or white space that had been reserved for narration. These instances were dealt with as efficiently as possible in the production of the first draft, often by flopping when there was no other alternative. In several instances, as noted in the production notes of the editorial summary, flopping could not help and the only option left was to suggest minor adjustments to the artwork.

Once the early checks had been completed, I found that the majority of the difficulties in producing and editing the book were strictly related to manual labour – specifically, the time it took to place all of the English dialogue and narration into the mute pages and to adjust all of it in accordance with the stylistic parameters of the project. Each page took between fifteen and thirty minutes to complete, so the biggest concern at this stage was the time it would take to complete the 820 pages. With a projected timeline of only a month to input all the English-language text, the completion of the English first draft went right down to the wire.

The editorial work done to this point, both textual and in respect to the visual integrity and comprehensiveness of the manuscript, has helped to produce an accurate representation of what the published book will look like. There is still much work to do in designing the physical look of the final book, and several pages require more translation work and subsequent editorial proofs before they can be brought into the design phases, but the final artifact has begun to take shape. As a unique product in a growing graphica marketplace, A Drifting Life carries a heavy weight of expectations for Drawn & Quarterly, and at the same time, thanks to the process of its publication, it presents a bevy of new possibilities for editorial education – literary, visually, and culturally.

 

8-2: The Changing Face of the Industry

To this day, the only Wikipedia entry for Yoshihiro Tatsumi is on the English Wikipedia – not even a Japanese one exists yet. Though he is considered to be the grandfather of gekiga, the first true alternative comic genre in Japan, his accomplishments have gone largely unnoticed in his homeland in recent years, largely due to the rampant commercialization and high export demand of more traditional forms of manga. A Drifting Life, for example, has never before been published as a single-volume work; in Japan, only as forty-eight installments in a manga periodical. Drawn & Quarterly’s publication of the book will mark the first time that this work has ever appeared in the manner in which the creator originally intended.

The changing face of the comic-book publishing industry, not to mention the growth of and comparative ease of access to obscure and alternative cultural depths only recently made available to English reading audiences, has been of tremendous benefit for both comic-book publishers and the evolution of editorial fields of study. Foreign works like those of Tatsumi and many other Drawn & Quarterly artists can now find their audiences in a broader world scope, rather than being relegated to a specific societal corner of the globe. With this broader spectrum comes a change in technological demands and production skill sets. Editorial processes in the comic and graphic novel industry are in the process of evolving to meet these needs, but the subset still requires far more than a traditional literary base of knowledge.

Most manga that sees publication today is translated and produced inexpensively for a wide audience. The market has quickly become saturated with titles that do not represent the best of what the manga industry has to offer. A Drifting Life, though, is no simple title. At 820 pages, it is a visual, literary, and cultural behemoth. The work being done by Oliveros and his staff at Drawn & Quarterly to bring this title to an English-language audience is pioneering in its scope. Their attention to detail and high production values are evident in every aspect of this title, as well as they are in every title produced by Drawn & Quarterly. Their work is without peer in the comic-book publishing industry, and it is these standards and their uncompromising methodology that have cemented their status as a world-class publisher.

As the visual component of cultures all over the world becomes more and more prominent, the nature of how we approach editorial functions is rapidly changing. For an editor to succeed in the graphica industry, he or she must develop an editorial sense that can comprehend both textual and visual organization at the same time – an artistic sensibility of sorts. The illustrative syntax that is becoming more and more critical to the production and reception of comic books and graphic novels as a legitimate literary art form has developed into a language all its own, starkly different from that of the purely literary world. Children’s books have carried this inseparable combination of image and text for years now, and visual elements have made their way into more traditional novels as well; titles like Steven Hall’s The Raw Shark Texts, Rivka Galchen’s Atmospheric Disturbances, and Umberto Eco’s The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana also employ images, not solely as aesthetic flourishes, but as integral elements that push the story along in a manner that text alone could not do. Because of the accessibility and abundance of information on the Internet in recent years, even magazines have been forced to evolve along a more visual path. By adhering to more experimental and striking visual conceits, they can still provide something unique: an experience beyond text-based dialogue, one that represents a changing attitude toward the structure of language and visual presentation through intertextual dialogism, the idea that as we progress and incorporate more social context into our media consumption, we open up a greater forum for dialogue between the various forms of media. And as they have done since the 1940s, comic books and graphic novels represent a significant potential for growth in this area, one that affords our culture the opportunity to evolve creatively and in unexpected ways, to explore elements of foreign cultures that may not have been accessible previously, and to expand our definition of what editorial work entails in the face of a continuously evolving visual society.

 

 


NOTES

1 Scott McCloud, Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art (New York: Harper Perennial, 1994), p. 3. RETURN

2 John Bell, Invaders from the North: How Canada Conquered the Comic Book Universe (Toronto: The Dundurn Group, 2006), p. 18. RETURN

3 “William Hogarth,” Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia, (Wikimedia Foundation Inc.), available from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Hogarth, accessed November 9, 2008. RETURN

4 “Rodolphe Topffer,” Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia, (Wikimedia Foundation Inc.), available from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rodolphe_Topffer, accessed on November 9, 2008. RETURN

5 Bell, p. 21. RETURN

6 David Hajdu, The Ten-Cent Plague: The Great Comic-Book Scare and How It Changed America (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2008), p. 31. RETURN

7 Bell, p. 44. RETURN

8 Bell, p. 47. RETURN

9 “Tintin and Snowy,” Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia, (Wikimedia Foundations Inc.), available from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tintin_and_Snowy#Tintin, accessed 9 November 2008. RETURN

10 Hajdu, p. 77. RETURN

11 Ibid, p. 92. RETURN

12 Ibid, p. 50. RETURN

13 Ibid, p. 209. RETURN

14 Ibid, p. 6. RETURN

15 Ibid, p. 304. RETURN

16 Ibid, p. 326. RETURN

17 “Franco-Belgian Comics,” Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia, (Wikimedia Foundation Inc.), available from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Franco-Belgian_comics, accessed 9 November 2008. RETURN

18 Ibid, p. 330. RETURN

19 Patrick Rosenkranz, Rebel Visions: The Underground Comix Revolution 1963–1975 (Seattle: Fantagraphics Books, 2008), p. 15. RETURN

20 Bell, p. 110. RETURN

21 Chris Couch, “The Publication and Formats of Comics, Graphic Novels, and Tankobon,” Image & Narrative, December 2000, available from http://www.imageandnarrative.be/narratology/chriscouch.htm, accessed September 27, 2008. RETURN

22 Yoshihiro Tatsumi, Abandon the Old in Tokyo (Montreal: Drawn & Quarterly, 2006), p. 197. RETURN

23 Yoshihiro Tatsumi, The Push Man and Other Stories (Montreal: Drawn & Quarterly, 2005), p. 5. RETURN

24 Bell, p. 124. RETURN

25 Bell, p. 124. RETURN

26 Ella Shohat and Robert Stam, “Narrativizing Visual Culture,” The Visual Culture Reader, ed. Nicholas Mirzoeff (London: Routledge, 1998), p. 55. RETURN

27 Alec Scott, “Editing Pictures,” Quill & Quire, April 1, 2007, available from http://www.quillandquire.com/news/article.cfm?article_id=7721, accessed September 27, 2008. RETURN

28 Sacha Jackson, “Setting Up Comic Shop: Drawn & Quarterly’s New Store on Bernard is a Multi-Purpose Space,” Montreal Mirror, October 18–24, 2007, available from http://www.montrealmirror.com/2007/101807/arts. html, accessed November 7, 2008. RETURN

29 Scott MacDonald, “Moving Pictures,” Quill & Quire, 1 April 2008, available from http://www.quillandquire.com/news/article.cfm?article_id=10034, accessed September 27, 2008. RETURN

30 Shaun Smith, “Drawn & Quarterly Opens Montreal Bookstore,” Quill & Quire, October 5, 2007, available from http://quillandquire.com/news/ article.cfm?article_id=8019, accessed September 27, 2008. RETURN

31 Tatsumi, The Push Man, p. 5. RETURN

32 Yoshihiro Tatsumi, Good-Bye (Montreal: Drawn & Quarterly, 2008), p. 7. RETURN

33 Tatsumi, The Push Man, p. 6. RETURN

34 Kai-Ming Cha, “Tatsumi’s Long Journey,” Publishers Weekly, August 1, 2006, available from http://www.publishersweekly.com/article/CA6358250.html, accessed on October 12, 2008. RETURN

35 Yoshihiro Tatsumi, A Drifting Life (Montreal: Drawn & Quarterly, 2009), p.820. RETURN

 


BIBLIOGRAPHY

Bell, John. Invaders from the North: How Canada Conquered the Comic Book Universe. Toronto: The Dundurn Group, 2006.

Cha, Kai-Ming. “Tatsumi’s Long Journey.” Publishers Weekly, August 1, 2006. Available from http://www.publishersweekly.com/article/CA6358250.html.

Couch, Chris. “The Publication and Formats of Comics, Graphic Novels, and Tankobon.” Image & Narrative, December 2000. Available from http://www.imageandnarrative.be/narratology/chriscouch.htm.

“Franco-Belgian Comics.” Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia. Wikimedia Foundation Inc. Available from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Franco-Belgian_comics.

Hajdu, David. The Ten-Cent Plague: The Great Comic-Book Scare and How it Changed America. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2008.

Jackson, Sacha. “Setting Up Comic Shop: Drawn & Quarterly’s New Store on Bernard is a

Multi-Purpose Space,” Montreal Mirror, October 18–24, 2007. Available from http://www.montrealmirror.com/2007/101807/arts.html

MacDonald, Scott. “Moving Pictures.” Quill & Quire, April 1, 2008. Available from http://www.quillandquire.com/news/article.cfm?article_id=10034.

McCloud, Scott. Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art. New York: Harper Perennial, 1994.

“Rodolphe Topffer.” Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia. Wikimedia Foundation Inc. Available from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rodolphe_Topffer.

Rosenkranz, Patrick. Rebel Visions: The Underground Comix Revolution 1963-1975. Seattle: Fantagraphics Books, 2008.

Scott, Alec. “Editing Pictures.” Quill & Quire, April 1, 2007. Available from http://www.quillandquire.com/news/article.cfm?article_id=7721.

Shohat, Ella, and Robert Stam. “Narrativizing Visual Culture.” The Visual Culture Reader. Ed. Nicholas Mirzoeff. London: Routledge, 1998.

Smith, Shaun. “Drawn & Quarterly Opens Montreal Bookstore.” Quill & Quire, October 5, 2007. Available from http://quillandquire.com/news/article.cfm?article_id=8019.

Tatsumi, Yoshihiro. The Push Man and Other Stories. Montreal: Drawn & Quarterly, 2005.

______. Abandon the Old in Tokyo. Montreal: Drawn & Quarterly, 2006.

______. Good-Bye. Montreal: Drawn & Quarterly, 2008.

______. A Drifting Life. Montreal: Drawn & Quarterly, 2009.

“Tintin and Snowy.” Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia. Wikimedia Foundations Inc. Available from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tintin_and_Snowy#Tintin.

“William Hogarth.” Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia. Wikimedia Foundation Inc. Available from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Hogarth.