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#Giller Prizewinner gets screwed: UPDATED

Scotiabank Giller Prize

Image via Wikipedia

Here’s the story from The Globe & Mail.

UPDATE: Gaspereau worked out a deal with one of my old publishers, Douglas & McIntyre.

And here’s my furious take:

Johanna Skibsrud won the Giller Prize and her publisher is holding her back. People pay attention to book prizes and make Christmas gift decisions based on that information. For any publisher and author, the Giller is an opportunity to sell more books and make more money for the author and for the publisher. Obvious stuff.

So, in the name of integrity, a small press that can’t handle a larger production run, isn’t working to put out more books to meet the demand. Are they trying to create more demand and get more publicity by enforcing scarcity? Maybe, although if that’s true, it won’t work.

First, it sends a message to your author and any future authors that they are expendable.

Second, if people can’t get the winning book, they won’t wait. They’ll just buy something else. There are plenty of books on the shelf.

Third, there’s Bobby Mcferrin. When Don’t Worry, Be Happy hit it big, it was a huge surprise and the record company only had 5,000 records out there. They worked furiously to get the record into store while it was still hot. Bobby did okay in the long ruin because that song went huge, but he still lost a truckload of money because of the long logistical lag in production. 

The publisher is “mulling.” And losing time and sales. Authors are paid pennies an hour as it is! How galling it must be to Skibsrud that her publisher isn’t capitalizing on the opportunity The Sentimentalists won. (And will this small press be her publisher next time? Doubtful.)

So far two large publishers have stepped up to help out the small Nova Scotian press. Instead, Gaspereau Press is worrying about the look of their medium. How quaint. And how utterly stodgy and old world in its thinking. No, the medium is not the message. The book is words on the page or words on a screen.

If they want to be a successful press that survives, they need to get the product out there before the market fades away. Successful books fund a list of less successful books (and the outright dogs, too.) Gaspereau prides itself on the look and feel of their books. Okay. If they want to be around long enough to make more precious books—birthing and blessing each one individually apparently—they need to step up for their author and for their own future. The story has it right. They have to decide whether they are printers or publishers.

If you’re thinking of submitting a manuscript to a small press, go ahead. They aren’t all this obtuse. After reading the Globe story, would you submit your baby to Gaspereau Press?

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Filed under: Publicity & Promotion, publishing, Rant, , , ,

10 Responses

  1. Man..this is not good….

  2. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Lorina Stephens and Robert Chute, Robert Chute. Robert Chute said: #Giller Prize winner gets screwed: http://wp.me/pRG3O-vt […]

  3. Chazz says:

    It does make you wonder what the pubisher is thinking, doesn’t it?
    How about: “I will restrict your rewards (and my own) for a vain intangible that makes me look petty and silly?”
    People seem to be piling on this story, so perhaps, as with the Cooks Source story from last week, the weight of the internet will fall on their heads and they will recognize their folly.

    With the Cooks Source story, one commenter said, “We are lliterally watching the death of a magazine in real time.” Here, too, it looks like the implosion/suicide of a small press. This is one of the great things about the Internet. The story is kept alive by people who care about books (what they say, not just how they look) and we can keep that pressure going despite the ADD 24-hour or less news cycle.

    If this continues much longer, I can easily see a campaign mounted, just as Smartbitches bombed the Cooks Source Facebook page.

  4. Kim says:

    But what I don’t get is this: the publisher made the book available as an ebook (kobo had an email out within minutes of the win), so why would the character of the physical book be so important to the publisher? But then again, we don’t know what terms the author agreed to in her deal. Maybe stipulations as to character of the physical book were indeed integral to the deal.

  5. Chazz says:

    Thanks for your point, Kim and it’s a good question. Andrew Steeves answer to you is that an ebook is not a book. It’s the text. In short, he’s shortchanging the author, downplaying the Giller Prize and vainly fetishizing Gutenberg. Old thinking, soon lost to this little slice of life I like to call Reality.

    Here’s the publisher’s CBC Radio Q Interview link (Thanks for the link, Christopher!):


    When asked if he was holding the author back, he replied, “Was I holding her back when I published her?” More last-century thinking and the subtext of that smug remark is insulting to the author–I’m sure he’d say “his” author. When a publisher puts an author’s work into print, it’s an investment to profit both parties. The publlisher is NOT doing the author a favour!

    Ironically, it’s publishers who think like this who are speeding the industry toward DIY, self-publiishing, and POD etc.,… The more options writers have, the fewer option guys like this will have.

    Funny. Today a publisher friend congratulated me on my full editing schedule and encouraged me to “make hay.” That’s what we all need to do when the sun is shining. Steeves says we shouldn’t be so impatient for the book. Maybe he’s right about that. Maybe we shouldn’t be so into instant gratification. He toitally misses the point that, right or wrong, we ARE into instant gratification.

    If people can’t get the book from a bookstore, they’ll either select one of the other Giller nominees (good) or snatch up the ebook (fine.) Or they’ll get Jon Stewart’s latest book and go home because (surprise!) we’re all busy, Christmas is coming and we all have shit to do!

    Gaspereau has communicated that they’ll work out a deal…sometime. Meanwhile, they’re losing the author sales. It’s crazy time in Kentville tonight.

    It will be interesting to actually hear from the author. Will she be pissed? Will she make nice out of concern that another house will be reluctant to pick up an author with a spine? Will she shrug and hope she wins another Giller some day but by then will have a publisher who’s not so cavalier about writers and their bank accounts?

    Hissy fit: COMPLETE. Now, anyone else got an opinion. I should sit back and have a mint julep now.

  6. Kim says:

    Thanks for that last comment, Rob. I missed Jian this a.m. and admit I haven’t had a chance to listen online, but I’m happy to take your quote above as representative. But have you had a chance to read this online piece for the Walrus?

    I think the writer makes some good points. Interesting, I think, is the forecast about the small, even “craft” publishers/presses perhaps being the future of the physical book, with ebooks to be the primary distribution channel.

  7. […] Then it was Gaspereau Press’s cavalier reaction to their Giller prizewinner’s lack of stock. […]

  8. Lori says:

    Big question…Why was the contract given to a print firm out West? There are printers, FSC certified that have the capacity to complete this project in our province. Why would a small, independent publisher take that opportunity away from struggling NS commercial printers? I don’t get it….

    • Chazz says:

      Good question. It’s about distribution capacity, credibility and experience. Douglas & MacIntyre is one Canada’s largest publishers. It’s not their first rodeo and Gaspereau isn’t in a position to gamble with a newbie. I’m from Nova Scotia, but I must confess I hadn’t considered the question of why they wouldn’t go local. At least D&M is Canadian. They could have chosen to outsource to India. You’re right that NS could use the work.

  9. Lori says:

    Hmmm…you are right, it could easily have gone to India or China. As a member of the NS commercial print community, we’ve ridden a few bucking broncos and survived the rodeo. The Nova Scotia Tourism Guide has not been printed in Nova Scotia for many years, Emera’s annual report is printed in Ontario..the list goes on and on…
    Sad to see these jobs head west when it could have been handled here.

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