The Great Canadian Publishing Tour with Erinne Sevigny

Erinne Sevigny

Erinne Sevigny

Tell us a bit about The Great Canadian Publishing Tour.

In a nutshell, I’ve travelled across the country from Victoria to Halifax and have visited over 20 publishers of different types and sizes. I learned a lot about the publishing process, but I also explored the people and the spaces that make the industry what it is.

What inspired you to take on such an amazing initiative and why publishing?

After working as an editor for almost a decade and being asked numerous times about the publishing industry, I decided I wanted to know it as best as I could from more than just the editor’s perspective.

I enrolled in the Creative Book Publishing Program at Humber College in Toronto and decided I would drive to Toronto from my home city (Edmonton). That led to thinking I should make use of the space and along the way visit publishers, make some connections, get to know the people and industry in even more depth, etc. Then I thought I’d blog it. And then I thought that if I was going to blog it, I should just “go big or go home” and so I extended the itinerary to the coasts. And voila, the tour.

How many publishers are you planning to meet during this tour?

In total it comes to about 2-dozen publishers plus interviews with industry insiders like an employee of the Literary Press Group of Canada, an agent, and the Friesens printing plant. 25 official interviews in total, I think. Many more unofficial interviews, too.

How challenging was it to travel across the country and meet all these people?

After the first couple of houses the nervousness of meeting new people went away (except in Montreal where I conducted an interview in French – for that I was really nervous).

The challenging part was the limit in time, in trying to keep up with meetings and blog posts and a couple freelance gigs on the side and the logistics of temporarily moving provinces and remembering to eat at dinner time.

Also, the vehicle I've been driving is in rough shape and a few times I wasn't sure I was going to make it to my destination. But I did! 

Friesens Altona

Friesens Altona

Any unforgettable incidents?

Some of the most unforgettable things happened in the non-publisher focused parts of the tour. Perhaps they’ll become a good travel piece for a magazine. Things like a very-near miss on an icy highway between Saskatoon and Regina, or finding myself in a hostel room full of the owner’s old photo albums of himself and his wife (who had just recently passed away), or getting to stay at one publisher’s off-the-grid home in Nova Scotia. Canada is a fascinating country of people who are kind and full of page-worthy stories.

Cutting paper at Friesens Altona

Cutting paper at Friesens Altona

What's your opinion about the publishing industry and its future in Canada?

It’ll be fine. It’s an industry that’s always facing one challenge or another, but who isn’t facing one challenge or another? I think part of the issue is simply that publishing is a glamourized business, and seeing it in conflict is somewhat intriguing so those are the stories you hear. A good story has conflict and high stakes, after all. But after meeting with publishers, they aren’t working like they’re on the chopping block. They’re doing what they do.

What do you think about authors who are taking matters into their own hands and choosing self-publishing route to get their stories out?

Those who self-publish with the aim of a yet unknown audience have to be bold and tenacious, and I think that it’s admirable. For those publishing for the sake of creating something for themselves, their friends, their family, I think that’s equally admirable.

Traditional publishing vs. Self-Publishing, what’s your honest opinion?

I have no problem with either. It comes down to the author, what his/her goals are and what he/she is able to put into the work both in the creation of the book and in the marketing/selling of the product and themselves.

That’s the question every author has to ask him/herself. What do I want to achieve and what am I capable of? It has to be realistic. Publishing a book is like mountain climbing. Not everyone can do it successfully, but those who can have to be realistic in choosing the right mountain to climb and the right equipment (and people) to help get them to the top.

You also made it a point to visit both FriesenPress in Victoria and its parent company Friesens in Altona, how special was that experience?

Andrew Fennell at Friesens Altona

Andrew Fennell at Friesens Altona

It was very cool. I’d visited a printer in Edmonton years ago, but it wasn’t a private tour. At Friesens it was just me and Andrew, and I was able to ask any and every question I wanted.

What I liked about it presently is that with the uprising of ebooks (which are great in their own right), the print book’s esthetics has an extra je ne sais quoi to it. Think of the way having a printed photo feels compared to the hundreds or thousands on your computer. The tangible quality of it makes it worth so much more than what it used to feel like.

What's your perception on FriesenPress & Friesens corporation?

They are all very hard working (and might I add very efficient) people. Both the manufacturer out in Altona and the press in Victoria are well-oiled machines and they are very smart business people, which is something that is SO important to making publishing work. Writing a great book, while the catalyst, is just a fraction of what it takes to make the wheel spin.

So, what next? Any plans of publishing your first book?

Next for me is focusing on the Creative Book Publishing Program at Humber so that I come out the other side of it as informed about the Canadian publishing industry as possible. Right now my mind isn’t really focused on anything else.

Please tell our readers, how they can read about "The Great Canadian Publishing Tour". 

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Twitter: @TGCPT

nterview by Rasanga Weerasinghe