“If you are going to buy a copy of that book in Canada, it’s damn well coming out of my shop,” said Andrew Steeves, publisher at Gaspereau Press, in The Globe and Mail. And he said that before “that book” went from mere Giller Prize short-lister to actual winner…
The book of course is The Sentimentalists, by Johanna Skibsrud. The media may or may not be playing up how frustrated she is with the publisher, but the fact is that this small press cares a lot about books. Actual, physical, books. So much so that it refuses to abandon its 1,000-per-week, hand-crafted method of printing them in order to play into Giller fever.
As a lover of books, you have to admire his convictions, especially in light of my post yesterday. However this is one of those rare instances where two concepts of book – the novel or story versus the physical entity – are actually at odds with one another. Winning the Giller is one of the rare opportunities for a Canadian writer whose name is not Margaret Atwood to “cash in” on success, which of course means make enough money to cover the bills while you write the next book. There are problems with this approach though if there aren’t any physical books to sell.
Steeves says in the same article that a buyer today will still be a buyer in three weeks. I hope he’s right, but when I put on my marketing writer’s beanie, I have some doubts.
The interesting thing for me is that the ebook is filling in sales where “real” books can’t. The Sentimentalists is apparently the number one Kobo bestseller (it’s not available on Amazon’s Kindle) for several days now. Here is a specific, concrete example of how technology is helping books – or at least the publishing industry.
It’s certainly helping the writer.
Below is a Globe article from before the book won. The second link takes you to Google’s compilation of related news items.