A Bibliophile’s Cross Canada Tour

On April 27, Erinne Sevigny tweeted, “Made it from Victoria to Peggy's Cove and can say with confidence that #publishing in Canada is in good hands.”

Sevigny was confidently able to make this statement after completing her month long Great Canadian Publishing Tour, visiting 24 publishing houses from coast to coast, as well as meeting with other players, including a printing press operator and an agent. She completed the journey mostly by car (with some bus, plane and ferry trips along the way). Sevigny says she started the tour with her beloved 1997 Escort. But after it was safety inspected, she realized the vehicle was in need of significant repair. Her family, supportive in many forms during her expedition, also lent a significant hand with transportation. (Her father lent her his Ford Ranger—the vehicle she drove in high school and once even drove off a cliff—and her grandparents sold her their 2003 Buick for a dollar!)

With a decade or so of experience as a professional writer and editor, Sevigny decided to do the tour after applying for the Creative Book Publishing program at Humber College, a four month program that extensively teaches students about both the artistic and entrepreneurial sides of the industry.  She thought while driving from her Edmonton home to the Toronto college, she would make the most of the lengthy trip.

“So I thought if I visit some publishing houses along the way I can learn a ton, I can make a lot of connections to people…” says Sevigny. “Then I thought if I’m going to do that, I should blog about it. And if I’m going to blog about it, I can’t just do Edmonton to Toronto. If I’m going to do it, I’m going to do it right!”

Sevigny explains that her reason for enrolling in the Humber program and the cross-country tour was to extend her knowledge beyond the editorial side of the publishing industry. “I want to know everything and to be able to coach authors,” she says. “I have a lot of authors that come to me and they want to make their book better but they also want to know about the industry...I want to know the industry as best as I possibly can.”

When planning her itinerary, Sevigny wanted to include publishing houses that were as varied as possible, in terms of size, mandate, genres, etc. That’s why she made sure to visit Conundrum Press in Wolfville, Nova Scotia. “I wanted to visit them because I hadn’t visited any houses that publish strictly graphic novels, which is a really interesting business,” she shares.

“But when it comes down to it, there are so many strong, intelligent and kind people in the industry that it’s not like the entire industry is just going to collapse.”

Also in Atlantic Canada, Sevigny visited Goose Lane Editions in Fredericton and Gaspereau Press in Kentville. While some of her visits to houses were short if representatives were “super busy”, Sevigny spent a significant amount of time with Andrew Steeves at Gaspereau.

“Andrew Steeves was fantastic,” she reminisces. “I spent pretty much the whole day with him and his intern. He went as far as to take both of us to the Archives at Acadia University and pull out all these ancient books to tell us about all the typography…He went way beyond ‘This is what Gaspereau Press is’ to let’s go on this field trip, and also let’s go to my house for dinner.”

Sevigny says that before completing the tour, she often observed that the country’s publishing industry was presented by media as ominous, but that she suspected these portrayals were not entirely accurate. Based on her professional experiences, she knew the business was operating just fine in Alberta, and she suspected this was also the case elsewhere in Canada.

“When I decided I was going to do this tour, I thought this is a way to prove that it’s not so gloomy,” says Sevigny. “So as I was crossing the country and meeting people and seeing the people behind the scenes—you know learning the stories of how they got there and just seeing what their projects were—this gloom that I had seen based on the media, just didn’t exist. Yes it sucks that certain things aren’t [going well for some] for a bijillion other reasons, but when it comes down to it, there are so many strong, intelligent and kind people in the industry that it’s not like the entire industry is just going to collapse. People aren’t just going to stop buying books.”

Sevigny has just started the Humber College program. Once finished, she’s hoping to be able to visit more publishing houses on her way back to Edmonton. Ultimately she’s striving to make her mark on an industry that ultimately delivers one of her true passions—stories.

“Once I’ve learned as much as I possibly can in these four months, I’ll make a decision of where to place myself within the industry and make sure I’m doing something valuable to it and something I enjoy.” ~AE

To vicariously experience Sevigny’s Great Canadian Publishing Tour, visit her blog where she’s been gradually posting entries about each of the publishing houses she’s visited and the adventures in between: http://thegreatcanadianpublishingtour.com/

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