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In blow to small publishers, Literary Press Group loses federal funding

The Literary Press Group, the sales and marketing co-operative representing independent Canadian publishers, confirmed today that it has been denied funding by the Department of Canadian Heritage.

The federal agency represents the LPG’s single largest revenue source and accounts for about one third of its operating budget. According to LPG executive director Jack Illingworth, the cuts to the 37-year-old organization will be “devastating” and result in layoffs for the bulk of its staff.

Funding for the LPG’s distribution arm, LitDistCo, has not been affected. It will continue to be headed by general manager Julia Horel.*

The LPG learned on Monday of DCH’s plans to suspend the organization’s funding for the current fiscal period. In 2010–11, the LPG received $235,000 in DCH funding via the Canada Book Fund, plus an additional $17,000 for professional development.

The LPG was not given an explanation for why its most recent funding application had been denied.

As a result of the disruption in funding, the LPG’s sales force will be dismantled, with all five field reps being let go on Aug. 31. On Nov. 30, most of the remaining head-office staff will be laid off, with Illingworth and marketing manager Tanya Snyder staying on board.

Said Illingworth in a statement, “We believe that this decision is seriously misguided and has the potential to irreparably damage literary publishing in Canada. It just isn’t good public policy to fund the production of books and attack their connection to readers in the most destructive way possible.”

The LPG sales force currently represents nearly 225 fall titles from about 45 firms, which it will continue to sell until the layoffs occur. After that, publishers will have to decide on a new course for national representation.

“We will be seeking to establish an agenting relationship with another sales force for publishers who wish to be a part of a collective or who can’t get representation elsewhere,” Illingworth told Q&Q in an email. “After Nov. 30, publishers will be free to go with us or to seek alternative representation.”

Illingworth added that LitDistCo’s operations will continue as usual: “Booksellers can place orders in confidence that they will be delivered.”

Peter Matwychuk, general manager of Edmonton’s NeWest Press (a LitDistCo and LPG sales force member), said he’s “surprised and dismayed” by the news.

“The LPG is just one of those resources you kind of assume [will] always be there,” he said. “To hear that the ground has opened up beneath them – I never thought it would happen.”

Matwychuk added that the LPG forms “a vital link in the chain” connecting small, independent presses with a mass audience: “It’s not just authors and publishers that need to be funded, but that infrastructure … that gives those books a fighting chance at appearing on bookstore shelves and reaching people.”

Insomniac Press publisher Mike O’Connor, an LPG member for about 15 years, was equally surprised.

“The sales force in particular has been a fantastic program,” he said. “It’s how we’ve been able to sell into the trade in Canada. A big chunk of our revenues have been derived from those sales reps.”

O’Connor said it’s still too early to predict what impact the dismantling of the LPG’s sales force will have on sales, but it will have an immediate effect on Insomniac’s publishing schedule.

“At this point, what we’ll do is drastically reduce the [number] of titles for the spring, and hopefully [the] LPG will be back with a sales force for the following season,” said O’Connor, who plans to reduce Insomniac’s spring 2013 list from 10–12 titles to about four.

Late on Thursday afternoon, Illingworth told Q&Q in an interview that, of 47 publishers that are currently members of the LPG sales force, 26 have either opted in or showed interest in joining a new sales collective. He has already been in touch with several agencies that may be willing to take them on.

“We have a respectable collective to go forward with,” he said.

Illingworth stressed that the most crippling factor in losing its DCH funding was the delayed notice, which prevented the LPG from enacting any contingency plans. The LPG had originally submitted its funding application for the Canada Book Fund back in October; by necessity, it had been operating under the assumption that it would be approved.

Illingworth also noted that the LPG’s cash reserves could potentially be wiped out in dismantling its sales force, leaving the association in a vulnerable position as it tries to rebuild.

Illingworth was careful not to lay blame for the cuts at the feet of Heritage Minister James Moore, but he did interpret the disruption in funding as a sign that arts organizations should not rely on the federal government for year-to-year support for any crucial operations.

“If something is so important that it shouldn’t be disrupted, that you can’t put it on hold while you wait for a contribution agreement, that it needs to keep running year in year out …  it’s almost imprudent to use money that is subject to the whim of someone anonymous in Ottawa,” he said.

As O’Connor points out, the winnowing away of the LPG’s clout is another blow to independently owned firms. “For us, it’s another bad bump on a difficult road,” he says.

[This story has been updated from an earlier version.]



* Correction: June 11: An earlier version of this story contained a misspelling of Julia Horel’s name.

  • Intensit_now

    This is no bad thing. Its mandate is one primarily of advocacy for yet more government funding. Moreover, book publishers should undertake to market their own products and not rely on a non-profit to do it for them. Book publishing is a business and should not be on the receiving end of tax dollars.

  • Fancylady

    A sad day for small presses, so many of whom rely on the work of the LPG and its sales force to distribute, promote, and sell their titles.

  • Attila

    If the government quit taking our money and redistributing it (minus a big proccessing fee – salary and benifits of government workers etc.) maybe we would have enough money to buy some of these books.

  • Chancery

    To date, the LPG has successfully placed zero copies of my (well-reviewed) small press title in bookstores nationwide. Both my publisher and I have repeatedly asked  the LPG to improve the title’s amazon availability – for the book is seldom if ever available there – though this has only resulted in arrogant brush-offs, inaction, and the essential death of the book itself. I’m not sure what the LPG does for authors, but for me it’s done absolutely nothing. Rest in pieces.

  • Buuba316

    Do you actually understand what the Literary Press Group does? Your comment is negligent, and careless. 

  • Panic

     Point. Missed.

  • Panic

     Book publishing is culture.  No small press does it for the profit, because there often isn’t one. 

  • http://www.facebook.com/boshart Nicholas Boshart

    This would carry some weight if you a) demonstrated you knew about print supply chain or b) didn’t post anonymously.

  • Jonathan Ball

    Stephen Harper hand-sells most of my books, so…. what? Then why I am paying him all this money?

  • Booker

     All civilized countries provide some public support for the arts. This says something about how civilized we are. It was a small amount of money that made a real difference for our literary community. It pales in comparison to the subsidies given to other much more profitable industries.

  • Kelly

    If you have a dictionary next to that pile of good reviews, look up Sour Grapes.

  • Kilgore Trout

    “Arrogant brush-offs” – try doing business with Amazon.

  • Guest

     Given that in the latest staff blog post on their website one of their sales reps says of the books they promote “From time to time though, I do manage to get through an entire book”, the sales reps don’t exactly come across as being very enthusiastic, or as people who know and love the works they’re trying to market.

  • Guest

     Intensit_now may be oversimplifying LPG’s roles to a single one (advocacy), but that is one of LPG’s stated main roles:

    “Some of the main functions of the LPG are to act as an advocate for its
    members to the various government and funding bodies; provide members
    with a sales force that represents them to the Canadian (and in some
    cases, the US) trade book market; provide access to advertising
    opportunities through the LPG ad project; and create and implement group
    sales and marketing initiatives.”

  • Anna Kate Newman

    The LPG sales reps are extremely hardworking, creative, and dedicated. Your post is so frustrating because it truly shows your lack of knowledge about what the market realities are. Not every book is a bestseller and most authors and publishers understand that it sometimes takes two, three, or four “well-reviewed” books before you get a major buy from a chain or major attention from Amazon. Got to pay your dues.

  • http://www.facebook.com/boshart Nicholas Boshart

    You try reading 200+ titles a year and giving fair representation to them all. I can assure you a more loving of literature group you’ll never meet.

  • http://www.facebook.com/boshart Nicholas Boshart

     And all but the advocacy part has been de-funded.

  • Anonymous

    1) This is not good news. I sympathize with Jack and his team who always do really great work with very limited resources.

    2) As a tax payer I would appreciate a more transparent process for arts funding and would also like to have a part in the process. Is there a place where the public can examine the decision not to fund the LPG? Can we assess the decision and make commentary? Can we provide input to the LPG and the DCH regarding what we feel might be useful changes to the process and to their models? i think that the process from all sides can likely use some new input.3) Chancery, your mangled sentences are the more likely culprit responsible for killing your book. Your criticism reads like Exhibit A in The Case of the Entitled Author Whom Everyone Ignores and Then Has a Really Nice Time Because of it.If, as an author, you are unwilling to support LPG or other advocates for your work and do some hustle on your own to ensure that your voice and your books are recognized and respected by the public then you do not have a shred of credibility with which to point a finger at LPG or anyone else.

  • Anonymous

    1) This is not good news. I sympathize with Jack and his team who always do really great work with very limited resources.

    2) As a tax payer I would appreciate a more transparent process for arts funding and would also like to have a part in the process. Is there a place where the public can examine the decision not to fund the LPG? Can we assess the decision and make commentary? Can we provide input to the LPG and the DCH regarding what we feel might be useful changes to the process and to their models? i think that the process from all sides can likely use some new input.

    3) Chancery, your mangled sentences are the more likely culprit responsible for killing your book. Your criticism reads like Exhibit A in The Case of the Entitled Author Whom Everyone Ignores and Then Has a Really Nice Time Because of it.If, as an author, you are unwilling to support LPG or other advocates for your work and do some hustle on your own to ensure that your voice and your books are recognized and respected by the public then you do not have a shred of credibility with which to point a finger at LPG or anyone else.

  • Scott

    Dear Mr/s “Guest”,

    You kind of quote-mined me there. I wrote that blog post and I stand by it. I had about 200 frontlist titles to get to know and as it was my first year, I also had to acquaint myself with the backlist highlights.  Nicholas B is quite right–Reps have a short amount of time to get to know hundreds of titles. One does what one can. The blog post was meant to express my joy at having been given the opportunity to read so many great books as part of my job. You quoted me out of context in order to dump on me when I’m already down. That was unkind of you. If you want to get to know me and how I feel about the books I’ve been trying to get out into the world, drop me a line. I’m not anonymous and you can get my email address from the website which you are clearly familiar with. 

    Cheers,
    Scott

  • Trevor Battye

    Dear Guest, 

    Here’s a little further context for you. To educate you, about how enthusiastic , sales reps like Scott are. Not onlydo they keep track of the hundreds of titles per year that their publishers produce they also put an extraordinary amount of time and thought into how to market those books.  I know this because I also work in sales for a number of magazines, and not 3 weeks ago, I had a publisher call me, and buy a bunch of ads, for a magazine I hadn’t ever talked to them about. And when I asked what made them think of that particular magazine for that particular book, they said “Well last week at LPG Sales conference, our sales rep mentioned it, and recommended we advertise.”  This little story is just a microcosm of the tireless passion that the LPG sales force has for books, and Canadian publishing. 

  • David

    The LPG is often the first place an author sees print in Canada, so as a result we may have just silenced the next Robertson Davies or Alice Munro.  The amont of money in question here is less than a third of Don Cherry’s annual salary, so it’s hard to frame this in terms of fiscal responsibility.

  • Lisa

    Dear Mr/Ms Chancery:  as the sales rep charged with the responsibility of the amazon.ca account for the LPG, I appreciate your critique of our and my efforts. However, as I am sure you would appreciate as an author, anonymous posts like this help no-one, and having any of our communications described as “an arrogant brush-off” is disheartening and puzzling when you have no idea who is talking to you.   I can’t guess who you might be, but am terribly sorry you were left with this taste in your mouth.  As you will hopefully read in some of the other replies to this post, a book’s presence on amazon.ca is dependent upon so many many things.  As I am still working full steam ahead for another 2 and 1/2 months, I would be happy to work together with you on solving this problem. Please feel free to contact me through the LPG.   I won’t be resting in pieces.  Lisa.

  • http://twitter.com/christineestima Christine Estima

    Conservatives are disgraceful when it comes to the arts community. I’m outraged to hear this! 

  • Jesse

    Sad news. Any advice on the political office(s) to which I should direct my letter(s) of complaint (aside from Moore’s office)?

  • Intensity_now

    Untrue. Patently untrue – there are a many many examples of fine small independent presses that turn a profit and don’t rely on a stitch of government money. Of course they’re all publishing works that aren’t literary fiction – they’re selling commercial or genre fiction. Book publishing is a business – not a culture. Most authors I know write so they can make money – I think your statement that publishing a culture points to the very reason why funding should be cut.

  • Guest

    Name those presses, please.

  • Knowsmore

    1) Name those presses.

    2) LPG is not a press. Funding was not cut to a small press.

    3) I realise you have no idea what LPG actually does (based on statements you’ve made), so I’ll put it in very simple terms: LPG’s greatest benefit to the small presses they represent is that they provide sales and marketing support, which would be costly for the smaller presses to undertake, and would lead them to ask the government for greater subsidies. It makes good business sense for these small presses to use LPG rather than asking the government for more money.

    4) DCH supports publishers through the Canada Book Fund, which actually rewards presses when their books are more commercially successful, and helps stimulate such success. Other granting bodies are more likely to pay for “culture” alone.

  • intensity_now

    Champagne Book Group
    Stripe Publishing
    Lyrical Press
    Samhain Publishing
    Ellora’s Cave Books
    Loose ID
    Baen Books
    Double Dragon Publishing
    Edge Science Fiction & Fantasy
    Crescent Moon Press

    I could go on ….

  • Knowsmore

    You COULD go on, and after a while you might realize that none of the presses you’re listing are Canadian. And you wonder why people conclude that you have no idea what you’re talking about.

    And don’t think that I didn’t notice that you completely ducked everything else in my post. I guess when someone knows what they’re talking about and you don’t, it’s easier to just dodge everything, right? That’s a rule straight out of the internet-troll handbook.

  • intensity_now

    Champagne Books is Canadian. Edge is Canadian. When I stated that there are many fine small presses that don’t receive a stitch of tax money, I didn’t specify Canada, but really, the fact that a small press is Canadian has diddly-squat to do with it.Because it’s a Canadian press does it somehow make the press more deserving of funding? The examples I provided are of small presses with actual distribution in brick and mortar stores as well as online sales and they’ve done it without receiving tax money.

    So as not to be accused of avoiding your other points and therefore be painted as a troll, it seems to me the issue is one of supply and demand – people buy books they want to read. These other presses I mentioned seem to be able to market their books without government help and in many cases they have achieved remarkable sales figures.

    I think these presses who have leaned on LPG might want to examine their business model. Publishing is at a point of transformative change. E-books are fast becoming the norm and while they won’t necessarily wipe out the printed on paper word, any press that doesn’t adapt to a changing marketplace is doomed. In short, it makes good business sense for small presses to examine what the market is buying if they wish to keep their doors open.

  • Knowsmore

    The fact that they’re Canadian presses has EVERYTHING to do with it because the size of the market in Canada is much smaller than in, for example, the US or UK. To ignore that is to completely misunderstand, willingly or otherwise, just what we’re talking about. A press isn’t more deserving because it’s Canadian — it has greater obstacles.

    Looking into Champagne — they’re essentially an ebook publisher, though they sell physical books on a print-on-demand basis (which means they’re not selling gobs of books). Fine and dandy, but that says nothing about whether they’re making any money or not. Anyone can be a publisher of ebooks and P.O.D. with little investment and little sales, and they can last for ages. I’m not going to knock them — but I’d need more information about them to be impressed. However, I read an interview with the owner and it seems the authors do all their own promotion. The only “marketing” the owner takes credit for is setting the price … and the price is very low. It doesn’t sound like a business model to emulate, and it certainly doesn’t sound like what you claim: “marketing their books without government help.” They’re not getting government help with marketing … because they’re not doing any marketing.

    Edge is distributed by Fitzhenry and Whiteside. F&W receives government funding, just as LPG did. That’s actually more along the lines of what we’re talking about, because it’s LPG funding that was pulled.

    Also, ebooks are not becoming “the norm.” They still lag way behind print books sales … though that’s an irrelevant point anyway, since virtually all of the LPG-represented presses publish ebooks, too, and LPG was/is involved in the marketing of ebooks. Small indie publishers ARE adapting to a world with ebooks. Ironically, many are doing so with government-aided programs, in fact. Yay, government.

    So, again, we get to the heart of the problem: you really don’t seem to have an understanding of what the LPG does, and yet you feel free to shoot your mouth off on the internet, suggesting, basically, that everyone should just sell erotica (or another genre).

  • Knowsmore

    On further research, Edge is owned by Hades Publications, which DOES receive government funding. They’re part of the Canada Council Block Grant program. Shame on them, right?

  • intensity_now

    Your linking Edge to a distribution model via Fitzhenry and Whiteside is
    moot also unless you can show what proportion of government funding is
    going toward providing distribution at F&W.

    The fact they are Canadian presses is utterly and completely moot. The marketplace is no longer brick and mortar – it has been transformed by the online book buying experience. Amazon is fueling this in large part and again, I have to point out that commercial fiction outsells literary and the OVERWHELMING majority of small presses in Canada publish literary fiction which, in most cases, sells numbers similar to that of a POD publisher. Why on God’s green earth should taxpayer’s bankroll that?

    At the heart of the matter is that which is being published by the vast majority of Canadian small presses: books that most people don’t read. That’s a terrible business model – most people want to read trashy romance novels (look at 50 Shades of Grey – it’s bloody self-published, distributed by Amazon a TERRIBLY written book and it’s selling in, to use your word, gobs.)

    What I am pointing out is that publishing is a business and the market drives that business. If you don’t understand what your market you will be;

    a) Out of business fast, or;
    b) Requiring government help to sustain your business while claiming that “because it’s Canada and we’re next to the US Canadian publishers don’t stand a chance”

    That is a BS cop-out of the highest order and one we’ve been hearing from the publishing industry in Canada for decades. The future of publishing is online. The distribution model is online. The marketing (and in large part social networking is fueling this) is also online.

    Your understanding of the future of publishing is that of a dinosaur trying to understand math.

  • Knowsmore

    So much of your post looks silly given my follow-up post which establishes that Edge, the lone Canadian publisher on your list that actually sells books in any kind of quantities, receives government funding as part of Hades Publications. And it’s not the nice sales-based funding DCH provides, which I’m sure you’d think more kindly of. No, Edge is part of the Canada Council Block Program which basically gives grants based almost entirely on that darn “artistic merit.” Those thieving fiends!

    Personally, I’m all for grant money going towards literary AND genre presses. I have nothing against genre whatsoever.

  • intensity_now

    Again, you must have missed my point about how being a Canadian publisher is irrelevant. It is a global marketplace thanks to the Internet and that levels the playing field. Canadian small presses should negotiate deals with Amazon and let Amazon handle all of the marketing and distribution on their behalf. Leave the taxpayer out of it. Why should taxpayers bankroll an industry that doesn’t turn a profit? Given that most small presses sell quantities that are miniscule, they too should adopt the POD press model or convert to digital books altogether.

  • Knowsmore

    I didn’t miss your point — I disagree with it and have said as much. I could explain to you why there actually ARE borders, and why distribution into other markets isn’t nearly as free-flowing as you want to believe, but I do have a day job.

    And besides … Let Amazon handle all the marketing? Well, there’s nothing more to be said after someone makes a statement like that. I don’t think you understand the first thing about marketing. Or sales. Or Amazon. But thank you on behalf of myself and anyone else still reading — that gave us all a good belly laugh.

  • The Workhorsery
  • intensity_now

    Why should taxpayers bankroll it? You clearly have no concept at all of how book distribution works in the digital age. Go back to your cave and your pogey cheques.

  • Knowsmore

    Gosh, I guess you’re right, because while I deal with “distribution in the digital age” on a regular basis as part of my job — you know, the real world and stuff — you, apparently, have mastered Google and have used that to learn how easy everything is.

    Thank you for teaching me that all you need to do to market a book is throw it on the internet — because that’s really what you ended up saying. Oh, right, and Amazon will market it for you, because they’re great champions of small presses. This has been a thuper-duper learning experience.

    Now, if you’ll excuse me, I think I’m going to apply for a grant the way some of those genre presses you highlighted as fine examples of “a good business model” do.

  • IsaPoet

    Canada is one of the least civilised countries on the planet when it comes to the arts….

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