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Alternative markets: why publishers are turning to zine fairs to woo new readers

Canzine, the country’s largest festival dedicated to zines and independent culture, happens this Sunday in Toronto (the Vancouver edition is scheduled for Nov. 17). Following the success of last year’s event, writer Jason Spencer spoke to several independent publishers about the importance of zine fairs to building readership. This article appeared in the Jan./Feb. issue of Q&Q.

(Photo: Jackie Spencer)

Last October, publisher Beth Follett decided to try a new method of connecting with readers: she signed up her company, Pedlar Press, as a vendor at Canzine Toronto, a daylong celebration of indie culture presented by Broken Pencil magazine. Not knowing what to expect, Follett carefully arranged a selection of Pedlar titles on her display table just inside the front doors of the 918 Bathurst Centre, including ReLit Award winners Sweet by Dani Couture and Blood Relatives by Craig Francis Power. As hundreds of misfits, hipsters, and readers began crossing the threshold, she realized she had come to the right place.

“It’s very difficult these days to find an audience and reach new customers,” says Follett, who understands the need to build new alliances as more independent bookstores close down. “It’s very important for me to be here and not in some ivory tower, where only a slice of the populace knows about Canadian literature.”

With nearly 200 vendors, 2010’s Canzine was one of the biggest in its 15-year-plus history. Likewise, thousands of people showed up at Montreal’s Expozine, a two-day event held in November that celebrated its 10th anniversary in 2011. “What does this mean for small presses? It’s a motivation to keep publishing,” says organizer Louis Rastelli. He adds that attending alternative gatherings can be eye-opening for people in the established book industry. “If the industry doesn’t get involved in what the new generation is doing, similar to the music [business], they [will] have some catching up to do.”

ChiZine’s Brett Savory (Photo: Jackie Spencer)

For some small presses, zine fairs perform a similar function to book launches. “You can do direct sales, so it’s a little cash boost, especially around the holidays when the [printer’s] bills are coming in,” says Nic Boshart, co-publisher of Invisible Publishing, which has had a presence at recent gatherings in Toronto, Halifax, and Montreal. But for many, such events are not so much about sales as they are about building relationships with new readers. Brett Savory, co-publisher of ChiZine Publications, says he attended Canzine Toronto in the hopes of accumulating social-media followers and promoting the press’s monthly Chiaroscuro reading series. Boshart adds that zine fairs are a good place to scout talent and network with presses one wouldn’t otherwise meet.

Not only do zine fairs bring scores of cultural artifacts to the public, they also provide a venue for interesting side events. In an effort to trump the previous year’s Puppet Slam, Canzine organized the Typewriter Orchestra Room, a cacophonous installation featuring a dozen poets attempting to channel Shakespeare. Canzine also hosted more conventional readings from authors such as Jonah Campbell, who read from his essay collection Food and Trembling (Invisible), and Expozine welcomed author Jonathan Goldstein, host of CBC Radio’s WireTap.

Such inventive programming can be an opportunity for authors who don’t fit in elsewhere. “If you can’t get a reading, make your own show,” says first-time Canzine Toronto vendor and seasoned attendee Liz Worth, author of Treat Me Like Dirt: An Oral History of Punk in Toronto and Beyond (Bongo Beat/ECW Press) and the poetry collection Amphetamine Heart (Guernica Editions). “You really have to get creative and you have to push really hard.”

Invisible’s Nic Boshart (Photo: Jackie Spencer)

Still, publishers who want to succeed at zine fairs need to adapt in order to stand out. Given the number of exhibitors at Expo­zine  – more than 270 – Rastelli recommends that publishers avoid selling titles at list price. “A lot of customers would like a bit of everything instead of spending all their money at one table, so we encourage people to have inexpensive books,” he says. “Even a publisher of perfect-bound books can produce a small zine worth $2, and at least if someone doesn’t buy a $20 book, they can go home with a sampler.” For her part, Follett, who plans to attend Canzine Toronto again in 2012, says she doesn’t advertise prices, in order to encourage discussion with interested readers.

Follett suggests potential vendors should think twice before dismissing zine fairs as lowbrow. “[T]here is a lot of ignorance, some of it willful, about who is producing art in Canada,” she says. “This is the ground where seeds are being planted for future excellence.”

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New Innisfree library serves rural Alberta population of 220

Innisfree, Alberta, has opened its first permanent public library. The 220 residents of the rural village now have access to free DVDs, CDs, e-readers, books (about 2,600 books have been catalogued so far, with another 1,000 on the way, the Vermilion Standard reports), and literacy programs.

The Innisfree Public Library, which occupies 1,400-square feet of the village’s community centre, has been in the works for the past four years, since the village became part of the Northern Lights Library System. In the year preceding its July 4th opening, the library board and volunteers had generated community interest by running the village’s first-ever youth summer reading program, hosting the Alberta Prairie Classroom on Wheels bus, and organizing a book swap and donation drive.

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BookNet bestsellers: Canadian fiction

Lawrence Hill takes three spots on this week’s list for Canadian fiction.

For the two weeks ending July 8, 2012:

1. The Cat’s Table, Michael Ondaatje
(Vintage Canada, $22 pa, 9780307401427)

2. Room, Emma Donoghue
(HarperCollins Canada, $10.99 mm, 9781443413695)

3. Secret Daughter, Shilpi Somaya Gowda
(HarperCollins Canada, $10.99 mm, 9780062203960)

4. The Virgin Cure, Ami McKay
(Vintage Canada, $22 pa, 9780676979572)

5. The Wild Zone, Joy Fielding
(Seal Books/Random House Canada, $10.99 mm, 9781400025794)

6. Half-Blood Blues, Esi Edugyan
(Thomas Allen Publishers, $24.95 pa, 9780887627415)

7. The Witch of Babylon, D.J. McIntosh
(Penguin Canada, $13.50 mm, 9780143175735)

8. A Good Man, Guy Vanderhaeghe
(M&S, $22 pa, 9780771086083)

9. The Sisters Brothers, Patrick deWitt
(House of Anansi Press, $22.95 pa, 9781770890329)

10. A Trick of the Light, Louise Penny
(St. Martin’s Press/Raincoast, $16.99 pa, 9781250007346)

11. The Headmaster’s Wager, Vincent Lam
(Doubleday Canada, $32.95 cl, 9780385661454)

12. The Book of Negroes, Lawrence Hill
(HarperCollins Canada, $10.99 mm, 9781443408981)

13. Spell Bound, Kelley Armstrong
(Vintage Canada, $17.95 pa, 9780307359032)

14. Secret Daughter, Shilpi Somaya Gowda
(HarperCollins Canada, $19.99 pa, 9780061974304)

15. Life of Pi, Yann Martel
(Vintage Canada, $21 pa, 9780676973778)

16. The Winter Palace, Eva Stachniak
(Doubleday Canada, $24.95 pa, 9780385666565)

17. Ru, Kim Thúy; Sheila Fischman, trans.
(Random House Canada, $25 cl, 9780307359704)

18. Any Known Blood, Lawrence Hill
(HarperCollins Canada, $17.99 pa, 9781443409100)

19. The Book of Negroes, Lawrence Hill
(HarperCollins Canada, $17.99 pa, 9781443409094)

20. Everybody Has Everything, Katrina Onstad
(M&S, $22.99 pa, 9780771068980)

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Frye Festival throws 100th birthday bash for Northrop Frye

Frye Festival

As Northrop Frye’s 100th birthday is recognized across Canada this week, the Frye Festival is commemorating its namesake by hosting a community event in honour of the literary critic. The free event takes place on July 13 at the Moncton Public Library.

The celebration will feature the unveiling of a life-sized bronze sculpture of Frye, depicted sitting on a park bench with an open book in his lap. The event will also include a barbecue and birthday cake, live music, and a reading by local poet Serge Patrice Thibodeau, whose poem, to be read in French, was originally published in a special edition of the University of Toronto Quarterly dedicated to Frye.

“There isn’t much public art in Moncton so we thought this would be a great way to enhance the downtown area while celebrating Frye’s legacy,” says Danielle Leblanc, the festival’s executive director.

Designed by local artists Darren Byers and Fred Harrison, in collaboration with Janet Fotheringham, the sculpture was funded through the Department of Canadian Heritage, private donors, and local fundraisers. CBC reports that officials at the University of Toronto have expressed interest in having a copy created for its campus, where Frye taught.

Along with the unveiling of the sculpture comes the announcement that leading Frye scholar Dr. Robert D. Denham has donated his personal collection of Frye memorabilia to the library. Appraised at $40,000, the donation includes signed editions of Frye’s works, plus paintings and caricatures, audio-visual materials, and Frye’s writing desk, chair, and typewriter.

The donation will be housed in the library’s Heritage Room, though some pieces will be displayed in its lobby for viewing at the party.

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BookNet bestsellers: Canadian fiction

Tanis Rideout makes her debut on this week’s list with her first novel, Above All Things.

For the two weeks ending June 24, 2012:

1. The Cat’s Table, Michael Ondaatje
(Vintage Canada, $22 pa, 9780307401427)

2. Secret Daughter, Shilpi Somaya Gowda
(HarperCollins Canada, $10.99 mm, 9780062203960)

3. A Good Man, Guy Vanderhaeghe
(McClelland & Stewart, $22 pa, 9780771086083)

4. The Witch of Babylon, D.J. McIntosh
(Penguin Canada, $13.50 mm, 9780143175735)

5. The Headmaster’s Wager, Vincent Lam
(Doubleday Canada, $32.95 cl, 9780385661454)

6. The Sisters Brothers, Patrick deWitt
(House of Anansi Press, $22.95 pa, 9781770890329)

7. Room, Emma Donoghue
(HarperCollins Canada, $10.99 mm, 9781443413695)

8. Room, Emma Donoghue
(HarperCollins Canada, $19.99 pa, 9781554688326)

9. Secret Daughter, Shilpi Somaya Gowda
(William Morrow/Harper, $19.99 pa, 9780061974304)

10. Why Men Lie, Linden MacIntyre
(Random House Canada, $32 cl, 9780307360861)

11. Alone in the Classroom, Elizabeth Hay
(M&S, $22 pa, 9780771037979)

12. The Last Crossing, Guy Vanderhaeghe
(M&S, $22 pa, 9780771087844)

13. Never Knowing, Chevy Stevens
(St. Martin’s Press/Raincoast, $16.99 pa, 9781250009319)

14. The Book of Negroes, Lawrence Hill
(HarperCollins Canada, $10.99 mm, 9781443408981)

15. The Book of Negroes, Lawrence Hill
(HarperCollins Canada, $17.99 pa, 9781443409094)

16. The Winter Palace, Eva Stachniak
(Doubleday Canada, $24.95 pa, 9780385666565)

17. Half-Blood Blues, Esi Edugyan
(Thomas Allen Publishers, $24.95 pa, 9780887627415)

18. Anne of Green Gables, L.M. Montgomery
(Seal Books/Doubleday Canada, $5.99 mm, 9780770422059)

19. Spell Bound, Kelley Armstrong
(Vintage Canada, $17.95 pa, 9780307359032)

20. Above All Things, Tanis Rideout
(M&S, $29.99 cl, 9780771076350)

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Bestsellers list: poetry

From Tupac Shakur to Don McKay, this week’s bestsellers list honours National Poetry Month. For the two weeks ending March 25:

1. The Iliad, Homer; Stephen Mitchell, trans.
(Simon & Schuster Canada, $35 cl, 9781439163375)

2. Rain; road; an open boat, Roo Borson
(McClelland & Stewart, $18.99 pa, 9780771012983)

3. Paradoxides, Don McKay
(M&S, $18.99 pa, 9780771055096)

4. The Poetry of Pablo Neruda, Pablo Neruda; Ilan Stavans, ed.
(Farrar, Straus & Giroux/D&M Publishers, $21.95 pa, 9780374529604)

5. Assiniboia, Tim Lilburn
(M&S, $18.99 pa, 9780771050084)

6. Whiteout, George Murray
(ECW Press, $18.95 pa, 9781770410879)

7. The Iliad, Homer; Robert Fagles, trans.
(Penguin, $18.50 pa, 9780140275360)

8. A Wild Peculiar Joy: The Selected Poems, Irving Layton
(M&S, $24.99 pa, 97807710494840)

9. Sailing Alone Around the Room: New and Selected Poems, Billy Collins
(Random House, $21 pa, 9780375755194)

10. The Rose That Grew from Concrete, Tupac Shakur
(MTV Books/Simon & Schuster, $18.99 pa, 9780671028459)

11. The Divine Comedy, Dante Alighieri; John Ciardi, trans.,
(Penguin, $25 pa, 9780451208637)

12. Book of Longing, Leonard Cohen
(M&S, $21 pa, 9780771022296)

13. The Pleasures of the Damned, 1951–1993, Charles Bukowski
(HarperCollins, $19.99 pa, 9780061228445)

14. Joy is So Exhausting, Susan Holbrook
(Coach House Books, $16.95 pa, 9781552452226)

15. Beowulf, Seamus Heaney, trans.
(W.W. Norton/Penguin, $16.50 pa, 9780393320978)

16. The Odyssey, Homer; Robert Fagles, trans.
(Penguin, $19.50 pa, 9780140268867)

17. 101 Famous Poems, Roy Cook, ed.
(McGraw-Hill Ryerson, $15.95 cl, 9780071419307)

18. Puffin Mother Goose Nursery Rhymes, Raymond Briggs
(Penguin, $12 bb, 9780141337739)

19. The Divine Comedy, Dante Alighieri; Allen Mandelbaum, trans.
(Everyman’s Library/Random House, $32 cl, 9780679433132)

20. Metamorphoses, Ovid; Charles Martin, trans.
(W.W. Norton, $21 pa, 9780393326420)

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Book links roundup: Toronto Public Library reopens, Ernest Hemingway letters unveiled, and more

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D&Q dominates Doug Wright Award nominations

Montreal comics publisher Drawn & Quarterly has secured five out of six nominations for the 2012 Doug Wright Award for Best Book, with veteran D&Q artists Joe Ollman, Chester Brown, and Seth competing against popular newcomers Pascal Girard and Kate Beaton.

Founded in 2004, the annual awards were established as a “means of recognizing and promoting Canadian comics and comic creators.” The winners will be announced on May 5 at the Art Gallery of Ontario, in conjunction with the Toronto Comic Arts Festival.

Doug Wright Award for Best Book:

Doug Wright Spotlight Award (recognizing talent deserving of wider recognition):

  • Emily Carroll, “The Seven Windows” (from The Anthology Project vol. 2), “Margot’s Room,” “The Prince & the Sea,” and other comics at emcarroll.com/comic
  • Patrick Kyle, Black Mass #5–6
  • Betty Liang for Wet T-Shirt #1, “It’s Only a Secret if You Don’t Tell Anyone” (from š! #9), “Anna Freud’s Recurring Dream,” and other comics at bettyliang.tumblr.com
  • Ethan Rilly, Pope Hats #2 (AdHouse Books)
  • Zach Worton, The Klondike (D&Q)

Pigskin Peters Award (recognizing the best in avant-garde or experimental comics):

  • Hermoddities, Temple Bates (Conundrum Press)
  • Pure Pajamas, Marc Bell (D&Q)
  • Hellberta, Michael Comeau (Koyama Press)
  • “Untitled” by Mum Pittsburg, Jupiter Leucetius! Send Us a King. We Are So Bored, and other comics at connorwillumsen.com, Connor Willumsen

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BookNet bestsellers: Canadian fiction

Perennial favourites mix with new titles in this week’s bestsellers list, covering Canadian fiction. For the two weeks ending March 18, 2012:

1. Flash and Bones, Kathy Reichs
(Pocket/Simon & Schuster, $17 pa, 9781451675290)

2. The Sisters Brothers, Patrick deWitt
(House of Anansi Press, $22.95 pa, 9781770890329)

3. The Winter Palace, Eva Stachniak
(Doubleday Canada, $24.95 pa, 9780385666565)

4. Half-Blood Blues, Esi Edugyan
(Thomas Allen Publishers, $24.95 pa, 9780887627415)

5. Now You See Her, Joy Fielding
(Anchor Canada, $19.95 pa, 9780385676762)

6. Web of Angels, Lilian Nattel
(Knopf Canada, $22 pa, 9780307402097)

7. Still Life, Louise Penny
(Little, Brown and Company/Hachette, $10.99 mm, 9780351322303)

8. Room, Emma Donoghue
(HarperCollins Canada, $19.99 pa, 9781554688326)

9. Secret Daughter, Shilpi Somaya Gowda
(HarperCollins Canada, $19.99 pa, 9780061974304)

10. The Book of Negroes, Lawrence Hill
(HarperCollins Canada, $10.99 mm, 9781443408981)

11. The Midwife of Venice, Roberta Rich
(Anchor Canada, $22.95 pa, 9780385668279)

12. Bury Your Dead, Louise Penny
(Little, Brown/Hachette, $10.99 mm, 9780751547504)

13. Water for Elephants, Sara Gruen
(HarperCollins Canada, $16.50 pa, 9780006391555)

14. Tiger Hills, Sarita Mandanna
(Penguin Canada, $18 pa, 9780143174714)

15. The Bishop’s Man, Linden MacIntyre
(Random House Canada, $22 pa, 9780307357076)

16. The Cat’s Table, Michael Ondaatje
(McClelland & Stewart, $32 cl, 9780771068645)

17. Anne of Green Gables, L.M. Montgomery
(Doubleday Canada, $5.99 mm, 9780770422059)

18. Ru, Kim Thúy; Sheila Fischman, trans.
(Random House Canada, $25 cl, 9780307359704)

19. The Virgin Cure, Ami McKay
(Knopf Canada, $32 cl, 9780676979565)

20. Bride of New France, Suzanne Desrochers
(Penguin Canada, $16 pa, 9780143173397)

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BookNet bestsellers: Canadian children’s books

Just in time for March Break, this week’s bestsellers list, which looks at Canadian children’s books, illustrates that readers will love Robert Munsch forever.

For the two weeks ending March 4:

1. Love You Forever, Robert Munsch; Sheila McGraw, illus.
(Firefly Books, $5.95 pa, 9781443107648)

2. We Share Everything! Robert Munsch; Michael Martchenko, illus.
(Scholastic Canada, $9.99 bb, 9781443113441)

3. It’s My Room! Robert Munsch; Michael Martchenko, illus.
(Scholastic Canada, $7.99 pa, 9781443113656)

4. Up, Up, Down, Robert Munsch; Michael Martchenko, illus.
(Scholastic Canada, $9.99 bb, 9781443113465)

5. The Paper Bag Princess, Robert Munsch; Michael Martchenko, illus.
(Annick Press, $6.95 pa, 9780920236161)

6. Love You Forever, Robert Munsch; Sheila McGraw, illus.
(Firefly Books, $14.95 cl, 9780920668368)

7. The Gathering, Kelly Armstrong
(Doubleday Canada, $14.95 pa, 9780385668538)

8. Neil Flambé and the Marco Polo Murders, Kevin Sylvester
(Simon & Schuster, $14.99 cl, 9781442446045)

9. Blood Red Road No.1, Moira Young
(Doubleday Canada, $12.95 pa, 9780385671859)

10. Moose! Robert Munsch; Michael Martchenko, illus.
(Scholastic Canada, $7.99 pa, 9781443107181)

11. Thomas’ Snowsuit, Robert Munsch; Michael Martchenko, illus.
(Annick Press, $1.99 pa, 9781554511150)

12. 
I Have to Go! Robert Munsch; Michael Martchenko, illus.
(Annick Press, $1.99 pa, 9780920303511)

13. Sing a Song of Mother Goose, Barbara Reid
(Scholastic Canada, $9.99 bb, 9780545997249)

14.Half Brother, Kenneth Oppel
(HarperCollins Canada, $12.99 pa, 9781554686117)

15. The Paper Bag Princess, Robert Munsch; Michael Martchenko, illus.
(Annick Press, $1.99 pa, 9780920236253)

16.Nighty-Night: A Bedtime Song for Babies, Richard Van Camp
(McKellar & Martin Publishing, $8.95 bb, 9780986576744)

17.I See Me, Margaret Manuel
(Theytus Books, $6.95 cl, 9781894778855)

18. Give Me Back My Dad!, Robert Munsch; Michael Martchenko, illus.
(Scholastic Canada, $7.99 pa, 9781443107648)

19. Smelly Socks, Robert Munsch; Michael Martchenko, illus.
(Scholastic Canada, $7.99 pa, 9780439967075)

20. Zoe’s Year, Barbara Reid
(Scholastic Canada, $9.99 bb, 9781443113724)

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