Saturday, November 13, 2010

Giller Prize Fiasco

On Tuesday night, the 2010 Scotiabank Giller Prize was announced: Johanna Skibsrud had won for her first novel, The Sentimentalists. The prize is worth $50,000 to the author, and thousands more in increased sales as readers get their hands on the biggest Canadian book of the year. However, there is a problem:

"Only 800 copies of The Sentimentalists were originally printed by small publishing house Gaspereau Press in the first run. The book's inclusion among the Giller Prize finalists forced the small five-person operation to print about 1,000 copies a week in an attempt to keep up with demand. A Giller win usually leads to an explosion in sales, so the small press may face a struggle in the weeks ahead."

This “struggle” has turned into a fight for the books. The demand for the book is closer to 1000 a day across the country, and the small press is now saying that they may not ship to large companies like Indigo Books & Music. Indigo, however, has thousands of books on order with no guarantee that they’ll receive the books by Christmas, if at all:

On Wednesday, Gaspereau said that despite the Giller win and a flood of requests for The Sentimentalists, it was sticking to its policy of making its books locally with no outsourcing. But on Thursday, Gaspereau co-owner Gary Dunfield said he and fellow publisher Andrew Steeves were considering several ways to produce the book more quickly.
Let’s hope for the author’s sake that they find that solution soon. Everyone loves small presses, but if it is not willing (or able) to accommodate the demand, what good is it doing the author? Ms. Skibsrud is an instant celebrity and every reader in the country wants to read her prize-winning novel. So what is Gaspereau Press doing? Shouldn’t the author be the first priority? “Getting the story out to thousands of curious readers is ‘certainly one of the priorities,’ Dunfield said. ‘Is it the main priority? What's the main priority? I don't know.’” I hope that future authors consider this statement when Gaspereau Press seeks to publish its next title.


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