other book stuff

For D&M Publishers

Small sample of D&M books

This morning I read the devastating news about D&M Publishers (Douglas & McIntrye and Greystone imprints) filing a notice of intention under the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act. You can read the article here. For forty years, this company has been making Canada proud by publishing quality CanLit, and I am truly saddened.

Lately, too, we’ve been inundated by the upsetting news of more beloved bookshops closing. While I abhor the “books and publishing are dead” lament, it’s difficult not to be overcome by a sense of panic sometimes. I know we are not buying as many books as we used to; like many, though, I continue to buy more books than I can keep up with and promote the hell out of authors and their books in general. And as much as I see the way things are changing and how necessary it is to adjust in light of that, I can’t jump on the bandwagon. I accept it but I’m not excited about digitizing everything, for one thing. I love my print books not just for their stories but for their designs and make; I appreciate the amount of work that goes into publishing a book. And Douglas & McIntyre and Greystone make really gorgeous books, lovely clean and distinctive design; they’re among my favourites on my shelves.

While the news is that they’re going to continue publishing while restructuring, I can’t help but feel more sad than relieved. I mean, this is good news, that they’re planning to carry on operations, but that one of Canada’s quintessential publishers is in this state distresses me (as I’ve felt with the news of other publishers suffering and going under).

After I read the article, I looked at my beautifully stocked bookshelves, I thought about my passion and livelihood as a copyeditor and proofreader, I thought about how my whole life has always revolved around books. I thought about all the book-loving employees over the years who’ve been let go from bookshops and publishers. I could feel myself on the edge of despair.

So I did what I normally do when this comes on (besides escaping into a book): I took Lucy for a walk. I have a gorgeous park nearby that I like to call my own (I’ll share but I don’t like to when I’m there), and I walk its perimeter and concentrate on breathing deeply, letting my mind empty so I take in only my surroundings: the creek, the clouds, the trees moved by gusts of wind every which way so that they remind me of ents talking. It’s a sort of meditation I like to do, and I get so into it, I often don’t even know how many times I’ve gone round by the time I finish. Lucy runs joyously. The trees are majestic and border the entire park. On one side, the maples are tall and bright as though lit by sunlight, even though today it’s raining, and the trail is thickly carpeted with fallen leaves so vividly coloured I marvel. This place is my sanctuary, and it was here that I composed this poem. It’s nothing great, but the sentiment is true.


i went to the park today

as I usually do

i did my five rounds

and watched the dog run free

i told the trees about the

state of publishing

they shivered in the October breeze

with the chill of my news

and cried vermilion tears

till they were bare

and could cry no more.


Dear D&M, I’m rooting for you. You are beautiful, you are smart, you are important. Canada loves you.


  1. Steph Author

    I want to update here: Buffy Cram, author of Radio Belly and who works at D&M, wrote this on Facebook. I thought it was well spoken:

    “Today is a sad day for Canadian publishing, yes, but it’s a sadder day for Canadian readers. D&M, one of Canada’s last independent publishers, one of the last publishers to take chances on unknown writers who are pushing the boundaries of CanLit, has gone the way of so many publishing houses before it and filed for bankruptcy. Why? Because instead of going to a book store and spending $20 on a book that is written by a new author (or, for that matter, a top prize-winning author) readers will go to their local library, place a hold, and wait in virtual line for seven months to read said book. In those same seven months, they will go on to spend well over fifty times as much on Starbucks pumpkin flavoured dairy drinks, or acrylic nails, or designer crackers, or scented candles. Why? Because as a society we seem to value sticky-sweet, stale, weirdly-scented crap over books, over ideas, over the written word.

    If Canadian readers (me included) want good, homegrown books by brave and bold authors, if we want a literary world that isn’t dominated by imported soft porn (50 Shades…) and vampire teen-trash (Twilight blah, blah) then buying books is a necessity. Every time we spend a dollar, we are helping to design our world. Do we want quality Canadian literature or not? Do we want to have our own cultural identity, a literature that reflects our values and personality as a nation, or are we content to have book stores filled with vampire kiddie porn? This loss is on all of us. And make no mistake, it is a devastating loss.”

  2. Charlotte

    Well put, Buffy! I’m reminded of an article I read yesterday about a NYT director who suggested that one of journalism’s saviors might be specialists from other fields who are simply “taught” journalism. It was yet another case, IMO, of the rampant de-valuing of writing in particular and the liberal arts in general. EVERYONE can write, right? Why should we pay someone else to do it? To an increasingly text-based society, writing feels like breathing, not a specialist skill. Not something worth money, not valuable.

    Because one can’t make one’s own scented candles, but one can put finger to keyboard. I think they’re wrong, of course. There is a skill, a talent, or an insight to novel writing that not everyone has. But tell that to the masses.

  3. Steph Author

    Yes! I think they’re wrong, too, and that’s a big issue I take with much of the self-publishing movement.

    At the risk of sounding utterly snobbish, as a bookseller and a library worker, I’ve found it hard to accept what the masses want. I also can’t quite understand it. In the end, I’ve said, well, as long as they’re reading and buying…

    But watching indies and quality publishers go under, I begin to change my mind. It matters, at least to those who read literary publications, what people read and buy. That’s the shame of it. It’s not we who determine the success, it’s not we, to whom the publishers are catering, who can make a difference, since we already help. It’s those who don’t care. So then are we truly doomed?

    1. Marie

      In response to the second paragraph: I hate to say I told you so. I was the one who argued fiercely that it did matter what people were reading, remember? Glad you’ve come around to my way of thinking, but sorry my arguments were so weak and poorly framed that they didn’t sway you at the time. I obviously have some work to do in that department.

      In response to the third paragraph: you say you already help, but of course it doesn’t help to be allying yourself with Kobo who promote the two things that this post rails against: the digitization of “everything” and promotion of self-publishing authors. Those are two big reasons publishers are in the situation they are. People who simply don’t buy books or who buy the “wrong” books are not doing anything nearly as harmful as actively participating in a venture that may be part of the wave that will kill many more publishers to come.

  4. Chris

    I find Buffy’s remarks a bit too much. I understand the reason she’s upset and I agree with a lot of what she says about the current state of popular literature these days. But I really disagree with her complaints about library customers. I currently have 6 books on my bedside table. Two I purchased new, one was bought at a used bookstore and three are from the library. I don’t think I’m alone. Literate people read. I often go to the library when I come up short in my search at a bookstore. Is that wrong? And this reader also likes to crack open a book while drinking a nice frothy latte and occasionally it’s at Starbucks. I’m the problem? By the way, not all is gloom and doom. We’ve just recently discovered a new used bookstore close to home. Opening a bookstore today would seem to be a gutsy move. All is not lost.

    1. Marie Clausén

      Yes, lashing out at libraries and their patrons seems to me like the poor kid beating up the even poorer one. There are many reasons people visit and make use of public institutions like libraries and not all of them have to do with a predilection for acrylic nails and scented candles. Some library patrons are simply too poor to indulge in any of those; most of the people you see in a library are not members of the leisured classes. Others live close to a library but far away from any bookshops, others yet live close to excellent libraries but far from even adequate bookshops. And for the aged and little children who have little money to spare from their retirement cheques or no money beyond what will buy them a gumball on the weekend, libraries is where they go for information and entertainment. Others engage in literary pursuits that would make it virtually impossible to satisfy through local bookshops. I frequently consult folio-sized works of reference in obscure philosophical and architectural domains, books I could never afford to buy, nor fit onto my bookshelves at home, nor justify owning for the few peeks one needs. My almost 80-year-old mother has an undiminished thirst for books, but at her time of life no more room for tucking away new volumes at home. As I said, the reasons for being a library patron are manifold.
      The enforced library closures suffered in the UK are shocking and are tearing at the very fabric of what we have come to consider civil society. As much as I lament the closing of publishing houses and bookshops, I find the closure of libraries an even lower blow. After all, one could argue that bookshops and publishers are, in a capitalist system, at least allowed a shot at profit and hence survival; whereas libraries are in the unenviable position of depending entirely on the flagging goodwill of local and regional government.


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