On September 16, the Scotiabank Giller Prize, in its 20th year, released the longlist for this year’s prize. Jurors Esi Edugyan, Jonathan Lethem, and Margaret Atwood selected 13 titles from a field of 147. Among the authors on the list: Clare Messud, Joseph Boyden, Lynn Coady, Lisa Moore, Dennis Bock, and Michael Winter. (For the full list, visit www.scotiabank.com/gillerprize.)
Looking back 20 years and reflecting on the success of the Scotiabank Giller Prize, I am mindful of the many finger prints that created this literary prize,” its founder Jack Rabinovitch wrote to PW. “Foremost was my late friend Mordecai Richler, who also served as a juror for the first two years. Mordecai convinced David Staines to join the founding group and David in turn convinced Alice Munro. However, the real founder was my late wife Doris Giller, an outstanding literary journalist, well-known for her audacious (read: in your face) manner and forthright honesty. She set the standard and Canadian fiction writers did the rest.” Rabinovitch created the award in Giller’s honor the year after she died of cancer.
The prize quickly gained prestige and the awards gala became a glamorous televised event attended not only by the literary and publishing community but also by celebrities from Canada’s arts and media world.
In 2005, Scotiabank became a partner, and the prize increased from C$25,000 to C$50,000. In 2008, $5,000 awards to the four other finalists increased the total purse to $70,000.
CBC’s live national broadcast in 2012 was watched by 347,000 people. This year, the live presentation will again be on CBC, on November 5.
The prize’s cachet also grew as the spikes in sales of shortlisted and winning books were tracked. It became known in the publishing industry as “the Giller effect.” According to figures from BookNet Canada, the average jump in sales after a Giller win is 543%. Last year’s spike for Will Ferguson’s novel 419, published by Penguin Canada, was 497% up from the week before the shortlist was announced to the week after, and then 803% from the week before it was announced as the winner to the next.
The biggest spike ever, which BookNet does not include in the average because it skews it too much, was when Joanna Skibsrud’s novel The Sentimentalists won in 2010. Published by the small artisanal Gaspereau Press in Nova Scotia, it spiked by 450% after it was announced as the winner and the available books quickly sold out. Once the books became available a couple weeks later, it spiked again: 4906% from one week to the next.
Those figures have to be satisfying to Rabinovitch, who always encourages those at the gala to buy the shortlisted books. “For the price of a dinner out in this town, you can have all five books,” he quips. “We owe the growth of the prize these last 20 years to the remarkably talented writers working in Canada today,” he said.
University of Toronto Press has developed a comprehensive e-publishing system that can take a scholarly book through its whole lifespan, from the author’s raw manuscript all the way to its digital distribution.
John Yates, president, publisher, and CEO at University of Toronto Press, says the press developed its P-Shift system over three years to serve its own publishing needs, but it is now also being used by client publishers, including the University Press of Colorado and Purdue University Press.
The first part of the P-Shift system can take a raw manuscript and convert it into a high quality XML file, a “data neutral” format, which is easily converted into other formats. “Today, it’s ePub2, but five years from now it could be ePub15 or something entirely new,” says Yates.
Along the way, he says, the P-Shift system can also save publishers copy-editing costs, by automatically doing tasks such as cleaning up the Word document, checking URLs and references within the manuscript with the bibliography. It can also reduce a publisher’s typesetting costs, says Yates, explaining that UTP sent out a file to about 20 typesetters in Canada, the U.S., and the U.K. The cost of typesetting a Word document was about $4–$6 per page, but the cost for P-Shift’s XML files was $2.75 a page. Another benefit of the system is that the ePub files and the print editions can be produced at the same time, so that publishers don’t need to separately prepare files for post-production conversion.
P-Shift also includes a digital asset management system that gives publishers the ability to archive and protect their files; it also makes it easy for non-technical people to send books to distributors such as Kobo.
Yates adds that there is much interest in the system from scholarly presses in North America and that he thinks it will build to become an important revenue source for UTP. “We’re continually working at enhancing it and making sure that we are adopting leading technology,” he says.