With competition for bookstore shelf space as fierce as ever and the Inspire Book Fair gone for good, publishers are looking for new ways to reach potential readers. Simon & Schuster Canada, for example, is taking the show on the road to promote a sports memoir by Tie Domi, billed as “hockey’s most prolific fighter.”
The tour for former NHL enforcer Domi’s Shift Work, cowritten by sports reporter Jim Lang, will take the form of a portable museum in an expandable double-trailer truck, aka the “Domi-mobile.” The truck will travel with the athlete in November to about 15 Canadian cities, including a stop at the Air Canada Centre hockey arena—home of the Toronto Maple Leafs—plus a detour down to New York City. The portable museum will be filled with memorabilia and videos from Domi’s life.
Toronto’s Dundurn Press is reaching readers by selling e-books directly through its own website using BitLit technology. “It just makes it a bit of an easier experience for our users, so they can buy e-books and print books all in the same place in a secure atmosphere,” says Sarah Beaudin, Dundurn’s webmaster and marketing designer. “It also gives us an opportunity to do things like offer special promotions.” Dundurn’s titles will still be sold through third-party vendors such as Kobo, Amazon, and iTunes, but this new option allows it to keep readers on its website.
Meanwhile, ECW Press is getting into the audiobook production business in response to feedback from librarians that Canadian audiobook titles are sorely underrepresented in their catalogues. “We’re going to work collectively with other publishers, we’re going to create them ourselves, and we’re going to distribute them ourselves,” president and publisher Jack David says. ECW has worked out an agreement with the performers’ organization ACTRA to provide voice actors, and in 2016 hopes to come out with a list of 100 audiobook titles across a variety of Canadian publishers. David says the books will be available through Audible.com and libraries, among other places.
President and publisher Kristin Cochrane says one of Penguin Random House Canada’s new marketing campaigns involves a speaker series called Hazlitt Presents, which focuses on in-the-headlines subjects. “Over the course of the winter, as the Ebola crisis was getting front-page news, we started talking about the fact that we publish many writers who are doctors, who have been in Médecins Sans Frontières, who’ve been to South Sudan, who’ve been through Africa, who are very much on the front lines of something like the Ebola crisis,” Cochrane says. One Sunday in February, the publisher attracted a sold-out crowd for a discussion called “The Borderless Plague: A Conversation About Ebola and Its Global Ramifications,” featuring two authors at the Toronto Reference Library. “We were able to bring public education to this really important issue,” Cochrane says. And the plan is to do it again on October 26 with “From Within,” in which journalists and PRH Canada authors Gwynne Dyer and Farzana Hassan will discuss “the realities of radicalization in the West,” according to the event’s description.
Second Story Press is combining technology with print books to give readers a more immersive experience. For the nonfiction book Witness: Passing the Torch of Holocaust Memory to New Generations—created in partnership with the organization March of the Living—the publisher has used Digimarc technology and placed invisible watermarks on the pages of the book, allowing readers who download an app to scan the page and bring up videos and information about the people they’re reading about.
Kids Can Press’s new marketing initiative is meant to be “an antidote to the pink aisle”—where girls’ toys go by default in toy stores—and empower young readers. This year, their new Girls Can campaign curates a collection of titles that feature strong female characters, from Lana Button’s Willow Finds a Way to Elizabeth Suneby’s Razia’s Ray of Hope. Kids Can is also building a website to host teachers’ guides developed specifically for these books. “People say they don’t want pink things, but they do want products that speak to girls,” says marketing director Naseem Hrab.