Linda Leith Publishing works in English most of the time. I have to be specific about that: LLP is a Montreal press, and most Montreal presses work entirely in French.
We’re part of a minority, in other words—Quebec’s English-speaking minority, and most of us Anglos live and work in Montreal, one of the most culturally rich and complicated cities in the world. But being a minority Montreal press means several very different things, all at once.
It means being in the thick of the dynamic Anglo literary community. It means contributing to that community by publishing Montreal writers, some of whom become national stars (such as Peter Kirby, whose Open Season won the Arthur Ellis Award for best crime novel) and some of whom are recognized internationally, as when Xue Yiwei (Shenzheners, Dr. Bethune’s Children) was profiled in the New York Times. It means publishing writers from across Canada, too—English-language writers, mostly, but francophones from outside of Quebec as well.
There are some negatives, like not being part of the Toronto publishing scene, which is where so much of the industry is based. Not knowing the literary journalists and producers. Not being able to attend the launches and parties. Not sitting on the boards of literary organizations there. Not having an opportunity to create the kind of trust that comes from working for a common cause. Not being at the center of things.
It’s tough, being a Canadian publisher these days, even if you are within easy reach of Toronto. It’s tougher if you’re a publisher located some distance away. And it’s a whole lot tougher being a minority-language publisher.
I know the good things that can come of being part of a scene—except that the scene I’m part of is in Montreal. There just aren’t the same kinds of influencers here.
Publishing organizations do their best to give me a chance to meet some of those Toronto influencers, and I’ll sometimes get slotted in for a 15-minute meeting with a Toronto journalist at an annual general meeting. I’m glad of these opportunities, but the meetings are hurried, they don’t take place often, and they’re rarely with individuals I’ve met before. So, I start from scratch, explaining who we are—and I always look like a supplicant.
Being a minority press here also means being on the edge of Montreal’s thriving francophone scene, which is increasingly interested in what we Anglos are doing. This seldom translates into book sales, but it can mean selling rights to a francophone publisher. It can also provide an opportunity to publish books in French as well as English, as LLP has chosen to do.
Linda Leith is an author and the founder of Linda Leith Publishing.