Earlier this week, Q&Q reported that Trena White, publisher at D&M Publishers, has been named the inaugural Canadian editorial fellow for the I.V. Programme, the annual networking event that runs alongside Toronto’s International Festival of Authors. It turns out that White, who is based in Vancouver, will have to dust off her passport as well, as she has also been named the sole Canadian fellow at this year’s Frankfurt Book Fair.
The latter fellowship runs from Sept. 30 to Oct. 14 and will see White visiting publishing houses in Frankfurt, Cologne, and Berlin, before attending the international book fair. In a press release, White says of her dual appointments: “It’s a great honour to be granted these opportunities. D&M Publishers has built lasting connections with international publishing contacts over the years, and it’s vital that our next generation of leaders continue in this tradition. The fellowships will allow us to do just that.”
White was promoted to publisher of D&M last March as part of a series of executive-level changes. Before joining the firm in 2010, the B.C. native spent six years as an editor at McClelland & Stewart.
In the March issue of Q&Q, we asked Trena about her editorial vision and D&M’s future:
In general, do you think the non-fiction being published has changed over the last decade? This is definitely the era of celebrity memoirs and bios. The bestseller list is largely populated by books about or by celebrities, and I don’t know if that was the case 10 years ago. I think there’s been something of a shift, where it seems as though people have been looking for slightly lighter fare in the last couple of years. After 9/11 people were looking for meaty, weighty non-fiction analyzing current events, but now it seems like people want to be more entertained. I’m thinking of books like Neil Pasricha’s The Book of Awesome (Penguin). Maybe there’s a bit of fatigue over books about international affairs.
What do you look for in a manuscript? I love narrative non-fiction, so I love a good story. I want to be entertained as much as I want to be informed. Every editor and publisher talks about discovering a strong voice, somebody whose writing makes you sit up and pay attention, whose writing is original and fresh, and shows a deep talent. I like books that have a social conscience, and that’s a way my values align nicely with Douglas & McIntyre’s. Historically, it’s been a humanistic list: a lot of books about social issues, politics, and current affairs.
How is D&M preparing for the future? These are such challenging times for book publishers: no one knows where things are going, and everything’s in flux. I think there are specific challenges for mid-sized publishers like D&M, because we’re competing nationally against the big corporations that can pay healthy advances, and we don’t have the economies of scale. But I think we’re doing a lot right now to put us in a good place for the future, like focusing on international distribution arrangements; getting our art and architecture books distributed in Europe through Prestel Verlag, for example.
How is working for a Vancouver publisher different than a Toronto-based company? I’m from B.C., so for me, coming to D&M was coming home. It’s different in that there’s a very strong writing and publishing community in Vancouver, and we’re the biggest player in that scene. We get a lot more proposals and manuscripts through referrals, and through relationships various people in the company have with writers and other contacts. We’re tapped into the community in a very significant way, and that’s fantastic.
Are there downsides to being headquartered on the West Coast? I do worry that we’re under the radar of agents and authors in Toronto, though half, if not more, of our authors are based in central or Eastern Canada, and we have a small marketing office in Toronto. I also sometimes worry about the perception that we’re not a big player because we’re not based in Toronto. We don’t see ourselves as a regional publisher “ we’re a national publisher competing on a national level.