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We're on a road to nowhere

Following his participation in Humber College’s first summer publishing workshop, writer Hal Niedzviecki has turned his experiences — he served as one of three judges of the students’ final projects, along with Kim McArthur and Scott Griffin — into a Globe and Mail article lamenting the state of Canadian letters.

“Students were given a budget and asked to come up with a theoretical, yet viable publishing model, including a sample catalogue of titles, the covers of those titles, how the titles will be marketed and publicized, and a detailed budget showing expenditures and predicted income,” writes Niedzviecki. The problem? None of the student groups proposed to publish fiction, and all of them concentrated on books that would do well in the international market.

Niedzviecki argues that this bodes ill for Canadian publishing, which “will fall easily into step with the rest of the multinational corporate publishers who see books as a peripherally profitable sub-genre of entertainment. Books will capitalize on trends — not create them. Clever ideas and excellent packages will dominate, but only occasionally will real depth and substance — what books give us that no other medium offers — emerge. As the giants of CanLit retire, they’ll be replaced by their non-fiction facsimiles.”

Lamenting the state of Canadian publishing and fearing the growing reliance on global-market-friendly books? We’re right there with Niedzviecki. But are publishing-course projects — which are inevitably going to focus on packaged titles rather than author-driven ones (how can you show off your book-biz acuity if your plan is simply to publish great fiction writers?) — really the most ominous harbinger of our doom?

Related links:
Click here for Hal Niedzviecki’s Globe and Mail article