Publishing Perspectives Staff Report
‘Direct Support to Canadian-Owned Publishers’Today (November 15), the Ottawa-based organization Livres Canada Books (LCB) turns 50 years old and is reflecting on half a century of its work supporting the export of Canadian books to other countries and languages.
Livres Canada Books is best-known internationally for organizing Canadian collective stands at international book fairs, hosting export seminars on global book markets, and publishing catalogues of Canadian titles for rights sales and direct export.
Nationally, deputy executive director Gabrielle Etcheverry says, “we provide direct support to Canadian-owned publishers through export expertise and professional development activities, the collective marketing of Canadian books and publishing abroad, and through networking and information sharing with national and international partners.”
Founded in 1972 as the Association for the Export of Canadian Books, the organization expanded in the 1980s, according to Etcheverry, and began administering marketing support funding “on behalf of the Department of Canadian Heritage via the Canada Book Fund.”
Ahead of this 50th anniversary, Publishing Perspectives spoke with Etcheverry about Livres Canada Books’ past, present, and plans for the future.
Publishing Perspectives: Looking back, what are some of LCB’s biggest contributions to Canadian publishing?
Gabrielle Etcheverry: Canada’s domestic market for books is relatively small, so book exports are key to the overall health of Canadian book sales. I would say that Livres Canada Books’ founding publishers were very forward-thinking to look beyond Canada’s borders for book sales growth, and as such, the association made a significant contribution to the country’s publishing landscape.
As the only national organization with a mandate to support English-language and French-language Canadian-owned publishers in their export activities, one of our biggest contributions on the national scale is to bring both official language industries together on common goals and projects. This experience in working across both languages was invaluable in our guest of honor initiatives at the Havana International Book Fair in 2017 and at Frankfurt Book Fair in 2020 and 2021. It’s a relationship we value greatly and do not take for granted.
Canadian publishers are savvy and are very good at managing their own rights sales and international contacts, but we are very proud of the work we do behind the scenes with our national and international partners to amplify the work Canadian publishers do in international markets.
Publishing Perspectives: Livres Canada Books was one of the core organizations involved in the Guest of Honor Canada appearance at Frankfurt Book Fair. Despite the pandemic disruptions, how do you think this program went, and are your members seeing long-term impacts from the project?
Gabrielle Etcheverry: The Canada Council for the Arts’ German translation program helped produce a large volume of translations into German ahead of 2020—150 German publishers bought rights to Canadian titles and 400 Canadian titles were published in Germany between 2019 and 2021, resulting in a 70-percent increase in Canadian books in the German market since Canada was invited to be guest of honor.
Other direct opportunities are, of course, closer ties to the German market and the entry into other European markets via this all-important market.
It has been especially difficult to continue tracking rights sales and translations during the pandemic since our primary mechanism for doing so—reporting by publishers who receive assistance from our Foreign Rights Marketing Assistance Program and sales at international fairs—has been hampered by all the fair cancellations. We are starting to get a better picture now, but we won’t really know more until we’ve had at least a full year of returning to in-person fairs.
We had terrible luck in that our guest of honor year was during the worst period of the pandemic. Nevertheless, the industry rose to the occasion. The industry should be proud of what it accomplished, and I think our international partners recognize the exceptional efforts made during our Frankfurt guest of honor years.
Canadian publishers returned to Frankfurt in greater numbers this year both on the Canada stand and the Québec stand for the first time since the start of the pandemic. It’s still too soon to know the full impact of this year’s presence at Frankfurt, but publishers had full schedules and successful meetings. There is a greater knowledge of and interest in Canadian books among international rights agents and publishers, and this has also helped us to make stronger connections with other European markets and guest-of-honor countries.
Publishing Perspectives: Livres Canada Books now has a wide-ranging portfolio of activities and projects, at home and abroad. What are some of the most important annual activities that your members rely on?
Gabrielle Etcheverry: The most significant activity in terms of helping publishers with their annual export plans is our Foreign Rights Marketing Assistance Program (FRMAP), which provides cost-shared funding for sales trips and participation in international book fairs and trade events.
Publishers also rely on our collective marketing initiatives, including our collective stands at various international book fairs and catalogues showcasing foreign rights and academic and scholarly works on the study of Canada.
We also provide export market intelligence through trade missions, webinars, a mentoring-coaching program, and other research activities throughout the year, which many experienced and emerging exporter publishers rely on to make new contacts and inroads in new markets.
Publishing Perspectives: Canadian publishing has led the call for diversity and inclusion in publishing for many years. What activities are on your agenda in this area?
Gabrielle Etcheverry: Livres Canada Books has been mindful of diversity in our governance structure for many years now by ensuring that our board of directors reflects the diversity of the industry in terms of gender, geography (Canada is a very large and regionally diverse country), generation, and genre.
But there is still a lot of work to do in terms of diversity and inclusion in our own organization and in the Canadian industry more generally, and we believe that being more inclusive is an ever-evolving process that we will continuously work on with all our stakeholders.
We have recently been working on two major axes of diversity and inclusion: improving accessibility within LCB and increasing funding support for Indigenous publishers.
In 2020, Livres Canada Books and the Fondazione LIA in Italy produced a webinar and corresponding report on the European Accessibility Act to help Canadian publishers prepare to meet the requirements set out in this legislation. We hope to work with them and other industry partners again to help Canadian publishers better understand and integrate accessibility standards across their work.
We redesigned the Livres Canada Books site in 2021 to ensure compliance with the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 AA standard. We will also soon be working with an external accessibility certification provider to ensure that our own publications are accessible to readers with a wide range of print disabilities.
On the other axis of diversity and inclusion, Livres Canada Books is increasing our funding support for Indigenous publishers in Canada. Our board of directors recently gave us the green light to update our eligibility criteria to deliberately include Indigenous-owned publishing companies and make our funding support through FRMAP and the Mentoring-Funding Program more accessible to Indigenous publishers.
We are at a very initial stage in this process but are hoping that this is a first step Livres Canada Books can take toward greater inclusion and diversity at a national level.
Publishing Perspectives: Are there any projects on your 2023 calendar that you’d particularly like to highlight?
Etcheverry: We have many new plans for the next few years, but one in particular is especially exciting and almost ready to be out in the world—our new visual identity.
We began developing this new visual identity in late 2020 when we revamped our Rights Canada catalogue and our site ahead of our Frankfurt Book Fair guest of honor year(s). Although we love our current logo and branding, the move to a mostly online presence during the pandemic really highlighted the need for greater flexibility and accessibility from our logo and wordmark.
The graphic element of our new identity is made up of 13 shapes resembling open books representing Canada’s 10 provinces and 3 territories. As an organization that aims to serve all Canadian publishers, this visual serves as a subtle yet direct unifying message.
We are very excited to see this new identity in action. The new logo and branding were “revealed” at our 50th anniversary celebration in Montréal as well as at our well-attended networking reception in Frankfurt last month. We received great feedback from our community at both events.
More from Publishing Perspectives on Livres Canada Books is here, more on the Canadian market is here, more on international translation rights is here, more on international book exports is here, and more on Frankfurter Buchmesse is here.