February 11, 2013

Douglas & McIntyre imprints sold off


Four months after Canadian indie publisher Douglas & McIntyre filed for bankruptcy, the last of its three imprints has sold to its previous owners. The Globe and Mail reported last week that New Society Publishers, which was bought by D&M in 2008, has been reacquired by Chris and Judith Plant and Carol Newell. This comes after announcements that British Columbia-based Heritage House Publishing bought Greystone Books, D&M’s strong nonfiction imprint, and reinstated its original founder and publisher Rob Sanders, and that Harbour Publishing picked up the flagship imprint, Douglas & McIntyre, publishers of Johanna Skibsrud’s Giller Prize-winning The Sentimentalists and environmental activist David Suzuki.

Scott McIntyre (co-founder with Jim Douglas) expressed satisfaction with the results in a Publishers Weekly article:

“The successful conclusion of first the Greystone and now the Douglas & McIntyre asset sales confirms that the quality imprints of D&M are on a solid new path for the future,” said founding partner Scott McIntyre. “I am particularly pleased that both imprints will go forward under new British Columbia ownership with energetic ongoing publishing programs.”

Canadian publishing seems to be breathing a collective sigh of relief over the fact that none of D&M’s assets were acquired by foreign publishing companies: it was feared that HarperCollins in particular, which distributes D&M’s books in Canada (and will continue to do so for the D&M imprint), would buy up part or all of the troubled indie.

The finances remain unsettled: in another Globe and Mail article on the sales, Harbour Publishing co-owner Howard White said “I’m nervous. My heart is kind of in my throat a bit,” and that “he doesn’t know what share of owed royalties he will be able to pay to Douglas & McIntyre authors.”

“That’s the $64,000 question. We’re going to do everything we can for them, but it will have to be worked out through negotiation, on a case-by-case basis.”

New Society, which was the most recent addition to the D&M stable — and remained a semi-autonomous entity during the ownership — is also one of D&M’s creditors: the company is owed $441,641, and the individual owners and investors a further $300,000 plus.

Reading a 2009 interview with Chris and Judith Plant, “From Candlelight to Leading Lights” (pdf link at the bottom of this page), is now especially bittersweet:

We were tired. We wanted our freedom back — including freedom from the anxiety of running a publishing business in a volatile market. So with considerable trepidation, we put New Society up for sale. It was a relief when the final purchaser turned out to be Douglas & McIntyre … It looks like a win-win situation.


Sal Robinson is an editor at Melville House. She's also the co-founder of the Bridge Series, a reading series focused on translation.