At a certain level this is a false argument. Had the Giller Prize marketing types thought ahead, they could have informed Gaspereau Press well ahead of time and the books could have been available and thus the clash between hand-bound cottage industry publishing and the frenzy of capitalism could have been muted. (I seem to recall that this was the way the Canada Council handled the Governor-General’s Award when I won; my publisher had plenty of books ready when the prize was announced.)
The other thing to remember is that winning a prize like this is next thing to an economic disaster for medium and small publishing houses. They have to print more books at a huge expense and send them off to distributors and bookstores that don’t have to pay the publisher for the books for at a minimum 90 days (usually more). If the books don’t sell, they come back to the publisher who still has to pay for them.
The Giller Prize has often been criticized for not considering small press books (the book pool for the Giller is much smaller than the book pool for the Governor-General’s Award). The paranoid side of my brain thinks: this could be a setup meant to discredit small presses in general and drive a wedge between them and their authors (as has happened in this case).
But there’s method in their madness, the guys want people to know. It has to do with vaunting culture over profit, of matching the greatness of the word with the greatness of the page it’s printed on — a concept probably few Canadians have considered when buying a book.
Sitting in his print shop in this Annapolis Valley town 100 kilometres northwest of Halifax, Steeves is sensitive to the criticism.
But if there’s one character trait in which the Gaspereau co-founder isn’t lacking, it’s conviction. He may look a bit bookish, nerdy even in his dust-tinged glasses. But wiry frame and penchant for plaid flannel belie a village lumberjack.
He frequently cites American writer Henry David Thoreau, who famously documented his simple life at the cabin he built on Walden Pond in Massachusetts.