The crisis caused by the coronavirus represents a real coup de Jarnac for the Quebec book and publishing industry. Several houses must revise their calendar, at the risk of postponing the novelties planned for this spring, with all the collateral damage that accompanies this heartbreaking decision.
“It would not do credit to our authors who put so much energy into creating their works. They could not launch or celebrate. There would have been little chance that we were talking about their books, ”mentioned disappointment in the voice, Caroline Fortin, general director and vice-president of Éditions Québec Amérique.
For the moment, Québec Amérique is the only publishing house to have taken this decision in the wake of the COVID-19 crisis. Thirty titles were supposed to be published by the end of May, including the biography of former prime minister Pauline Marois, Beyond Power . A large-scale launch, bringing together some 300 people at the Grande Bibliothèque de Montréal, was to be held on April 8, according to La Presse.
This cavalcade of postponements will certainly have a domino effect on the already busy autumn season, says Ms. Fortin. A traffic jam is expected. “We will have to think about that. No doubt we will have to rearrange our calendar in order to find the best launch times. We are in something exceptional. ”
Sword in the water
At Leméac, it’s also time for upheaval, confirms press secretary Kim LeBlanc. “It’s a lot of reorganization, especially with the cancellation of the Quebec Book Fair.” About fifteen authors from the house were to be present in the capital for the occasion. Now you have to completely erase the slate.
Meetings of authors in bookstores are spent at the mill. Kim LeBlanc thinks of Antonine Maillet, a recluse at home because of her age, or of author Gilles Jobidon, winner of the Prix des cinq continents de la Francophonie for his book Le Tranquille afflégé , which must cancel his European tour.
“When something like this happens, all of the work you’ve done disappears. It’s like a sword stroke in the water. It’s frustrating and so sad, but it’s still beyond our control. ”
For the moment, three works are to be launched this spring at Leméac, including that of Marc Séguin, but no decision has yet been made as to the outcome.
The general manager of Maison La Peuplade in Saguenay, Simon-Philippe Turcot, said that only one title was scheduled to be released in April and that it will be postponed. “As we are very active on the European market, we are already seeing the effects of the containment measures, obviously, with all the French bookstores closed,” he said, adding that having felt “so far a slight drop in sales of books ”in Quebec.
Impact in a year
Antoine Tanguay, the founder and president of the Alto house, based in Quebec, does not hide the fact that the crisis will have a “real impact” on turnover. He puts forward the figure of $ 20,000 to $ 25,000 as financial loss.
For now, the spring calendar at Alto is not upset since only one title was expected for the month of May. But it is rather the continuation which worries the entrepreneur. “Since the grants from Canadian Heritage are based on the height of sales, that may affect us in a year. Less sales, less profits, less subsidies. ”
In the meantime, Mr. Tanguay makes a good heart of bad luck. So he made the decision, in a humanitarian and non-mercantile gesture, he specifies, to pay $ 2 for each book sold during the month of March to the World Health Organization.
“Viola remains strong enough to spend the year, there is no panic. I tend to be very resilient since I entered the profession 15 years ago … ”
In the meantime
“There are many projects on hiatus,” explains Gilles Herman of Éditions Septentrion, a house specializing in historical books. Here as elsewhere, teleworking has been introduced for employees. “We have to reassure them. The authors are worried about their royalties. ” Closing a few bookstores, current or future, will do nothing to help the industry, he notes.
“The titles on the schedule, we don’t have them printed, we are waiting to see what will happen in the coming weeks. We are very much waiting. It remains a fragile industry. I look at what is happening in France and it is a disaster. We hope this is not what awaits us. ”
In 2018, sales of new books by retailers, publishers and distributors in Quebec represented sales of $ 613.8 million.