From Small Publishing House to Multinational

My first job was with Tundra Books. By first job, I mean first job that didn’t involve serving people food, cleaning pools, delivering something or counting the hours until the shift was done. I was just out of university and I applied to some publishing houses in Montreal and Tundra called and I got the job. Five people worked there, including an 80 year old accountant. The company was owned by May Cutler who was a legend in children’s publishing. She had also just been elected mayor of Westmount, a suburb of Montreal, and so wasn’t in the office much. Meaning I learned a lot on the job and quickly. Tundra published four or five books a year, in English and French (at first). Its motto was “children’s books as works of art” and Tundra’s list was certainly an amazing collection of classics, including Roch Carrier’s The Hockey Sweater (you can watch the movie here). Within a year, I had “found” my first artist/author, I was editing books, and within two years, I was designing our promotional materials, including catalogues, attending book fairs, negotiating deals. Soon, I was even designing some of the books I was editing. Tundra was an amazing school in every sense. Five years later, May had had enough and she sold the company to McClelland & Stewart – and the company moved to Toronto and with that, my career in book publishing came to a close. And today comes word that M&S has been sold completely to Random House of Canada. So that small company has gone from a labor of love (May had started it because no one wanted to publish her YA novel) to the “Canadian children’s division” of a German-based multinational. May died less than a year ago. I’m not sure how she would have felt about this. Though I’m pretty sure that she would never have sold the company had she known it would have ended up in the hands of a giant publisher. But that’s my opinion.

The big irony would be Random House, or one of its myriad divisions, picking up my novel. And I mean irony in an Alanis kind of way. Not real irony. No one does real irony anymore…

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