KJIPUKTUK (Halifax) – Fernwood Publishing, my favourite progressive book publisher, headquartered in Nova Scotia, is working hard to continue publishing while supporting the larger ecosystem of publishing — authors, booksellers, etc. Blame COVID-19. It’s hard to run a book publishing business without physical book launches, with less money in people’s pockets and with so many bookstores closed for business.
Fernwood’s focus these days is on sales through its website and through bookstores like Halifax’s Bookmark, another favourite of mine, that offer curbside pickup and delivery. But sales are down, and times have changed.
In all this Fernwood is of course far from unique. This is a malaise that affects the entire publishing industry. Fernwood’s response, and that of progressive publishers elsewhere, is different though. They joined an alliance. And readers get to benefit.
“The Radical Publishers Alliance was born from the idea that we’re all going to be affected by this, and what can we do to support each other and be in solidarity rather than compete,” says Fazeela Jiwa, an acquisitions and development editor at Fernwood.
One of the outcomes of that cooperation is a shared website, where publishers such as Fernwood, Verso Books, Haymarket Books, Between the Lines, O/R Books, and many more, feature their titles and all the discounts that apply.
The new cooperative model also includes book-related on line events. And not just a few…
The first initiative of the Radical Publishers Alliance is #RadicalMay, an online radical book fair featuring panel discussions, talks, and teach-ins with authors from 50 radical publishers from the US, UK, Canada, France, Spain, Catalonia, Basque Country, Italy, Germany, Argentina, and Indonesia. Check out the upcoming events here.
For instance, on May 5 Fernwood will sponsor a panel about environmental transformation in times of crisis. It features Fernwood authors Pam Palmater, Jen Gobby and David Camfield.
“Pam will talk about Indigenous land defense and how the pandemic is affecting that. Jen tackles practicing solidarity as an environmental activist with indigenous land defenders, based on research for her new book that’s coming out in a few months. And David Camfield will talk about the possibility of a green new deal in Canada,” says Jiwa.
“I think that that’s only going to be the first of it. Because why not continue this,” Jiwa says.
“One of the things that the pandemic has really hit home for us is that as book publishers with a common goal we need to practice solidarity with one another so much longer than just for the duration of the pandemic.”
See also: Anne Bishop about writing Under the Bridge: ‘There is this idea out there that you can’t write fiction about social justice issues’
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