Beth Bruder Retires from a Lucky Life in Publishing

Beth Bruder Retires from a Lucky Life in Publishing

Posted on February 23 by Beth Bruder
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Lucky — a word that genuinely expresses how I feel about my life in publishing.

Publishing is reading, or more accurately the love of reading. When you speak to anyone in this business they express their love of reading — something quite different from their love of the day-to-day business of producing a book. Most of us really don’t care what we read, as long as it transports us to another world. It could be magical fiction, true crime, a wonderful history, or whatever else you want.

I am often asked how I choose a book to publish. I don’t do it alone and there is no single or simple answer, but at the heart of publishing is a writer that has a story to tell. A story that touches your heart or inspires curiosity to learn something new. That single idea, or gem of a story that the author is passionate about, lies at the heart of everything. It is what has driven the author to write and what makes it all worthwhile.

So many stories and authors have touched my heart in unexpected ways and have made publishing a rich landscape of knowledge and emotion. I remain devoted to many of my acquisitions. One comes to mind: It Made You Think of Home: The Haunting Journal of Deward Barnes, CEF: 1916-1919. This is the story of a Canadian boy from Toronto who witnessed many of the major battles of WWI and dared to keep a personal diary and write home about them. The title was from a phrase he used when it had been a particularly bad day on the battlefield “it made you think of home.”

Everyone who works with books has a favourite story about a special book they have worked on that was a memorable experience. Books become interwoven with the act of creating the book so we live the story about the story. A very personal experience shared with our publishing colleagues.

Books also reflect personal events in the lives of those of us who work in publishing. The books become a marker for personal and family tragedies, or great celebrations. You don’t leave publishing behind when you leave the office. The love of books and the act of publishing is an all-encompassing way of life creating new worlds and enriching our lives with stories and images.

My publishing career has been enriched by the truly wonderful people I have worked with over the years. People who taught me new terms and a whole new business and introduced me to publishing people around the world.

However, it was not until I crossed over from working at the multinational publishing companies in Canada to the Canadian-owned publishing sector that I really understood the draw and passion of the publishing life.

I remember meeting Kirk Howard, president and publisher of Dundurn Press, for the first time. I had never heard of Dundurn and didn’t know what it meant to be a Canadian-owned publisher. I was doing contract work, and someone wanted me to meet him. The first meeting, I thought he was a bit quiet — until we started to talk about ebooks. Then we were on the same page and talking about the possibilities to grow this business. Indeed, although it took a few years, he inspired our now robust and ongoing ebook programme.

At Dundurn, I went from helping with sales and everything else to slowly immersing myself (sometimes it felt like drowning) in this new world. I discovered there were many people in Canadian publishing who were passionate advocates for Canadian authors telling Canadian stories. In truth, they have created a unique model to ensure that Canadian companies are a strong voice in the Canadian publishing world.

I didn’t always understand Canadian publishing, but it was always interesting and full of curious authors, publishers, and wonderful stories. In the early days with Kirk at Dundurn, when there were just a few young staff, he would tell stories of his challenging early days of establishing the company.

The books that I have helped to publish have given me so much satisfaction in my career, but there is another aspect of Canadian publishing that has made my career truly a delight: the inspiring and dedicated staff I have worked with over the years. Fun, crazy, full of strong opinions, and passionate about the books they are working on, they are the reason I have enjoyed (almost) every day at work. I know that the publishers, editors, marketing and sales people whom I have worked with will keep Canadian publishing strong in the future.

Finally, none of my work for the past thirty years would have been possible without the authors I have met and worked with along the way. Passionate about their work, dedicated to selling and promoting their books, they all did an amazing job of writing stories that have helped define Canada. I wish them all well and look forward to reading more of their stories in the years to come.