A Grand Adventure into Scott McIntyre’s Mind

Today’s blog marks the first guest post under the new regime. Pinch hitting for Cindy and Alex, Tayo Aloh weighs in with his contribution, a feature chat with Scott McIntyre. Tayo’s time to shine starts now.

Upon seeing a poster that announced his lecture as ‘The Grand Adventure of Canadian Publishing,’ I nearly trembled at the thought of meeting publishing industry guru, Scott McIntyre, the Traill College Fellow for 2014. However, when he approached me at his Trend welcoming cocktail, his unassuming and welcoming smile made me question whether or not he was really the famed Canadian publisher that everyone had gathered to honour.

Decorated with the Governor General’s medal, The Queen’s Silver and Diamond Jubilee medals and referred to by journalist, Anna Porter, as the ‘King of the Independent Publishers,’ the man is a publishing celebrity. “Hey, hold on, I am just one lucky guy,” he cautioned as I reeled out his awards. “At least I don’t have a crown for the king part.”

Scott’s publishing journey has been amazing. During our sit-down, he shared glimpses of it with me. “You can’t get the whole story all in one go” he told me. “We would need way more than my two week fellowship to write about everything!”

“I finished school and off I went to Yugoslavia for six months. I didn’t speak the language but was able to survive” he said with a smile. “ I attended a literary event and got invited to work at a publishing firm in the mid-60s.” He saw me frown at his being vague and joked: “I’m not giving my age away.” “That’s ok,” I told him; “I can get it on Google.”

Describing himself and the other pioneers of Canadian publishing as “rebel adventurers,” the only thing that made them take action was the fact that there was nothing like Canadian Literature in existence at that time. “All the students had access to were British literary texts and American literary texts. It didn’t help that all the professors at universities were British and American; naturally, they recommended British and American texts which international publishers were more than happy to supply.”

That was the motivation and voila, Canadian Authored Texts (CAT) was born. Scott joked that the acronym is sometimes compared to the dogs of the literary world. CAT gathered all the creative minds of Canada under one umbrella, and he still counts his relationships with Margaret Atwood and Alice Munro amongst his deep running friendships.

“Anything else you want to know?” Scott asked me. As a writer myself, I wanted Scott’s insight into any possible publishing prospects in an ever changing market. Lucky for me, “authors are the protected species of the trade. People will always write and people will always read. Content is the king of the business and content will always be important. Everything else is window dressing. When it comes to job loss, my fear is for the guys in the middle, particularly, the editors.”

Scott still sees hope in the future of the book business. “Radio did not kill the newspaper, television did not put out the radio, and the advent of the computer did not kill television.” McIntyre envisions the industry coming around and reorganizing to meet the needs of the end user, the reader. “Publishing will always be here in one way or the other. The first book Guttenberg printed was the bible. The second book was on the death of the book and publishing and the book is still here!”

So what are Scott’s parting words for Public Texts graduates? “Be prepared to work in any area of the industry. I have been an editor, salesman, accountant and author. You need to be flexible and versatile and persistent and the door will definitely open.  This is a business of storytelling, and though not commercially successful, it is very rewarding.”

I agree with that. Scott is officially retired now after selling his stakes in the business but he is still an active player in the publishing sphere. He currently sits on the board of 6 organizations and gives lectures across universities in Canada with no intention of slowing down soon. From the entire Public Texts student body, we say “Don’t stop Scott. Keep going!”

Scott’s contemporaries, Simon and Garfunkel, however, would suggest otherwise…

About dontpanictrent

DON'T PANIC: A Trent Graduate Student Blog

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