OMDC SUCCESS STORY: BIBLIOASIS
Dan Wells never intended to be a publisher. He considers it his “accidental occupation.” Needing a break from school, he purchased a bulk lot of antique books at an auction and open a bookstore in Windsor, Ontario. He expected that the venture would fail and that he would return to academia for a PhD. Seventeen years later, he now runs a successful literary press... and he still hasn't gotten that PhD.
Soon after opening the bookstore, Wells became involved in a local literary festival and began making contacts in the Canadian publishing community. A chance meeting and conversation led to Wells partnering with an editor on a chapbook series. Suddenly, he was a publisher.
It was a steep learning curve. Wells quickly realized that people wouldn't buy good books just because he published them; he had to market them, too. Finding the right balance between editing and marketing, and getting worthy books attention on a small budget, has been a daily challenge. Wells prides himself on choosing books for their quality, not their potential market value, and Biblioasis will never decide not to publish a book they like just because it won't sell a certain number of copies. To stay afloat, however, Biblioasis publishes some popular titles that will sell – hockey books, cookbooks, and works of local history. Funding from OMDC's Book Fund has enabled Biblioasis to experiment not just with its literary lists, but with its marketing efforts – helping to build the company's reputation and undertake effective direct-marketing to bookstores.
Windsor might not be an obvious choice for a publishing house, but Wells considers it a secret weapon. The development of modern communications technologies mean that a publishing house doesn't necessarily have to be at the centre of things to make a meaningful contribution. Easy access to US markets also helps with marketing and sales, and the US market now represents 25% to 45% of the company's sales. (OMDC's Export Fund has allowed Wells to attend sales conferences, trade shows, and book fairs to cultivate this market share.) Being headquartered in Windsor also keeps costs lower, meaning Biblioasis can take chances on projects the company believes in.
One of those projects is a reprint series, Reset Books, that Biblioasis is launching the fall of 2014. Wells believes we're forgetting our literary heritage by letting great works go out of print. He's also expanding the press’s translation series to include more French Canadian and non-official language Canadian writers. Diversity and an adventurous spirit remain two of Biblioasis' greatest strengths.
“Our main considerations when we decide to publish a book of poetry or fiction are how much we like it and the quality of the writing. As a smaller company, we enjoy a tremendous amount of freedom that the bigger publishing houses don't. That gives us an edge.”
—Dan Wells, Publisher and Editor, Biblioasis
Learn more about Biblioasis: