A Half Century at Dundurn Press

At Dundurn Press, we celebrate: it’s been 50 years since we started publishing books. Although so much has changed during this time, people’s love for a great book remains constant – and that simple fact has inspired us more than ever.

Founded in 1972 by publisher Kirk Howard, Dundurn originally focused on Canadian history, then transformed and expanded over the years to encompass a much wider selection of trade and non-fiction novels. , with particular strengths in mystery, biography and history. By 2010 Dundurn was publishing over 100 books a year. In 2019 Howard retired and sold the business. The new owners, a group of technology entrepreneurs, have appointed publisher Kwame Scott Fraser.

Fraser oversaw a change in the approach to acquisitions, including reducing the number of books to allow greater editorial, design and marketing focus on each title, and modernizing the branding of the book. company with a new logo.

Our new logo, a series of interlocking arched openings, references the longstanding colophon of a castle facade. (Dundurn Castle, naturally, is a neoclassical mansion completed in 1835 in Hamilton, Ontario.) While a castle could be seen as a symbol of authority and exclusivity, the new logo also represents an open door, a welcoming place for authors and a reflection of the reader’s sense of discovery when choosing a book. As the mission statement states, “Our books will provide a portal to a place yet unknown to the reader, where new voices and stories will be discovered. We invite readers and writers into our diverse cultural and literary community. »

Since Fraser’s arrival, Dundurn has weathered the pandemic, earned her first Giller shortlist for The son of the house by Cheluchi Onyemelukwe-Onuobia, opened the Dundurn Press bookstore and launched the Rare Machines literary imprint. Fraser remains a proponent of forward thinking and stays ahead of the publishing curve.

“We’ve accomplished so much, but I’m determined to keep Dundurn Press moving forward,” says Fraser. “While our mainstay is books for commerce, we have so much to offer in the world of audio, including using podcasts and audio sharing to help spark interest in books and reading, not to mention the potential for specialist publishing.”

We began celebrating our 50th anniversary last June at Toronto’s outdoor book and magazine festival, Word on the Street. It meant a lot to staff and authors to reconnect with readers in person after two years of entirely virtual events. Our booth was busier than ever, with staff spinning our prize wheel and hand selling discount books while our authors signed copies and enjoyed the chance to connect with readers in real life.

Last August, we participated for the first time in the Fan Expo, the biggest pop cultural celebration in Canada. At the event, we hosted a series of literary panels highlighting science fiction written by women (including Christina Kilbourne, author of The unlimited sky, and KS Covert, author of Children’s zoos); dark and dangerous early titles (like Sifton Tracey Anipare Yume and Sumaiya Matin’s The shaytan bride); and True Crime in Toronto (with Slava Pastuk, author of bad trips; Nate Hendley, author of The Beatles Bandit; and Lorna Poplak, author of The gift). The third event has since been developed into a series of podcasts, Average streets of Toronto, produced by the Canadian company TalkShoe. Recognizing that the next great book could come from anyone, we used our Fan Expo profile to launch the Dundurn Press/Fan Expo New Voices Writing Award, which will see aspiring Canadian authors win a book deal with Dundurn .

Dundurn’s “Summer of Book Love” also continues into the fall on our social media, with our authors writing short love letters about their favorite Dundurn books and an upcoming series of author mementos on the press.

To top it off, we celebrated our 50th birthday in early September! People from the industry, authors and friends of the press mixed together on a wonderful, warm evening under the Toronto night sky. It was a party that none of us will forget, especially since the atmosphere was inflated by the news of André Forget In the city of pigs, from our Rare Machines imprint, having made Giller’s long list!

“The 50th anniversary marketing team’s efforts have been nothing short of stellar,” says Fraser. “They generated excitement around our milestone, encouraging so many people to spread the love for the book. They found ways to elevate titles that had struggled to find their audience due to the release dates of the pandemic and came up with innovative ways to amplify our top list, especially with the creative use of audio. Ultimately, the reach of TalkShoe’s innovative approach to audio combined with our direct connection to a community as large as that of Fan Expo Canada creates incredible opportunities for organic growth and sales.

Fifty years of publishing have passed in a flash. What began as Howard’s vision to bring our shared history to readers has expanded, developed and transformed as Canadian culture and the publishing industry have changed and modernized. While we may experiment with new technologies and seek out untapped audiences, we will not forget our love for the printed word, whether in the form of literary fiction, true crime or local history. We look forward to another half century of publishing books by top authors who enlighten and entertain and spread our love for them as much as possible.

Kathryn Lane is associate editor at Dundurn Press.

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A version of this article originally appeared in the 09/26/2022 issue of Weekly editors under the title: Summer of Book Love


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