Letter to BCAC- August 1, 2014

BC Arts Council
P.O. Box 9819 Stn Prov Govt
Victoria B.C.
V8V 9W3
 
August 1, 2014
 
Dear Gillian Wood, Sheryl Jones, Sarah Durno, 
 
I am writing in response to the BC Arts Council's Publishing Jury’s decision this spring, 2nd year in a row, to deny Mother Tongue Publishing’s entrance into the Block Publishing Program, after publishing 20 high quality regional and award cited literary and arts titles since 2008.
 
Since at least 2003, (the furthest back I could find on-line reports) there have been no emerging BC publishers admitted into the Block Publishing program of the BC Arts Council. This is deeply concerning. If Title Assistance, with its small grants, is the only measure of support an emerging publisher can expect, then it becomes a vehicle that obstructs growth and stymies sustainability. If emerging publishers are by default blocked indefinitely from entering the Block program, then the council is falsely offering support in the guise of its mandate. This needs to be addressed.
 
Judging by the BC Arts Council Jury's comments on Mother Tongue’s application, I do not believe that sufficient due diligence was done in respect to my application. Here are some specific concerns I have about their comments:

1. The Jury questioned the selling of reprint rights for 
Everything Was Good-bye by Gurjinder Basran to Penguin Canada. This question reveals a lack of knowledge about distribution and promotion by small literary presses, especially regional presses, and assumes I did not retain royalty rights. This is incorrect. Selling reprint rights to Penguin Canada was one of the best business decisions I have made and we benefit annually. This event happened several years ago and has never been questioned in any previous grant applications. It was odd to be remarked upon this year.

2.   The BC Arts Council’s mandate of support for quality of publishing, contribution to Canadian literature and professional excellence is evident in our program. When the Jury expressed concerns 'about the viability of the business' despite saying I have 'high standards for editorial, design and production,' this becomes a contradiction in terms. Translating a successful cultural vision into a bottom line  ‘business’ venture is very difficult in these times and without support from the Block Programs of both the CC and the BC Arts Council. To deny us entrance into Block Funding in effect gives us little chance of viability. Viability depends on stable arts funding.
 
We submitted virtually the same grant application to the BC Arts Council as to the Canada Council Publishing Jury. While the BC Arts Council Jury decided to keep us in Title Assistance with a small grant, we were successful in moving into the Canada Council Block Program and were judged by a peer assessment committee comprised exclusively of publishers. They remarked on 'the evidence of careful financial planning and strong marketing' (contrary to the BCAC Jury) and 'expressed particular enthusiasm for the contribution made through the Unheralded Artists of BC series' and our professional excellence.
 
For my records, and in the spirit of the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act, I am requesting the list of juror’s who participated this year in the Publishing Program. You released the names to me last year. I hope this will be the last year I am held back in Title Assistance.
 
 
Sincerely,
Mona Fertig
Publisher
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