Douglas Gibson Books was the very first editorial imprint in Canada when it was established in March 1986. Legend has it that Jack McClelland, having just sold his company to Avie Bennett, advised him to lure Doug Gibson away from Macmillan of Canada, where he had been Editorial Director since 1974 and Publisher since 1979. By offering Gibson an editorial imprint, plus the independence to run what was in effect a one-man publishing house with no bureaucratic strings attached, Bennett was able to entice him to join McClelland & Stewart.
The hope was that some of the authors who had worked with Gibson over the years would choose to join him in this small “boutique” publishing operation, where he took on only 5-10 books per year and devoted himself to hands-on editing, choosing the jacket and all other details, and supervising the book through the publishing process.
The plan worked brilliantly. The authors who chose to follow Gibson from Macmillan were led by Alice Munro (The Progress of Love in 1986 was the very first Douglas Gibson Book.) Soon the parade of authors included W.O. Mitchell, Robertson Davies, Jack Hodgins, Donald Jack, Mavis Gallant and so many others that Macmillan in a few years folded its fiction publishing programme. The addition of authors such as these to M&S’s own already strong fiction list made for a very formidable group of fiction writers.
In non-fiction the list soon included John Sawatsky, Andy Russell, Barry Broadfoot, Myrna Kostash and Harold Horwood, among many others. Notable among the new additions was Don Starkell, author of the classic Paddle to the Amazon, while over time James Houston (Memoirs of an Igloo Dweller, and other titles) and Peter Gzowski (The Private Voice, and other titles) asked to join the imprint, in order to work directly with their friend.
In September 1988, when Adrienne Clarkson left M&S, Avie Bennett persuaded Gibson to take over as Publisher of all McClelland & Stewart books. The wide-ranging new responsibilities meant that Douglas Gibson Books turned into a side-line. As a result Gibson devoted evening and weekend work to three or four books a year, largely because the current Douglas Gibson Books authors expected and wanted the relationship to continue.
Despite this cut-back in numbers, Douglas Gibson Books has over the years amassed many prizes, including Governor-General’s Awards and Giller Prizes, and many of the titles have remained in print year after year, as the list below demonstrates.
Since 1988 Gibson has kept the annual list very small. To avoid any conflict of interest with his role at M&S he encouraged many former authors to join the main M&S list, notably people like Ken Dryden, Guy Vanderhaeghe, Maggie Siggins, Robert Hunter, Michele Landsberg, Jeffrey Simpson and Roy MacGregor.
On occasion he edited M&S books without adding them to his personal imprint. Notable examples are the Memoirs of Pierre Trudeau and Alistair MacLeod’s books, No Great Mischief and Island.
In 2004, he returned to his imprint full-time as publisher of Douglas Gibson Books, which — now that he is semi-retired, since 2008,and an author in his own right — publishes only one or two books a year. In November,2011, he will publish Trudeau Transformed 19444-1965, the second volume in the prize-winning biography by Max and Monique Nemni. The imprint continues to represent Gibson’s eclectic personal interests in politics, history, biography, high adventure, and fine fiction.
For more information and the full list of Douglas Gibson Books, head to McClelland.com.