Figure 1 Publishing’s Second Rights

Chris La- bonté, Peter Cocking and Richard Nadeau | BCBusiness

Three former Douglas & McIntyre executives fill the gap left by one of the country’s largest independent book publishers 

Last October, when one of Canada’s largest independent book publishers, D&M Publishers Inc., began the process that would lead to bankruptcy and the sale of its Douglas & McIntyre imprint, three of its executives took the unfortunate turn as a cue to start fresh. Already possessing the various talents necessary to run a publishing house, Chris Labonté, Peter Cocking and Richard Nadeau forged a new business: Figure 1 Publishing Inc.

“We had what we call our three pillars,” says Labonté, who manages the business side as Figure 1’s publisher. Peter Cocking—“the best book designer in the country and a huge ideas guy”—covers the design side as the company’s creative director. The final pillar is Richard Nadeau—“a fantastic sales manager and sales director at Douglas & McIntyre for a decade”—who is Figure 1’s director of sales and marketing. “It was very deliberate to have those three pieces,” says Labonté.

In Figure 1’s business model, organizations and writers pay the company a fee up front, then the publisher covers the traditional tasks of editing, design, sales, marketing and distribution—in Canada through Vancouver company Raincoast Book Distribution Ltd. and internationally through Publishers Group West. Figure 1 shares a portion of revenue with writers, and Labonté says royalties sometimes beat industry standards.

Charging authors a fee differs from typical commercial publishing ventures, but Labonté says that to call it a hybrid of vanity and trade publishing can be misleading. “The focus is very much on publishing, which is getting books into the market—high-quality books,” he says. “This is a curated publishing program.”

Financing will vary from project to project; Figure 1 may forego the up-front fee for some authors, for example. Although he declines to divulge possibilities under consideration, Labonté says Figure 1 is also open to other business models, even if it takes the company in a completely new direction.

The trio entered 2013 with the goal of producing four or five books for its fall list and Figure 1 already has eight, including a cookbook from Vancouver restaurant Burgoo and a children’s book produced by the Knowledge Network. As for 2014, Labonté says the previous goal of a 10-book list may end up looking more like 15.

“Douglas & McIntyre was a big publisher,” he says. “Now that it isn’t the same anymore and it’s certainly been broken up into pieces, it’s left some holes in the market and those have become opportunities, and we are going into at least one of those areas to fill that void.”