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Engage Books interviewed by THE SOURCE newspaper

I was recently interviewed by Olga Livshin from The Source newspaper. Below is the article in full.

Let's Publish Science Fiction

File 99The Canadian Writer’s Market (2007) states that there are only 152 book publishers in Canada today. Alexis Roumanis is one of them.
 
Roumanis took his first step towards book publishing in 2005, after he graduated from Simon Fraser University (SFU), majoring in English, and started his first job at Ronsdale Press, a small Vancouver literary publisher.
 
“Ronsdale produces great books,” Roumanis said. “Working for them got me interested in book publishing.” Spurred by his emerging fascination with the industry, Roumanis entered the Master of Publishing program at SFU, but even before enrolling, he knew his ultimate goal: he wanted to found his own company. And if starting a new publishing house required courage and imagination, Roumanis had both in spades.
 
In May 2008, still a graduate student, he started Engage Books. His black eyes sparkled with pride and affection when he talked about his young company, as if it was a bestselling phenomenon instead of a newborn press.
 
“We have four imprints,” Roumanis said, explaining his company’s structure. “AD Classic represents the great books from the past 2,000 years. BC Classic showcases the legends from the times of Homer and Plato. SF Classic produces classic science fiction, while Engage SF explores the worlds created by modern science fiction writers.”
 
Although SF stands for science fiction, Roumanis had to start his budding company with general classics to finance books by new SF authors. “A new writer is always a risk, but classics are eternal. I don’t even need to market them. They sell themselves.” However, as a shrewd businessman, Roumanis keeps a finger on the pulse of popular culture. He selects his classic titles with care. Several of his books coincided with the recently released movies (The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes) or movies about to be released (Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland). “When a movie is out, I get free publicity,” he announced with a cheerful grin.
 
Last year, a couple of his classic books were picked up as curriculum by some American universities, making his sales jump, which finally enabled him to start working on the new titles – an SF novel and an anthology of short stories.
 
Roumanis selected SF as his primary publishing focus for two reasons. First, it is his favourite genre as a reader. “I am currently reading Nineteen Eighty-four for the first time,” he confided. “My favourite SF author is Orson Scott Card.” Second, there is a gap of genre fiction in the Canadian publishing scene. “Before I started Engage Books, there was only one other specialized SF publisher in Canada – EDGE Publishing in Calgary. Vancouver didn’t have an SF publisher before me. It was ridiculous. We have excellent SF writers in BC, and many SF movies are shot here.”
 
File 67 To succeed in the very competitive publishing field, Roumanis applies “print on demand”, an innovative publishing strategy. “With this approach, we don’t have any warehousing overhead,” he said. “When online orders come in, we print and ship the book within 24 hours.” Another important component of his success is staying on top of new technologies, a trademark of the new generation of young entrepreneurs.
 
Like many small publishers, Roumanis works from home. His business days are tightly packed, divided between marketing existing titles, creating new book layouts, writing back page blurbs, editing and proofreading, attending professional conferences, and arranging freelance editors and artists for his projects. Only in his spare hours, usually in the evenings, does he find time to read new submissions and make the most important decisions: what to publish.
 
“I like having my own company,” he said. “I work creatively on something I’m passionate about and I can read fabulous new manuscripts.” Like any publishing expert, he enjoys reading. On the other hand, he dislikes paperwork, especially filing his tax returns.
 
“I get the most excited when one of my new books comes in the mail, fresh off the press,” he confessed.
 
To learn more, check out the website www.engagebooks.ca.
 
This edition of The Source (VOL 11 NO 1) can be found in your local library from Jan 12 - Feb 9, 2010.
 

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