#25 Remembering Jim Douglas
October 15th, 2016
Jim Douglas called himself “just a book pedlar.” At age 15, he started in the book biz in Edinburgh delivering books to bookstores by peddling his bicycle. He became the most influential publishing presence in B.C. during the 1970s and early 1980s. Here [below], The Ormsby Review is pleased to provide an appreciation of Jim Douglas written by his friend Mark Stanton, himself a veteran book sales rep and longtime colleague.
Born in Edinburgh in 1924, James Jardine Douglas C.M. LLD immigrated to Canada in 1954. He later founded J.J. Douglas Ltd., a publishing enterprise that evolved into Douglas & McIntyre. He died at a North Shore hospice on September 24, 2016.
He was survived by his beloved wife Heather, his daughter Diana, his son Alan, his stepson John Christie (Linda Aylesworth), grandchildren Brandon, Kimberley (Jason King), Tyler, Alec, Ted, and great-grandchildren James, Eva and Charlotte. He was predeceased by his elder son Christopher on May 21, 2016.
From pedlar to publisher
B.C.’s first independent book publisher was arguably Father Adrien-Gabriel Morice. A sophisticated intellectual who established a printing operation from a cabin behind his church at Fort St. James, communicating with the outside world via the post office at Quesnel. Morice produced a collection of his own essays, printed by his own Stuart Lake Mission Press, in 1902.
It’s generally assumed nowadays the first independent trade publisher in B.C. of the modern era was Gray Campbell, whose imprint called Gray’s Publishing in Sidney published 61 titles between 1962 and 1983, but Art Downs in the B.C. interior operated his Heritage House imprint during the same era.
But both Campbell and Downs were trumped by Scottish-born James (Jim) Douglas, the first influential book publisher in B.C. to generate significant sales beyond B.C.
Douglas had many careers: hotel owner, dairy farmer and engineer, but his main interest was books. In 1957 he started a publishers’ agency in Vancouver to market Canadian books throughout western Canada. After a stint as a book sales rep for McClelland & Stewart in the early 1960s, he returned to his agency work representing most Canadian books then available.
He founded his company J.J. Douglas in 1970 as a national book distributor, and entered the publishing field by releasing a cookbook. From this modest beginning the company evolved to the forefront of publishing books about First Nations, as well as guidebooks and histories.
J.J. Douglas became Douglas & McIntyre in 1979 as former McClelland & Stewart sales rep Scott McIntyre became an overt presence in management. Jim Douglas sold majority shares to Scott McIntyre in 1982.
The company became an imprint of a consortium, D&M Publishers, often touted as the largest English-language publishing company outside Ontario, until the D&M portion of the enterprise—that also included Greystone and New Society books—was acquired by Howard White of Harbour Publishing in 2013.
“Jim Douglas was one of the founding fathers of BC publishing,” says White. “His grounding in old-world publishing methods and his generous, collaborative temperament made him a natural builder, not only of his own group of related companies but of the whole industry. The world of B.C. books would not be the success it is today without Jim’s benign influence.”
Before and after retirement, Douglas worked to professionalize the publishing industry, having served as President of both the Association of Canadian Publishers and the Association of Book Publishers of B.C., and as a consultant to the book industry.
“Publishers are vastly more sophisticated than they were when I started,” he once said, “and while that is due to the efforts of our associations and our governments, I am as proud of having played a part in this, as I am of the books that I published.”
First presented in 2002, an annual prize presented by the Association of Book Publishers of B.C. to an active BC publisher that has earned the respect and applause of the community is named the Jim Douglas Award.
Jim Douglas was named a Companion to the Order of Canada in December, 2008. The Order of Canada citation reads: “A pioneer in book publishing in British Columbia, James Douglas has also had a profound influence on the industry as a whole. He took Douglas & McIntyre, which began as a small regional publishing house, to national and international prominence. A driving force behind the Association of Canadian Publishers, he worked tirelessly to promote Canadian writers and to urge businesses to think and aim beyond our borders. Known as a patient and generous mentor, he inspired a generation to invest its time, resources and energy in Canadian publishing. As well, he was instrumental in the founding and design of Simon Fraser University’s publishing program, the first in North America.”
Heather and Jim Douglas attending his investiture ceremony in Ottawa for the Order of Canada, 2009.
Remembering Jim Douglas & J.J. Douglas Ltd. – The Early Days.
by Mark Stanton
Everyone called him Jimmy. Perhaps it was because James Jardine (an old family name) Douglas’s restless energy and determination was contagious. His ear to ear grin, quick wit and Scottish burr, could melt the flintiest heart of any librarian or bookseller. But, in the Spring of 1957 it wasn’t his relationship with the book trade or even the size of his new sales territory that intimidated him, the challenge was negotiating with management he had never met in Toronto. The previous year he had made a name for himself selling the British Columbia Centennial Anthology, published by McClelland & Stewart, to businesses. “So an anthology is a book. You want me to buy a book?” the unlettered tycoons would roar, “Get out of my office.” It was a brutal introduction to direct book selling but Jim persevered.
Before Bill Duthie, whom many said looked just like Ernest Hemingway, opened his new bookstore, he had recommended Jimmy as his replacement. Duthie, to the amazement of many, had opened a book shop next door to the new Public Library. Both John Gray, gentleman author and President of Macmillan and Jack McClelland, the charming promotional genius and advocate for Canadian writing, had expected to employ another “house” man who would be paid a wage and expenses. However, this new man refused to work for a salary and would only be employed on a commission basis to “ . . . earn my keep from my own labours”. Finally both Presidents agreed to employ Douglas Agencies whose sole employee was James Douglas. He immediately added Canada’s two pre-eminent university presses – University of Toronto and McGill for “trade book” sales to bookshops and public libraries in his sales territory. Distinct from educational or college texts, trade books were published for the general public.
Jim’s sales territory, designated as “the West” extended from the Ontario/Manitoba border to Vancouver Island. At the time there wasn’t an all season road connecting southern Ontario and Manitoba so to get around Lake Superior there was a ferry south from Thunder Bay. Nor was there a direct Canadian based usable road between British Columbia and Alberta. Access between provinces required driving across northern Washington State. Many of the major roadways on the prairies were “dirt” and consequently slow and very dusty. Cars had tubed tires, sofa seats, lots of chrome, giant ashtrays and were decades away from air conditioning.
The Fall and Winter sales conference in Toronto required a five day June drive from Vancouver if the driver “really pushed it”. Once there, three full days of meetings on the all-important Christmas list and then back to the Lakehead and Winnipeg. Seven days were spent driving from Winnipeg through Saskatoon and Regina stopping anywhere a bookshop or public library was prepared to place an order. The British Columbia interior and Alberta required a further week later on.
The Spring Sales Conference and sales calling were the complete antithesis. The first week of January meant three days and nights on the CPR from Vancouver to Toronto, if there were no “break downs” or “freeze ups” which often occurred. There was ample time to read manuscripts, write letters and make plans for the new season. The return trip began in a sample room at the Fort Garry Hotel and continued in the major railway hotels across the West. Rather than visiting them this time, the booksellers and librarians made appointments with Jimmy to come and view the season’s new material. Four great metal strapped steamer trunks were full of books, galleys, dust jackets, photographs of artwork, catalogues and posters. All had to be unloaded, set up in the sample room and then re-loaded at each hotel. The hotel room had a tiny bathroom and a Murphy bed (fold-up wall bed). Three trunks contained the McClelland and Stewart material, the majority devoted to their agencies – Little Brown & Company, Time-Life Books, New York Graphic society, and several others. One trunk sufficed for Macmillan whose major agency was Macmillan of London. A week was spent in the five cities on the prairies before returning home to Vancouver.
By the mid-sixties the herculean work-load and time spent on the road had strained the entire Douglas family. As a result Jim resigned the prairie portion of his territory. McClelland hired his famous “prairie flowers”, whereas Macmillan sent out a “house” man. Another contributing factor to Jim’s decision was his growing editorial responsibilities in B.C. over the last ten years. Now Jim’s author liaison and editorial work had grown with both companies and a new commission structure was introduced to recognize his added responsibilities. Of course, he would also have to stop on the prairies twice a year to brief the “prairie flowers” on the upcoming season’s lists.
The year 1972 would prove to be the most critical in Jim’s career. Following Canada’s centennial celebration, five years earlier, public awareness of books and authors began to blossom. Each week Pierre Berton visited living rooms across Canada through CBC TV’s Front Page Challenge. CBC Radio introduced listeners to Peter Gzowski’s This Country in the Morning. Both programs made many Canadian authors household names. Locally Chuck Davis, enthusiastic historian and genial host of the CBC Radio Afternoon Show ,would soon be evacuated from the tiny Hotel Vancouver studios to new larger CBC premises further down Georgia Street.
Duthie Books now had three locations. Bill Duthie daily captained his fleet from behind the Robson Street front counter looking not unlike the tank commander he had been in WW II. Like many of the new breed of booksellers, Duthie embraced the still disreputable paperback, devoting his basement store shelves to them from 1959. The Paperback Cellar had Binky Marks at the helm. A graduate from Upper Canada College, Binky had fought his war against the fascists as a high risk stretcher bearer in Spain. A nudist and volleyball player, communist and poetry lover, Binky’s Boxing Day parties for the entire Vancouver book industry were legendary. Back in the time before computers, Binky and his #2, David Kerfoot, carried practically their entire inventory in memory including several thousand 10 digit book numbers (ISBNs). The bookstore staff regularly sent customers to Murray’s on Granville for reference, technical or DIY. Woodwards Department Stores were opening book departments with Harry Bulpit, Head of Stationery and Books, employing knowledgeable managers and experienced staff. Also, Eatons where Andy Wright, former sergeant major, would shortly be moving uptown to bigger and more glamorous surroundings at Georgia and Granville Streets. After the move, Andy would be instrumental in creating the provincial Eatons Book Awards which later became the B.C. Book Awards. The People’s Co-op Bookstore, where Bill Duthie had found Binky Marks, was now managed by a Scandinavian who gloried in the name Osmo Lahti. Women made up more than 50% of the book trade either as managers, owners or buyers. Pauline’s on Denman catered to her west end clientele, Pick-a-Pocket carved out a niche in Dundarave. Jane Ross Books was the go-to place in White Rock. Phyl Thom operated Brentburn Books deep in the heart of Burnaby.
Bright and dedicated young publishers were entering the field both nationally and regionally. New Press, House of Anansi, Peter Martin, Lorimer, Oberon and Press Porcepic began publishing. Hurtig opened in Alberta and November House in Vancouver, the same year as Self Counsel Press. It was a truly exciting time for books in Canada. Douglas Agencies represented practically all Canadian Publishers in British Columbia, both new and old.
In June 1972 Jim Douglas sold Douglas Agencies, trade sales representatives and publicists, to employee Scott McIntyre, his silent partner in J.J. Douglas, and Mark Stanton who had just moved his family from Toronto. Jim knew that many local authors wanted to deal face to face with their editor, their designer, their publicist and sales people. For too long a manuscript was mailed east and several months, if not years, later a strange and unexpected arrival proved to be their new book. An exaggeration perhaps but not too far from reality. Scott, Mark and publicist Pat Sloan immediately moved the company from Jim’s basement to a small office/showroom in North Vancouver. Naturally McIntyre and Stanton began representing the fledging publishing house – J. J. Douglas Ltd. Most importantly this change allowed Jim a break from his former editorial ties to McClelland & Stewart and Macmillan and he was now free to publish. But the new firm couldn’t afford a full-time publisher so he became a consultant for Harry Smith & Sons, wholesalers to schools and libraries. Buddy (Julian) Smith had just created a new chain of bookshops and Jim had the background to steer them in the right direction as consultant, and buyer.
The Autumn 1972 J. J. Douglas list included surely one of the first titles ever on organic gardening for the home gardener – GOOD FOOD NATURALLY by John Harrison. Perhaps too far ahead of its time, the author later admitted he made more money from the coke machine beside his roadside stand than he ever did selling his produce. John kept market gardening organically but Mylora eventually became a Richmond golf course.
A unique cookbook with a great back story also made its first appearance a year earlier as a J.J. Douglas book. It was written by an 86-year-old Victoria lady who had been admitted to the Royal Jubilee Hospital suffering from malnutrition. Married to a wealthy lumber broker, they travelled the world on his business and always with their maid/cook. When her husband died she let the cook go and settled into a pretty little apartment in Oak Bay. It had easy access to the beach for she swam in the ocean daily. Within a short time she was in hospital. When she was released Mrs. Wilmot, Jim always addressed her as such, began scouring the bookshops. Needing to learn how to cook she quickly found that all cookbook recipes were based on four servings or multiples thereof. So when Jim happened to read her little stapled booklet with such recipes as “gingery thighs and legs” and her comment “. . . sounds slightly immoral but is delicious and easy to make”, COOKING FOR ONE was born. Organizing and testing all the recipes and double-checking the ingredients were all part of Jim’s vision and he made it work.
1972 really established J.J. Douglas Limited as a publisher as well as a distributor for local self-published authors. The unexpected hit of the fall season was a children’s illustrated “flat” (a flat is a children’s story illustrated in full colour) by two Vancouver Sun employees, Jack Richards and cartoonist Len Norris. Jack’s traditional family story was finally published on November 10, 1972, as JOHANN’S GIFT TO CHRISTMAS. First proposed as THE MOUSE AND SILENT NIGHT, Jim objected to the mouse’s name of Schnell and pushed harder for the more musically connected name of Johann. After much consultation a revised and acceptable manuscript was in house before summer’s end. Jim delayed publication until the last possible moment hoping to include a U.S. or U.K. edition to bump the print run and lower the unit cost. When the Vancouver Sun got behind it, the booksellers enthusiasm for the book pushed the first printing to 18,000 copies. Unheard of! Brock Webber printed the book in Vancouver which included a French edition. At most, only a handful of “flats” had ever been published in Canada and even fewer were produced by Canadian printers and binders. All the books in all the bookshops sold out by Christmas. The retail price was $3.95 and no bookseller ever considered the concept of discounting the price.
In 1974 Jim Douglas became founding President of the Association of Book Publishers of British Columbia – as big a mouthful then as it is now. In 1975 and 1976 Jim became President of the Association of Canadian Publishers.
The year 1976 completed the sequence of name changes when Scott McIntyre joined Jim and the company name and imprint became Douglas & McIntyre Ltd. Alan MacDougall left McClelland & Stewart to join Mark Stanton at the sales and publicity firm now rebranded as Stanton & MacDougall. Resident sales representatives were quickly added across the prairies.
The man who called himself just a book pedlar had, ironically, began in the book business at age 15 in Edinburgh delivering books to bookstores peddling his bicycle. A pedlar indeed!
In 2001 the Association of Book Publishers of British Columbia established the Jim Douglas Publisher of the Year Award to recognize an extraordinary contribution by a publisher to the publishing community.
Jim’s contribution to the book industry in Canada and his dedication to his fellow publishers both locally and nationally were finally recognized. His career included so many facets: sales representative, publicist, wholesaler, consultant, buyer, editor, publisher, member of many trade missions abroad and the list goes on. On October 23, 2008, James Jardine Douglas was awarded the Order of Canada by Governor General Michaelle Jean. His wife Heather said he never looked prouder.
PERSONAL DETAILS of JAMES JARDINE DOUGLAS
1924 Born Edinburgh.
1929/39 Schools Dairy and Darroch.
1939 Worked in head office of John Menzies Ltd., which operated bookstalls
and bookshops throughout Scotland.
1940 RA F Aircraft Apprentice School, Cranwell.
(Intensive Tuition 5 days a week for 2 years.)
1943 Flying gunnery training then Operational Training Unit at Nassau.
Flying Dakotas then Liberators.
1943/45 Joined 354 Liberator Squadron flying out of India Air Photography
missions over Burma and against Japanese shipping.
1946 With the war ended, resigned commission. Worked in a large Edinburgh
1948/50 Recalled to RAF. Attended Officers’ College at Debden (2 years.)
1953/54 Appointed Staff officer at Command Headquarters
1954 Resigned commission and emigrated to Canada.
1955 Communications engineer, Rogers Majestic Electronics Ltd. Toronto
1956 Communications engineer, Spilsbury & Tindall,Vancouver
1957 Appointed by Laurie Wallace, B.C.’s Provincial Secretary, as
exclusive representative for marketing the official celebratory publication, “The British Columbia Centennial Anthology”.
1958/62 Established marketing and selling service throughout Western Canada for
major Canadian book publishers including McClelland & Stewart, the Macmillan Co. of Canada, University of Toronto, and McGill University Press.
1962/63 Appointed Sales Manager and a Director of McClelland & Stewart
working in Toronto. Wife’s health collapsed. Returned to B.C.
1964 Established a Vancouver — based Publishers’ agency which provided
Editorial, Sales and Publicity services. Clients were:
McClelland & Stewart,
University of Toronto Press
McGill University Press.
1965 Became shareholder and Director of Canongate Publishing, Edinburgh
and became its Canadian representative.
1966 Sold the Agency to Scott McIntyre and Mark Stanton and founded
JJ Douglas Ltd, Book Publishers.
1971/72 Early lists luckily sold well and included two bestsellers which
became staples: “Johann’s Gift to Christmas” and “The West Coast Trail”.
1973 Formed Douglas. David & Charles, a partnership with England’s David
& Charles, a company which published over 200 titles a year.
1973 Became Director & Shareholder of Canongate Publishers, Edinburgh
with reciprocal representation.
1975 Formed Douglas & McIntyre (Educational) with Marilyn Sacks to
publish Canadian school textbooks.
1979 Scott McIntyre joined JJ Douglas Ltd & we changed our name to
Douglas & McIntyre Ltd.
1982 Sold my shares in Douglas & McIntyre to Scott McIntyre and others.
1983/84 Became consultant to the publishing industry, and to government bodies.
Alberta government commissioned a study of publishing in that province. My Report, “OUT OF THE WEST” was published in 1984.
1985 Retained by Alberta government as consultant to publishers.
1987 Douglas & McIntyre (Educational) sold to Scott McIntyre.
1986 Member of Dr Rowly Lorimer’s committee for the establishment of
SFU’s Canadian Centre for Studies in Publishing.
1987 – 2003 Drafted and taught SFU Undergraduate and Graduate courses on
the PROCESS OF PUBLISHING and the BUSINESS OF PUBLISHING.
1982 – today Retained as Consultant by many publishing companies and institutions including:
McClelland & Stewart, Toronto Clarke Irwin, Toronto
Grosvenor House, Toronto
Book & Periodical Development Board, Toronto
Canadian Telebook Agency, Toronto
Dept. Film & Literary Arts, Gov. of Alberta
Foundation for the Literary Arts, Calgary
Altitude Publishing, Banff
Arnold Educational Publishing, Edmonton
Detselig Publishing, Calgary Lone Pine Publishing, Edmonton
Red Deer College Press, Red Deer
Reidmore Books, Edmonton Tree Frog Press, Edmonton
University of Alberta Press, Edmonton University of Calgary Press, Calgary Fifth House, Calgary
Don Atkins 60/40 company, Vancouver Douglas & McIntyre, Vancouver Hartley & Marks, Vancouver
International Self-Counsel Press, Vancouver
Raincoast Press, Vancouver Whitecap Publishers, Vancouver
1974 Founding President of the Association of Book Publishers of B.C.
1975 President, Association of Canadian Publishers
1976 President, Association of Canadian Publishers
1983 President, Association of Canadian Publishers
1974 onwards Participated in Trade Missions to U.K. (twice) and to China. Sent by Ottawa on one-man Trade Missions to:
Sat on many Committees, Boards and Juries including:
Book & Periodical Development Council,
Canada Council Juries,
Alberta Publishing Juries,
Canadian Institute for Historical Micro-reproductions, SFU Canadian Centre for Studies in Publishing.
1991 LLD hon causes from Simon Fraser University. 1993 Canadian Booksellers’ President’s Award. 2001 Gray Campbell Distinguished Service Award.
2002 BC Publishers Group instituted the “Jim Douglas Publisher of the Year Award”. 2002 Canadian Historical Micro-reproductions Award
2009 Appointed Member of the “Order of Canada.”
MILITARY MEDALS for RAF FLYING OPERATIONS
1939-45 STAR; BURMA STAR; DEFENCE MEDAL; WAR MEDAL
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