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Federal gov't cuts off marketing funds for indie publishers

After a dozen years of support, the federal government has decided to pull funding from a marketing co-op for independent Canadian publishers, leaving many members uncertain who'll sell their books next fall.

The Literary Press Group (LPG) -- which represents 47 members, including B.C.'s Talonbooks and Anvil Press -- lost federal funding June 4 in an unexpected decision by the Department of Canadian Heritage.

The move means budding authors of alternative poetry, fiction and non-fiction will have a much harder time getting their work on bookstore and library shelves, said LPG executive director Jack Illingworth.

The group has fired six of eight staff as a result of the cuts, he said.

Anvil Press founder Brian Kaufman said the move "seems kind of crazy."

"We're going to be scrambling if this isn't reversed to get some sort of alternative form of sales representation."

Kaufman said such marketers currently exist, but the publishers they represent are "somewhat more mainstream and commercial" and have less incentive to take on a smaller firm that might only produce four or five titles a year.

At the very least, he said, former LPG members will find they no longer get the same attention they had under a bigger marketer with more clients. Some publishers, he added, will simply have to stop selling books.

Between 2011 and 2012, the federal government provided the LPG with roughly $250,000 in funding.

Illingworth said his organization had little warning of the impending cuts other than a June 2011 statement by federal Finance Minister Jim Flaherty. Flaherty told the CBC cultural institutions could no longer rely on the federal government for funds.

The LPG currently plans to continue representing nearly 225 titles this upcoming fall season, according to a press release. After that, however, without additional funding, Illingworth said he will have to try to arrange independent agents for member publishers.

Adam Pez is completing a practicum at The Tyee.

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