Interview with Jen Cameron of Orca Book Publishers
December 14, 2016
The recent Pacific Northwest Booksellers Association (PNBA) trade show in Tacoma, US, saw the largest turnout of B.C. publishers ever – thanks in part to grants from the Western Canada Diversification Fund (administered by Creative BC). Orca Book Publishers of B.C. attended and we catch up with Marketing Coordinator, Jen Cameron, to learn more about the company, their experiences at the PNBA trade show and Jen’s Top 5 Picks for Christmas giving.

Orca Book Publishers has achieved great success both at home and abroad with its wide variety of children’s books covering a diverse range of topics.  What has helped your company adapt to both a changing publishing landscape and the way that children consume information?

We are proactive and willing to try new things. Orca is committed to bringing our stories and authors to as wide an audience as possible. All Orca titles are now available in multiple digital formats for reading on a variety of devices. Orca titles are available electronically through Amazon, Overdrive, Sony, the Apple Store and in many other places, including the Orca website. We also produce interactive, read-along versions of some of our picture books. It helps enormously that the people who work at Orca are fully committed to getting Orca books out into the world.

What makes Orca unique from its peers?

Orca Book Publishers is committed to ensuring that young readers see themselves reflected in the books they read. We aim to produce books that illuminate the experiences of people of all ethnicities, people with disabilities and people who identify as LGBTQ. Our goal is to provide reading material that represents the diversity of human experience to readers of all ages. To that end, we publish books for all ages of young readers, from board books and picture books, to novels for young adult readers. We publish non-fiction and fiction. Additionally we have five series of books for reluctant readers where the goal is to encourage reading and literacy in young readers and English language learners. 

Orca has a commitment to publishing books with an environmental theme. Why is it important for your company that socially responsible stories get told?

We think it’s vitally important that socially responsible stories get told because by informing and empowering young people to be engaged global citizens we can help, in a meaningful way, to make the world a better place.

How does your company work to identify and encourage the development of both established and emerging writers in BC?

Orca is known as a company that supports its authors—old and new. We review hundreds of manuscripts each year from our submissions, from agents and from our existing authors. Having a diverse mix of authors writing on a range of topics is part of our mandate to reach readers with a variety of stories. As a BC company many of our authors are local and we proudly bring them and their stories to the rest of the country and the world.

You recently attended the Pacific Northwest Booksellers Association trade show in Tacoma with a grant from the Western Canada Diversification Fund. Can you tell us a bit about this trade show and why it’s important for BC publishers to attend?

The PNBA trade show is a great place to meet book sellers, librarians, and educators from all over the Pacific Northwest. I talked to people from Washington, Oregon, Wyoming, Alaska, Idaho, and California. It’s important for BC publishers to attend so we can introduce our books to people who are not familiar with them and to connect and build relationships with those people who are more familiar with what we do.

What kind of interest did your books attract?

We had a very positive experience! We brought one of our BC authors, Michelle Mulder, to the fair. Michelle’s newest book, Pocket Change: Pitching in for a Better World, is from our Footprints series. The Footprints are nonfiction titles   that encourage ecological literacy and global solutions to ongoing environmental issues and they also encourage kids to make small steps toward big changes. Fair-goers were very interested in talking to Michelle about Pocket Change and the Footprints series and excited to bring these books to their customers and patrons.

Aside from pursuing international rights deals, what else did you gain from the PNW Booksellers Association Trade Show in terms of business growth or professional development?

It was great to re-connect with attendees who remembered Orca from the last fair and to have a chance to meet and introduce our books to those who were not as familiar with what we do. Since we handle our own distribution into the US (with a warehouse in Washington) it is crucial that we build relationships with our customers in that region.

How important are grants like those from the Western Canada Diversification Fund for the publishing industry in BC?

These grants are very important as they enable us to build the profile of our books and authors in the Pacific Northwest and also to find out the needs and interests of booksellers. It was also great to have a BC Publishers area to increase traffic to our booth.

top 5 picks for #READLOCAL books this Christmas?

Stepping Stones: A Refugee Family’s Journey by Margriet Ruurs (Salt Spring Island) and Nizar Ali Badr

In the Red Canoe by Leslie A. Davidson (Revelstoke) and Laura Bifano (Vancouver)

What Makes Us Unique: Our First Talk about Diversity by Dr. Jillian Roberts (Victoria) and Cindy Revell

My Heart Fills with Happiness by Monique Gray Smith (Victoria) and Julie Flett (Vancouver)

Pandas on the Eastside by Gabrielle Prendergast (Vancouver)

top 5 top picks for books showcasing and educating those abroad about our beautiful and diverse region?

Great Bear Books Bundle (includes The Salmon Bears, The Sea Wolves, and The Great Bear Sea) by Ian McCallister (Denny Island) and Nicholas Read (Vancouver)

Sea Otter Pup by Victoria Miles (North Vancouver) and Elizabeth Gatt

Jessie’s Island by Sheryl McFarlane (Victoria) and Sheena Lott (Sidney)

Secret of the Dance by Andrea Spalding (Pender Island), Alfred Scow (Pender Island), and Darlene Gait (Victoria)

Waiting for the Whales 25th Anniversary edition by Sheryl McFarlane (Victoria) and Ron Lightburn



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