Calgary author Will Ferguson won some and lost some this week – winning the $50,000 Scotiabank Giller Prize at a gala ceremony in Toronto while discovering his name prominent among creditors with unsecured claims to the remains of bankrupt Canadian publisher Douglas & McIntyre.
A list of creditors filed at Bankruptcy Canada last week shows the publisher still owes Ferguson $3,975, presumably for unpaid royalties on sales of earlier books, as part of its total outstanding debt of $6.3-million.
Although Ferguson's winning novel, 419, was published by Penguin Canada, the author took pains to credit D&M for helping to launch his career while accepting the Giller Prize on Tuesday night. He declined to comment on its bankruptcy Wednesday.
But Ferguson was luckier than many of the other authors owed money they will likely never see as a result of the bankruptcy, which has helped throw the Canadian publishing industry into a spin during a usually celebratory season of brisk sales and award galas.
Vancouver's Carmen Aguirre is first among unfortunates, owed $59,521 in unpaid earnings for her memoir Something Fierce, which won the CBC Canada Reads contest this year and spent six months on the bestseller list. Now she has become a poster child for a crippled Canadian publishing industry.
"I'm a single parent of a single-income family, and that was my income," Aguirre said in an interview Wednesday, adding that she has so far received no income from the book despite its success.
"Let's just say, when I found out about this, it was a true nightmare, in the very concrete sense of paying the bills and feeding my son."
Despite the loss, Aguirre, like Ferguson, bears no grudge against her publisher, crediting the company for taking her on as a first-time author when no literary agent would return her calls. "They have been very good to me," she said.
"Unfortunately, it's always the artist who pays in the end," she added. "I've been in the arts my entire adult life and this is not a new experience."
Other D&M authors left hanging by its bankruptcy include award-winner Wade Davis, owed $7,944; photographer Fred Herzog, owed $25,356; and poet Lorna Crozier, owed $4,424. The company owes more than $20,000 to two Toronto literary agencies and $4,507 to Nova Scotia's Gaspereau Press, with which it had partnered in a well-publicized effort to reprint and distribute author Johanna Skibsrud's novel The Sentimentalists after its surprise win of the Giller in 2010.
Meanwhile current Giller-winner Ferguson remains stout in support of his current publisher. "I'm a Penguin man," he declared proudly after receiving the award, on the eve of that company's disappearance into a merger with Random House.