#InsideDundurn with Sheila

#InsideDundurn with Sheila

Posted on July 19 by Kyle in News
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Are you ready for a history lesson in Canadian publishing? Today we’re talking to someone who’s been in the business for a very long time, Dundurn’s manager of contracts and administrative services, Kirk Howard’s executive assistant, and our colourful resident fashionista, Sheila Douglas.

“I’ve been working for 44 years,” Sheila says, “And exactly half of that I’ve spent in publishing.”

Sheila got into publishing in 1995, initially with no intention of joining the industry. Her department was cut during a merger between the company she worked for and another in the corporate industry. Looking for something new, she signed up with a job placement agency and was sent to Key Porter Books where she met well-known publisher and author, Anna Porter.

“I remember what she said the first day we met. She was looking for an assistant and told me that… ‘I’m just looking for somebody that can put their hands on a piece of paper when I’m looking for it. We can never find anything around here. If you can find anything that I’m looking for… that would be nice.’ So I started working for Anna.”

It was at Key Porter that Sheila learned all about publishing, and how to think outside the business box.

“I really learned so much about the industry from Anna, during the time I worked with her,” Sheila confirms.

“Key Porter was sold to H.B. Fenn in 2004 and shortly before H.B. Fenn folded in 2010, I got a call from Kirk Howard. He needed someone at Dundurn,” Sheila remembers, “We had met before in passing, and Beth Bruder, our current VP, had previously worked at Key Porter while I was there. Canadian publishing is small and having worked with Anna Porter, I was known in the publishing industry. So I came in for an interview and I was hired that day. I was thrilled!”

As time has proven, Sheila, like Kirk, has a good eye for individuals who are ‘a good fit’ for Dundurn. Being in charge of administration, she’s had a hand in hiring a number of staff members over the years, but it’s a certain publicist who she hand-picked that sticks out.

“Oh yes, Jaclyn,” Sheila recalls with a smile, “Her interview with me for our marketing internship was so impressive that I suggested she should be considered for a full time position.”

That’s how our senior publicist, fresh out of publishing school, came to find her full-time job at Dundurn.  And for anyone who knows publishing, that’s not common in recent years.

Sheila is one of the first people you’ll be introduced to in the publishing process. She organizes and negotiates all the contracts for Dundurn, and so deals directly with the authors, agents, and organizations who publish books with us.

“Some authors are really excited going into publishing their first book. Some are more… bewildered. They don’t know what’s going to happen. So what I try to do is help them understand not only the agreement they’re entering into but the process so it doesn’t seem so overwhelming.”

Sheila will explain things like the staff’s concept meeting where a book is introduced, the editorial process and what will happen to their manuscript once it’s in the editor’s hands, the marketing and publicity meet-n-greets, and what to expect once their book is ready to go out into the world.

“It’s always different, every single author is different. I’m amazed that I can still be asked a new question every time.”

Often times people in publishing, particularly those who read all day, don’t read as much outside of work. Sheila not one of those people. What kind of books hold her interest most?

“I love mysteries!”

Fun fact, one of our most popular blog posts is “Why Do People Love Mysteries?” Does Sheila have an answer?

“You want to try to solve the mystery before the end,” she says, obviously, “The best mysteries are the ones where you have no idea so you can’t wait to get to the end and find out who it was. And if the author keeps you guessing until the very end? Those are the best.”

“Dundurn does mysteries really well. I’m enjoying Brenda Chapman, R.M. Greenaway (she’s fabulous!), and I really enjoy Don Easton’s work – I think he’s going to be the next James Patterson.”

That’s one of Sheila’s passions. The other, as hinted earlier, is fashion. So often does Sheila look ready to sit front-row looking up at a runway, it prompts us to ask how she didn’t work somewhere in fashion.

Her answer is poignant and simple.

“Your path hopefully takes you where you find joy in your work. I love publishing. I love reading. It works for me.”