Press Profile: Heather Blain-Yanke

November 29, 2013 by Darren

When Heather Blain-Yanke was first hired as a Layout Assistant, almost 40 years ago, WLU Press was known as Academic Publications and printed about 10 books a year. Today, she’s the Production and Editorial Projects Manager and oversees the 35-40 titles we now publish annually.

Heather’s seen big changes come to the publishing industry. Her earliest responsibilities included the laborious duty of printing out camera-ready copy, manually changing the typesets on the printer where different fonts and sizes were required. After revisions, she would use a light table and an x-acto knife to superimpose corrections onto the original script. And when it was finally ready for printing, she would have to individually inspect printer-supplied negatives for dust spots to make sure the finished product came out properly.

It isn’t hard to imagine why we only published 10 books a year.

Heather’s process has changed considerably since then. After a book is acquired, Heather launches workflows, monitors the editorial process, establishes budgets, manages freelance designers and compositors, and works with printers, juggling many deadlines along the way. When a book is ready for production, she supplies designers with cover design elements and suggestions. “There’s such a satisfaction when you see a book come into print,” she beams.

If this sounds like a lot of work, that’s because it is.

As technology has evolved and enabled WLU Press to publish more and more books, Heather’s job has gotten more and more, well, crazy. “You learn quickly in this job that you have to be very organized,” she explains. One of her tricks? Perhaps counter-intuitively, Heather uses printed documents and schedules to keep herself organized. But most of all, she’s just one of those fast-thinking, fast-moving doers who knows what she likes when she sees it, and seems to be wired perfectly for the multi-tasking role she’s mastered. “I can talk fast,” she fires out, then catching herself, “I have a pretty busy brain.”

As our conversation wound down I asked Heather to select some of her favourite designs from our more recent books. Here’s what she said:




The Newfoundland Diaspora

Mapping the Literature of Out-Migration

Jennifer Bowering Delisle

“I love the cover design and the use of gloss spot varnish is a nice touch. The chapter opener design treatment has played off the dots on the cover, which I think is quite clever.”







Ornithologies of Desire

Ecocritical Essays, Avian Poetics, and Don McKay

Travis V. Mason

“It’s just a gorgeous cover design. I’d like to pet that bird. The interior design is very clean and tight.”






Avatar and Nature Spirituality

Bron Taylor

“I’m drawn to the beautiful colour of this book. It has a very calming effect.”






Heather’s busy brain gets its downtime after hours, when she likes to read fiction and spend time on her boat. Maybe her quirkiest quirk? Heather is a design and layout junkie who actually prefers her printed work sans serif. “It’s more modern,” she says.

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Marketing Skills You Need to Make it in Publishing

November 28, 2013 by Darren

I recently read this Forbes article that lists the three skills you need to make it in the publishing industry, as overheard last week at the FutureBook conference in London.

The three skills:

  1. Understanding mark-up language
  2. Working with data
  3. Mastering workflow

But those aren’t the only skills you need…

I present the other list of necessary skills to make it (as a marketer) in (academic) publishing. The list you need to be on the inside to know:

Rule No.1: Smile! You’re in the publishing industry

But don’t let having your copy edited by a real copy editor do this to you

There are three essential types of meetings you must master:

1. Transmittal Meetings

1. Cover Meetings

3. Marketing Meetings

Your position on the “death of print books” is

Netgalley and Edelweiss are your new best friends

But there’s always a new opportunity somewhere out there…

And this should always be you when a new book comes out

BONUS: Establish dominance with Booksonix immediately, or
it will never respect you*








Vulcans, Earthlings and Marketing ROI Getting Finance, Marketing and Advertising onto the Same Planet David Rutherford and Jonathan Knowles

Vulcans, Earthlings and Marketing ROI
Getting Finance, Marketing and Advertising onto the Same Planet
David Rutherford and Jonathan Knowles

Think you’re ready to be a marketer? Read Vulcans, Earthlings and Marketing ROI by David Rutherford and Jonathan Knowles to learn how accountability applies to a marketer’s role in an organization.

“Every few years, business is galvanized by a new concept. Accountability is the latest idea in the spotlight. It’s a huge topic, and in the broadest sense embraces ethics, corporate governance, and all the issues spawned by the recent spate of business scandals. Vulcans, Earthlings and Marketing ROI deals with a more pragmatic aspect: the accountability behind the question ‘Are our investments in marketing and advertising sensible and successful, short and long term, from a business point of view?’”





*No lions were harmed in the making of this post.

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The Memory Effect

November 27, 2013 by Clare

In April 2011 The Department of English and Film at Laurier welcomed international scholars for a conference titled Memory, Mediation, Remediation: An International Conference on Memory in Literature and Film, part of the celebration of Laurier’s 100 year anniversary. The conference was hugely successful, and WLU Press was there with many of our titles, especially those of our Life Writing series, the books of which draw heavily on memory in their narrative.

We’re thrilled to say that out of that conference came a book, The Memory Effect: The Remediation of Memory in Literature and Film, edited by Eleanor Ty and Russell Kilbourn, professors in Laurier’s Department of English and Film who also organized the conference. The book begins with an overview of the field, with an emphasis on the question of subjectivity. In separate sections, contributors examine literature and its relation to cultural memory; autobiography and life writing, especially those lives shaped by trauma and forgotten by history; cinema and its intimate and mutually constitutive relationship with memory and history; and individual and collective memory in the context of contemporary visual texts, at the crossroads of popular and avant-garde cultures.

The texts examined span the century, with one chapter examining British propaganda in the First World War and another looking at Dionne Brand’s latest book, Ossuaries. Visual media examined ranges from the 1940s film Casablanca, to Canadian Heritage Minutes on television, to contemporary series such as Tremé and Saving Grace.

The book can be purchased on our website or ordered from any bookseller, online or bricks and mortar. If you think you might use the book in your teaching, or review it for a publication, you can request a copy here.

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Blaire Blogs: Ode to KW

November 26, 2013 by Blaire

It’s been one year since I joined the WLU Press team and I have learned much about the world of academic publishing (for example, Congress is not a political reference). But what about KW (Kitchener-Waterloo)—my new home away from home? It’s a magical, mysterious place with many trade secrets. And I’ve started taking notes.

If you live in KW, you:

  • Are a musician. (I think it might be required to live here.)
  • Will give me directions without ever actually naming any streets.
  • Might actually live in Cambridge (but that’s a touchy subject).

If you are in KW temporarily, you:

  • Are a student.
  • Are a musician.
  • Are a student musician.
  • Might just be here for the beer.
  • Will get lost.


  • Highway 85 is known only as “the expressway.”
  • Every street has a north, south, east, west, northwest, southeast, and northy-southish counterpart.
  • There’s a food truck around here somewhere.

KW is a seriously charming place. From an independent bookstore to a farmers market to a pub that miraculously has dozens of craft beers on tap, there are a ton of fun things to stumble upon here. They host amazing public events like Word On The Street, Oktoberfest, the festival of lights, and the blues festival. (Kitchener, in particular, is a little festival crazy.) They have incredible theatre, both amateur and professional, and they are minutes away from the glorious St. Jacob’s market. Getting a job in publishing was a career dream come true, but working for WLU Press here in lively KW has been a life experience I can’t imagine having missed. So if you’ve never been to KW, start thinking about planning a visit. There’s a pretty good chance you’ll run into a festival and several musicians. And hey, we’re here too!

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A Longish Ramble on the Future of Books

November 25, 2013 by Darren

Or, Why I Picked a Good Time to Get Into Publishing

I’ve always been the type of person who loves to read in his downtime, ever since I started with R.L. Stine’s Goosebumps as a kid. Fear Street came later, and at some point my older brother bought me two books—a fantasy epic called Cormyr and Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six. I think that’s when I became a “book person” and evolved into a multi-genre reader.

We’re always taught that it’s wrong to judge a book by its cover, and while the message that phrase teaches us about how we treat other people is fundamental, I think—sometimes—we just can’t help it when it comes to books. (Speaking of covers, check out this post Clare wrote yesterday). In retrospect the Goosebumps covers are pretty laughable, but they were dramatic enough to hook a younger me into sneaking them into the grocery cart, frustrating my parents at the register.

(Am I remembering that right? They sold kids’ books in grocery stores, right?)

When I graduated to Fear Street, it was the photo-realistic covers that grabbed me.

(I also started buying books from actual bookstores.)

But when my brother gave me Cormyr and Rainbow Six for my birthday, it wasn’t just the covers that caught me. Here were two books like bricks, thick and heavy enough that I was careful not to let them crash through the glass table I set them down on. Cormyr weighed in at 486 pages, an intimidating feat at the time, but Rainbow Six made my palms sweat in nervous anticipation of its 912 pages. That was a first time I ever thought about the physicality of a book, it was the first time I realized, “someone made this.” I imagined pages being sized up and laid out, being printed and put together. For the first time, I saw a book as a physical thing. And then I didn’t.

The next ten or so years books would go back to being stories and ideas. I forgot about their physical reality, about their construction.

Two things have made me reconsider the reality of book production. Firstly, and most obviously, I got a great job in the publishing industry. While we don’t print and assemble the books here in the office, I get to talk about producing books an awful lot, and I get to listen to people who genuinely love this little-thought-of reality of the book world. Secondly, I have two books on deck that I can’t wait to read, and they both challenge what a book physically is. I guess two books plus one new job is three things. Sue me.

SS. by J.J. Abrams and Doug Dorst is a marvel of a book. The cloth-bound centrepiece is The Ship of Theseus, a fictional book from a fictional author named V.M. Straka. Holding it, the book looks and feels worn, and the first thing you’ll notice is that it’s a library book. Er, made to look like one. The Ship of Theseus is a stand-alone novel, but the real narrative happens in the margins, as two characters—Eric and Jen—communicate through notes and try to solve the mystery of who V.M. Straka is. The book comes shrink-wrapped and boxed, because along with the margin notes the narrative presents itself in postcards, letters, even a map drawn on a napkin. Part of the narrative also exists online, in places like and Look at that; print and digital working together to tell a story.

HoLThe other book is House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski. There’s nothing tucked in-between the pages of House of Leaves, instead the book relies on its layout and design, and lots (lots!) of footnotes in order to tell its story. Reading this book is a physical as well as an intellectual act, and from what I hear the nature of its construction creates an uneasy feeling of anxiety and claustrophobia for the reader. (When I picked it up and Words Worth Books, the woman behind the counter said, “this is the most terrifying book I’ve ever read,” and tried vainly to explain the sensation of peripheral anxiety she felt during certain passages). Sheer curiosity made me pick this one up, but I haven’t been able to start it yet. The dedications page reads, “this book is not for you.” It might be right.

The nature of the novel (or any book) is up in the air right now. People are starting to experiment with what exactly a book is capable of being—or doing. Last week I had a great conversation with our Acquisitions Editor, Lisa Quinn, and she told me how the influences of our digital culture is changing the way she’s structuring and planning books. Before that, Harvard University Press explained that “the scholarly book was overdue for an overhaul,” on their blog, and shed some light on their metaLABprojects series, a heavily design-driven series that I’m looking forward to following.

Okay, so what am I getting at here? I don’t want this post to turn into Rainbow Six so I’ll cut to the point. The “revolution” in publishing, if you want to call it that, is a lot more than print vs. digital, e-pub vs. p-book. What we have on our hands is a new medium, and the opportunity to look at existing ones in new ways.

From the Harvard University Press blog post mentioned earlier:

“Revolutions in media are never reducible to the mere substitution of old media by the new. Rather, they are about reshufflings of decks into which new cards have been inserted. This implies the emergence of new genres, norms, and forms. It also implies new hybridities that, in the case of the digital revolution, permit riffing off of convergences and divergences between the online and the offline, the digital and the analog.”

My love of books only grows stronger as I grow older. And my collection grows on an almost monthly basis. A bit of a hoarder, I never let go of my books, so I have the opportunity to look back and see an evolution, a progress. I see design trends rise and fall, the shapes and sizes and colours of my books all telling a little story of their own. Same with the stories within them, working collectively to narrate an epoch. I don’t know how it’s going to end (actually I kind of hope it never does) but I’m looking forward to following along.

And I’m looking forward to seeing what happens while we reconsider everything books can be, and everything they can do.

So sit back and enjoy the show.

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