Practical, useful nonfiction books that appeal to readers across the world: it sounds like a tall order, but Québec consistently delivers. Books from publishers like Cardinal, CHU Sainte-Justine, and Guy Saint-Jean Éditeur combine North American know-how with European perspectives to address global concerns.
Trécarré, part of Groupe Librex, is a prominent example of a Québec publisher that has become a trusted name internationally, featuring how-to and illustrated reference books written by leading experts in fields from food and cooking to cars and health. “Trécarré has become a key international publisher of health books,” says Carole Boutin, rights manager for Groupe Librex. “Our health books are developed for an international audience. They contain references to Québec, of course, but there are also plenty of American and European references too. Our content is examined carefully, and we work with experts in each particular field.”
“Take L’autisme expliqué aux non-autistes,” Boutin says. Written by social worker Brigitte Harrisson, who was diagnosed with autism at the age of 38, and Lise St-Charles, a therapist and specialist on autism spectrum disorders (ASD), the book draws on the experiences of beloved Québec author Kim Thúy, whose son is autistic, to, according to the publisher’s description, “take[s] an introspective, courageous, and unique look at autism, based on actual experiences of people with an ASD.” More than 27,000 copies have been sold in Québec, with rights sold to Belgium, Canada (world English rights), China, France, and Italy.
This expert-first approach is clearly paying off. Johanne Guay, vice-president of publishing at Groupe Librex, says, “We’re sent lots of publishing projects that are accounts of a depression, eating disorder, or the impact of social media, but we prefer to develop practical content with a specialist that will allow readers to better understand the issue, prevent the problem, seek help, and improve their quality of life.”
Another international success story is Le jardinier-maraîcher by Jean-Martin Fortier (Écosociété), a handbook for small-scale organic farming that focuses on low-tech, high-yield production methods. Translated into English as The Market Gardener (New Society Publishers), it’s also available in half a dozen other languages, with more than 100,000 copies sold. “Our how-to guides have been very successful internationally, particularly The Market Gardener,” says Elodie Comtois of Écosociété. “People are looking for hands-on solutions to the environmental crisis, and they want to start at home, in their gardens.”
Groupe Homme, meanwhile, is French Canada’s biggest publisher of general literature, publishing more than 150 titles a year. Les Éditions de l’Homme, part of the group, has high hopes for two of its most recent titles: Cessez de manger vos émotions by Isabelle Huot and Catherine Senécal, which has sold 15,000 copies in Québec alone, with rights sold to France and Italy, and Bye-bye sucre raffiné, bonjour purée de dattes, the latest book by Madame Labriski, whose previous book sold more than 120,000 copies in Québec.
Finally, there is Éditions de Mortagne. “We’re largely a publishing house that specializes in health, personal development, and spirituality,” says Sandy Pellerin, vice-president of publishing and co-owner. “There needs to be a flame for us to take on a book. We’re all about passion and emotion. That’s what we want our readers to experience too, as we help them grow, develop, and learn.”
A standout for De Mortagne so far has been its Boîte à outils (toolbox) collection, a series of guides that helps parents cope with issues their children may be facing, on topics ranging from anxiety to allergies. “The collection,” Pellerin says, “is quite recent and has been a huge success, with more than 225,000 copies sold to date.”