Cancel 43e edition of the Montreal Book Fair? For its managing director, Olivier Gougeon, the question “never” arose. The organization has worked hard to offer from November 12 to 15 a redesigned edition, of course, but which wants to keep the spirit of the popular event, whose programming is officially unveiled on Tuesday.
“Our motto is: let’s move forward! The Montreal Book Fair (SLM) is an institution that goes beyond the place and the activities. Our mission is to promote books, but also reading, culture as a fundamental good of society. For us, it was essential that the show take place, regardless of its form, ”says Olivier Gougeon.
After a successful edition last year, says Mr. Gougeon, the team was “excited to move to the Palais des congrès and launch the programming in its new form.” Obviously, the confinement announced in March was a shock for everyone. The future suddenly took on the shades of uncertainty.
A redesigned offer … and free
Almost 100,000 people of all ages come to SLM each year to discover new publications, meet authors, attend round tables or participate in various activities. How to reproduce this abundant experience virtually?
The Montreal Book Fair is about moving from the intimate act of reading to sharing, getting together around books. We may not be able to reproduce all that, but we can carry our values differently.
Olivier Gougeon, General Manager of the Montreal Book Fair
In recent months, the team has had to juggle several scenarios, says the general manager: “The image we worked with is that of Russian dolls. If the living room as we know it doesn’t exist, what is underneath? We wondered how to get the show out of the show, how to meet Montrealers in these conditions. ”
First challenge: make the various virtual activities attractive. “Technology allows people to meet, but we didn’t want to Zoom kitchen, ”explains Mr. Gougeon. To do this, the SLM decided to work with a professional film crew. “These are people who have a great deal of experience in live and music performances. The goal is to have a very dynamic signature. ”
The “heart of this edition” is the section of activities presented live, in the company of authors – in compliance with current health rules, of course. Round tables, cabarets and other conferences will be recorded at the Palais des congrès, a choice that was essential for the organization, when the place was to host the event for the first time this year.
These events will be presented on the brand new web platform of the Salon du livre de Montréal from November 12 to 15, completely free of charge. “It was important for us that it was free. Our slogan this year is Open to the world; we invite everyone to discover the show in this new form ”, adds the general manager.
Round tables, cabarets and conferences will be added to the secrets of writers (Catherine Mavrikakis, Kim Thúy, Josélito Michaud, Michel Tremblay, etc.) and youth activities. The team also pre-recorded certain segments, including video clips devoted to Quebec authors, which occupy 95% of the programming this year.
Face-to-face with authors
A novelty that will undoubtedly be popular is the opportunity for people to participate in the game of virtual meetings with the author of their choice, a way of remotely reproducing the popular SLM signing sessions … and encouraging sales of books.
Authors like Simon Boulerice, Pascale Navarro, Tristan Demers and Bernard Weber will play the game. Interested parties simply have to choose one of the books on offer and reserve their time slot – 5 minutes one-on-one with the author or 25 minutes in a small group of five people. From there, the person will be directed to a new partner site with leslibraires.ca, where they can obtain the selected book. Once the purchase is made, a link to access the virtual signing session will be sent.
Booxie, a Montreal-based company specializing in the creation of dating platforms, developed this pilot project for the SLM. “It’s really new, it has never been done this way,” says Mr. Gougeon, who welcomes the innovations on which the organization has worked. “We’re also building for the future and we’re going to bring this experience with us, creating diversity in the way we talk about books. ”
Absent publishing houses
There is no guest of honor this year at SLM – “It’s the public, our guest of honor! », Launches Mr. Gougeon. The program, which gives an almost absolute place to literature and local authors, is deployed in five major themes identified by the team for this edition, “strong” themes, he adds, such as feminism, the plurality of voices or the post-pandemic.
About a hundred Quebec publishing houses have agreed to participate in this unusual edition, including Leméac, Héliotrope, Québec Amérique and XYZ. Some have preferred to skip their turn, for example Éditions Somme Tout, Le Cheval d’Août – which has just published Fanny Britt’s latest -, La Peuplade and Boréal.
“The publisher considers that a book fair is first and foremost an opportunity for readers to meet and discuss in person with the authors, to read through the various stands., to attend round tables and have the pleasure of having their books signed. It is for this reason that most of the major international book fairs open to the public have canceled their 2020 edition, ”Gabrielle Cauchy, press officer for Boréal, explained to us by email.
“Not all publishers have chosen to participate,” confirms Mr. Gougeon. I respect their choice, it’s a really special year, and that decision is up to them. Having said that, however, I believe they are missing an opportunity to promote their authors and their books. But my wish is that this fair will be that of everyone, of all books, of all those who love reading, whether or not you participate as an author, editor or reader. ”
The 43e SLM edition in figures
• 462 authors
• 102 publishing houses
• Nearly 500 activities
• 70 events recorded at the Palais des congrès
• 90 video clips dedicated to authors