Publishing Unbound was conceived as a collaboration between the university and the publishing industry, represented by the four event organizers: Heidi Waechtler (ABPBC), Sylvia Skene (Magazine Association of BC), Hannah McGregor (Simon Fraser University), and Erin Wunker (Dalhousie University). We initially sought funding through the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council’s Connection program, and successfully received funding from the Canada Council for the Arts.
The event was organized in the style of an academic workshop, in which invited participants gather together to discuss a specific topic, often with the goal of publishing a special journal issue or edited volume of essays. Academic workshops let organizers carefully select participants to ensure representation of key fields or topics, and due to the focused nature of the group they make space for unusually extensive and frank conversation.
However, it became clear as we approached non-academic participants that this kind of event was unfamiliar to them; in the publishing industry, workshops are generally educational events in which people pay to learn from selected speakers. The invitation-only nature of Publishing Unbound led to some confusion and some concerns from members of the industry, who felt that the lack of audience was contrary to the openness at the heart of the event. Responding to their concerns, we scheduled a public evening of readings and talks at SFU Harbour Centre the Friday before the invitation-only weekend workshop.
Upon further discussion, the organizers agreed that invitation-only had enough advantages to outweigh the concerns. By inviting participants rather than accepting applications, we could prioritize the participation of people who may not have applied, including early-career publishers, many of whom are women of colour. We will detail the rationale for participants further in the next section.
In addition, the absence of an audience made the event into a safe venue for frank and open discussions, without the risk of harassment or derailing comments, which cannot be assured at open events. This is not to say that open events are without merit, but rather that there is value to both of these approaches.
The number at the weekend workshop was limited by our decision to pay travel, accommodation, and an honorarium to all participants, recognizing that many people working in publishing cannot afford to travel to events without assistance. Other iterations of similar events could focus on local participants, thus mitigating travel and accommodation costs; however, we believe honoraria should be paid to participants wherever possible, as a failure to do so would undermine the importance of an event such as this and the specialized knowledge possessed by diverse participants. Women of colour and people from other underrepresented groups are disproportionately called upon to perform free labour, especially emotional labour, and a key value to organizing an event that seeks to address equity in any industry must be a commitment to remunerating such labour.
Finally, we decided not to record or circulate the detailed notes of the conversations that unfolded at Publishing Unbound, and asked participants not to tweet about or share the content of these conversations. These assurances of confidentiality allowed participants to speak openly about difficult topics. This report respects that confidentiality and thus summarizes the key themes of conversations without identifying speakers, while redacting any potential identifying details or information that might expose participants to risk. At future events, different decisions could be made, but only with the complete agreement of all participants.