Heather Bryan, co-owner of Nimbus Publishing, Atlantic Canada’s largest publisher, notes that the publishing world is changing with the societal tide. And the influence of women in the industry is growing.
“It used to be that even though the larger publishing companies employed a lot of women, the top tier jobs were typically filled by men but I think this is changing industry-wide,” she says.
Bryan adds that in her own experience, women have had a tremendously positive impact on Nimbus. “If it hadn’t been for the influence of women staff at Nimbus, we wouldn’t have started to publish children’s books, which now accounts for 29 percent of our sales, or our successful fiction imprint, Vagrant Press.”
Bryan’s influence has also grown over the years. Her journey started long before Nimbus. Her first foray into the world of print took place after she graduated from Sheridan College in 1988.
“My first job out of college was at a local lifestyles magazine in town, called What’s Up, Niagara?” Bryan recalls.
It was largely the same type of job at that local magazine in St. Catherine’s, Ontario that she is now doing at Nimbus. “Although I was fresh out of school, and so I didn’t know what I was doing,” she laughs.
Marriage and her new husband’s professional relocation brought her to Halifax in 1989, where work for magazines in the city continued to shape Bryan’s career for another decade. It was then that her dream job opportunity surfaced.
“Books were always my dream. I’ve always been a book person,” she says. “A colleague told me that they had an opening for a production manager at Nimbus and said, ‘it’d be perfect for you.’ So on a whim I said, ‘Okay, fine.’”
She went straight to Nimbus, talked with the manager, and was hired that same day in 1999.
Bryan immediately took to the world of book production that was devoid of the fast-paced deadlines and the constant stress of magazine work. She loved it. “I would do this job for free,” she often told her boss.
She is still happily doing exactly what she’s been doing all along: overseeing the production of a book from its manuscript beginning to its published end.
“It just couldn’t be more perfect for me, being a book person to start with, and being able to do what I already knew how to do – but now in books instead,” she says.
In 2012, the chance arose to purchase the company from then-owner John Marshall, with her colleague Terrilee Bulger, who works as the general manager of Nimbus and owns Prince Edward Island publisher Acorn Press.
“John wanted to keep the company in the hands of people who were instrumental behind it doing well. So he offered it to us first. And Terrilee and I couldn’t see anyone else owning it, so we decided to take it over.”
Although she’s an owner, Bryan still finds the same joy in the details of the job. She loves those details, whether it’s in proofing, design or layout.
“This suits my personality very well,” she says. “There’s a lot of moving pieces, and everybody in the office does their bit. But essentially it comes down to me to get it out the door and to the printer. I’m a perfectionist when it comes right down to it.”
Bryan also remains excited by the focus on the Atlantic region. “Regional publishers nurture new writers and take the initial risk on books that might not be published otherwise,” she explains. As an extension of her enthusiasm for local publishing, she also serves as president of the Atlantic Publishers Marketing Association.
“We feel that we are very much part of our community and strive to keep Nova Scotian heritage and culture alive. It is part of our mandate to publish books that may not end up being commercially successful because the stories need to be told.”
And even though she doesn’t “do this job for free,” Bryan continues to look forward to each new turn of the road. “Publishing never gets dull or routine for me,” she says. “I’m learning new things all the time and everyday is different and challenging.”