Canadian faith-based publisher Wood Lake Books has announced that they will be discontinuing publishing books and curriculum.
Wood Lake has been in business for more than 40 years and is well known within the faith publishing community. The news came in a press release from publishers Patty Berube and Debra Joyal MacDonald. Big drops in church attendance during the pandemic meant a dearth of in-person Sunday school, Berube told Broadview via email. This led to a decline in curriculum sales, which was the publisher’s main source of income and what helped cover the costs to produce new books.
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President and publisher Patty Berube said she was grateful to hear the response to the news.
“Our customers/authors/contract staff have expressed their surprise and sorrow with the decision — and just about everyone has been gracious and understanding of the decision, “she said.
Through the publishing house’s long and full history, there were many long days and barriers broken.
“As a private ‘commercial’ publisher serving the church, we worked with a kind of rough stewardship and absolute accountability,” said author Ralph Milton, who served as a past publisher and acquisitions editor. As mentioned above by Berube, a decline in curriculum sales would have an effect on the whole business. “If sales dropped, so did our take-home pay,” said Milton.
Wood Lake Books was also a frontrunner in the United Church community in terms of publishing more diverse content and content by marginalized authors.
“We published books about and by [LGBTQ+ people] before the UC took any position on that. In those days, [it was a] radical position for which we took quite a bit of heat,” said Milton.
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Past editor Jim Taylor, shared some significant authors Wood Lake worked with over the years, including former United Church Observer staffer Donna Sinclair.
“She…became one of Wood Lake’s more prolific authors,” said Taylor.
Taylor also mentioned Marilyn Perry, who he said was the “was the driving force behind the church school curriculum, The Whole People of God, and its successor, Seasons of the Spirit.”
United Church members may be familiar with Songs for a Gospel People, a supplement to the hymn book published in 1987. Taylor said Gerald Hobbs was the visionary behind that collection.
“Hobbs came up with the idea for a book that included both the best of traditional hymns and the best of the new music that was flowering in the 1980s,” Taylor said.
Taylor said that he “left out about a hundred other authors.” Berube said Wood Lake currently has one more book on their acquisitions list that they intend to publish this year, and that “we will continue to provide the excellent customer service to our customers who will be able to use Seasons of the Spirit until the end of the Season of Creation/Pentecost 2 season of 2023.”
Wood Lake will also continue selling ebooks and downloadable resources that do not require further development and/or physical warehousing, as they will be closing their physical office space in the coming months.
The loss of Wood Lake Books is a great one. “We have many loyal customers, and it is with great sadness that having to make this decision is affecting them negatively,” said Berube.
Meredith Poirier is an intern at Broadview.
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