June 16, 2004 by

Jack McClelland

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Categories: Business, Media, Military

Unlike other publishers, John G. McClelland was willing to lose money on talented writers. He often said his company, McClelland & Stewart, published “authors not books.”
Born in Toronto, McClelland served as a torpedo boat captain in the Royal Navy during World War II. When he returned to Canada in 1946, he began working for his father’s publishing business. McClelland became president 15 years later and transformed McClelland & Stewart into a prestigious literary house by publishing and marketing Canadian authors like Alice Munro, Michael Ondaatje, Mordecai Richler, Pierre Berton and Margaret Atwood. He also established a first novel contest in 1977 that offered an annual $50,000 prize.
“Jack McClelland was daring, innovative, unconventional, smart and savvy, and a publisher extraordinaire. He put Canadian authors and Canadian publishing on the map. In a way, he set the stage for so much of what Canadian publishing is today,” said Ellen Seligman, publisher and vice president of McClelland & Stewart.
Despite its publishing successes, the company struggled financially against the giant American and European houses. In the late 1960s, McClelland & Stewart had to accept financial aid from the Ontario provincial government just to stay afloat. He sold the company in 1985 and launched a small literary agency, which foundered.
McClelland died on June 14 of heart failure. He was 81.

One Response to Jack McClelland

  1. Melanie Saxon

    Leonard Cohen dedicated work to him and without him maybe a lot of us would never have come to know Leonard’s work. God rest his soul.

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