When M&S first began publishing the New Canadian Library back in 1958 skeptics wrote it off as an experiment in lunacy. They predicted the series would fall on its sword after it was first launched. They believed there wasn’t enough of a market for Canadian literature. Too many Canadian books were published and quickly went out of print because of lack of demand. For the most part, Canadian writers had to be accepted and published elsewhere (In the US, UK or FRA) before Canadians purchased their books. It would be too complicated getting the rights to many of the books, it would be too expensive to publish these books. The amount of sales would cover the cost of publishing let alone make a profit.
In some ways the skeptics were right. Many titles were losses for M&S. If it wasn’t for Stephen Leacock’s popularity (and a few other authors), the NCL could have been a blip in the Canadian book publishing scene never to be heard from again. But with Malcolm Ross’ determination and Jack McClelland’s money, the NCL has survived and prospered for the past 50 years.
Once the NCL showed success, other book publishers decided to enter the market as well. M&S with the NCL paved the way for others to sell Canadian books to the Canadian public, and Canada had a birth of publishing that helped numerous authors become known to the world. The 1960s, aided by the NCL and other imprints, became in Canada the starting point of a home-grown literary renaissance. No longer would Canadians be reading American, British and French authors, they would now have the ability to easily find, read, and enjoy Canadian writers as well. Atwood, Laurence, Leacock, Richler, and many other Canadian authors gained international and domestic recognition through the help of the NCL and its competing imprints. This page lists the NCL’s main competitors and list the books they published. Links to each individual imprint are below: