Wednesday, 4 June 2014

Why I do What I do

For a couple of years now, I have been sending occasional updates about my book A Million Miles from Broadway – Musical Theatre beyond New York and London, for which I appreciate your indulgence. I feel at this point that I owe you a bit o...f an explanation as to why I do this.

My 2006 book Broadway North: The Dream of a Canadian Musical Theatre was initially published by a small Canadian press called Natural Heritage Books, who have since been taken over by a slightly larger company called Dundurn Press. They had a mandate to publish books on Canadian cultural themes, and had published an earlier title of mine called When We Both Got to Heaven. Between 2006 and 2013, Broadway North sold just over a thousand copies. Not on the Times best-seller list, but as a niche book with an unusual approach to musical theatre, quite a respectable number. According to a WorldCat search, it is also found in more than 400 libraries.

With my follow-up book, I knew going in that, while it had a potentially wider appeal, it was also a tougher sell. As it did not fit within the Canadian culture mandate (Natural Heritage was funded by grants from the Canada Council and the Ontario Arts Council) my initial publishers passed on it. I approached several trade and academic publishers, but was told they would only consider it if I changed the focus to concentrate on how American and British musicals have conquered the world – the very antithesis of what I was trying to do. And so, I ended up taking the difficult step of publishing it myself.

Unlike my previous books, I did not have the promotional support of a publisher, nor the distribution network of University of Toronto Press and Gazelle Book Services. Instead, I chose a print on demand service, which meant the book was only available through on-line orders, and not generally available through bricks and mortar book stores. Therefore, you will not be surprised when I tell you that sales of A Million Miles from Broadway have been about ten percent of what Broadway North has enjoyed. This is in spite of the wonderful reviews it has received from the likes of Peter Filichia and Stage Whispers, among many others.

I believe that this book has an important “mission” – to look at musical theatre from a unique international perspective. But it was written at enormous cost. I travelled to Australia, Singapore, Germany and France without any outside funding (other than from my family). Needless to say, sales have so far come nowhere near covering this.

The only way that this book can succeed is through word of mouth, and through take-up in cultural and educational circles, especially in universities that have musical theatre programs. I am very grateful to people like Charles Gilbert, who ordered it for the University of the Arts in Philadelphia, and who also invited me to address the conference of the International Musical Theatre Educators Alliance. To this end, I have also addressed the Lyric Canada conference in 2010, the InTune conference in Vancouver, as well as Musical Theatre West Midlands, both in 2013. I have also guest-lectured at a number of universities. Best of all, because of these two books, I have been accepted into the Masters degree program at Goldsmith University of London beginning in September, in spite of my not having an undergraduate degree. My hope after that is to be able to expand my educational activity worldwide.

A Million Miles from Broadway can be ordered from It is distributed to the trade by Ingram, ISBN9780991695706