“To me, leadership means making space for new voices.”
Heidi Waechtler grew up surrounded by books. “I always assumed I would move into writing books, but as I got older, I realized I was better at communicating with writers and helping them improve their writing.”
After studying literature at university, Heidi started working in communications before going back to school to get her editing certificate at Simon Fraser University (SFU). That’s where she found her true calling. She worked for several publishing houses in Toronto, learning all of the different facets of the industry when an opportunity opened up to lead the Association of Book Publishers of British Columbia (ABPBC) in Vancouver.
The publishing industry is changing all the time, and to stay in the game, you have to be able to move quickly and adapt to new surroundings. For Heidi, that means innovation. “I’ve always been interested in how the editorial process intersected with the business side of publishing. When I saw the new technology coming out, and all of the different ways to bring people together, I started thinking about how I could help innovate this industry.”
Heidi believes it begins with connection. Her focus at ABPBC has been to reach readers online and offline and build those connections directly. She knows that she needs to help publishers get into spaces they might not have been before, introduce them to new markets, and help them shine a light on new voices.
ABPBC supports around 30 organizations working in publishing across British Columbia, from the Sunshine Coast to the Okanagan, Vancouver to Smithers. While their membership is fairly diverse, including universities, museums, children’s book and regionally-focused publishers, the needs are typically the same. “Every one of our members wants support with advocacy, marketing, business development, access to technology and introductions to new markets.”
Heidi sees ABPBC as the centre of a community, and it’s essential to hold that community together, especially during times of change. “We are driven by what our members need, and we are constantly looking for ways to support them. We’re working in an ecosystem, and one of the most gratifying things about my job is that we get to bring competitors together to talk about how we can collectively address our challenges.”
Heidi looks to Creative BC to support her members when opportunities for growth are cost prohibitive. “They open up relationships and partnerships that our members wouldn’t have access to and help get their published work on an international stage. They also help us grow as an industry. With the support of Creative BC, we are working with the Magazine Association of BC to produce workshops on building greater inclusivity, diversity, accountability and accessibility.”
Heidi sees leadership everywhere she looks; from amazing bookstores in rural communities to independent publishers supporting diverse voices, there is no shortage of publishers innovating across our province. There are also lots of organizations stepping up when it comes to making space for new voices in the industry. From mentorships for emerging Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) authors, to books on reconciliation, the publishing industry is taking on challenging topics and making them accessible.
“Our industry has become aware of how much more diverse we can be, and publishers are now helping to put stories out into the world that will influence young leaders. They are helping to raise socially conscious citizens, and it’s quite inspiring to see.”