Identifying Canadian Authorship

A Growing Appetite For Information On Canadian Authorship

Retailers, libraries, media and the Department of Canadian Heritage (PCH) have all expressed an increased interest in being better able to identify Canadian-authored books. The motivation is the same because each group ultimately seeks to serve the same clients — Canadian readers — whose own keen interest is increasingly clear: In BookNet Canada's latest Canadians Reading Canadians study, 84% of Canadian book buyers said they were "very" or "somewhat" interested in reading Canadian authors, which is up from 75% in 2012.

For publishers, Canadian authorship identifiers present a valuable marketing tool. They offer another useful way to help librarians, booksellers, and dedicated bestseller lists to bring those books and their prospective audience together. These identifiers also add another lens through which SalesData and LibraryData can be dissected for trends and opportunities. Those Canadian bestseller lists you see in the newspaper? Canadian titles are identified using the Canadian contributor marker that we'll discuss more below.

For PCH, its substantial investment in supply chain infrastructure is driven, ultimately, by a desire to improve access for Canadian readers to the full range of Canadian-authored books in the marketplace. More information on what kinds of Canadian-authored books are being produced and where they're situated in the marketplace is critical to explaining the value and impact of PCH's investment in BNC activities. The more data the Department has on the Canadian book market, the more effectively it can ensure that its array of support helps the industry to meet an evolving array of challenges and opportunities.

Identification Of Canadian Contributors In ONIX

Publishers can help identify and promote their Canadian-authored books by identifying Canadian contributors in their ONIX files using the country code "CA" in the Contributor composite's Country Code element (refer to the ONIX manual's PR.8.33 Country code for details, and see Appendix A for a sample). Publishers are encouraged to supply this information for all titles but they are strongly encouraged to supply it for their new and top selling books.

The formal ONIX definition for this element is a "code identifying a country with which a contributor is particularly associated, when this is significant for the marketing of a product." Publishers can, and should, use other country codes following this definition if their contributors are associated with other countries, but within the Canadian supply chain a "CA" code is supplied to facilitate the identification and promotion of books authored by Canadians.

Defining "CANADIAN CONTRIBUTORS"

While the term "Canadian book" could have a number of different meanings (published in Canada, about Canada, written by a Canadian, or published by a Canadian company) it's safe to assume that the vast majority of people would understand the term "Canadian-authored book" to mean a book written by a Canadian citizen.

With that in mind, the following definition of a Canadian Contributor is proposed based on the legal definition of a Canadian:

Applying The Definition

Definitive author citizenship information is rarely available and collecting additional information would not only be burdensome for all parties, but would raise privacy concerns. Publishers are asked, instead, to adhere as closely to the above definition of a Canadian Contributor as possible in identifying contributors that they reasonably assume to be Canadian based on information already at their disposal as a result of their normal business practices.

For example, for authors whose citizenship is unknown, mailing addresses that appear to suggest Canadian residency (i.e. not P.O. boxes or agents or lawyers offices) could provide a reasonable proxy for citizenship (i.e. if Author X, citizenship unknown, has a Canadian mailing address to Publisher Y, Publisher Y could reasonably infer that Author X is a Canadian citizen or permanent resident and therefore add a "CA" to the Country Code of all of the Author X books they've published).

This is not to suggest that the publishers mailing addressed should be the default determining factor in assigning a "CA" designation. As a rule of thumb, if the publisher has an existing knowledge of an author's citizenship, a mailing address, author bio or other existing business records should be used to confirm citizenship; where citizenship is unknown, those same sources of information can be used to make a reasonable inference.

Where no such reasonable means is readily available to identify or infer a contributor's nationality, publishers should leave the Country Code blank.

For contributors whose citizenship has changed over time, the current status should be applied to all of that contributor's books (i.e. if a contributor is a Canadian now, all their past work should be considered to be by a Canadian). Publishers should strive to make adjustments to the Country Code when a given author's citizenship is known to have changed.

Where an individual title has more than one contributor, a single Canadian Contributor is sufficient to warrant a "CA" Country Code. However, publishers should ideally strive to apply this label only when the contributors' role is significant (i.e. to the extent possible, "CA" designations should be reserved for authors, illustrators and editors of collections. Publishers should avoid using the "CA" designation when the Canadian contributor's involvement is minor, e.g. a Canadian-authored introduction to a foreign-authored book).

Retailers and libraries, as end-users of the data, should recognize the limitations of the data and take these into account when making use of the Country Code for promotional or other purposes.

While publishers should aim to provide accurate data, end users bear a responsibility for interpreting and applying that data appropriately. If an end user displays the Country Code information publicly (for example: a "Canadian author" tag on a website) they should also define what ONIX roles they accept as being an 'author' and display it so publishers and users can review it.

The Importance Of Striving For Complete and Accurate Information

Publishers are not responsible for supplying this information on every contributor, or for every book, nor are they responsible for updating the information if it was accurate at the time of publication. However, the more thoroughly and accurately the "CA" designation is applied, the more useful this information will be for all parties.

Identifying authors commonly known to be foreign citizens as Canadian risks undermining the legitimacy of bestseller lists and store promotions targeting Canadian-authored books in the eyes of consumers. Misidentifying these more prominent authors also risks misrepresenting the place of Canadian-authored books in the Canadian market (e.g. if Raincoast-published Harry Potter books had carried a "CA" Country Code, sales of Canadian-authored books would appear to have plummeted since the series' end).

On the flip side, actively (and correctly) identifying backlist titles as Canadian-authored may open new avenues for bringing those titles to Canadians' attention and will help to show the breadth and depth of Canadian writing present in publishers' catalogues and on store shelves.


Supplying a Canadian Author marker in ONIX 3.0

ONIX 3.0 supports a composite 
Contributor place
devoted to identifying values associated with an author and where s/he has lived or lives.  ONIX Code List 151 allows great subtlety and depth in information that <could> be provided.
01   Born in 
02   Died in 
03   Formerly resided in 
04   Currently resides in 
05   Educated in 
06   Worked in 
07   Flourished in 
08   Citizen of - with a note specifying "Or nationality. For use with country codes only."

BookNet's Bibliographic Committee identified that for ONIX 3.0 the correct way to designate a Canadian author is to use Code  “08”  — Citizen of  in a Contributor Place composite.  

Of the possible repetitions of this composite to give various values about the author (note that could even cover multiple citizenship) the only recognized way that to identify a Canadian Author country code of "CA" and have it recognized is to associated it with code "08"

Please see Appendix C below for a sample in ONIX 3.0

APPENDIX A: Canadian Contributor FAQ

I'm publishing a book about the Canadian softwood lumber industry written by an American, can I use a CA designation in the Country Code to highlight that the book is about Canada?

The Contributor Country Code applies to the individual and NOT to the content of a book. Identifying Canadian products — book content about Canada — can be accomplished by using Thema or BISAC Subject Codes and their respective Geographical Qualifiers or Regional codes, or by general means like titles or keywords. The sole purpose of the Contributor Country Code is to designate the Canadian identity of a contributor.


Who among these authors should be identified as a Canadian Contributor?: Malcolm Gladwell, Richard Florida, Kathy Reichs, and/or Conrad Black

Only Malcolm Gladwell, who is a Canadian citizen (even though he was born in England and lives in the United States). The others have ties to Canada but do not meet the Canadian Contributor definition: Richard Florida is — for the time being at least — only a temporary resident in Canada, Kathy Reichs is an American citizen who resides part-time in Canada, and Conrad Black no longer holds Canadian citizenship.


I'm a retailer looking to put together a display of Canadian-authored crime fiction, am I expected to limit my picks to titles with a "CA" Country Code?

No. In spite of the best efforts of publishers supplying the data, Country Code values may be incomplete or inaccurate and retailers and other end users should approach the data with these considerations in mind. If a retailer believes that a book that does not carry a "CA" code is written by a Canadian citizen or permanent resident, that retailer should feel free to classify the title accordingly and is encouraged to inform the publisher of a potential error or omission in the data.


My non-fiction editor was responsible for guiding a new series of how-to books written by a foreign author to publication. Is a Canadian Contributor designation appropriate for these books?

No. The type of editing referenced in the Canadian Contributor definition is the editorial oversight of a collective work where the book is publicly attributed to that editor and he or she has made a significant contribution to the title's writing (such as an overarching introduction or conclusion). Editing regularly done by a publisher in order to bring a manuscript to publishable form is not considered sufficient to warrant a "CA" designation. If the editor would not normally be listed as a contributor in ONIX, the Country Code should not be influenced by their citizenship.


APPENDIX B: Sample ONIX Contributor Composite for ONIX 2.1

The Country Code element is the third last line. Note that only one country code is allowed per element, but the element is repeatable if an author is associated with more than one country. Also note that it is possible to designate a Region Code in addition to a Country Code.

<Contributor>
    <SequenceNumber>1</SequenceNumber>
    <ContributorRole>A01</ContributorRole>
    <PersonName>Todd Nephew, Jr.</PersonName>
    <PersonNameInverted>Nephew, Todd</PersonNameInverted>
    <NamesBeforeKey>Todd</NamesBeforeKey>
    <KeyNames>Nephew</KeyNames>
    <SuffixToKey>Jr.</SuffixToKey>
    <BiographicalNote>
Todd Nephew, Jr. was born in Winnipeg, schooled in Halifax, did his undergraduate degree at McGill and his graduate studies at the London School of Economics. He now lives on a barge on Great Slave Lake near Yellowknife.
    </BiographicalNote>
    <Website>
        <WebsiteRole>06</WebsiteRole>
        <WebsiteLink>http://www.authortodd.ca</WebsiteLink>
    </Website>
    <CountryCode>CA</CountryCode>
    <RegionCode>CA-NT</RegionCode>
</Contributor>

Retailer support for the Region Code is not as clear, but we know that it is of interest to them and will be noted if used. If your systems can accommodate it, it's recommended in addition to the Contributor Country Code.

While the Contributor Country Code is not mandatory, its use is emphatically encouraged as retailers and media want and need it.


APPENDIX C: Sample ONIX Contributor Composite for ONIX 3.0

The Country Code of "CA" in the last Contributor Place composite (in bolded blue) is used to designate the Canadian Author.  The other uses of the Contributor Place composite are encouraged, especially use of Currently resides in which is a regular request by libraries and retailers, but only Code '08' Nationality can designate a Canadian Author.

Within Block 1 — DescriptiveDetail composite:

<Contributor>
    <SequenceNumber>1</SequenceNumber>
    <ContributorRole>A01</ContributorRole>

    <!-- If the author has an ISNI assigned it would be here, note the 16 digit number is expressed without spaces -->
    <NameIdentifier>
        <NameIDType>16</NameIDType>
        <IDValue>0000000000000000</IDValue>
    </NameIdentifier>

    <PersonName>Todd Nephew, Jr.</PersonName>
    <PersonNameInverted>Nephew, Todd</PersonNameInverted>
    <NamesBeforeKey>Todd</NamesBeforeKey>
    <KeyNames>Nephew</KeyNames>
    <SuffixToKey>Jr.</SuffixToKey>

    <!-- Dates associated with the contributor go here – this provides the birthday -->
    <ContributorDate>
        <ContributorDateRole>50</ContributorDateRole>
        <Date>19750816</Date>
    </ContributorDate>

    <!-- It's only typical in educational feeds but if the author has an institutional affiliation -->
    <ProfessionalAffiliation>
         <ProfessionalPosition>Adjunct Professor</ProfessionalPosition>
         <Affiliation>Univ of Northern British Columbia</Affiliation>
    </ProfessionalAffiliation>

    <!-- Awards given to the author, typically lifetime achievement awards go here.  Awards given to a book should go to the regular Prize composite for that book -->
    <Prize>
         <PrizeName>Writers’ Trust Engel/Findley Award</PrizeName>
         <PrizeYear>20##</PrizeYear>
         <PrizeCountry>CA</PrizeCountry>
         <PrizeCode>01</PrizeCode>
    </Prize> 

    <!-- Biographical Note is HTML enabled -->
    <BiographicalNote><p><i>Todd Nephew, Jr.</i> was born in Winnipeg, schooled in Halifax, did his undergraduate degree at McGill, his graduate studies at the London School of Economics and is a part-time professor at UNBC. He now lives on a barge on Great Slave Lake near Yellowknife.</p></BiographicalNote>

     <!-- For a website directly associated with the author -->
     <Website>
        <WebsiteRole>06</WebsiteRole>
        <WebsiteLink>http://www.authortodd.ca</WebsiteLink>
      </Website>

<I-- The next section details how to use Contributor Place -->

<!-- The next section designates that the author was born in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, but not that he is a Canadian author. -->

    <ContributorPlace>
        <ContributorPlaceRelator>01</ContributorPlaceRelator>
        <CountryCode>CA</CountryCode>
        <RegionCode>CA-MB</RegionCode>
        <LocationName>Winnipeg</LocationName>
    </ContributorPlace>

<!-- This designates where the author formerly resided in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada, but not that he is a Canadian author. -->
    <ContributorPlace>
        <ContributorPlaceRelator>03</ContributorPlaceRelator>  
        <CountryCode>CA</CountryCode>
        <RegionCode>CA-NS</RegionCode>
        <LocationName>Halifax</LocationName>
    </ContributorPlace>

<!-- This designates the author was educated at McGill University in Quebec, Canada, but not that he is a Canadian author. -->
    <ContributorPlace>
        <ContributorPlaceRelator>05</ContributorPlaceRelator>   
        <CountryCode>CA</CountryCode>
        <RegionCode>CA-QC</RegionCode>
        <LocationName>McGill University</LocationName>
    </ContributorPlace>

<!-- This designates the author was educated at the London School of Economics, United Kingdom, but not that he is a British author. -->
   <ContributorPlace>
        <ContributorPlaceRelator>05</ContributorPlaceRelator> 
        <CountryCode>GB</CountryCode>
         <LocationName>London School of Economics</LocationName>
    </ContributorPlace>

 <!-- This designates that the author currently resides in Yellowknife, NWT, Canada, but not that he is a Canadian author. -->
    <ContributorPlace>
           <ContributorPlaceRelator>04</ContributorPlaceRelator>  
        <CountryCode>CA</CountryCode>
        <RegionCode>CA-NT</RegionCode>
        <LocationName>Yellowknife</LocationName>
    </ContributorPlace>

 <!-- This designates that the author flourished in Northern Canada.  Use more specific codes if they apply. "Flourished" is probably best reserved for dead authors and authors very strongly associated with a region -->
    <ContributorPlace>
        <ContributorPlaceRelator>07</ContributorPlaceRelator>   
        <CountryCode>CA</CountryCode>
        <LocationName>Northern Canada</LocationName>
    </ContributorPlace>

<!-- This designates that author is a citizen of Canada and therefore a Canadian author.
      A specific Region Code or Location should not be supplied as the Country Code is the only relevant part
      of nationality.  Use other more specific codes and locations for detail. -->

    <ContributorPlace>

        <ContributorPlaceRelator>08</ContributorPlaceRelator>  
        <CountryCode>CA</CountryCode>
    </ContributorPlace>

</Contributor>