The “off-bookstore” release of Ginette Reno’s autobiography on April 6 has had the effect of a bombshell in the book industry, shaken by the commercial offensive led by producer and businessman Nicolas Lemieux, which bypasses the book chain.

The news was written in black and white in a press release published on March 2. Ginette Reno’s new album, C’est tout moi, as well as her autobiography, simply titled Ginette, will be released on April 6 and available exclusively online, as well as in Jean Coutu pharmacies exclusively.

No mention of bookstores, which later learned that they were excluded from the network set up by producer and businessman Nicolas Lemieux (Harmonium Symphonique, Riopelle Symphonique).

“It’s appalling,” says the president of the Association des libraires du Québec, Éric Lemieux, who is also a bookseller at the Librairie du Square.

In fact, Nicolas Lemieux has opened the door to his online store (Oziko) to booksellers who want to sell Ginette Reno’s autobiography, but on his terms. For example, it offers them 15% off – instead of the usual 40% –; it imposes firm sales without the possibility of returns (for unsold items, which is unprecedented); or else, he makes them pay the transport costs (normally provided by the publisher).

“These are not conditions that correspond to our way of working,” says Floriane Claveau, director of communications at Renaud-Bray, who defends the “expertise” of the various stakeholders in the book chain. As for Éric Lemieux, he has no intention of selling Ginette Reno’s book under these conditions. He even says he hopes that the majority of booksellers “refuse to sell it”.

However, Nicolas Lemieux says he respects the profession of bookseller, but he believes that there are “far too many stakeholders” in the book chain, and that the current model has become “archaic”.

For the past five years, Nicolas Lemieux has made this same shift in music, selling his products outside of stores and streaming music apps. To date, he says he has sold 150,000 copies of the Harmonium Symphonique album. It is therefore by following the same recipe that he intends to market the autobiography of Ginette Reno.

Nicolas Lemieux, who did not want to reveal the number of copies printed, does not, however, go into publishing, an expertise he does not claim to have. “It’s a job to be a publisher, but I don’t have to buy into the business side of marketing. »

“What we do is self-publish,” he continues. Ginette Reno publishes her own book. She’s the producer. It is therefore she who insures the costs related to the writing, editing, correction and printing of the book. I take care of distribution and marketing. I agreed with Ginette on a percentage. »

But after spending all the money necessary to publish the book, paying its author (songwriter Lambert), after paying an (undisclosed) percentage to Nicolas Lemieux for the distribution and promotion of the book, what percentage will he have left – 15%? 20% 25%? “It’s hard to say, admits the producer, who didn’t want to reveal numbers, but I think she will do a lot more than in the current model. »

The president of the National Association of Quebec Book Publishers (ANEL), Jean-François Bouchard, who is also a publisher at Fides, said he was “surprised and disappointed” by the approach taken by Mr. Lemieux.

Nicolas Lemieux is aware that he is hitting the middle of the book. “I’m offering a new way of operating that may cause discussion, but for me it’s a wake up call, we have to review the current model. »

“In 2023, it is not normal that there is not a fairer distribution between stakeholders. Marketing is different today. We are still taking a risk, it will cost us dearly to release this book, but we are ready to take it, ”says Nicolas Lemieux, who nevertheless agrees that he is dealing with a superstar.

Compared to the famous book chain – which has sometimes been the target of criticism – Éric Lemieux, whose association brings together 148 booksellers, believes that we must not forget that it is the publisher who takes the financial risk. . “There are plenty of books that are not profitable, the author still gets his 10%,” he says.

“We can always question the remuneration of this or that actor in the book chain, assesses Jean-François Bouchard, who represents 110 publishing houses, but in the end, it is the prerogative of someone who knows he’s going to be very successful, which is not the case for the vast majority of authors. The vast majority cannot afford the luxury of ignoring the operating rules and 90%, 95% of authors, if they want to end up in bookstores, go through the book chain. »

Ginette Reno did not wish to broach the subject with La Presse. According to the producer, the singer is also a businesswoman. “She analyzed different options before embarking on my madness,” said Nicolas Lemieux. Consumers have evolved, he believes. We must not wait until we are swallowed up by all the blockbusters on the planet. We have to protect our market. »

For his part, Jean-François Bouchard, of ANEL, believes that before questioning the operation of the book chain, “we will have to convince ourselves of the advantages we will find there [for the majority of authors ]. For now, this entire ecosystem is favorable to editorial development in Quebec. Since the new Status of the Artist Act, we are in a new situation, there is an obligation to negotiate collective agreements, things will be done differently, especially for authors.