Allan MacDougall, Canadian Publisher of “Harry Potter” Books, Passes Away
Arthur Levine is widely known by fans as the American editor who was successful at securing the US rights to Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone for Scholastic – but what about the figures who helped Harry make his journey to Canada? Though his name may not be as widely known as Levine’s, Allan MacDougall played a vital role in spreading Rowling’s magic to our great northern neighbor as cofounder and former CEO of Raincoast Books. MacDougall passed away on February 20 at the age of 71, but his legacy lives on in the Potter community.
MacDougall founded Raincoast with Mark Stanton in 1979; the company began as a distributor, helping other publishers distribute their books in Canada. MacDougall became CEO of the company in 1998 and remained in the position until his retirement in 2010. The company ceased the publishing arm of its business in 2008 but remains an important piece of Harry Potter‘s Canadian history.
Many colleagues and admirers have paid tribute to MacDougall in the days following his death, with several outlets pointing out the important role he played in acquiring the Canadian rights to Harry Potter. In an obituary for the Vancouver Sun, his Raincoast cofounder, Mark Stanton, shared how Harry Potter came onto MacDougall’s radar, noting that the tip-off came from a British publishing contact MacDougall had helped in the past. Clearly, MacDougall’s collegiality paid off in a big way.
This guy had said, ‘I need to get more North American authors on my list,’ and Allan had told him years earlier, ‘Look into Margaret Atwood.’ Because in the ’80s in England nobody knew who the hell she was. So he picked up Margaret Atwood, and always thought Allan was the king of the world, because it proved to be great financially for him.
So we were (at the Frankfurt book fair) talking to the guy and he said, ‘You guys might be interested, we have a trilogy coming out, it’s a juvenile fantasy kind of thing.’
Jamie Broadhurst, Raincoast’s vice president of marketing, echoed Stanton, sharing that for MacDougall, Harry Potter was about more than business.
There’s a business story, of course, but the thing that he was most proud about was how Harry Potter turned a generation into readers, what we in the industry now call [t]he Harry Potter Generation. That was something Allan loved to talk about.
A statement released by John Sawyer, the current CEO of Raincoast Books, honored MacDougall not just for his publishing accomplishments but also for his dedication to both sustainability and spreading the joy of books.
Under Allan’s guidance, Raincoast became the Canadian publisher of JK Rowling’s Harry Potter books, a series that went on to sell over 12 million copies in Canada and transform children’s publishing. In 2003 the Canadian edition of Harry Potter and [t]he Order of the Phoenix was the first edition of a Harry Potter book in the world to be published on 100% [a]ncient[-]forest[-]friendly, 100% post-consumer [sic] paper. In 2004 Allan was awarded the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year [Award] (Pacific Division) for the entertainment sector and in 2005 he was awarded the Order of the Forest for his work on environmental causes. Allan loved to ‘preach the word of books,’ as he called it, expounding on the lasting impact of books on the lives of children, and he proudly described himself as ‘a book person, but never bookish.’
Join us in raising our wands to Allan MacDougall. Thank you for sharing some of your magic with us.