HodgePodge: Michael Neill

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HodgePodge: Michael Neill

By Charlie Hodge.

Dear old Dad was a man of many wise pontification’s. Among the pearls he would often unleash on his audiences, (in this particular case his wild and somewhat scattered son), were ‘the best rewards in life are often the ones not expected’ and ‘work hard and true and good things shall come to you’.

Perhaps Michael Neill’s pa told him similar messages.

Either way the well known local bookstore guru will receive a prestigious and unexpected award next week solely based on his longstanding, focussed and innovative work in the book industry.

Good on him.

On February 13, Neill will be bestowed the Gray Campbell Distinguished Service Award. Presented annually by the Association of Book Publishers of B.C. (ABPBC) the award acknowledges an individual who has made a significant contribution to the book publishing industry within the province. Named for the pioneering publisher and founder of Gray’s Publishing, the Gray Campbell Award recognizes the importance of the many individuals who comprise the book industry. “Their energy and creativity are essential to the continued creation and dissemination of books that tell our stories,” the ABPBC said recently when announcing Michael as the recipient.

Neill, founder and president of Bookmanager, is a second-generation book seller since 1995 and has operated the Okanagan’s largest independent bookstore, Mosaic Books with his wife Michele and their children, Trevor and Alicia. Neill started Bookmanager more than 30 years ago. The company operates as an invaluable point-of-sale provider that has made a world of difference to hundreds of independent bookstores of all sizes across North America.

“Neill’s background as a bookseller has enabled him to create strong and personal relationships with booksellers and publishers, and create software that adapts to the changing environment of publishing and bookselling. Bookmanager has also helped foster an atmosphere of community and collaboration through its popular Bookmanager Academy conferences, which have been open not only to the company’s client bookstores, but to publishers and sales reps as well,” the ABPBC’s stated.

Bookmanager’s data is used to create ABPBC’s weekly B.C. Bestseller List, which has been an important promotional tool for B.C. book publishers for 25 years. The list captures sales data from more than 70 independent bookstores in B.C. and is published in The Vancouver Sun, online, and shared in local libraries and bookstores. The B.C. Bestseller List helps publishers showcase new titles and offers valuable insights into what British Columbians are reading.

“I was totally caught off guard when I learned I had won the award. It’s a real honour and certainly not something I had expected,” Neill chuckles. “It seems sort of ironic that I would receive such an honour from a publishing company when I am not really in the publishing field. Still, I am thrilled and humbled,” Neill told me last week.

Neill’s award was one of just two handed out by the ABPBC. Vancouver’s Arsenal Pulp Press will receive the Jim Douglas Publisher of the Year Award, presented to a B.C. publishing company that has earned the respect and applause of the community of publishers for a specific publishing project, an extraordinary contribution to the B.C. publishing community, and/or its extended commitment to excellence in publishing.

So hats off to you Michael, it’s nice to see an independent business person who has worked hard for decades receive some recognition, anticipated or not. It goes to show what comes around goes around.

I’ve been a Mosaic fan for years, ever since the company was willing to sell my Mom’s handmade bookmarks. While she made next to nothing selling them it was the fact Mosaic provided her that chance and venue when many others may not have.

When I signed my first book contract several years ago for my bio on Howie Meeker (Golly Gee It’s Me) I remembered the Neill’s kindness to Mom. I refused to have the Kelowna book signing at Chapters (despite the publishers agreement with that chain) insisting it be held at Mosaic. Funny how time flies by. So I admit to taking some special pleasure in seeing Michael, Michelle and clan earn this bonus award.

Well deserved.

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Charlie Hodge is a best-selling author, writer, a current Kelowna City Councillor, and a Director on the Regional District of the Central Okanagan Board. He spent more than 25 years as a full-time newspaper journalist and has a diverse background in public relations, promotions, personal coaching, and strategic planning. A former managing editor, assistant editor, sports editor, entertainment editor, journalist, and photographer, Hodge also co-hosted a variety of radio talk shows and still writes a regular weekly newspaper column titled Hodge Podge, which he has crafted now for 41 years. His biography on Howie Meeker, titled Golly Gee It’s Me is a Canadian bestseller and his second book, Stop It There, Back It Up – 50 Years of the NHL garnered lots of attention from media and hockey fans alike. Charlie is currently working on a third hockey book, as well as a contracted historical/fiction novel. His creative promotional skills and strategic planning have been utilized for many years in the Canadian music industry, provincial, national, and international environmental fields, and municipal, provincial, and federal politics. Charlie is a skilled facilitator, a dynamic motivational speaker, and effective personal coach. His hobbies include gardening, canoeing, playing pool, and writing music. Charlie shares his Okanagan home with wife Teresa and five spoiled cats.

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