Friday 24 April 2015

IAF 15 - Self-Publishing in Canada

By Patricia Sands

Self-publishing in Canada ~ A voice is needed!

Writing this turned out to be a most interesting experience.

When I began to research articles or websites or associations in Canada that might offer support and/or information to indie authors, I hit the proverbial brick wall. It was quite a shock.

The wall continued to block my efforts to find statistics on sales, trends, and anything else that might be related to author-publishers in Canada. It’s almost as if it does not exist in our vast country. Fortunately, I know that to be completely erroneous. But apparently there is a dearth of assistance for interested Canadian indie authors to find good information unless they go to Amazon or Kobo.

Having self-published three women’s fiction novels in the last five years, I was fortunate early on to become involved with serious writing groups who share information and links to all the important self-publishing websites, resource books and associations. I discovered The Creative Penn, an invaluable resource for all writers and particularly for those just getting started.

I know there is a wealth of information out there. However, a Canadian writer looking for information at the beginning of his or her journey may struggle before discovering these same resources. I knew, from emails I receive from authors just starting out, that they often did not know where to begin. When, for this article, I searched as if I knew nothing about self-publishing, I discovered why these writers were having difficulties.

It’s a situation that needs to be rectified. It shouldn’t be hard to do.

In spite of extensive efforts to search words in every possible combination, I came up empty. The only sites that appeared were vanity publishers, offering to “help you self-publish,” along with their price list. Also, came up consistently, leading to one author who has published a book on the subject that is woefully lacking in updated information.

A major writers’ group in Canada recently changed their membership rules and now accept self-published authors. This national organization of professional writers of books was founded 40 years ago to work with governments, publishers, booksellers, and readers to improve the conditions of Canadian writers.

It was encouraging to see they were recognizing the self-publishing dynamic. One would assume there would be good information on their website. Here’s what I discovered:

If you self-publish you add—to the difficult job of writing a book—all the additional work of a publisher. It is extremely difficult to get self-published books placed in bookstores, which makes it even more difficult to make money. There are a few success stories but the majority of self-published books may never see a bookstore. Self-publishing may be appropriate if you want to give copies of your book to your friends and family but if you want to make it a commercial success you have a lot of work ahead of you.”

Hello and welcome to 2015. May we introduce the subject of ebooks to you? Bookstores are not where most authors derive their living today. It is time to hear from the many indie authors in Canada who are making a decent income (and often more than most who are with traditional publishers) from selling ebooks as well as print copies.

However, checking with authors who attend many of the excellent writers’ conferences across the country, they confirmed that the focus is still very much on pitching with agents and publishers.

In an article in the Toronto Star in 2013 (the most recent I could find) praising self-publishing in Canada, negativity remained.
Still, not everyone is as enthusiastic about the trend to self-publishing. Carolyn Wood, executive director of the Association of Canadian Publishers, doesn’t think traditional publishers see it as an opportunity, despite forays into the field by Simon & Schuster and Penguin. “Our members — most traditional independent publishers — object to self-publishers co-opting that term,” she says. “They need to call it author publishing. They are not independent publishers.”
I guess Ms. Wood has unique definitions for these terms. To the rest of the now well-established community of indie authors, the terms self-publisher or author-publisher are interchangeable.

My entire publishing experience has revolved around self-publishing, and I learn something every day. I’ve heard from, and work with, many author-publishers who have access to every excellent resource out there.

Much of this comes from networking within online groups such as ALLi. Every essential topic is covered including the craft of writing, the most effective marketing and promotion opportunities, designers, editors, formatters, critique groups, tax info … all based on the experience of other members and experts called in to share their knowledge.

All of this information needs a voice in Canada. How we go about achieving that is the challenge.

Addendum: As a follow-up to this, I was so pleased to hear from a number of Canadian indie authors who wrote me after this article was published during IndieReCon. They shared stories of their own experiences and how many had gotten together to set up their own groups to share information and experiences for precisely the reason expressed here.

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