On Becoming a Published Author
Everyone has a story to tell. Not every story needs to be published. But some do. Oftentimes people want to record family stories and memoir pieces for their families. They may not necessarily want to publish these things but simply wish to prepare a written copy that can be passed down. But you may have a story that you want to share with a broader audience. In that case, publishing may be something you are interested in exploring.
There are several different ways to broadcast or publish your work. For shorter pieces of writing, I recommend the following:
- Many people are content to utilize social media platforms as a way of sharing their work. Facebook and Instagram (using linktree) are very popular platforms. They are easy to use and provide a broad audience. You will need your own facebook, Instagram or linktree account to do this.
- Using a personal website to post your work is also a fairly effortless way to post your writing. You can then promote your website using email or social media so that people can access your page to read your writing.
- You may also choose to submit your work to journals and magazines. Many will accept unsolicited submissions. Review the submission requirements carefully before submitting, however. It is also important to read several issues in order to ensure that your work is a good fit and is similar in tone, content, and quality to the work they have previously published. Many journals utilize an electronic Submission Manager program. Submittable is a very popular one. You can create a Submittable account for free.
- Entering writing contests is another way to ensure your work is seen. There are many writing contests to choose from; simply search online and you will find a good list to work through. Most contests will charge a small submissions fee. Successful entries are typically published.
When seeking to publish short pieces of writing, you may be required to submit an author biography to journals, magazines and contests. Your author bio should succinctly summarize your writing credentials and something interesting about you. Do not go on about your kids and dog and family cottage. Instead, focus on your credentials, previous publications or writing goals.
- Many writers also maintain blogs and newsletters. These can be posted on personal websites and social media. They can also be emailed to your friends, family and any members of the reading audience that you are building. Mailchimp is one of several services that can be used to mail out newsletters or blogs.
There are primarily three ways to publish longer manuscripts, and all of them require a great deal of work.
- You may choose to self-publish, using one of many vanity presses that are now available. Amazon has a very popular service that many writers are now using. The challenge with self-publishing is that you will not only be entirely responsible for marketing and distributing the book yourself, but may also discover that bookstores may not be willing to stock a self-published piece. Some will charge you a stocking fee.
- Find a reputable literary agent who is willing to work with you and let them find a publisher and take care of the business end of things. The challenge with this option is that there are very few literary agencies in Canada and finding an agent can be an onerous task. You will need to review their submission requirements carefully. Most will require a synopsis, a pitch, and the opening pages of a completed manuscript. Unfortunately, agents have their pick from very large slush piles that fit with current trends in the market, and most are too busy to even send out a “no thanks” letter. The advantage to having a literary agent is that they have access to the large publishing houses. Beware of agencies that ask for a reading fee, however, or expect you to take one of their high-priced courses before submitting.
- Publish with a small Canadian independent press. Canada has a number of very reputable independent presses. These presses have specific publishing mandates and priorities so you need to do your research before submitting to them. Wait time for a response can be anywhere from two to twelve months. The advantage to publishing this way is that you retain a great deal of control over such things as edits and book covers and other publishing decisions. You also become a part of a writing community with writers who also publish with the same press. Small presses have limited marketing budgets, so you will be expected to help promote your book, but this is something you likely would want to do anyway. No reputable press will ask you for a reading fee. Ensure that they are not a vanity press by reviewing their partners and funders. If they are funded by Canada Council, for instance, you can rest assured that they have been vetted.
All of this information is predicated on the assumption that your work is edited and finely polished. Although the Queen’s English is no longer the standard, Canadian Academic English (CAE) is still expected in many venues. Language continues to evolve and shift over time so that which was once considered idiomatic, colloquial or dialect have become a part of everyday speech patterns, and can therefore be used in formal writing. The conventions of language (meaning the correct use of spelling, grammar and punctuation) are still expected. However, many experimental forms of writing are now being published and the rules are shifting and becoming much more fluid.
I hope this is helpful! Please let me know.