There was no panel discussion on Saturday and at breakfast, one of the organizers asked me if I’d host Halli’s workshop in the afternoon. I said sure, but I was a bit nervous. I even asked Halli how she wanted her name pronounced, and then promptly messed it up anyway. Sorry about that, Halli.
Please note: This is a transcript of my hand-written notes. Halli, or anyone else who may have been present, if I’ve gotten any of the details wrong, please feel free to correct me. I will fix it post-hasty.
To the workshop (allons-y).
The title of this workshop might be misleading. I’m not going to publish you. We could have called it The Business of Writing. Now there’s a sexy title.
We’re going to talk about what happens when you get published. I can give you my perspective on that, but I’m looking more toward a sharing of expertise. I don’t have a grounded knowledge in self-publishing, or publishing with a micropress, or with a major publisher, but some of you may, so I’m looking forward to bringing out the knowledge in this room.
<We then went around the room and introduced ourselves and shared a little bit about our experience, or lack thereof, with publishing.>
Tightrope Books is a small, or indie press. We’re also called a boutique publisher, because we cater to a specific writer and reader. We tend to the literary, but we’re not publishing so much poetry as we used to. We now have an annual anthology of the year’s best poetry, with guest editors.
You don’t want to compete with yourself.
I worked for five years with Guernica and when it came time to think about starting my own press, my idea was to make it author-centric. That core idea had to evolve, though. It had to become a business.
Always read and follow the submission guidelines. What does the press publish? Does your work fit?
Be professional. Fill out your writing C.V.
Some publishers will have set reading periods. Some have particular niches. ChiZine Publications, for example, focuses on horror and dark fiction.
There’s also the Writers’ Reserve. It’s a fund that provides money to publishers to publish professional writers offered by the Ontario Arts Council (OAC). That reading period is from September to February. Tightrope will receive maybe three hundred submissions under the Writers’ Reserve. We might look more seriously at twenty manuscripts. How many of those we publish varies from year to year.
<Halli discussed the Writers’ Reserve in more detail in the Tightrope Books context. Here’s the link for the Writers’ Reserve if you’d like more information.>
Do your research. Is there a house style guide? If not, the Chicago Manual of Style is the default reference.
Poets generally aren’t agented.
Networking is a great way to make contacts. Conferences like CanWrite! and events like Word on the Street (WotS). WotS used to have a festival atmosphere. Now it’s more commercial. Small press fairs are much the same. All are great places to make connections.
Determination plus persistence equals success.
What happens once your submission is accepted?
You will go through what’s called a substantive edit with an editor. This takes at least two months and is a process of shaping that manuscript.
Next is the line edit. This phase of editing focuses on details and continuity in the manuscript. That leads to the copy edit, which delves into spelling and grammar.
Once your book is accepted, it’s usually about two years to publication.
The fall season is the big publishing season. Spring is a second big season, but you’ll see more beach reading and other, lighter fare.
Typesetting is an art. It’s not as simple as it looks. It’s really about capturing the spirit of the book in a tangible form.
Similarly, your cover design, and therefore your cover designer, is important.
Even the back cover copy is tailored to the book.
Most publishers dictate typesetting, cover, and back cover copy.
Simultaneous submissions are frowned upon.
Response times run anywhere from three months to a year. It depends on the volume of submissions. Responses often can’t be personalized. There’s no time.
The launch is your champagne moment. Make sure you have review copies and copies set aside for contests, major media, etc.
With respect to marketing, print ads aren’t worth it. Budgets have decreased across the board. Grants are disappearing. Sometimes we have to go begging for reviews. There’s no money to send the writer on a book tour. We can’t pay for flights.
Initial sales can be between six weeks and six months. It depends on the profile and popularity of the book. This is the main sales drive.
In a cooperative arrangement, the publisher pays for preferential placement of your books. Even if the publisher pays, however, you should check.
Engage in guerrilla marketing. Go into the bookstore and rearrange the books on the shelf to better display your books.
A bestseller in Canada is about 5,000 copies. A poetry bestseller is between 200 and 300 copies. In the American market, you have to sell at least 35,000 copies to even crack the lists.
I’ve given you in your package a copy of the Tightrope Books contract. It was based on the Writers’ Union of Canada (WUC) contract. Let’s have a look . . .
Since I’m not going to share Halli’s contract, I’m going to end here.
I will offer you the link to the Writers’ Union of Canada’s contract information page. If you’re not a member, you may have to pay a nominal fee, but their resources are well worth the cost.
Halli gave us a load of handouts that was very informative. 10 pointers to help you get published; a list of resources for writers; a list of Canadian literary magazines; The Tightrope Books house style guide; and a copy of her contract.
Next weekend: The CAA Literary Awards Gala and wrap post.