Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Seminar: "Getting Published: Non-Fiction Books"

Last night I attended a seminar hosted by PWAC (Professional Writers Association of Canada) entitled Getting Published: Non-Fiction Books. Moderated by Nate Henley, the guest panelists were James FitzGerald, author of What Disturbs Our Blood: A Son's Quest to Redeem the Past; literary agent Hilary McMahon of Westwood Creative Artists; Derek Finkle, who founded the Canadian Writers Group, a literary agency; and Jack David, publisher of ECW Press. Overall, the 2-hour session was informative, and on par with other PWAC seminars I've attended.

Since I've already been published, my main interest was learning more about agents, and whether or not I'm at the stage that I need one--and the answer is no! That is, until I have a clear vision of what my next book will be. (I have a few ideas kicking around in the ol' noggin, but nothing well-thought out, yet.) For those in a similar situation: even though you have a book out there, potential agents have no vested interest in that book--only what comes next. Since Un-Dead TV was just published three months ago, it was recommended to me that before I start looking for an agent, I should wait until I can gather some sales stats, as well as reviews--and have a solid idea for a follow-up.

Some other general notes from this session:

  • commissioned books ("ghost writers") are becoming more popular these days; there's a lot of interest for memoirs from public figures, and often they're not too adept at writing
  • when you first look for an agent, send a clear and concise query letter PLUS a proposal and sample chapter; usually one just sends a query letter, but it's not a faux pas to include the other material
  • few Canadian magazines accept long form fiction anymore; exceptions include The Walrus and Toronto Life, and most submissions average out at 5000 words
  • self-pub is the way to go for some, but remember, HIRE AN EDITOR. The problem with the majority of self-published work is, quite frankly, crappy writing! (My words.)
  • hold on to your e-book rights if at all possible; there's a related article about this at The Story Board website: The E-Book Show Down

I'm not a member of the PWAC, but have entertained joining the group. Yet at $240, the annual dues are a little steep; on top of this, local chapters tack on a "nominal" fee that ranges from $5-$25 yearly. Since I only attend a couple of sessions per year (which are $15 a pop), I can't justify the cost; things might be different if I was working freelance as a self-employed writer. (In comparison, the annual dues are $200 for The Writers' Union of Canada, and $150 for The Writers Guild of Canada--which also has an "initiation fee" of $350!)

The most interesting of the panelists was Jack David, publisher of ECW Press--he seems like quite the character, and his company is one of the most diversified independent publishers in North America (they've published close to 1,000 books). I'll definitely keep him in mind for my next project.


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