Hello Dear Readers,
A fellow writer likes to joust with me on a subject we’ve been debating back and forth for years. My friend firmly believes in the merits of the Canadian publishing industry, and refuses to submit his work elsewhere, even when his manuscripts have languished, unread, on editors’ desks for years. I, on the other hand, have heard enough horror stories about the “not-for-profit” Canadian publishing industry to seek agents in the United States, and even Britain. Granted, this hasn’t worked so well for me either, but I’m sure that has more to do with my lack of time and perseverance. I’m confident that I will be able to obtain a new agent, followed by a publisher, once I set my mind to it.
The thing is, as much as I love writing, it’s work. Yes, people–work. I get paid to write press releases, I get paid to write articles, and I’ve been paid to write short stories. Yes, the subject matter of my novels is my choice, and I have more freedom with the parameters, but it’s still a lot of work. Some might say it’s more work to finish a 400 page novel than it is to write an 800 word article, and I’m inclined to agree with them.
That’s why I don’t understand the so-called Canadian literary mindset that states that in order to be a “real” writer and create work worthy of exposure, you have to suffer and struggle, supplementing your paltry income with grant monies. The same people who tout this ideal are the ones who laud the great success of “Canadian” writers like Margaret Atwood, conveniently forgetting or overlooking the fact that those writers made the majority of their wealth by publishing overseas.
I don’t mind being Canadian. I don’t even mind being a Canadian writer, as long as my cohorts recognize that I want to make a living at writing, and that probably means being published outside of Canada. The United States is a larger market. Therefore, they have more readers and they publish more books. There is a lot more opportunity available there than here. Many Canadian publishers have American imprints, but I don’t think it matters what country you get published in first. Will I be less Canadian if my books are published by an American company?
My friend doesn’t think that “real” writers should expect to be paid for their work…that we should do it for love alone. Unfortunately, love doesn’t put food on the table. I think that sentiment is lovely, but only when writing is your hobby, and only your hobby. I’m not satisfied with that. Do I write fiction just because I’m hoping to be paid for it? No, of course not. But am I hoping to be paid for it someday? Definitely.
If wanting to be paid fairly for my work (and I’m not talking about great riches or fame here), makes me a hack in this country, then so be it. I find it interesting that writing is one of the only fields where people are expected to work for free, just because they “love” it.
What do you think, Dear Readers? Does being published in another country make a writer less Canadian? Is the Canadian literary establishment right in thinking that writers shouldn’t expect to make a living at their craft? Why do we turn our noses up at writers who are popular and financially successful? Does popular always mean “not as good”?