There comes a time in every creative’s life when they must decide; who gets to see my art? Not only is artwork deeply personal, be it songwriting, poetry, or painting, it is also challenging to find a network or community of fellow artists or consumers that you feel uplifted by. For example, when I was younger, I loved running a table at craft fairs in my neighbourhood. I got to see what artists in my area were working on while also promoting and expanding my own work.
My publishing journey began in elementary school, the same era as the craft fairs and finger-knitting at recess. I entered a writing contest at my local library, and I snail-mailed a poem that I think my mom had to help me type into the panel of judges on our clunky computer. Somehow, my poem won, and I was selected to be published in the year’s anthology. I think I even won some money, which was thrilling. Not as thrilling as seeing my work printed out on paper, bound in a book of other kids’ poems, that hundreds of people around me would leaf through. It was a rush, so I did it a few more times.
That youth library contest ended for me when I turned 18, but I have continued to submit my work to contests and magazines around Canada. I listed a few that I have submitted to already in 2022 down below for my fellow poets in Kingston! This amazing publishing route can boost your works’ exposure and even win you some money. So if you have a few pieces you are proud of but no complete books or collections, this is the way to go. This list is by no means exhaustive. There are so many more!
- The Poetry Cove
- Muse Magazine (sneaky)
- The Undergraduate Review
- Issuu – Collective Reflections
- Queen’s Quarterly
- Queen’s Quilt
- Arc Poetry Magazine
- Pulp Literature Magpie Awards: $500 first prize, April deadline
- Room Fiction & Poetry Contest: $1,000 first prize, July deadline
- Poetry Institute of Canada
If writing is also your art of choice, then you know that letting someone read your work (and, by extension, your soul) is terrifying. Therefore, options for sharing are limited to personal blogs, magazines, contests, or… duh duh duh… self-publishing!
This year I found myself at a critical point in my writing career. I had a collection of poems I was proud enough to share. Once I had decided to share, the next big question was: how?
The first thing I did was, quite literally, good old-fashioned arts and crafts. I sat on my bedroom floor in a mess of paper and glue, just to prove to myself that these poems could, physically, transform into an actual book. It worked, and at 3 am, holding a sticky stack of folded printer paper in my hand, I googled:
How do I become an author?
If an FBI agent is watching my internet activities, they probably cheered for me finally getting up the gumption to google those words. But they were perhaps also saying, “I believe the word you’re looking for is ‘publishing,’ idiot. Self-publishing, to be exact.”
Self-publishing can be done in a couple of ways, depending on how much help you want with your manuscript. This includes designing, formatting, manufacturing, distributing, and advertising your book. You have to consider:
1. Who do I want to print/manufacture my book?
Do you want Canadian manufacturing? Are you concerned about the environmental footprint of your product?
2. What kind of rights do I maintain?
Ensure you do not lose your own distribution rights if you give this responsibility to a third party. Make sure you retain the ownership of your words in full.
3. How am I going to get my book to people?
Do you want international reach? Do you want to reserve a certain amount of copies for your own sale and distribution? Do you want to store, mail, and pay for all your books?
4. What happens if this flops? How do I make sure it doesn’t?
Think about your risk, how much money is going into starting up and how many books will you be sitting on? How will you build and keep a following of consumers and readers?
I chose to use Amazon’s KDP publishing, which operates through print-on-demand at the nearest printing location. This keeps my personal risk and environmental impact low. I maintain all the rights to my book but don’t have to worry about the hassle of distribution. My book is currently being sold worldwide, without me lifting a finger! My account took two hours to fully set up; it was approved in 48 hours, making me a published author in under 72 hours, excluding the five years of writing and self-esteem building that created the manuscript in the first place.
I created a promotional Instagram account and started interacting with friends, family, and similar accounts. I built up a small network that I continue to expand through media engagement and local advertising. I hope to have a website, bookmarks, and stickers by the end of the year!
There is no magic spell or potion to make you an author, as I found through the mystical internet portal of Google. You just have to pick up a pen and believe that you can do it. Showing your entire brain to the world, in book form, is the most cathartic thing I have ever done, and I like reading, so I think you should do it too.