Another way to publish your book — guest blog by Harold Macy

So here I was — proud as a new par­ent — with a fin­ished manu­script in a tidy stack on my desk. Virginal white paper, appro­pri­ate font, neat mar­gins, prop­erly pagin­ated and oh so vul­ner­able. 

But now I faced that big jump from per­son­al writ­ing to poten­tial expos­ure to the whole wide world. And, like many a new par­ent, I wondered how this baby of mine would ever walk on its own.

To take that first step the old school meth­od says to look for pub­lish­ers who spe­cial­ize in your par­tic­u­lar genre — fic­tion, poetry, mem­oir or essay — and  write a let­ter of inquiry hop­ing that one of them will be inter­ested and request a sample chapter or two which may then lead to a con­tract.  Ah, hope, the writers favour­ite drug.

When I was through the second draft of The Four Storey Forest I did just that — found pub­lish­ers who pro­moted West Coast and Vancouver Island writers. I sent out let­ters of inquiry and anxiously walked to the mail­box every day in anti­cip­a­tion. Out of the ten let­ters I wrote, I got not one response.

Refusing to be dis­cour­aged, I car­ried on re-writ­ing, search­ing for a pub­lish­er and fol­low­ing sug­ges­tions from pub­lished authors.

Simultaneously, I began explor­ing the world of self-pub­lish­ing. I was leery of this due to the stigma asso­ci­ated with the term “van­ity press” and the pure driv­el it often spawns.  I thought if my writ­ing made it through the scru­tiny of a pub­lish­er, it would surely be bet­ter. I learned there are edit­or­i­al con­tri­bu­tions and there is pub­lish­ing and while I thought the two were inex­tric­able, they are not! 

Nearing what I thought was a com­pleted book, I sought out freel­ance edit­ors. You get what you pay for so I’d advise any­one tak­ing this route to shop around and check ref­er­ences thor­oughly. My first “edit­or” seemed a little too inter­ested in sign­ing me up for pro­duc­tion ser­vices as he heaped unearned praise on my raw and truly un-pub­lish­able work.  

At the same time, I looked into self-pub­lish­ing. Two sources of good inform­a­tion were the Vancouver Desktop Publishing Centre and Printorium Bookworks. The first is con­nec­ted with the won­der­ful magazine Geist, which is a great read in itself. The second is a print shop that has an excel­lent how-to guide for self-pub­lish­ing. However, I was not yet con­vinced.

In self-pub­lish­ing, the author retains full respons­ib­il­ity for and con­trol of con­tent, cov­er design, and distribution/​promotion. This obvi­ously means a lot more work. It is an odd para­dox; writ­ing is a sol­it­ary anti-social act, yet mer­chand­ising the fin­ished self-pub­lished work requires one to stand up and become a shame­less hust­ler.  Some can do this, oth­ers can­not.

Another factor is that many lit­er­ary con­tests do not accept self-pub­lished books simply because of my ori­gin­al fear — so much dross on paper. Nor are self-pub­lished works eli­gible for the most of the few grants avail­able. 

So the choice is: sell your soul to a pub­lish­ing house and in return for the pit­tance earned, gain pro­fes­sion­al edit­or­i­al sup­port and wider pub­li­city, sales and dis­tri­bu­tion but relin­quish a cer­tain amount of income and con­trol; or buy what proofread­ing and cri­tiquing you need and opt for self-pub­lish­ing, accept­ing the joys and sor­rows it may bring. 


There are many options for pub­lish­ing a book these days.

For The Four Storey Forest I was for­tu­nate enough to dis­cov­er a third way. Through a net­work of oth­er writers I found a Comox Valley “mom and pop” pub­lish­ing com­pany who had put out a few books of schol­arly note and who were inter­ested in branch­ing out to niche mar­kets with new writers. 

So Poplar Publishing did the lay­out, final proof­ing, some edit­ing and worked with the print­er. The real nuts and bolts stuff. Collectively we cre­ated the cov­er design. Promotion and pub­li­city are my respons­ib­il­ity as is ship­ping. My pub­lish­er has a web page with a PayPal ser­vice which means my book has an e-life. My book baby has taken its first steps out into the world.

I recently star­ted work­ing on a nov­el, breath­ing life into the second draft of a manu­script that has been col­lect­ing dust for longer than I care to admit.  However, it is still a good story and, when fin­ished, I’ll go back to Poplar Publishing and hope they’ll take it on. There’s that word again. Hope.



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