Two out of every three books sold in Canada are now purchased online. Of those, 36% are by independent authors. While comprehensive sales figures for self-published titles are hard to come by, online sales alone (both print and e-books) exceed $10 million annually. And, according to a recent study by accounting firm PriceWaterhouseCoopers, these numbers are expected to grow.
Not only is the industry thriving, some authors are finding that independent publishing is both more satisfying and more lucrative than the traditional trade-publishing model. Saskatchewan’s Byrna Barclay published nine books with a variety of publishers before striking out on her own with her latest book, House of the White Elephant. Barclay describes the experience as “a satisfying new kind of creativity. Envisioning a book with good artistic heft, finding new and exciting ways to promote it, then putting every cent from every sale into the next book is almost as pleasing as my first love – the actual writing.” Her gamble paid off. Says Barclay, “The book has already multiplied my original investment and has garnered more financially than all my previously published works put together.”
When a series of traditional publishers told Alberta author Miji Campbell that her memoir, despite its quality, didn’t “fit into their program,” she decided to publish independently. With the help of Page Two Strategies, she produced a top-quality book and secured national marketing and distribution. She too has found the experience rewarding. “One of the things I enjoyed the most about independent publishing was having control over all aspects of book production, from cover design and printing to publicity,” says Campbell. “And I have loved promoting my book at over 50 events across Canada since its release in April 2015.” Her book, Separation Anxiety, is now in its second printing.
Despite successes such as these, independent authors remain an under-appreciated force in Canadian publishing and are largely ignored by literary festivals across the country. The Whistler Writers Festival however, is taking notice. As part of its ongoing commitment to inclusivity, last year’s Festival introduced the Whistler Independent Book Awards (WIBAs) to recognize excellence in independent publishing. This year, the Awards have been expanded to include a manuscript competition (the Whistler Independent Book Prize) and the Festival is adding programming of particular interest to independent as well as traditionally published authors. Festival Director Stella Harvey believes the WIBAs are the start of a trend. “As technology evolves, we need to explore new opportunities to encourage and recognize authors across the Canadian publishing spectrum.” Independently published books can be submitted for this year’s WIBAs until April 30. The winner of both the fiction and non-fiction categories will be announced during the Whistler Writers Festival, October 12-15.