Many of you know that I don’t typically encourage writers to think of publishing as a goal.
I often say that concentrating on publishing and marketing your story or book is a distraction. If you’re busy thinking about getting published, you may be skipping the part of writing where you get more curious and engaged with the work itself, and discover what was previously unknown to you — where you feed your relationship to your writing. That’s the source of energy, creative connection, and good writing, frankly. That’s the source I want you to connect to. So not only does focusing on publishing block you from accessing that connection, it ends up being a way to squander your precious writing time.
However. Once you have done your creative work — once you have established a writing practice you trust and have finished a draft that continues to surprise you every time you read it — you might be ready for publication.
Today, I’m pleased to bring you a guest post from Leigh Nash, Publisher of Invisible Publishing.
Leigh has a special invitation for all writers, but especially for women writers. Scroll down to find out why.
Please note: Invisible Publishing is a Canadian publisher. If you’re a publisher from another country and would like to join this conversation, please say hello to our writers in the comments!
I became the publisher of Invisible Publishing, an independent Canadian publishing house, in 2016. Invisible produces literary fiction and nonfiction, poetry, a line of Canadian music biographies (Bibliophonic Books), and has published a few anthologies and graphic novels, too. We produce books by new and emerging writers, and projects that might not be realized elsewhere.
I’ve worked in publishing for over seven years now and I’m still a big believer in the magic of the slush pile. There are times when the pile lives up to its name and is difficult to wade through, but there are other times when I’ve clicked open a Word doc and been unable to stop reading after the first few pages. There’s nothing quite like the spark of a good book, even if it’s in need of a good polish.
We’ve published a few things from the slush pile since I joined Invisible: I Am a Truck by Michelle Winters, Everything Life Has to Offer by Shari Kasman, and Saints, Unexpected by Brent van Staalduinen — and all of those are first books. Publishing first-time authors is an important part of Invisible’s mandate. We don’t publish books for authors; we publish with authors, which means writers participate as much as they like in the process. We view the author-editor-publisher relationship as a mentorship, and we really do our best to ensure that our authors come away from the editorial process with a keener understanding of their own work and of how the publishing industry works.
But while we’ve had luck attracting submissions from writers of inventive, original takes on fiction, nonfiction and poetry, there is a problem: Invisible Publishing receives hundreds of manuscript submissions each year, and at last count, over 80 percent of the work we receive for consideration comes from men.
I think it’s important to take stock of why discrepancies like this exist. I sit on the board of Canadian Women in the Literary Arts (CWILA), an organization that has influenced real change. Through its annual count of book reviews in Canada, CWILA has drawn attention to challenges within Canada’s literary culture by quantifying the barriers women writers face. CWILA’s work inspired me to undertake my own count at Invisible. In the ten years Invisible has been publishing books, our gender split is 48 percent female-identifying, 50 percent male-identifying, and 2 percent non-binary-identifying authors. And while we’ve achieved an even split, we’ve had to work hard to find good work by women while beating the men away with a stick. It’s taken a lot of vigilance to maintain parity. I also know we can do better in the present moment; without leaving room for nuance, all four of our spring 2017 titles, for example, were written by men.
So I’d like to extend an invitation specifically to women writers: please consider submitting your book-length projects to Invisible Publishing. Polish your work, but don’t worry if it’s not perfect. Don’t wait until you’re ready — you’ll never be ready, and many of your male peers aren’t waiting until their work is perfect. They are firing out submissions fast and furiously — more than once I’ve received another manuscript to consider in response to a rejection email I sent.
We’re a not-for-profit publisher, which makes us a little different than most other indie Canadian presses; we’re board-run and invest all of our profits back into supporting the production and promotion of the books we publish. We’re collaborative in all of our processes. Our authors speak highly of their experience working with our team and are proud of the way we help present their work to readers.
If you’re unsure whether Invisible is a fit for your work, have a look through our website to check out our backlist, and pick up a book or two and read them. That’s the best way to find a good home for your writing — submit to the presses who are publishing the things you like to read best.
As a lifelong reader and writer, it’s my opinion that any job in which I get to work with books is fantastic, and that’s even more true when you’re the one who gets to pick which stories get made into books. It’s an opportunity to bring my dream library to life — and that library definitely includes engaging and innovative books by contemporary women.