Your Guide to Publishing Creative Writing in Alberta
By Cassidy Formenti
Jumping into the world of publishing your work is a daunting experience for most first-timers. Although submitting to a publisher is nerve-racking, the accomplishment that follows makes the process well worth it. Roberta Laurie—published author, editor, storyteller, and instructor at MacEwan University—shared her advice for budding readers looking to send their works to the press.
Learn How to Navigate Rejection
First and foremost, Laurie emphasizes the importance of overcoming rejection. A big part of the publication process is navigating criticism. “One of the biggest challenges is facing rejection. I am one of those people that internalizes criticism deeply. I really struggle when my pieces are rejected, which of course they are all the time because that's what happens when you put your work out there.” The key is not letting that rejection set you back days, months, or years from pursuing your next submission.
To help navigate rejection, Laurie looks to the stories of esteemed writers. In an interview, acclaimed suspense writer, Mary Higgins Clark, discussed how she’d been rejected nearly 50 times before her first story was successfully published.
“I think it’s good to hear those kinds of stories because you think: wow, this person was successful, and it’s really just about them being determined and dedicated.” Looking at the success stories of writers who worked through criticism and inevitable dismissal can help reassure you there is hope hiding behind the rejection emails.
Find a Support System
Another piece of advice Laurie offers is to find a sound support system. Joining writing groups and frequently submitting your work to receive feedback is a surefire way to improve your skills. It will also help you gain better strategies for accepting criticism.
Looking for a good place to start? Laurie highly recommends joining the Writers’ Guild of Alberta to break into the Alberta writing community and gain an insider’s look into publications seeking submissions, as well as writing groups accepting new members.
Use Social Media to Your Advantage
Social media is another incredible tool for connecting and building community with local writers. “Having a platform allows you to find support with writers so that you have this network of people that care about what you write, and you care about what they read.”
But beyond generating a support system, social media is also vital for marketing yourself to your audience and to publishers. Laurie mentions dark and horror fantasy author Konn Lavery and historical, romance, and suspense author Kat Flannery. These Albertan authors have both made waves with their novels while also expanding readership through social media and their websites. A solid social media presence will go far in proving that you have an audience who is interested in reading your work.
CONSISTENCY IS KEY
Consistency has also been important for Laurie, yet sometimes difficult to achieve. Luckily, she can lean on the support of writers around her to stay determined and focused. “For a while, I had this challenge going with another writer. We were trying to make it to 50 rejections each,” she laughs. “It kind of fizzled out at some point, but that’s the mechanical thing I’m talking about just so (rejection) doesn’t feel that personal.” Again, this is a testimony to the importance of bracing yourself for inevitable rejection and learning how to handle it.
FIND YOUR NICHE
Determining your niche will also impact which publishers you approach and help you combat market oversaturation. Every publisher has a genre of writing they’re looking for, whether they’re willing to share it or not. To save time, do your research to understand the niche of your target publishers and whether your writing fits the bill.
“If you're a really good writer, you're dedicated to your writing, and you can focus within your niche, you can make it. It's just a matter of determination, and I've seen people do it.”
Inquire with local markets to see if they are willing to showcase a section of your work to help you build credibility and get your name out there. When working on her book Weaving a Malawi Sunrise: A Woman, A School, A People, Laurie reached out to local newspapers to publish articles on related topics and managed to score pieces in a couple of local weekly papers.
“I set my focus on getting a collection of publicity that I could present to a potential publisher or agent, so they knew I already had a kind of a CV attached to this larger work.” This same approach will drive the memoir she is currently working on.
Where Do I Get Published?
Googling “publishing companies” generates an overwhelming list of ‘Top 25 Publishers.’ Laurie suggests creating a Submittable account to view a complete list of literary journals, magazines, and publishers open for submissions. But, to stay true to our roots, Laurie shared a list of a few local resources and Albertan publications worth checking out.
Book Publishers Association of Alberta
A comprehensive list of book publishers in Alberta.
Literary and arts magazine publishing innovative poetry, fiction, non-fiction based out of Calgary.
Creative writing community and anthology based out of MacEwan University.