Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

Multimedium publishing and the future of the literary press (Part 1)

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It's 5:30 AM and I haven't been able to sleep, so I've decided to begin posting my final series of the month. Personally, I blame my buddy Andrew -- a DJ and record producer based in Germany. Due to time difference online chats are in the middle of the night, and inevitably he shares footage from a tour -- this time last week in Russia. I hear his music (which is like coffee without the side effects) and I'm a buzz for the next 5 or 6 hours.

If I may break the 4th wall for a second, hopefully you guys have discovered that every piece that I have written has some sort of tie to all the blog posts before and after it. If not, go back and have a read. I've had a lot of fun melding genres of formal, informal, academic, journalism, fictional, and non-fictional writing. How I've written each post -- some with great care, and others haphazardly -- has all been calculated and made this a really enjoyable process. Parts may be fictional, but I've been open about those segments. Everything has been a capital "T" truth. With everything from meditation, to ethos covered the final subject that I felt compelled to write about was the future structure of the publisher. Okay, time to reconstruct the 4th wall and get back to things.

I would like to thank Open Book Toronto and Open Book's loyal readers for the chance to share the ideas that I have on various literary subjects. I can not express how excited I was when I was informed that I would have this opportunity.

After reading these manifestos disguised as advice columns and history lessons, the last remaining question you should have for me is, “Dane, if that's what you believe of the current state of literature, what do you think of the future of Can-Lit?”

Part 1 the re-birth of the independent press

The current structure of literature in Canada is held together by government grants. This is not up for debate. There are publishers in Canada in the black, however, those that publish more than self-help, or transparent romance novels do so with help from the government. I have no problem with this. Large corporations take hand-outs from the government as a prerequisite to open offices in Canada. No industry in Canada does not get government funding. When I began thinking about the future of Canada's literary presses – well before I was confirmed to get this opportunity – I took that into consideration.

There are 2 diverging paths for Canada's literary presses to survive:

1/ Find mechanisms to take less government funding
2/ Find mechanisms to take in more government funding.

Interestingly, both ideas lead to the same destination. The structure of the independent literary press has to change. This is already starting. Inferences of what is about to happen to literature as we know it are popping up in the US and Canada. Particularly when we look at smaller presses, we can see bits and pieces of where things are heading. Micro-presses have no choice but to adapt. It is through this adaptation that we shall see the rebirth of print.

I hate talking about myself. I would rather talk in a larger scope. But, to explain myself throughout this series of posts I will be using two projects that I am working on as examples. One, a novella that I have written that borrows from multiple genres, and therefore has been very difficult to to find a publisher for. The other, an anthology of poetry that I edited and published as an e-book. Through the e-book I learned of the hurdles still facing e-book publishing, burgeoning e-book distribution opportunities, and the future of book marketing. From my novella, I am constantly learning the diverse structures of modern publishers, who adapt in an attempt to exist.

I've had a tough time finding a home for my novella. Why? Publishers are more interested in novels – the profit margin of selling a novel is much higher than a novella. My novella does not fit cleanly into literary genre – it's tough to explain, making it tough to market. Maybe it sucks – I have received some encouraging rejection letters, but I've also gotten the obligatory form letter rejections. I'm pretty sure it doesn't suck.

Finding a press that is appropriate to submit a novella to has been a journey to itself. There are only so many publishers in Canada who publish novellas. I rarely submit to publishers who do not accept digital submissions (it's just too expensive to print and mail 100+ pages unsolicited). What I've found searching for a press, has given me hope for the survival of literary publishing.

The views expressed in the Writer-in-Residence blogs are those held by the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of Open Book: Toronto.

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Dane Swan

Dane Swan is a Bermuda-raised, Toronto-based internationally published poet, writer and musician. His first collection, Bending the Continuum was launched by Guernica Editions in the Spring of 2011.

Go to Dane Swan’s Author Page