Readers often forget that behind every book, there are hours of research, countless drafts, and plenty of marketing meetings. But the whole thing can be just as surprising for new authors and publishers. Recently, Atlantic Books Today spoke with two first-time authors and a new publisher to find what it’s like to be the new kid on the block. Here’s what they told us.
Writing a book for young adults seems like a natural step for social worker, actress and producer Wanda Taylor, but the decision to write her first book, Birchtown and the Black Loyalists, grew out of a realization that important information was missing from the history books.
“When I was young, I remember learning about the French and the English. And I remember learning about the Mi’kmaq. But I never learned about myself,” says Taylor.
As an adult working with youth, Taylor noticed that the same gap was still there. Although African Canadian Studies electives are available now, kids can’t take those classes until high school. Some of the youth she worked with learned some history from family members, but they still didn’t know much. So she took the kids to Birchtown, a National Historic site near Shelburne, NS, famous for being North America’s largest free settlement of Africans in the 18th century.
“In 2010, we did a one-hour documentary with a group of ten youth, telling the story with things like drums, reenactments, narration and song,” says Taylor. “Then I thought, ‘A lot of young people should be exposed to this.’”
A book seemed like the perfect way to do it, so she pitched the idea to Nimbus Publishing. They loved it. Now, Taylor can’t be more thrilled about her newly minted author status.
“I’m so excited. The year I worked with the Atlantic Book Awards, I was so interested in what the authors were writing that I read every book that was up for an award that year. Being the new one on the block is amazing.”
Two years ago another documentary filmmaker, Marie Cadieux, was offered an appealing business opportunity. Her sister had just retired, and she wanted Cadieux to partner with her to buy Moncton publishing company Bouton d’or Acadie. It was the perfect way for Cadieux to merge her love of literature, writing, and telling stories, so she jumped on the chance.
“In some ways, it seemed like a dream job. I knew I’d get to read manuscripts and work with illustrators,” she says. “So I said, ‘Ok, lets give it a try.’ But the reality’s a bit different.”
The reality is that book publishing is an extremely complex business. Since Cadieux prefers creativity to business, that aspect has been challenging for her. She knows that many children and adults are interested in reading books and meeting authors, but she says it’s still difficult to determine the best ways to get books to children, encourage people to support local authors and compete with bigger publishers.
But recently, Cadieux realized how much support surrounds her. She speaks highly of the help that the New Brunswick government has offered her, and she’s found some publishing allies.
“There are only three francophone book publishers in New Brunswick,” she says. “I’ve realized that they are partners. These are people with backgrounds that can help.”
As an educator, book publisher, graphic designer and government employee, Dwayne LaFitte has worn many hats over the years. So when he wrote his first book, Over By the Harbour (Flanker Press), he had plenty of experience to draw from.
“I started out as a stock boy at Creative Book Publishing and within five or six years, I rose to the position of publisher,” says LaFitte.
When Transcontinental Printing purchased the company, LaFitte’s position became redundant. He moved on, taking a graphic design position at Flanker Press before leaving for his current government position. Despite his career change, LaFitte didn’t completely lose the book bug. He began working on a novel and, when his son was born, he was inspired to write a book that would introduce his son to local wildlife.
LaFitte drew on his publishing knowledge to write a book that he hopes will appeal to his target audience of locals, tourists and expatriates. But now that the book has been released, he’s seeing the book industry from a whole new perspective.
“It’s not everyday that a hometown boy gets a book published,” he says. “It’s a really humbling experience when somebody stops you and tells you you’ve done a good job.”
Sarah Sawler is a Halifax journalist, book reviewer and author of Leaving for Good (Fierce Ink Press). Her work has appeared in publications including Halifax Magazine, the Chronicle Herald, and Quill & Quire. Follow her on Twitter @SarahSawler