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Sunday, May 31, 2009

Robert Morgan’s publishing tips for writers

Saturday I attended a workshop on ‘How to approach publishers and get your manuscript noticed’. Robert Morgan, Publisher of BookLand Press, conducted the workshop. I had participated in an earlier workshop that Morgan conducted for the Writers and Editors Network in mid-May. But the time he was allotted was rather short, and he had to rush through his material.

At Saturday’s workshop, held at the picturesque Runnymede public library, Morgan spoke uninterrupted for three hours. He answered a range of questions from the participants that comprised a mix of Canadians and immigrants from different age groups and backgrounds.

Why this sudden interest in book publishing?

There are two reasons. The main one is my fascination for book publishing as a process. My only inheritance from my grandfather Harischandra Bhatt is a collection of books. Among them are manuals on printing and publishing, and on typefaces and fonts. Harischandra had a publishing house – Nalanda Publication– for a brief time and published books on a range of subjects.

The other reason – and I feel oddly reticent admitting to it – is that I’m in the process of writing a novel. Actually, I had begun writing this novel after I had encouraged Richard Rothman to publish his book of short stories (Intelligent Endings). That was many years ago. 

As it happens with most of our creative efforts, life intervenes and interrupts. We leave behind what we love doing to attend to our immediate needs. The needs then multiply and we forget about our writing. 

2009 is a year of revival for me in terms of my reading and writing. That happened primarily because I joined Sheridan College’s journalism program. I was introduced to Canadian literature. This is the first time ever that I'm studying literature. I also started this blog. 

Then a couple of months ago, Joyce Wayne introduced me to Antanas Sileika Artistic Director, Humber School for Writers. I will be meeting him in July for Humber School for Writers’ summer workshop. In preparation for this interaction, I began writing my novel.

I fished out my old manuscript. But I found only some parts of the earlier version interesting. So, I started to build upon a short story that I had entered into a competition. 

In about two months, I have written close to 18,000 words. I don’t know if it is good or bad. What I know is that I’m enjoying the process of writing. I get up early every morning, and then sit for a couple of hours at least to write my book. 

Mostly, I’m rewriting and the pace is extremely slow. But it is so engaging that if I had a choice, I’d only write.

I know a few friends who are writing a book, and I know a few others who should be writing a book. 

I’m reporting a few interesting aspects of Morgan’s presentation that I think writers will find interesting.

  • Do your research on the internet to select the right publisher for your manuscript – target specific publishers who publish your genre.
  • Check submission guidelines – every publisher has specific guidelines.
  • You don’t need a literary agent nowadays – especially if you’re an unpublished author.
  • Don’t send generic cover letters – you’re a writer, and the publisher is a literate person. Write a personal letter.
  • In Canada, publishers receive on an average 800 to 1000 submissions every month. So, don’t expect a prompt response from publishers after you submit your manuscript.
  • A good business relationship is essential between an author and a publisher for the success of any book.

These bullet points are just a glimpse of what Morgan said during his presentation. He conducts these workshops twice a year, and charges a nominal fee from participants. 

The proceeds are donated to Canadian Aid Charity. He also informed the participants about Canadian Aid Charity’s literary contest where the first prize is a trade book publishing contract. Check out the details here. The deadline is September 1, 2009. 

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