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Securing Our Feet

February 8, 2011

The Writers Union of Canada Symposium

This past weekend, I attended the symposium “Secure Footing in a Changing Literary Landscape,” presented by the Writers Union of Canada. It was a day of exploring the tradition state of publishing and how it is moving and changing in this new world of ebooks, self-publishing and the shift from paper.

The two main presenters were Betsy Warland and Ross Laird. Betsy started us off with the doom and gloom of the current state of traditional publishing. Ross moved into the new world of publishing and the rise of self-publishing and ebooks. Both emphasized that now more than ever we as writers need to be responsible for our own careers. Ross believes self-publishing has become mainstream and that paper books are on the way out.

Betsy disagreed that paper books are marginal. She did see that the new world brings new possibilities and as writers we need to think in small steps. She explored the idea of the deep connection between our desire to write and our desire to reach our readers. In this way, self promotion of our work is not a new idea.

One point I quite enjoyed from Ross was the idea of not self promoting for the sake of self promotion but to use the principle of “interestingness.” Create content of interest and put it out there. People will find it and by extension, find you.

The final presenter of the day was Kelly Duffin, Executive Director of the TWUC who discussed contracts. I admit it seemed an odd placement for this topic as she discussed traditional print contracts. I think this might have been better suited to earlier in the morning before discussion moved into ebooks.

Overall, it was a very interesting day. I had some definite takeaways, including cloud storage, dynamic websites, ideas for incorporating video and more. I know I’m on the tip of this iceberg with a long way to go yet I feel fortune to be doing even the little bit I’m doing. It’s an exciting new world that’s evolving. Time to jump in!


A copy of Ross’s presentation can be found here. Note it is in HTML5 and is best viewed on standard compliance web browsers (including Opera, Chrome or Firefox).

The symposium is continuing on a tour across Canada. Dates and further information can be found here.


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