Where should a dark sci-fi, horror novelist start his writing career? Canada or the US?
As a Canadian writer living in Belgium I was concerned with being removed from any English speaking market that might publish and read my post-apocalyptic sci-fi, horror novel, The Nest. Even with today’s hyper-connected social media, I worried that being away from Canada, the US or the UK would put me at a disadvantage from not rubbing elbows with gatekeepers in the industry. I was wrong. A writer today with a laptop and Wi-Fi has never been more connected to the writing world and to the many possibilities for publishing. So my question went from ‘Am I at a disadvantage living abroad?’ to ‘Which English speaking market should I target?’
My focus for the moment is on traditional publishing. Should this fail I might consider self-publishing. But for now, I feel I need the expertise and guidance of an agent or of a publisher to break into the industry.
I write science fictions and horrors and I decided to focus on North America to narrow my research into where I would be more successful. Armed with the following question, I set off: Can an emerging author break into the Canadian market with dark, post-apocalyptic sci-fi, horror or, given the USA’s larger publication industry and appetite for this genre, is it easier to launch a writing career south of the border?
My first step was to search online for any literature on Canada versus US publishing. I came across one article that compared the two industries. On her website, helpingyougetpublished.com, Patricia Anderson (PhD) wrote about American and Canadian Publishers – Myths versus Facts. Anderson – an author, editor and literary consultant based in Canada – talks about how ‘the American and Canadian publishing industries might have more in common than many people think’ and about how American publishers are interested in Canadian writers (and vice versa) if the book has the potential to be a bestseller. It’s reassuring that fiction is marketable in both countries if it’s well-written. Anderson goes on to say that because ‘the American market is so much larger than the Canadian [one], major American publishers have more money to offer than comparable Canadian houses’; which partially answers my question of which market offers more chances for a writing career. But that’s fiction and non-fiction in general. What about dark genre fiction specifically?
I contacted Patricia Anderson directly to ask her this. She responded:
As far as I know, there are few opportunities in Canadian mainstream publishing for genre fiction, unless it can demonstrate some elements consistent with Can Lit and the cultural mandates that Canadian publishers must honour in return for subsidization. (Anderson – date: Apr 3, 2014)
With that advice, I looked in to what constitutes Canadian Literature that mainstream publishers in the Great White North are looking for and to see if my novel idea fits within these parameters.
As per Anderson’s advice, I visited the websites of as many Canadian and American literary agents and publishers of genre fiction as I could find. With a representative list, I carefully reviewed their Submission Guidelines to see if I could identify any common themes on the Canadian side of the industry. I wasn’t able to infer that there are special Canadian elements being sought out, nor did I come across publishers or agents who say ‘We only want Can Lit and this is what we mean’. In every case, they specialized in one genre fiction and / or another and they all provided similar rules for submitting manuscripts. There was not one publisher or agent that stood out for dealing strictly with a national culture. In my opinion, both industries seem to be looking for the same things.
Your humble writer,