Canada Council for the Arts

It was through the Canada Council for the Arts that I first discovered the lack of recourse for self-published authors. I went to their site to see about any grants that might be available to authors looking for help producing their work, and as I scanned their criteria, I found this:

My hopes weren’t dashed, though. Although I’m proud to be an indie author, I do understand the desire to keep resources for people who tackle writing as a business, and who have already established themselves with a readership or acquired some credibility by having an agent/publisher. So I emailed them to ask if there were any exceptions to the self-published rule (# of published titles, for example, or minimum income earned).

I received the following reply.

No, there are no exceptions to the rule. We do not count self-published works as professional publications. By our definition, a professionally published work has gone through an editorial selection process, and the writer has been fairly compensated for the publication of their work.

I was directed to review the classification for a “literary writer”


Overall, this list makes sense, and I agree with most of it.

With the exception of “…implying an editorial selection process”.

This is the part that excludes a wide number of Canadian authors from receiving Government support*. While this would have been applicable and acceptable even ten years ago, the fact that it is no longer a requirement for artistic recognition or success by readers or among authors should mean that it is no longer a requirement to be seen as a professional.

Especially since the other items on that list have already been achieved and even surpassed by most indie authors I know.

Also included in the email was a suggestion that I look into the Ontario Arts Council.

Generally speaking, provincial and municipal funding bodies have less stringent criteria than our own. For example, I know that the Ontario Arts Council accepts self-published works.

Fortunately, this information is correct. While not all grants are eligible for self-published authors, there are some that are, which says a lot for the forward thinking and adaptability of the Ontario Arts Council. The difference, of course, is the size of the grants, which are significantly smaller on a provincial level.

Being excluded from the federal grants reinforces the stigma against independent authors and excludes artists looking to add their voices to Canadian culture.

At this point, I turned my attention to Canadian Heritage, but do intend to follow up to request their rationale and also find out what steps would be required to request a review of these definitions/requirements. Once I have updates, I’ll be sure to add them here.

*not listed here is the requirement of a print run, but I know of at least one author who was denied a grant because she did not have a print run of 350 books through her publisher.


An Introduction

My name is Krista Walsh. I’m from Ottawa, Ontario and have been an independent author since November 2013. In four years, I have published twelve novels and one anthology, have sold thousands of books, and have spent two of those four years writing full time living off of my work.

Despite of these successes, I recently discovered that I am not considered a professional writer by the Government of Canada, which means I am ineligible to request grants or funding support, to enter nationally recognized contests/prizes, as well as a slew of other advantages open to those authors who have opted to follow more traditional means of publishing.

It was this discovery that prompted the creation of this blog.

To be honest, it’s never really occurred to me to care about my status as an author. I write because I love to write. I’ve been crafting stories since I was six years old. I write scenes on napkins in restaurants, and feel anxiety whenever I’m away from home without a means to jot down ideas as they come.

Professional vs. amateur has never stopped me from moving towards my dreams, and it has certainly never changed the way I perceived myself.

I am proud of being an independent author.

I didn’t make the decision to go indie because I was left no other choice. I chose this path because it best suited my needs and wants, giving me control over my work and allowing me to learn the ins and outs of the publishing business.

It was about what I wanted, not about what I couldn’t get.

And I’m surrounded by people who feel the same way. If you’re in the publishing arena, then you know the strides that have been made in indie publishing. Thanks to Amazon, Kobo, iTunes, GooglePlay, it has become as possible for authors to get their work into the world as it is for musicians and video producers to work with youTube and Spotify. The digital age has allowed us to keep control of our rights and our work, and the stigma associated with this path is reducing as the years pass. The change has been quick, and the scene continues to alter as each day goes by.

So why did one exclusionary criteria bother me so much?

Honestly, because it made me feel discounted.

Here I am, a proud Canadian author telling stories in a way that reflects my Canadian values even if it doesn’t have any blatant Canadian content, and I am being told by my government that it doesn’t really count.

I earn a living doing what I love, and I’m being told that I’m not as good as the people who have opted to publish by another route.

To be clear, my intention is not to vilify the government. As I just mentioned, the change in publishing has been fast. The real push has only been made in the last decade. For anyone who knows Government, that’s very little time as far as policy goes.

But my goal is to nudge the way for changes to be made. What I would like is for the definition of “professional author” to be updated to reflect the times we live in, so that legitimate artists aren’t being overlooked or forgotten; that they have the same opportunities for recognition as the traditionally published.

I have no doubt that I will also throw in the occasional post about my opinions on “Canadian literature” (which often excludes genre fiction), on the loss of arts focus and support in schools, but my aim here will be to keep you up to date on my progress as I engage with departments like Canadian Heritage or organizations like the Canada Council for the Arts.

I plan to be as transparent as possible, sharing my emails to these folks, as well as their replies as far as I’m able (and without putting anyone specific on the spot).

Feel free to share these posts, follow the blog, and voice your support as you wish in the comments. I don’t foresee these changes being quick, but if in the meantime we’re able to band together and show our support in numbers, it can only lead the way for a stronger Canadian indie community.

Thank you for reading this far, now let’s see where we go.