Tuesday, June 28, 2022

New Nonfiction prize

Writer/editor/publisher Ken Whyte, formerly of the National Post, Maclean's and Saturday Night, is now publisher of Sutherland House, a Toronto-based publishing house focussed on nonfiction. Whyte has long expressed concern about a crisis in Canadian nonfiction publishing. To summarize the problem, he quotes Biblioasis publisher Dan Wells:

We’re at a point in Canada’s history where it’s never been more important to tell our stories to ourselves, and to hold people in positions of authority accountable. And we have never been in a worse position to do so. Our market is dominated by foreign multinationals and the multinationals see Canada as too small a market so they don’t invest in substantial researched Canadian nonfiction.

In recent years, several respected Canadian nonfiction writers have declared they are choosing to write on "international" topics or to exit the field entirely, due to the unlikelihood of getting any reasonable recompense for their time and talent writing about Canadian public policy, science and natural science, cultural issues, history, etc. So it's a real problem. In response, Sutherland House announces the Sutherland House Prize for Nonfiction:

We are establishing an annual prize for the best nonfiction book project, open to both new and experienced writers. The winner will receive a contract for publication with Sutherland House including a $10,000 (Can.) advance.

The prize will emphasize works of narrative nonfiction that require substantial research or subject matter expertise. It will be awarded to a work in progress, either a well-developed proposal or a first-draft manuscript....  We expect most of the entrants and prize recipients will be Canadians but we are opening the award to writers anywhere in the world.  

I do note that the prize money is actually not prize money but an advance on the income an author will earn from sales of their work. But that in itself reflects the state of Canadian publishing now. It's a worthwhile initiative. 

On this theme:  the Creative Nonfiction Collective will launch its 2022-23 members' webinar series October 1 with Charlotte Gray in discussion with Whyte and Wells on this very topic.  Details to follow

Image: from SHuSH 154 

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