How to Publish a Book in Canada: A Step-by-Step Guide

the girl thinking about their study

Writing a book is a significant accomplishment, but turning it into a published work can be a challenging process. Not only is publishing a book rewarding, but you can turn it into a side hustle, earning a bit of extra income along the way. If you’re an aspiring author looking to publish your book in Canada, this comprehensive guide is for you. In this guide, we discuss everything you need to know to get your book published in Canada, from traditional publishing to self-publishing. So, let’s get started!

Understanding the Canadian Publishing Industry

If you want to publish your book in Canada, it’s crucial to first understand the landscape of the Canadian publishing industry. While Canadian publishing might share some similarities with those in the States or the UK, there are some uniquely Canadian characteristics and nuances that are essential to know.

Canada has a rich literary history, and the country’s publishing industry has played a vital role in promoting Canadian authors and their work. The industry has evolved over the years, but it remains an essential part of the country’s cultural fabric.

Traditional Publishing vs. Self-Publishing

The Canadian publishing industry is made up of two primary publishing methods: traditional publishing and self-publishing. Traditional publishing is when you submit your manuscript to a publisher, who handles all aspects of production, distribution, and marketing. This method is preferred by many authors as it provides them with the support and resources they need to bring their work to a wider audience.

Self-publishing, on the other hand, requires you to take on all responsibility for your book, from editing to distribution. Not only self-publishing is the more expensive option, but it requires a lot of work and dedication from the author. Self-publishing can also limit the reach of your book, as it can be challenging to get your work noticed without the backing of a reputable publisher.

Key Players in the Canadian Publishing Scene

Canada has a thriving publishing industry with many key players. Companies like Penguin Random House Canada, HarperCollins Canada, and Simon & Schuster Canada are among the most prominent publishers in the country with a long history. Some of Canada’s most celebrated authors are published by these companies, known for their high-quality production values and marketing expertise.

Additionally, there are many independent publishers and university presses that might be interested in your work. These publishers often specialize in niche genres or topics and can provide authors with a more personalized publishing experience.

It’s essential to research potential publishers carefully to ensure your work aligns with their publishing goals and interests. Submitting your manuscript to the right publisher can significantly increase your chance of getting published and reaching a broader audience.

Preparing Your Manuscript for Publication

Self-publishing can be a lucrative side hustle, but before you send your manuscript out into the world, you’ll need to take some important steps to ensure it’s ready for publication. Here are a few crucial things to consider:

Editing and Proofreading

No matter which publishing path you choose, your book must be edited and proofread by a professional. A well-edited book will have a much better chance of succeeding, and you’ll avoid unprofessional mistakes that could tarnish your reputation as an author.

Editing involves going through your manuscript with a fine-tooth comb to ensure it flows well, is free of grammatical errors, and is easy to read. A professional editor can help you tighten up your writing, making it more concise and engaging. 

Proofreading is the final check for errors before your book goes to print. It’s a vital step that can catch any last-minute typos or mistakes that might have been missed during the editing process. You can find editors on freelance marketplaces such as Upwork. Be sure to thoroughly vet editors before offering them the job. Feel free to ask for a short sample edit of around 1,000 words before deciding upon which one to hire. 

Formatting Your Manuscript

Once your manuscript is complete, you’ll need to format it according to industry standards, which can vary slightly between traditional and self-publishing. Make sure you research and follow the specific manuscript guidelines for your chosen path to avoid formatting issues.

Formatting includes elements such as font size, spacing, margins, and page numbering. These may seem like small details, but they can make a big difference in how your book looks and reads. A well-formatted manuscript makes it easier for readers to follow along and enjoy your story. Many online distribution sites like KDP/Amazon provide paperback and hardcover manuscript templates, while IngramSpark has a free book building tool. By using these and other similar resources, you can make sure your manuscript will be accepted by the platform’s software, and the result will be a professional-looking well-formatted book.  

Creating a Compelling Book Cover

Your book cover is the first thing potential readers see, so it’s essential to make it as compelling as possible. Hire a professional book cover designer to create a cover that accurately represents your book and catches the reader’s attention.

A great book cover should be visually appealing, eye-catching, and relevant to the story. It should give readers an idea of what to expect when they open the book. A professional designer can help you achieve this by creating a cover that is both beautiful and effective.

By taking the time to edit and proofread your manuscript, format it correctly, and create a compelling book cover, you’ll be well on your way to publishing success. Remember that the publishing process can be long and challenging, but with dedication and hard work, you can achieve your goals as an author.

Traditional Publishing in Canada

Traditional publishing is a long and arduous process, but it is often worth it if you’re looking to build a career as an author. Here are some essential steps to consider:

Finding a Literary Agent

Most traditional publishers in Canada require authors to submit their work through a literary agent. Finding the right agent can be challenging, but it’s crucial to take the time to find an agent who is passionate about your work and has the connections to help you succeed.

When searching for an agent, it’s essential to do your research. Look for agents who have represented authors in your genre with a track record of success. You can find agents through online directories (such as Manuscript Wish List), writer’s organizations webpages (such as the literary agents page of the Writers’ Union of Canada), writing conferences, and networking events.

Once you have settled on an agent to query, be sure to read the agency’s requirements for submissions, as this can make or break your chance at representation. Fiction books usually require a cover letter and a sample of your writing (anywhere from five pages to the entire manuscript). Potential agents might also ask for a detailed synopsis, author bio, and/or marketing plan. Non-fiction books usually require a book proposal, synopsis, and/or marketing plan along with your query letter

After you’ve found an agent, it’s important to make sure they are the right fit for you. Schedule a meeting or phone call to discuss your goals and expectations, and make sure your agent shares your vision for your work.

Submitting Your Manuscript to Publishers

Once you have an agent, they will submit your manuscript to publishers on your behalf. The process can be slow, sometimes taking several months or even years to hear back from prospective publishers. Be patient and keep working on your writing while you wait for a response.

It’s important to remember that rejection is a common part of the publishing process. Don’t be discouraged if your manuscript is rejected by multiple publishers. Keep revising and improving your work, and above all else, be patient.

Navigating Publishing Contracts

If a publisher decides to publish your work, you’ll need to sign a publishing contract. These contracts can be challenging to navigate, so it’s crucial to have an agent or a lawyer to help you understand what you’re signing. Book publishing agreements in Canada generally cover how much money will be paid in advance of publication, the percentage of royalties you will receive, and if any amounts will be kept in reserve. These amounts will vary based on the genre and format of the book (e.g., eBook, audio book, paperback, or hardcover). Royalties for first-time authors are usually in the range of 7-12% of the book’s cover price, according to an FAQ on the Canadian Authors website. Publishing contracts will also stipulate how to handle dramatization rights, publicity, timelines for delivery of manuscript and publication, and how the contract will end. 

Make sure to read the contract carefully and ask questions if there’s anything you don’t understand. Pay attention to royalty rates, length of the contract, and any clauses related to marketing and promotion.

It’s also important to negotiate the terms of the contract. Don’t be afraid to ask for changes or to walk away if the terms aren’t favourable to you.

Working with a Canadian Publisher

If you sign a traditional publishing deal, you’ll work with a publisher to edit, design, and distribute your book. Make sure you choose a publisher that will support your book and work with you.

When working with a publisher, communication is key. Make sure you understand the editing and design process and provide feedback when necessary. Work with your publisher to develop a marketing and promotion plan for your book, and be open to their suggestions and ideas.

Remember that publishing is a collaborative process, and it’s important to build a strong relationship with your publisher. By working together, you can create a book you’re proud of that will be successful in the Canadian market.

Self-Publishing in Canada

Self-publishing has become an increasingly popular way for authors to get their books out into the world. With the rise of digital publishing, it’s now easier than ever for authors to bypass traditional publishing houses, take control of their work, and build it into a successful side hustle. While self-publishing can be a rewarding experience, it’s important to understand the process and do your research before diving in. Here are some essential steps to consider:

Choosing a Self-Publishing Platform

There are many self-publishing platforms available, such as Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing, Rakuten Kobo’s Writing Life, Draft2Digital, and IngramSpark. Each platform specializes in a variety of book formats with a unique set of distribution channels. Uploading a book for distribution is free, but authors must pay for hard copies of their books. Authors must also pay a percentage of their royalties to the platform. 

It is important to research each platform to know their distribution channels so you can post to a select number of platforms to cast your widest distribution net.  For example, though you can post your book directly to Rakuten Kobo, posting to Draft2Digital will get your book in Rakuten Kobo’s catalogue in addition to other sites, like Barnes and Noble, Apple, and even Amazon. When choosing a self-publishing platform, it is also important to consider the interface’s ease of use and control over your book’s production and distribution. Be sure to consider your goals and priorities when choosing a platform.

PlatformUpload CostRoyalty Charge^Publishing Cost**Distribution Channels
KDP/Amazonfree35-40% paperback books 30-35% eBooks

35-40% hardcover books
$0.85 for 110-828 pages

$0.15/mb “delivery” cost
$6.80  for up to 110 pages; $0.012 each page thereafter
Amazon worldwide and affiliates. 
Draft2Digital free40% eBooks
45% paperback books
Amazon Apple BooksBarnes & NobleRakuten KoboOverdrive…and a number of other small online book distributors
Rakuten Kobofree70% eBooksfreeKobo website and store in all Kobo readers
Ingram/SparkfreeUp to 70% paperback books 
Up to 70% hardcover books 
40% eBooks


1% of book’s price
AmazonAppleBarnes & NobleChapters/Indigo catalogue…and a number of other book distributors

It’s also important to understand your rights as an author and the terms and conditions of the self-publishing platform you choose. Read the fine print carefully and make sure you’re comfortable with the terms before signing up.

When self-publishing, you’re responsible for many legal requirements, such as obtaining an ISBN number and copyrighting your work. An ISBN, or International Standard Book Number, is a unique identifier for your book that helps book sellers and libraries track inventory and sales. In Canada, ISBNs are issued by Library and Archives Canada (LAC). After applying for an ISBN account, you can log in to assign ISBN numbers to your books. ISBN numbers are free for self-publishers residing in Canada, but you must provide a copy to the LAC for their collections under the Legal Deposit requirements of the Library and Archives of Canada Act. Paperback and hardcover books can be mailed to them. Each book should be accompanied by a Publication Submitted to Legal Deposit form for monographs. Ebooks can be uploaded to the Book Deposit website. 

Marketing Your Self-Published Book

Once your book is available for purchase, it’s up to you to market it effectively. While self-publishing platforms may offer some marketing tools, such as Amazon’s Kindle Select program, it’s important to have a plan in place to promote your book. Social media can be a powerful tool for reaching potential readers as can book signings and other events. Consider reaching out to book bloggers and reviewers on sites like GoodReads or The Book Blogger List to help spread the word about your book.

It’s also important to have a professional-looking cover and book description that will catch your readers’ attention. Consider hiring a graphic designer or copywriter to help you create a compelling book cover and blurb. Sites used by freelancers, such as Upwork, can help you find everyone from graphic designers and copywriters to marketing specialists and website programmers to help you market your book.  

Building an author platform is a great way to establish your online presence and introduce yourself to the world as an author. There are many great point and click website builder platforms available in Canada, both free and paid (paid sites offer more features and functionality). It is important that you do a bit of research before deciding which platform you will use. Consider ease of use, cost, and the company’s reputation for customer service before settling on any given platform.  

Distribution Channels for Self-Published Books

When you self-publish, you’ll need to ensure that your book is available to readers. Self-publishing platforms like Amazon make this process relatively easy, but you can also distribute your book through brick-and-mortar bookstores and libraries. Some bookstores and libraries may be hesitant to carry self-published books, so it’s important to do your research and reach out to them directly. Consider offering a discount or other incentives to encourage them to stock your book. Some libraries may have a central vetting process for self-published books, while others require you to approach the librarian in charge of book purchases at a branch location. Some Chapters-Indigo locations will carry your book on consignment and may even host an author signing. Speak to the manager of your local store branch to explore the possibilities.   

The Bottom Line

Overall, self-publishing can be a rewarding way to share your work with the world while earning a bit of extra money as a side hustle. With careful planning and attention to detail, you can create a high-quality book that readers will love. Traditional and self-publishing both have their pros and cons, and it’s up to you to decide which path is best for you. Whichever one you choose, make sure you take the time to prepare your manuscript correctly, and be persistent and creative in your publishing and marketing efforts. With hard work and perseverance, you can turn your writing into a published book your readers will enjoy.

Arthur Dubois is a personal finance writer at Hardbacon. Since relocating to Canada, he has successfully built his credit score from scratch and begun investing in the stock market. In addition to his work at Hardbacon, Arthur has contributed to Metro newspaper and several other publications