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P.E.I. writers work for love not cash

Angel Jendrick was told if she wanted to be a writer, she had to be a journalist.

“Writing articles is a lot different. (…) Anything non-fiction I’m like… no. I just want my character to do what I want them to do, and sometimes they do what they want to do,” said Jendrick.

She wasn’t interested in journalism and wanted to write fiction, but that doesn’t pay a lot.

Although she has a good support system now, she still worries about whether she will be able to make it a career.

“It’s kind of like an actor in Hollywood, you know? You have those struggling ones and then the few that make it and become famous.”
Angel Jendrick published her first young adult romance novel, “Secret Me”, on April 4, 2023. It explores gender identity, sexual orientation and how they can affect relationships.
Angel Jendrick published her first young adult romance novel, “Secret Me”, on April 4, 2023. It explores gender identity, sexual orientation and how they can affect relationships. Photo by Ezra Santana.

Jendrick is not alone.

Julie Bull said they don’t expect to make a living out of the books they’ve written anytime soon.

“We don’t get much money from making books like… you got to sell a lot of books to make a living from selling your books,” said Bull.

Bull still hopes for a life in which they only write and someone else sells their books outside P.E.I.

“There’s not enough people here to buy my poetry books.”

Queer non-binary author Julie R. Bull shared their exploration of their gender identity through poetry in their latest collection “trans(form)ing”, from 2023.
Queer non-binary author Julie R. Bull shared their exploration of their gender identity through poetry in their latest collection “trans(form)ing”, from 2023. Photo by Ezra Santana.

The Writers’ Union of Canada’s most recent survey found the average income from writing for most Canadian authors is less than $10,000 a year.

Deirdre Kessler has been a member of the union since 1983 and said writers often take on related jobs, like teaching and editing, to make ends meet.

“One has to cobble together to make the poverty line, to make a living. So, that’s not just my challenge, but most writers don’t earn enough in royalties to pay the bills.”
Deirdre Kessler’s latest novel, “Darwin’s Hornpipe,” was inspired by her great-grandfather’s whaling and marooning experience.
Deirdre Kessler’s latest novel, “Darwin’s Hornpipe,” was inspired by her great-grandfather’s whaling and marooning experience. Photo by Ezra Santana.

Canadian authors usually receive royalties of around 12 per cent per book when publishing through a traditional publisher, according to a Canadian Authors Association (CAA) article.

So, for an average book of $20, they get about $2.

That percentage increases significantly when the book is self-published, but costs more money and labour to get it out there.

According to the CAA article, self-publishing means the author has to pay for their work to be published, as well as manage all parts of the book publishing process – editing, cover design, marketing and production.

Olivia Robinson, a new P.E.I. author, published her first book in 2021 and said she plans to keep writing despite the financial challenges.

“I find it incredibly inspiring to think of L.M. Montgomery and how that story still influences so much of the tourism industry in P.E.I.,” said Robinson. “And that’s a novel that’s now over 100 years old and it’s still having that influence.”

Finding a supportive community that you can trust is easier to do in a smaller place, said Robinson.

“So, I think being a writer from a smaller place has more benefits than it does drawbacks, for sure. You might not get the ‘lashy’ six-figure publishing deal, but it will be a more rewarding experience.”
Olivia Robinson published her first novel, “The Blue Moth Motel”, on Oct. 15, 2021. It won the 2022 P.E.I. Book Award for fiction due to its exploration of the themes familial love, sisterhood and the meaning of ‘home’.
Olivia Robinson published her first novel, “The Blue Moth Motel”, on Oct. 15, 2021. It won the 2022 P.E.I. Book Award for fiction due to its exploration of the themes familial love, sisterhood and the meaning of ‘home’. Photo by Ezra Santana.

Laurie Brinklow agreed that becoming part of the writing community in P.E.I. is easy.

She helped found the P.E.I. Writers’ Guild, which offers events and other opportunities for writers to get together and network with local publishers, including the Island Literary Awards.

“The Literary Awards are a way to get your work out there and seen,” said Brinklow.

Support from the community on the Island also comes in the form of partnerships with local book sellers.

“We feel it’s very important to talk about local authors and their books. There is so much talent here that others should be aware of,” said Bookmark representative Lori Cheverie.

P.E.I. author Laurie Brinklow explored the concepts of “islandness” and Islander identity through poetry in her P.E.I. Book Award winner poem collection “My island’s the house I sleep in at night”.
P.E.I. author Laurie Brinklow explored the concepts of “islandness” and Islander identity through poetry in her P.E.I. Book Award winner poem collection “My island’s the house I sleep in at night”. Photo by Ezra Santana.

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Hey, thanks for stopping by!

My name is Ezra (they/them) and I’m an aspiring storyteller who is half-way through a Journalism and Communications program at Holland College, P.E.I. 

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