A local publisher has just launched a unique opportunity for teen authors interested in publishing a book
Publisher of Wood Dragon Books Jeanne Martinson has been helping authors fine-tune their books for publishing for a number of years, and now she is hoping to help a whole new demographic of writers: teen authors.
Martinson has launched a new publishing contest from Wood Dragon Books, aimed at young authors between the ages of 15 to 18 who have a creative fiction idea and are interested in developing a published novel.
“I think there’s this idea out there that ‘it’s never too late to become an author,’ but neither is it too early to become an author either,” said Martinson.
Wood Dragon Books will be selecting three teen authors from the contest to have their novels professionally published.
Winning authors will see their manuscript published in print, eBook or audiobook formats — or, in the case of the first-place winner, all three — and receive royalties from the book once it releases in the fall next year.
The Young Author Competition is open to teens from the Palliser Regional Library service area, which includes Moose Jaw, Assiniboia and a large number of surrounding communities in south-central Saskatchewan.
With no entry fee, Martinson is hoping to offer an exciting and rare opportunity to budding young creatives to polish a manuscript and develop their skills as writers.
“If you’re serious about writing a book, to have a professional editor look at your outline and say, ‘here’s a hole, this is good, fill in this part,’ that would be incredibly helpful for most authors, just to have that feedback,” said Martinson. “So we’re hoping to give quality feedback to young authors who have a book idea in their head or are already working on a book project.”
Information about the contest is available at all Palliser Regional Library branch locations, on the Wood Dragon Books website, as well as with some English teachers within the school divisions located within the contest zone.
The details: what to know about submissions
Teen writers have until Dec. 31 to submit to the competition, and Martinson outlined some specific requirements for those submissions.
Applicants first must fit within the age requirements, be a student in grades 8 to 12, and have a library card with the Palliser Regional Library in order to enter.
Following that, authors can then enter a submission package: an application form signed by themselves and a parent or guardian, along with a maximum two-page plot outline detailing their story and a maximum one-page backstory for one character.
The plot outline must include all the important details for the novel’s progression — characters, setting, general events, the conflict and resolution.
Authors may send in an outline for almost any fiction genre, with the exception of poetry and horror, and they must be prepared to write a manuscript of between 40,000 and 60,000 words — which equates to a novel of about 200 pages or so — by Sept. 1.
“We are focused on genre fiction, so sci-fi, fantasy, young adult, romance, mystery, the solid genre tracks,” said Martinson. “The clearer the genre is to identify, the better.”
The submission requirements are unique, in that Martinson isn’t asking for a manuscript but rather a planned outline for authors to work on through the remainder of the process.
“It seemed unreasonable to ask high school students to submit a full manuscript, but we didn’t want to get too far down the process without being confident there’s the potential of a finished book,” said Martinson.
Following the first deadline, Martinson and the team of editors will review the submitted plot outlines and return them to authors with questions and comments in January. Authors must then address the revisions and send their submission back by Feb. 10, this time with another maximum one-page backstory for a second character.
In March, a shortlist of selected authors will be cleared to move on to the next stage, where they will begin writing the first draft of their manuscript.
After reviewing those drafts, a final selection of three authors will be announced in June. These manuscripts will be the winners of the contest’s three prizes, to be fine-tuned and published by Wood Dragon Books in October.
Martinson and the competition panel will be offering input throughout this entire process, and she is encouraging writers to seek mentorship from their English teachers or other support individuals in their community to help with their writing.
“We’re going to do monthly Zoom calls to talk about where the manuscript is. We will have editors attached to each author to give them advice and support,” said Martinson. “I’d say [to potential authors], keep your summer free because you’re going to be busy.”
Building an indie-hybrid publisher
Wood Dragon Books is an indie-hybrid publisher that has been in operation since 2012, although Martinson has been offering her expertise to authors for much longer than that.
As a professional speaker, corporate trainer and author, Martinson first began working with fellow speakers in the early 90s to polish their books into something more professional and marketable.
“In my professional community, I began to be asked, ‘How do I market my books? How do I write them for all these different platforms?’” said Martinson.
From there, Martinson began offering free workshops on the topic and eventually launched her own publishing company — Wood Dragon Books, which operates using the more modern indie-hybrid model for publisher and author payouts.
“Writing a book is like running a business. Having a great manuscript and then saying, ‘here, have a look’ is just a third of it. Managing that book on the right platforms and getting it to market, with a great title, a great cover, great layout working with great designers [is the rest],” said Martinson.
Wood Dragon Books is on track to publish 10 fiction titles over the next year, with three of those coming from the conclusion of the teen contest, and Martinson is looking forward to it.
“It was a natural evolution to publishing people’s books, and this year into publishing fiction beyond just business books and self-help books, which is what we’ve been up to until this point,” said Martinson. “There is a major shift happening in the publishing industry, and I hope we’re at the front of that.”
Helping young authors explore the industry
The idea to create a contest for teen authors was one that came to Martinson organically, after recently working with authors Marie Powell and Maureen Ulrich on their respective YA fiction series.
“It really got me thinking about these books, which are basically young adult books, written by authors who are not young adults,” said Martinson. “And that’s when I asked myself, ‘What about the young adults who are writing YA books, where is their champion?”
Martinson, who as a teenage writer would have loved the opportunity to talk with a publisher about her manuscript, saw the chance to create a bridge for teen writers leading to the publishing sphere.
The contest’s scheduled timeline has been laid out in a very calculated way, said Martinson, as she is planning to publish the winning author’s titles in time to submit them to the Saskatchewan Reads catalogue. She is even imagining helping the winning authors potentially submit their books to the Sask Book Awards in the fall.
But overall, for Martinson, creating the Young Author Competition is about more than seeking out good YA fiction to add to the catalogue at Wood Dragon Books.
She felt that it was time for her, as a business owner, to offer something new and beneficial to southern Saskatchewan, specifically to the communities outside of major centres like Regina and Saskatoon which already have a number of city-specific opportunities of their own.
“I was really thinking about what would make sense that would be youth-oriented and would allow [Wood Dragon Books] to contribute to our community,” said Martinson. “And I think that it’s [beneficial] to give encouragement and quality feedback to young authors.”
Martinson also felt there needed to be a new opportunity for teens to explore their passion for fiction writing, to encourage writers to develop their skills in long-form writing.
“I also wanted to explore the potential of young adults to deliver quality writing,” said Martinson. “I believe our future is with our young people, the generation following us, and I think that one thing fiction does is make you think, and we need thinkers.”
More information about Wood Dragon Books and the Young Author Competition can be found on the publisher’s website.