February Seminar Notes: PWAC Looks at Books

By Jack Choros

For our “PWAC Looks at Books” seminar, held on Feb. 1, PWAC Toronto Chapter welcomed panellists Kelly Steen, publisher and writer accountant manager at Wattpad, a popular online writing community; editor Nicole North of North Editorial Services; and journalist and author Andrew Borkowski.

Kelly Steen, Wattpad

Wattpad is an online writing community that lets people share their work, get feedback and connect with readers. Accessible online at Wattpad.com and via mobile app, the platform boasts more than 40 million monthly users, most of whom are under the age of 30. Fiction and romance are the most popular genres on Wattpad, but non-fiction is growing quickly as the user base matures.

Ninety per cent of users read but do not write content. Anyone can post, and the community has also hosted established writers such as  Margaret Atwood and Dan Brown.

There are currently over 150 million stories available to the Wattpad community. There is no cost to join. To build your brand, writers can promote a chapter, a book or a series of books. Some Wattpad superstars with a social media following have monetized their content by working with Wattpad’s brand partners.

Seminar attendees had a ton of questions for Kelly at the end of the seminar, and the room was buzzing about this modern forum for reaching new readers.

Nicole North, North Editorial Services

Nicole North is a freelance editor with experience in a wide range of genres. She shared several tips for shaping a manuscript and working with an editor.

  • Know exactly what readership you’re targetting
  • Decide whether your work requires major or minor editing
  • An editor can provide recommendations in different ways – on the manuscript or in an email, for example
  • Understand the different stages of the editing process, from the bigger-picture structural and substantive editing to the more detailed levels of stylistic editing and copy editing. (To learn more, read the Professional Editorial Standards on the Editors Canada website.)

She also talked about the benefits of having an editor review your work:

  • A polished manuscript clear of editing
  • Allows your narrative to stand out
  • Gives you a better shot at impressing publishers since they don’t have to do in-house editing
  • Helpful to simply having a second set of eyes on your work

Andrew Borkowski, journalist and author

Andrew took us through the history of the Writers’ Union of Canada, which was founded in 1973. He also provided a passionate perspective on writers’ rights and the current state of copyright legislation in Canada.

Andrew pointed out that income from writing books has decreased as much as 27 per cent since the late 1990s. During the Q&A, he talked about how digital content and digital publishing can both hurt and help authors in the future. In addition, he spoke about his and his two children’s careers as writers.


Nate Hendley, author and panel moderator

In closing, moderator Nate Hendley addressed the challenges of becoming a published author and talked about how he broke into crime writing, which began with a PWAC connection.

Thank you to all of our speakers for providing us with their insights. For information about upcoming PWAC Toronto Chapter professional development events, subscribe to our free Pulse newsletter.

For details about “How to Polish Your Prose So Editors Love You,” our special professional development event on March 5, 2016, visit the registration page.


Jack Choros (@jackchoros) is a freelance writer from Mississauga, Ont., specializing in website content and content curation, with a passion for sports and viral content.