Matt Bucemi, an assistant professor in book publishing at York University, created the First Novel Prize in conjunction with Toronto-based Invisible Publishing to advance first-time novelists and provide hands-on experience for publishing students.
Recognizing Invisible Publishing’s status as a fan-favourite publishing house, Bucemi partnered with their local team to push a call for manuscripts to fledgling writers. Based on those manuscripts, one author will be a selected to win a $3,000 cash prize from Bucemi, in addition to a $1,000 advance against royalties and book deal from Invisible Publishing. The winner will also get to deliver a keynote address and Q-and-A at York.
The First Novel Prize launched officially on Jan. 10 and will remain open to submissions until Feb. 28. The prize winner will be announced in April 2023, their manuscript will be published in 2024 or 2025.
The prize will not only give one promising, new writer the chance to have their book appear on retailers’ shelves, it also provides an experiential education opportunity to students of the book publishing program. They’ll get to make a meaningful impact on the winning book, offering editorial notes, story suggestions, advice for the author and marketing input.
“Publishing houses want to hire interns and junior staff who have previous experience in the publishing industry, but it can be difficult for busy students to gain that experience,” says Bucemi. “This collaboration will give York’s publishing students the meaningful experience and real industry knowledge that they need to distinguish themselves in a competitive job market.”
York’s students will get to experience the entire professional publishing process, from sorting through a slush pile of submissions to making suggestions about printing and production.
“I’m really interested in what [the students] have to say,” says Norm Nehmetallah of Invisible Publishing. “Because none of them have worked in publishing before, it’s a completely fresh perspective.”