Wednesday, November 25, 2020


 Robyn Harding, who is Canadian, mentioned in a webinar that she was asked by her publisher to set her novels in the US for better marketability. The same case apparently with Shari Lapena, another Canadian. There didn't seem to be any issue with Jane Harper's novels set in Australia and all those novels set in various locales in Europe or Outer Space. Do you know what is going on here? Do I need to relocate my Vancouver Island novel to San Juan WA?


You'll notice that Ms Harding mentioned her PUBLISHER asked her. So, her books found an agent with the original setting.

Each publisher has different blind spots.

And yes, I have seen this before, but not so often that you should pro-actively revise your setting.

Given the number of people who were eyeing Canadia if the election had gone the other way, your appeal may be waxing.

Canadia just suffers from proximity. You don't seem exotic (like Australia or Betelgeuse) cause you're yanno...right there. Practically in Michigan, not to mention a quick hop from Bellingham. 

And then there's the problem with your ambassadors:


Steve Forti said...

What do you mean? Canada is all tucked away down there!

Leslie said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Leslie said...

Excellent find, Steve Forti! Inspired me to find this classic

Kregger said...

Doesn't the Canadian Governmental Services Division have either barbers or opticians?

Leslie: of course, I blame Canada, eh!

Heather Wardell said...

I'm Canadian, and twenty of my twenty-one novels are set in Toronto. Most of my readers are American. Not only have they not minded, I've had comments (including one just yesterday!) that they enjoy the peek into another country. To insist that Americans can only read books set in the US seems rather insulting to them, honestly.

Leslie said...

Heather, I am seriously in awe (& a little envious) of how prolific you are!

Yes, it is insulting to assume American readers only want stories set here. And I also think that setting should enhance a story, but generally not be a major part of it.

Janet Reid said...

How I failed to mention Louise Penny here I do not know.
I'm going to try to figure out how I can blame Mr. Forti for
my failure.

Pam Barnsley said...

I have heard many agents at writers conferences in Canada, and online, say the same thing: it’s too difficult for them to sell novels with a Canadian setting, to American publishers. Louise Penny is given as an exception that proves the rule. If you look at top Canadian crime novelists, you will note many set their books in the US. Sometimes they will set a story in both the US and Canada. Linwood Barclay and Rick Mofina are two best selling authors who have set their stories in the US. But I think this is starting to change, and that change is being driven by US readers, not agents or publishers. Anywhere can be a fascinating setting, if it’s written well.

Kitty said...

The Hanson brothers in SLAP SHOT:

Adele said...

As a Canadian, I used to hear this back in the 90s, at writing conferences and from other authors. You'd think that with the Internet and streaming services bringing foreign settings right into people's homes, and with the success of Harry Potter stories, that American readers would be OK with foreign settings. However I have read blog comments from people who are dismayed to learn that their favourite blogger is Canadian, and it's an emotional response rather than a logical one. Their attitude seems to be "I like this person, and she's not American - it breaks my heart." The publisher who made the original comments might have these people (mainly female, middle-aged or older) as his main market.

Barbara Etlin said...

Canadian here. I worked at a small Canadian publisher in the 70s when there was a big push for Canadian publishers to publish Canadian writers after the Royal Commission on Book Publishing came out in 1972. The study showed how few Canadian writers were published and that our cultural uniqueness was being swallowed by the States.

Of course the big names get published by American publishers. But it seems there's still a stigma, fifty years later. *sigh*

My first novel was set in Canada and The Netherlands. The settings were important to the plot. I wonder whether that made a difference in the ability of my agent to sell it.

Craig F said...

From my perspective Canada is much more exotic than Cuba. Sometimes it takes longer to get to Cuba, but you know how that goes.

The only thing that doesn't make Canada really exotic is the amount of Canadian license plates we see in traffic here.

I like reading about snow and cold better than actually living in it, though in 1974 i was making plans to move there.

Hopefully the literary world has seen the light and will not be prejudiced about foreign writers, though I believe the Scandinavian novels that went so far should have done that.

My salute to our northern neighbors,Hockey Night on Canada, socially distanced

Mister Furkles said...

So, I think Ivanhoe would be lots better in Wyoming with mesas rather then them castles. 'Course Sedona's got plenty more mesas but Wyoming has gobs more horses.

And Don Quixote would've sold boat loads more if he were the Man of
la Manhattan who went tilting windmills in Holland Michigan.

AJ Blythe said...

I have had a number of American agents tell me that my Aussie setting was going to be a hard sell in America. A consistent theme over 10 years of conferences. I'm in the trenches now so I guess time will tell...

Laura Stegman said...

Yes, Louise Penny's books were the first thing I thought about when I began reading this thread. I'm about to start another one tonight!

gldlubala said...

Those are the finest ambassadors one can expect to have, haha. Eh?

Heather Wardell said...

Leslie, if it helps, that's since 2005. :)

Amanda said...

Using Canadia instead of Canada made me laugh, especially when I found the UD definition.

Canadia The secret state between Narnia & Canada. To get there, you must stand in an old cupboard & say "Sorry" 3 times, then eat Maple Syrup + Turkish Delight & you will get teleported there. - Urban Dictionary Definition by Maconchie (2014JUN04)

Guy: “Hey what’s Joey doing in the cupboard with my Maple Syrup & Turkish Delight?”
Girl: “He’s trying to go to Canadia.”

Canada A country in North America with 10 provinces & 3 territories extending from the Atlantic to the Pacific Oceans & northward into the Arctic Ocean, covering 9.98 million square kilometres (3.85 million square miles), the world's 2nd largest country by total area.


As a reader, I don't care where a book is set as long as the location is well developed & any major location adjustments are noted. I've always enjoyed "adjustments" to locations I know well, especially when it's added something I would love to see in real life (like a working mass transit system in Metro Detroit, MI).

I think it's helpful when the Author puts a note in the preface that they use specific Australian or North American (US &/or Canada) or UK/Brit English terminology, especially if the book location ends up traveling out of that region.

I have read enough books to be familiar with the different terms used in other countries, but for those who haven't previously heard them used? The terminology can be odd (if you aren't from/familiar with that part of the world) & it could jar you out of the story.

EX: winter pom pom/beanie hat (US) = toque (Canada) -or- a stocking cap, bobcap, burglar cap, watch cap, sock cap (elsewhere)