The Work It Takes to Write a Book

April 23, 2023

Nine more sleeps until it’s pub day for Polar

Today is World Book and Copyright Day, so I’ve been reflecting on how much time and work goes into writing just one children’s book.


Four years, people.

In the Polar  folder on my hard drive, the “Early Planning” documents are all dated April 2019. That’s when I started mapping out what this book might be. The final manuscript is dated March 2022. It took another year for Byron Eggenschwiler to do his fantastic illustrations and for the book to go through layout, copy editing, printing, and shipping to stores.


First, let’s talk research. I set a new record with this one – 339 sources, comprising thousands of pages. Polar is only 48 pages long.

Most of my sources were journal articles describing original scientific research:

Organizing source material: I’m gonna need a bigger office.

(Aside: I used to print journal articles so I could prop them up and read them while simultaneously typing notes into my computer. Now I have two monitors, so I can open the PDF on one screen and open my notes on the other. It’s harder on my eyeballs, but much better for the environment.)

Most of Polar is written in a narrative, storytelling format, but rest assured, it is not fiction. Every single sentence is supported by research. I take my responsibility to my readers very seriously – in my books, kids get the very best information available. 

Balancing storytelling with rigorous fact checking is a tricky process. I have no idea how many drafts I did before sending the “first draft” to my editor Katie Scott, but we went through seven drafts together. 


Copyright is what ensures that I (eventually) get paid for all that time and work. It identifies me as the creator and legal owner of my books. Thanks to a recent update to Canadian copyright law, I will earn about $1 from every copy of Polar sold for as long as the book remains in print – theoretically, up to 70 years after I’m gone.

Thanks to other changes in Canadian copyright law, however, it’s become much easier for people to copy and distribute books without paying for them. According to data collected by The Writers’ Union of Canada, the average writer in Canada now makes about $11,000 a year from their work. And that work includes more than just royalties from book sales – it includes freelance contracts, school visits, teaching jobs, and any number of other writing-related “side hustles.” 

I do all of those things, but the main reason I’m privileged enough to work as a full time writer is because I have patrons – people who are willing to support my writing habit purely because they love me personally. Tech Support is chief patron. My Dad and my Not-So-Evil-Stepmother have also been an important source of financial support through the years.

Love Books? Support Copyright

The pandemic has reminded us of the value of storytelling – be it fiction or nonfiction, book or movie or series, that “content” gave us information, and hope, and a desperately-needed escape from difficult realities. And every piece of content has a person behind it – a person who worked really hard for a very long time to bring something valuable into the world. So this World Book and Copyright Day, buy a book, if you can.

If you can’t, there still are plenty of ways to support your favourite creators:

  • Talk about their work – write a review, send a tweet, tell a friend
  • Ask your local library to add your favourite authors to the collection
  • Encourage your kids’ schools to use Canadian books in the curricula
  • Write your MP, asking that Canadian copyright law be updated to support Canadian creators


Need more information? Check out the links below. And no matter what else you do today, read a book! 

The Writers’ Union of Canada – Copyright Advocacy

Access Copyright

Shifting Paradigms: Report of the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage

Canadian Children’s Book Centre – History Book Bank

Canadian Children’s Book Centre – Social Justice and Diversity Book Bank

Polar: Wildlife At the Ends of the Earth comes out in 9 more sleeps! EEK! Pre-order a copy from your local independent bookstore to reduce your carbon footprint AND support a cornerstone of your community.

Don’t forget to check my Public Appearances page for Polar virtual events and live events happening near you! Are you a teacher or librarian? I’m available for author visits in May and June – contact me to secure your spot.  

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