How a Vancouver self-publisher changed the industry and grew 50 percent during the pandemic

The way Megan Williams tells it, she had no choice but to write a book

Megan Williams has found success on the printed page

The way Megan Williams tells it, she had no choice but to write a book.

The New Westminster native was working in communications at the time, but began watching tons of YouTube videos and researching blogs on how to actually write a book. Eager to tell the true heart-wrenching story of falling in love to a man battling cancer, Williams found herself with a manuscript and no idea of what to do next.

“Up until that point, my vision of what publishing a book was what I’d seen in the movies,” she says. “Typically, someone gets paid millions of dollars, finishes their manuscript by a lakeside cabin, becomes a famous author, the book is everywhere and they’re rich.”

After doing some more research and deciding to try self-publishing her book, Williams bumped into some more problems. “I wanted to have a similar experience to what a publisher could offer, with editors and designers and people who were educated in the field,” she remembers. “But I didn’t find anything that could suit what I needed. There were a few different services out there, but they were a little more tailored to individuals who perhaps are comfortable with an assembly line, as opposed to somebody like myself who is probably more entrepreneurial by nature and really hands on.”

Eventually, Williams formed what she calls her “own dream team” and brought her book, Our Interrupted Fairy Tale to market. It garnered widespread media attention, sold thousands of copies and led to book signings in Canada and the U.S. She also co-authored an award-winning children’s book, Don’t Call The Office, with her step-daughter Madison Reaveley.

Those efforts led to the creation of the Vancouver-based The Self Publishing Agency in 2017. Williams, who founded the company and serves as its director, believes that its unique model has allowed it to succeed when other publishing outlets are battling to survive.

“Typically, the publisher takes on the cost of editing, design, writing and marketing, and make their profit when the book starts selling,” Williams explains. “With TSPA, authors invest in their story by hiring the publishing team and then it becomes the authors who profit on the investment once their book starts selling. There’s no right or wrong way—but this allows the authors to make an educated assessment of the opportunities that suit them now and in years following the publication of their book.”

In the last year, Williams and her team of 21 (many of which are contractors) has helped over 100 authors in their publishing dreams—representing a 52 percent uptick from the year before.

A good amount of those customers have been American (including three members of The Bachelor franchise), something Williams attributes to factors both quantifiable and not.

“When the exchange rate was really low, we saw a huge influx of U.S. clients, for sure,” she says. “But a more emotional and interesting reason, based on what the clients are telling us, is that we as Canadian businesses seem to lean on serving communities first. So the feedback we’ve been getting from American clients is that appreciation for how we rally around them. Perhaps it’s selfish, but we believe that when we can make an author look good, we look good.”

Some of Williams’ clients have done just that in becoming national bestsellers, and others, like Katie Bieksa, wife to former Vancouver Canucks defenceman Kevin, have had their books optioned for screenplays.

But Williams argues that success looks different to everyone. “For some people, it’s literally holding their dream in their hand,” she says. “Or seeing the reality of their book on Chapters and Indigo shelves.”