What the Canada Council for the Arts can do for you as an author

Being an author is hard, and it’s harder for first-time authors or people who need to work a separate job to support their writing habit. Money doesn’t come easy to new authors! But there are organizations that can help you survive the artistic lifestyle. The Canada Council for the Arts provides millions of dollars in funding each year to artists across the country, even to authors. While it’s more difficult for a fiction writer to get a grant than a nonfiction author, it’s worth understanding what support you could be eligible for from our government. So what can the Canada Council for the Arts do for you?

What can authors receive from the Canada Council for the Arts?

You’ll want to visit their website directly to learn the ins-and-outs of their funding options, but a quick rundown includes grants, prizes, and other resources (like the Digital Generator) that help artists complete their vision successfully.


Digital Generator – Helps with building digital capacity for arts groups and organizations. There are two streams. The first supports hiring external consultants or experts; the second supports implementing their recommendations.

Explore and Create – Must be “committed to the creation and dissemination of innovative, vibrant and diverse art.” There are four program components: Professional Development for Artists, Research and Creation, Concept to Realization, and Artist-Driven Organizations. In the first, you’ll receive support of up to $10,000 for mentorship, workshops, and other forms of specialized training. The second will fund research and creation efforts—including residencies—for up to $25,000. Concept to Realization has two types of awards—project grants for activities and composite grants for multiple, concurrent projects—for $60,000 on average, though exceptions up to $100,000 have been made, and these awards are not for literary pursuits (though you can have a visual arts book made). The last will give your organization up to 60% of your annual revenues for the last three years to use for growth.

Engage and Sustain – Supports “arts organizations at the heart of Canada’s creative communities.” Artistic Catalysts provides up to 50% of an organization’s averaged last three years’ revenue to increase its public visibility and outreach. Artistic Institutions provides up to 25% of the average of your last three years of revenue from your organization for artist promotion to the public, including artistic programming.

Creating, Knowing and Sharing: The Arts and Cultures of First Nations, Inuit and Métis Peoples – “Supports Indigenous individuals, groups, Indigenous-led arts organizations and arts/cultural sector development organizations that foster a vital and resilient Indigenous arts ecosystem.” There are five components to this grant, some for short- or long-term projects only, and one for organizations specifically. For Indigenous writers, there are grants of up to $300,000 to help with projects, from research to travel.

Supporting Artistic Practice – Funds Canadian arts professionals, groups, and arts organizations championing the arts sector, boosting artists’ ability to realize work and “advance the conditions of creation.” The six parts of this grant are for organizations helping support the arts, and includes grants for literary publishers (both books and magazines), and has one dedicating $30,000 to getting Canadians published.

Arts Across Canada – Promotes artists and art within Canada. Funds shows, showcases, and other media displays of art across Canada. From translations to festivals, Arts Across Canada’s six segments all focus on putting money where it matters to Canadian artists. Authors may want to pay particular attention to travel and presenter grants to help spread the authorial word. Most grants are about $30,000 in these categories as well, or simply cover travel expenses.

Arts Abroad – Brings Canadian art and artists to the world. Covering costs related to travel, curation, residency, promotion, etc., Arts Abroad will fund up to $200,000 of certain costs, with most successful applicants receiving $30,000.

Innovation Grants – Over $200 million is being given to artists and the arts sector between 2021 and 2026. The main goal is to revitalize the arts sector. They’ll foster grants, outreach, and partnerships for certain individuals and organizations with the right plans. See more information here.

You don’t have to be an academic to get one of these grants, but you do need to be a Canadian citizen or permanent resident with specialized training who is recognized as a professional by others in their field of practice. There is application assistance available as well for those who need a bit more help with the process, though some of the help comes with a cost.

If you do manage to land one of these grants or assists, you must acknowledge the Canada Council’s support. You must also disclose on the Canada Council’s website how much you received. They’re all about transparency.

Deciding which grant to apply to is tough, but it really does depend on where you’re at in the process. If you’ve never applied to Canada Council’s grants before, consider New/Early Career Artist to get you going. You’ll have access to the Explore and Create grants after, and there are fewer barriers to entry for writers without the publishing pedigree some of the other grants ask for. You will need to have a resume ready to go when making your profile, as well as an idea of the help you want to get to your outcome. Things like going to writing seminars and getting mentorship that increase your skill and the quality of your work, and prove your need for the grant.

Governor General’s Literary Awards

Yay, awards! If you’re a literary aficionado, you likely already follow the Governor General’s Literary Awards. These books, submitted by publishers, are selected based on merit. While your publisher is likely to approach you about this if your book might fit the bill, it never hurts to ask. Their feedback could be helpful for your next endeavour as well!

Award categories: Fiction, Literary Non-fiction, Poetry, Drama, Young People’s Literature – Text, Young People’s Literature – Illustrated Books and Translation (from French to English and vice versa).

Prizes: 14 awards of $25,000 and a $3,000 grant to each publisher of the winning books. Finalists receive $1,000 per book.

The Public Lending Right

Did you know that your published works at a public library here in Canada can earn you money? It’s never to late to sign up to the Canada Council’s Public Lending Right (PLR) program that will pay you for providing free access to your books to the Canadian public. Registration is open from February 15 to May 1 every year.

Who can sign up? Writers, translators, illustrators, narrators, photographers, editors who meet the program’s eligibility criteria. They’ll have original written contributions on books housed in Canadian public libraries

A note to editors: Your contributions must equal at least 10% of the book’s text, including the afterword, foreword, preface, or other written contributions to the book. However, writings about the “contributors, indices, timelines, glossaries, bibliographies or tables of contents” don’t count. Your contributions have to be marked in the table of contents and your name has to appear either on the title page or copyright page.

How much money does the Public Lending Right program give out each year? From the website:

17,925 Registered authors receiving a payment in 2020-21
79,450+ Registered titles paid in 2020-21
$14.8M Distributed to authors in 2020-21

What books aren’t included? Pulled from the PLR web page on eligibility:

  • a practical book giving advice or instructions, a self-help or “how-to” book;
  • a manual or guidebook on any subject (e.g. travel, nature, cookbook, etc.);
  • a professional guide such as legal, technical, medical, scientific, pedagogical, accounting or financial guide;
  • a book designed primarily for an educational market;
  • a list of any kind or short segments of information are brought together in a list format (directory, index, compilation, bibliography, dictionary, atlas, encyclopaedia, genealogy, etc.);
  • a book resulting from a conference, seminar or symposium;the catalogue of an exhibition;
  • a newspaper, magazine or periodical;an unpublished work (e.g. thesis, manuscript);
  • DVD or podcast;as a new title: a second or subsequent edition of an eligible book, unless at least 50% of this edition constitutes completely new text, not revised text;
  • a report, survey or program evaluation;a title prepared for or published by a governmental or paragovernmental organization, institution or corporation;
  • wholly or mainly a musical score;
  • a calendar, agenda, colouring book, quiz book or game;
  • a book created for your employer in the course of your employment.

Have you successfully received funding from the Canada Council for the Arts? Share your experiences below!

Published by M Gardner

Editor and writing coach. I'm keen on helping establish and grow unique authorial voices for maximum impact in the reading world.

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