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Canada’s first literary agency for freelance writers, the Canadian Writers Group, launched today with a starting roster of 50 writers being represented. Since CWG founder Derek Finkle announced his idea to start the agency last fall, he has received hundreds of applications from freelance writers across the country. The agency has plans to represent more than 100 of those writers by the end of this year.

According to a press release issued today by Finkle, “the agency will negotiate terms on behalf of its writers [and] it will also act as a reliable resource for editors and commercial clients interested in finding suitable and proven writers.” The agency also aims to shift away from per word rates and will instead focus on the skill and experience of the writer, as well as take into account the time to complete the article and any required research.

The sticking point for many members of the Canadian freelancing community, however, is Finkle’s repeated claims to represent the country’s “best” writers. The fear is that the CWG will help the elite — the freelance writers who are already very successful and are earning a decent living. Although the lineup of current writers represented by the CWG has not been publicly released, the list of publications that agency members have contributed to is essentially a list of the biggest titles in the country: The Globe and Mail, Maclean’s, Chatelaine, Toronto Life, National Post and so many more.

At this early stage of the game it does seem that the CWG will initially benefit the best of the best, but I think that Finkle’s goal of changing how the industry treats freelancers will prove helpful to all writers in the future. $1 per word is often seen as the ultimate goal for freelance writers, but realistically this only translates to $30,000/year — and that’s without any benefits. To move away from this payment plan could be a great improvement for all writers, and hopefully the CWG will help break down that barrier.

(Thanks to The Canadian Journalism Project for their great post on this issue back in November which provided me with further background information.)