Seen Reading on CBC’s Metro Morning

Tune into CBC’s “Metro Morning,” Monday, April 2 to hear my interview with host Matt Galloway.

Matt interviewed me for “Here and Now” only a month after Seen Reading began as a blog and has been a kind supporter ever since.

And, I have to say, I really do love a good mic sock. So soft and cushiony; just like talking into a Twinkie.


Seen Reading’s 1%

Before I got into publishing—before I even knew there was such a thing as a career in publishing—I knew a surgeon. One day, she asked me about my passions. What was my vocation?  I’d been in a rut. From editor to ad sales rep to photographer to lady of leisure, I was struggling to find work that would both sustain and satisfy me.

“You have the 1%.” The 1%? “The 1% to accomplish something unique.”

That’s awfully nice, I thought.

“The thing is,” she continued, “you can’t access the 1% until you’ve established a solid work ethic: that’s the other 99%.”

“Is that all,” I joked.

But it stuck with me, and, along with this advice and the support of family and friends, I went back to school and graduated from a creative publishing program that got me in the door and vying for an internship at House of Anansi Press. I got the internship and enjoyed three years with the press until leaving to pursue other ventures.

I can still see Sarah MacLachlan standing just to the right of my desk. I’d been on the job for no more than a month, I’d say. I’d just told her that I’d seen someone reading Bill Gaston’s short story collection, Gargoyles. I had an idea for a blog that would report what people had been seen reading. Did she like it? “Do it,” she said. And because I trusted her instinct for recognizing cultural ideas that also generate marketing buzz, I did it. Once. Maybe two or three times more. Enough that George Murray eagerly reported on Book Ninja that Seen Reading was a daily project. An email came, then a phone call, and a few days later I was staring around a mic sock at CBC’s Matt Galloway swearing up and down that, no, I wasn’t going to publish a blog-to-book. Never. Nope. I left the studio, to emerge onto the street with one thought: F*ck me, now I  have to stick this.

What I would average is about 43% later, Seen Reading has evolved numerous times to include podcasts, guest posts, a Twitter hashtag (#seenreading) and, to come shortly, an all-welcome community in which readers can cruise for their next read and possibly one another. (I also go by The Book Madam, so it should come as no surprise that I want you all to get to know each other a bit better.)

There are still days, though, when that elusive 1% seems so far away.

Then a week comes along like this past one, and I realize that my surgeon friend wasn’t wrong, per se, but she doesn’t work in publishing. Because in publishing, so help us, if we think someone might have a shot at really getting it done, we’re all in. My 1%, I now know, is made up of you. You’re everywhere, and I think it’s why I knew the book had to be dedicated: For You.

I’d like to highlight three such people, publishing professionals and/or fans who under their own steam are doing incredible things to get the word out about Seen Reading pre-publication.

Steph, over at Bella’s Bookshelves, received an advance copy of the book. She immediately posed for a self-portrait. How adorable is this?

Read her full post and you’ll value, as I did, just how much she gets Seen Reading. “WHO ARE THESE PEOPLE?” she yells. “It’s this question Julie asks and imagines the answers to, and it’s this question that also makes us want to connect with the people we see investing their time in a book . . . an urge to connect with someone we feel an instant, albeit it perhaps fleeting commonality. . . . [C]ar owners, motorcyclists, too, feel it . . . it’s all about a sense of validation, of fitting in, of belonging. A meeting of passions.”

Her enthusiasm caught the eye of Mark Leslie Lefebvre—writer, editor, past bookseller and, to their great benefit, Kobo’s Director Self-Publishing & Author Relations—who immediately took Steph’s photo and pinned it to a Pinterest board he named “Seen Holding Seen Reading.” My plan is to take a picture of myself reading Seen Reading in facing mirrors so I’m also spying on myself as I read Seen Reading, to infinity and beyond.

All your meta are belong to us.

On that Pinterest board you’ll meet the third person I want to introduce you to, Ashley Winnington-Ball, a jeweller and uber reader. She’s also one of my closest friends, someone whose passion includes helping others pursue their own.

So, what did Ashley do? Oh, you know. Just got in touch with my publisher and basically said she was going to hand sell the sh*t out of this book, so could they strike a deal? They did, and should you ever have the good fortune to bump into “Ace,” you will be buying a copy of my book. She’s good at this kind of thing. She calls me, you know. We have Seen Reading sessions. She has a private Facebook event page to which she invites people she thinks should buy my book. “You should buy this book,” is probably the full extent of her pitch. She might even say, “What’s wrong with you? Look at this book. It’s beautiful. You have something against beautiful books?” You won’t be able to disagree.

All to say, with 1% like these, who needs the other 99%?! Am I right? Or, am I right?!

What? Still not off the hook?


Thanks for reading. Be seeing you.

Freehand Books and HarperCollins Canada announce simultaneous April 1st publication of Seen Reading by Julie Wilson

For immediate release:

February 25, 2012

Freehand Books and HarperCollins Canada announced today the simultaneous April 1 publication of Seen Reading by Julie Wilson. Freehand Books acquired Canadian English print rights to the title over a year ago. HarperCollins Canada acquired Canadian English digital rights this month.

“I believe this could be a first for Canadian publishing,” says Samantha Haywood, who arranged both deals on behalf of Transatlantic Literary Agency. “It is certainly a first for me as an agent. It just goes to show that when the industry works in the best interests of the project, everyone walks away happy. The partnership makes good business sense for all involved.”

Seen Reading is the exciting debut collection of microfictions from Canada’s pre-eminent literary voyeur, Julie Wilson. Based on the beloved online movement of the same name, Seen Reading collects more than a hundred stories inspired by sightings of people reading on Toronto transit, each reader re-invented in a poetic piece of short fiction.

“Everyone at Freehand was so excited when we found out about this project,” says Sarah Ivany, Freehand’s Managing Editor. “We were all fans of the Seen Reading online movement, which is such a fresh and creative concept. However, we didn’t want to rush the book to print—we believed that this collection had the potential to be so much more than a facsimile of a pre-existing blog. Julie, editor Robyn Read, and designer Natalie Olsen (Kisscut Design) have all put an extraordinary amount of work into this book, and I am delighted with the results. Julie’s known for being a creative force within the publishing industry, but she’s also a really beautiful writer, and I can’t wait for people to get their hands on this collection.”

“The unique nature of this project is a clear fit for the direction HarperCollins Canada is taking with our digital publishing program,” said Deanna McFadden, Associate Director of Digital Product Development at HarperCollins Canada.

Wilson has been working closely with Read and Olsen to ensure that the transition from new media to literature is a smooth one, to come full circle with a new online community to be launched in conjunction with the book’s release, April 1. Freehand Books has contracted Ziegler, Mitchell, and Associates to redesign and expand the Seen Reading website ( The new site will feature a blog, reading guides, a newsletter, and interactive forums where people can log their own reader sightings and connect with like-minded literary fans.

“My own love of reading includes curiosity about what others are reading, and how they came to those books,” says Vicki Ziegler, web/online/social media manager for the Griffin Poetry Prize. “My team is now helping to extend the online presence of a venture that celebrates that curiosity, with the extraordinary Julie Wilson no less. That’s bookish nirvana.”

For her role as both creator and author, Wilson is thrilled with the evolution of Seen Reading from blog to book to online community, and the opportunity this unique publishing partnership brings to the table. “I love Seen Reading dearly, and the love-in continues with the tremendous support of Freehand Books and HarperCollins Canada. Over the years, I’ve considered self-publishing, but just like the web of friends you call when you start dating someone new, you benefit from some distance, along with a variety of opinions and perspective. I simply don’t want to do this alone, because nothing about Seen Reading is intended to point to a solo identity beyond casting myself as The Literary Voyeur. Too many people feed into it, from writers to publishers to booksellers, librarians and, of course, the reader. That more than one publisher should help spread the word speaks to the true nature of Seen Reading.”


To request a review copy, or to arrange interviews, please contact Sarah Ivany at 403-452-5662 or via email at

For more information about the ebook, please contact Rob Firing, Director, Publicity and Communications at HarperCollins Canada at 416-975-9334 x141 or via email at