This week I had a most enjoyable visit to an adult book club to talk about writing books for children. I read from A Tumbling World ... A Time of Fire, from my Time Travel series; I thought they would be interested in the process of research for the book, including my grandmother's memories of the 1907 earthquake. (She was 5). Yes, they were interested and enthusiastic and they wanted to know where to get my books because they have family coming out for Easter and they want to buy them local children's books. How did I handle this? I had the following books with me: of course, A Tumbling World ... A Time of Fire (out of print), The Ring and the Roaring Water (second in the time travel series and self published), Island Princess in Brooklyn (Carlong Publishers), Cordelia Finds Fame and Fortune (out of print), The Lost Ball and The Magic Bat, (both published by Ginn and should be available in stores but I've never seen them - in theory these should also be available in other Caribbean islands). So I told them to go to Sangster's (knowing that they'd get Island Princess in Brooklyn there as well as other books from the Sand Pebbles Series). I did say that I had copies of The Ring and the Roaring Water, but this does not really translate into anything, because in the excitement and camaraderie of question time and snacks, nobody really hears, and they are not going to contact you after, even if they have your card. So it felt a bit weird not to be able to tell them where to buy my books. Yes, of course, I could have taken books to be sold to the members, but you know our culture does not really facilitate this. It's considered a bit crass if you go to give a talk and then it seems as if it was 'all just about selling of books, or anything'. Commerce with morning coffee and sandwiches and cake, (or evening and snacks and juices) is not how we see things. Some years ago I went to talk to a service club about the importance of children's literature and the arrangement was that it was all right to bring books for sale. Not a book was sold; one of the ladies asked how she could get free copies of my books for one of her projects. Naturally, because service clubs do require donations for some of their activities.
So perhaps the next time I talk to a book club/service club I should see that my books are in some selected bookstores, so I can say, 'You can get them in ....'
However, here is the challenge. People always want books for Independence, Christmas and Easter for family visiting or whom they plan to visit. Easter, Independence and Christmas do not a print run make (cost of money and warehousing). Therefore should we consider:
1. Print on demand? Well, so far that seems to put the price of the book out of the literal or psychological reach of the buyer;
2. Aha! Ebooks! Well, apart from the problem of the inability of the providers of this service to produce illustrations (Tell me I'm wrong and this has been solved);
3. Our people really want a hard copy, a book in the hand to say to the child, 'Here is your book about Jamaica, our motherland, to remind you of where your family came from/members still live, so that you will not go rootless into the new world in which you live.'
So my friends, in what I really believe is renewed interest in books/reading and children's books, it's not just about being able to sell; it's about the books being available. Can you see any solution to this challenge?
I'm sure that the other Caribbean territories must face a similar challenge, or have you guys found solutions?