Ages ago I said I was going to give Amazon a try for my books which had gone out of print. They would now become the latest thing, e-books. Not surprisingly I did not promote any of the books very much, and to date, have no idea how much of any title I’ve sold. Why? Part of the problem is I only sell one-one, as we would say, and I really would need to know the total sold for the entire time the books have been on the site. However, if you don’t promote . . . In addition, I get very embarrassed that I’m actually promoting my own books. Clearly an attitude from some medieval time before the digital world. It took me ages to send out promotional messages to those in my mailbox. Embarrassed caan done! Consequently, I’ve been philosophical about it all. ‘It’s somewhere to put my books’, and 'Oh, but I really did not expect to sell anything, you know.' Borrowing phraseology from this clever new world, ‘So if that’s your attitude, it’s the attitude, stupid!’
However, that’s not totally true.
1) We know that the majority of people have no visibility on Amazon because there are simply too many books. (Prove me wrong, if you dare).
2) So for us from the Caribbean, visibility could be expected to be even more challenging. The Caribbean is known for sun, sand, (sex?), music, athletics, and in some circles - for adult fiction. But not for children’s stories, and attaching visibility to any of the above would seem to be difficult. I know you can write the prescriptive children’s story about music, tourism, etc. but I think we want to be about more than that.
3)There are all sorts of offers on line to market books, at a cost which we cannot afford (and we do not know that it works), and Caribbean sites promising visibility have not yet proved that they can achieve this. I’ve asked individuals here if they wouldn’t like to take on the marketing of e-books, but I conclude that they’re not interested, and understandably so. Too much effort for little or no return, certainly not to pay them for their time.
No, I’m not blaming a soul. These are just the facts. So why am I about to put two more children’s books on Amazon, and new ones at that? Well this time I’m going to really try. My change of mind came about because of the digital conference I attended (see posting for Nov. 14). I concluded that the digital age was indeed here and I should try to see if I could get along with it.
So I shall promote my books by writing all the people in my address book, I’ll go on the sites which I’ve joined, try to understand their rules for posting, and endure seeing the book on my timeline every time I post. (Already I’m feeling faint; waiting for the queasy stomach, threatening headache, breathlessness, tightness of muscles in body - any or all of these symptoms. )
There’s history to these two books, and along the way I changed my mind many times. Would they just be e-books? Would they just be print books? Would one be one, and one be the other?
The Happiness Dress is the story for which I had won the prize for the Special Award for a children’s story from the Commonwealth Foundation, 2011. A significant achievement. The Commonwealth! I was honoured and very pleased. Big up Jamaica again! They produced it as audio for distribution to Commonwealth countries. It seemed a shame for it not to be in print. I was pleased when it seemed that I and a local publisher had decided that perhaps it could be published here. But local publishing can be fraught with obstacles, one of the main ones being lack of money. So when things seemed to be lost, I took it over, and the rest is history unfolding. Families, but especially fathers, need to read it. Fathers and the validation they can give their girls are so often forgotten.
Ah, Abigail! I love the name! Abigail’s Glorious Hair. This story celebrates us, our hair, our rituals, how what might seem to be tedious can be so filled with love. This is the story that I started writing after Talking Tress Literary Festival this year (see post of May 29). The fact that it’s almost ready to be uploaded is a celebration in itself. The idea had been there for some time. We’ve got to settle this hair business. But it was words said and feelings experienced in Barbados and the creative inspiration of Talking Trees that suddenly produced it. It deserves to be read by all of the family, but especially mothers and grandmothers who comb hair, and little girls whose hair is combed. It deserves a post of its own and it will have it.
These two books are both happy books, and we so need happy. They are also about love and families, whatever shape your family takes and whatever role each person plays.
Illustrations by Rachel Moss are happy too. Scheduled date for e-books on Amazon end of November, in time for Christmas. Keeping fingers crossed. Print, early next year, but so far only to be available in Jamaica.
Having written the draft of this last night and felt the requisite queasy stomach at the thought of the marketing I’d committed myself to, this morning I remembered two experiences, by way of some encouragement. I have been privileged to be part of these important developments for children’s literature.
1) I wrote on the Dr. Bird Reading Series, the first major set of books which were about our own children and their lives. (Ministry of Education,1980). Many other publishers followed our example. Since then Jamaican and Caribbean writing and publishing has grown, even if somewhat sporadically.
2) In 2006, I was privileged to manage the process for the next major publication of a series for children, celebrating their lives, Literacy 1-2-3. (Ministry of Education 2008).This gave expression to a new generation of writers and artists. Many gorgeous illustrations; this time, in full colour. Since then Caribbean children’s writers and publishers have continued in their awareness with bright young persons getting involved. Some competitions specifically for children’s/YA writing are now available to us.
Considering this, should I then let a little shyness stop me from taking this next step. My friends, I invite you to join me as we seek to make an impression for Caribbean children's books on Amazon, or anywhere else, for that matter.