Saturday, March 24, 2012

Despatches: Busy two weeks for books! How much does publicity translate into magnificent sales?

Following upon my last post, I think there is a good feeling in the air about books, and children's literature. The Book Industry Association of Jamaica (BIAJ), as part of its week of events, held a publishing seminar on March 16. It was well attended and left us either feeling how easy it would be to do Ebooks, or wondering if it could really be that easy. However, I do think that we are beginning to understand a bit more about it, to be able to seriously consider it. (photo: Kellie Magnus presenting at BIAJ seminar)

My reading from Island Princess in Brooklyn (Carlong Publishers) at Sangster's Sovereign on March 17, went very well. The children were from the store's book clubs, Sovereign and Spanish Town. The Manager of the Sovereign branch and her assistant were prepared. The children were interested and lively. The children got prizes for being able to answer questions about the excerpt read, and there was a main prize for the child who was the best dressed 'Princess'. The girl who won had on grey pants and a red coat/jacket. She looked very smart indeed. Helen Williams, fellow author, also read from Island Princess in Brooklyn in Montego Bay. I thank her for doing that and I do hope that she will also be able to read again from her own book, Delroy in the Marog Kingdom. (Macmillan)

The Book Fair at Emancipation Park, also on March 17, was well attended and there were readings from both adult and children's fiction. Dorothy Noel, Publishing Manager of Carlong Publishers read from Island Princess in Brooklyn for me. Other children's authors reading were persons like Jana Bent and Kellie Magnus. The BIAJ must be congratulated for this and other events for that week.
Last week, my friend and fellow writer, Hazel Campbell, was interviewed for the Susan Show (children's). This was for a book club at Kingston Bookshop and the interview was inserted into the Book Club programme. The programme was on TV, and the interview was a delight as she was interviewed by a little girl about her book, Miss Bettina's House (Carlong Publishers). The children at the Book Club also discussed the book which was read to them by Susan herself.

So I think we have to give these two chains, Sangster's and Kingston Bookshop full marks for trying to encourage reading.

Then on March 21, there was a Literary Evening (one of many they have held at the Emrie James Museum at St. Andrew High School for girls) with fours of us reading and talking about our books, Melanie Schwapp, Valerie Wint and Jacqueline Young and myself. We are all St. Andrew old girls and I was a teacher there as well. Island Princess in Brooklyn was the only children's book being read and I am pleased that they included a children's book. It was a great evening. Everybody was enthusiastic, with all sorts of further plans for books. I sold a number of my books, and the young admirer of my books was there to get one. Pretty cool! A video of the event can be seen on the museum site. (photo: Rachael Browne, my younger daughter, and I at Literary Evening)

It's been a busy time, and now writing about it, I understand why I have felt somewhat emotionally tired. It's all that creative energy, on display, shared, enjoyed. Wonderful! Wonderful!

It stuck me, however, that even with all this publicity I've been getting and generating for Island Princess in Brooklyn, it does not add up to a magnitude of sales. For any of the children's books to be viable there has to be a bulk order. No, I'm not being ungrateful. I am very grateful for the publicity generated by others, as well as my ability to generate some myself, which as you know, is a new learning for me - promoting oneself. And I suppose this applies to any book. It's just an interesting observation because, from what one reads it might seem that lots of publicity adds up to significant sales. So to answer the question posed in the title of this post, it does not necessarily. And of course the term 'magnificent' is totally 'out of order'. However, it is good to get accustomed to the generation of publicity and awareness. There certainly has been greater awareness of books and children's books, and I feel much more energised about the book scene, less disappointed in our approach to children's literature. I actually feel quite hopeful. A reading renaissance? Jamaica reading? What a something!