Sunday, March 27, 2016

Despatches: The Great Amazon Expedition! Children’s Publishing in the Caribbean, a Cottage or Boutique Industry

 I cannot believe that my last post was last year.
That was when I was going to do a dramatic push with my two latest books on Amazon, The Happiness Dress, the story that won the Special Prize for a children's story from  the Commonwealth Foundation in 2011, and Abigail’s Glorious Hair. Picture an expedition into the somewhat unknown.

That did not turn out as well as I had anticipated. First, there was a new app offered by Amazon, Kindle Kid’s Book Creator, which was brilliantly simple to use. Even I could use it, and proceeded to do so. Both books looked fine right up to and including the review of the book. However, once they were up on Amazon, the type was not as clear as I wanted. My friend, Hazel Campbell, who usually uploads my books, had to rescue one by putting it into Word first, which required rearranging of the layout.  I was greatly disappointed in my efforts. I gather that other people have been complaining about this aspect of the app. We know that this won’t matter to Amazon until they have worked through this kink, somewhat like an experiment. In my opinion, nobody in technology  cares about these complaints really. They just continue working to build a better mouse trap. So in my annoyance and disappointment, I did not promote the books much, and consequently got little sales. So Amazon and I fell out, unbeknownst to Amazon. Whose nose was cut off, eh! I suspect that my failure to do regular posts on my blog had something to do with this. Cut off your nose once; cut off your nose twice.

 However, I still believe that it is near to impossible to get the traffic to and interest in the Caribbean children’s books on Amazon. And self promotion continues to be a challenge for me. Nobody is to blame. As they say now, ‘It is what it is’.  So I set out armed essentially with my imagination of what could be. And now the great Amazon expedition is over. I’ll still upload books; it is a place to locate them. I suppose I will still promote them now and then.

 I was, therefore, convinced that I needed to produce print copies of these books. They deserved it. With a monetary gift from a relative, I have been able to do so. They are now printed and are lovely. I plan to launch them early in May, Child Month. However, without that gift I could not have done so. Even then, I could only afford to print 500 copies of each. This means that the unit cost is high. The market cannot bear more than a certain selling price. Consequently, I will not even make enough money to recover costs and do another print run. In other words, my expectation is to be able to cover costs. Without the monetary gift  . . .etc. 'It is what it is'.  And of course, I still have to promote and sell them. I think it  should be much easier than dealing with cyberspace. I’ve done it before . . . albeit some time ago. Let's hope it’s not another expedition of the imagination.

The finances explained above lead me to conclude that nothing has significantly changed in the production of children’s books in the last 30 years. Sorry! No! Something has changed; there are far more writers in the field, which is a very good thing, and many of them are doing self publishing. And there are some young publishers, one in particular, who has published a number of prizewinning books. In fact, there is quite a bit of activity in other Caribbean islands. So there has been progress and there is excellence. Generally speaking, however, publishing of children’s books will continue to be for the love of and passion for it, a cottage or boutique industry. Prove me wrong! Please prove me wrong!

No, I’m not disillusioned. Writing for children  is a passion. Passions have to be pursued. And that the next generation is carrying on this passion is truly wonderful.
Kingston Book Festival also speaks to the vibrancy of the literary scene. From the opening readings  on March 6 at the University of the West Indies, which featured Olive Senior reading from The Pain Tree, which has gone on to win the Bocas Award for Fiction, award winning poet, Vladimir Lucien, from St. Lucia, previous YA Burt Award winning writer, A-dZiko Simba Gegele, Mel Cooke, poet and Tanya Shirley, poet,  to the final Bookfair on Saturday. I read from my latest children's books at the National Library of Jamaica Open Day and the Bookfair turned up the most delightful group. They are called Kozy Korner. They have a great idea, a Kozy Box. They  will produce and deliver a gift box of books, accent on local books, with a few international items  to a very lucky child that you know. Fantastic! How innovative! Each generation brings something new to the table. I wish them every success. You can email them at: KOZYKORNERBOOKSJA@GMAIL.COM. I think they will need corporate sponsors as well as the general public.

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