Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Children's books- distribution and attitudes

Magnus the Mongoose
 Caribbean children's books (perhaps this only relates to Jamaica) - distribution and attitudes.

Miss Bettina's House & Jenny and the General

 Until our writers are able to solve the vexing problem of distribution (including promotion) within the Caribbean (and further afield) writing will remain only a hobby and the overwhelming number of books for pleasure reading for our children will continue to come in from abroad. It is just too costly to get homegrown books widely distributed (even within the Caribbean); the Internet (ebooks), and print-on-demand notwithstanding. Also since our markets are reputedly too small to allow trade books to be profitable, we have to find a way to woo the larger markets abroad. (Actually, even our bookstores discriminate against local books and that's a whole nother story).

But when it comes to getting books into the 'foreign' markets, the other problem I have encountered is a reflex resistance to our material (except, perhaps, for a lucky few). It's part of the general resistance to diverse/multicultural literature that some are now complaining about. The excerpt I share below sums up the kinds of assessment I have seen or received from efforts to get the gatekeepers interested in ordering local books.

The diaspora doesn’t support in any significant way either. If you are not writing folk or nostalgic pieces, forget them.  

Here is part of the reply I received for books I sent to a teaching library abroad for assessment.

"Their comments (the librarians) were as follows: the books, some containing patois/non standard English, were hard for average American children/non Caribbean to read/comprehend. The themes were sometimes "harsh" as things like animals not being fed/ghosts etc. were not kid-friendly etc. Basically, these books were appropriate for a specialized market that could relate to the content/themes etc. Thank you for sharing them all and best of luck from (our) Library Department! They returned the books to me."

"Ghosts not kid friendly" ??? I leave you think about that assessment. 

Well, I am not 'feeling sorry' for myself and other writers, just pointing out that these problems are stubbornly still with us. But we are pressing on. Innovative ways will have to be found to get our books into the hands of the children. Maybe some writers have even found them. Hope so.

With publishing opportunities so scarce, more and more writers are self-publishing or linking with very small publishers who can be more innovative in their selling tactics

Helen 'Billy Elm" Williams has some other relevant comments and has compiled a list of current Jamaican books for children on her blog at http://marogkingdom.blogspot.com/2014/08/books-by-jamaican-authors-for-children.html


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