Forbes: Telling the Caribbean’s Stories

By: Caribbean Journal Staff - April 2, 2012

By Marcia Forbes, PhD
CJ Contributor

Books Explode in Jamaica!

Last year saw an explosion of book publishing in Jamaica. It seemed as if every week a newly-published book by a Jamaican author was being launched. This delightful explosion continues in 2012 with Valerie Wint’s The Longer Run finding special resonance with me and undoubtedly many others. This is a daughter telling the story of her father, the outstanding Olympian, Arthur Wint, first-time gold medallist for Jamaica.

The launch event hosted by Ian Randle Publishers (Jamaica’s leading publishing house) at the lovely Bookophilia, a one-of-a-kind cozy bookshop, had a strong turn-out of family and friends. Although released in 2011, the launch and public promotion for The Longer Run were reserved for 2012. But why?

Black Meteors at the London Olympics

This year, 2012, the Olympics returns to London. From all indications, the former colonial subjects will be in London to dominate the track. What better way to celebrate Jamaica’s Golden Jubilee, 50 years of independence from Britain, than with books that help to highlight the stunning athletic prowess of this little island on the world stage? What with the male force of Bolt, Blake, Powell and the mighty but sometimes undervalued female force of Campbell-Brown, Frazer, Walker, Stewart, Simpson and the indomitable Ottey, there are already, and will continue to be, many more stories to tell and, importantly, to write.

Increasingly, Caribbean people are telling our stories ourselves by way of the written word and via books. Basil Ince’s coming Black Meteors: The Caribbean in International Track & Field is one. Ince, I’m told is a Trini, and Trinidad & Tobago also celebrates its golden jubilee this year.

Bolt’s books, as, too Hubert Lawrence’s Champs 100, are among those which focus on the athletic prowess of the region. But there are also other stories unrelated to sports which must be told if the region in its fullness is to be understood and appreciated.

Every day new media technologies are making this increasingly possible. A confluence of communication technologies opens new doors for story-telling and book publishing. Still yet, it’s not as easy as some say.

KDP & eReaders

Self-publishing is not for the faint-hearted. Apart from numerous acronyms to learn, such as DRM (digital rights management) it’s definitely not a “click and go” situation The self-publisher should try to understand what he/she is getting into. This means reading the fine prints. There’s a great deal of that, especially from Amazon, the leading eBook self-publishing platform, with its Kindle Direct Publishing – KDP.

Via a variety of devices – desktop, iPad and Blackberry – the past months have seen me pouring over “fine prints” online.  Every reading session is rewarding as I begin to understand something of this constantly evolving lifeline to authors – ePublishing. Many writers with entrepreneurial zest are taking to digital publishing and doing it themselves – charting a new frontier as self-publishers. Foregoing the long wait, tardiness or outright rejection of traditional publishers, many who are confident that their stories (real or fiction) are worth telling are forging ahead.

eReaders abound! There are Nooks from Barnes and Noble, America’s largest chain of bookstores; iPads from Apple and which can accommodate Kindle apps (but there’s a catch), Kobo out of Canada and many, many more. The catch with the Kindle app for iPad is that it does not allow you to access the Kindle Select and its Lending Library. That, it seems, can only be done via a Kindle. Amazon does work hard to protect its profits.

Amazon’s Royalty Options

Opting for the sweet-sounding 70% royalty from your eBook sales via Kindle is available to those who price at between $2.99 and $9.99. The fine-prints tell you that VAT and other taxes are deducted and it seems there may even be other costs. I will need to read more since the 70 percent deal automatically opts you into the Kindle Lending Library. At first blush, however, the library doesn’t sound as revenue-compromising as first feared.

With plans to upload STREAMING: #Social Media, Mobile Lifestyles to Kindle, I may just go for the $9.99 and the pull of getting almost 70 percent of that. The maths seems better via that route than the 35 percent option from Amazon. Especially since this book has a volume 2, getting more “eyes” via library lending may work better for me in the long run. I encourage all self-publishers to peruse the fine prints and to do this before you click ‘submit’.

Telling Our Stories

Caribbean people, those with a colonial past and of slavery, are natural story-tellers. Many of us boast foreparents from a continent where the oral tradition was revered. But Africa is also a continent of strong scribal tradition.

It is time for us in the Caribbean to meld our gifts of story-telling with reading and writing. The digital domain beckons us to tell our stories in our unique and inimitable styles.

Dr Marcia Forbes is a media specialist, the co-owner of multimedia production company Phase 3 Productions Ltd and former Permanent Secretary in Jamaica’s Ministry of Mining and Telecommunications and later the Ministry of Energy and Mining. She is the author of Music, Media & Adolescent Sexuality in Jamaica and the upcoming Streaming: Social Media, Mobile Lifestyles.

Follow Dr Marcia Forbes on Twitter: @marciaforbes
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