Entrepreneur Rosemarie Hudson believes that the rise in popularity of e books will create new opportunities for African and Caribbean authors, as Vic Motune reports in this article for the UK’s The Voice.
IT’S TOUCH for any author to make it onto the bestsellers’ list. But black British writers in particular have long complained of getting a rough deal from major publishers.
Leading writers like Courttia Newland, who caused a literary sensation with his first book The Scholar in 1997, have long lamented that important contemporary stories about the black community are regularly overlooked. And when they do make it into print, their success is stymied by tiny marketing and promotion budgets.
But in 1996, one woman emerged with a goal to change the status quo. Former film and television executive, Rosemarie Hudson launched BlackAmber Books, to not only shake up the publishing industry and provide African, Caribbean and Asian writers with a wider platform, but prove they could be commercially successful.
And Hudson certainly went a long way to proving her point. The first book published by BlackAmber, One Bright Child by Patricia Cumper, an author of Caribbean ancestry, was dramatised on BBC Radio Four.
Another book, Brixton Rock by Alex Wheatle, also of Caribbean ancestry, went on to win the London Writers Prize and in 2010, was adapted for the stage and performed at London’s Young Vic theatre.
After its launch, BlackAmber went from strength to strength, with many more of its authors being considered for major awards, such as Yvonne Brewster whose book The Undertaker’s Daughter was shortlisted for the Theatre Book Prize.
But now Hudson is looking forward to a new challenge, prompted by the huge growth in popularity of electronic books (e books).
According to the Publishers Association, the value of digital fiction sales in the first half of 2012 shot up 188% on the same period in 2011. And sales of other types of books are looking just as healthy.
Excited by the possibilities of this trend and the potential it holds for black and minority ethnic (BME) writers to reach new audiences, she launched the new e book publishing company, HopeRoad last year. And Hudson believes her new venture will enjoy even greater success than BlackAmber.
“I’m completely enthused by the development of e-books, which felt like the next natural step in publishing, so I knew this was the direction I just had to take,” she says. “HopeRoad is continuing my mission to make excellent writing from Caribbean, African and Asian descent available worldwide. My strong links with Jamaica, my country of origin, and the Caribbean and my passion for books have spurred me to try and influence the publishing landscape and to change the culture of tokenism. I want to bring authors from this region into the mainstream and to make this the norm. The talent is out there.”
Hudson believes that the e book format is ideally situated to help talented black authors bypass a publishing industry that has traditionally ignored them.
“There are many advantages to e-books for both buyers and authors” she reasons.
“E-book production times are much shorter which enables faster publication turnaround. Electronic files will never be out of stock and don’t require physical storage space, which makes them much cheaper to buy than printed books. That also makes them readily affordable and easily available to all book lovers on a multitude of e-reading devices, including smart phones and computers,” she says.
“Imagine global distribution at the click of a button and being able to carry over a 1,000 books on a single device that can fit in your pocket. Authors also benefit because they receive a higher share of royalties.”
Amongst the new literary talent she is working with is Maggie Harris, author of Kiskadee Girl and Ernest Alanki, a Cameroon born writer based in Sweden whose novel, The Chocolate Shop Perverts, has already won rave reviews from critics.
“I enjoy working with writers. I get such pleasure telling a writer that we will publish their book; it’s a very emotional event.”
She continues: “After all they have nurtured and carried their characters around with them for a long time and suddenly they must part company. As a publisher I am placed in a unique position. This quest, if you can call it that, is to prevent the marginalization of our writers.”
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