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The Caribbean Literary Fesitval in Antigua: 2006-11-05
  • Well since the renowned Trinidadian writer Elizabeth Nunez wrote a glowing description of the Caribbean Literary Festival held in Antigua in early November (below), I decided to offer it here rather than write my own. I'll just make a few comments of my own. Unlike Elizabeth, I'm a total novice to the whole book festival, in spite of now having read at let's see, Book Expo America, Harlem Book Fair, Up South, and the Miami Book Fair. This one had the feel of a reader-oriented experience as opposed to the huge ones that are all about the industry and the booths and the buzz. It was kind of like the First Annual Up South book festival in Harlem, the brainchild of Simon and Schuster editor extraordinaire Malaika Adero, which was very intimate and really focused on the black literary experience, with readings and intellectual discussions of a high level-- check it out at www.upsouthinternationalbookfestival.com

    This one in Antigua tried to mix it up more, and offered both literary and commercial writers; readings as well a a lots of workshops dealing with nuts and bolts of the writing and publishing processes (as opposed to the panel discussion format of Up South). I think it worked for the most part, especially since it was a first effort, I'm willing to allow for some glitches. Terry McMillan and Jill Nelson and some others didn't make it at the last minute; didn't get the whys of it but they didn't show. I think I heard that McMillan had a fall .... Anyway there were enough other top-notch writers so that they weren't missed, but it may have been an issue for some of the people who came all the way from the US or the UK with them as the main draw to only find out on arrival that they weren't going to be there.

    For me the most valuable part of it was having access to someone like the literary agent Marie Brown. I'm lucky enough to have a good agent, but many are looking for that; and you had the chance to be in a room containing less than 25 people and her, just her, as she walked you through the process of how to go about soliciting her; and then there was a lot of opportunity to have personal contact. I asked questions and got very good advice in that session. For example, I asked her if she thought it would be a good strategy to tell a publisher to take the amount they were going to give you as an advance, if it's a relatively small amount like $20K; and instead put it towards your marketing and publicity, given that the potential for increased sales may end up outstripping the value of having $20K in your hand. She said in no uncertain terms: Why would you want to do that? Who's there to watch them and make sure they're spending it on you? On no account do that! Rather, take the money and hire your own independent publicity/marketing, if that's what you want to do with the money. So here was a veteran of the publishing world saying: don't trust the publisher! And that concept came up again and again, in other panels, in questions like: how do you know you're getting all your royalties? Answer: you don't; and little errors do happen; bigger ones also; and when it's not a well established publisher, sometimes it's not an error at all.

    Elizabeth mentions the big panel with Marie Brown and Linda Duggins (Warner publicist) and Clarence Reynolds of Black Issues Book Review and others; THAT was a valuable experience indeed.

    Mark your calendars for next year, and keep checking their website,www.caribbeanliteraryfestival.com (and this one) for details.
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