Is This For Me?
Is #readCaribbean for Authors?
I’m sitting at my desk watching the creator of the #readCaribbean initiative bring in a fellow Caribbeanbookstagrammer into a live. All the while seeing in the chat comments of encouragement from names I’ve seen in this particular corner of Instagram. These are the Caribbean Bookstagrammers and they come from the top of the Caribbean, Haiti and Jamaica, to the bottom of the Caribbean, Trinidad and Guyana.
And I feel a sense of unease.
It’s not because I’m watching a live (I’m not big on watching lives although some have been very informative). It’s not because I’m the newbie and everyone seems to know each other. It’s because I’m an author and I’m starting to feel like I’m not supposed to be here.
And as I exited the chat so as to attend to regular life-related things, the question popped into my mind, Is #readCaribbean for Authors? With that bouncing around in my head, I’ve come to the conclusion…
Not any and every author and that is why I think it’s important that
Author Know Thine Self
And the author who would gain value from such a group/group activity is a self-published author. One who not only writes a book but also publishes it and does the marketing for it. It is the business-minded author or one who recognizes the importance of keeping on top of that part of their writing career that will take something away from such a live. Things like…
Understanding The Market
From attending the live, I got a clear picture of the individuals who are attracted to #readCaribbean because I am seeing them as individuals. Also, I can visit their IG profiles and see the books they read, what they value, and the lives they live. This information is invaluable when it comes to marketing to readers who read Caribbean books.
Seeing How They Access The Books
In less than an hour, I was able to discover that some of the content creators get their books from libraries or through a library app. That is data I would not have acquired by simple observation. Yes, I had an inkling when it came to some Bookstagrammers based on the books they share but to hear it spoken or see it in the chat. It made me think back to experiences I’ve had and could now put two and two together.
Identifying and Developing Relationships with Content Creators
Right there in the chat were the names of IG content creators who make it a point of supporting #readCaribbean. I wouldn’t have to do a search for these individuals and wonder if they are really dedicated to the initiative or if they are going along with one more IG book challenge. From here I can make connections long before I’m ready to launch a book.
Learning The Books They Read
This live was a way to showcase popular Caribbean Bookstagrammers so of course they would be asked about the books they liked, the books they’re reading, etc. Their answers were informative as well as the chat commenting on the books they had also read and how they feel about it. Through this, I saw where the types of books I write fall in the overall books they read. And although informative and useful, it leads me to where my answer to the question, Is #readCaribbean for Authors? turns to…
No, Stay Clear
Especially if you are what I call a “baby writer” that is when you are starting out in this writing game and you are still sensitive about what you put out. In attending the live, you may
see that your book doesn’t fit in with the books that are being praised;
see that it’s difficult for the bookstagrammers to access your book based on how they get the books they review;
question if you should even consider approaching them because clearly what you write is not what they read.
And the list could go on into a depressing spiral of self-flagellation. Trust me, I know. Been there, done that, and I’m now not about that. But I also picked up on the following:
This is not Your Tribe
And that is why it feels wrong. These are the readers and you are an author of a book that they are not talking about. It’s so easy to fall into comparison with the authors whose books they are talking about. This space is for the readers to talk about the books they read and not the space for you as an author to be an authority. This is not the space for you to take a stage of any kind. As such you respect that this is their space and it’s best you ‘kip out’.
It Can Be So Easy To Change To Please The Market
They say they like to read the immigrant coming to a large country story. Sure, I can write that. How about that heavy story of shedding the post-colonial burden of not kowtowing to people of European descent? Yep, I think I can come up with something. How about that historical that borders on slave porn? Well, I suppose I could write that. But do I want to? Well, if that is what these readers are reading I guess that is what I have to write. And here is where I stop you.
You wrote that story/book/collection of poetry because it was put in your heart to do so. It’s not fair to you and readers who want to read the kind of books that you write for you to try to write what will be difficult and a bore for you to write. Sure, you could hit all the beats and meet the market’s expectations, but will it be YOUR book? Sit with that for a minute.
Still, in watching the live and being in the Caribbeanbookstagram space, I’ve learned so much and continue to learn and that includes, but not limited to,
the community and who makes it up;
understanding my niche in Caribbean books;
adjusting my content creation to attract readers who my books are for.
So, is #readCaribbean for authors? The answers are yes, for self-published authors and no for those who don’t want to deal with understanding the business of publishing. Some spaces are for us that allow us to share our work without being sleazy and are meant to promote our work. Some spaces are there for us to grow as writers be it through the craft of writing or building community with fellow writers. But the #readCaribbean community is for the readers and I personally am going to leave them to what is rightfully theirs.
What about you? What are your thoughts? Let me know in the comments below.