Being a writer is one thing. Publishing a book is another story. For young writers the competition continues to grow. Although many choose to go the self publishing route, there are still rules to that game as well. For Caribbean novelists the competition is no different, in fact the barrier to entry may be higher since there limited publishing resources within the region and international publishers are hesitant to enter into a region to which they have no expertise.
Having the skills to create a story and a company that believes in your project is key to having a successful book career. For Caribbean based writers Miller Publishing LLC, recently founded by Roshane Miller, is a professional publishing resource for writers looking to take their career to the next level. The Jamaican based publishing company offers a wide range of publishing services including writer workshops, marketing and distribution. In an intimate Q&A Roshane we discuss his humble beginnings in publishing, Jamaica’s publishing industry and what he can offer Caribbean writers who want to be published. (Continue reading for a chance to win a ticket to Miller Publishing’s “Becoming an Author” workshop)
Style & Vibes: How did you get into publishing?
Roshane Miller: I grew up reading. I frequented second hand bookstores and traditional bookstores. My friends and I read and built conversations around those experiences. I knew I wanted to write and wanted to help others develop their own work.
It started in the late 1990s with a dream of being in charge of my high school’s newspaper and I gained a more distinct profile in 2004 when I started to prepare a manuscript for publication. From 2009-2011, I worked in various positions at the management level in areas unrelated to publishing — I managed an art gallery in the states, at a large commercial bank and then moved on to be in-charge of a campus of a private school — this jolted me! Why was I so eager to live the dream of others? Why not live my own dream? I started Miller Publishing in January of 2011.
Books, writing, training, marketing, distribution; I’ve always been interested in. So with years of different experiences and a boost of faith I went for it. I actually knew it would happen. I was only unsure of the timing. Looking back, it seems that I had always made strides in publishing, but now my inner publisher was awakened!
S&V: Tell me about the mix of authors you work with, different genres and how that came about (education, fiction, non-fiction, children’s etc.)
RM: We have started work with authors in the fantasy genre —poets, short story writers and novelists. Fiction, and especially fantasy, in Jamaica, does not have sufficient outlets.
Our core team has a distinct interest in this genre and this directly impacts the type of submissions — though we do invite authors from other genres to engage us.
Interestingly, we have authors who have engaged us from as far away as the United States and even further, Dubai. We hope to help authors from across the globe in their pursuits in publication.
S&V: Tell me about your writing workshops and how you help authors get published.
RM: We have different training initiatives. We have an initiative to reach out to high school students to help develop their writing skills and techniques. We have an initiative with tertiary level students to help prepare them for the world of publishing from the business end. We also have a general gathering known as the Writers’ Circle. This last initiative is for everyone, and is an empowerment session where we share information from different perspectives and experiences in hopes of developing all those in attendance.
We have specialized training sessions for companies as well as private persons. We are also working on community initiatives.
S&V: Do you work directly with the schools in Jamaica, if so tell me about the importance of you working with the schools in Jamaica (and throughout the Caribbean) to promote a variety in literacy.
RM: Miller Publishing is committed to engaging young adults. We believe that working with this group helps in national and regional development efforts—we basically try to assist before problems manifest.
We want schools to contact us to learn more about our programs and how they can get their students involved. For the academic year starting in September 2011 we will be approaching schools to layout some of our initiatives.
S&V: What are some of the issues that come with being an author in the Caribbean and how does your publishing company assist with that?
RM: Many authors from the region find it hard to write about experiences outside their own island. We find many persons struggle to produce work that appeals to a wide audience. Miller Publishing tries to expose our clients to different forms of expression through interactive sessions. We also allow the writers to learn from each other by encouraging participation and open discussion in the training sessions. The product must be dynamic, multi-layered and easily assimilated!
S&V: What are some of the most prominent writing topics and trends you see from up coming authors?
RM: Many young adult writers deal with relationships, platonic, familial and intimate. We find that many authors write from a place of personal experience. Sometimes this is expressed through the use of fantasy, involving creatures and magic — there is a trend of vampires, werewolves and things of that nature. However, the major themes remain present — love, lust, envy, jealousy, betrayal, redemption and justice to name a few.
S&V: What’s the publishing industry like in Jamaica (how is it different or similar to that of the states)?
RM: The publishing landscape in Jamaica is dominated by educational publishing houses. We are trying to invigorate the industry and help propel a growing sub-section. We also believe that the distribution of books to larger markets is also an issue.
S&V: Do you think that there are any misconceptions when if comes to novels written by Caribbean authors?
RM: No I do not. I don’t think that avid readers or readers in general focus on an author’s geographical location. If anything Caribbean literature, (used to mean literature that originates in the Caribbean and not necessarily literature about the Caribbean) especially our new forms of fiction, that have a greater impact from globalization, are easier assimilated into international markets. Authors need only write at an international standard; a standard to which all other great authors from across the world are held.
Readers give us a fair chance. I think that we need to understand the pitfall of writing for ones self and not for ones audience. An author does not have to sacrifice all his/her experiences but should endeavor to write in a way that others, not from the same geographical or cultural background, can readily understand.
I also believe that we should also be more strategic in our packaging — book design.
S&V: E-book are all the craze in the U.S. do you foresee that trend in the Caribbean, especially via mobile applications?
RM: It has already begun. Markets around the world are receptive to electronic formats for books. We can work with authors on how they can explore this further.
S&V: On an international level, how do you propose Caribbean writers garner the attention of the Diaspora?
RM: The Diaspora is already eager to see the material that comes from their home country and the region at large. The international markets simply respond to well crafted and marketable literature. The ball is in the authors’ court; along with their publishing team.
S&V: Do hardcore street literature authors and traditional authors clash in terms how they are viewed amongst the community?
RM: The ’street material’, I take to mean raw, unedited material from ones personal experience, has a market but it may not have as wide a market as work that is refined with a cosmopolitan audience in mind.
S&V: What is the best advice you could give to a young Caribbean author?
RM: The advice I would give to a Caribbean author is the same advice I would give to all authors, find a publishing house that works extensively in your genre or has a similar mission or has a team that will be dedicated to your project.
Additionally, I would recommend them getting out of the habit of introducing themselves as ‘Caribbean’ authors, unless it suits their purpose in that particular instance. Be strategic in your endeavors — this is what you love, do it properly and professionally, you are aiming to be a world class author!
S&V: Who are some of the promising writers you like from the region?
RM: There are quite a few and it would seem a bit unfair to mention some and not all. We at Miller Publishing commend the strides being taken across the region and encourage readers from all over to support where possible! The next JRR Tolkein, JK Rowling, Stephen King or Anne Rice is here in the region. Authors should continue to work hard and understand that it may take a few tries before getting a number one seller; perseverance is key!
S&V: Do you have any upcoming events?
RM: Yes, we have a major event in September. It is an initiative by one of our subsidiaries, The Miller School, it is called ‘Becoming an Author’. This is a seminar for writers and those who are contemplating writing. It provides persons with essential information about publishing.
For more information visit Miller Publishing’s Facebook Page , Follow them on Twitter: @MillerPublish and @TheMillerSchool. Visit the Miller Publishing Giveaway for your chance to win a free ticket to Miller Publishing ’s “Becoming an Author” workshop. Additionally visit their website for a calendar of events will be posted soon on our website.