MLK Jr Day is always a day to remember a few things. A few of which include, how far America has come and how far it has to go. Martin had a dream that we would be equal in treatment, education, justice, representation and other factors that still hold us back. Clearly we're still in our developmental period as us Americans still have quite a ways to go to be able to achieve the dream that Dr. King envisioned. Other than what was previously mentioned, there are still many battles that authors of color still have to overcome.
As an Indie Author and person of color, there are things that still cause authors dreams to be deferred. A few things that still hinder Indie Authors from achieving great lengths is proper exposure, not being affiliated with one of the bigger named publishers, internal battles due to cost versus reward, and a knowledge gap. If you wake up one day and decide that you're going to write a book, just know that there is so much more to the process than simply writing your manuscript. There are some questions to consider, for instance: Are you going to completely self-publish? Are you going to sign with an indie publisher? Are you going to play the waiting game of hoping for a big named publisher to respond to your manuscript? Waiting for them to respond is like playing the lottery. Either way you're stuck with the thought " I wrote this amazing work! Great, now what?"
Personally, I decided to partner with an indie publisher. If I had not, my book "Dancing with Butterflies: Discovering Mindfulness" would have either NEVER been published and would have been a page in my notebook OR I would have self-published with my book never having the quality to which is was published OR I would have published it with zero traction outside of my inner circle. It takes quite a bit of knowledge to be able to produce a work that is not only valuable but that of quality. Long story short, I knew I didn't know what I was doing and trash is not affiliated with my name nor was that going to be synonymous with the work I produce as my debut book. I was chasing my dream. I am still to this day forever grateful I used an indie publisher to publish my book. It offered a intimate experience while learning the skills to create my personal brand, further market my book, gain audience engagement, and an abundance of other skills. Some people may say they've been burned by an indie publisher, say their a rip off, and completely trash them. People who trash indie publishers must remember when taking that stance, they're coming through like Bone Crusher on someone else's dream especially those with good intentions. Additionally, they're probably stalling an upcoming author's full potential of their dream actualizing because of their personal opinion. My publisher was phenomenal! Partnering with an indie publisher was the best decision I could have made and inspired me to reach other goals such as my apparel line and upcoming course creations.
Keep in mind the battles indie authors and publishers are striving to overcome. The below statistics from Lee & Low books charts the diversity in publishing according to their 20219 study. Overall the industry is predominantly not run or depicting characters of color, disability, or LGBTQI+ community and also not entirely inclusive of others who deserves to have their stories told and shared.
Furthermore, according to a 2018 study completed by the Cooperative Children's Books Center of the School of Education of the University of Wisconsin, the children's book industry is dominated by white characters at 50% and animals at 27%, with African-American children's books at 10%, Latinx children's books at 5%, and American Indian/First Nations books coming in at 1%. There is clearly a need for diversity within the author and publishing sector, especially the children's book sector. There are children who dream of opening up a book that has meaningful characters that look like them or to have the premise of the book truly resonate with them. In the BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and Persons of Color) author industry, we're literally fighting animals, well in books that is, to be able to have our stories reach our ideal readers to allow our readers to know that we care about their life's journey, encourage them to read and to empower them.
So, this is to the author or person that is striving to attain the dream of catching their big dreams and to the reader who wished they had a character that represented them. There are authors and publishers here fighting the good fight. We are all over your social media. Why? We're there because we are usually attempting to find resources to be able to get quality books available to our readers and social media is inexpensive. We struggle and strive to have our books readily available in your libraries, your local book store chains, and anywhere you get books. However, for now our books are available online predominantly. Authors know that if we achieve having more visibility, our reward is our ideal reader's experience of being able to see themselves in a book. We just need more people requesting our titles to be available in their local libraries and book stores.
To my fellow children's book authors just starting your journey, know that working with an indie publisher can be a blessing and prepare you to be more knowledgeable in your business with your future books without unnecessarily wasting money. Becoming an author is an investment and does require money, knowledge, and time. The above statistics we are combating daily deserve your very best efforts for maximum visibility, quality, and longevity. I wouldn't have been able to become a best selling author or receive Amazon's Teacher Pick label had I not chosen an indie publisher, not to mention I would have wasted an incredible amount of money trying to publish it myself due to lack of knowledge. So, if you hear people bashing an indie publisher, remind them of the gap that we collectively should aim to close and remind them that we're all out here chasing our dreams. Closing these gaps directly correlate with Dr. King's dream of diversity, inclusion, and closing systemic gaps. Get specific on your "why." Why are you writing and who are you writing to? When scouting indie publishers, just make sure you read the contact and do your research then chose your best course of action not based on what someone else said you should do.
My personal dream is to use my children's books to instill mindfulness practices, represent the array of BIPOCs, and the appreciation of people in our lives as well as build positive self esteem. At every stage in my author journey, I aim to educate and empower other authors along their journey. According to the Literacy Project Foundation's study, "A child is 90% likely to remain a poor reader at the end of the fourth grade if the child is a poor reader at the end of first grade and one in six children who are not reading proficiently in the third grade does not graduate from high school on time, a rate four times greater than that for proficient readers (rate is higher in children from low-income families and rural areas)." Just like MLK wanted to close gaps within our system and country. I want to close that gap among children of color having access to books and their representation in the books available. I believe that children who see a main character that looks like them may be more encouraged to read which in turn can decrease illiteracy rates and the amount of children who are roped into the prison to pipeline system.