I THINK we’re all generally agreed that the future of creative writing in Papua New Guinea will have to rely on digital publishing using online services such as Amazon’s CreateSpace.
Without serious government support or input from private philanthropic sources prepared to provide ongoing funding, there appears to be no other option.
This is not as bad as it sounds because digital publishing offers many advantages over conventional publishing. So much so that established writers are beginning to use it.
It gives writers control over their work, including editorial and marketing options, and its print-on-demand capacity mitigates the need to carry large stocks of books that may or may not be sold.
Essentially what digital publishing does is turn writing into a cottage industry, a concept not unfamiliar to many Papua New Guineans.
I discovered all this while setting up and running Pukpuk Publications, initially to produce the Crocodile Prize anthologies and then to publish the works of Papua New Guinean writers.
The first part of that equation, the anthologies, was manageable and enjoyable but the second part, publishing books by Papua New Guineans, eventually became a burden impinging heavily on my time and resources, not to mention my wallet. Not that I have regretted it.
This is why I have begun the process of winding down Pukpuk Publications to a more controllable level.
This doesn’t mean I’ve lost interest in helping Papua New Guinean writers. It just means I’m taking a new tack, one that shifts much of the work back to the writers themselves.
Over the last month or so, here on the Fraser Coast of Queensland, I’ve been working with a local Aboriginal lady to publish her first book. She wants to be as independent as possible but is still developing her digital skills.
So she set up her own free CreateSpace account and gave me her email address and password and I set up her book while she followed the process, mostly by email.
She entered her own tax details to offset American withholding tax and when the book was all done changed her password so that she is the only one who has access to the site.
She now controls the whole account and can order wholesale copies of her book for sale as the need arises. She is also accumulating royalties as the book sells on the Amazon Books website.
This is the way I had hoped Pukpuk Publications would go but many Papua New Guineans seem to prefer having all the work done for them.
However, as I wind back my input, PNG authors will have little choice if they want to see their books published. Sometimes you have to be cruel to be kind.
There is some hope on the horizon however. Francis Nii and I have been discussing the possibility of setting up a Simbu Writer’s Association CreateSpace account.
The idea is for the SWA to set up and publish writers’ work for a fixed fee and then handle the ordering and other logistics in much the same manner I’ve been doing with Pukpuk Publications.
Francis is an excellent editor and cover designer and has been providing me with print-ready books for some time. For him the next step is a relatively simple one.
If anyone can do it, Francis can.
And then I can truly say my work here is done and I can ride into the sunset in the best Hollywood tradition.