What It’s Like Waiting to Publish in Cuba

By Irina Pino

HAVANA TIMES – For Cubans who live on the island, it is difficult to obtain anything. At least for me, it costs twice as much effort.

I don’t think it’s because of the high goals I set for myself, but because everything is designed incorrectly.

That happens a lot with literature. For most people it is not a job. Writing is a hobby. There are writers who have to earn a living as teachers. Others have no choice but to venture into journalism.

Right now, self-publishing exists. A friend has suggested a few places where books are published, and the royalties are not insignificant.

But in these publications, the books lack the ISBN. There are about thirteen digits that are used to identify each published book. It is also used to identify the owner, edition, and format. Also to keep track of stock available and orders.

I think that people are reading less literature every day; and they waste time getting entangled in platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and others. In these places what is most abundant is the superficial. Although on Instagram I have found videos with exercises and health tips.

In Cuba, Facebook is used for catharsis and public denunciations. I see that as positive. The bad thing is that you can also be subject to being deceived with lies. Then you let yourself be carried away by collective thinking, without reflecting. Such is the maximum damage of social networks.

For years, I have had texts, and long waits. With my first book of poetry I had to wait three years for its publication. I went once a week to the Extramuros publishing house to talk to the editor-in-chief. Even a writer friend talked to the director. They had misplaced it, and I had to take the manuscript again.

With the second the same, a constant fight. With the third one I waited for only a year.

Recently, the fourth was published by Editorial Primigenios, based in Miami. I haven’t seen a cent yet though. I am supposed to pay the cost, and later I will have the royalties that correspond to an author.

However, before I did things, I sent the book to contests. Then I went to the Unión publishing house here in Havana to see if they could publish it. The director confessed to me that they had problems, a delay of more than three years with authors who had won prizes in competitions.

It is the endless story: they lack supplies, mainly paper. State publishers have always been subsidized by the state. What would happen if they allowed private publishing companies to operate?

I don’t know how they will do the next annual Book Fair in Havana. Will people interested in buying books have to bring their flash drives to have them copied?

Now they propose digital publications. The UNEAC (Cuba’s writers and artists association) endorses it as an alternative; for both budding and established writers. And I wonder, why for other things there is paper?

I regularly see how they throw away lots of paper bags that come from the CIMEX Corporation.

These bags contain documents that have been discarded, I assume. I have even read some. The trash dumpster divers spend their time breaking the bags; then the wind blows the papers along the sidewalk and the street.

In other words, for this institution there is paper, which will later end up in the trash. I don’t understand anything.

Read more from Irina Pino’s diary here.

Irina Pino

Irina Pino: I was born in the middle of shortages in those sixties that marked so many patterns in the world. Although I currently live in Miramar, I miss the city center with its cinemas and theaters, and the bohemian atmosphere of Old Havana, where I often go. Writing is the essential thing in my life, be it poetry, fiction or articles, a communion of ideas that identifies me. With my family and my friends, I get my share of happiness.