By Pedro Pablo Morejon
HAVANA TIMES – “Me declaro inocente” is the title of a book made up of eight stories of love, violence, sex, poverty and Man’s typical frustrations in Cuban society.
In spite of the book receiving an award in a literary contest, it may never be published in Cuba, given my status as a little-known author and the clear elements of dirty realism that you can find in its pages.
However, on October 12th,”Me declaro inocente” was published by Primegenios Publishers, a publishing house that is a literary bridge for any writer on the island who wants to see their work published.
This Publisher was created in 2019 by poet, author and editor, Eduardo Rene Casanova Ealo, who has been based in Miami since 1999. According to him, the idea to found this publishing house came during a visit to Cuba.
“If I hadn’t gone one day to pay homage to my deceased loved ones who rest in the cemetery in my birth town, Quemado de Guines, I wouldn’t have stumbled upon the director of Renacimiento cultural center and movie theater, who is also a builder and was fixing up a grave that day. One of those surprises the Universe gives you by chance. He was the one who invited me to go to a book reading that was being held at this center.
“That night, we recited poems and spoke about lots of things, especially about books, and somebody asked me if publishing was hard to do. In a fit of immodesty, I offered to publish any book they wanted with my publishing house that didn’t even exist, it didn’t have a name and I had no clue how I could set one up.
But once on the plane on my way back, I was thinking about and going over the images of what I’d seen… A few days later, the publishing house existed…”
Up until now, Primigenios has published over 400 books in the narrative, poetry, children’s literature, scientific literature, theater and testimony genres. His catalog doesn’t only include Cuban writers, but also foreign ones.
Despite using the self-publication system on Amazon, the Publishing House stands out for its high quality and editing, judging by the presence of works that have already won awards and big names in the Cuban and Latin American literary landscape.
One of the things it facilitates Cuban writers with is the fact that editing, correction, design, and publication services are not charged to Cuban writers living in Cuba, if they are approved by the Publishers board assessment. Instead, this sum is deducted from later sales.
All the other writers receive an estimate about how much they should pay, a quantity that needs to be paid to the Publishers before their book is published.
This is a great advantage for Cubans on the island, if we bear in mind the fact that the book market has suffered damaging changes in recent years, especially for authors.
Besides a few publishing houses that pay famous writers upfront, the vast majority wouldn’t risk publishing a book without charging a sum in advance.
For example, “Me declaro inocente” had been approved by a Spanish publisher in late 2020, offering me an editorial co-production contract for its publication. In other words: I had to buy 100 copies of my book and then I’d have the right to 90% royalty on sales. The 100 copies would cost just over 600 euros. A fortune for me. “Bye, bye,” I told them.
But I understand that it was a reasonable offer. How can you invest thousands of euros in a product that is in such short demand such as books? Reggaeton, reality TV, alcohol, pornography… these are the popular markets.
For this and other reasons, Primigenios has won a special place in the hearts of Cuban writers, most of whom, the founder says, “have books tucked in a drawer for years. Talented people who are the fruit of a populist system whose institutions are insufficient to cover all of their expectations, especially when it comes to publishing their work.”
Thank you Primigenios for rescuing a part of Cuba’s literary heritage! Even if this business of writing and making a living off literature is an endless source of illusions and disenchantment.