Publishing in Cuba

Irina Echarry

Caridad presenting her book at the International Book Fair in Havana.

HAVANA TIMES, Feb. 20 – To publish a book in Cuba, like in any other country, is a difficult task; however, the bureaucratic system here makes it almost impossible.

Among the alternatives for having stories, novels or poems printed are literary competitions, since the winners of these contests are usually honored with the publication of their works.

An equally uncertain road is to present a book to a publisher.  One must wait with the ultimate dream of it being published until someone on the selection committee happens to say your work is good; that it doesn’t possess political, religious or moral elements that must be censored; and that it deserves being known by readers.

Another road (the quickest and surest) is to have a friend who works with some publishing company who can negotiate all the bureaucratic end-runs and recommend your book.

When I say having a “friend,” I’m not only referring to the emotional bond that exists between two people, but also to bribes that one could be tempted to pay or receive to achieve this objective.

The other alternatives are purely a question of luck.  The competition in which you enter your book may by chance have truly honest jurors, or (even more unlikely) those people doing the selecting truly understand the type of literature you’re creating.

Likewise, you might be blessed that the jurors are not indebted to any contestant who —having previously served as a juror— awarded a current selection committee member with a prize.

Even with the situation as it is, I know two or three writers who don’t have powerful friends within editorial circles but have nevertheless succeeded in being published.  With the slow passage of years and a certain dose of patience and perseverance, they have introduced a couple of books into this mystical mechanism of national literature.

At this 19th International Book Fair our friend Caridad (a writer and photographer with Havana Times) had the good fortune to smile in front of the public —though she didn’t say a great deal about her novel, Lía, el Sexo Oscuro— (Lia, the dark sex) and to sign a few copies.

This time she will have the double fortune of seeing her book in bookstores (though that’s another story) and having her work promoted throughout the archipelago.  The publication of her novel was thanks to Editorial Letras Cubanas publishers, which will ultimately assure its wide circulation across the entire country.

The payment of the royalty will not bring Yordanka a lot, perhaps enough for daily living expenses for a couple months.  But at least the other day she had the satisfaction of seeing Lía, el Sexo Oscuro in the hands of readers.