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Osmel Almaguer:Until recently I would to identify myself as a poet, a cultural promoter and a university student. Now that my notions on poetry have changed slightly, that I got a new job, and that I have finished my studies, I’m forced to ask myself: Am I a different person? In our introductions, we usually mention our social status instead of looking within ourselves for those characteristics that define us as unique and special. The fact that I’m scared of spiders, that I’ve never learned to dance, that I get upset over the simplest things, that culminating moments excite me, that I’m a perfectionist, composed but impulsive, childish but antiquated: these are clues that lead to who I truly am.

My First Book Gets Published in Cuba

April 14, 2014 | Print Print |

Osmel Almaguer

My first book is being published by Ediciones Avila from the Ciego de Avila province.

My first book is being published by Ediciones Avila from the Ciego de Avila province.

HAVANA TIMES — I am 34 and about to have my first book published. I’ve been in this writing business for 17 years, struggling to get ahead, trying to get my foot in the door here and there, and the truth is that it hasn’t been easy.

At my age, most writers have already published at least two works. That’s more or less the norm in Cuba. Cuba’s Rizo printing presses have helped many young people get their work published. There is a Rizo in every province in the country.

That said, we also have to acknowledge that the opportunities afforded by the Rizo have had negative consequences – namely, all of the trash that’s published every year.

We also have to recognize that the Rizo don’t address the main problem we face, which is the way in which the works to be published are selected.

As was to be expected, my first book, La Pendiente (“The Slope”), will be published by a regional publishing house, that is, those that send their works to the Rizo presses – to Ediciones Avila publishers, in Ciego de Avila, to be more precise.

I owe the publication of my book to the award I received at the 19th Juegos Florales Poetry Competition. Receiving an award is pretty much the only way a young author can get anything published in Cuba.

Cuba’s literary awards system has a very characteristic feature: most have very small funds (in Cuban pesos), and some, such as the poetry contest I took part in, does not award cash prizes.

Intellectual property payments are rarely ever more than 10 or 12 thousand Cuban pesos (in the best of scenarios). In my case, it is only 1,000 pesos (about US $ 50.00). There are many reasons for books like mine to have limited print runs (a mere 500 copies). The main reason is that “poetry doesn’t sell.”

I know publishers do not follow up on the books they print to see how they fare – to find out who reads them, that is. I know that, even if my book is sold out within a week, no one will think of reprinting it or changing the price.

In Cuba, quite simply, there is no book market. Literature, like the chicken sold at the ration store, is yet another thing the Cuban State subsidizes.

I have just taken my first step, I’ve come out of the shadow of anonymity. My problems as an unpublished writer have been replaced with the typical problems Cuban authors face.


What's your opinion?

  • August Zhao

    Congratulations for your first book! First book at age of 34, that is quite remarkable in comparing to somebody like me, I am 38 and no book published at all. :)

  • Griffin

    Congratulations on getting your first book published!

  • emagicmtman

    Congratulations! I hope it is the first book amongst many to come. About 30 years ago I helped a friend obtain a wider readership for his (non-fiction) book. Although it was published by a non-subsidized press, his publisher was inept, and did little to push it. Instead, he/we had to push it: by arranging speaking tours, by lining up interviews with feature writers from newspapers, tv and radio stations, etc. As a result, his next book was brought out by a better publisher in a larger edition (and they even bought rights to republish his first book). Later, he published several addtional books (all on the same theme…alternate ways of earning a living besides being enslaved to a large corporation). During my last trip to Cuba, I attended several poetry readings; these would be ideal venues for pushing your book, especially if you can give some of your poems a good reading. Just remember, the world is not going to beat a path to your door…you have to make yourself known.

  • Walter Teague

    Osmel, what about publishing a small selection here. You have wet our appitites!

    • Griffin

      An excellent suggestion!