Tuesday, February 26, 2013

It's Not That Complicated!

An It's Complicated! — Marketing & Sales guest post by two-time Emmy winning journalist, former writer of Bowllan’s Blog at School Library Journal, and current Coordinator of Media Resources and Research at the Hewitt School in New York City, Amy Bowllan.

We all know when you want proficiency in a foreign language, the best way for mastery is immersion – visit the country and live with the people, right? You are less likely to judge someone when you’ve walked in their shoes, read their books, and eaten their foods. This is why novelist Chimamanda Adichie in her TED Talk, The Danger of a Single Story , is a must see.

The single story creates stereotypes and the problem with stereotypes is not that they are untrue but that they are incomplete. They make one story become the only story. -- Chimamanda Adichie

Ironically, there are still teachers in this country who find it perfectly ok to ask a black child to act out a slave auction – the danger of a single story. There still are teachers who do not read books by authors of color because they feel those books do not coincide with their curriculum; again, the danger of a single story. Not too long ago, I hosted a forum at my school for librarians, publishers, and diversity directors. The guest speaker was a multiracial Canadian woman who basically got up and told her story. One of the librarians came to me afterwards and said, “Her presentation was geared more for kids.” My response? “If we are not willing to hear the stories of adults who are different from us, how will we be able to assess what is good for our young people.” You fill in the blanks.

That being said, and of course it is not new information but I’m going leap over the obvious, since that old, decrepit elephant is still in the room.

Some thoughts for publishers:

Become like reporters!

Get out there and scour the world for stories that are not of your particular genre.

Take risks!

Challenge yourselves to become acquainted with authors from different backgrounds by exploring, for example, Latinas. “This includes everything from monthly “comadrazos” in cities across the country, to a Las Comadres and Friends National Latino Book Group which connects women via teleconference and web or book group meetings, to a Worldwide Comadrazo which brings women together from around the U.S. and other countries.” ( NBC Latina)

We know publishers love to READ. READ. READ. My advice, come out of your cubicles and from behind your screens so you can see through the eyes of a reporter. Here are some quick tips for exposure and in no way am I judging or patronizing our illustrious publishers – simply trying to share how my life as a reporter made me a much better teacher.

It's important to have a representation of yourself in museums [and books], because it means, 'We've made it as a people. -- Herb Tam in Exploring Identities

  1. On any given day, take the F or the E train into Queens and spend a couple of days looking at the different faces and languages being spoken.
  2. Spend some time inside and outside of schools in Queens and Manhattan.
  3. Have conversations with teachers and librarians who are working in those schools with Black, Asian, Latino, Multiracial, Disabled, LGBTQ and African students.
  4. Publishers should take more polls and surveys to explore niche content.
  5. Have a global live U-stream event where publishers from outside the US can share their shelves.
  6. Tweet-Meet-Ups are also a great way to get the word out about books that are reaching its “Tipping Point.”
  7. Use the train walls to advertise your books “I take pride in the fact that despite being born and raised in New York City, I speak Bangla fluently.” In Praise of Bangla, My Mother Tongue By Jennifer Chowdhury
  8. Create your own publisher apps, if you do not have one already.

Today’s publishers have to step…crawl…and claw their way out of their comfort zones to truly grasp what’s important to today’s young people and, in turn, teachers and librarians will follow. There’s nothing wrong with your boss challenging your outlandish marketing ideas — that is why you are there. Eventually they will stick!

Today’s publishing companies are in a desperate need to think different(ly). -- Steve Jobs

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  1. HUGE fan of that Chimananda Adaichie TED talk, and love the quote by Herb Tam. Nice call to action to publishers, as well.

    1. Thank you, Lee. We're all in this together. :)

  2. Invaluable lessons here! Not just for publishers, but all of us. Thanks,Amy.

    1. Thank you so much! It was a pleasure pulling together. :)

  3. Thank you, Amy! Great advice, and a great shout-out for my favorite borough, Queens woot woot!

    1. Daniel, isn't Queens the place to be? LOL :)

  4. Same goes for authors, instead of just publishers. As always, thank you Amy.

  5. Thanks for challenging us to put on our reporter goggles. From my brief stint on my college newspaper, I was taught that stories exist everywhere, every day. So I appreciate the reminder.

    A bonus to getting on those trains: The food, am I right?

    1. Connie, the cuisine are from all over the world - in one diverse borough. :) Enjoy!