Latino Literature in the Everyday Language of Latinos
Interview with Rose Contreras of Onda Books, a new ebook publisher specializing in Latino literature
There's a new Latino publisher on the web: Onda Books. Its goal? To support unpublished and new Latino authors and break the mold of the big publishing houses by offering an alternative press to those talented authors who work to move beyond traditional publishing. Here to tell us all about it is founder and owner Rose Contreras.
Published on LatinoLA: November 29, 2009
Q: Thanks for this interview, Rose. What got you into publishing and what compelled you to start a publishing company especially for Latino authors?
A: Back in 2007, I was talking to a friend of mine who is also a digital publisher (Debra Staples, owner of www.synergebooks.com) about the lack of titles by Latino authors in the average digital bookstore. She suggested that I start a digital publishing business to fill this void.
In my own experience reading Latino literature, digital and traditional hardbacks/paperbacks, with the exception of Sandra Cisneros and a select few other authors, the books I have read by Latino authors seemed to me to be edited to appeal to an English-only audience. There was no sign of the traditional vernacular of Spanglish (or what we in Texas call *Tex-Mex*). Many language traditionalists feel that these two language variants are a bastardization of formal language, but I believe that Tex-Mex, or Spanglish as it is more popularly known, is a legitimate language unto itself and deserves to be represented in Latino literature. (My thanks to Dr. Mary Ellen Garcia, Dept. of Modern Languages and Literature at UTSA, for her insight into this subject).
As a bilingual child, I was taught to adhere to the rule of never mixing English and Spanish, but I observed in my own family and community that this rule was meant to be broken. Spanglish/Tex-Mex is the natural evolution of language when two cultures come together. When I started Onda Books, I decided that I wanted to publish ebooks in the language of the everyday Latino. I do not *scrub* my ebooks in the editing process.
It was also during 2007 that I stopped reading popular literature. I had come to feel that selecting titles off of a bestseller list was akin to being spoon-fed my literature based on criteria foreign to me. I decided to embark on a new literary adventure. I now want to read books written by authors whose work might never see the light of a traditional big publishing house.
Q: What is Onda Books' mission?
A: It is the mission of Onda Books to publish Latino literature in the everyday language of Latinos. And what does the *average Latino* speak? Our language encompasses a wide spectrum. Some of us speak only Spanish, some of us speak English and no Spanish at all. Some of us are bilingual. We speak in dialects and accents that hail from Spain, the Caribbean, Central America, South America, Puerto Rico, Cuba, Northern Mexico, Southern Mexico, and all areas in between. I never realized how diverse our Latino language is until I left my hometown of San Antonio. In Jacksonville, Florida, I discovered the language patterns of Puerto Rican and Cuban Spanish. While living and working in San Francisco, my Central American friends used to comment on my own particular brand of Tex-Mex and Northern Mexican Spanish. My Salvadorean friend Ana once told me, when she heard me speak Spanish, "Los Mexicanos cantan!" (Mexicans sing!) Onda Books seeks to publish ebooks that represent all of these linguistic cultures.
It is also Onda Books' mission to support both published and unpublished Latino authors. We seek to break the mold of the big publishing house by offering an alternative press to those talented authors who are brave enough to move beyond traditional publishing.
Q: When did Onda Books open its doors?
A: August 7, 2009
Q: What type of manuscripts are you considering?
A: Onda Books is seeking manuscripts that cover all genres of literature, all types of fiction and nonfiction, poetry, history, collections/series, parenting, and more. Onda seeks to break the traditional publishing mold and will consider even genres that don't fit a particular category.
Q: Will you be publishing books in print as well as in electronic form?
A: Onda Books is primarily a digital publishing house, and ebooks are our main publishing format. However, we will offer certain titles in paperback provided they meet certain sales criteria. I hope to add audio books to Onda's inventory in the future.
Q: What is your average response time?
A: I ask that authors submit only the first 3 chapters of their manuscript. Once this is received, authors should expect a reply within two weeks.
Q: How many queries/submissions do you receive a month?
A: Since Onda opened its virtual doors in early August, I have received an average of 10 queries and 3 to 5 manuscripts per month.
Q: What percentage of these submissions do you accept?
A: On average, about 40%.
Q: What do you definitely do not want to see in a submission?
A: 1. Authors who do not adhere to submission guidelines.
2. Badly formatted manuscripts.
3. Manuscripts that were not proofread or are poorly edited.
Q: At this moment, is Onda Books run by you only or do you have a staff?
A: I have one assistant helping me.
Q: What advice would you give aspiring writers?
A: 1. Write, write, write, and never stop refining your craft. Take advantage of any writing workshops, classes, valuable critique, and advice from experienced authors.
2. Submit, submit, submit. Even if you think you don't stand a chance, submit your work to as many potential publishers as possible, and don't let rejections stop you. If anything, see them as hurdles to be overcome.
3. Never betray your true literary voice, and especially don't let language barriers keep you from writing in your natural language.
4. Think outside the publishing box. With the advent of the internet and the new media that continues to evolve, I truly believe that the future of publishing is now in the hands of the common man (and woman). I agree with what Stephen King said on his web site: "My friends, we have a chance to become big publishing's worst nightmare."
Q: How do you see Onda Books in five years?
A: Successfully keeping to its mission and selling lots of ebooks.
Q: Is there anything else you'd like to share with my readers?
A: This is a new age for publishers, authors, and readers alike. I would love to see readers take advantage of the newly emerging literary landscape and sample unknown authors and new digital publishers. I look forward to the day when the Pulitzer Prize is awarded to an ebook author. Also, ebooks are a great way to go green.
Thank you, Rose, and best of luck with Onda Books!
Be sure to check out Onda Books and the titles available so far.
Mayra Calvani is the author of eight books and the National Latino Books Examiner for Examiner.com.