Jump to content

Part Three: Diversity is Not Racism, The Difficult Road through Publication for Three Mermaid Sisters

Shirley Gale

Recommended Posts


“Why didn’t you make the mermaids White?” he said. “You would sell more books if they were white.” These words still echo in my head.

Everything had seemingly come together. At the onset of my dream to bring Shimmer, StarFire, and SeaStar to life, my research directed me to Archway Publishing’s Author Solutions, a division of Simon and Schuster. I went online completely ignorant of what it would take to become a published author. I did know, however, that as a first time, no name, writer, I didn’t stand a chance of getting a literary agent to even think about considering my work. Self-Publishing was my only option if ever I wanted my three mermaids to swim into existence.

Archway Publishing offered five packages for getting published. I choose the ILLUSTRATOR Package for $3,999.00 that included everything I needed to get started. The packages ranged from $1,599.00 to $8,499.00. In addition to this package that included only eight color illustrations, I added another four illustrations at $399.00 each so that I would have adequate representation of my characters. You see, I truly believe that Black mermaids should be a part of our mighty oceans. I paid the price for their inclusion.

At first, everything was going along well. The timeline toward publication was on point. I paid an additional $250.00 to have my narrative edited. While the editing was taking place, the artwork got started.  With only a few revisions here and there, Shimmer, StarFire, and SeaStar were born into literary bliss. They were perfectly suited for their ocean environment. I loved them—their voices, actions and attitudes, expressions, and more importantly, their beautiful brown skin.  My young mermaids were complete in every way that I could imagine, except one—the price of integration.

During production, Archway told me that they would set the price for my book and that I would not have any input in negotiating a change to lower it. I could request to raise it, but I could not go lower.  They told me that the price would be based on color and the number of pages. Honestly, I had no idea that this 60 page children’s fantasy would come back with a price tag of $31.99 for the hardcover and $23.99 for the soft cover. After the book’s completion, I was very concerned at first, but my Book Consultant, along with others that I spoke with, convinced me that all the beautiful color and the great narrative would move my book with no problem. I went along with what they said because the eProofs looked great. The colors were vivid and the mermaid sisters were performing just as I had envisioned.

On the day that I received my author’s copies, the color, or lack thereof, was the first thing that caught my attention. The wonderfully vivid colors in the eProofs were not there. The teal blues were teal greens. The color in the soft cover version was a bit richer than the color in the hardcover book. To my misfortune this is where all the back and forth heated discussions began.  Everyone on my team at Archway seemed to resent my disappointment with the finished product. To them, my complaints were totally unwarranted. To add fuel to the fire, the book’s title was not on the spine. Now I am wondering if the color of my mermaids’ skin had anything to do with the high costs and the diluted color.

Needless to say, the only solution was that I pay more money to send my work back to the illustrators. And on top of that, there was no guarantee that they could improve the colors. In fact, there was a risk of distorting the colors to the point of making my dark-skinned mermaids darker--blacker.

I was given the option of having another run at printing to see if the printer could at least get the quality to that of the soft cover print. I was also offered thirty additional free copies to see how my reading audience would respond to the look of my book. I hesitantly took Archway up on their compromise and when the thirty books arrived, the colors were a little more representative of what I’d originally specified. I still could not get the title on the spine. Supposedly, I did not have the maximum page count for this feature.

All of my sampled audience enjoyed their books and when asked about the color, they all said that they liked it. What they did not like was the price of the book. There was no way that they would pay such a high price for a children’s book. I was devastated. My first book with my beautiful brown-skinned mermaids was priced for abject failure. However, despite many back and forth arguments about the pricing, Archway Publishing insisted that the book was priced according to industry standards and they could not do anything about lowering the price without drastically altering the book at my expense.

Eventually, I did go about trying to market my book without any help from Archway Publishing. I even got Barnes and Noble to purchase a few and put them on display in the local store. The books did not move. My husband ended up purchasing the books in an effort to support me. I did sell four books to faithful friends, along with another five to family members. I purchased an additional twenty-five copies at a 20% author’s discount just so that I could have them on hand to sell or give as gifts.

My author’s contract with Archway Publishing will be ending in February 2016. I intend to pull The Hunt for the Magic Pearl from them and do a revision so that I can lower the price. It is a great book that encourages young girls in beautiful darker skin tones to be brave, adventurous, smart, and beautiful.  The themes speak to family relationships, loss, and determination. And as Kirkus has stated in their review, “…With it glossary and several paged of mermaid-related information, this book is classroom-room ready, as well as a worthy bedtime tale… “They concluded that The Hunt for the Magic Pearl is “A fun, exciting underwater romp.”

The purpose for this Three-Part Post is so that I may share with you how difficult it was for me to be writer of diversity and how difficult it was to be a first time independently-published author. The sharks are definitely alive and well. Please don’t get caught up!

My book is available to you on my website, www.readtoachieve2.com at less than 50% of the original price. I would love for you to purchase The Hunt for the Magic Pearl as a gift for a middle grade child—especially a young girl who is not sure of who she is.

Please share my story with others who might appreciate knowing about Archway Publishing.

Support diversity in Children’s Literature. Please visit my website, www.readtoachieve2.com to purchase The Hunt for the Magic Pearl today.


  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
  • Create New...