Beginnings and Diversity in Lao American Publishing
With the formation of Sahtu Press, Inc., we find ourselves faced with the interesting question of "now what?" and what does it mean for Lao American publishing. Ultimately, of course, we hope to see a stronger infrastructure in our community that supports a viable, progressive business model for Lao publishers around the world. This includes equitable distribution channels and fair market practices for Lao intellectual property.
In the near future, we all need to work together to create enough sustainable interest in Lao publishing to make it viable. This interest will be necessary both from inside and outside of our community to allow more publishers to take diverse artistic risks and encourage high standards of craft.
By 2021, we hope to see at least 10 well-run Lao publishing houses across the US. We also think it's realistic to hope for the development of at least 1 to 2 new Lao-focused publishers in other nations such as Canada, Australia and France. By 2025, if not sooner, it would be wonderful to see the first Lao Literary Awards.
In theory, ambitiously, it could take as little as $100,000 to start all ten houses, or less than 50 cents per Lao in the US. Of course, the challenge is in the fundraising and ensuring there's good management and distribution available for everyone. For Sahtu Press, we have to focus on what it will take to role-model good management and good development of the many different books we hope to bring forward to the community.
Following many conversations we've had across the country, it's clear there's a strong demand for Lao children's books among Lao parents, as well as memoirs and books that help families stay connected to their sense of the Lao journey and our tangled history.
We are approaching nearly 300,000 Lao in the US by 2020, and presently, nearly 50% are estimated to be under the age of 18. We believe this can be seen as an interesting and viable market. Young Adult writers could find a good market, given that the majority of Lao children's book writers are thinking of writing books for the younger end of the spectrum, but few books for teens.
Family memoirs, to succeed will have to be written so that they are of greater interest beyond just the immediate family of those involved, providing interesting perspectives for the reader. The good news is that almost every Lao immigration/refugee story we've run into also has enough distinctive and wild twists that family narratives could do better than many others currently available.
Already, we've seen many interesting manuscripts, but many suffer from a chronic fear to engage with our culture or employ an unrepentant Laoglish. We want Lao American books to take on issues with a deep authenticity and a willingness to critique the inner and social worlds of our community with depth, breadth and risk. Those types of books can't emerge without our community finding ways to support and enjoy a healthy competition between a diverse number Lao publishing/media houses. It's something we need to work on in the coming years ahead. But we believe it can be done. Sahtu Press will hopefully be one of those voices you turn to and rely on for quality work that challenges you and excites you about our collective journey.
What would YOU like to see from Lao American publishers in the years ahead?