Publishing in Indonesia: Tips from Sarita Newson

I had a chat with Sarita Newson last year about the latest children’s book she is publishing. With more than 30 years of experience in publishing in Indonesia through her company Saritaksu Editions, Sarita Newson is a wealth of interesting stories and useful information. This is part of our conversation.

How did you begin publishing children’s books?Sarita Newson

We did one way back with an Australian friend of mine Adrian Clynes who is a linguist – his thesis was on the language of Bali. He put together some of the stories that the old people used to tell. We were concerned they were getting lost as the oral tradition petered out with the arrival of TV. That book was called Grandfather’s TalesKakek Bali Bercerita. We sort of self-published it. There wasn’t any proper distribution in those days but Bali is small enough you can spread them about. It was very popular.

At that time, the early eighties, there were very few books for children in bookstores. You could only get Majala Bobo. There weren’t any of the lovely colourful picture books in Indonesian in those days. Now there are some wonderful comic books and picture books.

Tell us about your latest book Rajawali and the Children: Making the lake clean

It is the third book in the Clean Bali series of books written by Maggie Dunkle and illustrated by Margiyono. [Maggie Dunkle was a librarian and author who moved from Australia to Bali late in life and passed away in 2012.]

The book is trying to point out the wisdom of nature. How the birds know how to survive and how we should listen and observe. If the birds leave, it’s for a very good reason. There is a reason they are dying.

Rajawali cover

How long does it take to publish a children’s book?

One book can take six months to a year from taking a manuscript through translation, illustration and printing. This one has taken longer. We ran out of steam. The illustrator got busy, but I wanted to keep the same artist the same way through as I wanted them to look the same. He spent a lot of time learning about the different birds in Bali and trying to depict them accurately.

Another thing that slowed us down was that the author Maggie got very ill and passed away. She was a great force for pushing things along. She was a very grumpy old lady. I was very fond of her and we never had an argument, but she had arguments with everyone else.

Clean Bali booksHow did you find the illustrator?

The illustrator, Margiyono, was working as a stonemason. A friend saw some paintings he was doing and asked, ‘have you ever tried to illustrate anything?’ She encouraged him to do some illustrations and when they had some, they came to me. I told them there is a lot more work to do but I’d love to publish it.

All three books in the Clean Bali Series are printed in Balinese, Indonesian and English. I did the Indonesian translation with the help of my son. And Balinese author Made Taro translated the Bahasa Bali.


What are some of the practicalities of publishing in Indonesia?

It is most important to have a good printer who will be responsible for quality. Not all printers have the equipment or know-how to print books, or the ethics that are necessary, when printing mistakes happen. It is important to be clear on responsibility, and to have a good quality control. Just as with any other production, rushing orders is not a good idea, as it doesn’t allow enough time for checking and control. Storage is also important – it must be airconditioned and/or dehumidified in the tropics.

What are the steps involved in setting up a publishing company in Indonesia?

First one has to be Indonesian, and have a legal, registered, tax-paying company. Second, one needs to have a reliable and trustworthy printer. Third, a team who are willing and able to distribute and follow up with book shops and other places that sell the books.

Is it possible to self-publish?

It is possible to self-publish, but it is important to have a good editor, as few writers are capable of editing their own work. Self-publishers need to be savvy in promoting their own books, both digital and printed, as they are on their own. Preferably they should have their own network or access to buyers for selling the books, as book shops are not always keen to accept books unless recommended by established publishers. It has taken us many years to build our relationship with the bookshops.

How does the price of printing here compare to printing overseas, say in China?

We print the books in Jakarta. The printing is much cheaper and better quality than in Bali. Then we have them trucked here. It used to cost about $200 to ship a truckload of books to Bali but that has increased too.

When it comes to printing in China, importing the books is going to be a problem. In Australia you don’t have to pay duty to bring them back in but here you do. And they’ll never let on how much you’ll have to pay. They can be quite coy about it.

Clean Bali

How do you manage distribution?

We have a great relationship with the local bookshops. They’re really supportive. It may be because the industry is so unregulated. I’m sure it would have been a lot harder for me to do this in New Zealand. Book distributors charge a lot there too. But, you see, people can afford to pay more for books in Australia and New Zealand. But here, for local people, even to buy a book is a luxury. Which is why we give them away – to schools. When it comes to children’s books we give about half away and sell half. The intention is really to teach children about the environment. The first book in the Clean Bali Series has been reprinted once and 10,000 copies have been distributed. We printed 5000 copies of the second book and they have almost run out. Now I am seeking funding for the third book in the series. 

How about getting your books into the larger stores such as Gramedia and Kinokuniya? Are they open to that?

Yes we have an agent who delivers to Gramedia. Kinokuniya is more difficult, as they don’t have so many stores and their purchasing seems to be more centralized. Periplus order direct from us and we keep them informed of the release of new titles.  Rajawali spread

What are the some of the challenges you’ve faced in publishing picture books?

Picture books particularly are very challenging because it’s very unusual to find an artist here who is used to depicting stories. And the fact that the landscape behind the story should not be something completely different every time. And also being constant in depicting the characters is not always easy for the artist – they should even keep the same clothes on if the story is just continuing. All these kinds of details.

It’s a long process to understand how to create a sequence without the child’s face changing into three different children. A lot of artists are not able to reproduce the same face every time. Most of 50our artists here are autodidacts so it is a completely new idea. We had terrible trouble with the monkeys, even, looking the same [for Monkey Tales of Bali].

Sarita Newson

The Clean Bali Series of books all have a song included with the lyrics and music at the back of the book. Why did you decide to include a song with the books?

Song is how I used to love to learn things. My husband learnt his English through singing. Music resonates with children. It gives so much more. Music is very special. My son has written the songs for the first two books and is working on another for the third book now.

 

Sarita Newson first visited Bali in 1973 from New Zealand and moved here permanently in 1975. She had three children with her Balinese husband. Sarita started publishing books under the company name Saritaksu Editions in the early eighties as a sideline to her main business, a graphic design studio. Gradually the publishing took over and, as she wound back the graphics, publishing became Sarita’s fulltime job though she is now considering retiring from publishing to concentrate on writing. She has published more than 50 books including novels, pictorial art and coffee-table books, non-fiction and children’s books.

For more information contact Sarita at saritaksu.editions@gmail.com

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Best and worst of bilingual Indonesian picture books

It’s wonderful to live in Indonesia and be able to pick up a new bilingual book at a bookshop whenever the mood takes me. It’s not that easy, however, to find quality books where the English is correct, the story is interesting to both the children and me, and, one of the more important points, has some Indonesian context. To start with, let’s take a look at some of the popular examples of bilingual books.

Indonesian bilingual picture booksOne series of good quality bilingual books come from Erlangga for Kids and includes Go to Sleep You Crazy Sheep, and Quiet! As they were written in English the language in English is impeccable and the Indonesian translation seems very good. Unfortunately, the rhyme of the You Crazy Sheep is not able to be carried across, making it nicer to be read in English.

Published by Erlangga for Kids and first published by Little Tiger Press in the UK.

Fairy book in IndonesianThe Fairies tell us about Empathy is part of another series which is similar but it seems the original language for the story was Spanish which possibly makes the Indonesian a translation of the English translation. The English feels a little clunky though it is nice to see a children’s book trying to tackle a difficult but important concept like empathy.

Published by Eaststar Adhi Citra (first published in Spain by Gemser Publications).

 

Dora the Explorer along with many, many other TV characters have made their way into Indonesian language and bilingual books for children. Dora in IndonesianDora is an interesting example as, while it restricts the Indonesian translation to mostly Indonesian, it still introduces a few Spanish words. So you end up with things like ‘Hola! Namaku Dora.’ The language used seems pretty spot on. If you had a Dora DVD that could play in Indonesian this could help reinforce some of the terms used, eg. Rancel for Backpack.

Dora is published by PT Citra Sastra Media in Indonesia.

So far these are nothing out of the ordinary as they are all books you could find in plenty of countries that have simply been been translated into Indonesian. Where it gets interesting is when we look at books published first in Indonesia. You’ll see a big range of subject matter and quality in my next post.

All the books reviewed here were found in Ganesha Bookshops or Gramedia.

Instilling a love of books in Indonesia at Dyatmika

Dyatmika School has a reputation in Bali as the school to choose if you want your children to be bilingual in Indonesian and English. A new Indonesian language literacy program is sure to enhance its reputation even further afield; certainly as far as Australia.

Located near Sanur, Dyatmika is a National Plus school which teaches 50 per cent in Indonesian and 50 per cent in English. While their library is well-stocked with literacy books and phonics programs in English, teachers were struggling to find suitable books in Bahasa Indonesia.

Undaunted, the school decided to create its own program and appointed one of the long-term primary teachers, Ibu Sri Utami, as the literacy coordinator. Now in her fourth year working full-time on the program, Utami proudly showed us last week the Literasi Anak Indonesia collection: 57 titles over 14 levels of reading as well as guides for teachers for each book and workbooks for children.

Literasi Anak Indonesia collection

Literasi Anak Indonesia collection

Each book, from the simplest story with one word on each page, up to the more complex Year 4 readers, is set in an Indonesian context. Ibu Utami has written each book herself and the illustrations are done by a variety of talented Indonesian artists and photographers.

An expanding program

The best part about the program is that Dyatmika School is not keeping their resource to themselves. Quite the opposite. They are hoping to share it as widely as possible to Indonesian and international schools alike. So far, through funds from donors, they have managed to sponsor 20 local primary schools in Bali to use the program through providing the books as well as several days training for the teachers.

A friend and I visited last week precisely to see if the program could be used in a pre-school that our kids attend, and also in the early learning centre attached to the East Bali Cashew factory. Ibu Utami was extremely positive and only said training will need to be scheduled for the teachers/carers there. Here’s hoping I’ll be able to post an update early in the new year about this program in those new schools.

Early reader in Indonesian

Early reader in Indonesian

Where are the picture books?

When you think of little children learning to read you think of picture books. This is how children are usually introduced to books in homes in Australia and how they develop a love of books. Primary schools in Australia are full of books and lower-level primary students are read to often. Not so in Indonesia. I am told that picture books in Indonesian schools are non-existent. Instilling a love of books must be so much harder with the bare resources that they have.

Without a culture of shared reading in Indonesian classrooms, Dyatmika teachers realised that the books had to be accompanied by training so they also teach the teachers about how to share a book with the class – stopping to ask the class questions, creating a discussion around the story and so on. Utami even told us some of the teachers they continue to mentor have changed the classrooms from a very traditional set up with all children facing the front, to different ways of groups, even a circle.

All of the readers can be turned into a big book which look fantastic with their bright colours and bold illustrations.

All of the readers can be turned into a big book which look fantastic with their bright colours and bold illustrations.

 

International use

As well as the sponsored schools and Dyatmika itself, there are a number of international schools in Indonesia which have begun to use the books in classes where Indonesian is taught as a foreign language, including Green School. The next step is to make the books available to schools overseas, and especially Australia.

IMG_3495

Unfortunately Utami says the requests to order the books from Indonesian families living overseas can’t be filled yet as they are not yet set up as a publisher.

This year the LAI program was turned into a yayasan (not for profit foundation) which means the program can expand, and more people can be involved.

Wouldn’t it be great if Australian schools could buy the books to use themselves and then the Australian money could fund the printing of books for more Indonesian schools! I’m sure this program will expand but it would be great to have an Australian hand behind it.