Category Archives: Writing

I’m a Caribbean writer. Here’s how I got an ISBN for my first book

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You’re a Caribbean writer. You’ve completed your first manuscript and you need an ISBN for your upcoming book because every respectable book must have an ISBN, right? Not necessarily, but if you want to see your book in major bookstores and libraries your book really should have an ISBN.

An ISBN is a unique numerical identification for a publication. The barcode you usually see on the back cover of a book. The ISBN helps with stock control, ordering and information retrieval. If you’ve ever purchased a book or borrowed one from the library you’ll notice that the cashier or librarian scans the ISBN to retrieve information about the book.

Caribbean writers and publishers can apply for ISBNs through CARICOM. On some islands, like Jamaica and Trinidad, the National Libraries are the designated agencies through which you can apply for an ISBN for your book. So a publisher with residence in Trinidad would apply for ISBNs through the technical services department at NALIS. You could apply for 1, 10, 100 or 10,000 where 1 ISBN might cost about 20 US Dollars. The more you buy the less you pay per unit.

How many should you buy? Back in 2008 when I self-published my first book I applied for a block of 10 ISBNs since I planned to write more than one book. Buying one costs 20 USD compared to a block of 10 which costs about 50 USD. I filled out an application form, paid via Wire Transfer got my ISBNs in about two to three weeks. Oh, every different format of your book must have a different ISBN so if you have a paperback, hardcover, ebook and CD/audiobook, that’s four different ISBNs.

I applied for a block of ten ISBNs using this form. Today you can pay via wire transfer. Back in 2008 I believe I paid with a certified cheque and submitted the form and payment details to the Technical Services Department at NALIS. 2008 was a long time ago. The details are a bit fuzzy, but there was some back and forth via email but I know I had the ISBNs within two weeks.

If you’re located in Trinidad you can find more details on ISBNs on The National Library’s website by clicking here.

If you’re located in Jamaica request an ISBN online by clicking here.

CARICOM is the Regional ISBN agency. Visit their website by clicking here.

Self-publishing your book with a US-based self-publishing company can cost you upwards of USD 1,500. I’m working on a course that can teach aspiring writers how to format and publish their first book at a fraction of the cost. You can book a consultation below

10 Things about reading

When I read, I’m amazed at how many ideas come to me. I’ve noticed that reading triggers dormant memories, forgotten memories, and further fuels my creativity. I grew up in a house without a television and radio. This is in the 1980s. I know it sounds weird, but around the same time people were buying a television my parents sold theirs. To entertain myself I read: books, encyclopedias, and comic books. Sure there was lots of television and video games but those activities were limited to when I visited other homes. I read a lot, and I wrote a lot. Then I started publishing videos and my reading slowed then halted somewhere in 2022. In 2022 I probably read about 2 books. I could feel a lack.

In 2023 I made a bet with a friend to see who could read more books. He read 60. I read more than 40. Let’s say 40 because I can only account for 40. I suspect the actual number is around 53 to 55. When I compare 2022 to 2023 I realise how much I’ve grown. I know more; with every book the ideas keep coming; with a daily commitment social media and television consumption have dived.

Read. Whenever and wherever you can. Sure, things get in the way. Life. Academics. Television. Your phone. Video games. Your spouse. In 2023 I read more than 30 books. When it comes to reading here are 10 things I bear in mind.

1. You should always be involved with a book. If someone asks you, “What are you reading?” you should have an answer for them.

2. Commit to at least 5 pages a day.

3. Read 1 of those 5 pages aloud.

4. Ditch books you aren’t enjoying. Time is precious. If a book or movie isn’t for you, bail.

5. At least once a year finish a book by an author you’ve never heard about.

5. Storage space is precious; buy books you’ve read and can’t live without. Otherwise, join the library and borrow books.

6. Don’t lend out books you can’t live without.

7. Don’t borrow books from friends. Stick to the library or buy your own damn’ book.

8. Download audiobooks. They help kill time. You can listen to an entire book in as little as 2 to 4 hours. The Alchemist is a good place to start.

10. If you’re a parent and you want your kid to be a reader, you need to pick up books and read. The Little One needs to see you reading. Even if it’s pretend reading.

A little bit every day

As a content creator who wants to achieve success, you have a responsibility to do a little bit every day. I was writing an article for Caribbean Content Creators when my four-year-old daughter walked in and picked up a novella I wrote in 2007. Her name is Anna. She’s a little taller than the table, with plump cheeks and two ponytails. Flipping through the pages, Anna remarked that the book had no pictures. Then she asked me if I wrote all “these words”. I stopped typing and looked at Anna. Smiled. Said yes. Her next sentence stunned me.

“Did you get tired?”

“No, I didn’t get tired.”

She wasn’t satisfied. “But how did you write all these words?”

I thought about it for a moment then said, “I did a little bit every day.”

She wasn’t done. “Why is your name at the top of every page?”

“Because that’s the way books are usually formatted.” It felt like a dumb uninspiring answer.

She left the book on the table and disappeared.

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Since 2008, I’ve published 12 books and published almost 700 YouTube videos. How did I do it? By doing a little bit every single day. It took about 6 months to write Boy Days: Short Stories about Trini Men; and another two years to edit the book.

Later, in the cool of the afternoon, Anna appeared with a plush journal. On the cover is a rainbow-coloured unicorn.

“I’m working on a story called The Explosion,” she said.

I was editing a video. I stopped, turned my chair, and looked at her.

“What’s it about?”

“It’s a story about a girl walking on the beach and a bomb falls right next to her.”

“What if the bomb falls on top of her?”

Anna laughed tee-hee. “She’ll die. I don’t want her to die.”

“Can I help you write the story?” I asked.

“Yes.” Anna is precise with her words. “You can help spell words. But,” she warned, “there aren’t any pictures.”

Anna knows what she wants. We went outside. Surrounded by mountains we sat under the clear blue sky. She dictated the story, I wrote the words. It wasn’t smooth sailing. There was scratching, and some crying, I wasn’t doing it the way she wanted it. We had to start over. But we did it. After the last sentence, she pointed and told me to write “The End”. Then she signed her name at the top of the page; because that’s how books are formatted.

“We’ll write another story tomorrow,” she said.

A little bit every day. It goes a long way.

As a content creator, what does your daily schedule look like? Let me know in the comments.

A short story about VICE

About an hour ago, he had bought something to ease his mind. He had put it in a brown paper bag, and walking home an irritating neighbour had stopped him and told him how her old man had finally passed away. He had placed his hand on the neighbour’s shoulder and said sorry then, walking home, he thought about the old man and felt sorry for him. The old man had lived a miserable life with a miserable woman. It was sad, the life some men lived.

At home he forgot about the old man. He showered and put the child to bed.

Now, he was sitting on the couch facing the television. He was watching a local music station, and a local boy was singing a big tune. A big-Big-BIG tune.

On the table, inside the brown paper bag, was the thing he had bought to ease his mind.

When he picked up the bag, she appeared as if by magic, and she started. Started talking. And talking. And he could see her lips moving and he could hear her, but couldn’t hear her at the same time. It was almost as if she was talking underwater.

She was still talking, pointing at the bag and saying something about whether or not he really needed to do that every single Friday. And he looked at her with the blank expression that he knew she hated, and she did what she always did. She went inside. Slammed the toilet door. And turned on the shower.

He listened to see if she was crying. Then he suddenly scowled. And sitting on the sofa facing the television he did what he did every Friday. He eased his mind. It didn’t take long for him to reach where he wanted to be, and the best part was it didn’t cost much.

He sat down for another hour then stood and smiled thinly and wobbled into the bathroom to brush his teeth. She was sitting on the toilet, sipping wine.

He scoffed and said something about the running water, and when she glanced up he thought that she looked like she was ready to fight another round, and he wondered how many rounds they’d fight tonight.

He picked up his toothbrush and when he glanced at her again, she said a bad word then suddenly barked, “Every Friday?”

Normally he said nothing but for some reason tonight was different. Maybe the old man’s death had something to do with it. He pointed his toothbrush, paused then smiled.

“Do you think they complain?” he said.


Waving his toothbrush like a magic wand he calmly said:

“The women who live with the type of men who go out every night and run whores?”

Her eyelids fluttered and she stammered briefly. She shrugged, as if it was the dumbest thing she had ever heard in her whole life, and said, “Who cares?”

He was squeezing toothpaste on his toothbrush. He looked at her for a long time then went to their bedroom.

She was still talking.

When his head touched the pillow he remembered that tomorrow was Saturday. He sighed and as he drifted off to sleep he wished it was Friday. He wished every day was Friday.

Thanks for reading. My books are available on

How to publish a book in Trinidad and Tobago

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It may be cliche but there’s a Chinese proverb that comes to mind: “When someone shares something of value with you, and you benefit from it, you have a moral obligation to share it with others.” But publishing is a business, and because the purpose of business is to make money, business obligation overshadows moral obligation. The wonderful news is that although I run a small publishing house, I do what I do for the fun and love of it. I have no business obligation to company secrets. My duty, then, is to clear the path of shrubs and bramble for future writers who may benefit in some small measure.

 In 2008 I finished my first book—unpublished writers do this all the time: call a manuscript a book or a novel because they’re imagining their work in its ultimate form. So, in 2008 I finished my first book. Perhaps like every other writer who doesn’t know where to start, I began scouring the Internet and Yellow Pages for “Caribbean publishers”. In retrospect, I was hoping to secure a publisher that would stand the cost of publishing, printing and marketing; plus—I’m chuckling—pay me a handsome advance.

I called around, sensing I was more of a bother to the publishers. Some recommended I send them my manuscript. But I didn’t trust the idea of mailing or emailing my work to people I didn’t know, so a new chapter of investigations into copyright opened. This took me to Legal Affairs where the staff were helpful but only told me things I could have learned from a textbook. The most useful thing I learned about was “the poor man copyright”. It involved posting a copy of the manuscript to myself by registered mail. When I collected the package, it was all stamped with little red circles. Inside each circle was the date, marking each stage in transit. To date, the package remains sealed in a safe location.
Nevertheless, the enthusiasm from publishers wasn’t forthcoming. Wherever I called, the “right man” to talk to was never around. If he was, his secretary was more protective than his wife. I’m still waiting on some to call back. Clearly there were no serious publishers on the island. I was thinking local. Looking outside never occurred to me.

To get it done, I had to publish the book myself. This meant a couple things: I had to open a publishing firm; I had to get an ISBN number because all books have ISBN numbers, right? And I had to find a printer who was inexpensive, trustworthy and could print by December because Christmas was perhaps a good time to sell books.

Choosing a name for the company was more difficult than establishing it. Prior to “my book”, I was working on a Caribbean recipe website registered as Completing the registration form at The Ministry of Finance, it occurred to me that I could use the existing website for the publishing firm. I could have written “Potbake Publications” but the name didn’t embody other interests such as film and software so, without giving it much thought, I scrawled Potbake Productions. Since then I have experienced moments of regret, embarrassment and ridicule at the selection, but I have grown to love it as a homemade recipe.

During this time, I was simultaneously working on securing a printer and ISBN number. Contrary to popular belief, this isn’t rocket science. The ISBN Programme for the Caribbean Region is administered by the Regional ISBN Agency, Caribbean Community Secretariat. The Secretariat’s website has request forms and details on processing. Following the instructions took me to The Technical Services Department in NALIS with a bank draft and application form for 10 ISBN numbers as I might—just might—want to write a second book.

By the end of November I had the ISBN numbers and a printer I could work with. It was a chance meeting really, one of those great things that just happen. Another printer, just before he ended a telephone conversation we were having, said:

“Try this number. Ask for Fareed Mohammed. His printing company, Graphic Scripts Printing, is in Cane Farm. Tell him I referred you.”

My heart leapt for Cane Farm was nearby. We must have met that very day, going through process and qualitative and quantitative concerns: 500 copies would cost ‘x’ amount per copy, 1,000 a lesser amount. As silly as it sounds, I remember being utterly confused that the cost per copy decreased as the numbers increased. Mr. Mohammed patiently explained that although they were capable, Graphic Scripts’ primary business, as most other “publishing” businesses in Trinidad and Tobago, was printing—not publishing in the traditional sense where the publisher absorbs all costs and pays that handsome advance you might be thinking about. Truth being told, you’re fortunate and remarkable if you score such a deal as a first-time author. I had to take a loan. In essence, what I was doing, without knowing it, was self-publishing my book.

If you want to save money you’re going to have to do a lot for yourself. This often means depending on those close to you. I was fortunate to have technical skill and a strong support team. I designed the book cover. Others proofread or shared their views on the cover design. In my spare time I worked on nothing else. If you rely on your talent alone, chances are the final product will be sloppy.

Despite Graphic Scripts’ tight schedule, they printed and bound 1,000 copies of 90 Days of Violence by mid-December. My calculations are usually off, but when I did the math, calculating the number of houses on each street and people I knew in the area, I arrived at a startling conclusion: I could sell 1,000 books in one week. The same day the books came home, I slung a market bag with eleven books over my shoulder. If the bag had enough room I would have taken one hundred. I walked through the avenues of Trincity, stopping to talk to residents. Turning the book over in their hands, each congratulated me, but no one bought.

When I returned home disappointed, my dad said, “You think you’re selling bread?”

And he was right. A book isn’t a necessity. As with all habits, it is a luxury to those who can afford it. The very best have to accept that their work isn’t going to sell as well as they would like. But there are avenues of opportunity: social media for networking; there’s the national library where you’re guaranteed to push off at least 35 books; The Rudranath Capildeo Learning Resource Centre also accepts books for consideration in school libraries; through Kindle Direct Publishing, has made self-publishing an electronic breeze, an excellent resource for visibility and building capital; local bookstores are opening up more to Caribbean writers. But to date, experience shows that in the Caribbean the best resource for publishing, marketing and selling your book, is you, the author.