There’s two main problems going on:
1) Frum Jewish publishing is actually an enormous cartel operation.
Most of the book publishers expect authors to pay around $10,000 to cover all the costs of designing, printing and distributing
their own books.
If an author is unwilling or unable to put up this sort of money - and they aren’t directly related to the Baba Sali, or a ‘Rock Star Rabbi / Rabbanit’ type themselves- then most of the Jewish publishers won’t touch them with a barge pole, no matter how interesting or appropriate their books may be for the frum audience.
The corollary to this is that so many of the books that you find on the shelves of orthodox book sellers are there because the person is connected or wealthy, as opposed to a good writer. (Yes, that starts to explain a lot doesn’t it?)
2) Frum Jewish publishing is pushing a distorted image of observant Jewish life.
This was kind of the problem I tripped over with the cover of the Secret Diary, because OFFICIALLY, all the people buying books in frum Jewish bookstores aren’t meant to be surfing the internet, watching movies, or owning i-Phones.
In reality - probably the vast majority of people who shop in frum Jewish bookstores, particularly in the English-speaking world, are doing all those things. But SHUSSSSHSH!!!! Don’t tell the orthodox Jewish publishers, because they still think that Jewish women are all called ‘Breindy’ and obsessed with making the perfect kugel!!!!
‘Breindy’ doesn’t have any problems, has perfect faith and has no need of books that realistically portray orthodox Jewish life, because ‘Breindy’ is a Jewish superwoman with 15 kids, two jobs, a husband in full-time learning, and a stunning 200 sqm home that she keeps immaculately stocked with 5 different types of homemade kugel!!!!
And if your life isn’t like ‘Breindy’s’ - then what on earth are you doing trying to find suitable reading material in a frum Jewish bookstore?!?!
Of course, the real reality is that even ‘Breindy’ is cracking at the seams in 2017, and has just upped her dosage of anti-depressants…but SHUSSSSSSH!!!! Let’s not talk of such things.
This ‘head in the sand’ approach to frum life means that while the shelves are full of inspiring stories from previous generations of women who could make one chicken stretch to generously feed 38 starving orphans with leftovers; and full of ‘uplifting’ Holocaust tales of every stripe (including wonderfully illustrated 'holocaust strip cartoons' for the kiddies…); and full of ‘perfect kugel’ cookbooks and ‘frum’ fiction that I find terribly disturbing for SO many different reasons - they’re generally very empty of real books by real Jewish women, that accurately portray the challenges and beauty of real Jewish life.
I.e., books like The Secret Diary of a Jewish Housewife.
Case in point: I just emailed one of the frum book publishers to see if I could pay to get The Secret Diary distributed via them, and all they did was take a look at the cover, and then pointblank refuse. Even if I paid to print a thousand copies by them, they still won’t guarantee they’d distribute it.
So dear reader, not for the first time I find myself a little stuck between the familiar rock and the hard place.
For as long as the frum Jewish book world - and the out-of-touch people running it - refuse to carry books that are ‘real’ portrayals of orthodox Jewish life, with a lot of God and emuna mixed in, frum people have little choice but to get their ‘real’ books about real problems and challenges from the secular world.
And make no mistake, that’s what’s happening. Even in the hallowed halls of Meah Shearim, people are turning to Tony Robbins and Dr Mercola for advice on how to solve their real problems and crises, because the frum world is still pretending that we’re all supermen and superwomen, with all emuna, all the time, and a never-ending obsession with creating the perfect kugel.
Frum women aren’t being given an authentic voice in our communities, and we are all paying the price for that in so many different ways. If they aren’t a well-connected or independently wealthy ‘Breindy’, none of the men who are running the Jewish publishing business are remotely interested in what they have to say.
Dear reader, I am DEFINITELY not a Breindy, and my kugels are really nothing to write home about.
I can see I’m going to have to pray on this a lot, and ask God to show me how to get past this huge obstacle.
I will keep you posted.