Sunday, December 05, 2010

Thoughts on publishing for Black audiences

Jevon Boldman wrote last week about publishing for African Americans - and what publishers are and are not doing to reach audiences. She is looking for feedback on the issues and what readers, authors and booksellers are thinking.

I posted a too long comment on it and thought I'd post it here as well. No answers, but she did get me thinking about what my experience is as a reader and lover of books with a particular fondness for books about Black people.

Here are my comments. Please go visit and post your thoughts to the original blog post.

The first thing that comes to mind for me is how often, in the big box bookstores, the thing I see is a table full of "urban" lit. I'm not a big fan of urban lit and I feel like it's taken over what we we're being offered by publishers. And several times I've seen a title that is definitely not urban lit included in those displays - even a Zora Neale Hurston title.

So it feels/looks like stores and publishers are not sure how to reach all the people in the African American audience.

And I don't feel that publishers are trying to market books by African American, Black, Caribbean authors and featuring African American, Black and Caribbean characters to audiences that are non-Black. We shouldn't be the only audience, but our authors' work is not believed to be relevant or of interest outside of the obvious audience. That's disappointing and, since our society is more integrated, publishers are probably missing both Black and non-Black readers.

Yet books with African American characters written by non-Black authors are sometimes pushed really hard - as with The Help.

I'd like to see publishers go to readers more often to ask what they are reading and want to read.
I'd like to hear more promotion of our authors in different channels (I know $ is a factor), but radio and television.
I'd like to see something different like a crowd sourced collection of stories (Maybe readers vote on which author's stories or what kind of story collection they'd like to read).
I'd like to see a serialization effort that leverages mobile or ties to some kind of scavenger hunt or contest (maybe using Foursquare or Facebook).

And I'd like for literary authors to be on the road more so we can see and hear them. Maybe some tie in events with other products - something outside of book festivals where hundreds or thousands of fans and potential fans are present.

Here are a few links I've been checking out.

One of the reasons I am such a big fan of Tayari Jones (you know other than the fact that she is one of our best, young novelists)is that she is so open about her process and the ups and downs of being a working artist. She keeps pressing on and she writes about the fears and challenges of having to turn around and begin again. This is a lesson I need in all areas of my life - my paying work, my writing dreams, my life as a parent and wife. I'm thankful that she writes all of this down for us. If you are not reading her blog, please do, it is a writer's and grown up woman's life blog.

She wrote recently about having to change the title of her novel and how hard that was. This is a novel that was rejected before she finished it. Still she finished it and she has a publisher and we will all be able to buy it in May (actually you can preorder now).


Other links:

I missed this earlier: The Root on 5 young Black writers we should be reading now.

Buying books for holiday gifts? Heidi Durrow, Denene Millner and Tara Betts are recommending books - including children's books for your shopping. Reader their posts on Carleen Brice's blog. She also has a December contest going featuring books by Black authors.

1 comment:

Tricia said...

Agree with with your comments here - much the same in the UK.