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‘No Commitment’

When did you first get published?

2000

What genre do you write in?

Romance: paranormal, multicultural, interracial

What race/colour are the majority of your characters?

Almost all are partially of African-American descent

How is your work marketed?

My current work is marketed through largely AA venues (Booking Matters, Black Issues Book Review), and my own website though it was advertised in Romantic Times Magazine as well.

Where are your books generally shelved?

If one can find them, they are in African-American fiction/literature.

Where would you prefer your books to be shelved?

Both romance and AA ficiton would be nice if such an area exists in the store.

Have you been subjected to direct/indirect racism from editors, publishers etc in your publishing career?

No, other than to say that AA dark paranormal is a tough sell.

How do you feel about Oprah Winfrey’s book club- Do you think she could do more to promote AA authors?

She has chosen several AA mainstream fiction and literature authors. She’s never going to choose a romance though. Her perogative.

Though while she may not like rap and its unflattering portrayals, she continues to ignore a genre that shows women of all backgrounds in a generally posiitve and fulfilling light.

Do you believe that publishers are more ambivalent when it comes to marketing AA books?

I think they push what they think is hot or going to be. For AA fiction, that seems to be the thug-a-licious books, or urban fiction. 50 cent had 3 books on a table in a recent Borders I visited. In fact, for Black History Month, the table was all AA fiction but only two titles were romance, and only four could be considered literature or mainstream fiction.

Which race groups would you say bought the majority of your books?

As for the interracials, a lot of diverse people have purchased those. Some have filtered to my straight AA romances, but the IRs sell more.

What do you think needs to change in order for more white people to read African American books?

Take the people off the covers? I hate people covers no matter what I’m reading. Just give them a try. Thumb through them in the bookstore. Of course, they have to be able to find them first.

Have you ever been snubbed by white readers/white authors during a signing?

It’s been mixed. They’ll pick up the book, look at the cover people, then put it back down. Unless it’s interracial. If they actually flip through, they usually find somehting that catches their eye, and it gets purchased. Paranormals, though, the readers don’t care about race. Imagine that.

Have you ever been overlooked by an editor in favour of a white author?

No.

Have you ever been asked to tone down, or increase the ethnicity within your books?

No, but I write for Multi-cultural publishing houses. I have had readers get mad because my characters weren’t Black enough.

Are you familiar with Millennia Black’s lawsuit against Penguin? If so, what do you think her chances of winning are?

It depends on how much money she is willing to give to the cause. It will drag on for years. It will be difficult unless she’s got documentation.

How do you think her victory will affect the way AA authors are treated within the industry?

I honestly don’t think it will make a large difference in general. It will make a difference for her and I hope she’s successful. I don’t think a sea change will emerge from a victory for her though.

What are your thoughts on niche marketing? What do you think the limitations are if any?

Niche marketing gets us to the majority of our readers, so I really don’t have a problem with it. Hopefully some of those readers are telling their white friends about this great story they read.

Going to Slam Jam and meeting up with bookclubs that have read my books is a lot of fun—and a lot less stressful than being one of 900 authors at RWA’s national convention.

Do you think this will still be a controversial subject in five years time, or do you think major changes would have been made by then?

I don’t think there will be major changes, expect perhaps urban fiction will go through a winnowing period and only the best of the lot will remain, and in smaller numbers.

Because of that, perhaps authors will no longer be asked to urbanize their characters.

Thank you for taking the time to answer my questions.

If you want to learn a little bit more about Seressia and her books, you can access her website here. (Love the look of this website)

Coming up next, Raine Weaver.

OK, so I read this on Alison Kent’s blog earlier:

The post was written by Maria Duncan, aka, Shewholovesromance, aka, Mary Durnan, aka.. ahh shit, I forget now! She was looking at the world through rose-coloured galsses talking about how she hates reviews where people are really mean, without explaining why they hate the book.

Time and time again, I hear this refrain, but I have to say, my memory must be shockingly bad because I don’t recall ever reading reviews where the reviewer sliced it to bits, without giving a full explanation as to why. (Really darlings, Amazon just doesn’t count.)

I’m assuming that these kind of bloggers exist, and God knows I don’t have time to find them, so I’m tasking you guys to go out and find me some truly mean reviews, (by reviews, I mean reviews, not just passing comments) that don’t go into any detail about what it was about said book that the reader hated.

Amazon reviews don’t count cuz some of those guys are just crazy, plus Amazon reviews are… well you know… Amazon reviews. I want examples from Romance Blogland.

This should be a good opportunity for the authors out there to give me great examples of these kind of reviews. Name and shame those buggers!

Is your mission clear? Good, now hop to it.

For those who are too polite to be mean in public, you can send me an e-mail. My address is hairylemony @ gmail . com (without the spaces)

Incidentally, this isn’t about me being mean, I genuinely want to know where these dastardly bloggers are. (And no, I certainly don’t count myself as one of them. I hate books for specific reasons, and I’m not shy about airing those reasons.)

I’ll be waiting expectantly.

Please note: The Racism In Publishing Posts will continue tomorrow.

Can anybody tell me who the flipping hell the Romance Divas are, and not only that but what is their problem? Talk about fanning the flames over, erm, let’s see… NOTHING.

Lucinda Campbell whoever you are, you’re a f*cktard.

This was to Mrs Giggles, who replies with:

Talk about fuckwittery of the highest order.

This comment here by Jax (yet another member of The Romance Divas) was the one that nearly made me piss myself laughing:

Lord, God, save me from narcissistic arseholes who think their shit don’t smell.

Of course authors will quote them, they are Harriet Klausner-type reviewers who think that every book written is the best thing since sliced bread. They’re that particularly funky breed of reviewer, who have never read a bad book. Evah.

Mrs G didn’t actually attack them, or anybody else. They kinda came out of the woodwork, in that scary Rabid Fangirly way that creeps me out.

That Lucinda chick kept harping on about how cowardly Mrs G was and that she should out herself. WTF? Where the fuck has she been? Outer effing Mongolia?

I tell you, their fuckwittery was awe-inspiring.

Mrs G had this to say in response to Jax’s comment:

Nice one-liner dude.

Kristen, also another member of the Divas weighs in with her particular brand of fucktardiness:

Jesus, I tell ya, if it was raining brains, some of these amoebas wouldn’t even get wet.

(Sorry Mrs G, but the devil on my shoulder made me do it. *g*)

Right, I’m off to bed, it’s been a loooong day.


Bettye’s latest book, Nothing But Trouble

When did you first get published?

1998

What genre do you write in?

Two: Romance and mainstream women’s fiction.

What race/colour are the majority of your characters?

Black.

How is your work marketed?

As African-American fiction or romance. Sometimes, to my great annoyance, as “street lit.”

Where are your books generally shelved?

Unfortunately, many stores put all black books together. Even within romance sections, the books by black authors are often placed separately from the other books.

I have also seen some of my mainstream fiction shelved with romance, which is incorrect. In this case I reshelve my books in the general fiction section.

Where would you prefer your books to be shelved?

Alphabetically by author. If romances are kept separate from general fiction, still alphabetically by author. And I do appreciate special placement on end displays, front tables, etc., when a book is new!

Have you been subjected to direct/indirect racism from editors, publishers etc in your publishing career.

An agent once turned me down, saying my project was too reminiscent of Waiting To Exhale. I asked her if I’d written a legal thriller if she would have turned me down because it was too reminiscent of The Firm, or if that pigeonholing is strictly for black authors. Needless to say, she didn’t respond. I signed with someone else.

How do you feel about Oprah Winfrey’s book club- Do you think she could do more to promote AA authors?

It’s not up to me to criticize someone’s personal taste. I don’t write the kind of gloomy book Oprah seems to like. However, when in the movie The Best Man a characters mentions his first book, a commercial novel, “was chosen by Oprah for her book club,” this struck me as highly implausible . . . even for Hollywood.

Do you believe that publishers are more ambivalent when it comes to marketing AA books?

I don’t believe there’s any ambivalence involved; I think the decision has already been made not to do any marketing unless it’s a Big, Big Name.

Which race groups would you say bought the majority of your books?

I do believe the majority are black, although people with European-sounding names have written to me, and white women and men also have bought my books at signings.

What do you think needs to change in order for more white people to read African American books?

They need to be the minority. The majority usually is at an advantage in multiple facets of life.

Have you ever been snubbed by white readers/white authors during a signing?

No, I can’t say I have.

Have you ever been overlooked by an editor in favour of a white author?

Not to my knowledge.

Have you ever been asked to tone down, or increase the ethnicity within your books?

No. And I hope I never am. It won’t be pretty.

sorry, I had to chuckle at that

Are you familiar with Millennia Black’s lawsuit against Penguin?

Yes.

If so, what do you think her chances of winning are?

I’m no fortune teller, but I hope she wins.

How do you think her victory will affect the way AA authors are treated within the industry?

To white publishers and editors, there’s writers and there’s black writers. I don’t think that’s going to change anytime soon, no matter what happens.

What are your thoughts on niche marketing? What do you think the limitations are if any?

I have no problem with being marketed in, say, Essence magazine. I do like it better when I see an ad for a book by Francis Ray and by (insert name of white author who writes for same publisher here) in RT Bookclub magazine. Word of mouth is, of course, priceless.

Have you been personally involved in trying to bring about changes within the publishing industry, with regards to how African American authors are treated? If so can you tell me about your efforts?

No, I haven’t.

Do you think this will still be a controversial subject in five years time, or do you think major changes would have been made by then?

I wouldn’t expect any changes in five years, no.

Thank you for taking the time to answer my questions.

You’re welcome!

If you want to learn more about Bettye, and her books, you can access her website here.

Coming up next, Seressia Glass.

I realise that I haven’t done a book review for a while, so I thought I’d address that by posting this review today. The rest of the Racism in Romance responses will continue tomorrow.

Without further ado, here’s my blurb for Midnight Temptation:

My Verdict

Dee, I simply love the way you write.

I’m always impressed with a book that hooks me in within the first few pages. I love the anticipatory feelings that rush through me, when I get through an amazing first chapter, happy in the knowledge that I’m in for a treat.

I’m sure every author knows that first chapters are very important to a reader, but as we all know, they don’t always deliver within that brief time-frame.

Well, Tenorio delivered, and how.

From the first scene, I knew that I was going to like Raven and Vanessa.

I loved the chemistry between these two characters, and every time they were together in a scene, the pages fairly sizzled.

I couldn’t get enough of them together.

Raven was a loner who was at odds with his family, after taking over the family business.

His relationship with his brother is stilted at best, and although it’s obvious the love is there, the gulf between the two of them seems insurmountable.

Raven’s relationship with his mother can be best described as prickly. Distrust and suspicion mar their mother-son relationship.

Raven’s past actions have been the cause of the current disconnect between him and his family, and now he’s struggling to make things right with them.

What I liked about Raven was his tenacity. He wanted Vanessa, and he wasn’t going to let her self-doubts and secrets come between him and his desire. He didn’t always play fair, but I think this was one of the characteristics that made me take to him straight away.

I love imperfect heroes, and Raven was as imperfect as they come.

What I liked about Vanessa, was her strength when it came to dealing with Raven. She didn’t let him ride roughshod over her, as he was used to doing with other people. I liked that she was able to stand up to him as an equal. Although it has to be said, if a man offered to buy me a Mercedes so that I could get to work safely, my principles would go straight outta the window, and my legs would have been open without a second thought.

Unfortunately, Vanessa was far too honourable for such skanky behaviour. Damn her anyway.

What struck me about Midnight Temptation was that it wasn’t just a romance. It was essentially, a story about family values. You know, the ties that bind and all that.

Half-way through the book, the mood seemed to shift, and Tenorio started to further explore the different relationships, and the dynamics between Raven’s and Vanessa’s loved ones, to a greater degree, than she had previously.

Unfortunately, at times the familial element took over the book somewhat, and made me yearn for further interaction between Vanessa and Raven. I got a little annoyed at the number of times I had to wade through scenes with secondary characters, when all I was basically interested in was the hero and the heroine.

Having said that though, there were several scenes with Vanessa and her sister that were fairly humorous, as well as heart-breaking. The same could be said about Raven and his brother, or should I say Raven, and his brother’s children. This is where I see shades of the Tenorio humour that was so prevalent in Betting Hearts come to the fore.

I totally loved the class and body in Tenorio’s prose. She really was able to draw me into the story by the time I’d read the second paragraph. I love it when an author is able to display such talent. Talent that leaves the reader wanting more.

Midnight Temptation was a beautiful story, and whilst it didn’t blow me away in the same way that Betting Hearts did, it still had the soul and the emotions that made BH such a fun read.

Had I had more Vanessa and Raven time, I think this book would have been flipping amazing, however I still loved it, and this is a testament to Tenorio’s ability as a writer.

If I had to sum up this book, I’d probably use one word to describe it. Poignant.

If you want to pick up a copy of Midnight Temptation, it’s currently available at Samhain Publishing, in both print, and e-book format.

Dee Tenorio’s website can be found, here.

Congratulations on the birth of your beautiful new babies Dee!

“They were once normal but now they´re mutants
Splinter´s the teacher so they are the students
Leonardo, Michelangelo, and Donatello
Make up the team with one other fellow
Raphael
He´s the leader of the group transformed from the norm
By the nuclear goop
Pizza´s the food that´s sure to please
These ninjas are into pepperoni and cheese…”

God this takes me back. I can’t believe I was only fifteen, when this came out. I truly do love Youtube.

For the full report, with photographs, pop over to Rosie’s blog.

Wonders never cease…

That Lee Goldberg sure gets some stick. I do love his responses though:

Sorry, but this comment tickled my funny bone, no end, hehe.


Due out in August, Bam’s Skin To Skin

This the cover for Bam’s book, due out in August. I believe it’s going to be part of the Midsummer Night’s Steam stories that will be featuring at Samhain this summer.

I think the cover model looks like Brad Pitt, Bam thinks he looks like that blokey off Prison Break. Either way, out of two, I’d sure give him one. *g*

Nice one biatch!

Incidentally, I’ve just watched Idol, and what the fuck was going on with that crying girl?

I read this sage advice over at Monica’s this morning, and I thought I’d post it here, because it was the best damn piece of commentary I’ve read in a week.

Now this shit applies to a whole bunch of people, not just the Monica Jackson’s of Blogland. If you read a comment that made you feel uncomfortable for one reason or another, take that discomfort and examine it, think about it, and question it.

Don’t stop participating because you feel slighted, because let’s face it, this is Romanceland, and over here, we can start a fight over something as petty as a photograph of an author on the back of her book. Feeling slighted is part and parcel of our particular corner of the world.

Also think about the people who are constantly made to feel uncomfortable in their everyday lives. This is one blog, it’s not your life, and to a certain extent, what goes on on the net, stays on the net. (unfortunately)

There are people who aren’t just able to ‘switch’ off, because their reality is just one big old bowl of racial tension, and exclusionary manouvres.

Having said the above, the only person I’m going to allow to be uncivil on here is me, ok?

This kind of debate is healthy, and sometimes you have to look beyond the initial hurt feelings to appreciate the fact that at least we’re all growling at each other talking to each other.

Now y’all say it with me “In with anger, out with love… In with anger out with love…, In with anger, out with l…”

Coming up next, Bettye Griffin.


Shelia’s latest book: Roses Are Thorns, Violets Are True

When did you first get published?Traditional publisher (2006)

What genre do you write in?

romance/women’s fiction/contemporary fiction

What race/colour are the majority of your characters?

African-American (AA)

How is your work marketed?

Marketed at AA women

Where are your books generally shelved?

AA section although books are on a romance imprint

Where would you prefer your books to be shelved?

Both AA section and Romance section

Have you been subjected to direct/indirect racism from editors, publishers etc in your publishing career?

Not appliciable
How do you feel about Oprah Winfrey’s book club- Do you think she could do more to promote AA authors?

I feel that there are a lot of good fiction books by AA authors that would make good book club picks.

Do you believe that publishers are more ambivalent when it comes to marketing AA books?

Yes. I see some of the non-AA romance books being advertised & reviewed in various magazines but hardly see any of the AA books.

Which race groups would you say bought the majority of your books?

AA

What do you think needs to change in order for more white people to read African American books?

The public needs to be aware that the books are out there. The same way other books are advertised is how books by AA should be advertised. A lot of the non-AA books are being made into movies. I think that also exposes an audience to an author, so I would like to see more of our books converted to film.

Have you ever been snubbed by white readers/white authors during a signing?

No. At that point, they are being exposed to a AA writer and will at least stop to see what the book is about even if they don’t purchase the book.

Have you ever been overlooked by an editor in favour of a white author?

I really don’t know.

Have you ever been asked to tone down, or increase the ethnicity within your books?

No.

Are you familiar with Millennia Black’s lawsuit against Penguin? If so, what do you think her chances of winning are?

Yes, I’m familiar with it. My prayers are with her.

How do you think her victory will affect the way AA authors are treated within the industry?

If she wins, hopefully other AA authors will be able to write what they like without fear of their book not being picked up by a publisher.

What are your thoughts on niche marketing? What do you think the limitations are if any?

I think there should be several marketing plans geared toward your specific target audience. I don’t see any limitations.

Have you been personally involved in trying to bring about changes within the publishing industry, with regards to how African American authors are treated? If so can you tell me about your efforts?

I’ve joined IBWA (International Black Writers Association) which will hopefully address these issues as they arise.

Do you think this will still be a controversial subject in five years time, or do you think major changes would have been made by then?

It probably will be. You have to look at the state of race relations in this country. Things have improved but yet, there are many areas where they have not; so this issue is just a reflection of what’s going on in society as a whole.

Thank you for taking the time to answer my questions. If you want to know about Shelia and her books, you can log onto her website here (you may want to turn down the volume, as there’s music on this site)Coming up next, Bettye Griffin.

I read this on Cece’s blog earlier today, and I have to say, Halle-effing-lujah.

I do believe that we are the sum total of our experiences. My experience as a black person, is different from a lot of other blacks.

The racial divide is there, but sometimes you’ve gotta say fuck it, this is who I am, this is how I think. It doesn’t make me a sell-out, it just means that I refuse to get bogged down by racial issues, and see racist intent around every corner. As far as I’m concerned, that way leads madness.

The Shelving Issue

The question that hasn’t been answered to my satisfaction yet, is who is responsible for romance books being shelved in the AA section?

The publishers who believe that niche marketing works? The bookstores who want to make sure that the books are easily accessible to AA readers? Or the AA readers themselves who want the books to be easily accessible to them?

Who has the power to make wholesale changes to the way that AA-authored books are currently shelved?

One question that nobody seems to have asked is, what happens if the ideal compromise re shelving, is reached? What then? What’s the next argument?

In my opinion, it then boils down to one thing. Getting white folks to get over the “But I can’t relate to ‘those’ types of characters” line. That’s a lame excuse, and will continue to be a lame excuse, especially as you Americans seem to love those European hystericals with their lords and ladies, and roguish dukes, and virginal duchesses, whom y’all have fuck-all in common with.

How to achieve this? Bloody good marketing, that’s how.

Coming up next: Shelia Goss (you may want to turn down the volume, as there’s music on this site)


Millenia’s latest book – The Great Betrayal

When did you first get published?

September 6, 2005

What genre do you write in?

General/Mainstream/Women’s Fiction.
Any or all of the above.

What race/colour are the majority of your characters?

White, or undefined

How is your work marketed?

As African-American Fiction

Where are your books generally shelved?

AA Fiction

Where would you prefer your books to be shelved?

Wherever they would be if a white author had written them.

Have you been subjected to direct/indirect racism from editors, publishers etc in your publishing career.

Yes.

How do you feel about Oprah Winfrey’s book club- Do you think she could do more to promote AA authors?

No. I think she should continue to promote authors. Period. No regard to race. Promotion by race only serves to keep racial distinctions alive, and those distinctions serve no positive purposes whatsoever.

Do you believe that publishers are more ambivalent when it comes to marketing AA books?

Ambivalent? Not sure I understand this one. 🙂

Which race groups would you say bought the majority of your books?

When I was self-published, Caucasians. After, African-Americans.

What do you think needs to change in order for more white people to read African American books?

The books should not be treate or handled differently by publishers and booksellers, giving readers the impression they are inherently different or “not meant” for anyone outside the author’s race.

Have you ever been snubbed by white readers/white authors during a signing?

No, not to my knowledge. I will say that while most white readers will walk right by you without stopping, most are receptive if you proactively reach out to tell them about your book and who you are.

Have you ever been overlooked by an editor in favour of a white author?

Not that I’m aware of. I don’t think I’ve been around long enough for this to apply to me…?

Have you ever been asked to tone down, or increase the ethnicity within your books?

Yes. Specifically with my second. I was asked to make the characters black, or as with my first book, not specify their race so the publisher could make readers think they were black, with the cover art and classification.

Are you familiar with Millennia Black’s lawsuit against Penguin? If so, what do you think her chances of winning are?

Yes, I’m very familiar with it. I think her chances are very good if she’s strong enough to stay the course.

(Ok, dumbass me, I mistakenly left that question in there, heheh)

How do you think your victory will affect the way AA authors are treated within the industry?

An author can be an AUTHOR. Not a BLACK author. I think a victory in this case will give authors the freedom (whether they wish to exercise it or not) to write and participate in the industry without regard to their skin color.

It will afford them the right to equal opportunity, with respect to reaching the majority book-buying audience; equal opportunity at reaching the NY Times Best Seller and other national “mainstream” best seller lists.

What are your thoughts on niche marketing? What do you think the limitations are if any?

I see no problem with niche marketing. It’s a perfectly legitimate means of targeting a specific audience with products of relevant substance.

Have you been personally involved in trying to bring about changes within the publishing industry, with regards to how African American authors are treated? If so can you tell me about your efforts?

Yes. I’m taking my publisher to court for violating my civil rights among other laws. If the suit is won, it will set a positive precendent.

If it’s lost, it could likely set a negative precedent and potentially make it legal for publishers to handle books per the author’s skin color. Needless to say, that would suck. I better not lose.

Do you think this will still be a controversial subject in five years time, or do you think major changes would have been made by then?

5 years? The Penguin lawsuit could take that long, or longer. And even if it’s seen through litigation and won, I think the institutional — and ubiquitious — nature of this particular form of discrimination will take longer to completely reform.

Particularly since there are many black authors who feel every black author’s work should be governed by ethnic obligation. And, as with civil reforms of the past, it takes time to change the way people think.

Thank you for taking the time to answer my questions.

Thank you for taking the time to ask them.

If you’re interested in learning more about Millenia and her books, you can access her website here.

Coming up next: Shelia Goss (you may want to turn down the volume, as there’s music on this site)


Gwyneth’s latest book, Sweet Sensation

When did you first get published?

My first novel was published in March of 2006.

What genre do you write in?

I write contemporary romance, erotic romance and paranormal erotic romance.

What race/colour are the majority of your characters?

The majority of my characters are Black.

How is your work marketed?

My work is marketed as African American fiction and African American romance.

Where are your books generally shelved?

It depends on the chain. In most Borders stores, they are usually in the African American section. In Barnes and Noble there usually isn’t an African American section, so my books are usually in romance.

I’ve seen my books with other Black books sectioned off together in Walmart. If the store has an African America section, chances are that’s where you’ll find any books by Black authors. If it doesn’t, then the books will be shelved in appropriate genres.

Where would you prefer your books to be shelved?

Unless stores do away with the African American section all together, I would prefer that my books were shelved in both the African American section and the romance section. The fact is that some readers do enjoy being able to go to the African American section and get their books.

As a writer who wants people to buy her books, if that section is going to be there with other books on the shelves for black readers, then I want my book in front of those book buyers. Ideally, I’d like to do away with the section all together.

Have you been subjected to direct/indirect racism from editors, publishers etc in your publishing career?

No I haven’t. So far I have worked with mostly Black editors. The one White editor that I worked with on my last novel was not racist in anyway that I could tell.

How do you feel about Oprah Winfrey’s book club- Do you think she could do more to promote AA authors?

I think Oprah promotes what she likes. And she can do that because it’s her show and her book club. She’s done a lot for women’s fiction in general, for middlebrow literature in general, and for promoting literacy in the US.

She does promote some Black writers. She even options the rights for what she likes and brings the work to the little and big screen. She does a lot. Honestly, I’d love it if Oprah promoted more romance in general. But hey, it’s her show. She doesn’t go for the happily-ever-after. It’s her show she can promote what she likes. 🙂

Do you believe that publishers are more ambivalent when it comes to marketing AA books?

I don’t know that this is something that it is really possible to gauge. There are some star black authors for example who may seem like they are being marketed to a great extent to little old new author me.

But when that same superstar author looks at the way they are being marketed in comparison with a white author in their genre who is at the same level or above they may see things differently. I would love to see someone do a study or market analysis on this however. I think we’d be shocked by what we’d find.

Which groups would you say bought the majority of your books?

Black women probably bought the majority of my books. These are the women who e-mail me, who write me etc.

What do you think needs to change in order for more white people to read African American books?

People need to become more open-minded and try the books. It’s really not rocket science. I majored in English as an undergraduate and all throughout graduate school.

The white people in my African American literature classes read black books. When Oprah picks a book by a Black author millions of white people read black books. Many white women have read African American and Caribbean literary fiction.

I think that there are still some stigmas that make it a little slow going in the romance community when it comes to this kind of open-mindedness. And those stigmas go all the way back to The Birth of A Nation unfortunately.

Have you ever been snubbed by white readers/white authors during a signing?

Yes, I have. This has happened to me more times in the year that I have been a published author than seems real.

Have you ever been overlooked by an editor in favour of a white author?

No, I haven’t that I know of. Most of the other authors that write for the imprints and lines I write for are Black.

Have you ever been asked to tone down, or increase the ethnicity within your books?

No, I haven’t.

Are you familiar with Millennia Black’s lawsuit against Penguin? If so, what do you think her chances of winning are?

I am somewhat familiar with it in that I know what anyone else who frequents the web knows about it. I’m not sure that I can predict her chances of winning based on the information I have on the case.

I’m hopeful that she will prevail if the publisher did what she says they did. However, not being privy to all the facts of the case, I’d hesitate to even say that. I just don’t have enough facts to make a judgment.

How do you think her victory will affect the way AA authors are treated within the industry?

I think it would have an impact for sure. Perhaps not an impact as large and significant as Brown vs Board of Education. But maybe it will have just enough of an impact to make publishers think twice about telling authors what races they can and can not write about. It’s hard to predict the future.

What are your thoughts on niche marketing? What do you think the limitations are if any?

I think the best way to describe niche marketing is as a double-edged sword. There are pluses and minus. As far as I can tell, it hurts black romance authors because it means they have a much smaller audience to draw from.

Think of the readers who won’t read romance in general and then think of the percentage of those readers in Black communities. If Black books are only being marketing to the niche and a large part of that niche has a disdain for romance, then the Black romance writer is out of luck.

On the other hand like most romance readers, black women romance readers are loyal to the genre and they will buy the books and support their authors. I guess what I mean to say is that it is more complicated than black and white, no pun intended.

Have you been personally involved in trying to bring about changes within the publishing industry, with regards to how African American authors are treated? If so can you tell me about your efforts?

I haven’t held any rallies or anything like that. I have blogged about it a little on Blogging in Black. I have worked to start a Black writer organization with some other writer called the International Black Writers Association.

This group is all about authors banding together, finding solutions and being positive resources for one another. I’m also still a fairly new author, only one year with published books on the shelves. What I’m interested in seeing is a viable solution and strategy. And I’m willing to work with other to come up with one.

Do you think this will still be a controversial subject in five years time, or do you think major changes would have been made by then?

Anyone who is hopeful and optimistic can only hope that things will get better in five years. But given the way much of the country seems to be regressing when it comes to race, racism and issues of oppression, it is hard to maintain that optimism.

The fact is, there are far more telling signals that race is still a major issue in this country. The tell signs are the way young black men are still beaten and murdered by cops. The growing HIV/AIDS rates that are wiping out communities of color.

We don’t necessarily have to only look at publishing to see that systemic racism is still alive and well. And when we really look at these it becomes a little hard to just look at the racism in the publishing industry and really get as up in arms, especially when lives are being lost.

Thank you for taking the time to answer my questions.

Your welcome. Thanks for taking the time to do the survey and I hope that something positive comes out of it.

If you want to know more about Gwyneth and her books, you can find her website here.

Coming up next, Millenia Black.

The Bold And The Clueless…

Sunday, March 18, 2007
Posted in: Uncategorized

You know, I’m continually amazed by how tunnel-visioned some people can be.

This comment caught my attention first thing this morning, whilst I was over at Dear Author.

I thought it seemed a particularly strange reaction, seeing as the original blog post was so moderately written.

I knew something was amiss when his next post was this:

Then this assholic comment finally got me to react:

Lord, some people are truly blinkered.

Anyway, I responded, without using the word ‘fucktard’ once. I’m truly proud of that feat. Believe me, it was hugely tempting. Anyway, his comments get even more asinine than the ones prior:

How clueless can one person be? What he’s basically saying here is, that if an AA author chooses to write books about black people, they shouldn’t complain about where they are shelved.

This was one of his pearls of wisdom with regards to AA authors who weren’t happy with where they were being shelved:

Because it’s obviously as easy as that.

He also suggested that black authors should lie about what colour they are, if it bothers them so much.

Jesus. Effing. Christ.

*Head-desk, head-desk, head-desk.*


Angela’s latest book, Diva’s Last Curtain Call (great title!)

When did you first get published?

2005

What genre do you write in?

Mystery

What race/colour are the majority of your characters?

African-American

How is your work marketed?

To African-American audiences.

Where are your books generally shelved?

In the black book section.

Where would you prefer your books to be shelved?

In the mystery section.

Have you been subjected to direct/indirect racism from editors, publishers etc in your publishing career.

No.

How do you feel about Oprah Winfrey’s book club- Do you think she could do more to promote AA authors?

I don’t really pay much attention to any of the major book club picks but they all seem to gravitate more towards nonfiction and literature. I’d like to see more commerical fiction featured, period.

Do you believe that publishers are more ambivalent when it comes to marketing AA books?

No. I think publishers are always looking for the next big thing like the next JK Rowling or the next Dan Brown.

Which race groups would you say bought the majority of your books?

African-American

What do you think needs to change in order for more white people to read African American books?

I think many white readers will read a book by a black author if they know about the book. They aren’t going to look in the black book section.

Have you ever been snubbed by white readers/white authors during a signing?

No. But then again I don’t do many signings.

Have you ever been overlooked by an editor in favour of a white author?

No.

Have you ever been asked to tone down, or increase the ethnicity within your books?

No.

Are you familiar with Millennia Black’s lawsuit against Penguin? If so, what do you think her chances of winning are?

Yes. I’ve heard of the lawsuit but I’m not that familiar with all the details.

How do you think her victory will affect the way AA authors are treated within the industry?

I’m not sure.

What are your thoughts on niche marketing? What do you think the limitations are if any?

Niche marketing is fine for an author who is just starting out but I think it can hurt an author who is trying to to broaden their audience.

Have you been personally involved in trying to bring about changes within the publishing industry, with regards to how African American authors are treated? If so can you tell me about your efforts?

Not personally, no. But I do have a website Mystnoir.com that features AA mystery authors and characters, since our mysteries don’t get a lot of mainstream attention.

Do you think this will still be a controversial subject in five years time, or do you think major changes would have been made by then?

I certainly hope things will be different five years from now but they’ll probably just be another issue to deal with.

Thank you for taking the time to answer my questions.

Thank you for letting me participate ; ).

If you want to know a little bit more about Angela and her books, you can find her website here.

Coming up next, Gwyneth Bolton.


Marcia’s latest book: All About Me

When did you first get published?

I was first published in 1998.

What genre do you write in?

I write both romance and mainstream women’s fiction.

What race/colour are the majority of your characters?

I write for several imprints, but if we are speaking of the Harlequin Kimani Imprint, Arabesque or Sepia, then the only thing that is required is that my hero and heroine are people of color. I tend to have a fair representation of the world in my books.

How is your work marketed?

I’m not sure I understand the question. Authors do most of their own marketing. I tend to market to my mailing list and to the people logging onto my website www.lovemarcia.com or signing up for my newsletter- Romantically Yours.

If you’re asking how does the publishing house market me and my work then I would say to a primarily black audience.

Where are your books generally shelved?

It depends. I asked this question of several book sellers and got different answers. In some neighborhoods it’s on an end cap or separate shelf with a sign that says African American Literature.

In others, I am alphabetized and placed in both the romance and literature sections, and in one situation I was shelved in African American history. Go figure!

Where would you prefer your books to be shelved?

Alphabetized and on shelves with other romance or mainstream authors. Although if the reader reads primarily African American romances, then being set apart makes it easier for them to find. Me.

Have you been subjected to direct/indirect racism from editors, publishers etc in your publishing career.

If I have then I must have missed it. Can’t say I’ve had that experience, then again I don’t go around with a chip on my shoulder.

How do you feel about Oprah Winfrey’s book club- Do you think she could do more to promote AA authors?

I think Oprah could do more to promote the romance genre on the whole. I think she’s a wonderful champion of reading but misses the romance boat.

I believe that Oprah has not realized how much romances have changed and may still think the books are all heaving bosoms and beating breasts. There is a reason why romances makes up 52% of all mass market books sold. When a fan writes you to tell you how you’ve changed their life, now that is a memorable moment.

Do you believe that publishers are more ambivalent when it comes to marketing AA books?

I won’t call it ambivalent. But I do believe there is a preconceived notion that mainstream America or England for that matter, won’t be interested in reading a story about people of color. That is so wrong. I grew up reading stories about characters that are white. A good romance/story has no color barriers.

Which race groups would you say bought the majority of your books?

This depends on where the books are sold and marketed. I’ve had book signings where I didn’t sell to one person of color.

What do you think needs to change in order for more white people to read African American books?

More exposure to multi-cultural books and a totally different marketing approach would help. Currently, and for some odd reason, the white readership thinks that they will not understand the dialogue or even storyline and that is simply not true.

Have you ever been snubbed by white readers/white authors during a signing?

I can’t say I have. I have however been snubbed by black readers who told me they don’t read “those books.” They will often cross over to stand on line and buy from a white author, or will slide by refusing to make eye contact and head for the romance shelf and purchase a white author’s book.

Have you ever been overlooked by an editor in favour of a white author?

Glad to say I’ve not had this experience.

Have you ever been asked to tone down, or increase the ethnicity within your books?

Yes, I’ve been asked by editors to make my stories more ethnic. I’ve tried to explain that even within a specific ethnic group there are class differences. We do not all come from the ghetto nor do we all speak ghettoese.

Are you familiar with Millennia Black’s lawsuit against Penguin? If so, what do you think her chances of winning are?

Not familiar. Sorry!

How do you think her victory will affect the way AA authors are treated within the industry?

N/A

What are your thoughts on niche marketing? What do you think the limitations are if any?

Niche marketing says it all. It may serve a purpose but it does limit an author’s exposure.

Have you been personally involved in trying to bring about changes within the publishing industry, with regards to how African American authors are treated? If so can you tell me about your efforts?

I’ve not had any issues about poor treatment so didn’t realize this was a problem. My only comment, and one that I have shared is that I would like to see our books marketed to a mainstream audience of any ethnicity.

Do you think this will still be a controversial subject in five years time, or do you think major changes would have been made by then?

I hope not, as I said before, a good story can be read and appreciated by any ethnicity. It’s all in the marketing.

Thank you for taking the time to answer my questions.

To learn more about Marcia and her books, you can visit her website here.

Coming up next, Angela Henry.

That was a direct quote from a pissed off black author.

This whole racism in romance thing started because of my desire to help.

Seriously, this wasn’t about grandstanding, or attention seeking. No, this was a genuine effort to help black authors.

Well, you know what they say: No good deed goes unpunished.

Let me share with you a couple of the e-mails I’ve received since this whole thing started:

This was from the ignorant author who pasted my personal e-mail address to umpteen number of Yahoo groups. I still haven’t gotten over that one, thanks.

The following, was from another author, who took exception to my posting her name as a participant of the survey. She wrote me a long old e-mail telling me why I was the spawn of the devil, amongst other things:

By the way, just to explain, an author friend of hers sent me an e-mail telling me that she wanted to participate in the survey, and that I should send her the questions. So I did. Her friend was mistaken. Obviously.

Ok then, let me answer this point by point.

Your entire survey operates under the assumption what we need to show white readers, i.e., the audience for your blog, in hard proof that there is racism in publishing so they’ll believe us; otherwise, they’ll think we’re liars(?) or paranoid black folks(?).

Actually, I did this because I foolishly thought I could make a difference in some small way. It wasn’t about showing my ‘white readers’ (and you’re not the only person to have belaboured on this point) hard proof about racism in publishing. The questions I asked, were questions I genuinely wanted to know the answers to. So sue me.

I don’t need to justify anything to that audience

That audience? Which audience? The people who read my blog? Or the ‘white’ people who read my blog?

I don’t need to explain racism to them, and I don’t care if they know about it, feel bad about it or think it’s a great idea.

I can’t help but think that this point of view is at best, a little defeatist.

There are people out there who genuinely wont know, that there is a problem. Of course some of them won’t care a whole lot, but you know, there are a few, a precious few, who will care, a precious few who might even consciously choose a book written by a black author the next time they go shopping. Some may scoff at this, and look at this as a pity-buy, but I say balls to that. Everybody has to start somewhere.

A few authors have scoffed that what I’m doing wont make a difference, and what do I know about the struggles that black authors have faced for years anyway?

They’re probably right. It probably wont make a blind bit of difference, but it surely wont be because I didn’t give it a go. I actually thought I was doing something good. Can you believe that? What was I thinking? I really should stick to talking about romance books by white authors. Truly.

This issue doesn’t personally affect me. It really isn’t my fight. So why bother?

Well, because of the authors who didn’t scoff at this mouthy blogger. Because they were happy to take time out to help me out. I can’t repay that by throwing my toys out of the pram, just because I failed to get the support this venture needed to make it work. That’s not their fault. They kept their end of the bargain. So I’m gonna keep mine insofar as I can.

I will keep posting the author responses, they deserve to be aired. But yes, I will post other things in between, because this isn’t a topic that I want people to get bored of. It’s too important for that.

For those of you who have something to say about that, may I suggest that you spin on it, and rotate very effing speedily. Or at the very least get the f*ck off my blog. You’re not my target audience.

Oprah might not be interested in this issue, but you know, one of these days, somebody will be. The authors affected should get ready for that day, because it might not be as far off as you think. You just never know who’s listening in…

Coming up next, Marcia King-Gamble.

When did you first get published?

2003

What genre do you write in?

Romance

What race/colour are the majority of your characters?

African-American, Afro-Caribbean

Where are your books generally shelved?

African-American section

Where would you prefer your books to be shelved?

African-American section and general romance or mainstream section

Have you been subjected to direct/indirect racism from editors, publishers etc in your publishing career.

Not sure – none of my other manuscripts have been picked up but it could just be my writing.;:)

How do you feel about Oprah Winfrey’s book club- Do you think she could do more to promote AA authors?

Yes, particularly since the big-name book clubs like Doubleday, don’t promote us in their general catalog but in a segregated – African-American interest cataloge for a separate African-American club. This means people in the larger book club – both black and white – don’t get exposed to black authors.

Do you believe that publishers are more ambivalent when it comes to marketing AA books?

Yes. I think they are more cautious. My historical romances won’t sell because they say blacks aren’t buying historicals, but a lot of readers say they want to read more of those, and contest judges I’ve sent the first few pages or the first chapter too say they’d like to read more too and they’re not black.

Publishers also appear to assume that while black readers will read books by whites about whites, that whites aren’t interested in reading about blacks. To the extent that that is true, I think it is because of the stereotypes about black authors – that the books they write will be urban/ghetto and feature bling and cuss-words.

Which race groups would you say bought the majority of your books?

African-American.

What do you think needs to change in order for more white people to read African American books?

More marketing to the general readership. Placement among the general shelves not just in the ethnic sections.

Have you ever been snubbed by white readers/white authors during a signing?

Never did a signing.

Have you ever been overlooked by an editor in favour of a white author?

Not that I know of.

Have you ever been asked to tone down, or increase the ethnicity within your books?

No but my first and only romance was with a black publisher – Genesis. (And there have been problems enough with them!)

Are you familiar with Millennia Black’s lawsuit against Penguin? If so, what do you think her chances of winning are?

I’ve read about it. Even if she doesn’t win, she’s raised awareness about the issue which is a start.

How do you think her victory will affect the way AA authors are treated within the industry?

I think they’ll have to respect them more and allow them more lattitude. James Patterson writes a major black character and no-one has a problem why should there be a problem if a black author does that in reverse?

What are your thoughts on niche marketing? What do you think the limitations are if any?

I think it can help a beginning author launch her career but that she shouldn’t allow it to limit her in the long-run.

Have you been personally involved in trying to bring about changes within the publishing industry, with regards to how African American authors are treated? If so can you tell me about your efforts?

I sent an email to the President of the Doubleday Book Club since my aunt is a member of the Club and I always see her catalogues and I never saw any black authors featured in them. She never wrote back.

Do you think this will still be a controversial subject in five years time, or do you think major changes would have been made by then?

I think a lot more authors would have to make a lot more noise before things change. I think until they do, newbie authors, will continue to get scammed by smaller niche publishers who take advantage of the position of the bigger publishers with respect to not publishing as many books by black authors as they could or as varied as they could.

Thanks for taking the time out to participate in this survey Eugenia, much appreciated.

If you want to learn more about Eugenia’s writing, you can find her book, Just An Affair here.

Coming up tomorrow, Marcia King-Gamble.

It’s My Birthday Today…

Tuesday, March 13, 2007
Posted in: It's my birthday

I was born thirty-two years ago today. Funny, it only seems like I was eighteen yesterday.

The amazing thing is, I don’t feel any different.

It’s been a good day though. I got some nice pressies from my family and friends.

You know what touched me most though? The birthday cards from friends I haven’t spoken to in a while. I love that they remember my birthday, even when we don’t keep in touch like we should. Like we used to.

TTG and I aren’t doing anything till the weekend. We decided to go to a theme park next weekend, that should be fun.

This weekend, I’m going to Old Trafford to watch my fave football team. Does life get any better than that? *Happy sigh*