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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.