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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.

8 Comments »


  • Anonymous
    March 27
    7:19 am

    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.

    Such a true, eye opening and perceptive answer!.

    Chandra

    ReplyReply


  • Barbara B.
    March 27
    10:54 am

    Very nice. Sounds like just the kind of books I’m looking for. Thanks for the interview, Karen and Bettye. I got very excited thinking I’d seen the name Bettye Griffin at Fictionwise but a search turned up nothing. I wish that more fiction written by A-A authors was in ebook form. I’m practically done with print books.

    Not being part of the dominant group and being an avid reader of lit and genre fiction, I got used to reading about people unlike myself at an early age. I now actively search for books about people of many ethnicities and cultures. I think not being a part of the dominant culture gave me a more universal perspective. An appreciation of the differences and insight into the similarities.
    I think that this is a perspective that is not easily acquired if you’re part of the dominant group in any country.

    ReplyReply


  • Barbara B.
    March 27
    7:08 pm

    Karen, I’m completely off topic but have you seen the bat shit crazy posts of the Romance Divas at Mrs. Giggles blog? She really pissed them off and they are trying to annihilate her. It kinda reminds me of that little thing with Anne Vremont a few weeks ago. Is it open season on you guys?

    ReplyReply


  • bettye griffin
    March 27
    11:48 pm

    Glad you liked my answer, Chandra!

    Barbara, I’m sure you’ll like my books. Check them out!

    ReplyReply


  • rozlips
    March 28
    1:27 pm

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

    I’ve been laughing at this one for several days now. That’s the only thing that makes me leery about urban lit. Knowing New York they’ll want everyone to hop on the ‘hot new thing.’ I remember back in my acting days being asked to ‘talk more black,’ and losing parts because I didn’t speak Ebonics. A lot of actors complain about the same thing. Kind of sad that so many people have such a one-dimensional view of what black people are and what we do.

    ReplyReply


  • Sharon Cullars
    March 28
    9:07 pm

    Roz, that reminds me of the audition read scene from Robert Townsend’s Hollywood Shuffle.

    What was one of the lines? “I ain’t be gots no weapon?”

    ReplyReply


  • rozlips
    March 29
    8:50 pm

    Oh lord that movie slays me. Get this, they wanted me to speak ebonics during an audition for Grease! I would give my left ovary to have that isht on tape.

    Him: Can you talk black?
    Me: I am black and I’m talking.
    Him: No, I mean jive. (Yes, I swear on my next paycheck he said jive.)
    Me: No, I really don’t think I can. I don’t know what jive is. (Isn’t that a type of music they did back in the 50s?)

    ReplyReply


  • Sharon Cullars
    March 29
    9:31 pm

    Him: Can you talk black?
    Me: I am black and I’m talking.

    LOL

    ReplyReply

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