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Sometimes karma really is a bitch.

Over at the SB’s blog, Sarah has a post up, entitled, ‘Erotica Writer Zane: I’m Facing Discrimination.

Sarah writes:

Thanks to the multiple Bitchery readers who forwarded this over. Erotica author and editor Zane emailed a DC-area email loop the following account of how her latest book is facing an uphill battle in terms of finding places in which to advertise. Why? Because it’s Black erotica? Nope. Because it’s gay. Specifically, according to Zane’s email, lesbian erotica.

SB Sarah also posted the contents of the e-mail.

Now normally I’d be sympathetic, because discrimination of any kind is hard to bear, but on this occasion, I admit to being highly amused at the way fate works.

The reason I have no sympathy for Zane, is because at the height of the Millenia Black v Penguin row, back in 2006, Zane publically delivered a smackdown to Millenia, that I felt was particularly unwarranted at the time. The rant was posted on Thumper’s Corner, but has since been deleted.

Paraphrasing wildly, Zane basically wrote that MB was biting the hand that fed her. Best-selling Author Pontiff expressed her outrage over Zane’s comments at the time.

I recall wondering why Zane felt the need to post such an incendiary rant at the time, and I must admit, I lost quite a bit of respect for her. I felt that it was attitudes like hers that made it even harder for AA authors to take a stand on the Racism in Publishing issue.

I wonder if Zane would still stand by the comments she made at the time?

For those who can’t remember, or weren’t around, basically, Millenia wrote a book called The Great Pretender. The characters in the book were white. The original cover didn’t feature people on it, and it sold so well (it was a self-pubbed book), that Penguin came a calling.

When the folks at Penguin found out that Millenia was black, they tried to market The Great Pretender as an African American book, and ended up putting two black characters on the front cover of the book, which was absurd because her characters were white. But the worst thing was, they tried to do this, contrary to Millenia’s wishes.

Millenia argued that being categorised as an AA author, would limit her sales potential, as her book would be shelved in the AA literature section, rather than the general lit section. Penguin ignored her, so she was left with no other choice, but to sue.

Lots of people had lots of things to say about Millenia trying to sue Penguin, including that f*cktard Ed Champion, who tried to help matters along by muddying the waters.

I blogged about this issue at the time, and Millenia was kind enough to take part in my Racism In Publishing interviews.

Anyway, the matter has now been resolved, after two long years.

Millenia writes:

So I always dreamed of being like Jackie Collins or Danielle Steel. Of having a career that had nothing to do with my color, everything to do with my stories.

I dreamed of reaching an audience so large that I, too, would one day sell over 400-500 million novels. Or over 300 million, like Sidney Sheldon. Or over 200 million, like Nora Roberts. Or (even) over 70 million, like Sandra Brown. My dream was sooo bright; as bright as the sun itself. I always believed it was attainable. Sink or swim…

I thought there was an equal opportunity.

But despite the current atmosphere, I still have a great deal of faith in the American publishing industry. I am an American. And I believe we can repair the hurtful, Jim Crowesque climate that plagues American publishing. We must. For as Eckhart Tolle carefully explains in A NEW EARTH: What we do to others, we do to ourselves…

I maintain confidence that my stories will find their way into the American mainstream, where they belong. Like any other, they deserve to have a fair chance in the marketplace, don’t they? Unfettered by any “color-of-the-author” impositions?…

The Discrimination Lawsuit.
I’ve received several inquiries about the status. I’m very pleased to share that the matter has now been resolved to my satisfaction through an agreement, the terms of which can never be discussed.

In the interest of my blog’s archival integrity, I fully disclose that all previous discussions about the case have been removed. There will be no further information about the lawsuit on my blog. I’m extremely happy to have this heartbreak behind me – I give beaucoup thanks to my wonderful attorney. And I likewise send a deep, heartfelt THANK YOU to everyone who offered their unwavering support. I’ll remember it always.

Well that’s just great and very timely, considering the recent racism in romance posts.

Well done Millenia, you took a stand for many, and you came out victorious.

Via Monica’s blog.

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.


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)