No Love for the African American Romance Authors

by Joey Pinkney on June 1, 2008

I came across an interesting blogpost at DearAuthor.com about the way African American Romance Authors are automatically pushed to the “black section” of book store. This is done regardless of the nature of the book, the author or the readership.

(For an interesting read, check out the discussion about this subject found at Smart B’s and Karen’s blog. Also check out a related posts on JoeyPinkney.com by clicking here and here.)

Interesting? I think not. I mean, let’s think about it. This has been going on for centuries. As long as Black people have been able to write, Black literature has been lumped together. Scholars and illerate authors (oxymoron?) have had to share shelf space in the African American section of bookstore since those books were even allowed in the first place.

Back to the DearAuthor blogpost. The title is: Solutions for Greater Equality in the Romance Market. At least this group of people have taken the time to some up with viable solutions to this phenomenon.

The First Solution: Stop the niche marketing of African American novels altogether

That would bring all romance novels together.

Problem. Some African American Romance Authors like to market their novels to African American people. Just like watching a TV show just because there’s a Black person on the screen, some people pick up the book because there is a Black man and/or woman on the cover. THEN they read it for the story.

(I find myself channel surfing and stopping on a channel just because there’s a Black person on the screen. Sometimes it’s so bad that I stop just because the commercial has a Black person in it. Then a couple of minutes later I’m like, “Oh, snap. Gotta find something to watch…this is wack.”)

The Second Solution: Let authors pick and choose where they want to be shelved

HA! Yeah, right! Major corporations, in any industry, cannot afford to let the little people make the big decisions. Not gonna do it…

Although this would allow authors the power to choose how they want to be perceived, from a business standpoint things would get way too complicated.

And who cares what the authors think? If the readers are truly loyal and curious and active, they will find the authors and books they like to read. Bookstores are like pastures for grazing livestock. They show you what’s hot. You buy it. Please come again. Period. The only reason the books are on the shelves in the first place is because the bookstore thinks it will sell.

Somewhere down the line bookstores must have figured that “Black people buy Black books so let’s make it easier on them and put every Black author in one general section, unless they are a mainstream celebrity”. Thanks, but no thanks.

There was a third solution, but it’s so similar to the first one that I’m not going to cover it in this blog post.

I’ll end this one by saying this (reminds me of Springer’s final thoughts) authors can’t waste time worrying about where their books pop up in bookstore. Market to the people that read your books, and let them walk to whatever section your book has been placed.

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