Tuesday, March 13, 2007

What Color Is Your Parashoot?

I've not read every single post, and I'm SLOW at cathing up, but have you been reading the posts at Monica Jackson's and Karen Scott's on where to shelve African American books? (and please fortheloveoffreakingod don't refer to anyone outside the US as AA unless they are citizens of this country. It's not a term that encompasses every person of color)

Anyway...the discussions remind me of RWA in Atlanta last year. Part of me wondered why it took RWA so damned long to recognize people like Vivian Stephens (and yes, I know I've blogged this before, somewhere here around August 11, 2005) and why that particular year was devoted to Vivian and Shirley Hailstock, who was a terrific RWA president. Did we really have to WAIT until we were on "their turf" or in the South or where it might be EXPECTED to honor these women? Why the wait? (Okay, I'll shut up.)

Romancing the Blog, who gets literally dozens of responses to some pretty shallow questions or posts at times (and don’t get me wrong – I love these gals) only had TEN responses to their excellent post regarding both Vivian and Shirley last fall. We can find hundreds of posts on some serial killer’s website, dozens just bitching at someone who dropped their drawers in public and farted, but we can’t support the very people who were pioneers for us…and that saddens me. [I’ll probably not get five posts to THIS one – lol.]

Back to Atlanta. I make it a point at every writers’ conference to snag books for the hotel staff. Atlanta being Atlanta, we had a large number of AA on the hotel’s staff, so I visited the Kimani book signing and the Spice (since there were AA authors at both – Kimani being ALL black). I handed out the extra books I could wheedle out of authors and publishers, and I was pleased to see Gwynne Forster stopping one of the girls to whom I’d given books, and Gwynne signed hers for the girl (April was her name). I went home, found the Kimani authors’ blog, and I thought oh, good, maybe this will give them more exposure, because many of the hotel staff I’d befriended had said they didn’t even KNOW there were that many books containing AA characters.

Uh, nope. That blog didn’t even last a month after conference before it just petered out. I’d have thought that at least the AUTHORS would have supported it, but for some reason the damn thing fizzled, and…that’s sad. I came home and blogged the Kimani authors, put up a cover or two, but…no response really. Maybe if I’d blogged on Italian characters or The Olive-Skinned Shiek’s Erotic Blonde Mistress and her Secret Baby by a Native American Cowboy…in other words, maybe just stating BLACK or African American is too simple. Who knows? At any rate, I hate to see any group of authors taking a back seat as far as marketing, but damnit, instead of just voicing the problem, somebody needs to come up with some solutions. Stop bailing out without a trace and leaving whoever started the discussion, the blog, the whatever.
While I'm rambling (I've been thinking on this, if you can't tell)...I wonder what it would take to get more non-blacks reading black authors? Maybe novellas, anthologies, collections that are 'mixed', so to speak? Would you be more inclined to read an anthology if there was a mixture of black and white authors or authors you'd read and ones you hadn't, for instance? Surely, there's a solution to the shelving problems these authors have and the lack of cross-reading that needs to be bridged.

Back to Karen Scott’s blog now. She’s interviewing some really terrific authors and asking some tough questions (and getting them answered). Hope even if you don’t post here that you stop over at Karen’s and read the interviews.

Am including some covers of AA authors I hope you’ll read – you might be surprised at how much rather than how little you have in common with the authors and their characters.




At 8:17 PM, Blogger Beth said...

Checked out Karen Scott's blog and read the interviews.
What the heck is going on?
I'm wondering because the AA line of the True Magazines also "went under."
Hell, I read any good book by any good author.

At 1:12 AM, Blogger raine said...

Hope people will check out the blog. Lots of insight there.

At 3:07 PM, Blogger R2K said...

: )

At 9:05 PM, Blogger April said...

I've read a couple of books with mixed primary characters. You pose a good question... Why does it seem there's not a successful marketing plan? All good romance books and authors are vital to our industry!!

At 9:11 PM, Blogger Amie Stuart said...

I enjoyed Karen's survey results so far--they're very interesting. I think kayla (was it Kayla?) who suggested more generic covers had a good idea. I think it goes back to NY thinking they know what the reading public wants (we've seen that before *cough*).

FWIW my hero in Kink is biracial. And I've heard from another ER author that black men/white women scenarios don't go down as well as the reverse. Maybe a totally diferent topic but it's all interesting.

At 5:21 AM, Blogger Sam said...

I have no idea why the AA books are separate, I have no idea why they are labeled AA romance and not just romance books. The color of a character's skin shouldn't put the book into a separate catagory. I don't know why they should have to have a marketing plan or a special group blog. They shold be completely integrated into the romance book scene, period.

At 1:27 PM, Blogger Lyn Cash said...

Sam, I agree with you - I think it's their readers who want them separate, if I'm understanding what I've been reading at Karen's and other places.

Makes no sense, though, if those authors NEED that sort of thing that they don't band together and take responsibility for handling it themselves. There's only so much a bookseller can DO. Which...is sad that so many of their blogs (Kimani as an example) didn't work. The books I read were excellent.

According to one gal over at Karen's, white readers felt cheated if they bought a book with non-white characters, which is dumb, but...it's probably true.

Books are to entertain, enrich, and inform, IMO, plus a few other things, but I've never used one to validate me, which is what it seems the persnickety readers are wanting. I could be wrong - I was once in 1972.

--sorry--on a rant, I guess.

I actually had reverse discrimination aimed at me from a publisher years ago - lol. Had 'the phone call' and editor said that I didn't sound black. Told her I wasn't, and she said that there was no way she could publish me, then (I had an interracial family - one white sister, one black, shared the same father but different mothers). Her reason was that the readers wouldn't stand for it, a white woman at an otherwise all black booksigning, that sort of thing.

So...guess it's just across the board. Nothing against readers per se. It's just that we as writers have to cater to certain expectations or needs if we're to market ourselves well.

Again, I could be wrong. I just think it's bad form that we need to segregate ourselves. A good book is a good book is...


Ok, I'll shut up now.

At 1:30 PM, Blogger Lyn Cash said...

...and I meant HAVE, not need to segregate ourselvs. I DON'T see the need for shelving anything that's romance anywhere but with its category, or mystery or anything else...

About the time I think we've come a long way, some topic like this crops up, and I think nope, we have yet to catch up to our aspirations.


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