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Racism in Publishing

As some know, books by African American authors, regardless of genre, are often placed in the African American section of the bookstore. Part of the reason is that there is a built in audience of African American readers who want books by AA authors easy to find. Part of the reason smacks of 1960s segregation. Karen Scott is running a series of author interviews regarding race and publishing which is worth reading, just for the varying viewpoints.

An African American author shouldn’t have his or her audience limited by race. Put the authors according to the genre so that all readers can be exposed to fresh voices and finding books isn’t complicated by visiting the various continents in this bookstore. Okay, now kids, overhere we have the Asian continent where you will find books on Soduku and Kung Fu.

Edited to Add: Because some commenters can’t behave civilly, I am moderating the comments and if I believe (because I get to be the moderator) that the post is in anyway an ad hominem attack, the post gets edited, deleted and I may even ban the commenter.

Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She spends her downtime reading romances and writing about them. Her TBR pile is much larger than the one shown in the picture and not as pretty. You can reach Jane by email at jane @ dearauthor dot com

144 Comments

  1. Bev(BB)
    Mar 16, 2007 @ 16:50:17

    I haven’t had a chance to sit down and read more than one of the interviews yet – and it should tell eveyone something that I’m actually planning to make the time to do that so take note – but I have read the first one plus most of the comments up to a couple of days ago. I’m still shaking my head over the anecdote from the responding comments about the American anchor and the British interviewee, though. Oye.

    One thing I’d like to see somewhere is a list of books by plot/theme types. I’d be as happy as a clam then and could go to town picking up books. So far I’ve looked at several sites and all they do is divide them by the different ethnicities. Sorry but that doesn’t really help.

  2. AnneD
    Mar 16, 2007 @ 18:57:37

    Who gives the reasons and who asks for the segregation?

    It is becoming obivious in various countries that ‘minority’ ethnicities are taking the racism card and reversing it. Where the average person might say why do they need to be separate, that ethnicity is saying ‘we deserve a seperate section we deserve special treatment because of the colour of our skin’.

    In the USA is this minority superiority complex becoming the case, or have they just not moved out of the 60’s?

    Personally, I don’t give a crap if you are white, black or purple with green polka dots, if you write a good story i’ll read it. But I also hate reverse racism enough that I rarely browse that section, because it smacks of superiority, not minority to me. Maybe I’m just perpetuating the situation by doing that, who knows?

  3. Angelle
    Mar 16, 2007 @ 20:34:41

    As much as I like Karen and all, I really hate getting into race discussions because they will invariably attract people who’ll say something like “Only whites are racist” and whatnot, and then white people will become offended and the entire debate becomes “What is racism?” rather than focusing on the issue of shelf / section segregation.

    I’m not white or black, but I’m American, and I’ve experienced racism by whites AND blacks AND hispanics/Latinos. I’ve seen racism committed by Asians too. You don’t have to be the majority to be racist.

    Furthermore putting books with black characters is a separate section could be a business decision made by bookstores OR publishers or both. Some of the justifications used is that their AA-reading customers asked for it because they don’t want to browse other sections, which you gotta admit are really large. (I sometimes feel lost browsing genre sections at B&N whenever I’m in the States.)

  4. TeddyPig
    Mar 16, 2007 @ 20:55:26

    Oh no, this old race card chestnut AGAIN!

    I’m with AnneD,

    From what I have seen proven on this board and the simple but provable fact that as a gay man I cannot for the life of me tell what the hell color or race or gender or whatever the author is when I read their book… WELL, that leads me to believe only the extremist are wanting to remain extreme. A hidden agenda if you will… A fart in the punch bowl.

    Great idea in that even bad publicity and horrendous public behavior and even worse, racist diatribes and hate for your own people, will get a crappy useless waste of space author noticed.

  5. Jan
    Mar 16, 2007 @ 21:25:42

    I can’t say that I agree that putting African American books in an African American section is caused by racism, though it may be in some cases. It’s more likely just a marketing decision that’s the result of studies done showing where certain books see the most sell through. Bookstores, at least chain bookstores are set up quite particularly, much like grocery stores, so that books are in places where they’ll sell best, though of course individual managers retain some of their own say in this. But romance for example, a huge seller, is often set far from the door so people who buy it have to walk past all kinds of sale items to get it. I don’t think Barnes and Noble and Borders and such care what you are as long as your book sells.

    I think the better argument might be that buyer habit is what’s limiting the exposure for these authors. If the buyers who shop the romance shelves request these books be placed there, then they’ll start seeing them there.

  6. Teddy Pig
    Mar 16, 2007 @ 21:39:36

    Oh Monica! Mz Jackson… Here honey!

    I am waiting.

  7. Lara
    Mar 17, 2007 @ 09:13:37

    Even if there are market studies or sales analyses that support the practice, separating art–by the ethnicity of its creator especially–is insulting to all. But something seems very rotten in Denmark when we don’t have special sections of our bookstores devoted to every ethnic classification under the sun. Yes, that would be ludicrous, so why is it acceptable to single out this particular segment of literature?

    I doubt very much that you’d find a lot (or even a few) black authors–genre writers or not–who would *insist* their works be shelved by separate criteria from anyone else’s, even less when the separation is based on nothing more than skin color. And to suggest that it’s done for the benefit of readers so they don’t accidentally buy something they didn’t intend to seems a flimsy argument to me. Fiction is fiction. Every author deserves the same chance at reaching new readers, just as every reader deserves to have her choices presented to her without this sort of superficial bias.

    I like Jan’s suggestion that readers start requesting to see more African American romance novels shelved in Romance. Maybe if enough of us point out the obvious, we might see some improvements.

  8. Jan
    Mar 17, 2007 @ 09:35:01

    [quote comment="24745"]why is it acceptable to single out this particular segment of literature?[/quote]

    Over on Karen Scott’s blog, Lynn Emory’s survey response explains why AA literature was singled out this way:

    “But let me say that back in the day blacks who were activists fought for bookstores first to carry our books, then to increase the number and variety of AA books on sale, then to give AA studies (serious non-fiction on Civil Rights and other race issues) a separate section. So I don’t think the origins of separate shelving is like the “Colored Only” signs back in the day. But now it’s time to move away from it.”

    According to her, the separate shelving came out of the civil rights movement and bookstore owners probably capitalized on AA attention toward those sections by placing other AA books of interest there. Today it probably continues out of habit, both buyer and bookstore owner. But as she said, it’s time to move on and get these authors onto the mainstream shelves where they belong.

  9. Lara
    Mar 17, 2007 @ 09:46:08

    Ah! I wondered if the separation might have stemmed from the Civil Rights era and some sort of “black studies/non-fic” classification that eventually grew to encompass *all* AA works. Time to update the definitions and shelve fiction accordingly.

  10. TeddyPig
    Mar 17, 2007 @ 10:04:26

    Well guys I go to Gay Bookstores almost exclusively.
    Why? Because it focuses on one specialty topic that concerns me.

    And it is all about me. I am a pig ya know.

    That’s all there is to it. They make buck doing that too.

    So who the hell cares if these authors want to stay in their own section?
    Are they honestly saying they do not want to but they are forced to and who buys that argument?

    Does anyone here really believe for one minute some publisher in their right mind…

    Would say NO to the author wanting to remain segregated or “go mainstream”?
    Say NO, if that is where the author is making the money?
    Say NO, if that made them “the publisher and the book store” look good to those buyers wanting to feel they are being superior and activist in some way from buying in that segregated area.

    I grew up reading Samuel R Delany and Octavia Butler because they were damn good science fiction writers first and foremost. They sparked my imagination not some need to be follow them because of their skin color.

    What is really funny is that for years I thought Zenna Henderson was black because of her very good “People” series The People: No Different Flesh.

    Boy was I off.

  11. Jan
    Mar 17, 2007 @ 10:57:14

    The authors on Karen Scott’s blog who responded to her survey said they want to be in the mainstream sections and bookstores aren’t putting them there even when they request it. That’s why the argument came up. If anyone wants to stay there of course they should. Frankly I think it would be wisest of them to be stocked in both sections, so they hit general and specialty buyers, but that’s probably beyond the capabilties of bookstore owners.

    But you bring up an interesting point. I too grew up on Delaney and Butler, but I didn’t know they were black until in my later teens. Their books were in the science fiction sections. And the covers were science fiction covers.

    If they had had black spacemen on the covers would bookstores have shelved them in the AA section? Quite possibly. And would I have missed them then? Probably. I wouldn’t have even thought to look in another section for science fiction. And I bet most romance readers wouldn’t know there was romance shelved elsewhere to even try it, and that loses AA romance authors some sales and exposure.

    Who knows, they might lose more though if moved from the AA section to the general romance section, because people searching specifically for AA romances would have trouble finding them. Perhaps a happy medium would be to have an AA subsection next to romances. At bookstores near me, series books are separated this way so they’re easy to find. I wouldn’t think it would be that difficult a thing to maintain.

  12. TeddyPig
    Mar 17, 2007 @ 11:04:04

    But Jan,

    It keeps coming back to WHY?

    What is the underlying issues at work here?
    Money? Most likely.

    Why is this even a big deal? Did these authors set out to classify themselves into a narrow bin to begin with and are now complaining that they did not get something for that decision they thought they should? I keep hearing faint echos of entitlement where none has been earned. That to me is a red flag.

    If you write your ass off and it shows… Would anyone in this very greedy industry take issue making more money off what they wrote selling them however they wanted to be sold?

  13. Jan
    Mar 17, 2007 @ 11:54:22

    Well, yes, I think that money drives almost everything in publishing. But I also think that if stores/publishers are making money by doing one thing, they’re reluctant to try another without proof that it will make more (the old “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it” deal). They won’t react well to Author A saying ‘put me here’ and Author B saying ‘I want this section’, when they’re all the same genre. That’s difficult to keep track of. I mean, look at how hard Harlan Ellison has had to fight to be shelved in mainstream, and they *still* put him in sf at my local B&N.

    I don’t think these authors set out to be stuck in the AA romance section, but were just put there out of habit by the bookstores.

    You are entirely right though when you say they benefited from this and now want a change. I suppose it’s not honest if they don’t admit the benefits, but the women on Karen’s survey seem to be saying it’s good but they want to move on. And is that really such a bad thing?

    I have read the sentiments of writers elsewhere who do shriek of entitlement and that makes me roll my eyes and ignore them, because those who do that tend to suck. But three of the four surveys I read were rational and made sense to me, and just seemed to want to increase their sales and audience and suggested sensible ways to do it. To me that’s the right approach to change.

    The whiners never get it, and who gives a crap about them? I don’t. But the others who want to make a change, them I’ll listen to and support.

  14. TeddyPig
    Mar 17, 2007 @ 12:46:54

    Right Jan,

    Harlan Ellison was an excellent point…

    The sad part of this whole topic of trying to switch book aisles to me is not that just BLACK writers have problems with book stores and publishers and readers every day of the week. Hell, no matter what race creed or color you are, ALL writers are having the same issues.

    So why do people need to use the race card to play that blame game with this topic?

    I read about that recent court victory by Millenia Black. It struck me that besides the facts that the publisher did use racially specific marketing on her without her permission, that everyone has gotten treated badly in some way by the publishers from what I have heard. So what makes her case more special than anyone else’s? Race.

    I really question if the framing of the argument racially though it was a very good legal maneuver to win the case no matter what, but maybe it was a bad move to the integrity of the “not that unique” issues it brought up for any writer.

    Maybe for more honest input on these issues a move away from race would be more constructive and sound less like a question of entitlement.

  15. TeddyPig
    Mar 17, 2007 @ 12:53:39

    Oh shit, I just gave away a valid counter claim for the penalty phase.

    DAMN!

  16. Anonymous
    Mar 18, 2007 @ 00:53:37

    I notice the race discussion goes swimmingly as long as blacks don’t appear with their point of view. God forbid!

    Why do you tolerate Teddy Pig, who is probably as fake as his/her thrown-up-in-day or two and never since updated website?

    It seems his/her raison d’etre is to hate on Monica Jackson, without whom the race issue in romance now widely discussed would probably continue to be ignored.

    Teddy Pig obviously has some personal issues with her but is too much of a babygirl to take it up with her and instead relies on ignorant and baseless attacks in front of other folks who share his/her sentiments.

    Seems kinda sick to me. You know if any black author came here talking that kind of evil, racist crap and carried on some personal beef against a specific author, dearauthor would ban them in a heartbeat.

  17. Teddy Pig
    Mar 18, 2007 @ 01:36:46

    Hey Monica!

    Great to see you!

  18. Anonymous
    Mar 18, 2007 @ 02:39:56

    Hasn’t Monica Jackson posted on this site before? And this a blog that obviously detests her and would out her in a hot second.

    Poor Teddy Pig is obviously too stupid to know such a thing as an IP exists.

  19. Teddy Pig
    Mar 18, 2007 @ 02:57:03

    Troll starts with a T dear.

  20. Karen Scott
    Mar 18, 2007 @ 06:17:26

    So who the hell cares if these authors want to stay in their own section?
    Are they honestly saying they do not want to but they are forced to and who buys that argument?

    Teddypig, are you kidding me? Who the hell cares?

    Well, the authors for one.

    In every single survey that I’ve read so far, all of the authors have indicated that their books are currently shelved in the AA section, regardless of whether they write, crime books, or romance books. How is that fair?

    The point is, they want to reach a much wider audience, and how can they do that when they’re all lumped under one section.

    When I go looking for a romance, I don’t look anywhere other than the romance section, and I think you’ll find that most people do the same.

    Your comments are awfully dismissive, and doesn’t do anything to further the discussion at all. If this is about Monica Jackson, you need to say so, and not take pot shots at her under the guise of disagreeing with the topic.

    Oh no, this old race card chestnut AGAIN!

    TP, one could say the same thing about the gay card could we not? In a lot of your comments, you always cite your homosexuality, when giving examples of situations which are relevant to the discussion. If you’re a black person, and you feel undermined, then invariably, that’s always going to be at the forefront of your mind. For you to be so dismissive of it, kind of underpins the arguments that a lot of these authors make.

    If you wanna call Monica a bitch, go ahead, she’s big enough to take it, but don’t rubbish this whole issue, because I guarantee, if you were a black author, experiencing the same things as these authors were, you too would be crying foul.

    You may love the exclusivity of gay and lesbian bookstores, but I’m betting that a lot of authors who write gay and lesbian books, would also like for their books to be in mainstream arena, so that they can reach a much wider audience.

    The fact that so many independent gay bookshops are on the brink of closing, tells me that there aren’t enough people, gay or otherwise, buying books from those shops. Like the AA authors, greater success is far more achievable, if G & L books are marketed to a wider audience.

    The Pink Pound is fantastic, but seeing as the gay community only represent a small percentage of the book buying public, these authors know that Walmart and Barnes & Noble are the way forward.

    Why do you think so many L&G authors have succumbed to the Mighty Dollar, and gone mainstream?

  21. Karen Scott
    Mar 18, 2007 @ 06:33:45

    By the way, if a gay man or woman wrote a romance that didn’t necessarily feature a gay couple, I would expect them to be shelved in the romance section, not the gay section.

    Just as shelving by colour isn’t right, shelving according to the sexual orientation of the author, doesn’t sit right with me at all.

    There’s nothing wrong with having a section called Lesbian And Gay History, or Black History, because the shelving of those books would be content-led, rather than colour, or sexual orientation-led.

    Do you see the difference?

  22. Teddy Pig
    Mar 18, 2007 @ 07:22:09

    Karen,

    Did you read a dang thing I said? I said pretty clearly that this issue is not about race but the fact all authors including science fiction writers experience the same thing. To couch this in simplistic terms as treatment based on race is dishonest. If you are in one aisle of the book store it is hard to get reclassified.

    You may love the exclusivity of gay and lesbian bookstores, but I’m betting that a lot of authors who write gay and lesbian books, would also like for their books to be in mainstream arena, so that they can reach a much wider audience.

    Right but Karen I do not go writing under a pen name books to sell exclusively to Gay Bookstores or that I know will sit in the Gay Studies section and then expect that everyone else should accept me mainstream. In other words if I write myself into a specific market I do not go crying when I want to write other things, I GET A DAMN NEW PEN NAME.

    If you wanna call Monica a bitch, go ahead, she’s big enough to take it

    Oh I doubt it Karen unless you are black enough to meet her standards to have actually experience prejudice in her little mind, shall I quote Monica from her last visit here on the board

    As the lone black in a majority white school, there is a lot of racial pressure on black students that I don’t see Asians experiencing. They seem to just act as if they’re white too and most accept it.

    or when she told another commenter who simply questioned her…

    You can submit to the romance houses and leave race out and it will be assumed you’re not black if you’re light enough as your pic attests you’re are.

    Monica does like her cross and her brown paper bag test and hates to share the spotlight of oppression with other minorities.

  23. Devon
    Mar 18, 2007 @ 07:32:11

    Great comments Karen!

    Actually, in NY area bookstores, right next to the AA section is the Gay and Lesbian section which stocks the full range from historical studies to poetry to S&M erotica. Once again, these sections at one time had a purpose: to highlight works by different groups, and to make these works easier to find. But these days it seems to ensure a certain…marginalization. If I were looking for non-fiction on a related topic I would go to these sections, but other types of literature should be with their genres, it just makes more sense.

    I must say I did find that the AA and GLBT sections were not easy to find in a quick scan of the bookstore. Perhaps it was just an accident of design, but in light of past comments I’ve read it was interesting.

    And Latinos and Asian Americans only got a couple of shelves each, and they were all pretty much non-fic. Just FYI.

    Anyhow, I see no need to be needlessly belligerent. All authors, regardless of race, gender, religion, sexuality, what have you deserve to have their work available to as wide an audience as they want. If they want to remain in a specific niche, that’s fine, but I don’t see why they can’t protest if they think they would be better off elsewhere.

  24. Karen Scott
    Mar 18, 2007 @ 07:39:49

    Right but Karen I do not go writing under a pen name books to sell exclusively to Gay Bookstores or that I know will sit in the Gay Studies section and then expect that everyone else should accept me mainstream.

    So just so I understand, are you saying that these romance authors are writing exclusively for the black community, and so, should not expect white people to read their books?

    If that is indeed what you’re saying, then, A, how do you classify ‘writing oneself into a corner?’ Does having black characters in a book count?

    These are romance writers, some of them write inter-racial romance, others write romance books between two black people, others write romances with white protagonists. Are you saying that white people aren’t interested in black people falling in love?

    Because if you are, then by that same token, heterosexual women wouldn’t be interested in two men falling in love, because they themselves aren’t gay. And we know that that aint so.

  25. Teddy Pig
    Mar 18, 2007 @ 07:48:39

    Actually, in NY area bookstores, right next to the AA section is the Gay and Lesbian section which stocks the full range from historical studies to poetry to S&M erotica. Once again, these sections at one time had a purpose: to highlight works by different groups, and to make these works easier to find. But these days it seems to ensure a certain-marginalization.

    Finally someone noticed! Yes were in the next section down quite often.

    Marginalized by the writing, the subject matter, or the location?
    I go to Gay book stores for that focus so I buy from people writing to that section. Some are even on certain bestseller lists. So I find it interesting how it is so marginalized.

  26. Teddy Pig
    Mar 18, 2007 @ 07:52:08

    So just so I understand, are you saying that these romance authors are writing exclusively for the black community, and so, should not expect white people to read their books?

    If that is indeed what you’re saying, then, A, how do you classify ‘writing oneself into a corner?’ Does having black characters in a book count?

    I am saying what publisher are you selling your books to, do they specialize in this market, and where are they kept in the store.

    It is easy to check before you decide to sell to them.

  27. Teddy Pig
    Mar 18, 2007 @ 07:55:00

    Because if you are, then by that same token, heterosexual women wouldn’t be interested in two men falling in love, because they themselves aren’t gay. And we know that that aint so.

    Nows there is a good point a little off subject but oh well.

    Why is it the straight women always write the better gay romance novels? Anne Proulx is not a gay man. I never did get that.

  28. Karen Scott
    Mar 18, 2007 @ 07:56:59

    Did you read a dang thing I said? I said pretty clearly that this issue is not about race but the fact all authors including science fiction writers experience the same thing.

    Then you’ve clearly not been reading anything that’s been said. If an author gets put in the science fiction section, instead of crime/suspense, that’s mislabelling, but it’s mislabelling by book content, not by colour. It’s a pain in the arse for the author, but at least they know that the colour of their skin had nothing to do with it.

    It really isn’t the same as an AA author getting put into the AA section just because, she herself is black. Not the same thing at all, and if you think it is, then I give up on you.

    Oh I doubt it Karen unless you are black enough to meet her standards to have actually experience prejudice in her little mind, shall I quote Monica from her last visit here on the board

    But TP, Monica hasn’t responded on this thread, but you still felt the need to attack her needlessly. I suspected this was more about Monica Jackson, and I haven’t been proven wrong yet have I?

    Regardless of how you personally feel about Monica Jackson, this issue is bigger than her, and you shouldn’t let your dislike of her, influence your thoughts on this issue.

  29. Teddy Pig
    Mar 18, 2007 @ 08:07:16

    Karen,

    It really isn’t the same as an AA author getting put into the AA section just because, she herself is black. Not the same thing at all, and if you think it is, then I give up on you.

    I am saying it really really is the same and it has nothing to do with your skin color because I do not read based on an authors picture or bio.
    I have yet to have a publisher ask me my color or my sexual orientation unless I present myself that way.

  30. Devon
    Mar 18, 2007 @ 08:59:22

    Marginalized by the writing, the subject matter, or the location?
    I go to Gay book stores for that focus so I buy from people writing to that section. Some are even on certain bestseller lists. So I find it interesting how it is so marginalized.

    Marginalized by location. Separating a person’s work, based upon a criteria such as race or sexuality is going to exclude them from “the mainstream”. As I mentioned before, if a person wants to remain in a particular niche or wants to only be carried, in, say, a gay bookstore, that’s fine. But I don’t see what’s wrong with authors wanting their work being marketed to a wider audience. And if we’re speaking about gay subject matter, quite often bestsellers by gay authors or with gay subject matter have been given quite a bit of press in more mainstream media.

    Should Clive Barker be placed in GLBT rather than Horror because he’s gay? I think he might object to that.

    I am saying it really really is the same and it has nothing to do with your skin color because I do not read based on an authors picture or bio.

    You may not read a book based upon a person color, but if you have to go to a section which defines the author’s work by their skin color in order to find them, then there’s no way you can tell me that race is not a factor. It may not matter what color Octavia Butler’s skin is because she writes damn good sci fi, but if I can only find her in AA rather than Sci Fi, than that damn well means her race is significant to someone who is a making marketing and purcasing decisions.

  31. Teddy Pig
    Mar 18, 2007 @ 09:10:06

    Then do what every other author has done when they do not like how they are marketed packaged or ignored FIND ANOTHER PUBLISHER.
    If you do not like how you are being categorized in the readers or book buyers mind use another Pen Name.

    This has all been done before.
    You are making it sound like they actually ask you what race, color, or sexual preference you are when you send in a manuscript.

  32. Tara Marie
    Mar 18, 2007 @ 09:23:39

    It’s a catch 22, it doesn’t matter whether it’s AA or Gay novels as long as publishers and booksellers view these authors/books as belonging to a niche market instead of the general market they will continue being separated.

    We as readers interested in these books will find them in their separate sections, so as long as we walk across the bookstore and find them this probably isn’t going to change, it continues to feed the niche market concept.

    If the publishers and booksellers were smart they would shelve them in both sections as they would keep the niche market and expand their marketability in the larger market.

    So, the question is how do we as consumers get this to happen?

  33. Teddy Pig
    Mar 18, 2007 @ 09:27:57

    Well I guess I could stop going to Gay book stores… HAH!

    Niche marketing is too ingrained. The only way to change it is to make it MORE profitable to change it.

  34. Tara Marie
    Mar 18, 2007 @ 09:48:17

    Well I guess I could stop going to Gay book stores- HAH!

    Niche marketing is too ingrained. The only way to change it is to make it MORE profitable to change it.

    Please, no giving up on Gay bookstores, because there’s nothing wrong with niche marketing, realistically on a financial level it works.

    But, ultimately the goal is to mainstream these authors/books and that wont happen until the publishers realize the mainstream market is already buying them and it would buy even more if they were more accessible.

    My local UBS has separate time-travel, Betty Neel, Diana Palmer and Nora Roberts sections because there are readers that come in only looking for these works, but she also seeds the main romance sections with their works too.

  35. Devon
    Mar 18, 2007 @ 09:48:51

    I think we’re arguing two different things here, Teddy Pig.

    Now, I may be wrong, but what you seem to be saying is that if an author chooses to be published by a company or particular imprint that specializes in AA or GLBT that they should expect niche marketing. If they go to a different press then they won’t get shelved in the AA section. But the sections I looked at have a wide variety of publishers represented. All that the books have in common is that they feature AA characters (often) and, most likely the authors themselves are AA. So I’m not sure how changing publishers will affect how they get shelved in Borders. The publishers decide where the book is getting shelved?

    I am not an author. I am a reader and a librarian. As a librarian, we are often concerned with deciding how a book should be catalogued and shelved. We make those decisions with the mindset that where we put the book will provide the easiest access to the most people. If a book is put in AA rather than romance it is telegraphing a certain message.

    And Tara Marie, that is the big question, how to change it.

  36. Teddy Pig
    Mar 18, 2007 @ 10:00:27

    Devon,

    I am saying you and others keep harping on AA this and AA that and keep telling me there is no options.
    Yet authors I respect whom I may not even know their race or color keep showing me as I am gaining experience in writing that there are tons.
    I for one, be it ever so Polly Anna thing… If you are a good writer you will not have any problems using those options different Pen Names, different publishers etc etc to the fullest extent.

    It’s an old punk rock attitude of mine but here is what I have learned in life. If you want something bad enough FUCK EM AND LIE!

    Just make sure your mouth can cash that check.

  37. Robin
    Mar 18, 2007 @ 10:29:46

    there’s nothing wrong with niche marketing, realistically on a financial level it works.

    Which is why, IMO, it continues. Unfortunately, it DOES marginalize AA writers from the mainstream Romance community, and that marginalization shows up very clearly as an issue of race. Is it racist, per se? That’s where I think we can have an argument that has valid points on both sides of the issue. But there’s no denying that the category of race becomes entrenched while publishers stick with what they believe works the best for their profit margins. That some AA readers also want the books separated adds to the problem, as does the incredible resistance on the part of publishers (and booksellers?) to take a risk that, while seemingly small to us, somehow lands beyond the range of what they are willing or see fit to do. I agree that these books should be double (maybe triple, depending on the sub-genre) shelved. Then, though, it’s going to take some patience before you can accurately determine whether readers are picking them up off both shelves. You can’t, for example, try it for a month, or maybe even a year, and then say, “well, that failed — back to the segregated shelving.” These books will need a while to mainstream, and publishers, readers, authors, etc, will have to promote them as mainstreamed, too, IMO.

  38. TeddyPig
    Mar 18, 2007 @ 10:53:30

    I think this whole conversation does not take into account a major upcoming player in book buying. Amazon.com and Borders.com

    It is all shmushed in there. Every book you can imagine and it’s all searchable and accessible to anyone with a computer and an internet connection.

    I think the groundwork as been laid to test your ideas of everyone in the same pool even though I think writers for the most part benefit from the specialized attention of these maybe sometime arbitrary classifications (or why would they continue to write?) and the times of the local bookstore may not be long for this world anyway.

    Everyone will have to pick up this fight over at the Walmart and Safeway sales counter.

  39. Tara Marie
    Mar 18, 2007 @ 12:16:50

    …Which is why, IMO, it continues. Unfortunately, it DOES marginalize AA writers from the mainstream Romance community, and that marginalization shows up very clearly as an issue of race. Is it racist, per se?

    Without a doubt it does marginalize AA writers, but I think you’re right to question Is it racist, per se? It’s particularly interesting considering there are AA authors that prefer being market to their niche audience. But is it racism or profits that drive this? I can’t really answer that. Maybe it’s naive of me but I still see publishers as profit seekers first and foremost.

    But once again what can we as consumers do? We can buy the books, but if we shop at stores that separate them then it continues the marginalization that we’re trying to stop.

    So what’s the answer? Shop on-line or at bookstores that don’t segregate? Complain to the management of individual stores? Write the corporate headquarters? E-mail them to death? I already do the first two, but can’t imagine the last two would work without some sort of organized campaign.

  40. Teddy Pig
    Mar 18, 2007 @ 12:24:02

    Tara,

    I think it is important to state your opinions no matter what it is.
    They are most effective with the shops.

    but…

    From what I am looking to do in my work (Gay Romance) is to work that niche marketing even if I work with publishers that are mostly geared toward straight romance.

    I am not afraid of the margins, if they are profit margins that is.

  41. Teddy Pig
    Mar 18, 2007 @ 12:27:13

    You call it segregation and I’ll call it a unique and exclusive leveraging technique with known shop space and a dedicated audience.

  42. Teddy Pig
    Mar 18, 2007 @ 12:28:54

    Yes Jane, I know I know I am evil.

  43. Jane
    Mar 18, 2007 @ 12:30:31

    But if an AA author doesn’t want the advantage or disadvantage of niche marketing, she can’t get out of it. She can’t force a bookstore to shelve her with the general romance writers and just because she is black or just because her characters are black doesn’t mean she wants niche marketing and nor should she be required to be niche marketed.

  44. Teddy Pig
    Mar 18, 2007 @ 12:43:41

    Jane,

    If you take what you consider to be “a poison pill” the first time by allowing your books and your pen name to be marketed that way then why are you complaining about it after the fact?

    I still say change your pen name and find a new publisher… all better.

  45. Robin
    Mar 18, 2007 @ 12:49:08

    Maybe it’s naive of me but I still see publishers as profit seekers first and foremost.

    I think they are, and in some ways, this can be a good thing, because it means they will promote a best-selling author regardless of whether that author is black, white, gay, straight, or a bitch from hell, IF the profits are there. But even if the intentions aren’t racist or discriminatory, the *effect* can be, and I think that’s where the debate gets interesting. Now, I’m not saying that publishers aren’t necessarily *discriminatory*, and it just so happens that discrimination on the basis of race is what’s called a “suspect category” in the law (and therefore more highly scrutinized), thus a lawsuit like Millenia Black’s. But segregation, which is what I think we’re talking about here, isn’t always racist or discriminatory per se, either, which is where things get all muddled up. When is segregation discriminatory? When is it racist? At what point does something have racist or discriminatory effects, even if its intention isn’t racist? I think that’s why this is such a tough topic — because it seems to lie on a lot of boundaries rather than race right across them to an easy identification and solution.

  46. Tara Marie
    Mar 18, 2007 @ 12:54:12

    But if an AA author doesn’t want the advantage or disadvantage of niche marketing, she can’t get out of it.

    And there’s the problem in a nutshell. But on the consumer end all we can do is talk with our dollars, and I question if that’s even possible.

    If you take what you consider to be “a poison pill" the first time by allowing your books and your pen name to be marketed that way then why are you complaining about it after the fact?

    TP aren’t you over simplifying it. How many publishers are giving them the option to be marketed elsewhere? And unless they’re already a best seller who is even going to give them a chance? And honestly do authors have that much say into where their work is shelved?

    Didn’t we have a similar discussion about SF/Fantasy and Paranormal romanc?

  47. Teddy Pig
    Mar 18, 2007 @ 12:54:52

    There is a very well known Gay Male BDSM author who wrote a series of what are considered classic Drummer Stories in the 70’s and 80’s.

    He now is a successful writer of Straight Romance under a womans pen name last I heard.

    Now how does that work? I mean he is a gay man.
    Several women sci-fi writers including Andre Norton started by assuming male pen names.

    You are not recreating the wheel here.

  48. Ro
    Mar 18, 2007 @ 13:22:03

    Teddy, I don’t know if someone has told you this yet, but it’s hard for find other publishers because they tend to be published under one imprint–regardless of the genre of the book. These imprints are staffed only by black people–as though non-blacks would be unable to edit, market, and design covers for the black authors.

    Isn’t that segregation before the books even reach the shelves?

    I think an author even said that her contracts have specifically stated that she was to write “African-American” romances–in print, meaning that she must turn in romance manuscripts with African-American leads, nothing else. What if a black author wanted to write whatever she wanted to the way non-black authors are? That’s what happened with Millenia Black–she wrote white(or colorless) characters and because she was black, her publisher tried to force her to change their ethnicity.

    Niches exist for a reason: some people want the comfort of being able to find books written by their ethnicity about characters of their ethnicity without fear of them influenced by media stereotypes and negative portrayals. But the heart of the topic is why should ALL writers of a certain race be pushed into that niche if they don’t want to?

    For all the hoopla the romance genre causes over “outsiders” stereotyping and ignoring the genre, I always wonder why this branch of the genre is treated exactly the way the entire genre is treated. Whenever erotic romance is jeered at there always seems to be plenty of support(as well as the rebuttal of “if you’ve never read them how can you judge them?”), so why can’t we give support to this topic without assuming people are playing the race card? Sure the methods of some authors may offend you, but isn’t there always a faction of the cause that rub people the wrong way? (e.g.: militant suffragists & non-militant suffragists; Malcolm X & Dr King; Gandhi & Bose, etc)

  49. Jane
    Mar 18, 2007 @ 13:31:09

    Now how does that work? I mean he is a gay man.
    Several women sci-fi writers including Andre Norton started by assuming male pen names.

    You are not recreating the wheel here.

    Frankly I think you are missing the point. If an AA author chooses to write about AA people, it will be placed in the AA section whether she wishes it so or not. and that is not fair to her nor to the readers of the genre in which she writes.

    If an AA author chooses to write about white people and then must hide her identity in order to do this to be marketed to the general romance genre, it smacks of the “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” policy which is wrong for so many reasons.

    Essentially, AA authors have two choices. Write about AA people and have a niche audience. Write about non AA people, hide your race and maybe you’ll be marketed same as every other author in your genre.

    This isn’t fair.

  50. TeddyPig
    Mar 18, 2007 @ 14:01:45

    Jane, since you read sci-fi here are some examples, a list of some female authors who have written under male pen names…

    C. J. Cherryh
    C. L. Moore
    P. D. James “Oops, no that is mystery”
    Zane “Erotica”
    Marion Zimmer Bradley
    Andre Norton

    You could even say J.K. Rowling

    Jane, Let me tell you from experience. Life is not fair. You make the best of it and do what you have to in order to overcome those obstacles that you see as stopping you from doing what you want. You just have to hope people will wise up and see and buy your books.

    I think I have brought up many many examples of real people who have done what they wanted without a lot of activism or court orders. Their examples are far more effective to me at least in showing the strength to overcome adversity. They affected the very way I grew up and the way I live my life and the things I have done. They are more than writers to me Jane, they are examples of what is possible despite those who would stop you.

    I served this country for 10 years Jane even though I am a gay man. I unfortunately became HIV positive the last 6 years of that time and that “don’t ask don’t tell” thing in the early 90’s did not keep them from verbally abusing your ass and making it quite clear I was a fag who was not wanted anymore. I knew I was a gay man when I lied to them to get in to prove myself, it was not that much of a shock that they would turn even on a 4.0 sailor despite my hard work and effort.

    I did not do things the easy way. I have never expected too cry on peoples shoulders to get what I want.

    But… I find a way to do it and I make it happen.
    So maybe I am a hard ass Jane but I expect people to use the options, the tactics, the examples, shown to them by these successful writers.

    Not bitch about having to work for it.

  51. Kate R
    Mar 18, 2007 @ 14:51:47

    For anyone wondering about publishers’ motivations. Why do publishers do anything? For the big ones, it’s all about money. They’re big business and so that’s completely appropriate.

    Obviously if AA sections are still out in bookstores, the lines are drawing a respectable audience. It doesn’t take long for the big name publishers to cut the lifeline on money-losing propositions. (Though it’s a time-proven truth that they usually wait until I’ve gotten a requested full to the line before they do.)

    I’m on about the stuff over at my blog and I think the responses I’m getting are great, with particularly interesting ones from Sara Dennis and Monica Jackson. Teddypig? I love you and your posts (the ones over at SBTB, I mean) but, be very afraid…I’m seriously rolling my eyes at you.

    And I wish Latina line writers would put in their two cents somewhere.

    xxoo

  52. Teddy Pig
    Mar 18, 2007 @ 15:19:13

    Well,

    Hey, I stated what I think of Monica as a racist freak. I meant it. She has yet to apologize to the people she has so readily insulted on this board so the hell if I will stop kicking her ass verbally.

    I have already supported my argument several times. The most I have gotten back is one court case and a lot of supposition with no hard facts.

    Until then, from the other intelligent responses to this subject here and some of the supportive emails I have received today in particular about Monica Jackson. Hey, I am not alone.

  53. Miki
    Mar 18, 2007 @ 16:02:54

    Interestingly, my UBS just recently created an “AA” section, after pulling all the books from the general sections of the store.

    When I asked why (in my mind because of the conversations here, on Karen’s blog, and – where I first started seeing them – on AAR), the clerk said customers asked for it. (Don’t know if this makes a difference, but this particular UBS is near a large State college).

    So far, the only “AA” author I noticed still having books in the general section (may also be in the new section) is Beverly Jenkins. There may be others – I certainly wouldn’t claim to be an authority on this topic!

  54. Robin
    Mar 18, 2007 @ 16:15:59

    I think it’s too bad that Monica Jackson has become a scapegoat for “everything bad about race-related discussions,” because a) she doesn’t deserve it, and b) it can become a convenient reason to avoid discussion of something that SHOULD make us uncomfortable. But who likes to talk about uncomfortable stuff, right, especially when it seems so much more than anyone can solve?

    Anyway, I think the dispute here has to do with the fact that Teddy Pig is focusing on individual actions within the industry and his “opponents” (for lack of a better word) are focusing on systemic patterns. And the things is, both sides have merit. People absolutely CAN transcend the limits that the outside world tries to place on them. And systems of segregation CAN limit people from transcending. To some degree, it’s the transcenders and the challengers who help change the systemic patterns, so I don’t like to discourage people from continuing to fight at that systemic level. Because those are often the folks who open the door for the individual who creates and is provided with circumstances that allow him or her to transcend certain perceived limits. Not everyone can and will transcend, of course, for a myriad of reasons, some of which are circumstantial and others of which are personal. And just because some do transcend, it doesn’t mean there aren’t still systemic barriers in place that hold others back. And, of course, not all systemic barriers exist because only the “oppressor” is keeping them there — at some level we all have to cooperate with a system to keep it in working order, even if we deem it a bad system. It’s, you know, one of those symbiotic deals.

  55. Teddy Pig
    Mar 18, 2007 @ 16:24:36

    Robin,

    a) she doesn’t deserve it, and b) it can become a convenient reason to avoid discussion of something that SHOULD make us uncomfortable.

    About defending Monica. I would really find better friends who do not make racist comments about other minorities passing for white. It sorta blows your case.

  56. Miki
    Mar 18, 2007 @ 16:25:16

    I tried to post this on Karen’s blog a few days ago, but it never showed up. (Had a network hiccup at the same time, so I suspect that was the cause, and not that Karen was censoring my posts, by the way). ;)

    I’ll admit freely that I was one of those people who seldom gave books with black characters on the cover more than a passing glance. I made an assumption – stupid, I know, and I’ve had to face it – they’d be full of “ghetto-talk” or anti-white talk, or even just too “heavy” in dealing with social issues. (Usually with romance, I don’t want “heavy”).

    I had started visiting the AAR forums a few months ago and Monica was posting fairly regularly there at the time about this issue. She made me think (and see the assumptions I was making), so when my favorite ebooks sites had “characters of color” on the cover, I made a point to read those descriptions and not pass them by without giving them a chance.

    Bought a few. Then a few more. My TBR pile being what it is, I’ve only managed to read a few of them so far. But I’m finding it’s like anything else in publishing. I like some. Some I don’t. How ’bout that?

    The hardest thing for me is that I seldom buy new-to-me authors without some kind of recommendation any more. I’ve just been burned too often. So it’s hard to know what to try, what to buy, because they’re all new to me!

    Which goes back to what I first started reading about from Monica…how to get the word out to the more general public! Since I buy most new books electronically, I have the advantage of just reading the “New Releases” pages at Fictionwise.com, eReader.com, or SimonSaysShops.com. The new releases are all jumbled together, regardless of genre, and I just skim the lists for books that sound interesting.

    Anyway, I just wanted to say thank you to Monica, Karen, the Ja(y)nes here…thanks for risking the sniping and kvetching that always seems to come up with this topic. You’ve helped to open the mind of at least one reader.

  57. Teddy Pig
    Mar 18, 2007 @ 16:26:11

    At least that is what the good people emailing me are hot about.

  58. Devon
    Mar 18, 2007 @ 16:43:14

    I think this whole conversation does not take into account a major upcoming player in book buying. Amazon.com and Borders.com

    It is all shmushed in there. Every book you can imagine and it’s all searchable and accessible to anyone with a computer and an internet connection.

    You’ve got a point there. Even though I prefer to browse bookstores physically, taking away the spatial dimension does make a difference I think. The act of searching for a book is different. One thing that I greatly enjoy about browsing epubs like EC or LS is that I can pull up books by genres or themes (fantasy, contemporary, BDSM) etc. and get a selection quickly and easily. Don’t have to wander all over.

    C. J. Cherryh
    C. L. Moore
    P. D. James “Oops, no that is mystery"
    Zane “Erotica"
    Marion Zimmer Bradley
    Andre Norton

    Hate to get technical, but except for Andre Norton, these names are not necessarily “male”. It’s a common tactic for a female author to use to try to appeal to males as well especially those writing in a ‘male dominated’ genre, but I’m not sure how it relates to race/ethnicity/sexuality what have you. Are you saying an author should use a fairly anonymous pen name? I suppose that could work until you put a gay character or character of color.

  59. Jan
    Mar 18, 2007 @ 16:44:19

    [quote comment="24823"]

    Essentially, AA authors have two choices. Write about AA people and have a niche audience. Write about non AA people, hide your race and maybe you’ll be marketed same as every other author in your genre.

    This isn’t fair.[/quote]

    I believe what Teddy is saying though is that no one has a choice. Look at Harlan Ellison, who was mentioned earlier. He doesn’t write sf anymore, but his books are still stocked there. He has complained and ranted and its done no good.

    Look at Phillip Pullman, who claims he writes Literarture and not fantasy, and doesn’t want his books stocked with that fantasy crap. His books are still in fantasy.

    There are a lot of fantasy authors stocked in mainstream while others struggle to get out onto those shelves. The difference is that it’s called magic realism out there, and in the fantasy section it’s just called fantasy. A yet those fantasy authors can’t (and sometimes don’t want to) escape that label though they have every right to.

    It’s not just AA women romance writers who can’t get out being pigeon-holed. Which means it’s probably not a problem caused at heart by racism, but caused by a lack of imagination and a great deal of inertia on the part of publishers/bookstore owners. Of course, the almighty dollar also encourages them to leave it that way.

    And the only way for any writers to get around it right now is to use pennames. While it might not be upfront about a person’s race, neither is the solution I was seeing in the surveys, giving books nondescript covers so they can slip in under bookstore shelver’s radar. Isn’t that basically “don’t ask don’t tell” as well? And yet I think that will lead to far more acceptance and changes in the long run. When Betty down the street reads a novel and loves and then finds “Oh the author is AA?” maybe her opinions about several things will change.

  60. Robin
    Mar 18, 2007 @ 16:45:34

    About defending Monica. I would really find better friends who do not make racist comments about other minorities passing for white. It sorta blows your case.

    Wow, a lot of assumptions here. I guess you haven’t seen the numerous heated arguments I’ve had with Monica over the race issue, have you? But for the exact reasons Miki points out, along with the fact that she’s one of the few AA authors who DOES dare to antagonize people with the unpopular subject of race, no, I don’t think she deserves to serve as resident scapegoat. There’s a point at which the hostility directed at *her* personally starts to look like the kind about which she’s talking.

  61. Teddy Pig
    Mar 18, 2007 @ 16:52:25

    guess you haven’t seen the numerous heated arguments I’ve had with Monica over the race issue, have you?

    No I have not and since she failed to answer or apologize for what I have read here and can cut and paste at will.

    I do not assume what is in writing, what I can see and read right here on this board and now babe unless you come up with a better answer.

    I suggest that your implying I am racist is way out of line.

  62. Teddy Pig
    Mar 18, 2007 @ 16:55:41

    For your information Robin my aunt happens to be Asian and no I did not miss the reference that I have quoted.

    So put two and two together and wander off.

  63. Robin
    Mar 18, 2007 @ 17:08:03

    Teddy, I have absolutely no clue what the heck you’re talking about, but regardless, it’s too bad that you totally overlooked the fact that I was actually trying to defend YOU in my initial post, to which you went on the attack because I suggested that Monica didn’t deserve to be scapegoated. YOU assumed I was referring to you, and not simply to ALL the hostility directed at her, even though my comments about her had NOTHING to do with YOU at all. Do you actually even believe your own arguments here, or are you just so pissed at Monica that you are arguing for that reason alone? Because it may not make your initial arguments less meritorious, but it sure as hell will keep me from feeling that people weren’t properly addressing them.

  64. Ro
    Mar 18, 2007 @ 17:34:18

    I agree with your last post Jane, but the other “unique” issue black romance writers also deal with is the fact that they are overlooked by the mainstream romance reading public. Those fantasy authors who want to be mainstream may be frustrated by their relative obscurity, but they aren’t being ignored by the sf/f crowd because of the ethnicity of either themselves and their characters.

  65. Teddy Pig
    Mar 18, 2007 @ 17:48:49

    “I suggested that Monica didn’t deserve to be scapegoated.”

    Right Robin, we know we know, my argument is all based on Monica because she did me wrong… you got me babe (oh it hurts I shall die from the simplicity and brilliance of that barb *thud*) and you have talked to her so I should not say such things even if they are simply what she has said because… Um because…

  66. Jan
    Mar 18, 2007 @ 17:59:14

    [quote comment="24844"]I agree with your last post Jane, but the other “unique” issue black romance writers also deal with is the fact that they are overlooked by the mainstream romance reading public. Those fantasy authors who want to be mainstream may be frustrated by their relative obscurity, but they aren’t being ignored by the sf/f crowd because of the ethnicity of either themselves and their characters.[/quote]

    I think you mean Jan not Jane? These darned names are too close sometimes LOL! I’m Jan, purple posts. Jane is in yellow, if that helps….

    Anyway, I agree the fantasy authors are not overlooked by the sf crowd, however some of them feel the sf/f shelves are their ghetto and that they’re being overlooked by the mainstream crowd, and thus being denied the label of “literature” and a place in the New York Times Review of Books. It doesn’t have to do with their races, but it just seemed to me to be very much a parallel to what AA authors want, to move to an expanded audience and greater acceptance and not be allowed.

    Also related, I think race is sf is not an issue in part because sf imprints have rarely used covers that are racially oriented. Sf is just given plain sf covers that don’t denote any ethnicity at all. Most bookstore owners wouldn’t know AA sf if it bit their noses, so if it’s got a spaceship etc, it’s stocked in sf and sf readers read it.

    I’ve always preferred non-people romance covers to people ones. If the former became the standard across the board, I think that would help a lot. But then, if they get too non-descript, those people looking specifically for AA romances won’t be able to find them. Then again, LOL, anyone looking for AA sf has to do their homework first, and if they think it’s worth it, they’ll manage to find it.

    It’s probably impossible to find a solution to fit everyone….

  67. Shiloh Walker
    Mar 18, 2007 @ 18:12:47

    you know what annoys the hell out of me about these discussions?

    Somebody always finds a way to make an attack on somebody else. Somebody always finds a way to take it from an intelligent discussion and knock it down to something that ought to be in a grade school playground.

  68. Sharon Cullars
    Mar 18, 2007 @ 18:20:26

    [quote]

    Also related, I think race is sf is not an issue in part because sf imprints have rarely used covers that are racially oriented. Sf is just given plain sf covers that don’t denote any ethnicity at all. Most bookstore owners wouldn’t know AA sf if it bit their noses, so if it’s got a spaceship etc, it’s stocked in sf and sf readers read it.

    [/quote]

    Hi Jan, coming out of lurkdom to note one particular exception. Octavia Butler’s earlier works were often denoted with white characters on the covers even when the character was expressly black b/c publishers didn’t trust sf buyers to pick up her book if they put a black character on the cover. Only when Ms. Butler had received some measure of fame did the publishers re-issue the covers with black characters. You can check here to see an example of Butler’s novel Dawn with both original and re-issued covers.

    A small seque regarding race in sci-fi fiction: Ursula LaGuin had a particular problem with the Sci-fi Channel’s interpretation of her Earthsea series where her dark characters were “whitened” for the dramatization. She addressed the issue at Slate.com.

    Going back into lurk mode.

  69. Jan
    Mar 18, 2007 @ 18:41:44

    [quote comment="24848"]
    Hi Jan, coming out of lurkdom to note one particular exception. Octavia Butler’s earlier works were often denoted with white characters on the covers even when the character was expressly black b/c publishers didn’t trust sf buyers to pick up her book if they put a black character on the cover. Only when Ms. Butler had received some measure of fame did the publishers re-issue the covers with black characters. < snipping links >

    A small seque regarding race in sci-fi fiction: Ursula LaGuin had a particular problem with the Sci-fi Channel’s interpretation of her Earthsea series where her dark characters were “whitened” for the dramatization. < snipping links >

    Going back into lurk mode.[/quote]

    I didn’t know that. That’s really interesting! Perhaps that’s why I never realized Ms Butler was black until I was a little older then. *goes to look* Oh, actually, those books I read with the reissued covers. The ones I read as a teen were her Patternist series, and I don’t recall people on the covers of those, but it’s been about 30 years so I could be wrong.

    But the fact that Dawn came out in the late 80s or so is even more sad. I would have thought, with black sf writers being accepted well before then, that they wouldn’t do something lame like that.

    Now with Wizard of Earthsea, I was aware when I read the books that the characters were not white, but I didn’t watch the Sci-fi channel version because I’d heard they really ruined it. I wonder if the anime version did the same. I know it took a lot of other liberties. But the Japanese are usually fascinated by other ethnic backgrounds and tend to jump at the chance to portray it. The Miyazaki’s are laws unto themselves though.

    I would hope that with shows like Battlestar Galactica and such with their varied cast, the Sci_Fi channel wouldn’t be so idiotic. Maybe I tend to expect the best out of people too often. :(

  70. Devon
    Mar 18, 2007 @ 19:49:00

    Sigh…Sigh…I’m confused.

    Somebody always finds a way to take it from an intelligent discussion and knock it down to something that ought to be in a grade school playground.

    Word, Shiloh.

  71. Roslyn
    Mar 18, 2007 @ 19:54:30

    I’ve always preferred non-people romance covers to people ones. If the former became the standard across the board, I think that would help a lot.

    I can’t really say if that would help matters or not. I absolutely abhor people on the cover of books. My publisher, Genesis Press, advised that they’d tried having covers without people on them. But their distributor, Kensington asked them to stop because they had a lot of returns with customers expressly stating that they’d been ‘tricked’ into buying books with black people in them. I’ve heard this from enough people now that I’m convinced there’s some truth to it. Frankly, at first I was inclined to believe it was nonsense. I don’t want to tell you how many wallbangers I’ve read in my day, but I can’t imagine actually going through the trouble of returning a book. I have no idea how many times this happened, but clearly it was enough to get the distributor’s attention.

  72. Kate R
    Mar 18, 2007 @ 20:01:57

    Kathy Baker (romance bookseller extraordinaire) was on a panel once and said that when she had the staff shelve the AA romances with the rest of the romance, people complained. And then when she had them separated, people complained.

    moral of the lesson: People complain. Figure out what sells the most book and do that. (my moral, not hers)

  73. Eva Gale
    Mar 18, 2007 @ 20:07:09

    Ro: I agree with your last post Jane, but the other “unique" issue black romance writers also deal with is the fact that they are overlooked by the mainstream romance reading public. Those fantasy authors who want to be mainstream may be frustrated by their relative obscurity, but they aren’t being ignored by the sf/f crowd because of the ethnicity of either themselves and their characters.

    I stand by my thoughts that they are looked over because they refuse to market to the 74% that is white because they will be seen as traitors by other black authors. I cannot believe that I am the only person out there who would not care in the least what color the characters are in her romance, who does not think that they are poorly written because of the color of the author, and all of the other reasons that are posted.

    Robin:Because it may not make your initial arguments less meritorious, but it sure as hell will keep me from feeling that people weren’t properly addressing them.

    How bad is it that every time I see the word meritorious I immediately associate it with The Lady’s Tutor?

    Bad, I know.

  74. Robin
    Mar 18, 2007 @ 20:22:49

    My publisher, Genesis Press, advised that they’d tried having covers without people on them. But their distributor, Kensington asked them to stop because they had a lot of returns with customers expressly stating that they’d been ‘tricked’ into buying books with black people in them.

    This doesn’t surprise me (although the “tricked” part is sad, IMO), because the couple of times the issue of AA Romance has come up when I’ve seen it on AAR, a number of readers post that they don’t read AA Romance because they don’t feel they can identify with the characters, or don’t seek it out, etc. Since I see AAR as left of the mainstream, I think the sample of people who feel this way is much larger in the mainstream Romance reading population. Personally, I think it’s more an issue of exposure and familiarity (after all, how do readers “identify” with vampires, werewolves, etc.?) — that if more AA Romances were in the mainstream, and fewer AA characters in so-called white Romance weren’t so badly portrayed, that the number of non-AA readers who read AA Romance would vastly increase (and then we could just call it Romance!). But when the subject comes up, it tends to set off a “”can you refuse to read AA Romance and still be non-discriminatory” discussion, which usually makes anyone who doesn’t read AA Romance flee the boards. So it becomes difficult to really discern what’s going on readers who don’t read AA Romance, which I’m guessing are some of the readers who are returning AA Romance books.

  75. Robin
    Mar 18, 2007 @ 20:25:39

    How bad is it that every time I see the word meritorious I immediately associate it with The Lady’s Tutor?

    Oh, it’s been so long since I’ve read this, Eva; refresh my memory.

  76. Jan
    Mar 18, 2007 @ 20:30:36

    [quote comment="24853"]My publisher, Genesis Press, advised that they’d tried having covers without people on them. But their distributor, Kensington asked them to stop because they had a lot of returns with customers expressly stating that they’d been ‘tricked’ into buying books with black people in them. [/quote]

    That’s so… sad. I’m tempted to say keep doing covers that way because who cares what people like that think? But money talks so I guess they won’t do that.

  77. Roslyn
    Mar 18, 2007 @ 20:38:48

    I stand by my thoughts that they are looked over because they refuse to market to the 74% that is white because they will be seen as traitors by other black authors.

    I’m lost, Eva. Who’s refusing to market to the other 74%? Am I to understand that you believe publishers are missing out on the lion’s share of the reading public out of some loyalty to black authors? I have little doubt that if publishers had some reasonable expectation of making a sale the niche would vanish tomorrow. You have to remember, there was no black genre books period for decades because publishers believed ‘black people don’t read.’ This was their line until the early nineties when Terry McMillian proved otherwise. Now their line is, ‘whites don’t want to read black books.’ Unless, and until they’re proven wrong they will maintain this belief.

  78. Jan
    Mar 18, 2007 @ 20:48:06

    [quote comment="24856"]This doesn’t surprise me (although the “tricked” part is sad, IMO), because the couple of times the issue of AA Romance has come up when I’ve seen it on AAR, a number of readers post that they don’t read AA Romance because they don’t feel they can identify with the characters, or don’t seek it out, etc. [/quote]

    Perhaps they tried one and didn’t identify with the characters? I have to be honest here and say that while I’ve read and enjoyed AA romances, in a couple I just felt completely out of it because I either didn’t understand the slang that was being used, or it felt like the characters were being described to an in-crowd and I wasn’t one of them. I’ve had this experience reading some mainstream romance (over-used brogues and TSTL heroines anyone?) and inspirationals as well, where sometimes I just can’t even fathom the characters’ minds. It makes romance hard to believe then. I figured it was just bad writing, but other people may mistakenly think it was the book line and or the characters’ races.

  79. Sara Dennis
    Mar 18, 2007 @ 20:53:23

    [quote]Am I to understand that you believe publishers are missing out on the lion’s share of the reading public out of some loyalty to black authors? I have little doubt that if publishers had some reasonable expectation of making a sale the niche would vanish tomorrow.[/quote]

    I’m not Eva, obviously.

    But maybe something that would help is if AA authors step beyond what’s comfortable (and not necessarily spend money) and take a chance doing some promo on sites that have a broader audience, like The Romance Studio or mailing lists on Yahoo!Groups or something. It might help get the word out about the books coming out and give readers who are not in the audience already supporting them an idea of the sort of books that are out there or coming soon.

    If the publishers aren’t doing it because they don’t see that it’ll make them money, then maybe the authors need to do a little more themselves and see where it leads. People here and on other sites talking about this have said that they’re willing to read, but they just don’t know where to get the info about what’s available.

  80. Robin
    Mar 18, 2007 @ 21:07:10

    Perhaps they tried one and didn’t identify with the characters?

    I suspect this is likely the case, which is why I think that if AA Romance were just “Romance” either/both written by AA authors or with AA characters and was mainstreamed, that this issue would diminish significantly. Of course, there will always be people who don’t want to read a particular type of Romance (lots of readers won’t touch erotic Romance or gay Romance or Inspy Romance), but I think there’s a market in the mainstream Romance reading population for Romance with non-Anglo characters. But I don’t think publishers are going to mainstream AA Romance anytime soon unless they think there will be immediate profit. Just like they won’t publish more historicals set outside England. After all, “all Romance readers want is more Regency” — yeah, right.

  81. BSA Pontif.
    Mar 19, 2007 @ 06:36:47

    Teddy said:
    [quote comment="24801"]You are making it sound like they actually ask you what race, color, or sexual preference you are when you send in a manuscript.[/quote]

    Just popping in to note that in case you haven’t read Millenia Black’s complaint and Penguin’s answer, that’s exactly what the publisher did in her situation…they had to admit to asking her agent about her race after the deal was made, then proceeded to redesign her book cover with black models and handle the manuscript as AA fiction. Now since the book has no black characters, how is that anything other than racially discriminatory?

    And to raise a point that Millenia has made, why didn’t Penguin do the same thing with Sue Kidd’s SECRET LIFE OF BEES? A book that has more black characters central to the plot than white?

    To say this isn’t about race, is quite callous, Teddy. You’re just choosing to build an argument of smoke.

  82. Karen Scott
    Mar 19, 2007 @ 06:55:46

    they had to admit to asking her agent about her race after the deal was made, then proceeded to redesign her book cover with black models and handle the manuscript as AA fiction

    BSA, I was going to cite Millennia as an example, but seeing as he really only wanted to use this debate as an opportunity to to bash Monica Jackson , it seemed pointless to continue engaging in a conversation with him.

  83. Teddy Pig
    Mar 19, 2007 @ 07:01:28

    No I read the case.

    That Publisher had an AA label and mis-handled her book just like so many many other authors black white homosexual etc. The case was won because the actions ended up being racist even though the publisher wanted to promote her and her book AA, it was not and not what she wanted. Over zealous, and unthinking, and just plain insensitive… Nothing new there.

    I would have gotten a new agent also.

    But my opinion is this is inherent in the industry and has been for a long time. Not the AA thing, the mishandling of writers and their work.

  84. Anne Douglas
    Mar 19, 2007 @ 07:03:54

    they had to admit to asking her agent about her race after the deal was made, then proceeded to redesign her book cover with black models and handle the manuscript as AA fiction.

    Now, pigeonholing because of content is one thing, but because the author was of a certain ethnicity, especially when the topic is not about that ethnicity is another. This is racism and unfair for both the author and the reader.

    If you write your book for a certain genre (and I’m sure there are some, maybe many who write specifically to fit a racial profile) expect to be filed separately, but being automatically pigeonholed because of the colour of your skin is a bad habit for publishers to fall into – or it sounds like one they are having a hard job crawling away from.

  85. Whining Kate
    Mar 19, 2007 @ 07:10:20

    The case was won because the actions ended up being racist even though the publisher wanted to promote her and her book AA, it was not and not what she wanted. Over zealous, and unthinking, and just plain insensitive- Nothing new there.

    The case was won? Really? I have to go find out. Boy, I hope so. (Teddy you keep doing that. Being outrageous and silly and offensive and then being reasonably reasonable. At least you’re not dull.)

  86. Teddy Pig
    Mar 19, 2007 @ 07:13:49

    Karen,

    “use this debate as an opportunity to to bash Monica Jackson”

    This is one of her favorite topics.
    She goes on and on about it with buzz words and catch phrases galore.

    Not to mention getting her own racist blows in by accusing Asians of passing for white or other AA writers even. But hey she’s your buddy.

  87. Teddy Pig
    Mar 19, 2007 @ 07:16:14

    Oh sorry I meant case was based but oh well.

    I need to drop this. I promised Jane I would.

  88. Teddy Pig
    Mar 19, 2007 @ 07:18:55

    Kate,

    I am offensive and abrasive and say what I think often.

    I even like when people do it back to me because I like hearing what people honestly think not what they think they should say.

    People hate that but oh well.

  89. Teddy Pig
    Mar 19, 2007 @ 07:27:37

    I do want to apologize publically to Robin.

    I honestly think she is a nice intelligent person and I was harsh yesterday with her.

  90. Jan
    Mar 19, 2007 @ 07:40:56

    [quote comment="24889"]I am offensive and abrasive and say what I think often.

    I even like when people do it back to me because I like hearing what people honestly think not what they think they should say.

    People hate that but oh well.[/quote]

    Not everyone hates that. It’s refreshing to read someone saying what he thinks. But if it derails the discussions because things are said too harshly, then it kind of defeats the purpose of talking in the first place.

    But honestly, you sure did get things moving in here.*grin*

  91. Jane
    Mar 19, 2007 @ 07:53:36

    Teddy Pig – we don’t want you to not comment because I think your viewpoints are valid, even if I don’t agree with all of them. And it takes a big person to apologize in public. Thank you for being part of the community.

  92. Angelle
    Mar 19, 2007 @ 08:47:27

    There’s some strange paradox of some sort about this debate. If you visit Karen’s blog, some black author commented that they don’t spend much effort or money promoting to the mainstream audience. Why? Because they see that the return on investment on their promo to the mainstream audience is significantly smaller than that to the black readers.

    I understand this logic. It’s a good business decision. They want most return on their promo $$. No problem.

    So here are my questions. I’m genuinely curious, given some facts that have emerged from this discussion.

    If black authors don’t promote to the mainstream audience, who should promote AA books to the mainstream audience? (Remember that the success of AA books is more important to black authors than to booksellers, publishers or readers.)

    2. The mainstream lit / publishing pie is already flooded by an astounding number of books published each month as well as promo materials and ads from mainstream authors. The number of choices offered to the mainstream audience is more than what they can support or buy. (Hence many books not selling well, etc.) So if black authors don’t promote to the mainstream audience, how are non-black readers going to find AA books?

    And here are my further thoughts on the matter of black authors promoting to the mainstream audience.

    When the publishers and booksellers know (they’re not stupid and they read blogs occasionally) that black authors don’t spend their own money to promote to the mainstream audience 110%, why should they want to spend their money to promote black authors when they already know that the current situation is profitable enough for them? Black authors have the most stake in this, not the publishers. Or the booksellers. So unless the authors themselves band together and promote the hell out of their books and prove to the publishers that they can make more money by going mainstream, I don’t think that anything will change.

    Furthermore, the mainstream audience won’t buy AA books because they don’t know anything about it (because of the lack of promo). And asking non-black readers to go buy AA books to support black authors who don’t think it’s worth it to spend a lot of money promoting to the mainstream audience comes across as being disingenuous.

    (And the occasional use of the word “racist” when someone refuses to read certain ethnic/MC or AA books seems like some kind of guilt-trip or something…and it probably won’t solve anything. If any, it would alienate the very people who make up a big chunk of the mainstream audience.)

  93. the way there » DearAuthor.com and Race
    Mar 19, 2007 @ 09:22:47

    […] Here’s the only posts I’ve commented about race on that site that I recall. Note Teddy Pig’s appreciated comments. Racism in Publishing […]

  94. Eva Gale
    Mar 19, 2007 @ 10:02:40

    Robin, Elizabeth and Ramiel in The Lady’s Tutor equated the description of meritorious with length.

    Rosalyn

    I’m lost, Eva. Who’s refusing to market to the other 74%? Am I to understand that you believe publishers are missing out on the lion’s share of the reading public out of some loyalty to black authors? I have little doubt that if publishers had some reasonable expectation of making a sale the niche would vanish tomorrow. You have to remember, there was no black genre books period for decades because publishers believed ‘black people don’t read.’ This was their line until the early nineties when Terry McMillian proved otherwise. Now their line is, ‘whites don’t want to read black books.’ Unless, and until they’re proven wrong they will maintain this belief.

    Over on Karen’s blog, Monica admitted that AA/Black authors do not market to the white readers. And then proceeded to admit that she gets flack for even COMING on these boards. My #’s came from wiki, 74% of America is white and 13.1% is Black or AA. I offered the thought that publishers are unwilling to market to the white readers because it’s a market that has proven to not be finiancially profitable. IF it were, they would market to it.

    I come at this from the prospective of an e-book author where the author is left to market their own book. I study and watch marketing trends online. I keep up on marketing blogs to see who is doing what and how it’s working. Although I don’t have alot to market now, when I do, I want to be ready. I’ve seen it done, and I’ve formulated a plan for myself. As far as I’m concerned, it’s a part of being an author. I cannot comprehend this assumption that marketing to whites is being an Uncle Tom.

    And- as I’ve been watching marketing trends I’ve read about the The Long Tail. If this proves to be the case, and it looks like it has, Niche marketing may be just what you want.

  95. Monica
    Mar 19, 2007 @ 10:40:22

    I really hate to comment here, because I know I’ll probably be attacked no matter what I write, but I need to correct Eva Gale’s comment and some other suppositions.

    I do market to the romance community as do many other authors. My original comment was about spending finite dollars. I spend more money money marketing to those readers who are a surer thing. But I have sent books for review to this site and to other white sites. I maintain an online presence with generous excerpts, including a free novella and also make ARC’s available to anyone pretty much on request so they can sample my work without investment. Occasionally, I will spend some $$$, such as I did at Romance Divas to support them and also promote myself to the romance community. Most black authors do cross promote to the romance community, promotion is a gamble and it simply makes sense to spend more effort promoting to those who actually read our books.

    Now, please carry on your discussion of blacks and our issues sans black input of our opinions and experiences. I won’t respond to comments or attacks. You can respond on my blog or forum if you wish to reply reasonably and wish a reply.

  96. Eva Gale
    Mar 19, 2007 @ 10:49:34

    And how does Viral bloging cost $? How does a Blog Book Tour cost ? Time = $, that I understand, but if effort and an hour a day is all that’s required I don’t understand why everyone keeps saying it costs $. Especially if the payoff is such long term exposure.

  97. Zeek
    Mar 19, 2007 @ 10:50:16

    “And to raise a point that Millenia has made, why didn’t Penguin do the same thing with Sue Kidd’s SECRET LIFE OF BEES? A book that has more black characters central to the plot than white?”

    hmmm, even though the heroes of this book were truely the ladies of Black Madonna Honey, the book is centered around a little white girl. When you read the book you’re told her story. The above comment doesn’t really fly for me because the other characters were secondary.

  98. Jan
    Mar 19, 2007 @ 10:52:28

    So if black authors don’t promote to the mainstream audience, how are non-black readers going to find AA books?

    I don’t know about RT and such since I don’t read them, but I know there’s been a strong presence by AA authors on aarlist for a while, and they’re the people who made me realize that there were AA romances in the first place, and gave me resources like review sites and and author names and tips about where to find the books. They’re the reason I read AA romances.

    So some authors are trying and succeeding, and at no cost but some of their time. If publishers aren’t aware of that they have to be stupid. At this point though, nothing would surprise me.

  99. Angelle
    Mar 19, 2007 @ 11:01:52

    Eva,

    They could be talking about doing things like going to RT conventions, advertising in non-black mags, handing out bookmarks (they add up) or forking out postage to mail ARCs to non- black review sites.

  100. Roslyn
    Mar 19, 2007 @ 12:08:53

    Precisely Angelie. When my book came out copies were automatically sent to all the black review sites, and RT. I carefully reviewed other sites and blogs to see if they reviewed black books. If I saw any black books there I sent my book. Keep in mind, this is my own money used for postage, and I only have a limited number of books to send before I have to start paying for them too. Even with careful screening several sites wouldn’t/didn’t review my book. When I inquired I was told no one wanted to read it. So, I’m out approximately $15 per site. Given that I have no budget whatever to begin with, it goes without saying I’m not going to do that too often. Especially when some reviewers requested TWO copies of the book and still didn’t review it. Thus, I’m out twice as much money. My book was reviewed by all the black review sites they were sent to. Now, who would you focus on?

    And Eva, the writer has no control over WHERE the books are placed in the bookstores. What is the point of promoting to the mainstream if they’re not able to find the book? My inlaws are white and you don’t even want to hear their tales of trying to locate my book. And they have kinship to motivate them. People in general are not going to schlepp all over the store to find the Negro section back in some dingy little corner just to read a book by some author they don’t even know. So I can stand on my head and promote to others all day long, but if the book is inaccessible the point is moot.

  101. Jan
    Mar 19, 2007 @ 12:17:08

    [quote comment="24934"]And Eva, the writer has no control over WHERE the books are placed in the bookstores. What is the point of promoting to the mainstream if they’re not able to find the book? [/quote]

    Rosyln, I too have had trouble finding the books I want in physical bookstores. If I’m browsing at a bookstore I check out various sections. But if I want a particular title I just save myself trouble and go to Amazon now. You might want to include link information to your books at online stores so readers can go straight there. I’ve seen other authors place such links in their sigs and I’ve clicked on any number of them.

  102. Teddy Pig
    Mar 19, 2007 @ 12:25:58

    If you want to use Amazon.com in your sig link to list all your books try this…

    Link

    Where it says author=*firstname*+*lastname*

    viola! all your books listed for you to someone looking to buy.

    On-line is a magic place for making magic happen.

  103. Teddy Pig
    Mar 19, 2007 @ 12:30:43

    Dang cutoff again!

    http://www.amazon.com/s?index=books&field

    -author=Aaron+Shepard

    Where it says author=*firstname*+*lastname* put your name

    viola! all your books listed for you to someone looking to buy.

    On-line is a magic place for making magic happen.

  104. Jan
    Mar 19, 2007 @ 12:44:07

    Of course I had to look and see who Aaron Shepard was. It looks like he’s doing a good job at promoting his own books. Do you recommend his “How to’s” Teddy?

  105. Teddy Pig
    Mar 19, 2007 @ 12:50:53

    Well, he did teach me strong Amazon.com Fu.

    I love his web site pages, very informative.

  106. BSA Pontif.
    Mar 19, 2007 @ 12:50:58

    Zeek said: [quote comment="24921"]“hmmm, even though the heroes of this book were truely the ladies of Black Madonna Honey, the book is centered around a little white girl.

    When you read the book you’re told her story. The above comment doesn’t really fly for me because the other characters were secondary.[/quote]

    The book is centered around a white girl, her Mammie, and the ladies of the bee farm. The point is that it would have been much more appropriate to slap black faces on this cover and label it AA fiction than it was to do so with Millenia Black’s book. I fail to see the substance of your objection, citing that the characters are secondary. They get just as much page-time, if not more than, the little white girl.

  107. Roslyn
    Mar 19, 2007 @ 12:52:03

    I always include online sources and have a link to Amazon on my site. Unfortunately, not everyone is on the internet and even some who are won’t shop online. So, they’re stuck with having to order the book from the physical bookstore. I know, for myself, if I have to order it in a store its not going to happen. I have a two year. Typically I have very limited shopping time. I’m not going to a store twice to buy a book. I do most of my shopping online, period. But I know not everyone does.

  108. Roslyn
    Mar 19, 2007 @ 12:52:45

    I always include online sources and have a link to Amazon on my site. Unfortunately, not everyone is on the internet and even some who are won’t shop online. So, they’re stuck with having to order the book from the physical bookstore. I know, for myself, if I have to order it in a store its not going to happen. I have a two year old, and I’m a stay at home mama. I have very limited shopping time. I’m not going to a store twice to buy a book. I do most of my shopping online, period. But I know not everyone does.

  109. Anne Douglas
    Mar 19, 2007 @ 12:53:00

    When my book came out copies were automatically sent to all the black review sites, and RT. I carefully reviewed other sites and blogs to see if they reviewed black books. If I saw any black books there I sent my book.

    I guess my ‘liberal internationality’ is showing, I had no idea review sites were classed as ‘black’ or ‘white’. I just thought they were review sites.

    But then, until I started to write I had no idea of 90% of ‘forums’ that existed. I go to the book store and between the cover and the back blurb make a decision if I want to buy that book. Until a year ago I considered myself a pretty typical reader. If I wanted romance I went to the shelf and started picking up books. But then, I also am part of the ‘international market’. A number of these arguments are redundant when you go to a book store in another country – that said, I have been in the US for 5 years now, things might have changed.

    I tend to forget that segregation is in fact recent history in the States. I wonder if Africa has these same issues relating to apartheid (sp) and authors/book placement.

  110. Roslyn
    Mar 19, 2007 @ 13:05:13

    Anne, my international readers (all in the UK as near as I can tell) have expressed surprise at the book segregation in this country. Of course, according to them books by black romance authors aren’t available there, period. So I don’t know where they’d be shelved. It might just be their locations, but they’ve stated that they have to buy from Amazon.UK if they want black romances.

    And Anne, I think you ARE a pretty typical reader. I think most readers are just like you. I doubt if even a quarter of romance readers are on the internet in romance forums. Some simply buy fave authors, or they buy according to the back blurb.

  111. Jan
    Mar 19, 2007 @ 13:15:01

    Roslyn, I just looked and your book is on Amazon.jp. I didn’t even know there was an audience for English romances over there.

    (and actually the book looked good so I bought it LOL, but not from Japan)

  112. Eva Gale
    Mar 19, 2007 @ 14:08:34

    Rosalyn, I’m aware of shelving practices, and although I don’t agree with them, by what I’ve heard, it’s the black reader that wants the section. I think maybe the authors are ready to move on.

    What you spoke of in the reviewing-your book is sent to black review sites is what I’m speaking about. I’m going to assume that you have no say in where those books go-and if that’s the audience it makes sense for the publisher to send them there.

    I also understand that there is a disconnect between brick and mortar readers adn online readers. This is why I DON’T particpate in chats. Waste of time, same people there.

    I’m the same as you, Ros, I shop online. I have to becaue I cannot bring all these kids in a book store.

    But I can do these things:
    Online Promo scroll down to see the book signing one woman did by blogging interviews for 40 days.

    Viral blogging

    I’m sure you can come up with some ideas yourself too.

  113. Zeek
    Mar 19, 2007 @ 14:36:47

    “i fail to see the substance of your objection, citing that the characters are secondary. ”

    The substance of my objection isn’t that the secondary charachters are black, it’s that Lily is white and she’s who the story is about.

    I could care less whose face is on it. The story is just as much caucasion as it is african american.

    If the story started out and centered around The Black Madonna’s- and they shelved it in fiction because the author is white- well, then I can see it your way.

    Anyway, I’m not arguing about the general consesus that “niche” shelving is wrong. In our B&N it’s mixed together- both fiction AND romance.

    I just don’t believe The Secret Life of Bees is a good example to make your (or Millenia’s, as it were) point.

  114. Eva Gale
    Mar 19, 2007 @ 15:11:37

    Yeah, I’m with Zeek on Secret Life of Bees.

    Damn, that’s a good book. I can’t wait to unpack and be able to read it again.

  115. BSA Pontif.
    Mar 19, 2007 @ 16:23:07

    Zeek said: [quote comment="24951"]I could care less whose face is on it. The story is just as much caucasion as it is african american.

    …Anyway, I’m not arguing about the general consesus that “niche” shelving is wrong. In our B&N it’s mixed together- both fiction AND romance.

    I just don’t believe The Secret Life of Bees is a good example to make your (or Millenia’s, as it were) point.[/quote]

    To the contrary. It’s a perfect example and you’re missing the point. This book actually HAS black characters in its plot and no one at Penguin decided to do to it what they did to Millenia Black’s work, which I’ll point out again, has NONE.

    My point is not about “niche” shelving….and I’m not arguing at all, just pointing out facts, Zeek.

    To append an actual opinion….under the circumstances, there’s plenty reason to doubt that Penguin would’ve handled BEES the same way had Sue Monk Kidd been black.

  116. Teddy Pig
    Mar 19, 2007 @ 17:02:22

    BSA Pontif

    Has it’s ever occurred to you honestly, that they did not treat it that way because there was no way they could sell a white author on an AA shelf?

    Not that it might not be highly entertaining to try and do so, I will have to look for some pictures and adjust a manuscript this might be fun.

    It is still a book written by a white author about a white child.

    They did not try and sell Anne Proulx as a gay man either in the gay section because there was a little problem that she was not one.

    Not that they did not have a few of the Brokeback books near there because we supported her and bought it.

  117. Jan
    Mar 19, 2007 @ 17:11:24

    Don’t they sell yaoi manga in gay sections at some bookstores? I’ve heard some people say they’ve found it there. While some gay men read it, it really doesn’t belong there.

  118. Teddy Pig
    Mar 19, 2007 @ 17:14:33

    Well it saves time actually but man I could take you to some shops in Japan town. Talk about wild Manga! Oh and the video store next door.

    TENTACLE SEX!

  119. Teddy Pig
    Mar 19, 2007 @ 17:18:55

    Oh JAN! Follow this link…

    http://www.teddypig.com/2006/02/thanks_hang_ten.html

    There is this Gay Japanese Artist online that rocks my world.

    Oh and be careful if you follow the link I give on the page NSFW and extremely violent m/m action in drawings.

  120. Sara Dennis
    Mar 19, 2007 @ 17:34:00

    I don’t believe that the shelving issue has anything to do with a minority superiority complex or a sense of entitlement, as has been brought up in this discussion. Those comments actually disturbed me a lot and do, to mean, hint that there might be more beneath the surface there that a simple ignorance about black authors or black-authored books.

    I think the issue has to do with authors wanting a fair crack at a reader population that buys a whole heck of a lot of books. Who wouldn’t want a piece of that, regardless of color?

    I will say that I don’t think the shelving issue has anything to do with racism, but I’ve also recently become aware of the fact that we’re not all using that word to mean the same thing. To the AA authors affected, perhaps the separation and shuttling of their books to an AA-specific section does match their understanding of the word.

    As many people have said, I think it has to do with $$ and, in some cases, feedback from the buyers in a particular area asking to have one section where they can pick up all of the books that interest them, rather than having to sort through other sections of the store.

    Cross-shelving does seem like a solution, but I’m not a bookseller. I don’t know how the decision to cross-shelve a book is made. Maybe that’s something that someone like Sue Grimshaw could answer.

  121. Sara Dennis
    Mar 19, 2007 @ 17:36:02

    [quote comment="24960"]Those comments actually disturbed me a lot and do, to mean, hint that there might be more beneath the surface there that a simple ignorance about black authors or black-authored books.[/quote]

    “To mean” should be to me. I can type, really.

  122. Robin
    Mar 19, 2007 @ 17:38:55

    I do want to apologize publically to Robin.

    Thanks, Teddy Pig; I really appreciate that.

  123. Jan
    Mar 19, 2007 @ 17:46:56

    Wow, that guy’s great! Some of it’s pretty beyond what I enjoy, but his style is lovely. I love the combination of the samurai block print style with modern manga. But I tend to like the pinup guys. Yamane Ayano draws my wet dream in the main character of her Finder series, let’s see… not a great pic but this guy. Her trading cards show all her pretty men. And some are NSFW, though they’re small.

    Oops, I’m getting off subject. Actually you can’t find her titles at the mainstream bookstores I’ve been to, because they’re a little more hardcore at times, but where I shop other yaoi titles are typically in the manga section. Now what is pertinent is that there are no *gay* manga titles in the manga section. But I’d suspect the authors don’t want them there.

  124. Ro
    Mar 19, 2007 @ 17:48:36

    I agree Sara. Perhaps instead of hashing this out and going in circles and having words misconstrued, we should take this topic to the source: editors, agents, and booksellers.

  125. BSA Pontif.
    Mar 19, 2007 @ 19:39:55

    T. Pig said: [quote comment="24955"]BSA Pontif

    Has it’s ever occurred to you honestly, that they did not treat it that way because there was no way they could sell a white author on an AA shelf?

    …It is still a book written by a white author about a white child.[/quote]

    Oh, well I see. So a book by a black author about a white child should be treated differently because the author isn’t white?

    Thanks for the illustration of how deeply rooted racist reasoning is.

    Ro said:

    I agree Sara. Perhaps instead of hashing this out and going in circles and having words misconstrued, we should take this topic to the source: editors, agents, and booksellers.

    Amen to that. And let’s not forget the courthouse. Thank God someone was brave enough to finally take it there.

  126. Angelle
    Mar 19, 2007 @ 20:19:53

    Amen to that. And let’s not forget the courthouse. Thank God someone was brave enough to finally take it there.

    Interestingly enough, I can’t think of any black authors suing their publishers and big chain bookstores for shelf segregation. What Millerna’s doing is different from self-segregation — per her website she’s fighting to write white characters and place such books in the mainstream. That’s a lot different from writing black characters and complaining about having one’s books shelved in AA section.

    After reading this thread, I realized that it doesn’t really matter if non-blacks buy AA books or not as things stand. The free promo black authors want to do (the Internet stuff) seems to reach a very small percentage of the mainstream audience that read romance novels. Even if 80% of the non-black readers online who saw AA shelf segregation posts went out and bought an AA book, that still wouldn’t create any statistically significant increase in sale for the publishers and booksellers to notice.

    As for the shelving in many places — shelf space is considered a very valuable asset to booksellers. Instead of a midlist author’s books occupying that valuable real estate, it could be a blockbuster author’s books…which would create more income for the store. That too is a valid business decision on their part because they need to make sure they make money, just like it’s a valid business decision on black authors’ part not to spend too much money promoting to the mainstream audience.

  127. TeddyPig
    Mar 19, 2007 @ 20:29:58

    BSA Potif

    “Thanks for the illustration of how deeply rooted racist reasoning is.”

    Yeah whatever…

    Listen I am a gay man writing gay characters and if that gets me on a gay bookshelf… YEAH!

    SCORE!

    I am working on a Gay BDSM series right now.

    If they want to market me as a Gay Leatherman well that is what I am.

    They can even use Gay models on the cover.

    I am proud to be who I am and if that is a way to market me then cover my ass in a rainbow flag with matching pumps and call me Shirley.

    I have no problem being who and what I am.

    Why do you?

  128. Sara Dennis
    Mar 19, 2007 @ 20:49:49

    [quote comment="24980"]
    I have no problem being who and what I am.

    Why do you?[/quote]

    Teddy,

    None of the authors trying to address this issue have a problem with who and what they are. They’re trying to get their books to be shelved with other romance or mystery or mainstream authors. They’re trying to get out of the niche.

    If you’re comfortable being marketed and shelved there, more power to you. That’s no reason to dismiss someone else’s wishes.

  129. TeddyPig
    Mar 19, 2007 @ 20:59:26

    No, the point is everybody. All authors black white or whatever get categorized in books, have obstacles to overcome, marketing they might find stereotyping, either in the minds of the readers or the market itself.

    The female sci-fi writers used male pen names. They did what they had to to get themselves out there and earn the respect in sci-fi market they wanted.

    That is all I am saying, but because of this topic being attributed to somehow to AA like they are the only group faced with this issue, my opinion is obviously considered racist.

    Yeah, that is why it does not fly.

  130. Jan
    Mar 19, 2007 @ 21:10:55

    [quote comment="24972"]Oh, well I see. So a book by a black author about a white child should be treated differently because the author isn’t white?

    Thanks for the illustration of how deeply rooted racist reasoning is.
    [/quote]

    That’s not a fair statement. If you look at what Teddy and I have been saying about gay works, how they are often segregated by whether or not the author is gay, and they want it that way because then everyone is selling to the audience they want to, it’s perfectly reasonable for him to apply that reasoning to this situation.

    Disagreement on a subject that includes race doesn’t make a person racist. That’s just falling back on name calling as far as I’m concerned, and doesn’t belong in a rational discussion.

  131. Angelle
    Mar 19, 2007 @ 21:18:57

    [quote comment="24983"]Disagreement on a subject that includes race doesn’t make a person racist. That’s just falling back on name calling as far as I’m concerned, and doesn’t belong in a rational discussion.[/quote]
    Jan,

    Thank you for saying this. It’s really difficult to have a rational discussion whenever someone disagrees with others immediately that person’s a racist.

  132. TeddyPig
    Mar 19, 2007 @ 21:23:24

    But but but can I still wear the matching rainbow pumps?

    I need all the help I can get perking up my butt these days.

    You won’t think less of me will you?

  133. Sara Dennis
    Mar 19, 2007 @ 21:31:05

    [quote comment="24982"]No, the point is everybody. All authors black white or whatever get categorized in books, have obstacles to overcome, marketing they might find stereotyping, either in the minds of the readers or the market itself.
    [/quote]

    Teddy, this is true.

    My point is that just because one author or group of authors handled it one way doesn’t mean that another group of authors wants to go that same route. If AA authors want to try to do away with the niche, then why dismiss that desire and make it sound like they’re just trying to stir up trouble?

    [quote]and they want it that way because then everyone is selling to the audience they want to[/quote]

    But Jan, the point is that this particular group of authors does not want it that way. They don’t want to be shelved solely in a niche section of bookstores. So saying ‘people writing gay fiction don’t mind, why do you?’ doesn’t wash.

  134. Jan
    Mar 19, 2007 @ 21:33:12

    [quote comment="24985"]But but but can I still wear the matching rainbow pumps?

    I need all the help I can get perking up my butt these days.[/quote]

    *snort* If I’d know rainbow pumps helped that problem I’d have bought them 10 years ago.

  135. Jan
    Mar 19, 2007 @ 21:42:15

    [quote comment="24986"]But Jan, the point is that this particular group of authors does not want it that way. They don’t want to be shelved solely in a niche section of bookstores. So saying ‘people writing gay fiction don’t mind, why do you?’ doesn’t wash.[/quote]

    Sorry, I didn’t phrase that well, because I assumed everyone was following the thread. My argument wasn’t that gay people don’t mind, so AA’s shouldn’t mind. My argument was that segregation seems to be acceptable for gays because that way they’re sure of reaching the audience they’re written for and will sell best where they are. So I think it’s wrong to bash Teddy for assuming that segregation in other parts of the store will work the same way.

    Personally, I think people’s books should be sold wherever they want them.

  136. Ro
    Mar 19, 2007 @ 21:42:38

    Certainly female sf/f writers did write under male or gender-neutral pseudonyms for a time (and some may choose to do so, but now look on the shelves: lots of female-sounding names), but they were still shelved in the SF/F section because that was the market they wrote within. Black authors are writing mysteries, romances, horror, etc but are not shelved within the market they are writing.

    Like many people have said, niche marketing is great if that is what you want. Not wanting to be marketed solely within a niche because of skin color or sexuality or ethnicity(if the book has nothing to do with issues differences cause) has nothing to do with being ashamed of who you are–black authors want to be able to write genre fiction and be shelved with other writers of that genre–which is not happening solely because they are black.

    Also, because the authors are black they are not allowed to write books not featuring black characters–which is what Millenia Black fought against in court. That is why Sue Monk Kidd’s book was brought up: if Kidd was black, it doesn’t matter that the protag is a little white girl–the publisher probably would have asked the character to be changed to a black girl and/or the book would have been shelved in the “African-American” section.

    I’m not saying your views are racist TeddyPig, but it comes across to me, and probably many other people, as though you’re telling black authors to just accept what they’ve been given because at least they have it. Sounds mightily like the “reasonings” given to black people when they were allowed to at least sit at the back of the bus. Was it right? No. But black people took it because they weren’t allowed on buses at all before. But then they couldn’t take it anymore, which is what a number of black authors are doing right now: they got their foot in the door after decades of there being no black genre fiction on the shelves, and now they’re realizing that it’s become a crutch to their careers. Like I said, if a person wants to write within a niche it’s fine, but to consign nearly every single author of one particular race into that niche without giving any other options is wrong.

  137. TeddyPig
    Mar 19, 2007 @ 21:48:31

    But Sara,

    You are assuming THEY represent all the writers and not just group of people upset over this situation for whatever reason.

    I have yet to actually hear a Gay writer say “You know that section we fought so hard for to recognize our authors and to celebrate our culture? You know those Gay bookstores that are present in every one of our major cities? Let’s dump it.”

    That is the incredible thing I cannot believe.

    I mean in real life (not in this comment section) I do not just define myself as Gay, my focus and my life are not that narrow, but you know what helped me define a major part of me was those sections in the library and those stores.

    I think they are still important and no I, and no one “I know” wants to be dumped into another pile in the bookstore to have to fear the encroachment of Nora Roberts 1500th book. I love Nora, but no, no I do not want to compete with Nora, I know my limits.

    The great thing is that most of the great Gay writers in the Gay section end up on those major book lists anyway. They seem to find ways to promote themselves outside of the Gay aisle even if they are typically segregated.

    I guess I will not see the glass as half empty here.

  138. TeddyPig
    Mar 19, 2007 @ 21:55:59

    Ro,

    Again you are telling me you have as an AA writer no other options.

    I find that hard to believe. Sorry.

  139. Sara Dennis
    Mar 19, 2007 @ 22:00:34

    [quote comment="24990"]But Sara,

    You are assuming THEY represent all the writers and not just group of people upset over this situation for whatever reason.

    [/quote]

    To be fair, since the topic came to my attention, I’ve heard and seen more AA authors and readers mention that they don’t like the niche than there are AA authors commenting on this thread. That leads me to believe that it’s not just a very vocal few who feel that way. Is it -every- AA author? No. But more than the representatives here.

    [quote]

    I have yet to actually hear a Gay writer say “You know that section we fought so hard for to recognize our authors and to celebrate our culture? You know those Gay bookstores that are present in every one of our major cities? Let’s dump it.”

    That is the incredible thing I cannot believe.
    [/quote]

    I understand that sentiment, Teddy. But you’re seeing it as a celebration. And the AA authors are saying they see it as a restriction, not a celebration.

    That said, I don’t think the AA romance authors are saying that there isn’t a place for an AA section of the bookstore. Histories, biographies, etc, literature maybe, belong there. They’re saying that they want genre fiction to be shelved with genre fiction. Romance, mystery, fantasy, that sort of thing.

    I don’t know. I can see your points, Teddy and Jan. It just makes me uncomfortable to see someone else’s points brushed aside because they don’t jive with the way other people have done it.

  140. Ro
    Mar 19, 2007 @ 22:16:46

    Oh there are options. Write color-neutral characters that readers would assume were white. Not tell your agent and editor you are black. Just write and do everything where no one knows what you look like until you’re a mega-selling author. [sarcasm]

    But like I said, your arguments have smacked of accepting things because at least it’s there, and it’s hard to get people who’ve been wounded to listen to what you have to say when it appears you feel they should just suck it up.

  141. Jan
    Mar 19, 2007 @ 22:41:39

    [quote comment="24992"]I don’t know. I can see your points, Teddy and Jan. It just makes me uncomfortable to see someone else’s points brushed aside because they don’t jive with the way other people have done it.[/quote]

    I’m sorry, but exactly what points am I brushing aside other than the calling of Teddy racist? Because that’s the only one I’m aiming to brush aside since it seems a gradeschool fallback due to a lack of argument.

    My posts to this point have been an attempt to understand the situation the information I’ve been given from the surveys on Karen Scott’s blog, where the survey respondents I read said the shelving situation wasn’t caused by racism, they simple want it changed. And I’ve repeatedly expressed support for the authors who do want to change their situations. I don’t get how this is brushing their points of view aside. Seems more like agreeing with them.

  142. Robin
    Mar 19, 2007 @ 22:58:47

    That said, I don’t think the AA romance authors are saying that there isn’t a place for an AA section of the bookstore. Histories, biographies, etc, literature maybe, belong there. They’re saying that they want genre fiction to be shelved with genre fiction. Romance, mystery, fantasy, that sort of thing.

    This is a good point, and in reference to the Sue Monk Kidd example brought up earlier, I don’t think Kidd would have been asked to change the race of her characters if she were an AA author. Because IMO there is much more latitude in more “literary” fiction, in part due to the diversity of authors and in part due to the diversity of readers reading diverse authors, and in part due to the different orientation to race in lit fic (both with books and with authors). Diversity is more embraced as a value there, IMO.

    In genre fiction, though, or at least in Romance, it’s not, not on any level. And when it comes to race, the lack of respect is even more apparent, and it has discriminatory effects, even if it doesn’t have those intentions. Maybe that’s why there is so much disagreement around this issue — some are focusing of what seems to be the money making impulse of the publishers, and others are focusing on the discriminatory effects.

  143. Sara Dennis
    Mar 19, 2007 @ 23:16:31

    [quote comment="24994"]
    I’m sorry, but exactly what points am I brushing aside other than the calling of Teddy racist? Because that’s the only one I’m aiming to brush aside since it seems a gradeschool fallback due to a lack of argument.
    [/quote]

    I didn’t say that you specifically were brushing aside points, Jan. I included you in the ‘I get what you’re saying’ part of my reply.

    However, in the ‘other authors have accepted being put in a niche/other genre authors have overcome their obstacles’, this particular issue (AA genre authors feeling unable to break out of the niche due to shelving/industry practices) seemed to be dismissed because they weren’t following the decisions of the sf and/or gay fiction authors.

    And I’m beating a wounded horse now, so I think I’ve said it enough. :)

  144. Jan
    Mar 19, 2007 @ 23:33:39

    My apologies Sara. I was misunderstanding you.

    My point with the sf/gay authors is simply to say that AA authors are not alone in being pigeon-holed and to explore possible parallels, not that their desire to move isn’t worthy. I still believe that any author’s books should be labeled and shelved as he or she sees fit.

    And I think we’re all beating dead horses here to be honest. I’ve asked Jane to close the thread, because there doesn’t seem to be anything new to say.

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