Friday, September 23, 2011

A Day in the Life...

of a book blogger that happens to be black...or African American, whatever floats your boat.

7:00 a.m. Rise & shine
7:30 a.m. Check to see if Blogger FINALLY worked out their kinks and posted today's post at 7:30 instead of 9:30 or 5:30
8:30 a.m. - 5:00 p.m. Do the job I'm actually paid to do
5:30 p.m. Check email
5:32 p.m. Let out a loud exasperated sigh as I read the following:

Hello <---note that I don't have a name, just a generic hello, because this has already been pitched to every black book blogger on the net.
My name is Denise and I was referred to you by a friend on Goodreads. I'm an Urban lit authoress and I've recently authored a novel titled, Streets is Talking.
What's wrong with this picture you might ask. #1 I don't do urban lit & #2 even though it's a real word, certified by the dictionary and everything, I abhor the word 'authoress!'  Like what is that even about?

5:45 p.m. DM J Nic, my literary twin, about the latest shiggidy that ended up in my inbox
Me: Why did I get a pitch from XYZ publisher about rapper Blase' Blahs latest urban tale?
JNic: *crickets*
Me: Who in the hell told rappers to start writing books? Better yet, who told publishers that I'd want to read this crap? It's because I'm black, isn't it? Do you think they pitch this crap to BethFishReads or DevourerOfBooks?
JNic: Who?
Me: Exactly!
If you thought the shelves of the bookstore formerly known as Borders were segregated, the world of book blogging is really no better.  Publishers pitch books based on not only genres, but also the color of the author and the blogger.  Just because I'm brown doesn't mean I want to read every piece of lit written by another brown person.  No, I'm not interested in the garbage 50 Cent is peddling to urban youth, but I may be interested in that new Sophie Kinsella or Amy Tan so how about pitching me that instead?

A recent conversation with a good friend of mine led to a passionate monologue from me about the greatness of Algonquin Books.  I won't jump on the soap box and give you details about what I said, but here are the highlights.  Algonquin Books is hands down my favorite publisher.  There aren't black, white, brown, purple or pink books with them, just good books.  I've never gotten a pitch from them that was tailored for a specific audience.  It's more of a "we've got great books, you like great books, look at our great books and tell us what you want us to send you."

I watched with fascination as Tayari Jones toured the country this year promoting her book,  Silver Sparrow.  National reviewers, national public radio and book bloggers didn't dwell on the fact that the characters were African-American.  Silver Sparrow is the kind of story that can play out in families of any race.  In the hands of another publisher, it might have been banished to the 'Urban Lit' section of the bookstore and found itself nestled between Zane and Ice-T.  I really feel like a big reason for the book's success, other than the fact that it was amazing, was the way it was presented by Algonquin Books.

Publishers that continue to pigeonhole their authors and their audience are doing no one any favors. A good book is a good book is a good book regardless of who writes it.  If you write it, they will read it.  Publishers would do well to remember that and to stop selling everyone short.

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