Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Get rid of AA imprints?

My friend Linda Chavis hipped me to this article on HuffPo, "Rejecting the Publishing Ghetto." Something tells me without African American imprints there are fewer African American books. But he makes lots of good points here. Publishers do tend to treat these imprints with less respect.

12 comments:

Angelia... said...

He does make excellent points and a very valid point is that we are fed what we eat~ sad but true~and it is true, fewer AA imprints, fewer AA books, I am old enough to remember that and it wasnt that long ago~

Angela Henry said...

It seems to me that there are already fewer AA books being published. At least in comparison to a several years ago during the "Black Book Boom" following Terry McMillan's success. Many of the authors who got book deals around the same time as me are currently without a publisher or have turned or gone back to self-publishing out of frustration over the very narrow scope of books now being acquired by publishers.

K.L. Brady said...

That was an excellent article. I found the PW article pretty interesting to. There seems to be a groundswell of information circulating on this issue.

I personally think that when Terry McMillan releases the sequel to Waiting to Exhale, it will do a lot to remind publishing houses and the wider reading audience (read non-black) that our stories have appeal across racial and ethnic lines and boundaries--and everything doesn't have to be about Urban Lit (not that I'm hatin' on urban lit). At least I hope it has that impact. Wishful thinking maybe? We can always hope.

Carleen Brice said...

K.L. I'm REALLY curious to see how the sequel to EXHALE does. Hoping like hell it does very, very well!

Barbara Albin said...

Carleen, If you had not written about the AA "fiction" section of the bookstore, I would never have realized it was there. Yes, I knew how to find Maya Angelou, Terry McMillan, etc. For teaching children about art and African American Women I used Faith Ringgold books and I only found Zora Hurston by accident as they had her book on a center table. How many wonderful books have I missed, because I never saw them on the shelves and didn't know they only existed in a "special section". I wish everyone could move beyond "sections". Fiction is fiction and should be all together. I realize someone will say just look at the listings on the shelves, but my eyes are lousy and sometimes I am unable to see them if they are placed too high(:

MissAttitude said...

The author makes great pounts as do the commentors. But as people have pointed out; the fewer African American imprints, the fewer African American books. But I really think that African American literature sections should be removed from bookstores and the books should just be put in the genre section they fit in (ex: a story about an AA black vampire should go in the paranormal/fantasy or whatever section at the library). It's so frustrating.
At least the YA section is interspersed with books about poc, but very, very few. I don't know which is worse. Probably the YA because there's not as many and I know that once I'm an adult I'll have so many other options to read and enjoy (of course I could read them now and I do, but I don't think I enjoy all of them as much as I could since I'm still a teenager in hs).

Cecelia Dowdy said...

I have mixed feelings about this whole subject. I do know a number of African-Americans who refuse to read books by White authors. They automatically seek the AA section of a bookstore....if the AA section disappears, how would these readers find the books that they crave. Then I've also spoken with people of other races, on my own blog, who state that they didn't even realize the AA section existed, and some figured only non-fiction material was in the AA section, so they'd check it out next time they were in the store. There are both pros and cons to removing the section: you don't want to lose your AA readership, but you want to introduce your books to readers of different races...is there a win/win situation?

BTW, my books are published by "White" imprints. I have yet to sell a novel to an AA imprint.

K.L. Brady said...

I think there is a win/win situation, but the problem is that neither bookstores nor publishers really see this as an issue. When is the last time you walked into a Borders or Barnes & Noble and saw a mix of AA and non-AA books on the front tables and shelves? You MIGHT find the latest Oprah pick and that's about it. It requires a change in marketing strategy--marketing books together, regardless of the color of the author or characters, side by side, as equals. There has to be a desire on both sides to change things. Right now, it's not there.

For AA authors, we almost don't know what to ask for. We ask for our own section, then we don't want our own section. You want a table? We gave you a table. So we marked it Urban Lit and stuck in the back of the store. You got your table, didn't you? lol

At the end of the day, it requires an entirely new marketing strategy and I'm not sure they feel AA authors or the AA audience is worth all the trouble right now.

Angelia... said...

KL you make some excellent points some of it has to be about US knowing what we want and as quiet as its kept there are those amongst us, satisfied with it as it is~

3 Boys and an Old Lady said...

Interesting article. The AA label is frustrating, I doubt that scratching it altogether would increase the AA books out there or imprints of such, but the market is changing/has changed much these last few years. AA, YA, Women's Lit, etc., are just one more category when genre should suffice.

Raval911 said...

Hmm- love this point of view and how he lays it out, tho I totally disagree. It's not just that there'd b fewer AA books, it's that the ones being put out would, I believe, be even more stifled by a thoroughly white hierarchy. Such a drastic solution would require an equally drastic anti-racist move on the mainstream, white press as well.

Maxine Thompson said...

I have mixed feelings about this issue. As a literary agent, I'm finding it harder to get Black authors' book deals in the mainstream because there now appears to be a (mis)perception that Black books have flooded the market. Needless to say, we're still underrepresented in the literary arena when all the books are taken into account.
The imprints are one way to allow more AA authors to get their feet in the door, but, at the same time, they tend to segregate the books, preventing them from getting exposure to a multi-cultural and mainstream audience.

Maxine Thompson
Author, Hostage of Lies, (Book of the Month on Bookspan) and others