Below are her tips for readers on what books to buy and where to buy them and for authors on how to get more readers:
When I think of the holidays I think of joy. (Really, I think about being overwhelmed with the trappings of joy-shopping, parties, getting the Christmas cards out the door.) I also get joyful thinking about how many Black writers are doing their thing, and the hopes that we will all find new readers.
Wench by Dolen Perkins Valdez. Read Carleen’s two fabulous books. Try Sugar or Glorious by Bernice McFadden. Check out 32 Candles by Ernessa T. Carter. Into the supernatural? Then read Tananarive Due’s books. Buy a cookbook by Marcus Samuelsson or the Neelys. Want to understand our President? Read his books. Ask your Black co-worker what he or she is reading and why they like that author. If they tell you Beverly Jenkins, don’t hesitate to swoop it up.
Black authors, expand your lane. We complain a lot about where our books are placed, and who does and doesn’t review our books. This wild, wild West of publishing means that a lot of the gatekeepers are gone. Between Facebook, Twitter, the ability to set up your own interviews and reach out to new audiences with your blogs, you get to create a groundswell of people coming into stores and going on line to buy your book. The “If you build it, they will come” mentality is gone baby gone. Do the hustle.
All readers, as you shop for books for yourself and for others, honor the independents, including Black bookstores with your business. This is not only a critical time for writers, it is a make or break time for independents. If we don’t support them now, we will bemoan their closing and what they did for us in the future. This holiday buy a few books, or all your books from an indie. The big box stores are convenient. Every dollar you spend via a visit to, or an online order to stores like Hue-Man in Harlem, or the Shrine of the Black Madonna helps authors who often get few venues to read and sell. It means that you support community hubs where people come together to talk about health, spirituality, love, economic power and hope. It means that you are investing in the future of books.
Most of all readers, please keep reading. Writers keep working on craft. Make it as good as it can be, then take a good deep breath and go back in and make it better. Here’s wishing you a bright shiny reading/writing holiday and a delicious New Year.