Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Can There Be Justification for Racism?

Since this subject is finally being discussed by folks other than me, I've seen some interesting comments from "anonymous" cowards afraid to sign their name to their prejudice comments. Many say that marketing strategy supercedes the law. That it gives publishers the right to use an author's skin color as the deciding factor when determining where a book will be best suited in the marketplace.

Here's the question: If a publisher regards and treats an author differently simply because they're black, not based on the content of the work they've created, is that publisher practicing racial discrimination or not?

Join the great discussions. Visit Patrick Willoughby's posting at his website. Also authors Millenia Black and Monica Jackson.

And I'd love to hear what folks have to say to that above question. Is it or is it not the essence of race discrimination?

Update (2/20)........
Amen. Direct your blog-engines to Buzz, Balls and Hype. Thanks, MJ. A little late, but you finally came around. :0)

47 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think it's unfair of you to call posters who are anonymous "cowards," especially since your entire blog is anonymous. Could it be that those posters choose to remain anonymous for the same reason you do?

Sign me,
Anonymous

2/15/2006 5:42 PM  
Blogger Bestselling Author, Pontif. said...

No. I am not anonymous because I want to hide behind arrogant prejudice.

Yes, I am also a coward; afraid to raise hell for fear I will lose my career, supressed as it may be, it does pay the bills and feed my family.

But, I maintain that it is cowardly for folks to speak out in support of racism and hide behind anonymity. If you're going to be a bigot, sign you're name to it.

It truly is a damn shame that I have to hide behind anonymity in an effort to do the exact opposite.

2/15/2006 8:45 PM  
Blogger JA Konrath said...

I'm "JA" Konrath rather than Joe, because 80% of fiction is bought by women. There are no author photos on my books, or any references to me being a guy.

I'm being marketed to a specific demographic. But I'm fine with it, because that demographic is the majority of book buyers.

It would piss me off if I was being marketed to a smaller segment of the book-buying public, especially if my book wasn't specifically targeting that segment. That would be restricting my potential audience. That would suck.

Is it racism or simply a lack of intelligence on behalf of the marketing department?

Here's the thing--most publicists are young, just out of school, and don't know much. They look at prior sales, what worked in the past, and do the same things. So if they consider race a 'hook' on how to get publicity, and figure that's something that will help get that author press, events, and signings.

Is that wrong? Sure. But they do that with all authors. They latch on to anything that can give them an edge when it comes to marketing.

Is this fair? Hell no. But publishing isn't fair. The system is broken, on many different levels.

Was race a factor when they bought your books? In your query, did you specifically point out your race? What genre do you write in? What hooks can you use to get publicity?

Considering 4 out of 5 books don't make a profit, what can you do to make sure you're one of the profitable ones?

2/16/2006 8:43 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes, black authors are discriminated against, and that seems especially weird for content that has nothing to do with race. Maybe you should be looking for any or all of new agent / new editor / new publisher. Do your critique partners (of diverse backgrounds, of course) agree that nothing in your content should be pushing your publisher this direction? If so, I'd suggest seriously thinking about querying elsewhere...

2/16/2006 12:51 PM  
Blogger Bestselling Author, Pontif. said...

Hi Joe......Thanks for contributing to the discussion.

I'm "JA" Konrath rather than Joe, because 80% of fiction is bought by women. There are no author photos on my books, or any references to me being a guy.

Luckily, names can be neutralized. Doesn't quite work that way with skin color. It's kind of a built in attribute.

Is it racism or simply a lack of intelligence on behalf of the marketing department?

You're drawing a parallel between the atrocity of racism and uneducated publishing staff?

Come on, Joe. I know you're more intelligent than that.

Is that wrong? Sure. But they do that with all authors. They latch on to anything that can give them an edge when it comes to marketing.

BUT? I think it's only appropriate to stop at: it's wrong. To say that a publisher's racial discrimination is pardonable because they have the right to latch on to anything that can give them a marketing edge is offensive.

I think you need to live in a black person's skin for a few years, in this country, and see if you'd still be prepared to make such a statement. I shouldn't have to say this, but it looks like I need to.....

THERE IS NO EXCUSE FOR RACISM. NONE.

You're offering excuses. For whatever reason, you are choosing not to acknowledge that this practice is a human affront. As atrocious as slavery, Jim Crow, KKK, etc.

It has been adopted as a common business practice precisely because of the kind of inhumane reasoning you're offering here. There's a huge difference between inappropriately categorizing a suspense novel as a romance, or a thriller as a mystery, etc., and categorizing simply because the author's skin is black. You are attempting to give these issues equal gravity. That is an enormous mistake. Even more, an insult. Intended or not. It is an insult.

You know Monica Jackson said it best on her blog. If white authors had an issue that was affecting them as much as this issue is affecting black authors, that's all the industry and "pundit-like" plots would be spewing and dealing with---How do we break through the racial barriers? As opposed to how to get through a book tour. Why don't publishers lower the prices on e-books, yada, yada, yada.

But since as it doesn't affect white authors, only "minorities", it's hardly something that warrants mention. It's ignored and avoided.

Was race a factor when they bought your books? In your query, did you specifically point out your race? What genre do you write in? What hooks can you use to get publicity?

No, and no. Do you mean the genre I "actually" write in? Because my publisher has long since decided that because I'm African-American, I can only write for the African-American audience. But, I actually write mainstream women's fiction. My work could be compared to fellow authors such as Joy Fielding or Elizabeth Berg.

Hooks? What kind of publicity are we talking about here? Over the years, I've pretty much gotten a grip on the AA community. In order for an AA author to make the national bestseller lists, you have to have a HUGE percentage of black readers buying your books, just about all of them actually. Remember, it's only about 15% of the book-buying market. We're damn near estranged from the other 85%.

Considering 4 out of 5 books don't make a profit, what can you do to make sure you're one of the profitable ones?

My books make a profit. I do very well in the AA market. They just don't have access to the "commercial" reader and book-buyer, or the white reader, because, again, my publisher uses my skin color as justification for suppressing their marketability. How many white people do you see over at the African-American book shelf?

In closing Joe, based on the questions you pose and the reasoning you display, I get the impression that you want to avoid aknowledging and decrying what's being done to some authors in this industry. The ones that happen to be black, but write commercially viable material. Remember---we are people too, just like you are. Our skin is just a different color. That's all.

How would you feel if the work you created were being mistreated simply because of the color of your skin? Stop. Close your eyes. Think about that for a full minute. Imagine it. To hell with the content of what you wrote. Your skin is going to drive the decisions on how you're handled and treated; decreasing the potential you could've had access to....if it were simply another color.

Remember, personal integrity is paramount.

To anon

My work has no racial or ethnic relevance whatsoever. My editors over the years have all admitted this to my agent and myself. The books could just as easily be marketed to the mainstream reader. The content is not the deciding factor.

I resent the idea that some people express --- that a black person cannot write material suitable for the larger white marketplace. This is insulting to us as intelligent human beings. James Patterson didn't have to be black to create Alex Cross. Tess Gerritsen didn't have to be white to create Jane Rizolli and Dr. Maura Isles. And there are other examples, but those are the most obvious that I can recall....and I fear this post has run on long enough.

I wouldn't leave my agent, and I don't see any point in leaving my publisher at this time. Just about all the major houses use this skin-based discrimination as a part of their marketing strategies. Much of them even have AA imprints for this express purpose. Not to say you couldn't find one that's willing to try alternatives. I've seen them starting that with the likes of Kyra Davis.

So, they are out there and I'm exploring my options.

2/16/2006 5:34 PM  
Blogger JA Konrath said...

You're drawing a parallel between the atrocity of racism and uneducated publishing staff?

No. I'm stating that publicists look for hooks. Race is a hook. That's where there are African American bookstores, and sections in the chains devoted to black authors.

Again, I don't agree with the publicists. It's wrong. But that's why the publicist's grouped you in that demographic, and since you're doing well it'll be damn hard to get out of it.

I'm a mystery author, so I tour mystery bookstores. Could I do better in non-mystery bookstores? Maybe. But that's not where my publisher sends me.

BUT? I think it's only appropriate to stop at: it's wrong. To say that a publisher's racial discrimination is pardonable because they have the right to latch on to anything that can give them a marketing edge is offensive.

I didn't say it was pardonable. It's wrong. I'll say it again. IT'S WRONG. But it's not a calculated effort to prevent you from hitting the bestseller lists. It's a misguided attempt at finding a niche market and making money, which they seem to be doing.

I think you need to live in a black person's skin for a few years, in this country, and see if you'd still be prepared to make such a statement.

I think you need to find a publisher willing to promote your work, rather than your race.

If your books were put in another section of the bookstore (mystery, sci-fi, fiction, romance) would they sell better?

But since as it doesn't affect white authors, only "minorities", it's hardly something that warrants mention. It's ignored and avoided.

People are descriminated against all around the world. How many causes do you subscribe to? Are you fighting against the child sex trade in Asia? Human trafficking in Russia? Torture in Brazil?

Racism in publishing affects you, so you're pissed. If it affected me, I'd be pissed too. But until you become the poster child for every unfairness in the world, you can't expect others to have the same feelings about this subject as you do.

That doesn't make me a racist, or uncaring.

I actually write mainstream women's fiction. My work could be compared to fellow authors such as Joy Fielding or Elizabeth Berg.

Over the years, I've pretty much gotten a grip on the AA community. In order for an AA author to make the national bestseller lists, you have to have a HUGE percentage of black readers buying your books, just about all of them actually. Remember, it's only about 15% of the book-buying market. We're damn near estranged from the other 85%.


That's awful. I'd be pissed too. It's like a salary cap.

But keep in mind that all genres are just a certain percentage of the book-buying market. Romance is the largest, but I think that's still only 40%.

Again, that doesn't really equate with your situation, because those authors are writing romances, which is why they're in that section. If you're writing women's fiction, you should be in another section.

My books make a profit. I do very well in the AA market. They just don't have access to the "commercial" reader and book-buyer, or the white reader, because, again, my publisher uses my skin color as justification for suppressing their marketability. How many white people do you see over at the African-American book shelf?

Not any. Not many men over at the Mystery shelf either. When a mystery becomes a bestseller, it's moved to the 'fiction' section.

In closing Joe, based on the questions you pose and the reasoning you display, I get the impression that you want to avoid aknowledging and decrying what's being done to some authors in this industry.

Let's get something straight---I don't care what's happening to ANYONE in the publishing industry, unless it directly relates to me.

It's an unfair, unjust, broken industry. You're getting screwed? Welcome to the club. We all get screwed.

If you think you're being screwed worse than anyone else, I'd be happy to introduce you to some friends of mine who can no longer get their books published, even though they had decent numbers and did everything they were supposed to.

Change publishers. Find one that promotes you the way you want to be promoted. Chnage agents. Find one that will champion your cause. Go public and change the system. Rosa Parks wasn't anonymous.

How would you feel if the work you created were being mistreated simply because of the color of your skin? Stop. Close your eyes. Think about that for a full minute. Imagine it.

I have a close friend who lives on the south side of Chicago. I hang out with him often, but not in his neighborhood. His area is entirely black, there's a lot of gang activity, and the Folks and the People aren't pleased seeing a white boy walking around, or with a brother being friendly with him. There have been incidents. Now we hang out downtown.

Does that show me what it's like growing up as a minority? No. But it does show me what racism is. It's awful being labeled, being judged, and being attacked, for no reason other than skin color.

Is your publisher wrong? Yes.

If my publisher was doing that to me, I'd leave. You say you don't want to leave. I can understand that.

But keep in mind that if you do get your wish, and you are marketed to a mainstream audience, you could fail. That happens all the time. PBO authors go into hardcover, and tank. Series authors write a stand-alone, and tank. Authors change genres, their fan base can no longer find them, and they tank.

This business stinks. And you're getting screwed. Welcome to the club.

I applaud you for trying to do something about it. I hope you change the system. Awareness is the first step, but complaining about things won't fix them.

Figure out how to fix them.

How can we change things? What can people do to help out? Come up with a plan, a strategy, and outline to cause change.

Contact every writer in the blogosphere. Ask them to blog about this topic on a specific day. Or to link to your blog on that day. Have a press release. Contact the media. Let them know what you're doing, what you're fighting for.

The system won't change by itself.

2/16/2006 6:55 PM  
Blogger Bestselling Author, Pontif. said...

But it's not a calculated effort to prevent you from hitting the bestseller lists.

Have never said or implied anything of the like. I'm not charging that they intend to suppress African-American authors exclusively--but that's the end result. Which is all that matters. The means (racial discrimination) don't always justify the ends (ethnic profits).

If your books were put in another section of the bookstore (mystery, sci-fi, fiction, romance) would they sell better?

Can't say. But I can say this: I deserve the same right a Caucasian author would have, based on the material I produce, to find out. That's all I'm passionately, and at times angrily, asserting.

People are descriminated against all around the world. How many causes do you subscribe to? Are you fighting against the child sex trade in Asia? Human trafficking in Russia? Torture in Brazil?

Granted, atrocities do occur all over the world. We should all care to the extent that it relates to humanity as a whole. Am I saying white authors should jump up and fight this oppression alongside us, as if they too are victims? No, that's not what I'm saying.

I'm saying they shouldn't be indifferent. Nonchalant. This is happening here, in the US, our own country. Our own backyard, if you will; which should be cleaned up first.

It's like we're all employees working in the same company, we authors. To sit at your desk purposefully keeping your head buried in your own work while alongside you a fellow co-worker is habitually mistreated, is essentially condoning the egregious treatment. Say something. Speak against it. Tell an HR rep what you see happening that's wrong, then return to your desk. You've done all you can. You've done what you'd want that co-worker to do for you if the situation were reversed. You can't take it on as if it's happening to you, but you can take a supportive stand; Put your position on the record. Speak out against it. Don't condone it. Tess Gerritsen's done this. It's what she can do. It's not her problem, but at least she's not turning a blind eye and a deaf ear. Most "unaffected" authors and industry folk do. That's all I'm saying.

As it is, too many are ignoring this because, as you said about yourself, they don't care. It doesn't directly affect them. But, again, if it were a co-worker in the workplace, is it right to condone that which is grossly wrong? And we're not talking a minor, insignificant wrong here.

Go public and change the system. Rosa Parks wasn't anonymous.

I had a strong reaction to this statement. You're right. And it made me feel bad. She certainly wasn't anonymous. And her life and that of her family members were constantly threatened in the fall out. We're now having to deal with the residue of those times. What if she hadn't done that? Where would we be today, in 2006?

There's a lot at stake. I'm making a good living, and I've had a lot of friends ask me what I'm complaining about. Well, I think it's pretty clear. I deserve an equal shot at the marketplace. Would I be as successful with the commercial audience? Let me find out. That's what I'm complaining about. I'm not being allowed the opportunity to find out.

As I said before, I am exploring my options. There are a few. We have to weigh them carefully. There is a lot at stake.

How can we change things? What can people do to help out? Come up with a plan, a strategy, and outline to cause change.

Contact every writer in the blogosphere. Ask them to blog about this topic on a specific day. Or to link to your blog on that day. Have a press release. Contact the media. Let them know what you're doing, what you're fighting for.

The system won't change by itself.


You're right, it won't change itself. But, it's difficult to get black authors to blog or speak publicly in any forum about racism in publishing, much less white ones. Believe me, I've approached many people--authors, editors, publishers, booksellers, publicists. Most just want to maintain the status quo. Ignore , or flat out deny, that there is an injustice in this regard.

If I thought I could make a difference by stepping out from behind the alligator, I would do so in a heartbeat. As it is, I don't feel the atmosphere is ready for that yet. I feel it would potentially do more harm than good...A lone cry in the dark. But hopefully that will change. As more and more people open up to discussing the problem, things may change.

But at the end of the day, the only solution is this: The change has to happen in the publishers' business practice. They have to decide that their marketing decisions will be driven by book content--not author skin color. That's what has to happen for this to change. If they want AA fiction, make sure the content is AA fiction.

2/16/2006 8:41 PM  
Anonymous Monica said...

J.A. it's something you're addressing the topic, but as far as being pro-active--even Oprah doesn't have that much clout to take on everyday white racism head on. It's taboo to even acknowledge it, much less challenge it.


Remember that MLK got shot. So did Malcolm. We haven't seen their like since as far as organizing the cause.

We can join hands and sing We Shall Overcome all you want, but it's our black faces in the rifle sights. IF BSA went public, BSA would be shot down before she could get out the chorus of Lift Every Voice and Sing.


There IS one thing black authors can do. Start from scratch--as a brand new author with a brand new shiny manuscript. Have your agent not mention race. Send a pretty white publicist to appearances to stand in for you.

Yep, we just all need to become white authors. Lying is in vogue anyway. Look how Frey is selling.

Respectfully, that anecdote you shared about hanging with the bro in the hood?
You don't get it at all.

Imagine the hood is the frickin' world. There is no downtown, no comfy white bread safe haven.

You can't escape those hostile looks, that whiteboy feeling of otherness, those incidents. In fact, those fuckers are your neighbors, your boss, your banker, your kid's school teacher, your agent and your publisher AND you have to work with them every damn day.

They own the bookstore chains, are
in charge of sales, promo and distribution and you know all too well they don't give a flip about your white ass. They think you should be happy they're publishing you, period.

Complain and you're a whiny white boy using the race card.

You got all that?

That's a more accurate rendition of the black experience.

Whire bloggers joining in the cause? The ones who give a damn (PBW, Tess Garritsen, Holly Lisle to name a few) already have. The silence of their peers and particularly the industry blogs was damn near deafening.

In fact, it says something positive about you that you're even bothering to address the issue. Most don't.

2/16/2006 8:43 PM  
Blogger JA Konrath said...

even Oprah doesn't have that much clout to take on everyday white racism head on.

Oprah could be President if she wanted to be. She's one of the most powerful people on the planet.

Remember that MLK got shot. So did Malcolm. We haven't seen their like since as far as organizing the cause.

So did Huey Newton, some Kennedys, Reagan, John Lennon, and many other people. That's fame--it brings out the crazies, both black and white.

Are you saying that there are no influencial black leaders in this country? Jesse? Sharpton? Farrakhan? I voted for Barack Obama, because I live in Illinois, and that guy WILL be President some day.

Imagine the hood is the frickin' world. There is no downtown, no comfy white bread safe haven.

Sorry, gotta disagree here. If I took my black friend down south, then there would be hostile looks and attacks. In the Midwest, not so much. My college was about 30% black. There was no hostility on either side.

If you really truly feel that you're living in fear every day, move to a nicer neighborhood.

Complain and you're a whiny white boy using the race card.

And if I disagree, I'm a racist who 'doesn't get it?'

I complain about the flaws I see within the system. And I offer my solutions on my blog. Every day.

If it's broke, find a way to fix it.

2/17/2006 4:37 AM  
Anonymous Monica said...

This may be an unpopular and controversial response, but I think we blacks have got to get ourselves together to address this issue ourselves before we can expect white folks to do so.

There's not one viable, active, supportive and well-organized group of African American writers willing to take on any controversial political stance that I'm aware.

In my ten years in the industry we start and join organizations for self-serving causes--how can this help me start my writing career, promote my present one or how can I get white folks to appoint me the token Nigger author of whatever genre?

We black writers and authors aren't on the same page on any issue regarding race. Not one. Not even the shelving issue.

How can we ask whites to invest in this when we aren't organizing to do it?

No one person, even Oprah, has the clout to deal with racism in publishing head on. The only way we're going to get anything accomplished as a group.

I feel powerless. I don't have the power, the publishing chops, the popularity or organizational skills to move forward with organizing something like this. But somebody badly needs to start an organization of writers (not exclusive, of all races) to specifically address the concerns of black writers --also to put forward an agenda of concrete goals. What do we want as a group? How are we going to go about doing it? (Mosely?)

Oh and JA--as far as black leaders overall, Farrakhan, Sharpton and Jackson? Nah. Obama, maybe, but he's political. His constituency is everybody, as it rightfully should be. He can't really be a spokeman for any black movement in his position.

Y'all white folks need to get that disagreeing with you isn't always saying you're racist, the same as disagreeing with us isn't always being racist. Hating black folks and not getting it are two very different things, as is the converse.

She-it, my ex-husband never got me and he loved me to death.

I think most white folks don't get racial issues, but very few go around hating black folks or any other group.

2/17/2006 7:57 AM  
Blogger Millenia Black said...

I agree that it's hard to get others to care when many of those affected don't even care - or are simply too afraid - to do anything.

As for JA, I'm encouraged that he's willing to talk about this. I may not be able to gel with his POV, but I can try to understand why he - and others of a like mind - would feel the way he does.

I think we just have to agree to disagree, though. Joe wants to lump this injustice against blacks together with injustices against authors overall - that's unfair. Saying, "Join the club" is laughable. There is no comparison here. And I'm speaking within the context of the publishing industry.

I have it on good authority that an author is preparing to file a law suit against their house for violating the 1981 federal statute. Based exactly on the question BSA has posed here. Is it legal to make an author's skin color the sole factor in varying, disporportionate treatment? From what I'm hearing, it appears we'll soon find out what a court has to say about it.

Stay tuned.

2/17/2006 8:59 AM  
Blogger JA Konrath said...

Joe wants to lump this injustice against blacks together with injustices against authors overall - that's unfair. Saying, "Join the club" is laughable. There is no comparison here. And I'm speaking within the context of the publishing industry.

What's the answer? To completely eliminate the African American section in bookstores and intergate it into other genres?

That won't happen. There are AA sections in bookstores because they're profitable. As long as the publishers and bookstores are making money, the system won't change.

I may be wrong, but I'm pretty sure I saw some figures that said AA lit is one of the fastest growing markets. If that is indeed happening, then publishers are going to try to fill that need by putting more books in that section.

BSA doesn't want to be in that section, even though her books are profitable, and even though she does well in the AA market.

That's fine. I understand that. It's segregation, and it's wrong.

But it's motivated by money, which means it will be hard to change. And the money exists because the demand exists.

The term 'racism' implies one race feeling superior to another.

'Predjudice' is an irrational attitude of hostility toward a person or race.

This is about money. Not hatred. Not superiority. Not hostility.

Is it discriminatory? Hell yes. Is it wrong? Hell yes. Should you be where you want to be on the bookshelf? Hell yes.

I wish you much success.

And here's the thing---if you did go pubic, did alert the media, did speak out and get people behind you, you could make a difference.

And also, you could sell a shitload of books. :)

2/17/2006 10:01 AM  
Blogger Millenia Black said...

As I said over at A Stop at Willoughby, no one's saying there shouldn't be an AA genre, AA bookstores, shelves, you name it. It's a legitimate special interest, just like any other. There are books that belong there because of their content.

The outcry is about not inappropriately subjecting someone to it simply because of their race. That's it. And that's all.

As far as stiring up controversy...sometimes that can backfire. Not that it couldn't be productive - but - you just never know.

2/17/2006 10:31 AM  
Blogger JA Konrath said...

The outcry is about not inappropriately subjecting someone to it simply because of their race. That's it. And that's all.

There's an author named Kay Hooper (great lady) who used to write romances, and now writes suspense thrillers about cops and serial killers. Her books appear regularly on the NYT list.

She's justifiably annoyed, because even though her books belong on the 'mystery' shelf, or even the 'fiction' shelf along with Tess Gerritsen, James Patterson, and John Sandford, she still gets put on the 'romance' shelf.

Because of this, she isn't getting the male readership that those other authors get (Tess used to write romances herself and has a large male readership.)

On one hand, it's not fair.

On the other hand, Kay's still making a ton of money. Which is why her publisher won't take her off the romance shelf.

Now if I were a bestseller, you could put me on any damn shelf you wanted, as long as the books kept selling. But if the shelf I was on limited my sales, I'd make sure that would be my focus during my next contract negotiation.

Here's the problem, though. Even if Kay's publisher agreed that she shouldn't be on the romance shelf anymore, the bookstores would still put her there. Because she's known as a romance author. Because you can't have half your titles in romance and half in mystery, because that will confuse people and you'll lose fans (romance folks won't look on the mystery shelf, and vice versa).

It sounds like BSA has a decent share of a small demographic. If she moved to the 'fiction' shelf, she'd have a much smaller share of a much larger demographic, and might lose some of her share of the smaller one.

Publishers aren't going to mess around with that, because they're already making money.

Again, it's a crummy situation to be in, but it happens to a lot of folks in this business without race being a factor.

Other than the fact that the proven demographic for BSA'a books is African American, and the proven demographic for Kay's books is romance buyers, I see the situation as being similar.

Now let's get philosophical. If you (or anyone participating in this thread) were to start your own publishing company, how would you market your books?

Assume you're not going to be placed on both the AA shelf and the fiction shelf. You have to pick one.

If you pick fiction, would you also publish books from other races? Asian, latin american, white, Indian, etc? Would you use these author's races as hooks to sell more books? A native american author, or a Hindi author, might get more press than a white author. Would you use this to sell more books?

I'm assuming many of these writers are proud of their culture and heritage, and would want it mentioned. But then they'd run the risk of being put in sections other than regular 'fiction.'

You want to make money. What do you do?

What if you bought a book from a black author, didn't mention the author was black, and the book lost money (most do). Would you then try to tap the African American market, even if the book wasn't about African Americans?

2/17/2006 1:10 PM  
Blogger Bestselling Author, Pontif. said...

There's an author named Kay Hooper (great lady) who used to write romances, and now writes suspense thrillers about cops and serial killers.

Operative phrase: used to write romances

I've never written African-American fiction. This is where your faulty reasoning shines. You state the racial practice is wrong, yet still have an inherent need to justify why it's happening and compare it to overall miscateogrization. Lots of authors, like Kay Hooper, suffer from that type of pigeon-holing. Diana Gabaldon comes to mind.

As far as going with you down the "if I were a publisher" philosophical road....how about we get ethical? You're saying that the means of using racial discrimination is justifiable/explainable/tolerable when profit is the target result. It is not. If I were a publisher, I would recruit authors to write content that catered to the market I was targeting. It's like Patrick at Willougby said...a publisher's check doesn't buy them the right to practice this type of race-based discrimination.

I say bring on the lawsuit. I hope they elect for class action. I don't think I could pass up the opportunity to join in on it.

2/17/2006 2:15 PM  
Blogger JA Konrath said...

This following is all devil's advocate food-for-thought BS:

If I were a publisher, I would recruit authors to write content that catered to the market I was targeting.

And if those authors failed to sell in that market, would you target another market? Would you only sign black authors? How would you promote your authors' books? What hooks would you use?

If you published an African American imprint which was making money, and published an African American author in a regular fiction imprint, and lost money, would you move that author to the AA imprint?

You are being miscategorized. So are many others, for reasons other than race. Are those miscategorizations justifiable simply because they don't deal with race?

I don't belive what your publisher is doing to you is right. But it is explainable. They've categorized you, and they're making money.

I'm not justifying it. It's happening, and that's the reason why. Money.

So how do you fix it?

Will a class action suit work? I don't know. It would be hard to prove damages, especially if your books are profitable. Publishers have a zillion ways to show that books lose money.

If you did win, I'm not sure how keen your publisher would be to give you another book deal.

If you're willing to do that, you should be willing to tell your agent, "I want to be in the fiction section" even if it means losing your contract. Or even if it means getting your way, and having your sales drop.

Is being treated fairly worth losing your career? Is it worth less sales and royalties? Is it worth the risk?

If it is, good for you. That's courage I don't have.

I'm a coward. I consider myself extremely lucky to be able to write for a living. I've been treated unfairly, and I took it without complaint. Because the publishers have the power, and I don't want to be right and also out of a job.

If I ran a publishing house, I'd run it like you would. I'd let the authors tell me how they wanted to be marketed. I'd listen to them. I'd work with them. I'd respect their wishes.

I also suspect I wouldn't be in business very long. Because ethics don't sell books.

a publisher's check doesn't buy them the right to practice this type of race-based discrimination.

I agree. But here's the thing: no one is forcing you to work with these publishers. Being published isn't an inalienable right, like attending church or voting.

People don't get published based on the quality of their writing. They get published because the publishers think they can make money.

Have you considered that you were published because they knew you'd do well in an AA demographic? Would that be racist if that were the case? Would you have not signed the contract if you knew that to be true?

Are quotas racist? Should companies or colleges be required to accept a percentage of minorities even if these minorities aren't as qualified as other applicants?

I can't ever truly know what it would be like to be in your situation, because I'm not black, and I'm not a woman.

I also can't say I'd react the way you are reacting if I was in your situation, because I was rejected 450 times before I made a dime, and I would have shot both of my parents to land any kind of publishing deal.

I do know that you're getting screwed, and it sucks.

But I think getting screwed sucks for any reason at all, no matter what race you are.

2/17/2006 4:18 PM  
Blogger Steve said...

Interesting discussion. Allow me to post a hypothetical question:

If, as a white male author, I were to pen a novel featuring a female, African American protagonist, could (or should) I expect to be shelved in the African American section?

Do you know the only thing missing from the Romance section of any bookstore? A male author. There may be some, but none are identifiable as such.

2/17/2006 5:44 PM  
Blogger Jean said...

It smacks of racism to me.

2/17/2006 7:43 PM  
Blogger Monica said...

Nope, by virtue of your gleaming and pristine not-blackness, your books would be categorized by the genre you actually wrote, not by the race of your characters.

Example, Michael Gruber's latest. He's a sterling example of white manhood's finest, yet wrote a black protag and characters. He'd never ever, ever have his fiction categorized into the Negro Niche. Many have written novels with black protags (James Patterson is one), yet their books sit proudly with the white fiction in the appropriate genre.

Yet, if you were black (no other race's genre fiction qualifies to be singled out in this manner) and wrote mostly white characters--your work would be still categorized in the Nigger Niche and could only be marketed to fellow readers of your race. Cool how that works, huh?

There are a few white males in romance, such as Leigh Greenwood, ex-Prez of the Romance Writers of American. But most white males who write romance get catapulted to the best-seller lists and bypass the feminine the romance ghetto a la Nicolas Sparks. (You can find his saccharine romances in mainstream fiction).

One wonders why more white males aren't breaking their typing fingers trying to write romance since they have such an obvious advantage over their female counterparts and way more than an advantage over us poor writing black sods?

Ahh, the joys of white manhood, the natural and inherent affirmative action, the privileges, the unearned perks, the goodies!

I know you'll modestly deny it, but wink, wink.

So, why in the name of heaven, aren't you writing romance with a black heroine? I have no idea what you write, maybe something manly such as thrillers, mysteries or horror? Some genre where you have to compete with. . . thousands of other white men?

Tsk. Tsk.

2/17/2006 8:17 PM  
Blogger Steve said...

Actually, if you peruse my aisles, you'll find Omar Tyree directly below Nicholas Sparks (not an editorial statement; just that pesky alphabet). Zane resides at the end of the fiction Run, nestled snugly to the right of Stuart Woods (and taking up about the same amount of shelf space).

Every few weeks, I'm asked where the African American fiction is, and I take the customer into the wilds of Fiction. Most times, they're dismayed that authors like Harris, Baisden and Dickey don't have their own home.

Oh, and those customers are white as often as they're black.

So, does that make me right or wrong?

PS. I write horror with a humorous bent, mystery with a humorous bent and humor with a humorous bent.

2/17/2006 8:23 PM  
Blogger Bestselling Author, Pontif. said...

Steve.....no, you would have the best of both worlds, so to speak. No different than James Patterson with Alex Cross.

JA......that day on the bus, you'd probably have told Rosa Parks something along the lines of, "Look gal, just be grateful you even get to ride this bus."

2/17/2006 10:22 PM  
Blogger Monica said...

Book store shelving can be quite arbitrary.

Some stores don't segregate their books by race although the publisher catelogues they order from are segregated, I assume those are enlightened moonbat store owners in heavily blue areas.

Some chain stores such as Waldenbooks/Borders do so by policy. They say they took a survey of their black customers and that's how they wanted it.

Admittedly, we are all not on the same page. Many blacks are as clueless about the gravity of the book segregation issue as many whites,

So in my midwestern region, I'm often horrified to see SFF author Octavia Butler shoved up next to inspirational romance writer Angela Benson, and scholarly nonfiction tomes shoved next to Eric Jerome Dickey. All the books in that section have in common is the color of the author's skin.

I wonder why Waldenbooks/Borders and B&N don't pull out all the books by Jewish authors--fiction, all genres and sorts, nonfiction, any and all subject matter and content and shove them altogether into a small Jew Book section.

Oh, yeah. . . because the Third Reich is over.

2/17/2006 11:28 PM  
Blogger Karen Syed said...

As a publisher, there are still some of us who believe in the HUMAN race. I make no distinction in my publishing house based on the color of an author's skin. Nor in my marketing strategy. Do I solicit ethnic work? Hell yeah. It sells, but do I care the color of the author's skin? Nope, as long as the characters and the story are authentic and well developed, and the author works their butt off to sell it.. Some say I am cutting off my nose to spite my face, but it's my nose and I can do with it as I please. I have lived my entire life faced with racism, and my response is usually the same.

Q: Are you mixed?
A: Do you mean confused?

Q: Are you half black/half white?
A: More a caramel brown.

Q You know what I mean. Are you African American.
A: oh, no, I'm from Michigan.

At this point they usually stomp off mad. My point is, my heritage is my own business, and I will only be judged on that basis if I allow it to happen. When I fill out forms that ask my race, I have been known to use the other category and enter" Human." As a kid, I used to check them all.

When I sell my own books, I make very little reference to the ethnicity of the characters unless someone specifically asks. In DARK SHINES MY LOVE, my hero is black, and my heroine is white. But without the physical description in the story, one might never know. Does it really mater?

In my opinion, most, not all, but most present day segregation happens because someone thinks they are not getting what they deserve. If that is the case, work smarter. You don't get what you deserve, you earn what you deserve, and if someone is always whining because they are being discriminated against and didn't get the raise they deserved, perhaps it is because they spent too much time whining about it, and not enough time proving their ability.

Someone recently asked me why I don't apply for a "Minority Loan" to get my business going strong.
1. I'm not a minority.
2. My company is strong, because I'm strong.
3. If my white half doesn't deserve a loan, why in the hell does my black half deserve a loan?

Simplistic? Maybe. But I was raised to believe that the more you desire, the more strive. And I strive to be me. No matter the color of my skin. I would not expect anything more or less from my authors. I refuse to sell out an entire culture to make more money...though I could use the money.

2/18/2006 6:46 AM  
Blogger John R. said...

FWIW, I don't think a comparison with genre sections in stores holds any water at all - those are divided by what's in the book, not according to anything to do with the author. And equally FWIW, I've never seen a section in a UK bookstore divided along ethnic lines unless the books within it, like those in the gay & lesbian section which a lot of shops have, deal specifically with issues relating to that community, and are usually non-fiction.

Common or garden fiction is shunted into its genre slots, regardless of who the author is and isn't consigned to some arbitrary section based on nothing whatsoever to do with its content. And that's the way it should be.

It is discriminatory, it isn't something that stores or publishers should even consider, IMO.

2/18/2006 7:27 AM  
Blogger Millenia Black said...

I agree with Karen's offering. It's fine to feed the ethnic markets - after all they obviously exist - just ensure your acquisitions are content-driven, as opposed to race-driven. Which is the industry's current practice.

2/18/2006 8:27 AM  
Blogger JLB said...

BestSellingAuthor,

It sounds as though you are torn between what you need to do, and what you want to do. Perhaps you could strike a compromise within yourself, and bring the two together: why not WRITE about this issue? I don’t mean blog, I mean tell the story, bring it into focus. If the above repartee is any indicator, there is plenty of conflict from which build an important and lively story.

You obviously have a lot of passion for this topic, and some mixed feelings as well. Perhaps the process of writing on what you have seen of racism in publishing would not only help you to find resolution and clarity for yourself, but would also bring the issues to your readership and beyond.

Who knows? Perhaps you would even help to become the change you wish to see in the world (spoken with a little help from):

Mahatma Gandhi - "Be the change you want to see in the world."

JLB

2/18/2006 8:54 AM  
Blogger M. G. Tarquini said...

Portrait of a friend of mine: born and raised in Puerto Rico, mother of hispanic ancestry, father of Italian ancestry.

One day, while watching Oprah, she found out she was the 'product of a bi-racial' marriage.

"Who knew?" She sputtered.

Portrait of me: Italian ancestry, both sides, married to a Jewish man. I found out while watching Oprah, that my children are the product of a "mixed marriage."

"Well, looky there!" I sputtered.

Look at my name, it's Latin, but I'm not qualified to write 'Latin literature by latin authors' because, apparently, I'm not Latin enough. Now, my friend, she's Latin enough, but if she wanted to, would she have to explain the Italian last name first, you know, include it in the author bio part of the query? "Don't let my last name fool you, I'm really Latin and speak fluent Spanish."

Guess what? So do I.

Then somebody says to me, "No, they mean LATINA."

That's okay. I'm a girl.
*****
Yes, Best Selling Author, I think it's discriminatory to group people's fiction based on the color of their skin. Until AA authors stand up and say they don't want that, that's the way it will be.

Consider this - how many people walk right by the AA section thinking - "Oh, those books are not for me. I won't understand them. They are about something with which I have no experience. Probably written in another language, a dialect that will be a mystery to me, reference things I can't fathom."

NONONO! It's just a story about a gal who gets dumped by her boyfriend, joins the circus and becomes a world famous trapeze artist.

Oh. That's sounds interesting. What the HELL is it doing there?

2/18/2006 9:52 AM  
Blogger JA Konrath said...

JA......that day on the bus, you'd probably have told Rosa Parks something along the lines of, "Look gal, just be grateful you even get to ride this bus."

Wrong. I'd be so grateful that I got to ride the bus that I wouldn't have even been paying attention to her.

But publishing isn't public transportation. It isn't about equality. If it was, every single person with a book would be rightfully published.

Publishing is a business, and it is very exclusionary. It exists to make money. Your publisher is making money sticking you in the AA section. That's why they do it. Not because they hate you, fear you, believe they are superior, or believe you are inferior.

You're in that section because you sell.

As I've staed several times, I believe putting your books in an AA section is wrong.

But I also think you should be grateful you're being published, when so many others aren't.

That has nothing to do with race. I tell ALL authors they need to be grateful. I've been spoiting that for years.

That doesn't mean you don't have the right to complain. But if you don't like the way you're being treated, fight for what you believe in. That means risk.

Change won't happen without risk.

2/18/2006 10:09 AM  
Blogger Folklore Fanatic said...

I've always believed that if you have two *equally* qualified collegaite candidates and one of them is a minority, you should take the minority. So if we have two authors of good+/mediocre talent, then theoretically, regardless of race, they should both stand an equal chance of decent showings in their respective genre. The question of whether or not to put someone in the 'African-American Studies' field or not shouldn't even be under discussion.

Of course, being multi-racial yet living as someone white (I look white, though my father does not) definitely skews my perspective on this.

However, I don't like anything that smacks of cultural closure, self-segregation, etc. that makes it harder to achieve a true 'melting pot' society.

Can't we all just intermarry until it doesn't mean anything anymore? ;)

2/18/2006 11:52 AM  
Blogger Bonnie Calhoun said...

This is a great discussion, but let me start out by saying...

Monica, I am offended by the fact that you started out your last comment with the Negro Niche and it degraded to the 'N' word niche. I don't care if you are black...I don't like that word!

Now to weigh in on this debate:

The statement: "Luckily, names can be neutralized. Doesn't quite work that way with skin color. It's kind of a built in attribute."

If you don't want people to know what color you are, don't put your picture on the back cover...And going to book signings...how many people are really going to be affected by seeing you in person and knowing that you are black? How many book signings have you read about where this became a huge revelation to the publishing world?

If you did read it, I guarantee that this amount of free publicity ia what any author strives for.

And as for JA Konrath's comments....the man is by NO MEANS, a racist. I've known him for quite a while now and his advice comes from a purely logical "Know how to be published" author standpoint.

I'm sorry but it bugs me when people...any people...pull out the poor me card..get over it!

Stand up and figure out a way around it! And there is always a way around it. Look where Oprah went in a white-male dominated medium!

If you don't like the way your agent catagorizes you...tell them to change it or you'll walk...if you're still not happy with them...walk.

Do the same with the publisher...if you don't like the way they're treating you...walk.

Well then you get into a mindframe like the author of this blog with his anonimity...worrying about the bottom line...your money...Well you get to choose...your money or your principles.

If you choose your money then don't gripe because your principles have been compromised.

You get to choose!

What did you say? That ain't fair!...Well life ain't fair....I wanted to be skinny and tall and sing like Whitney Houston, and I wound up being fat and short...and my singing is way far from Houston quality!

2/18/2006 11:56 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am so glad I found this discussion. It horrifies me that black authors are ghettoized in bookstores, and NO, I do not feel they should shut up and "count their blessings" that they are published. All writers are the reason publishing exists. We need to stop being grateful and start questioning anything publishers do that is unethical. We have to band together, white and black authors, and make sure the person questioning doesn't lose her contracts because of a vindictive publisher. Together, we could have the power that none of us has alone to change things. I hope this blog can be the beginning of forming that community.

2/18/2006 12:12 PM  
Blogger Bestselling Author, Pontif. said...

Publishing is a business, and it is very exclusionary. It exists to make money. Your publisher is making money sticking you in the AA section. That's why they do it. Not because they hate you, fear you, believe they are superior, or believe you are inferior.

Restaurants are businesses, too. Do they have the right to discriminate service on the basis of their patrons' race? Should a black person that's mistreated or denied service when they go in just walk out and say, "Well, I don't have to eat here..."? So authors should say, "Well, they don't have to publish me, so if I want in the game, I have to play by the rules the people in charge set forth?" No. That's the mentality of slavery times. Jim Crow times. This is our game, you have to play by our rules. It stinks of superiority. When this is constantly being brought to a publisher's attention, now they're making a conscious choice to continue doing it, using profit to justify racial discrimination. That can't every be defenseable.

Look, I am grateful for being published. Just as I am grateful that I can enter a store via the front door rather than the back. Just as I'm grateful I can stay in a hotel or motel if I want. Just as I'm grateful the KKK isn't burning crosses on my lawn. I'm full of gratitude.

I really do appreciate everyone for joining the commentary, it's the reason I started this blog, though anonymously, to call attention to this issue and hopefully help bring about the much needed change. I realize I cannot do as much while anon as I could openly, but as I've expressed before, there is a lot at stake for me. I figure I need a little more clout to give an ultimatum such as this. As it is, my publisher would likely weigh their options and say, see ya...and sully my name in the industry. My agent warns of this all the time, and he knows the business a lot better than I do. It's a small world this biz.

Again, I'll say, I have a few options, a few routes I can take from here. I am weighing them. I will not remain silent forever. I appreciate the offerings made thus far and continue to encourage the spreading of awareness and the denouncement of this as an accepted business practice.

2/18/2006 1:37 PM  
Blogger Monica said...

I wrote an article on race and genre fiction in 1998 after my second book, a romance, was dissed by a prominent reviewer. She'd never read a romance with black people before. She stated all the characters acted lily-white. It was labeled a multicultural romance, so she didn't expect a romance, but rather a cultural statement about the black experience. What she got was a tongue-in-cheek soap opera parody with nothing particularly racial about the storyline. She didn't get the book or my humor. She posted a private e-mail from me regarding the review on her site's boards and several Internet lists. There was an uproar.

I got publicly slammed although I clammed up tight after an initial rebuttal. (I got many letters of private support from white authors though). But not one of my black peers stood up in my defense, said a word about romance segregation or the unrealistic white expectations of black romance except to offer their books in review in my book's stead (no romances by black authors were reviewed very favorably in the aftermath though).

The practice of many romance sites and the major industry romance publication has been to find separate reviewers who will agree to read and review romances by black authors because their regular reviewers often refuse to read romance by black authors.

My peers eventually realized that my books weren't as substandard as the site owner stated--so they decided to ask the publisher not to send any black books to that particular site for review. But nobody spoke out publicly. In the meantime, a black author got elected President of the Romance Writers of America. Still the overt and blatant segregation and discrimination of the romance genre was never addressed and has never been addressed. Some writers will say something privately on a closed list--but publicly? Never.

So you can imagine that after so many years my gratification that at last a couple of black authors are speaking out openly about the awful racial situation in woman's fiction, even albeit anon. Thank you so much.

Romance in Black and White
All About Romance commentary
A Meeting of Minds by Laurie Gold and Monica Jackson

2/18/2006 4:29 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Bonnie,

I have to agree with your post wholeheartedly, albeit anonymously. These words are golden:

"Well then you get into a mindframe like the author of this blog with his anonimity...worrying about the bottom line...your money...Well you get to choose...your money or your principles.

If you choose your money then don't gripe because your principles have been compromised.

You get to choose!"

This choice separates the heroes and heroines of life from the rest of us. When the issue becomes more important than individual gain or loss for any one person, change can come. When you look back on greatness, many times the people who achieved greatness did not get to the reap the benefits of their sacrifice and courage. The only place they experienced the "mountaintop" was in their hearts. I'm going to ponder on this one for a while tonight.

2/18/2006 6:43 PM  
Blogger Bonnie Calhoun said...

That's right Anonymous, and another thing I'm going to say...there's only been a small handful of duly outraged writers voicing opinions here today...For that I am grateful!

But I don't really think you'll get a whole hell of a lot of support from the majority of the AA authors in the AA section...I think it will blow ya'll's minds to realize how many of them like where they are and why they are there...so that their followers can easily pick from "just them" and not include all ya'll white folk...but you're welcome to try...I'll keep watching....I love you guys...JA and M.G. especially, you are two of my favorite people!

BSA...I'd read your blog moreoften but the black background really messes with my eyes!

2/18/2006 9:34 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wrong side of the alligator--

Could you submit your story to this blog? It's very widely read and you can do it all anonymously:

http://mjroseblog.typepad.com/buzz_balls_hype/

Today's post is about niche publishing and African American writing.

2/20/2006 3:12 PM  
Blogger protein wisdom said...

No trackbacks, so I'll just leave the link to my response here.

I took a slightly different tack and discussed this controversy in the context of a literature course I taught a few years ago on the formation of identity that included both Beloved and Portnoy's Complaint.

2/20/2006 5:01 PM  
Blogger Bestselling Author, Pontif. said...

Thanks for the tip about BB&H, Anonymous. I contributed my ten cents.

I also added a disclaimer of sorts to my 2/1 A. Brennan post. I realize I have to watch out for my anger and channel it productively. I surely don't intend to attack innocent bystanders. Patrick Willoughby checked me about it and I took it like the proud anonymous blogger I am...Ahem. :0)

2/20/2006 6:27 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

For someone who refuses to use their name (regardless of the reason), you certainly have high expectation of others. Please get rid of the snap at MJ. The smiley face doesn't make it any less rude on your part. I'm talking about the "finally came around" "little late" comment. I'm happy Patrick checked you and you took a step of correction, but you really need to stop and think before you post. I do think you're abusing the cloak of anonynomity that you've chosen for yourself. While, sadly, I do think you mean the things you say, I believe that you would phrase them better if your name were attached. I want to support your issue, but it's VERY difficult for me to support YOU. Anonymous, like you, but not rude.

2/21/2006 7:51 AM  
Blogger Bestselling Author, Pontif. said...

I think it's VERY rude to tell me what to get rid of in my own house. If you don't like what you're reading, if it offends you so much that you yourself have to assume an anonymous cloak to condesend to me, then stop coming to visit and read what anonymous me has to say. Trash me on your own blog and have a nice day.

I want to support your issue, but it's VERY difficult for me to support YOU.

"My" issue isn't exclusive to me. It's good you see the problem and want to denounce it alongside everyone it affects. You don't have to support me to support the denouncement of the problem. Which is good enough for me.

2/21/2006 11:40 AM  
Blogger Monica said...

The sad part is that many blacks don't consider book marginalization a problem.

We have to also address this prevalent stuck-on-the-plantation mentality. We have accepted the way we are separated and marginalized.

You know if we got together and pulled alongside one another for a common goal--New York woud be far more likely to fall into line and make concessions.

We black authors are so far from getting on the same page, it's laughable. We don't even have an organization.

How many black authors have spoken up in these discussions?

Why not?

Afraid to make Massa mad? Afraid of the lynch mob?

I'm not sayin', just wondering.

2/21/2006 3:23 PM  
Blogger Peggy Payne said...

Whatever the publishers put on the back about a book's category, "fiction" "African-American" "romance" etc.--it's finally the booksellers who put the books on the shelves.

We could all "act locally" and ask for change in any bookstore that is segregating books by the author's race. (My blog is about being bold about whatever is on your mind.)

Stores tend to be pretty interested in what customers have to say. I think it's better to ask for the changed than to go to moving books in a store. As most of us book-writers know, the bookseller doesn't usually take well to the writer coming in and rearranging displays. I wouldn't if it were my store.

2/21/2006 3:54 PM  
Blogger Millenia Black said...

Monica - good point about pubbed black authors chiming in. At least, I haven't seen too many. Hmm....perhaps they aren't aware the discussion's going on? I mean, I guess that's always a possibility - LOL

Hi Peggy -

You make a good point about bookstores, and I've heard others talking about petitions to B&N or Borders, etc., but I don't think that will work. It's not their fault. They're slating the books as per the categorization - which is done by the publishers. So, that's where the change has to happen, or bookstores will continue to shelf books where they feel that category should be, based on the genre the publisher designates.

It's tough to say what my advice to BSA Pontif would be. I guess you'd have to actually be in that position. I don't know....Knowing myself, I think maybe I'd give them an ultimatum. I mean, if your sales are strong enough, I'm sure your agent could get you picked up by a new house. Having made the Times list gives BSA a major advantage in that regard. Unfortunately for others who lack that "bestseller status", they have to consider other options....

Think about it, Pontif. You have my best wishes - whatever you choose to do.

2/22/2006 7:21 AM  
Blogger Patrick said...

Can there be justification for racism?

The short answer is "yes." But there's a difference between justifying something and advocating it.

That important point shouldn't get lost in the debate.

Patrick

2/22/2006 9:54 AM  
Blogger Bestselling Author, Pontif. said...

Patrick it seems like we're basically agreed, but, your post seems to be all about semantics. I think it should be clear what I'm asking, but I guess the question should have been:

Can there be lawful justification for racism?

2/22/2006 10:03 AM  
Blogger Bella Stander said...

BSA, thanks for this discussion, which I learned about from your comment on MJ Rose's blog. I think you have some valid points, but I have to agree with JA, Bonnie & others. Put your money where your mouth is. If you're troubled by the system, then try to change it. Talk to your agent, your editor, your publicist. Hell, talk to the editor-in-chief and the publisher. Don't sit on the sidelines sniping anonymously because you're afraid of losing money. Seems to me that just puts you in the same boat as the "cowardly" AA authors you complain about. And no, the change isn't going to come from within the industry until someone (you!) agitates for it. To them the system ain't broke, so why fix it.

One important point: Not all black authors are put in the "Negro Niche." I have long wondered, when looking through publishers' catalogs, why some authors are in AA lines such as Strivers Row or Jump at the Sun, while others are categorized as mainstream. Did the authors choose to be in those lines, or were they put there? Does the AA category mean their books are less "literary"? Do they only appeal to black readers? (And if so, why?) Or do they sell less? And do they break out to the mainstream line when their sales hit a certain level, as happens with romance, mystery & other genre writers?

I do know that the AA imprints tend to have black publicists, who are noticeably missing elsewhere. But then, the whole publishing industry is eerily white. The only whiter crowd than BookExpo is the one at the National Horse Show.

One more question: Why do you call yourself a "pontif"? Surely you're not a typeface.

2/24/2006 10:52 AM  
Blogger Bestselling Author, Pontif. said...

Hi Bella.....comments noted.

Pontif is short for pontificating.

2/27/2006 9:52 PM  

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