Saturday, February 03, 2007

Racism In Romance... Who's To Blame?

Monica and I had a *ahem* a heated debate yesterday about racism, and what it was, and what it wasn’t.

As most of you know, she’s very vocal about her thoughts on the whole race issue, especially with regards to publishing.

I can’t blame her for that, because at the end of the day, these things effect her personally.

What I was objecting to, was the fact that she used the race card in a situation where it was clearly more of a personality clash than racism.

Racism in publishing is alive and well, and probably will be until Penguin employs a Rosa Parks to head up its Racial Equality department.

I think
Millennia Black’s plight proves that publishing companies just don’t look at African American works the same as they do, white authors, but is that the reader’s fault? How does aiming the race card at an individual help the overall cause? It doesn’t. It really doesn’t. But anyway, Monica knows my feelings on this issue, so I wont belabour the point any further.

Monica argues that AA books shouldn’t be marketed based on colour, I totally agree with her. I’ve never seen the point in some of the shelving policies that are undertaken by certain book stores.

A romance book is a romance book is a romance book. And as such, should be shelved in the romance section, regardless the colour of the author, or the colour of the characters.

I think that segregating books based on the colour of the author is no better than the segregation of whites and blacks. I was always more about the MLK way of doing things than the Malcolm X method.

Niche marketing does work for some black authors, but how does it help to solve the problem that Monica continually rails on about?

I don’t believe that the only reason white readers wont read AA romancebooks is down to race, if that were true, then how come so many whites read Brenda Jackson books? Or do they? Has Brenda Jackson really only achieved success through mostly black people buying her work?

Is it all about the publisher, or does the authors themselves have to bear some responsibility for their own promotion?

I’d say it was mostly about the publisher, but some of the AA authors who are out there don’t help themselves any.

A few weeks ago, after reading
Enchanted Heart by Felicia Mason, I went to look for her website, to see what other books she’d written. Could I find her website? Could I buggery.

Now, she either doesn’t have a website, or she updates it so rarely that even Google isn’t able to pick it up. What’s that about?

I finally had to bob over to Amazon to check out reviews of her other books, (I was actually only looking for the synopsis) and do you know how many I found? Honestly? Not many. At least not as many as I would have expected from somebody who’d published so many books.

I’ve found in recent years that this is a trend amongst a lot of AA authors. They either don’t have a website, or it’s one of those Geocities crap. God I hate them.

There only seems to be a handful of black authors who have decent websites, and actually update them frequently. I wonder why that is? Even if one doesn’t believe that websites help sell books, what cheaper way is there to market to the whole world?

It seems awfully silly to complain about lack of promotion and marketing from their publishers, when they themselves have failed to take those first crucial steps towards getting their name out there.

I suggested to Monica that instead of bleating on about the unfairness of it all to us readers, her and her fellow authors really should be trying harder to form some sort of a solidarity. Lobby the people who matter, the people who have influence. (Yes, our influence extends to buying the books, but methinks that this is where marketing comes into play.)

The problem is, how many AA authors are as brave as Millennia Black, and are willing to risk their very livelihoods for the cause? Not many. Most of them would rather pay lip service, than actually go out and do something constructive.

At least that’s how it seems to me.

I’m not saying that Monica shouldn’t speak out about the injustices that she’s experienced within her industry, far from it, but in my estimation, it needs to be aimed at the right audience.

Bitching at Joe Reader isn’t going to help the cause, it’s more likely to alienate those amongst us, who want to support you by buying your books, as well as those who only want to know what book you have out. Tell us that, and we’re happy, everything else is just a headache that we could probably do without.

Some of us are shallow that way.