Monday, March 19, 2007

Racism In Publishing - Millenia Black Has Her Say...

Millenia's latest book - The Great Betrayal

When did you first get published?

September 6, 2005

What genre do you write in?

General/Mainstream/Women’s Fiction.
Any or all of the above.

What race/colour are the majority of your characters?

White, or undefined

How is your work marketed?

As African-American Fiction

Where are your books generally shelved?

AA Fiction

Where would you prefer your books to be shelved?

Wherever they would be if a white author had written them.

Have you been subjected to direct/indirect racism from editors, publishers etc in your publishing career.


How do you feel about Oprah Winfrey’s book club- Do you think she could do more to promote AA authors?

No. I think she should continue to promote authors. Period. No regard to race. Promotion by race only serves to keep racial distinctions alive, and those distinctions serve no positive purposes whatsoever.

Do you believe that publishers are more ambivalent when it comes to marketing AA books?

Ambivalent? Not sure I understand this one. :)

Which race groups would you say bought the majority of your books?

When I was self-published, Caucasians. After, African-Americans.

What do you think needs to change in order for more white people to read African American books?

The books should not be treate or handled differently by publishers and booksellers, giving readers the impression they are inherently different or “not meant” for anyone outside the author’s race.

Have you ever been snubbed by white readers/white authors during a signing?

No, not to my knowledge. I will say that while most white readers will walk right by you without stopping, most are receptive if you proactively reach out to tell them about your book and who you are.

Have you ever been overlooked by an editor in favour of a white author?

Not that I’m aware of. I don’t think I’ve been around long enough for this to apply to me…?

Have you ever been asked to tone down, or increase the ethnicity within your books?

Yes. Specifically with my second. I was asked to make the characters black, or as with my first book, not specify their race so the publisher could make readers think they were black, with the cover art and classification.

Are you familiar with Millennia Black’s lawsuit against Penguin? If so, what do you think her chances of winning are?

Yes, I’m very familiar with it. I think her chances are very good if she’s strong enough to stay the course.

(Ok, dumbass me, I mistakenly left that question in there, heheh)

How do you think your victory will affect the way AA authors are treated within the industry?

An author can be an AUTHOR. Not a BLACK author. I think a victory in this case will give authors the freedom (whether they wish to exercise it or not) to write and participate in the industry without regard to their skin color.

It will afford them the right to equal opportunity, with respect to reaching the majority book-buying audience; equal opportunity at reaching the NY Times Best Seller and other national “mainstream” best seller lists.

What are your thoughts on niche marketing? What do you think the limitations are if any?

I see no problem with niche marketing. It’s a perfectly legitimate means of targeting a specific audience with products of relevant substance.

Have you been personally involved in trying to bring about changes within the publishing industry, with regards to how African American authors are treated? If so can you tell me about your efforts?

Yes. I’m taking my publisher to court for violating my civil rights among other laws. If the suit is won, it will set a positive precendent.

If it’s lost, it could likely set a negative precedent and potentially make it legal for publishers to handle books per the author’s skin color. Needless to say, that would suck. I better not lose.

Do you think this will still be a controversial subject in five years time, or do you think major changes would have been made by then?

5 years? The Penguin lawsuit could take that long, or longer. And even if it’s seen through litigation and won, I think the institutional -- and ubiquitious -- nature of this particular form of discrimination will take longer to completely reform.

Particularly since there are many black authors who feel every black author’s work should be governed by ethnic obligation. And, as with civil reforms of the past, it takes time to change the way people think.

Thank you for taking the time to answer my questions.

Thank you for taking the time to ask them.

If you’re interested in learning more about Millenia and her books, you can access her website here.

Coming up next:
Shelia Goss
(you may want to turn down the volume, as there’s music on this site)