Friday, March 16, 2007

Racism In Romance - Marcia King-Gamble Has Her Say...

Marcia's latest book: All About Me

When did you first get published?

I was first published in 1998.

What genre do you write in?

I write both romance and mainstream women’s fiction.

What race/colour are the majority of your characters?

I write for several imprints, but if we are speaking of the Harlequin Kimani Imprint, Arabesque or Sepia, then the only thing that is required is that my hero and heroine are people of color. I tend to have a fair representation of the world in my books.

How is your work marketed?

I’m not sure I understand the question. Authors do most of their own marketing. I tend to market to my mailing list and to the people logging onto my website or signing up for my newsletter- Romantically Yours.

If you’re asking how does the publishing house market me and my work then I would say to a primarily black audience.

Where are your books generally shelved?

It depends. I asked this question of several book sellers and got different answers. In some neighborhoods it’s on an end cap or separate shelf with a sign that says African American Literature.

In others, I am alphabetized and placed in both the romance and literature sections, and in one situation I was shelved in African American history. Go figure!

Where would you prefer your books to be shelved?

Alphabetized and on shelves with other romance or mainstream authors. Although if the reader reads primarily African American romances, then being set apart makes it easier for them to find. Me.

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

If I have then I must have missed it. Can’t say I’ve had that experience, then again I don’t go around with a chip on my shoulder.

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

I think Oprah could do more to promote the romance genre on the whole. I think she’s a wonderful champion of reading but misses the romance boat.

I believe that Oprah has not realized how much romances have changed and may still think the books are all heaving bosoms and beating breasts. There is a reason why romances makes up 52% of all mass market books sold. When a fan writes you to tell you how you’ve changed their life, now that is a memorable moment.

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

I won’t call it ambivalent. But I do believe there is a preconceived notion that mainstream America or England for that matter, won’t be interested in reading a story about people of color. That is so wrong. I grew up reading stories about characters that are white. A good romance/story has no color barriers.

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

This depends on where the books are sold and marketed. I’ve had book signings where I didn’t sell to one person of color.

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

More exposure to multi-cultural books and a totally different marketing approach would help. Currently, and for some odd reason, the white readership thinks that they will not understand the dialogue or even storyline and that is simply not true.

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

I can’t say I have. I have however been snubbed by black readers who told me they don’t read “those books.” They will often cross over to stand on line and buy from a white author, or will slide by refusing to make eye contact and head for the romance shelf and purchase a white author’s book.

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

Glad to say I’ve not had this experience.

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

Yes, I’ve been asked by editors to make my stories more ethnic. I’ve tried to explain that even within a specific ethnic group there are class differences. We do not all come from the ghetto nor do we all speak ghettoese.

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

Not familiar. Sorry!

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


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

Niche marketing says it all. It may serve a purpose but it does limit an author’s exposure.

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?

I’ve not had any issues about poor treatment so didn’t realize this was a problem. My only comment, and one that I have shared is that I would like to see our books marketed to a mainstream audience of any ethnicity.

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?

I hope not, as I said before, a good story can be read and appreciated by any ethnicity. It’s all in the marketing.

Thank you for taking the time to answer my questions.

To learn more about Marcia and her books, you can visit her website here.

Coming up next,
Angela Henry.