Racism In Romance? Author, Raine Weaver Has Her Say...
When did you first get published?
What genre do you write in?
Usually paranormal erotica, although the last book was a romantic romp.
What race/colour are the majority of your characters?
How is your work marketed?
Where are your books generally shelved?
All of them have been e-books. Two of them moved into print, but I have yet to see them in a bookstore (although a friend did tell me she saw one, and it was shelved in Romance).
Where would you prefer your books to be shelved?
Romance. Because that’s what they are.
Have you been subjected to direct/indirect racism from editors, publishers etc in your publishing career.
Not directly, no.
The indirect would be difficult to pinpoint or define. I might be rejected by an editor/publisher/agent because my characters are usually black or biracial—but then, I’d have no proof of that if it WAS a factor, since most of them are form rejections anyway.
Most authors at some point receive rejections that say, “Love the writing, but afraid this isn’t for us,” and assume it was simply a matter of taste. There’s simply no way of knowing if the reason might be something else.
How do you feel about Oprah Winfrey’s book club- Do you think she could do more to promote AA authors?
I’m fairly indifferent to the club altogether, lol. Oprah’s not an expert in fine literature. She chooses the ones that appeal to her, as is her right. Could she do more to promote AA authors? She could—but I’d rather see her promote fine writers period, and if they’re AA, good for her.
But I suspect her choices may be geared toward getting EVERYONE to read more, including getting black people to read outside of the ‘niche’.
And frankly, I want my books read and promoted because they’re well-written books—not JUST because I’m black.
Do you believe that publishers are more ambivalent when it comes to marketing AA books?
Yes. You rarely even SEE the marketing (I’m speaking of romances, at least), unless it’s in ESSENCE or something BET-related, or now Harlequin’s new line.
And generally, if the hero/heroine are black, they’re generally marketed as AA romances, and usually shelved accordingly.
News Flash: they’re ROMANCES. They’re romances with black people. And since I have yet to see romances singled out as specifically Celtic or Oriental, etc., I don’t understand the mentality.
Which race groups would you say bought the majority of your books?
Probably caucasian, but that would be a guess. My focus is on the romance, not the color of the characters.
What do you think needs to change in order for more white people to read African American books?
Shelving and presentation, for one thing. My local Borders shelves all AA authors in one section—“African-American Literature”. There is Monica Jackson with James Baldwin, Donna Hill with Frederick Douglass. Fine company, to be sure…but I have yet to see the writings of Abraham Lincoln or Thomas Payne on the regular romance shelves.
Also, the assumption that black authors must, by definition, write ‘street-lit’, or that non-AA readers couldn’t possibly find a common interest with (or attraction to) black heroes/heroines is ludicrous and patronizing to ALL readers.
Have you ever been snubbed by white readers/white authors during a signing?
I’ve never had a signing.
Have you ever been overlooked by an editor in favour of a white author?
Not that I know of. But again—how would I know that, since there are so many other variables?
Have you ever been asked to tone down, or increase the ethnicity within your books?
Are you familiar with Millennia Black’s lawsuit against Penguin? If so, what do you think her chances of winning are?
Yes, I’m familiar with it.
I think her chances of winning the lawsuit are excellent. What it will do to her career is debatable. But I agree with the principle of what she’s doing.
How do you think her victory will affect the way AA authors are treated within the industry?
Hopefully a few people in charge out there will wake the hell up. I’ve written characters who were black, white, biracial, even a couple on another planet. To say that a manuscript by a black author must have black characters and be geared toward a black audience is, in a word, insulting.
What are your thoughts on niche marketing? What do you think the limitations are if any?
It has its place. Certainly useful for building a fan base, promoting an emerging author, etc.
The problem arises when an author tries to break OUT of that niche, spread their wings, try a new genre or style. People like their comfort zones. If they’ve come to think of an author in one way, say, as an Erotica author, they’ll be less inclined to accept that author as an Inspirational writer than if they’d started out that way.
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 don’t think I’m well-established enough. A conversation with my local bookstore proved fruitless—they claimed all stock and shelving policies were a ‘corporate decision’, and out of their hands.
I’ve submitted to publishers who rarely, if ever, publish AA authors, but again—it’s their party. I think AA authors with influence and large followings are more likely to effect change…and for those in the publishing field to realize this is the year 2007.
I’m afraid I’m also personally not much of a ‘joiner’, as far as group efforts. I work full-time, try to write, and manage a home all by myself, so I only have so much time. I’m not into writing groups, organizations, etc. But that may be an issue I need to address.
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?
Five years? Minor changes. It will be gradual.
The success of e-publishing will have a lot to do with it. In my limited experience, I’ve found that e-publishers and their audiences could give a care less WHAT color the author is, and are more accepting of other race/interracial romance than print publishers.
Perhaps because they’re more open to taking chances, perhaps because generally they don’t have as much money at stake.
Also, the money factor will make a difference. Consumers are eager to spend money for the things they really want, and the greater the exposure, the greater the audience, and the more profits made.
And for what it’s worth—I don’t really see any of this as some ‘evil plot’ scenario. Publishing is a business, and most of it is cause-and-effect. Publishers are just waking up—perhaps grudgingly—to the fact that there’s a huge market out there, virtually untapped, just as they’ve suddenly become aware of the desire for erotic romance, and are just beginning to respond.
But the answer is not in a “separate but equal” treatment. We’ve ridden that bus. Readers are people who are SEARCHING for new experiences, and will gravitate toward well-written books, regardless of WHO the author is, given a chance.
Thank you for taking the time to answer my questions.
If you’re interested in learning more about Raine and her books, you can access her website here.
Coming up next: Ms Best-Selling Anonymous Author.