So I Saw This Today…

…and it annoyed me on all sorts of levels. First, it was at the register at Publix. Primo sales real estate. Clearly Harlequin paid big bucks to have it placed there. Interestingly, this store is in an almost exclusively black area south of I-20 in Atlanta. And don’t get me wrong, I know there are plenty of black readers who enjoy cowboy and western romances, but it’s not a major category with black readers. So this makes me wonder.

As some of you might know Harlequin is discontinuing their Kimani, their black line at the end of the year. Presumably sales are not what they had hoped, and they’re dropping it, but this little publication here makes me wonder about Harlequin and their marketing efforts toward black people.

If you’re going to spend big bucks for this type of placement, would it have been that difficult to put one book in there with black characters and have that cover in their more diverse areas? I mean, this thing is retailing at $15.99, it’s not exactly cheap, and placing it at the point of sale spot like that means they’re counting on impulse buys.

Publishers make little to no effort to sell to black folk, and then when the sales don’t happen they use it as an excuse not to publish black books. This has been going on since forever, back in the “black folks don’t read” days. Studies have shown, and experience as a bookstore manager tells me, black women read more than anybody. They buy more books, and they’re willing to spend more money because they’re accustomed to doing it because of the rarity of black characters in media. Given that history, there’s no reason on earth that a black line like Kimani should have suffered from poor sales. Except, of course, that no effort was ever made to market it to black readers.

I can’t speak for Harlequin, but from my observation most publishing companies are almost exclusively white. This is primarily because most jobs in publishing are low-paying and black folks are generally in no position to spend a fortune for a college degree and then work for nearly nothing. I say this as someone who did this, and I was the only person in editorial at a publishing company that didn’t come from an upper middle class background, and it goes without saying the only black person. If they have no black people working in their marketing department, they’ve literally handicapped themselves, and of course, us, in regards to sales.

Now of course, you have to ask why? Why would a publisher deliberately hurt the sales of its own authors? Well, I’m a firm believer in that old maxim, Never attribute to malice that which can be explained by stupidity. Don’t get me wrong, having conversed with plenty of authors and publishing folk, I have no doubt that racism plays a role as well, but the bottom line is, they’re both stupid and arrogant, and that’s why publishing is in trouble today and will continue to struggle. Unless and until they diversify their workforce to get a better grasp of a global readership, this will continue.

And don’t get me wrong, this isn’t limited to major publishers. Some ePubs lost sales because they didn’t put their books in the African American category on Amazon! This happened even as they were deliberately recruiting more diverse authors, but by overlooking this very crucial component, they lost sales. Publishers of all kinds are leaving money on the table because they fail to consider one crucial issue: Marketing to black people. As far as they’re concerned all the readers are white, and nothing can be further from the truth.

Lured Away?

Of late there’s been a lot of talk about missing teens and the fact that they’re most often categorized as “runaways.” Some people see this term as pejorative or dismissive. It’s apparent that many people visualize Opie with a bundle and stick over his shoulder in Mayberry when it should be apparent that a runaway can be in as much danger as a child who has been abducted.

I tried to explain this to a group on Facebook, but when I tried to explain that most of the missing girls in D.C. are runaways they accused me of being dismissive. Nothing is further from the truth, but when they claimed that the states get $72,000 per child, I quickly realized they had no idea what they were talking about and moved on. More the fool I, given that I swore no more arguing with folk on social media. I’m too old for that crap. So, I’m posting this here from the perspective of someone who has professional experience with this population.

For the sake of clarity I’m going to hit a few random bullets of issues that come up repeatedly when this discussion is occurring. Since my area of expertise is teenagers, I’ll limit this post to them. Younger children are a whole other discussion.

  • Amber Alerts can ONLY be issued when there’s evidence that a child has been abducted. They’re not issued every time a child goes missing, there are criteria to be met. This is skewed more toward younger kids, because they’re unlikely to decamp of their own accord.
  • Some states will not take a missing persons report on people over a certain age (this varies depending on state) unless there’s evidence that the person did not leave on their own.
  • Generally missing teens are found within 24/48 hours usually with friends or family members.

In general, children do not run away from stable, safe environments. With chronic runaways there’s almost always some type of abuse occurring in the home. Of course, there are exceptions, but kids don’t run for no reason.

Most of the time if a teen girl is missing there’s a male, usually an adult involved. Girls run away more than boys, probably because of being lured by men. Boys don’t run as often, but when they do, they run farther and it can be more random. This is especially true of white males.

So, as you can see there’s certainly plenty of danger involved when a child runs away. It’s nothing something to dismiss, which is why I think we should consider using the term “lured away,” at least when we know or suspect that a child might have been targeted, and almost all of them are. If not initially, certainly within hours or days of being on the street. It’s so pervasive that these predators will actually set up “shop” near group homes so they can prey on girls in foster care.

And that’s another issue that must be acknowledged, most of the teens who do go missing in this country are in foster care. Law enforcement generally can’t mention that because of HIPAA regulations. Foster care is literally a bullet train into commercial rape for many young girls. This goes back to a post I made a while back about sex trafficking and how prevalent it is.

Now that I’ve depressed you out of your mind, I can think of certain measures we can take to address these issues.

  • Strengthen families and provide services and support to keep children in intact homes.
  • If children do have to leave their families of origin work hard to maintain a “kin first” model.
  • Provide support to our foster care system so we can have more and better foster homes so children don’t have to go in group homes.
  • Use better terminology liked “lured away,” and carefully explain the dangers of the street to people so they understand runaway is not a trivial issue.

Free Lesson: Escaping an Abusive Boyfriend

Screen Shot 2016-08-16 at 10.24.49 AM.pngReddit is probably one of the most disturbing sites on the internet, but even a blind hog finds an acorn every now and then. If you’re in an abusive relationship, or ever find yourself in one, you might just want to save this post. Girlfriend did everything right to protective herself from this asshole and I hope more women are able to do the same.

#domesticviolence #protectingyourself

I Cried With the Cashier in Walmart Today

prod_1789170712

I’ve mentioned before how enamored I’ve grown with the house dresses my mama used to call dusters. She loved those things like damn and whoa and after she died we found dozens of them in her room. She loved nothing better than to receive them as gifts for any and all occasions. Now I know why she liked them so much; they’re cool, lightweight and most importantly, THEY HAVE POCKETS! Big, roomy pockets. Let me tell you, when you’re doing your last once over, picking up kid’s stuff before bed, big pockets are a lifesaver.

Anyway, I picked up a couple today, and mentioned to the cashier how much my mama loved them. She got teary eyed and said every time someone buys one she thinks about her mama too. We talked for several minutes until both of us got too choked up to continue. It’s been a while since this happened. The Christmas after she died I collapsed on the floor sobbing in Kmart, blubbering over their Christmas display. My mama loved Christmas; decorating with so many lights our house could be mistaken for an alternate airport runway.

It’s been fourteen years y’all and it seems like just yesterday I could pick up the phone and call her anytime I wanted. It still hurts. I feel like a motherless child, because I am one.

 

Poor Ms. Shahi (Not!)

sarah-shahi-435.jpg

tariji2

After being instrumental in shoving Taraji P. Henson off Person of Interest, Sarah Shahi is now shedding copious WWT over losing her own Nancy Drew franchise, whining that there is a need for strong women role models. Interesting that Ms. Shahi feels that way now, when she was all gung-ho in having a strong female role fridged on Person of Interest. When you lie down with dogs, you tend to get up with fleas Ms. Shahi. You were more than happy to play “Catwoman” in Noland’s fantasy of turning Person of Interest into Batman by fridging Taraji P. Henson, now when they give you the finger too, you want to play the “strong woman” card. To hell with you. If you believed in strong woman roles you would’ve stood up for TPH, but of course, that’s too much to ask for a fellow “WOC.”

Oh the schadenfreude is strong with this one.

#toofemale #tooblackfemale

Dear Stock Photo Sites…

stock-photo-woman-in-beauty-fashion-green-gown-beautiful-girl-dancing-in-long-evening-dress-turning-on-white-180861488.jpg

I’ve been writing a lot here lately and sometimes when I need to decompress I look at stock photos and develop cover ideas. I want to do a fun, whimsical story and I know exactly how I want the cover to look. I mean, seriously, isn’t that gorgeous? Yeah, I think so too, except I can’t find any pictures like that with black women. Seriously, try googling black woman in long flowing gown and you’ll get exactly nada. It’s insanely frustrating because actually I need three of them, and I can’t even find one. Since I started self-publishing I like to get my cover ideas down before I start writing. I have no intention of starting on this book for quite some time, but meanwhile I can’t get this cover idea out my head. And yes, Whit can work his magic and do a meld job to get me the image I want, but dammit, it just seems to me that I shouldn’t still be doing that in 2016. Maybe it’s just me, but I feel really weird putting a black woman’s head on a white woman’s body, though I’ve done it more than once. What do y’all think? And stock folk, can you throw me just a few pictures?