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.

A Response to Price Complaints

So I see some readers have beef with the price set by my publisher for Drawing the Stud. So much so they feel compelled to post one-star reviews both on Amazon and Barnes and Noble, even though they haven’t read the book. They’ve got a regular little pile-on going on over at Amazon right now, and though I don’t think authors should ever respond to a review, in my opinion, this is not a review. A review requires actually reading the goddamned book in question.

In response I must say I don’t set the price for books I write through a publisher, but hey, my name is on the cover, so there you go. Personally I think complaining because a book is too expensive is tantamount of me standing in front of the Lexus dealership with a picket sign. Have I ever felt a book was too pricey? Of course, and I made a note to either check it out at the library or to check back later to see if the price came down. I most assuredly would not give an author a one-star review over something she has no control over.

Further, there are complaints that IR authors don’t write novel-length books anymore. I can explain that in one word; piracy. When you write in a niche like IR authors do, your book sales are severely limited. For the most part, you only make money the first month your book is out. Then someone uploads it to the pirate sites and bam, there goes your money. Well, if it takes you six months to a year to write a book, you have one month out of twelve to make money. Or you can write four books in that same timeframe and get paid four times. One book, Try a Little Tenderness, took me two years to write and was on the pirate sites within a week of release. It sucks for you as a consumer, it sucks for me as an author.

I realize there’s a mentality out there that authors should write only for the love of the work, and that sounds very nice, but I’m not one of those authors. I do love writing, but it’s damned hard work and no way in hell would I do it for free. I’m not sure why people have the mentality that artists should be happy that “someone read our books.” I call shenanigans. I am a professional author putting out a product for you, the consumer. The idea that I should somehow have no interest in making a profit is both absurd and insulting to me and to my books. Writing is hard and publishing and promoting is even harder. I realize these are not issues that readers care about. Y’all want as many books as you can get, for the cheapest price you can find. And I do understand that, but just remember, this is my job and while I love my books and I love writing, and adore my fans I also like to get paid. Thank you.

Thanks to All My Fans

Thanks to sll of you my foray into self publishing is a rip roaring success! I really like self oublishing, it can be a but intimidating at first, but I had lot’s of support from other authors who helped me so much. Y’all will never know how grateful I am for your incredible support. In the coming months I have more surprises including trading cards and more contests. Remember, Hot For Teacher will be released at the end of this month. I should have a cover, a blurb and maybe some excerpts coming up soon. This book is a sexy little romp, and I hope you guys enjoy it.

I really need some help from you guys. If you could, pretty please go over to Amazon and like my books. It can really help boost my sales. Again, thank you ever so much for your support. I love each of you to death.

Race, The Hunger Games and Diversity in Romance

I’m sure some of you have seen the latest brouhaha over fans of the Hunger Games who were shocked to discover several key characters are black. I haven’t read the book, nor do I intend to see the movie, but one comment on Twitter stood out to me. Essentially the tweeter said he wasn’t as sad about the death of a character because she was black.

Now I’m not going to get into the racism and general fucknuttery of that statement. No, I’m going to use it as a jumping off point for another discussion. From time to time we get these discussions in Romancelandia decrying the lack of diversity. There’s much handwringing and many readers claim they’d be delighted with such books. Writers, of course, point out that they don’t sell. And we go back and forth for another couple hundred posts and nothing changes until the next ululation. As a writer I think it goes back to that disgustingly honest tweet: the pain of people who don’t look like me has less emotional impact. Writers are in the business of evoking emotions. If you know, and to be honest, who doesn’t know that a sizable percentage of the reading audience feels like that tweeter, why would you give your book such a monumental handicap? Most wouldn’t and that’s why most books lack any real diversity.

White is the default setting in this country, so that even though the author described the character as having “dark brown skin and eyes,” some readers still saw her as white and were angered and dismayed to discover otherwise. And this goes back to something I was told when Rock Star was released. It couldn’t have a lone white male on the cover, otherwise readers might buy it accidentally and get angry when they discovered it was an IR book. Every time we have a discussion about race and romance people ask why race is prominently featured, and this is why. I don’t want people buying my book by accident only to discover to their horror that it contains Negro sex and lots of it. Other writers have obscured the race of their characters and love to hear from fans who liked the book, but didn’t know the characters were black. I guess I’m a cynical bitch, but I wonder how many readers deleted the book upon their discovery?


Gina, over at What About Our Daughters, can always be counted on to bring some perspective to all manner of fucknuttery. She linked to articles in her post that said that Rue’s death brought out gasps of horror in many audiences and that they cheered when her death was avenged even though it was against the rules.

This is good news indeed for those of us who prefer to write books about non-white characters. Clearly we do have an audience who have no trouble responding emotionally to characters who don’t look like them. So take heart sane people. We are not alone. It would behoove us to focus on like minded folks and let the dead bury the dead.

Will Talk for Food

I don’t think I’ve mentioned this in a while but I love going to various cities to talk to book clubs or library groups. I don’t charge for it, but you do have to feed me. If you have a group that’s within a reasonable driving distance from Atlanta (I’ll fly too, but you have to pay for that) I’ll be happy to come talk about publishing and writing. Also, I have a young son so I’m only available on weekends, unless you don’t mind having him tag along. Just hit me up with an email.

What is Black Romance?

Y’all have to forgive me while I rant a minute, then I promise we’ll be back to the regular program. On more than one occasion out here in the big ole blogosphere I’ve read posts by someone complaining about black romances. Of course, I always read those posts, after all I am a black romance writer. Every time, bar none, the writers they’re talking about ARE NOT romance writers. Now, I understand how these things happen. In most places around this country all books by black authors are ghettoized into a ‘black section’ of the bookstore. Black romances aren’t in the romance section typically, so it’s easy to pick up all manner of books and because there are relationships or sex in them, they’re considered ‘romances.’ Not so much.

Black romances are, for the most part very much like any other romances. In a word, they’re not filled with baby mama drama, adultery and various forms of dysfunctionality. In fact, I can assure you, if any of this mess is involved, you’re NOT reading a romance. And yes, most of these books are monoracial, though there are plenty of interracial books as well if that’s your preference.

Any number of publishers have specific imprints for black romance. Harlequin and Kensington have the Kimain and Dafina lines respectively. Parker and Genesis exclusively publish black romances. Of course, many black romance novelists don’t write for a specific line or publisher, and there’s a lot of good romance books out there from e-pubs as well. This is especially true if you like your stories a bit steamier and more sensual. Bridget Midway’s Love My Way will give you insight into the BDSM lifestyle that is guaranteed to make you re-examine your views of it.

Two of the best-known authors are Brenda Jackson and Donna Hill. Both were recently featured in a New York Daily News article. If you like historical romances Beverly Jenkins is phenomenal, in fact, her books are great even if you just like reading history, period. Like your stories a little bit funny or a little bit scary? Check out Monica Jackson and Sharon Cullars. I guarantee Cullars’ Again will keep you awake nights. Monica will make you laugh until you pee your pants, guaranteed.

Like your stories a little sweeter? In fact, prefer stories with no sex at all? Then Pamela Leigh Star is your girl. She expertly crafts fascinating stories and characters who manage to keep their clothes on. Seressia Glass is one of the finest writers I know, bar none. She’s one of the few writers who can make me cry like a baby and then scare the living crap out of me. And I can’t leave out Lisa G. Riley, she’s my critique partner, and it drives me insane that she’s a much better writer than I am. Her book Simply Wicked is one of the best books I’ve ever read.

If you’re looking for reviews and listings of black romances check out It’s Wayne Jordan’s website, and he writes a damned fine novel as well. Understand that I’m not trying to put down any other genre or writer, but it would be remiss of me if I didn’t defend my own. Oh, and happy reading.