Updated: Mar 7, 2022
What do you know about Black authors? What do they go through to get their books published? The statistics are that only seven percent of the literary market is written by Blacks. So, have you asked why these numbers are so low or have you been drawn into the other 93 percent without asking yourself what happened to the other Black writers whose books never made it past publication?
Through encounters with Black authors, I’ve noticed things they wish you knew that they don’t talk about with the press or in interviews. With Black History Month coming up, I decided to compile this list to let the world know how some black authors feel.
Black authors often struggle with finding an illustrator that can depict Black characters in a non-stereotypical way. Black authors are being told by illustrators (in 2022) that they do not draw Black characters.
Black authors are being overshadowed by non-black authors that create books featuring Black characters. So much so that there is a hashtag called #OWNVOICES, coined by YA author, Corinne Duyvis.
Black authors produce creative works that are perceived as cheap whereas their non-black peers with the same style are seen as eclectic and innovative for choosing the same said style.
Traditional publishers prefer to personify animals over Black, Brown, and non-white characters to reach a larger audience in the name of inclusion. Think Daniel Tiger. Now think Doc McStuffins. Their strategy is to make animals humanistic so that other children don't feel left out. Essentially, leaving the Black characters underrepresented and often misrepresented by non-Black authors that overshadow Black authors. Now, think Daniel Tiger, Sesame Street, and Thomas the Train. Now think of someone else other than Doc McStuffins. I will wait.
Because of point #4 Many Black authors take the self-publishing route but do so without proper funding and resources. Many Black authors commit to a small budget and run the risk of being scammed by illustrators, editors, and vanity press publishers trying to create a project themselves.
Vanity press publishers. Many Vanity Press publishers prey on newbie Black authors charging authors to publish their works and collecting royalties. Beware, these companies charge you to purchase your own ISBN number and collect royalties on your book for a lifetime. Your book is their book.
Black authors often depend on other Black authors to share resources that are not freely given in Black or non-Black spaces. Luckily, there are other Black and non-Black authors that are willing to share what they know in a barter exchange - information for information. Occasionally, the sharing of resources is often associated with a fee and many authors struggle to decide on what to outsource and what to research. In all, these decisions take time and that prolongs the process for Black authors.
Black authors face imposter syndrome. With all of these obstacles in their way many Black authors give up and never publish at all.
Black authors that do make it past the publishing stage now have a harder time being cataloged by libraries and are often given the run around during pitching. Thus, forcing Black authors to be more creative than their non-Black peers to be placed on the same shelf.
Now about the shelves. Non-Blacks continue to advertise Black authors based on their color instead of by their book themes and/or topics that truly resonate with audiences that buy. Black authors want you to know that some of us just want to be in the bedtime, educational, or cooking section of the aisle. Although we love having a spot on the shelf we don't want to take our kids to the "Black section" to shop all the time.