But I haven’t sold many to African-Americans.
Strangely, breaking down the demographics on more recent titles most of my readers in the U.S. have been White.
Even stranger my books and eBooks are starting to sell better in the UK, Canada Australia and Germany than in the Black community. To my surprise I’ve gained more foreign readers than African-American readers with the YA ebook campaign.
When I first got into self-publishing I never thought it was possible to crack the foreign markets. But strangely, I’ve made more progress there in a year than with the African-American community in a decade.
I’m wondering: What am I doing wrong in the African-American community?
I've done everything I possibly can to reach out to Black customers. I’ve sent out postcards, visited African-American bookstores like Hue-Man, networked with vendors in Harlem and The Bronx and attended events like the Harlem Book Fair to make my books visible to African-Americans. I've spent thousands trying to target brothers and sisters. But for all my work I’ve run into a brick wall of resistance I can’t seem to break through.
I've had more White people get excited about books like All About Marilyn than African-Americans. And that saddens me because it speaks volumes about the state of the Black community. It feels like things are stifling creatively here, and everyone is comfortable in a box full of stereotypes.
One of the main reasons I became a writer and a publisher was to reach African-American readers. But almost ten years in this publishing game, it seems like I’m failing on that part of my mission.
I have to wonder if Black readers want positive stories about the African-American experience. Do they want to read about African-Americans who have good jobs, college educations, and their own businesses? Do they want stories that promote the traditional conservative values of the African-American community? Do they want books where they come out of the experience where they learn something in addition to being entertained?
I also have to wonder if African-American readers want a diversified book market where they can buy books like screenplays, teleplays, and African-American fantasy?
Or do Black readers just want more of the same old stories they’ve been getting for the past twenty years such as:
The Single Successful educated Black woman who is looking for a man,
The story of the three or four Black women and their problems,
Black Man Bashing Blackwoman drama,
Baby Mama drama,
The street hustler who is looking for the big score,
The street hustler (male or female) looking to get paid in the drug game,
The Ride or die chick on the run with her man while they try to escape the cops,
The story of the Madam and her hoes,
Or the Christian stories which pretty much follow the same predictable premises.
That’s what I’m seeing in the African-American fiction section at the bookstore. That’s what’s selling with Black folks. Not what I’m currently publishing.
I’d like to think there is more than one African-American experience. And I’d like to think there are African-American readers interested in learning about Black life outside of the ghetto. These are the stories I thought African American readers desperately needed to see on a bookshelf.
But it seems like African-American audiences aren’t interested when I present them to them.
Or am I just going over Black folks’ heads. Sometimes I have to wonder: Do Black readers want fiction like mine?
Sometimes I ponder if I should move on to those White and foreign audiences who are actually paying to buy my books. But I fear if I start writing stories to target those White and foreign readers in the U.S. and the international markets I’ll be branded a sell-out and an Uncle Tom by the Black community.
The same Black community that hasn’t been buying my books for close to a decade. And these same Black people who would deride me for not “keeping it real” were the same ones who passed me by when I was reaching out for them. I’m supposed to starve to prove my Blackness to the Black community while they buy street lit and erotica.
What’s even more frustrating is that I’ve made every effort to reach Black readers. I’ve spent close to ten years and thousands of dollars trying to reach Black readers. Low prices, high prices, free books, autographed copies, none of it is connecting with brothers and sisters and getting them to buy my work or even try it in significant numbers.
In an age of the plotless idiocy of Tyler Perry, the coonery known as Hip-hop, the brain rot known as BET and the thuggery of Street Lit, it seems like Black people don’t want positive stories about the African-American experience. Sometimes I feel like I’m wasting my time and my money marketing towards the Black community.
It saddens me that almost a decade after I got into this publishing game I’m still having a harder time reaching the African-American readers I set out to sell books to than every other audience in the world. In an age where there’s a 70 percent dropout rate, high unemployment, low literacy, and a political climate that looks like it’s regressing to Jim Crow I know there’s a desperate need for stories like I write in the Black community.
Unfortunately, I’m learning the easiest way to hide the information like I produce from Black people is in between the pages of a book.
I love my brothers and sisters. And in spite of all my losses I’m still making efforts to reach the Black readers. I just wish I could figure out a way to make a breakthrough in the African-American book market.