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General Chatting > Interesting - Inclusion and Mistakes v. Homogeny and Accuracy

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message 1: by Michelle, Mod with the Bod (new)

Michelle Gilmore | 3396 comments Mod
I came across this discussion titled:

Inclusion and Mistakes v. Homogeny and Accuracy

@ http://dearauthor.com/features/letter... . There was a request made in the SFR group to compile a list of SF romances novels with persons of color, and my search led me to this discussion. I'm not an author, but I found this article and the responses interesting, and wanted to share it with this group. Mods, please forgive me if I've posted this in the wrong place :)


message 2: by Delaney (new)

Delaney Diamond (delaney_diamond) I have to agree with Jane moreso than Sarah. I don't want to be clobbered over the head with the differences based on race or based on some disfigurement. I don't read romance for that. I prefer to read romance and see how people can fall in love even though there are differences.

I read a romance novel where the heroine was deaf, and although her disability was mentioned, it didn't consume her. She'd learned to live with it, and the hero didn't mind, either, and sympathized with her because his own mother had been deaf.

Everything that's different doesn't have to be negative. Sometimes it can be shown as a positive. I'm fairly certain that when a disabled person reads a romance, they don't want to read about how horrible it is to be who they are. They want to be treated as "normal."

IMHO, dwelling too much on the negative gets old.


message 3: by Michelle, Mod with the Bod (last edited Nov 02, 2011 04:11PM) (new)

Michelle Gilmore | 3396 comments Mod
Delaney wrote: "I have to agree with Jane moreso than Sarah. I don't want to be clobbered over the head with the differences based on race or based on some disfigurement. I don't read romance for that. I prefer to..."

See, that's what I was thinking. I want the characters I read about to just "be". I don't go around all day thinking about my skin tone, or whatever, and I don't want my heroes/heroines to either. It's like one of my old professors said "nobody goes around thinking about the socks on their feet all day long, it just is what it is." I get the point he was trying to make. Unless a characters race, physical abilities or whatever , are somehow a part of the story, I don't want it thrown in my face every other page. When I read a novel and the author constanly describes someone's complexion be it "milky" , "olive" or "mocha", or their golden or red hair, it just takes away from the story for me. That said, of course I would like to see more person's of color included in the stories that I read. But I'm also a nurse, so I'd like to see more nurses too. What reader doesn't want to read more about characters that are like themselves? I just don't want some writers thinking that in order to create a character of color that they have to make them fit into some sort of box. I'm not an author, but I couldn't understand the reluctance of some of the writers that responded. Why not just write great characters that happen to be an "other" (for lack of a better term), if that's what a writer wants to do? I'm not an author, but I understand that it takes some work to create great character that people want to read about, and that goes much deeper than a persons race.


message 4: by Delaney (new)

Delaney Diamond (delaney_diamond) We're on the same page. I'm happy to read about people of color (POC) in books, so I'm happy to read a story that includes those heroes and heroines. When I read a book about Caucasian characters, they don't constantly talk about their whiteness.

They are who they are. Why can't we be who we are, without constantly hearing about our blackness, culture, or whatever as if it's a bad thing? Once again, I'm thinking moreso about romance, because there are fiction books that address topics of difference, and if I feel like reading one, I will. But they can often be heavy reading, and I read to escape the day-to-day. I read romance for the romantic aspect, and I want to see people fall in love, no matter what they look like.

I can tell you the reason why writers hesitate to write outside of their comfort zone racially or ethnically is because they're afraid of offending readers. This seems to be particularly true for Caucasian writers, and their concerns aren't without merit.

For instance, the story of The Help, which I found to be well-written, received some backlash because some blacks complained that a white woman couldn't really understand the black experience and write about it effectively.

I disagree. In that case, no one should write about any experience or race outside of their own, no matter how much research they conduct.


message 5: by Tina (new)

Tina | 1379 comments I was in that discussion on DearAuthor and for the most part the commentariat in the discussion agreed on the issue of inclusiveness and diversity in romance.

One thing that kinda frustrated me in the course of the discussion though was the feeling by some posters that there was an 'accurate' way to write POC or LGBT or disabled persons. I (and others) tried to point out that there was no such thing as an 'accurate' portrayal of a POC. POC are as different from each other, with different life experiences and outlooks as they are from Caucasians.

I think there is a hesitance on the part of white writers to write POC characters because they feel if they get a letter saying 'you're doing it wrong!' that they've actually done something wrong. But as others pointed out, one person;s 'wrong' is another person's 'just right'. I liked Jane's stance that fear of criticism as the reason for not being inclusive in your weak was a lame reason. I also agreed with another commenter that you write the people as people. If you get criticism look at it, determine if it is valid then try again to see if you can get it better.

I also agree about The Help.


message 6: by Michelle, Mod with the Bod (last edited Nov 02, 2011 04:59PM) (new)

Michelle Gilmore | 3396 comments Mod
Delaney wrote: "We're on the same page. I'm happy to read about people of color (POC) in books, so I'm happy to read a story that includes those heroes and heroines. When I read a book about Caucasian characters, ..."

I agree with you again. Granted, I haven't read The Help, or watched the movie, but I do feel bad for some of the backlash that the author has received. From what I do know, I don't think the author's intent was to offend anyone. But, if an author shouldn't write about any race or experience outside of their own, what about all these paranormal romance authors? You mean to tell me that they're really having all these encounters with vampires, demons, fae, and werewolves?! LOL!!


message 7: by Michelle, Mod with the Bod (last edited Nov 02, 2011 05:06PM) (new)

Michelle Gilmore | 3396 comments Mod
Tina wrote: "I was in that discussion on DearAuthor and for the most part the commentariat in the discussion agreed on the issue of inclusiveness and diversity in romance.

One thing that kinda frustrated me ..."


I was frustrated by the comments about the "right" way to portray POC, LGBT, and the disabled characters too. I was thinking that that's a good way to fall into sterotypes about certain groups. That to me would be one of the biggest insults to any group of people, and I'm certain that they'd lose readers.


message 8: by Danielle The Book Huntress (Wants to Read More), Sees Love in All Colors (last edited Nov 03, 2011 06:33AM) (new)

 Danielle The Book Huntress (Wants to Read More) (gatadelafuente) | 7308 comments Mod
Christine Feehan got some flack for how she wrote her bw character in Dark Possession, and it made her hesitant to attempt writing another bw character. I liked Maryann. I thought she was a woman who happened to be black, which is what I liked about her. She didn't have to be a walking stereotype, and I really hate when I read about those. I emailed and I told her one of the things I love about her books is the diversity. I think that a writer can write about any group of people so long as they go from the standpoint that human beings are the same fundamentally. If they are going into detail, they might want to do some research, but that's fairly easy nowadays. Or even have a beta reader read the story and give honest input.

I think the real reason that we don't see much diversity in books is because of people being focused on their view of the world. I don't really understand how that can be so narrow nowadays, but some people really do seem to live in a monotone world, or perhaps want to pretend they do.


message 9: by Tina (new)

Tina | 1379 comments Danielle, I remember reading that about Christine Feehan. Apparently she got some feedback from some readers who felt that Maryann didn't represent their particular idea of blackness.

My understanding was that she based her character of MaryAnn on an actual black woman she knew. So my question for her is, how is her black friend's 'black experience' any less 'authentic' than the random readers who chose to give that feedback? How is that person any less representative? The fact that she would be hesitant to write another BW character based on feedback from people she doesn't know and giving it more weight than the experience of the living, breathing person she does know makes me shake my head. And frankly makes me think it is an utter cop-out.

I often wonder what kinds of feedback authors like Suzanne Brockmann, Shelly Laurenston or Nalini Singh receive given that they consistently have written books with a wide diversity of characters.


message 10: by Danielle The Book Huntress (Wants to Read More), Sees Love in All Colors (new)

 Danielle The Book Huntress (Wants to Read More) (gatadelafuente) | 7308 comments Mod
Christine Feehan has a book coming out with a black hero and a Japanese heroine, so I don't think she's given up on writing diversity. Ruthless Game had a Chinese heroine. I think she'll write another bw heroine in the future.

It kills me how black people can be so narrow-minded about other black people. Why would they assume we are all the same? It's pretty ridiculous, actually.


message 11: by Delaney (new)

Delaney Diamond (delaney_diamond) Michelle, The Help is a very good book. I enjoyed the movie, too, and oftentimes a movie doesn't do a book justice. In this case, I think they did well (they did take some creative license, of course). Even the casting was perfect. I went with friends and half of us were crying in the theater. LOL.

As writers, we would be very limited if we could only write about our experiences. No more Navy seals, wealthy heroes and heroines, and as you pointed out, definitely NO paranormal. LOL.

Tina, I don't think that's a cop-out by Christine Feehan. It can't be easy to write a story from your heart and have people accuse you of not getting right. Even worse, some authors have been accused of racism, and nobody wants to be called a racist.

I'm assuming this was her first attempt (?), and it may have made her gun shy. I hope she hasn't given up writing diverse characters, as Danielle said. For people like Suzanne Brockmann and Nalini Singh, this is old hat. I'm sure they've received negative feedback, too, but maybe they've managed to tune it out and listen to the positive instead of dwelling on the negative.

Besides, book sales don't lie. If people like what you're writing, they'll keep buying it.


message 12: by Tina (new)

Tina | 1379 comments re: Feehan. See her type of issue was the thrust of the frustration for many of the posters in the discussion. Unless you are truly writing something factually incorrect, then negative feedback from someone saying 'Your character does not represent me...' should not deter you from writing that type of under-represented character again. Because your character shouldn't represent them and in fact it is impossible to do so. It should just be your character.

I was bummed about her reaction in particular (and thus may have been a bit harsh....) because I believe she had indicated that she had made Maryann a college educated, professional because that was the black women she knew and the feedback was specifically about the education/professional bit. So by allowing the criticism that somehow her portrayal isn't right, she is tacitly buying into the idea that the converse is the 'correct' way. When we all know it isn't.

Added to that, it is a paranormal with people turning into wolves and jaguars left and right. So how does racial authenticity work there?

The thing is, there was nothing objectionable about her character. If you pick up a Crystal Hubbard or a Brenda Jackson or a Beverly Jenkins book you will see a character who isn't very different from MaryAnn.

But you know what, I understand that paranormal fandom can be a bit on the scary side. So maybe she is right to be gun-shy.

An holy cow if anyone has any reason to be gun shy it is Kathryn Stockett. To her credit, she completely defends her choices. I agree The Help was a great book. I thought the black maids had ton of agency (which seems to be what a lot of the detractors hone in on). I love that so many people who did write/speak out against the book hadn't even read it. Their biggest issue was that a white woman had written about black maids. C'mon! Seriously?

Y'know, the more I think of it, I wonder if it is a woman thing? Quentin Tarantino gets cool cred for writing black themed movies. George Pelecanos often writes black main and supporting characters in his books, Plus he, Dennis LeHane, David Simon and Ed Burns -- all white --- have written for The Wire which is about drug dealers, police and life in Baltimore. And yet they are universally praised (fairly so, The Wire is like a well written novel in tv format). I can think of a few more...Elmore Leanord, Richard Price, Alexander McCall Smith....I could go on.


message 13: by Delaney (new)

Delaney Diamond (delaney_diamond) Ditto on your Stockett comments. I have to roll my eyes when I hear people complain or read their comments online. It's outrageous.

You bring up an interesting point, though, about it being a woman thing. Huh. I wonder....

It makes me think about all the hoopla over men who write romance, such as Nicholas Sparks (well, he doesn't really write romance b/c his books don't follow romance guidelines--but I digress), but the romance genre in general, dominated by women writers, is treated like the ugly duckling of literature.


message 14: by Roslyn (new)

Roslyn | 249 comments Tarantino gets major flack for his black-themed movies. I thought at one point he and Spike Lee were going to actually come to blows over it.

I'm not sure why I as a black writer would encourage white writers to be more inclusive. Frankly, IMO that's the last thing we need. It pisses me off that people like Brockman do one interracial book and suddenly she's the end all and be all of IR romances, while Romancelandia ignores the fact that black women have been writing these same type books for more than a decade now. It doesn't help that Brockman's book was freaking unreadable and doesn't hold a candle to the likes of Crystal Hubbard or Seressia Glass neither of whom don't have a chance in hell of receiving the type readership Brockman does. White people only want to read IR/MC books when they are penned by white people, that's what annoys the hell out of me about The Help. When black people write their own stories they're ignored. They have to be filtered through a white lens to gain credibility and of course money. Far as I'm concerned I'd prefer that they leave blacks out because it will only be a matter of time before the only IR/MC books available will be written by white women. Let them stick with M/M and PRN for their voyeuristic jollies. Stay the hell off my turf.


message 15: by Arch , Mod (new)

Arch  | 6569 comments Mod
I believe that writers should write all their characters as human and not a race, because everyone that's from that race don't act the same.

My characters are a race, but that's not important. They are human and that's what I display about them.

No one can display me, but me. Another black woman can't speak for me. Only I can. That's how it should be with everyone.

I don't believe an author has to be familiar with a certain race, in order to have a character that race. I can understand culture wise, but not human wise.

I'm not an African woman. I'm a black woman. If I wanted to write a story with an African heroine, I would need to learn about things that African women do. I don't have to learn things about a black woman.

People need to stop being hard on writers. They need to realize every black woman is not like them.


message 16: by Tina (last edited Nov 03, 2011 04:27PM) (new)

Tina | 1379 comments Tyler Perry gets more flack from the black community than Tarantino does. Spike Lee is Tarantino's biggest detractor, most other actors and the audience by and large give Tarantino a pass. Right now his newest film Django Unchained is in casting/pre-production and it is a slave/revenge movie. Spike Lee is frothing at the mouth. Everybody else is clamoring to get hired.

Frankly, I don't care who is writing the story, as long as it is something I like to read. But it is unrealistic to set your stories in a large urban area and have every character be white and straight. Or to set it far in the future and have all the characters be white and straight. How many books written by black writers feature only black characters? That's not realistic either. So yeah, in the books I like to read I want it to look like what I see when I look around no matter who is writing it.

Regards Brockmann, YMMV, but I think her Seal 16 series is great. I love this series because it was something new at the time that nobody else was writing. Unsung Hero came out in 1999 and nobody else was doing a connected military series like this with a continuing romance narrative running across several books. The fact that is was an IR couple being featured across multiple books with a continuing narrative was simply icing on the cake. And the fact that they ultimately became her alpha couple of the whole series with their romance running through the first 6 books, several short stories, and yet another novel featuring them as main characters just a couple of years ago, was a cherry on the top for me.


message 17: by The FountainPenDiva, Old school geek chick and lover of teddy bears (last edited Nov 03, 2011 06:44PM) (new)

The FountainPenDiva, Old school geek chick and lover of teddy bears (thefountainpendiva) | 1211 comments Okay, I am one of those detractors who disliked The Help and I did READ IT. I never criticize a book unless I do so. It had nothing to do with Stockett being white, I loathe thug lit written by blacks. I just felt maid characters were just so self-loathing and unaware about the social changes happening around them. It was unrealistic for the era and I personally thought Stockett just wasn't that interested in the complexities of the civil rights movement and how people felt about it.

I disagree that white characters are not described by skin tone. I've read "peaches and cream", "rosy", "honey" and many others. Granted, I really hate when black characters are described like deserts (mocha, chocolate, etc.) though. The downside is that a POC character is kind of stuck being described because for most readers the automatic default is white. I believe that's something which needs to change.

A part of what keeps white writers from diversifying their characters is sheer cowardice. Sure, there maybe some flack but that's no excuse when you know you've done your best to create a nuanced character and not a stereotype. Stockett may have thought she was being mindful and I'm sure her intent was not to perpetuate stereotypes, but if you're a writer and want to grow into your craft, you have to be willing to accept criticism and learn from it. I just don't see a lot of white writers willing to do that. They're afraid of the larger conversation about their privilege and what it means (Roz makes a very valid point in her OP).

Oh and Roz: there are some gay men who are not thrilled to see straight white women co-opting their lives and loves and making lots of money doing so when it taken gay male writers ages to hit the bestseller lists or any sort of recognition. You should see how that conversation goes down, LOL.

P.S. Roz: Will I ever get a Jacinto story, LOL???


message 18: by Roslyn (new)

Roslyn | 249 comments @Vix, yes, there will be a Jacinto story. And I know there are gay writers who resent the way white women have co-opted their lifestyles for their voyeuristic profit. I remember the brouhaha when the gay community excluded those women from their lit award. If white women do start including POC in their books you can best believe they'll expect a goddamned NAACP Image Award for being so "courageous." Nope, let them stay their cowardly asses away.

As for Brockman, I don't care how groundbreaking the series was the writing was absolutely atrocious. She's not fit to carry Crystal Hubbard or Sharon Cullars's bra strap, yet she gets all the kudos and awards while they're barely getting by. The woman is a poacher plain and simple and now she's jumped on the gay bandwagon. I hope they serve her up as she so richly deserves.


message 19: by Arch , Mod (new)

Arch  | 6569 comments Mod
A little off topic, sorry. Sam is my baby!


message 20: by Danielle The Book Huntress (Wants to Read More), Sees Love in All Colors (last edited Nov 04, 2011 08:13AM) (new)

 Danielle The Book Huntress (Wants to Read More) (gatadelafuente) | 7308 comments Mod
As a writer, I don't think I need a license to write about a certain subject. I realize some people might have an issue with how I approach that subject, and if I make mistakes, I have to accept responsibility for that. However, I would try my best to be diligent and get things right, and seek help if I needed more information on a culture I am unfamiliar with. Since I don't feel like I need permission from white people to write about white people, I don't think it should go the other way either.

I'm not a huge fan of Brockmann as a writer, although I do love some of her books. I don't think she's a terrible writer. I don't think she writes female characters to my satisfaction, but I do like her action elements and her heroes.

I get the point about how it is easier to write MC/IR fiction that gets notice if you are a popular white author, and that part sucks, but that doesn't mean white authors shouldn't be allowed to do so. It's our priority as members of the IR community to help support its authors and help get the word out there about the writers in our community. I read the books that interest me, no matter what color the writer is. If they get it right, I really don't care if they are purple even if they write about orange people. I don't have time for that.


message 21: by Roslyn (new)

Roslyn | 249 comments I don't think it's a matter of whether they should be "allowed" to do so. It's not like we have the power to stop them. However, I think we're doing the same thing black folk always do when white people come poaching. We're so flattered and thrilled that they deign to "include" us that we fail to notice that we're being screwed over until after it happens. Notice, the gay community didn't do that. They raised a stink and made it clear that these poaching white women would NOT be eligible for THEIR award. Black folks seem to have some type of problem with establishing boundaries, by not making these people so welcome and comfortable on our turf. White readers have been emphatically clear that they WILL NOT read books written by black romance authors. So why in the hell should we be so open to support white authors? Why are we giving them our limited resources when they already benefit by dint of being white? I think it's beyond ridiculous. We're begging them and running behind them for them to be more "inclusive." Yeah, they'll be inclusive all right, all the way to the bank while they laugh at our simple asses. I can assure you that if white authors start writing IRs there won't be anymore black romance authors. They'll produce numbers on a level that no black author could hope to match. After all, many black readers have no problem reading white authors, but the reverse is certainly not true. Even worse, many black readers WILL NOT read a black author either. Then we have the problem that many black readers won't read an IR book and many IR readers won't read a MR. That makes the market really tiny for a black writer of IRs. A white author won't have to confront any of this fucknuttery as she'll be seen as cool and edgy for writing black characters. Black folk will be so flattered that they won't care one way or another. What's more idiotic than that?


message 22: by Danielle The Book Huntress (Wants to Read More), Sees Love in All Colors (new)

 Danielle The Book Huntress (Wants to Read More) (gatadelafuente) | 7308 comments Mod
Let's be clear that this group isn't just for black readers, first of all.

I don't want anyone on this group to be offended, so let's be respectful of the fact that we are not all the same race here.

I'm not telling you that you aren't entitled to your opinion, but we are inclusive here by nature of the diversity of the subject matter.

Secondly, the interracial genre doesn't belong to black people. It belongs to anyone who wants to write interracial romance.

As for white readers saying they won't read black authors, that's not true across the board. Maybe you've run into a lot more of that mentality than I have, and I don't dispute that. However, to make a blanket statement of that sort isn't necessarily true.

And black writers will always write. No one take take their ability to write away from them. If markets won't open for them, then they need to make sure they start their own markets.


message 23: by Danielle The Book Huntress (Wants to Read More), Sees Love in All Colors (new)

 Danielle The Book Huntress (Wants to Read More) (gatadelafuente) | 7308 comments Mod
The other thing I wanted to add was the power of the pocketbook. I know for a fact that black women read a lot of books. I can say that for myself, and I know it's true based on seeing how many of my friends on this site who are black females who read PNR and romance in general. Publishers are foolish if they want to continue ignoring the power of the pocketbook. That's part of why ebooks are exploding out there. If the traditional markets won't open up, then the books will get published in other ways, and people will read them.

I work very hard to publicize good books that I read, and I also use the avenues of getting my voice heard available. I use my blog and I also belong to Tell Harlequin, and I definitely make my opinion about the lack of diversity and MC and the whitewashing of covers known. If Harlequin wants to ignore me, I can take all the money I spend on their books elsewhere.


message 24: by Roslyn (new)

Roslyn | 249 comments I never thought this forum was exclusively black, nor do I think writing IR romances is exclusively black, my comments are about the disparity that exists and questioning why we're so eager to hand our resources over to white authors when white readers aren't doing the same for us. I don't know what your experience has been with white readers, but mine have certainly been that they're very clear about their lack of interest in reading any books that aren't written by white folks. That's why books like The Help are so huge, whereas if a black author had written the same book it would've been seen as a "black book" and would not have received the same support or buzz, and certainly wouldn't have resulted in a hit movie. As for hurting white people's feelings, I'm confused about this notion as well. First, it's not like I'm lying on them. I'm relaying my experience as it happened. If that offends them there's not a whole lot I can do about it. I'm certainly not going to lie about my own experiences to spare their feelings.

Trust, Harlequin isn't going to ignore you. Publishing cares about nothing as much as it cares about money. Just don't be surprised if a decade from now folks are looking around wondering what happened to all the black authors of IRs. Do you really think they'll continue to publish black authors when they discover they can publish white authors of IRs and make ten times the money? So, in my opinion, arguing for inclusion is tantamount to arguing for the death of black authorship of IR books. If you don't believe me look at what happened to black business districts when integration occurred. They died because black folk wanted to use their newfound freedom to buy white. Many of us still believe the white man's ice is colder and as long as that's true inclusion means death.


message 25: by Arch , Mod (new)

Arch  | 6569 comments Mod
Maybe, I'm wrong, but unless authors sees a reader's race in person, they don't know what race of people are buying their books. One person can't speak for every reader in their race.

As a black woman, if I don't read PNR books, it doesn't mean all black readers don't read PNR books.

Interracial pairing isn't just black and white. I wish there were more interracial books with other race pairing. We have black women that's in an interracial relationship, where the man isn't white. The same thing goes for white men. A lot of white men are in interracial relationship, but the woman isn't black.


message 26: by Danielle The Book Huntress (Wants to Read More), Sees Love in All Colors (last edited Nov 04, 2011 10:31AM) (new)

 Danielle The Book Huntress (Wants to Read More) (gatadelafuente) | 7308 comments Mod
I am making it clear that when you make statements about what a race of people do or don't do on this group, you want to consider that some people might take that personally and assume your comments are directed at them. It's easy to get fired up about what someone thinks is right or wrong and forget that one's comments aren't coming across exactly the way they are meant.

Racism clearly exists, and we all know it. It is a societal ill that affects all of us. However, we are not going to make statements on here directed at all of a certain group of people being in the wrong.


I can only speak for myself. I'm not going to not buy a book by an author because they are a certain color. I will buy it because it interests me, end of story. Yes, I do believe in supporting black authors and businesses, but I don't think that is my primary motivation in buying anything that it was made by a black person.

Would I like for people to buy my work because I'm black? No. Would I like for people to buy my work because they enjoy it, and respect my cultural heritage as a black person? Yes.

To not buy someone's books because they are a different color from me and I feel they are poaching on my territory is not a strategy I agree with. I do believe in supporting your beliefs, and I would never tell someone that they shouldn't stand up for what they believe in, so I can only speak for what is right or wrong for me.


message 27: by Roslyn (new)

Roslyn | 249 comments My comments are only directed at them personally if they practice the behavior I'm talking about. If you're a white reader who will buy books written by black authors, then clearly I'm not talking about you. Unfortunately, those readers are rare.

No, I don't want a reader to buy my book for any other reason than that they think it's a good read. And I certainly have advocated for no such thing. IMO that's a straw man argument. Where have I said anything to that affect? My question is, why are we so desperate for white authors to "include" us? What benefit do we gain? Does it mean that more black authors will get publishing deals? Nope. In fact the reverse is true. Does it mean there will be a deeper more meaningful exploration of our genre? I'm thinking not so much, not if the books I've read thus far is any indication. So what exactly is the benefit of all this one-sided "inclusiveness?'


message 28: by Danielle The Book Huntress (Wants to Read More), Sees Love in All Colors (last edited Nov 04, 2011 11:02AM) (new)

 Danielle The Book Huntress (Wants to Read More) (gatadelafuente) | 7308 comments Mod
What I don't understand is how it's inclusion. The publishing world at large shouldn't by default be for white people, nor should IR should be for non-white authors. If it's treated that way then that's the problem. I think that we are campaigning that the offerings available should by default be multicultural. I don't think we are offering white authors a privilege to write IR romances. They write what they want and readers read what they want. To withdraw into IR/MC and call it 'our territory' doesn't benefit publishing as an industry at all, in my opinion.

I don't know what 'straw man' argument means, so I can't address that comment.


message 29: by Roslyn (new)

Roslyn | 249 comments BTW, who said that white readers refusing to buy books by black writers were wrong? Folks buy what they want to read. I never said they were wrong, I said it was simply a statement of fact and I'm not the only black writer who has made this observation. Nor am I the first black romance writer who has commented on the many black romance readers who won't buy a black author either.

There's nothing I can do about the choices people make in their buying habits, however I think it's only reasonable to question the wisdom of begging them to screw us over further.


message 30: by Danielle The Book Huntress (Wants to Read More), Sees Love in All Colors (new)

 Danielle The Book Huntress (Wants to Read More) (gatadelafuente) | 7308 comments Mod
I never said you said that, but I personally don't agree with that in either direction.


message 31: by Roslyn (new)

Roslyn | 249 comments Once again we're arguing about what SHOULD be. A lot of things SHOULD be, but the fact is the publishing world IS by default for white people. I think we've all seen this time and again. Black people are a small minority and getting smaller. By making this argument for inclusion we're making the same mistake we made with integration. The publishing world won't become more diverse, it'll actually become LESS so because black authors will be left on the wayside. White authors will continue to write their books including token minorities like one I just read with a tap-dancing old black man in a Seattle barbecue joint, and life will continue. Black readers/authors have created this niche for a very simple reason. We couldn't get our books published otherwise. If white authors come in, the black authors will be pushed out. Now presumably readers don't care one way or another, as they'll get the books they want regardless, but I would think that authors would be a bit more concerned.


message 32: by Michelle, Mod with the Bod (last edited Nov 04, 2011 11:58AM) (new)

Michelle Gilmore | 3396 comments Mod
I'm not an author, but am I right in thinking the problem lies with the publishing companies in many cases as they're the ones deciding what novels get published? Then we readers can only choose from what's available to us. It's ufortunate for the author because they're not given the same support and opportunity to shine, and us readers who are being deprived of their stories.


message 33: by Michelle, Mod with the Bod (new)

Michelle Gilmore | 3396 comments Mod
Another question I have is this, what can we do as readers to get publishing companies on board? Is there even anything that we can do? I'm happy with the novels that are already available, but could be even happier with novels where the characters are more racially diverse.


message 34: by Arch , Mod (new)

Arch  | 6569 comments Mod
✿Michelle✿ wrote: "Another question I have is this, what can we do as readers to get publishing companies on board? Is there even anything that we can do? I'm happy with the novels that are already available, but c..."

Michelle, we probably can find out who they are and write them. This way, they will see what readers want. All they can do is acknowledge it or deny it.


message 35: by Chicki (new)

Chicki Brown (chicki663) | 130 comments Roz, Suzanne Brockmann is only writing gay characters because her son came out a few years ago and she's a very vocal gay rights activist. Although I think she's an incredible writer, I choose to not read her gay themed books.

Personally I believe this whole discussion of white writing black characters is ridiculous. How can we as writers say that another authors doesn't have the right to pen whatever characters they wish? That's like white people saying black people shouldn't sing opera or play golf or tennis or hockey because it belongs to them! Maybe you're not old enough to remember those days, but I am. Those diatribes were mean spirited and hateful. We shouldn't stoop to that level - ever. JMHO.

Chicki


message 36: by Chicki (new)

Chicki Brown (chicki663) | 130 comments I wanted to add one more thing about white readers not reading black books. I believe this has been the case because black authors have traditionally marketed to black readers.

Since I started marketing my books, I've been amazed by the response to my stories, which are decidedly African-American. I market everywhere, and I know that the thousands of readers who've bought my books are predominantly white.

My reader and writer followers on Twitter are also predominantly white, and they faithfully help me promote my books.

Also, since authors can categorize their own books on Kindle and Nook, I categorize my books as romance or women's fiction FIRST. I'm not going to voluntarily assign myself to the literary ghetto.

Chicki


message 37: by The FountainPenDiva, Old school geek chick and lover of teddy bears (last edited Nov 04, 2011 02:44PM) (new)

The FountainPenDiva, Old school geek chick and lover of teddy bears (thefountainpendiva) | 1211 comments Roz is dead-on about one thing: White readers (not all) seem to have this weird disconnect when it comes to lead characters of color. This definitely tends to happen in romance, where I've heard the excuse "I just couldn't relate the character(s)" as if we're talking about aliens, LOL. And yet these same readers have no problems relating to a vampire or a werewolf. *face-palm moment* This is the year 2011 (soon to be 2012) and yet this sense of "the other" just doesn't seem to go away.

Kind of on this topic, you have J.R. Ward who's BDB male characters speak hip-hop slang and readers have eaten it up. I don't know how many user names I've seen here in Goodreads with those Ward-ian spellings (which were total fail in my book as well as the weakness of her female leads). The flip side of Ward is our much-missed L.A. Banks. She should be as popular as Ward and yet I've heard that "I didn't understand the hip-hop terms" from some white readers (the same ones who eat up anything Ward writes), though thankfully Banks does have a pretty diverse readership (as does Ward). Speaking of Banks, true story: my friend Moira who's white (and who made my Ren-Faire costume) was sitting in a dentist office reading Minion and another white woman said to her, "I thought those books were for black people." Moira just gave her a "are you on drugs" look, but that goes to show the perception that some white readers have. The irony is Banks' books much more accurately reflect a multucultural world and it's natural. Ward's world pretty much looks like 1950's television, even though it takes place in a contemporary setting.

Inclusion isn't something white authors should dread or treat as if it requires endless handwringing. The world is changing as are the demographics. I don't care what color a writer is, if they do not understand this basic fact and start reflecting that diversity in their books, in the long run they're going to be left out.


message 38: by Chicki (new)

Chicki Brown (chicki663) | 130 comments The reader disconnect has been a problem, but I believe it will lessen as black authors begin to market their books differently and as more white readers are exposed to non-white characters.

Let me share an e-mail I received recently from a reader: http://sisterscribbler.blogspot.com/2...

This is the kind of thing I love to hear, and I hope to receive many more like this.

Chicki


The FountainPenDiva, Old school geek chick and lover of teddy bears (thefountainpendiva) | 1211 comments Here's the thing, why should black authors change the way they market their books? It's like accepting that multicultural is a bad word instead of getting readers to see that a MC book doesn't mean only a certain group can/should read it. I see no difference in a book marketed as "women's fiction" and one marked "multicultural". I do get it though, perception is everything.

I agree with you about indie authors.


message 40: by Roslyn (new)

Roslyn | 249 comments I know why Brockmann is writing gay characters, that doesn't negate the way white women have appropriated the genre and then get chipped off because gay men have beef with it. And again, I repeat I never said that black authors should keep white authors from writing IR/MC books. Presumably we couldn't even if we tried. My question is why are we running up behind them begging them to do so. What exactly is the benefit TO US? Right now we have a significant number of very good writers leaving the genre, if we don't have enough readers to support the authors we already have why on earth are we looking for more?

I'm not sure what you mean about marketing to black readers. Most of my books have been with Loose Id. They come up on their board at midnight on Monday just like everyone else's. They're not stuck in some ghetto in a bookstore somewhere. My books go to the same reviewers that all the other LI books go to, they don't discriminate, yet I doubt I have more than a couple dozen non-black readers. I'm not about to abandon my core readership by not telling them that my stories are interracial--there's nothing wrong with the fact that my books are interracial. If white readers find that somehow distasteful, then God bless them. It seems to me that if the word "interracial" somehow is a turnoff for them they're not going to want to read my books anyway. After all they all have a black woman and white man featured on the cover.

And yes, there is a weird-azz disconnect. I can't tell you how many times I've had someone ask on the Amazon discussion boards "Why aren't there any IR books?" Despite the fact that there are more than a dozen released every month. I patiently link Pat Cromwell's list and they respond with, "Oh, I meant "mainstream" writers. Uh, yeah. I've even seen romance bloggers ask the same question. I'm like, what planet are you on? We're invisible to them, no matter how much time I spent at the "mainstream" blogs, sent them my books was even featured on one of the biggest ones. Didn't do jack for my sales. They rarely review a non-white book and when they do there are absolute crickets in response. How many discussions have I been in on various boards (You know the ones VV) only to hear them talk about how they can't "relate" despite eating up the Black Dagger Brotherhood (blech) like pudding.

The only black writer that I know of with a substantial white readership is Shelly Laurenston. If you look for a picture of her, you'll understand why. I knew she was black from the way she writes, but I'll bet you most of her fans didn't know it. Smart lady, I strongly recommend black authors who want to cross over do the same.


message 41: by Tina (new)

Tina | 1379 comments Just in the past few years having been following all the hoopla surrounding the advent of e-books, the Agency pricing, the hysteria about Amazon wanting to rule the world etc. etc. I have learned that the publishing industry is pretty much a dinosaur. It is an old skool model still steeped in traditions and doing business in an outmoded way.

But the New York houses have always had a stranglehold on the business of how books get acquired, marketed and sold. And while that stranglehold is beginning to loosen, it takes a very long time to shift a paradigm.

As one commenter on the DearAuthor thread stated, publishing is a gate-keeping industry. There are too many layers between an aspiring writer and their potential reader. You have agents, editors, publisher, sellers etc. all busy telling you what you have to write and being the keeper of the keys to to bar your way if you don't.

How many times have you read an anecdote by an author who said they wanted to write on a certain subject or time period only to be told they couldn't because it wouldn't sell? Why is it that any one of us here could probably summarize all the romance settings using less than ten-fingers? They are too busy holding on to what the sure things they've already done to try and do something new and different.

And honestly I believe the romance traditional publishing is one of the most stagnant. It is an incredibly conservative genre that simply doesn't take risks.

Frankly my belief is that as a black writer you can't play the game using the board they set up. Their pieces are already in play, you will never catch up. You have to play your own game.

It is no coincidence that the availability of IR & MC romances rose exponentially with the advent of online indie publishers that circumvent the NY pubs. Yeah, there are quality issues, but to me that is part of the growing pains of a nascent movement.

I rarely buy NY pub books anymore. I still have some favorite authors, but I am forever trawling indie pubs trying to find someone new. I personally do let my money talk. For big names I tend to get my stuff from the library or from Amazon Marketplace used. But as far as spending new I tend to support authors (any color) who are pushing multi-culturalism esp. IR pairings. And, yes I buy new the Shelly Laurenstons, Nalini Singhs and Suzanne Broackmanns who do prominently feature main characters of color because I believe that if they sell well across all demographics then it could be the tipping point that actually does push the trad pubs to begin marketing to us.


message 42: by Chicki (last edited Nov 04, 2011 05:08PM) (new)

Chicki Brown (chicki663) | 130 comments I understand why you're saying, Roz, but when you promote the books where do you promote them? We have been dealing with the same groups, outlets, sites and bookclubs for decades, but there are millions of other readers out there too. The ones that find their books on the high volume sites like eReader News Today. They did a small feature for me last week, and I sold 215 books in 24 hours. It's a whole different ballgame, and the majority of black authors are missing out because they are still stuck in the old way of marketing and promoting their books.

There are those readers that religiously follow Twitter feeds like #Novelines. They don't even consider SORMAG, Romantic Times, Black Expressions or AAMBC.

Readers of indie books are a whole lot more open-minded than traditional readers. They want something different. Reviewers of indie books will review and promote ANY type of book.

My books are about human beings. Why should I have to say, "buy my black book" instead of simply "buy my romance"? That's just not right.


message 43: by Arch , Mod (new)

Arch  | 6569 comments Mod
A lot of black readers don't read books with white characters. Some don't even read interracial books. They stick to black books only.

A person has a right to read whatever interest them.

Just because a white person don't read a black book, it doesn't mean they are reading books about vampires, etc.

I'm a black woman and I don't really read black books, although I have a few and have read a few black books.


message 44: by Roslyn (new)

Roslyn | 249 comments Yes, Brockman and Singh to sell across all demographics and publishers will have no problem selling to us. The problem is that they'll do it with white or at least non-black women. Again, I understand that this isn't a reader problem, but as a writer I have major problem with this.

I promote on the same sites other writers promote on, at least as long as it's free, I haven't paid for promo primarily because I can't afford to. I plan to do so with this next book because frankly it's my swan song. If it doesn't make it, I'm done. I haven't done any ads on SORMAG or the like, though I don't understand why gaining white readers means not promoting to black readers as well. I know white readers don't read SORMAG or AAMBC, they don't even know what they are. I never said you had to say "read my black book," but you shouldn't have to conceal the fact that it's a black book either, but that's your call. I know indie readers are more open-minded, as long as the book is cheap, they'll buy it.

And like I said, my books are regularly reviewed by the same reviewers that other LI books are reviewed on. I've got plenty of very favorable reviews. Unfortunately, they haven't translated to book sales.


message 45: by Chicki (new)

Chicki Brown (chicki663) | 130 comments Basically I don't pay for promo either, except for features on the high volume e-book sites. They are definitely worth the $25 or $50.

I don't conceal the fact that my books are multicultural. If you look at my book pages on Amazon, they are tagged as multicultural, but I market them to everyone.

The price of indie e-books are less because the royalty indie e-authors make is significantly higher than they would get get from a publisher. An indie author makes the same royalty on a $2.99 e-book that a traditional author makes on a $20.00 hardcover. (70-85% vs. 10-20%) The fact that the cover price is lower gives us an advantage in the marketplace. When readers have limited book buying funds and are looking for something to read, they're going to go for a lower priced book. They feel it's not a great loss if they buy a book for under five dolars and don't like it. :)


message 46: by Roslyn (new)

Roslyn | 249 comments I've looked at your books and the first thing I noted is that the people are in silhouette. Laurenston employs a similar gambit in that the women are never on the cover of her books, only the men. Now I haven't been silent about the fact that I don't like figurative covers on romance novels, I think it infantilizes the genre, but I think the choice of not having a black woman on the cover is deliberate. I think we both know that even at .99 a lot of white readers would pass your book by if you had a black woman on the cover. In my opinion that's not crossing over, that's passing, which again is a choice lots of writers have made and I'm not knocking it at all, but it is what it is. Publishers have done it too, and I've seen blowback in various venues from readers who feel deceived in both directions. My guess is the reason you haven't had it that people don't feel that they've lost anything because the books are cheap. When I managed a bookstore we got returns from white customers when they discovered there were black people in the book. I suspect the only reason you haven't gotten ugly commentary is that at such a low price point the reader doesn't feel they've lost anything. I'm sure it's an effective marketing tactic.


message 47: by Chicki (new)

Chicki Brown (chicki663) | 130 comments I used silhouettes because I searched for weeks and couldn't find photos of people that looked like my characters. It was SO frustrating, and I asked my cover artist to do something to get around this problem.

But with my upcoming December release, I bought an image from cover model Jimmy Thomas. You can see it here: http://sisterscribbler.blogspot.com/2...

I haven't gotten any ugly commentary, and the pricepoint has nothing to do with it. There are many writers among the indie groups to which I belong that have received angry, nitpicky, crazy e-mails, FB and Twitter messages on 99 cent books. Many of my readers have read the first three books. They know the characters are black, and they keep coming back for more. That's fantastic to me, because it means they're returning for the stories.


message 48: by Roslyn (new)

Roslyn | 249 comments It'll be interesting to see.


message 49: by Arch , Mod (new)

Arch  | 6569 comments Mod
I will speak for myself. I don't really care for the hero or heroine to be on the cover of a book. I like to imagine how they look. Sometimes the people on the cover don't match the people in the book and not only that, they don't match my version of the hero or heroine.

I'm glad that Suzanne Brockmann had silhouettes on Sam and Alyssa's book, Gone Too Far. It was the first book that I have read by her.

I like covers that correspond with the title. I have made covers for some of my stories. I have yet to make a cover for my story Trespassing.

Silhouette pictures to me, let a person imagine the people. I rather see Silhouette than the same model on different books.

There's no way a person can tell me that Fabio had to be a huge percentage of Historical heroes.


The FountainPenDiva, Old school geek chick and lover of teddy bears (thefountainpendiva) | 1211 comments @Roz: OMG, talk about face-palm moments in those threads. I really wish someone could explain why the BDB series is so "great". That first book sunk it for me utterly. Oh well.

Personally, I LIKE seeing MC/IR people on covers. I don't need a hot clench or anything, but seeing those images dones well is kind of an ego boost. This is the year 2011 and we're still treating PoC's like the secret in the attic. The YA genre has had quite a few instances of cover fail and it has been the AUTHORS who have pushed back, along with their readership, and even those who didn't know who they werew but support diversity. Granted, there's not a whole lot of images out there for authors to use (I can't count the number of times I've seen the same two black cover models used over and over again).


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