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General Chatting > Do Black Women Read Romance?

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message 1: by Roslyn (new)

Roslyn | 249 comments I started this convo over on my blog and would like to get some feedback from readers here as well:

And if they don’t, why not? A few weeks ago Monica Mingo posted a question on her über-popular blog asking how many people there read romance. (No, I didn’t put her up to ask the question, though I probably should have. I’m not sure why she asked it.) Well, the result was about the loudest chorus of crickets I’ve heard in a long time. I don’t have demographic information on Monica’s blog, but I would guess it’s primarily black women with a generous helping of other races and genders (I could be wrong, though). Of course, my first thought was, “I really do need a new gig.” But I got to wondering, Monica posts topics about books on a regular basis. These women are all very well-read and seem to be prolific readers of just about every genre, EXCEPT romance. So the burning question is, Why? I’ve noticed a lot of black women seem to dislike romance novels and wonder the same thing. Oprah, who’s never met a pathology porn story she didn’t like dismisses romance out of hand. So how do we go about changing that? What is it about romance that turns these people off? I mean, I think I write some pretty awesome books full of interesting characters and story arcs, but if I’m missing out on a sizable segment of the population I need to do something to rectify that. What do you recommend? I’d be more than happy to give them free books to try to lure them to the pink side, anything else?

Oh, and before anyone say this I’ll say it myself, I know there’s a general disdain for romance, though how that can be when romance is the best-selling genre out there I’ll never know, but I’m focusing on black women because that’s my target audience.

message 2: by Michelle, Mod with the Bod (last edited Nov 14, 2011 03:40PM) (new)

Michelle Gilmore | 3396 comments Mod
I could be wrong, but I think a lot of us tend to be closet romance readers. It's almost as if its wrong , or embarassing to caught up in the escapism of a good romance novel, and why that is, I don't know. There were a few times when I bought books, and by the time I got through checking out at the store, I wished that I had purchased my book online. That said, my mother is a romance reader and proud of it. I'm curious to see what other answers you'll hear in this thread.

message 3: by Elise (new)

Elise Marion (elise_marion) | 9 comments I am writing this as both a romance writer and a romance reader....I am black. Yes I read romance. I've been reading it since I was a teenager. I have a cousin who is also an avid romance reader and alot of my friends have been reading my books who are black and enjoy them. I know that there seems to be a high demand for romances with black heroines and this might be the problem. There just aren't enough. I have to say I could care less about the color of the characters. If the story is good I want to read it. And not all of my books are about black people. I write a story and write what I envision in my head. I know alot of black people that prefer movies, books, or music that portrays something they can identify with. And while I have no problem reading about a heroine with blonde hair or alabaster skin, or even writing about one, alot of black women just can't relate. that said, there are a few black authors out there that write strictly black characters that have quite a following. Ever heard of Zane?

message 4: 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 have been reading romance for over twenty years. My mother read and reads romances, and my sister reads romance. That's two generations in my family that does read romance.

I have black friends who read romances, and there are a lot of GRs members of here who fit the demographic you asked about who read romance, so I would answer yes.

I think that Michelle might have a point about some readers not owning up to reading romance, of all races.

message 5: by Fiona (new)

Fiona McGier | 128 comments Romance novels as a genre are thought of as trashy-reads, or time-wasters. Seems to me this is similar to men saying that "women gossip". But when I was working in a sales company in a department of 13 men and me, I found they gossiped even more than a group of women...they just called it "talking business".

Men think romance is a waste of time, and prefer books with themes they consider more important, and many women unfortunately, agree with them. That means that stories that demean women, or focus on females as "window-dressing" and interchangeable, (yes, I mean you, James Bond!) are considered to be quality writing, while books that have other components but are primarily about romance, are thought of as being of low quality.

I say stand up and say loudly and proudly, "I write romance novels because there is nothing more important in life than falling in love and creating a family unit based on love." There! I said it!

message 6: by Tina (last edited Nov 16, 2011 04:55PM) (new)

Tina | 1374 comments I think there is probably a small but dedicated percentage of AA women who read romance. But I think on the whole AA women probably read women's fiction.

For one thing, I think there is a correlation between the number of AA women who would never date inter-racially to the number of AA women who would have voluntarily exposed themselves to romance novels. They want to read the type of romance they relate to which is black romance.

Back in the day, there were no black romance lines. Unless you lived in a major urban area with a sizable black population you couldn't go into a bookstore or a library to find any black themed romances, they simply weren't there. I remember I could only find black romances if I went to the library branches that were in the predominantly black areas of town.

I find, anecdotally, that AA women who read romances tend to be women who were bookish at a young age and enjoyed the same type of books that most young, bookish women would drift toward. Since most books geared to YA women, even back in the day, were heavily romance oriented it made sense to transition into full blown romance novels. Harlequins. Harlequins truly are a gateway drug. They are cheap. abundant and easily accessible. And (back then) were tame enough for young bookish girls to hook into.

Still, I think romance is a highly segregated society. Unforgivably so. I also think the readership is largely to blame. Were you guys aware that Maisey Yates' IR book The Highest Price to Pay (Mills & Boon Hardback Romance) by Maisey Yates with this awesome cover was getting complaints about the IR cover at Harlequin USA and Mills & Boon? She had to go to twitter to ask people who liked the cover to write to Harlequin in order to counter the haters. Luckily her plea worked and apparently the supporters out shouted the nay-sayers. But the sad fact is there are tons of white women readers who feel incredibly possessive of romance and don't understand why "they" (meaning non-whites) need to have romances. And they tend to be more vocal about it.

message 7: by Chaeya (new)

Chaeya | 454 comments I've been reading Romance since 8th grade. My mom read Romance which is how I got into them, becase I'd read her books. Then I graduated to more fiction, science fiction and so on. There was lots of erotic sex scenes in science fiction when I was coming up, and in many of the regular fiction I read. I started writing my own books because I was tired of seeing white women as the ideal, and non-white characters as always the friend or if they were in the running for the hero, they'd get killed off. This angered me.

Tina, that's upsetting to think that the white Romance readers believe people of color shouldn't have their own stories. But it just makes me all the more determined.

message 8: by Roslyn (new)

Roslyn | 249 comments @Tina that is an awesome cover and I'm not the least surprised that some in Romancelandia had a problem with it.

message 9: by Elise (new)

Elise Marion (elise_marion) | 9 comments Roslyn, I'm not either. Something about a white woman hanging on a black man offends so many. I for one think the image is gorgeous. Love comes in all colors and this is why I have no racial preference when it comes to romance so long as the story is good. However I do like to find a good book with a strong, black heroine!

message 10: by Roslyn (new)

Roslyn | 249 comments Black romance is a relatively young genre, but we're uniquely positioned to give black women something that they really can't get anywhere else: Stories that focus on black women. Not as the sassy sidekick providing a foil for the ohsopure white woman, but as the central character herself. Not because she's some self-sacrificing mule, but because she's an attractive self-actualized human being. Even more the black woman is the center of attraction for one (or more) men. There's no where else that black women can get that type of story on a consistent basis and we need to do a better job of promoting it just that way.

message 11: by Zino (new)

Zino | 1 comments i have heard that the true story of the titanic was between a white woman and a black man i think it gonna be gorgeous if the directors of the film named a black man instead of L.D caprio

message 12: by Roslyn (new)

Roslyn | 249 comments I would be interested to see some of the comments made about the cover. The bigots employ some interesting code words at times.

message 13: by [deleted user] (new)


I am a 30+ African American female who has read romance novels since the age of ll. I love them, read them in public and really don't care if people joke me about reading smut. Which they do and have. I think we (AA females) have worked hard to be seen in society as strong and independent and because of that many of use don't want to be seen reading something like romance novels. I could be wrong just a thought.
I have read alot of romance and ONR where the main character is a white woman. it doesn't bother me because I feel love sees no color but I do seek out at times romance with an AA heroine.
We (AA romance readers and writers) need to be more vocal in the romance industry because alot of us read it (some undercover) in all its forms especially Urban & YA.

The FountainPenDiva, Old school geek chick and lover of teddy bears (thefountainpendiva) | 1210 comments Roslyn wrote: "I would be interested to see some of the comments made about the cover. The bigots employ some interesting code words at times."

Coded or not, people pretty much know what's being said. I do find it somewhat ironic that white women were complaining about the cover when all it takes is a little google search to see numerous erotica books written by white women who fantasize about being with we well-hung black man. I'd figure they be more upset if the picture was of a black woman with a white man draped around him.

message 15: by Kimberly (new)

Kimberly | 21 comments I added the book posted above to my wish list. the majority of IR that I read have black female leads with non-black men. Mainly white, but some Asian, Native American, Arabic, etc. as well. Being biracial and knowing my parents were a white mother and black father I often wonder why there are not more stories with White women and men of color? Is this something that both black and white women won't read? I sure hope not.

message 16: by Roslyn (new)

Roslyn | 249 comments I doubt that black women would read them for all the obvious reasons. And outside the white women with the Mandingo thing, most prefer men of their own race. Which is probably why the cover garnered the response it did. I've always heard that BM/WW romances don't sell. I don't think that's surprising.

message 17: 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 read IR of any type. I like Maisey Yates books and I'm excited to read The Highest Price to Pay, Kimberly. The author's husband is biracial.

The FountainPenDiva, Old school geek chick and lover of teddy bears (thefountainpendiva) | 1210 comments When it comes to IR's, my first love is black women with men of varying races because that's my reality. My second is women of other races with men of other races. I would love to see more asian women, latinas and middle eastern women represented in romance. Lastly would be white women with men of other races. I know what that sounds like, but when white women are the default character when it comes to romance, I just want something different. I want to see more balance in what's out there. Also, to be perfectly honest, I cringe when I think of the potential fail some white women writers (at least American ones) might commit when it comes to not stereotyping black men. Still, I am supportive overall of the genre so I've added Maisey Yates' to my TBR list as well.

message 19: by Roslyn (new)

Roslyn | 249 comments Nope, you couldn't pay me to read an interracial story written by a white woman. Been there, hurled at that. I'm still having flashbacks from the elderly black man singing and tapdancing in a barbecue joint in one of Patricia Briggs's book. Folk can call it what they like, but I see no reason to support them when they have no interest in supporting us.

The FountainPenDiva, Old school geek chick and lover of teddy bears (thefountainpendiva) | 1210 comments @Roslyn: Are you kidding me? Yikes!

message 21: by Elise (new)

Elise Marion (elise_marion) | 9 comments One problem I am having with the tone of this overall discussion is the whole idea of "us" and "them"....i'm sure some will disagree but after all the years of screaming about equality why is it that we seem to always want to set ourselves apart. "black love" and "white love" are the same and I for one don't care what color the H and h are so long as the story is good. I would read an interracial with a white woman and black man and actually happen to be writing one (a sequel to one i already published bw/wm). I write what I see in my head and read whatever looks good.

And as for what sells I think alot of the problem is that traditional publishers THINK that the only thing that sells is bw/wm. But if you go to AllRomance Ebooks and look through popular IR books you will find quite a variety. different women have different tastes whether they will admit to them out loud or fantasize about them in their heads. This makes me grateful for the opportunity to self-publish, as the author does not have to be tied down to what the publisher thinks will or won't sell. I have actually come across a number of forums with women of all colors looking for every combination of IR you could think of.

message 22: by Roslyn (new)

Roslyn | 249 comments I guess it depends on how you define "equality" Elise. Right now black women have no problem reading book with an assortment of H/h. White women seem to have a problem with that. And given that they make up the majority of the romance readers in this country there's no equality in that and there is not likely to be any anytime soon. As I've said before, just as they choose to be disdainful of my books, why shouldn't I do the same to theirs, especially since most prefer to leave women of color out, and when they are included they leave me wishing they HAD left them out. I'll read books by white women when they have no hesitancy in reading books by women who look like me. Until then, fuggedaboutit.

message 23: by The FountainPenDiva, Old school geek chick and lover of teddy bears (last edited Nov 19, 2011 04:11PM) (new)

The FountainPenDiva, Old school geek chick and lover of teddy bears (thefountainpendiva) | 1210 comments I always feel that when I speak of preferring to read IR's in which black women (and women of color in general) feature prominently, somehow I have to justify that and it makes me a little crazy.

Most of the genre fiction I read is comprised of white protagonists and quite a few are my favorites, so that's never been a problem. I too think love is colorblind as are the things that make us human. But the IR genre is still relatively new and needs to be supported far more than it is. And frankly, to read about characters who look like me is refreshing, especially when those characters are not the standard mass media driven stereotypes. I'm not getting BET-type, ghetto-ized drama queens, but strong, intelligent and savvy women who are the objects of love and desire of men who are of other races. One day when the playing field is more level, then this won't be such a big deal. That's another reason why e-book, smaller publishers and self-publishing is what's changing the landscape.

message 24: by Elise (new)

Elise Marion (elise_marion) | 9 comments I am not disputing that more black faces (particularly strong black women) need to be pushed out there. But for me a book is not the same as say seeing a movie about a black heroine. I relate to a heroine in a boook as a WOMAN. If she's a mother, or she's been through certain things, or she feels a certain way and I feel the same way....these are all ways I can relate....I mean really, if a book had no cover art or description inside of either H or h, would you know what color they were?

message 25: by [deleted user] (new)

Elise wrote: "One problem I am having with the tone of this overall discussion is the whole idea of "us" and "them"....i'm sure some will disagree but after all the years of screaming about equality why is it th..."

I agree with you. While I would love to see more AA female heroines, love is love and a well written story is just that regardless of the author. It does take a good author to engage all culture/races without being offensive or phony. We have to remember that black/white/asian/etc., we all are women who love romance!

message 26: by Kimberly (new)

Kimberly | 21 comments I can see Rosyln's point about the lack of support from white people regarding black authors and black stories. All you have to do is look at the success of The Help to understand her point. I ended up caving in a reading the book because for me personally I felt I need to read the book to both justify and change some of my concerns about the book and all the hype around it. I had first heard about the book on NPR's Fresh Air. The Author was also interviewed on Tell Me More. Although the book wasn't horrible some of the descriptions of the black characters made my teeth itch. The Mammy-phelia was beyond annoying. And in the end this book was not about domestic workers in the south but the coming of age story or the white protagonist. Fine, it's just a story. But too many people out there are not going to take the time to read other stories about the same situation by black women. Sometimes it's just plain ignorance that keeps people from reading stories from someone other than a white writer. Sometimes it's fear that they won't understand the black pov. And of course there is the complete lack of exposure when it comes to the way books stores are set up to have a separate AA section with every single genre under one section. So non blacks just make the assumption that those books are not for everyone to read. The Association of Black Women Historians had great response to the movie The Help that included a list of books regarding domestic workers and their lives both during slavery and after that are much better choices when it comes to story telling then The Help.
So far I've read The Book of Night Women by Marlon James. this was a tough read and the exact opposite of The Help. On the surface it's a Tragic Mulatto coming of age story surrounded by the planning of a slave rebellion, but it's so much more. No punches are pulled. The language is extremely graphic. And the Jamaican patios can be difficult to understand at times, but it's well worth the journey. I learned to so much reading this story and came away with even more empathy for the slave women who worked in domestic positions. And had a greater understanding of the complexities of slavery in Jamaica vs. the U.S. and the daunting task of a slave rebellion. The other book I've read from the list was A Million Nightingales by Susan Straight. A white writer who again is writing what could be considered a Tragic Mulatto coming of age story, but again it is so much more. With both books what is key is having strong writers who have done their research on the topics they are writing about in the story. For me I wasn't aware of the author while reading these stories which is something that is lacking in any kind of art today. The author is ever present and it can distract you from the story especially if you are reading a poorly written or mediocre story. I thought it would have been great if the books suggested by the historical association suddenly made the best seller list, but I don't see that happening because people like things easy and simple when it comes to best sellers.

message 27: by Kimberly (new)

Kimberly | 21 comments I was thinking about books I've read by white authors that contained characters of color and romance and I think it's a 50/50 toss up where some writers and stories I've loved and others I just was embarrassed and aggrevated by the writing, characters and story. Here are two of my fave IR couples written by white writers. Pearl and Reuben from Pearl by Tabitha King. Part of the Nodd's Ridge series. And Sam and Alyssa from Suzanne Brockmann's Trouble Shooters/Team 16 series. Both couples are BW/WM and are part of a larger series so you really get to know the characters and their backgrounds. I'm a huge fan of Tabitha King even though she has not written that many books. I'm also a big fan of Suzanne Brockmann's books as well. The two other books that come to mind were written by Michael Dorris. Yellow Raft in Blue Water and Cloud Chamber. Yellow Raft in Blue Water is about young woman who is Native and African American and her relationship with her mother and grandmother as the each deal with changes in life. Cloud Chamber is the prequel to Yellow Raft in Blue Water that takes us all the way back to the roots of the main character from Yellow Raft's father. Both books are written by a Native American male who is writing about the experiences and feelings of women, but Dorris is such an amazing writer that you don't even think about that. You become engrossed in the stories and the characters. However, there have been some poorly written stories out there that just made me cringe. I can't think of the title but I remember being very excited reading a story about a white mother and her black daughter that she gave up for adoption and was reunited with. I thought perfect finally a story for me since my situation was similar. No reunion for me, but at least the biological family dynamic was there. The books was so disappointing. I really felt the mother in the book could not understand her daughter at all. Her anger, her blackness, her feelings about being adopted and reunited. The mother just kept harping on how ungrateful the daughter seemed to be and how she couldn't relate to her daughter's anger. I just found myself totally frustrated by the time I finished the book. This may seem off topic, but I can't tell you from belonging to a couple of transracial adult adoptee's and fostering groups that include new parents that many of the parents who are white can become very defensive when we speak out minds. They want to ignore the existence of prejudice and racism that exists in society. They do not understand white privledge and how easy it is to never think about race or ethnicity or religion when you are white because the world has been built with you in mind. Everyone else is other. Many of the parents feel we are to negative or focus too much on race and want to believe they are different or their children are different. Or that are issues are not related to race, but are universal and just coming of age aches and pains that happen to everyone. But we point out when white people say things like that they are ignoring our experiences. Yes, some experiences are universal, but the point of view for the person having the experience may not be universal. And too many people do no want to make the effort to understand someone's experience as it is instead of making it about themselves which I find can happen with white writers and white readers. Just pointing out whiteness makes people uncomfortable, but it needs to be said when classes listed as Lit and African American Lit or Native American Lit. Those genres are important, but it's important to not always keep them separated from each other because then audiences miss out on so many great stories.

message 28: by Elise (new)

Elise Marion (elise_marion) | 9 comments I have to say I find your logic a bit confusing. On the one hand you are saying that "our" stories should not be separated from theirs, that we shouldn't have "African American Lit" separated from "Lit". This I completely agree with.

But where I'm having trouble is when you in the same breath talk about "our stories" versus "theirs". You talk about them not understanding "our experiences".

I feel we can't have it both ways which goes back to my previous reply about the whole "us" and "them" mentality. My grandparents fought for civil rights and after all of the struggles of those who have gone before me, I do not understand why black people still feel the need to separate themselves while still going on about wanting equality. Either we want to be equal or we want to be separate.....there is really no middle ground.

I get so aggravated when i hear words like "black music" or "black movies" or "black books"....what makes a "black book"....I am a black author; my first historical release has a white hero and a spanish Gypsy the book considered "black" because I wrote it or "white" because the hero is white?
My second release, a paranormal IR has a white hero and a black this book considered "black" because of the black heroine?
I do not like to buy into labels. Instead of calling a book a "black book", I tend to think of it as a book about a black character.
I also want to say that I don't see the justification in accusing all white people of being close-minded. Earlier in this post, stereotypes were mentioned. We don't want to be stereotyped yet I have read several white stereotypes in this thread. This is like the pot calling the kettle black. If we don't want to be stereotyped, then we shouldn't do the same to others. Assuming that ALL white people are privileged and out of touch is just as ignorant as white people assuming that all black women have nasty attitudes and bit mouths.

message 29: by Elise (new)

Elise Marion (elise_marion) | 9 comments I want to add that I am not trivializing the issue of race in this country. I know that things are still not as equal as they should be. Racism is still very rampant here....just look at how the President is treated...however my point is that we cannot expect fair and equal treatment if we continue to bash white people for their narrow-minded views while at the same time clinging to our own prejudices.

message 30: by Tina (new)

Tina | 1374 comments I agree that a good book is a good book regardless of who wrote it.

I think in regards to AA authors/characters that most likely white readers fall within one or more groups:

1) Book of the moment readers. They read whatever the big buzzed-about book is and it doesn't matter the color of the author or character. I think The Help benefited largely from this group. See also, The Da Vinci Code, Lovely Bones, Girl with The Dragon Tatoo.

2) Oblivious comfort zone readers. Probably wouldn't mind too much if the AA character is being written by a favorite author but otherwise doesn't actively seek out anything -- book, author or character -- that falls too far out of their comfort zone. This group is also a group that is largely oblivious to their own privilege and is probably largely unaware there is a problem until they stumble across uncomfortable conversations about inclusion.

3)Possessive comfort zone readers. They draw a very hard line about what they like and what elements have to be present in a book in order for them to enjoy and relate. They want nothing to change about their books. This group is happy in their privilege and see no need to question it. They have no interest in at all in anything outside of their comfort zone, especially inclusion. Will often feel defensive and attacked if they feel their choices are being questioned.

4) Active seekers. They are readers who do like to try new things and openly read all types. May also be fairly vocal about agitating for change and inclusion.

I think most casual readers fall in group 1.

I think most genre readers, of any gender, probably fall in group 2.

I think group 3 is probably not as big as group 2 but tend to be more vocal.

message 31: by Roslyn (new)

Roslyn | 249 comments @Elise, I'm puzzled by your response because I'm not sure who is segregating whom here. Black authors didn't create book segregation. That was publishers and book stores. And certainly we're not the ones who object to a white woman touching a black man on the cover of a book. We're not the ones who've said explicitly that we can't "relate" to books that have black people in them. When my first book came out in 2006 I promoted it to any an all. It was while in the process of doing so that I discovered the facts of book segregation.

Given the parameters that have been set up why in the name of all things chocolate should we not promote and separate ourselves? White authors and readers are diligently protecting their turf, but black authors and readers are so busy begging for "inclusion" we leave ourselves bare-assed naked to any and all exploitation. And for what, so we can say we're better than they are? So we can say we're not racist? Oh yeah, that and $5 will buy you cuppa at Starbucks, and nothing else. While they're ensuring that their authors make the best-sellers lists and get all the great deals, we're playing nicey-nice Kumbaya. I can't imagine anything more ridiculous. I have no interest in supporting anyone or anything that doesn't support me and mine. This isn't a diversity program it's about business and this is the very reason black women always lose. Nobody else is playing nice. They've carved out their territory and are making darned sure nobody else gets a piece of the pie. I didn't make the rules of the game but I have every intention of winning and I have no intention of kissing a white woman's butt to do so.

message 32: by Elise (new)

Elise Marion (elise_marion) | 9 comments This is exactly my are upset because white women will not actively seek out your books but retaliate in turn by avoding theirs? This is what I mean about the pot calling the kettle black. And while the publishing industry has certainly had a hand in the segregation issue, my point was that we are only feeding into it with this talk of "us" and "them".

And i have heard several black women complain about not being able to "relate" to books about white women so it goes both ways. And black women don't complain about white women hanging on black men? What black women do you hang out with? I hear this complain all the time, have even seen discussions about the issue on talk shows and in movies or television shows.
At the end of the day, people tend to write what they know and since the majority of romance writers are white women, why would anyone be surprised that the market is flooded with books featuring white characters.
It's all about perspective. I grew up in a multicultural background. My father is biracial, and I grew up in a military town where it is not uncommon for races to mix. men come home from tours in Korea and Germany with foreign wives, and no one seems to mind the mixing of the races. I suppose it is because I am so used to being part of a community where many races are included and there is not alot of obvious racism, that I have the view that I have today. This is why I have no problem writing books about people of cultural backgrounds different from mine.

All I am saying really, is this: is the book market segregated? Yes, of that there is no doubt. But complaining about the inequality of the whole thing is really quite fruitless, and lumping all white writers and readers in to one category is ludicrous. Just become some shun what they don't understand does not mean they all do. The post before mine labels them all as privileged and out of touch. That is the case for alot, but not all. I happen to know a number of black privileged people who are out of touch as well.

When it's all said and done all I really care about is whether or not people are buying and enjoying my books...I could care less what color they are. I read good books, regardless of who the author is and regardless of inequality of the playing field. If I try to "level" that playing field by shunning "white books" I lose out on some good books written by some very talented authors.

message 33: by Roslyn (new)

Roslyn | 249 comments Last post Elise because you seem determined to misunderstand what I'm saying. Publishing is a business. We don't get ahead by begging for inclusion. We get ahead by selling more books than they do.

Readers keep demanding more books with black heroines, but when you make the type of arguments you do; Oh, I'll just buy any book as long as the story is good, you're undercutting the very thing you claim you want. This is the way the publishing industry works. As things stand, black readers are supporting white authors. White readers are not supporting black authors. That being the case, which books do you think you're going to get more of? Now, it may well be that you prefer white authors and simply want them to write books with blacks and other people of color. If that's the case, then carry on MacDuff, you're doing the right thing. However, if what you want is more black authors having a chance at the bestseller's list you're doing exactly the wrong thing. And in this Elise, I'm not directing this comment at you because you've made it clear that you don't care. And that's all well and good. However, for those who actually want more books with black heroines written by black authors then this kumbaya mentality is misguided to say the least. And that's really all I have to say. Bottom line: If you want more black heroines written by blacks, then buy black books. However, if you don't care one way or another continue to run behind white authors begging them for "inclusiveness." Because it's not about writing a good book. If the playing field was level like that there'd be no book segregation and certainly none of the stuff they spout every time whitewashed covers and such comes up.

As for the cover of Maisey Yates book, I doubt very seriously that black women were the ones objecting to the cover. How do I know this? Because it's Mills and Boon and even more so than the American market most of those who buy M&B are white.

It's really your choice. But don't hold your breath because unless they realize they can make a profit and take over a market as they've done with male/male you'll be SOL.

message 34: by Elise (new)

Elise Marion (elise_marion) | 9 comments I understand perfectly well that you are determined to try question my support of "black authors". I never said I preferred black to white, but when it comes to selecting a good book why the heck should it matter?

And for the record I don't intend to chase ANYONE down and beg for anything. I never said i wanted to get ahead or anything of that nature. I find that your continued use of the word "they" as if whites are some kind of separate species is offensive. I am not interested in trying to make anyone accept me or my books. If you like it you like it, if you don't you don't. I read books by a variety of authors, both white and black and don't feel like I'm giving anybody "the edge" by choosing to do so.

It is ridiculous to me to accuse them of not accepting "our" books while at the same time doing the same to them. For me it IS about writing a good book. All this other racial mumbo jumbo is for the birds. i refuse to stress myself worrying over whether or not people want to support me as a "black" author. My books sell and the reviews are good, so I would say i am far from SOL.

message 35: by Kimberly (new)

Kimberly | 21 comments When I'm talking about white privilege it is not about having money or affluence. It's about the way the world works where it is taken for granted that white is normalized and everything else is not. I'm not here to put a blanket over all white people. I'm talking about what I see in book stores and on TV and at the movies and in classes at school and even in museums. Who are the lead characters in TV shows and in movies that are promoted constantly? When you go to air ports or drug stores or big box stores what books are front and center for best seller lists? They are mainly white. And while some may argue I'm overusing this word and that they are really just books and stories about people. Right there is the privilege. When you are no longer thinking about the person's background. You are right when you talk about writing and story coming first, but in reality once someone knows you are black writer your books will be labeled black no matter what you are writing about. And that issue comes from publishers and marketers and bookstore chains. There is a lack of support and promotion for authors of color. When I was talking about the lit classes I should have finished my thought regarding the way classes were while I was taking college courses. I was lucky enough to have great professors who were very inclusive with stories written by people of different background. So American Lit included Native American, African American, Chinese American included with the white authors in the class. I think took African American and Native American Lit classes to get a concentration in those genre. So it helped to understand these books as part of the larger literary canon and also as a concentration of a specific genre that could also be broken down further with each writer and story. However, not all classes and professors are like that when selecting books and authors for their classes. They may not consider books by non white authors in their classes. Sadly, it's something that is easy to do the way books are marketed and promoted. It's about the money. Publishers put all their money in what they believe will sell and to an audience they believe will buy. Unfortunately, authors of color and specifically black authors are shoved to the side.

message 36: by Elise (new)

Elise Marion (elise_marion) | 9 comments In this Kimberly, I agree with you. Thank you for clarifying your thoughts. As far as what Rosslyn is saying my problem is the exclusion of so-called "white books" from my reading list simply because of the color of the author. Am I the only one who finds this offensive?
If you heard a white woman saying she refused to read black authors, you would be offended right? I know alot of white people who have read my books. Yes, they know I am black and continue to read what I write. I did not say things were even. I agree that they are not. But I cannot justify adding to the idea of separation by refusing to buy books by white authors just because a small number of people have their prejudices against black authors.

message 37: by Roslyn (new)

Roslyn | 249 comments I never questioned your support of black authors. You're the one who keeps repeatedly saying "It doesn't matter," even when it's been demonstrated repeatedly that it does matter. Black readers supporting white authors when white readers don't do the same undermine black authors, period. Again, I get that it doesn't make a difference to you, which is why I wonder why you chose to comment at all. If you don't care about whether an author or character is black or white why would you care about a thread on black romance?

As for talking about white authors as though they are different from us, I didn't create the separation they did, and they defend that separation as diligently as possible. I didn't separate black authors from books by white authors. White people choose to be separated when they created book segregation. White readers choose to be separated when they say they can't "relate" to our books. Yet somehow I'm being offensive for simply talking about the subject in the terms they created. I think it's bizarre that a black person would be offended on behalf of white folk when they created the situation in an effort to ensure their own financial gain. Trust, they're sure as hell not offended. No, not racial mumbo jumbo at all. Simple reality.

As to why it should matter? It shouldn't matter, but it does. Many black women have a curious habit of dealing with things as they should be, as opposed to how it is. The reality of the situation is that the majority of white readers don't pick their books based on whether it's a good book. They're filtering for race, both of the author and of the characters. The only folk playing the "I'll read anything as long as it's good" game are black people. Everybody else is diligently protecting their turf from gains by anybody else.

It might be ridiculous to you to accuse them of not accepting "our" while doing the same to you, but let me be clear. Most black romance readers have been reading white romances since their inception. Primarily because we had no other choice, though there are plenty of black readers who prefer them. Why should I continue to do so when they don't support us? How on earth is it ridiculous to insist on reciprocity? Why are we so insistent on supporting those who don't support us? To me, that's only reasonable and I refuse to apologize for it, most assuredly they're not apologizing for supporting authors who look like them, why should I be ashamed of doing the same?

message 38: by Roslyn (new)

Roslyn | 249 comments "If you heard a white woman saying she refused to read black authors, you would be offended right?"

Actually I've heard plenty of white women say they won't read black authors, I can link you to whole threads of them saying that and worse. Was I offended? Actually, no I wasn't. I was dumbfounded, but believe that people have the right to read whatever they like. I choose not to support white authors because I choose to put my limited resources toward that which I want to see more of; black heroines written by black authors. I know enough about this business to know that the only way that's going to happen is if more black authors are supported by readers in such a way that publishers can't help but notice. As long as there's no reciprocity in this, continuing to support white authors almost guarantees that there will be fewer black authors in the future. Call me crazy, but I refuse to cut my own throat in the name of kumbaya.

message 39: by Kimberly (new)

Kimberly | 21 comments Many black authors end up having to promote and publish their work on their own. So it does mean going to your readers and potential readers to ask them how to get their books out there and selling. Here we are talking about the genre of romance and the audience of black women. Once you've written you story what is the best way to promote it. And once the story is out there how do you convince people to buy your story? I personally think that when it comes to the romance genre there is something out there for black women. And I'm saying black women as a diverse group of women from different generations, different geographies, different educational and work backgrounds, different beliefs, etc. Many black women are not aware of all that is out there to read that would appeal to them. They are still going on the stereotype that romance is only for white women. So they don't even look for a black romance that will appeal to their personal taste. Unless you are big nerd like me and some of the other posters who lover to read and will actively search for a variety of books by black authors, chances are what you see when you are at Wal-Mart or Walgreen's or Barnes and Noble when you first walk in to the books section is going to be limited to best sellers. So the assumption is made that what is there on the shelf is all there is to choose from when it comes romance books. And if those books that are promoted don't appeal to you then you might just give up on the romance genre all together.

message 40: by Roslyn (new)

Roslyn | 249 comments I agree Kimberly, and I think that's why it so important for black romance to be more heavily promoted. Unfortunately, Kimani is the only line of black romances that are heavily promoted, and they're not in every store. I imagine that most black women are like me; pressed for time. It's much more convenient for me to pick up a few books while at at Target or Wal-Mart than to make a specific trip to the bookstore. Most black romances aren't in Target or Wal-Mart. My local WM carries Kimani, but Target doesn't. Both carry Harlequins though. I look at Kimanis as sort of like gateway books. A black woman might pick one up while shopping or for a quick read on the bus or train. If she like is she'll come back for more, and might develop a taste for a greater variety. However, if she never even sees Kimani, it's highly unlikely she'll ever know the genre exists. Or she'll mistake street lit for black romance and she'll find it everywhere including the bookstores that don't carry black romance.

Those of us who write ebooks also have to contend with the digital divide. It's getting better and I'm confident that within the next few years most black readers will have access to digital readers, but I still get plenty of blowback from readers who don't.

This is why it's so important that we promote the hell out of ourselves, and it's also crucial that we receive the fan support. Because we'll never get in WM if the numbers aren't there.

message 41: by Kimberly (new)

Kimberly | 21 comments Here is a great clip from the late Dwayne McDuffie a successful and well regarded comic book writer and creator who had encountered negative attitudes from white readers. Although this isn't related to romance I think it's a good example of what happens to black artists and black stories when the mainstream(white) audience feels that something is "too black". Comics are another genre where black characters and black stories don't seem to sell as well. Again we can consider the publishing houses and authors and who gets promoted. And we can consider readers and the assumption that black people don't read comics.

message 42: by Stacy-Deanne (last edited Nov 20, 2011 09:39PM) (new)

Stacy-Deanne Stacy-Deanne (wwwgoodreadscomstacydeanne) I also have an issue with reviewers ignoring black authors. Some of them won't touch black books or interracial books and you can tell the race is the reason because you search around their site and you see NO black books ever.

I used to be a big follower of a huge romance review site. I am sure you all know who it is but I won't mention it in public. Anyway, I used to love their reviews until I realized an absence of black romance books being reviewed. Every once in a while they would review a Kimani title but it was obvious they didn't care to promote or review black romances (and don't dare expect them to review an interracial book) and only as exceptions.

I submitted my book for review and was told they had a backlog. I heard from other black authors that they got the same answers. We all figured the same thing because it was just too obvious. I mean when you review millions of romances yet you rarely review black romances or books by black authors then it is more than obvious you are ignoring these books. If you are a romance site you should review all types of romances, not just white on white romances. So I lost respect for the site and stopped following it. I no longer read the reviews and it used to be my favorite site.

And no, I can't prove it had to do with race but I know it did. Like I said, other black writers I know got the same answer when they submitted books yet white authors I knew were getting their books reviewed after the site claimed to have a backlog. So it wasn't hard to see what was going on. It's kind of like when you walk into a store and the person behind the register is watching you, thinking you're gonna steal. It might not be anything you can prove they are doing but you can feel it and know the reason they are watching you.

message 43: by Stacy-Deanne (last edited Nov 20, 2011 09:41PM) (new)

Stacy-Deanne Stacy-Deanne (wwwgoodreadscomstacydeanne) As for black writers and white readers, we will never win that battle. You might have some white readers who read books with black characters, etc but that's NOT the majority. I have some white fans but the majority of my readers are black women. When I busted out trying to promote to ALL people I got NO love. I had to come on back to the black side because they were the only ones fully accepting my books, reviewing my books, promoting my books.

I know some people might not wanna admit that this racism goes on in the industry but it does. The point is a lot of black writers shoot for promoting their work to everyone, I am one of them. But rarely does it work out because for some reason being a black author or having books with any black characters in them seem to turn off white audiences more than getting them to read them.

Roslyn made another great point. Black writers aren't the ones segregating things, it's the industry that does that. It's the bookstores, the publishers, the reviewers, etc. They are the ones who continue to stick us in a little corner and no matter how hard we try to fight to show we are more than a color, it just doesn't change folks.

The sad thing is it DOES NOT matter what you write, how you promote or what you hope to accomplish, when you are a black writer that is all most people see and most white readers do not read books by these authors. Some do (I didn't say all) but the majority, no.

Black books are not even on the radar with white readers. To prove my point, do you know that most of the black authors WE consider famous, white readers have never heard of them? I mean I've met whites who have never heard of Omar Tyree, Eric Jerome Dickey, Brenda Jackson, etc. I mean these are huge authors and most white people have never heard of them. I have met MANY that haven't heard of popular black authors so I am not making this up. Anyone will see it's true. You take the average white reader and mention a black author and see if they know them. I am not talking about Terry McMillian, Zane or folks like that. I mean black authors WE know but might not have crossed over into mainstream. See how many white readers have never even heard of them. That's what showed me how off their radar we are. They don't even know the big players of today's black literature. But I bet you black readers could name almost every best selling white author on the charts.

It is never gonna change and I have just decided not to worry about it and just write for folks who read my books. It gets depressing trying to promote across the board only to be rejected by readers because of the color of my skin and what they "assume" my books are like because of it. So I just think positive and be appreciative of those who support me and to heck with those who don't for whatever reason.

Best Wishes!

message 44: 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 review for Affaire de Coeur, so I know they do review black romance.

message 45: 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
So does Bitten By Books (paranormal).

message 46: by Roslyn (new)

Roslyn | 249 comments @Stacy-Deanne, yes I remember the experience of asking for reviews from AAR. I was told they were looking for a special reviewer for African American books. This is AFTER I had sent them two of my precious reviewer copies (which they DIDN'T return.) That was a baptism by fire to be sure. I was one of the few black authors to be reviewed at Dear Author (I can literally name the black authors who've been reviewed on that site, and none to my recollection have gotten above a grade C, even Seressia Glass.) Mrs. Giggles regularly reviews black books though I don't know how much relevancy she has these days. I like her and always send my books, but I think most of her readers are more into the snark than her selections. A couple of others reviewed Rock Star, but none of my other books. I think it's interesting that even when one of the big sites do review a black book the response is crickets. Most of those sites would get dozens of responses even if they just posted the weather. But a black book gets nothing, unless they snark the cover. The readers have no interest in reading the book, and really have nothing to say. Which is probably why they review black books so rarely.

To be frank the only time I've ever seen a bump in sales from a review is when RAWSISTAZ reviewed Morning Star. My sales went off the chart.

Affaire de Coeur is owned by, or at least run by a black woman. And I'm not sure about these days, but at one point it was so far off the radar everyone assumed it had closed. Certainly it doesn't get the type of coverage RT does. I know that Bitten by Books does. So do many of the e-book review sites. (Joyfully Reviewed, Night Owl Reviews, and others I can't recall off the top of my head.) Unfortunately, most of them are not mainstream and simply don't get the foot traffic of the larger more popular sites.

message 47: by Kimberly (new)

Kimberly | 21 comments What happened to the save black romance website?

message 48: by Roslyn (new)

Roslyn | 249 comments I think she lost interest. According to her posts she stopped reading black romance. Blogging is hard. In order to build readership you pretty much have to blog every day. I think that's why most of the really popular blogs have more than one blogger, otherwise it gets to be too much.

message 49: by Kimberly (new)

Kimberly | 21 comments I know I have a ton of blogs linked under faves, but don't always have time to read them let alone comment on a daily basis. I'm signed up for e-mail notifications and belong to author groups on yahoo as well, but again I don't have time to check on all of them. I'm not even sure while I'm commenting so much on this post.
Back to the Wal-Mart, Target, Costco, Sam's Club and other stores that everyone shops at how do you get in touch with the buyers for the book and magazine departments to carry more black romances? What about hair salons as place to carry books?
I should check the Target I usually go to since it tends to have more black products. I get my Kinky-Curly products from there since they aren't at some of the other Targets. I wonder what books they have in stock? I've picked up black and IR romances at Walgreen's in Detroit as well. I will buy books anywhere if I see something I like. I'm still trying to deal with not having a Borders to stop in on a daily basis. Detroit also has a lot of great used book stores and independent book stores. I prefer to buy from a bookstore vs. a big box store, but I don't have the time constraints that many women have with kids and husbands to take care of as well.
I'm still not understanding the pressure from people who don't have e-readers. There are more e-readers on the market at reasonable prices. Folks could probably put them in lay-away for Christmas gifts. Many black people have Smart phones and there are a lot of e-book apps out there for phones. Same with the PC. Before I was lucky enough to receive the Nook as gift I would read books on my laptop.
What about sponsorship advertising on blogs to get books promoted?

message 50: by Roslyn (new)

Roslyn | 249 comments I've subscribed to some blogs under Google Reader because I don't have time to read them all either. That helps tremendously. I'm still looking for sites that review black books so I can subscribe. I would imagine that Targets in a more "urban" area do carry black books, but I'm in the northern suburbs of Atlanta, so I'm SOL. It's odd though because my WM and Target aren't that far apart and WM carries them, but Target doesn't. I don't think Target is that big in books except bestsellers.

I've thought about hair salons as well, but not sure how to do market placement with them, but it's certainly something to consider.

As for pushback from folk who don't have ereaders, I'm not sure what that's about. I get complaints about it all the time, but there's not a helluva lot I can do about it, but keep submitting to print publishers whenever the opportunity presents itself. When I first started writing a good ereader was $500 now it's less than $100. I don't know why people would have a problem with that.

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