Black authors — new and established — can find it uniquely difficult to get coverage or exposure of their work. African-American interest publications can only cover so much, and many mainstream publications just don’t cover black literature unless it’s written by Toni Morrison. Likewise, book stores tend to stock black writers in African-American sections versus general reading shelves which limits their exposure to new readers. In this landscape, black book clubs are a particularly valuable vehicle for African-American authors.
In addition to engendering a personal connection between readers and writers, book clubs are a vital channel for authors working to build awareness of their work. A recent Pew Report confirms what we already know: people discover new books based on recommendations from friends, family, and co-workers, and with book clubs composed of members that share personal/professional connections, they offer an opportunity to create exponential word of mouth across a fan base most likely to enjoy your book.
As a result, authors and publishers compete to get on club reading lists even as book clubs leverage their power to either generate revenue, or otherwise stimulate the industry so the next generation won’t lose black literature due to poor sales and promotion.
Lynda Johnson, co-founder of Go On Girl! Book Club told me, “We’ve seen a lot of the black imprints disappearing from the publishing companies, and, you know, although the say they want it to be mainstream, it’s not treated as mainstream. You go in the bookstores, you still can’t find as much play for books by black authors unless you’re noted… You’re not finding the new voices.”
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