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Black Book Clubs Offer Authors Vital Sales & Promotion Channel

The African Women's Book Club of Boston read Powder Necklace

Me with the African Women’s Book Club of Boston, October 2010

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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5 responses to “Black Book Clubs Offer Authors Vital Sales & Promotion Channel

  1. Pingback: What Will the World Look Like Without Barnes & Noble? | people who write

  2. Pingback: I'm Starting to Be Suspicious of the Term "Book Discovery" | people who write

  3. Pingback: NYT Admits Multiple Reviews of Some Authors-While Others Get Little Notice-"Seems to Work" | people who write

  4. At times, I wonder if there is any spiritual or invincible battle against black writers. I realized some few things which I wasn’t aware of when I fully entered in book publishing.

    Black authors don’t get much exposure for their books. Also get less book reviews or nothing at all. On Facebook, social sites and book clubs, are calls for book review. I never had any feed back when I contacted.

    I think it’s better to read, “We want to review books but white authors only.” That would fine than living life of false pretense. Any way, I understand the aspects of human life, I therefore take it as a lesson to try harder.

    • Don’t be discouraged, Joel. Seek out sites like and Black Pearls Mag and African American book stores and book clubs for support of your projects. You can find a list of black book stores on AALBC. Also start applying for fellowships and writers residencies. If you win one, you not only engage with other authors, you will have the support of the institution administering the fellowship and residemcy. Try harnessing the power of online platforms like to build a following. Network at writers conferences and attend the readings of authors with books like yours as it’s likely that their agents or some rep from the publisher or just other writers will be there. Most importantly don’t give up. Keep writing and knocking on the door. Eventually someone will open up or the door will break open.

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