Monday, May 19, 2008

Black Books In Controversy: There's no such thing as "Too Literary"

Here's a headline for you: Street Fiction Doesn't Sell. At least not beyond a handful of authors that I can, literally, count on one hand. While there appears to be an abundance of so called "street fiction" titles, by and large the majority of these authors haven't succeeded in getting real traction. I know. I have access to sales figures and personally asked buyers at Barnes and Noble, Books A Million and Borders if recently there'd been any breakout street fiction authors beyond the "brands." They said no.

There's no such thing as "too literary." Something can be too literary for someone's list, i.e. If I publish mass-market romances and you send in a Faustian-inspired interpretation of modern black life in the Gullah Islands. But by and large publishers are always looking for quality works of fiction no matter the color of the writer. It's just the nature of the business that it can sometimes be like searching for a needle in a haystack. And, as always, art is subjective.

So this brings me to the subject of street fiction's effect on black literary authors trying to get published. I don't really think an editor would read a manuscript they loved and say: "Oh, only hardcore drug and sex novels are selling, so I'm passing."

Sometimes people ask me what they should write about. I often respond: "I don't know." Because I don't know what story is in you. That's should be the most important consideration, not the ill-conceived perception that only a certain type of book is selling.

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