Authors of Color to Big Publishing: Where's the Love? by author Wendy Coakley-Thompson details the difficulties some authors of color, even those with noted success, have had renewing their publishing deals with the Big 6 publishers.
I think ReShonda Tate Billingsley hits the nail on the head when she says, "The market is saturated."
It certainly is. With all the e-books that have hit the market in the past 18 months, many offered for as little as $0.99, not to mention all the freebies that are available, readers have many more options than in the past as to where to spend their reading dollars. This makes it difficult for authors with print books--and in many cases, e-books--priced significantly higher by their mainstream publishers to compete with the low prices offered by independently published authors.
The difficulty of garnering a publishing deal for authors of color is not a new problem. Even when authors are fortunate enough to land that contract, they frequently find their books in a publishing "ghetto", so to speak, where their books are marketed only to Black readers and shelved in segregated sections of bookstores, cutting them off from the majority of readers and thus, negatively impacting their sales.
Of course, this is not a "black" issue per se. In general, publishers are cutting back on contracts with mid-list authors who might have been no-brainer deals in the past, but now are receiving more stringent examination and are found wanting. Publishers want to make a buck. Since they'll continue to offer large advances to what they consider "the next big thing", often books ghostwritten for celebrities or associated with a large platform, like a television show or a historical event, they have to contract fewer mid-list authors in order to stay afloat.
How did black authors deal with the dearth of contracts in the past? Many, unable to land a publishing deal, self-published--first believing in their stories, then printing, marketing and selling their books themselves. Some, with proof of sales success, subsequently landed sought-after contracts while others, having taken the time to learn the publishing business and eager to retain control over their product in addition to maximizing their revenues, chose to remain independent.
How will black authors deal with this today, in the age of the e-book? I suspect we will do what we've done before...self-publish. Don't be surprised to find more black authors independently publishing their works in e-book format, a format we've been a bit slow to adapt, in my opinion. We may form consortiums for the purposes of marketing, if not selling, our books. Granted, this means more work for us, but we will find a solution. We always do.
In fact, the ease and minimal cost of e-book publishing, compared to traditional print self-publishing, invites more black authors to consider indie e-book publishing as a viable option. We have to think outside of the box and take advantage of technology, as many authors are already doing.
So I look forward to the next releases from these and other black authors...
..even if they're available in e-book format only.
Peace & Blessings,
Stay focused. Be deliberate. Believe.