African-American Market Comes of Age
A rising crop of new authors
By Angie Kiesling -- Publishers Weekly, 9/1/2008
Within religion publishing, it's hard to miss the surge in growth over the last several years of the African-American market. Industry professionals of all stripes—agents, authors, editors, PR gurus—will tell you the market demand is there, the desire to reach the market is there, and strong sales records of heavy-hitting backlist authors and new literary voices promise to keep demand high. But if ever a market required targeting the right way or finding the heart and soul of its people and communities, it's this one.
“I went to school with Dick and Jane and Beatrix Potter, whom I loved, but when did I ever see my picture? Never,” says Joyce Dinkins, managing editor of New Hope Publishers, who is African-American herself and passionate about bringing relevant titles to the African-American Christian market (AACM), such as the New Hope September title Spiritual Leadership in the Global City by Mac Pier. “Say you had a taste for blueberry lemonade, and you waited years and years for someone to make it, and then finally somebody did and you tasted it. You wouldn't be able to get enough of it, and you'd tell all your friends. It's pentup demand.”
For her and other book industry professionals (not to mention readers), what is happening in the AACM is the “blueberry lemonade” effect. After years of seeing a handful of titles by only the most prominent African-American authors, such as T.D. Jakes, those passionate industry gatekeepers can barely contain their enthusiasm at the rising crop of new authors. Books-a-Million now has an African-American book club, and Borders has begun its own initiative tying in book titles and music selections, themed around the anthem “Lift Ev'ry Voice and Sing.” In 2004, BEA held its first African-American Pavilion, which has grown from 20 exhibitors that first year to 87 exhibitors in 2008, boosting show attendance of African-Americans from a reported 2% to more than 20%.
Read on... Congrats to Pam Perry, Mary Griffith, Stacy Hawkins Adams and Sharon Foster's mention. Woot!