My husband can tell you better than I can that I have spent a small fortune acquiring black crime fiction books. Well, technically that is we have spent a small fortune but it’s all good because this is what I spend my extra money on. Some people like designer handbags. I like first edition signed hardbacks. Life is all about choices is it not?
The reason that so many of my books are purchased at a premium is because they are no longer in print. Long ago are the days in which major publishers had such novels on the bookshelves. It’s disheartening to know that there was more retail space dedicated to black writers then than there is today. More on that in another post.
Back in the 90’s you could easily find Eleanor Taylor Bland novels at places such as Barnes and Noble. Barbara Neely’s books were out of production for quite a long time. And to this day it’s difficult to find a good mass market paperback copy of Mama Solves a Murder by Nora DeLoach. Personally I searched for well over a year to find one.
But what about eBooks?
Granted there are some books that were popular and are now being converted to eBooks. Such works include the Tamra Hayle mystery series by Valerie Wilson Wesley. Even if you prefer physical books these are a good alternative to- ummm- not having a chance to grab the book at all.
I recently was sent a $5 promotional coupon from Amazon toward the purchase of a Valerie Wilson Wesley eBook just for following her on Amazon. Following the authors on Amazon clearly can pay off in the form of discounts. But it’s also encouraging and hopefully publishers can appreciate that the author has a strong following when they consider their manuscripts.
But what about the library?
I would absolutely love to find these novels at my library. I am a huge user of library services but my local library simply does not have many of the titles. I’m actually being generous/flat out lying. They haven’t had a single title I’ve been seeking. I live in a predominantly black area in the Deep South. It’s an absolute disgrace.
I also have been unable to request my library to purchase such books because they are no longer in print. I just find it much easier to buy the book myself.
Ah, before we forget… self-published books are unique
Not just unique; they’re also less likely to be available in print. The same applies to obtaining them from my local library. That is not to say that there are not some self-published books in my library but I will say the only ones I have come across that are by black authors have been those with local ties.
I have a real soft spot in my heart for indie and self-published black crime fiction. I don’t mind paying for them one bit. It is a worthy cause that I fully support. Would you rather a great novel land at the feet of a big 5 publisher only to be stepped over? Or would you rather pay a smaller amount for a self-published novel?
For me it’s an easy answer. Pass the collection plate and I will drop in my coins.
Cherishing the greats
My saddest realization is that I have acquired most of my crime fiction novels secondhand. This means that the author has already been paid and I’m simply paying a reseller. Yes, I understand that it is the way it works. But if these books were still available and in print I would purchase directly from the publisher with an understanding that the author would be paid accordingly.
Therefore I encourage not only the sharing of reviews of these books but the purchase of new releases whenever possible. Or simply request them at your library if they don’t have them or if you can’t afford them.
“But black books don’t sell”
Yes they do! I’m very much sold on them.
You simply cannot buy what is not available. Exposure and discussion from within a community of writers, readers and allies is where it all begins.