When meeting with author Irony James about her upcoming inspirational novel #imatter: Unicorns Live Here, she posed the question of not only what resources were available to her as an author, but also what resources were available to her as an author of colour. Irony is passionate about being a black, female author, and wanted to connect with fellow POC creatives within the industry to share her story.
This conversation prompted a deep dive into festivals, organizations, and platforms that pride themselves on giving black authors a voice, and allowing them to make connections with other POC creatives.
We wanted to share some of our awesome findings with you!
The StoryGraph is an up and coming virtual library platform! Created by Nadia Odunayo in late 2019, The StoryGraph prides itself on being ethnically diverse with it’s authors and content, instead of focusing on only mainstream books. Similar to Goodreads, The StoryGraph provides readers with a place to find great new reads, and review their favourite books.
When signing up for the website, readers are prompted to fill out a survey discussing their reading preferences including favourite genres, favourite book characteristics, genres that they would be uninterested in, and what they don’t like about certain books. The StoryGraph uses these preference tags to recommend different books to users across the platform, so readers can request to see books that only feature POC Characters, LGTBQ Characters, books written by POC authors, etc.! Readers are also prompted to rate books based on criteria like themes, moods, pace, and the characters themselves (such as character development, how diverse the characters are, whether or not the characters are loveable, or if their flaws are on display, etc.), so the ratings can’t be skewed or biased.
Similar to Goodreads, The StoryGraph provides users with the option to create reading challenges that are accessible to the whole community. They have a a whole section of these challenges dedicated to reading #OwnVoices, with challenges such as 100 Black Novelist You Should Read, Inclusivity Reading Challenge, and Reading Writers of Colour 2021, among others.
The StoryGraph is definitely a platform to keep an eye on, as it’s going to be one of the most important virtual libraries around!
Promote Black Authors
Promote Black Authors is the marketing company behind this great new app that allows readers and fellow authors to connect with POC authors. This beautiful and modern app allows you to join book clubs, find new authors and books, and attend author events – all exclusively with black creatives.
For authors, it allows you to promote your book and get your content out to readers you may not have been able to connect with, in areas you might not be able to tap into. This can include e-blasts, events, social media promotion, website features, video features and interviews.
Black Writers Collective
Black Writers Collective prides themselves on being a “pioneer in bringing together Black writers online”. Founded by Tia Ross in 1998, Black Writers Collective was the first literary association for Africian American authors online, and grew to more than 7,000 members worldwide in the first three years of operation. As of 2020, it is now up to nearly 30,000 members!
The organization offers programs geared specifically towards supporting their members such as , as well as resources for creatives just starting in the industry. It also has a place on the website where you can look for freelance work within the community, look for presenters for your events, and share your events within the community.
Even better, they also allow authors to feature their books on the Black Writers Collective website to gain extra promotion. On top of that, each month you can share your writing goals and intentions, and work with the community to meet those goals and celebrate your success!
African Americans On the Move Book Club, Inc.
Founded by Tamika Newhouse, the African Americans On the Move Book Club, Inc.’s goal is to develop interactive literacy-based programs centered around African American books and those who write them! They are huge advocates for literary arts, literacy, and bridging the gap for black writers and the opportunities that will most benefit them.
The AAMBC is the organization behind the Black Writer’s Weekend (more details below), and the industry-recognized event, the AAMBC Awards! This formal awards gala celebrates new voices in the industry, while connecting them with established industry professionals.
In addition to the awards, the AAMBC also provides authors with the opportunity to promote their book throughout the community through book tours, e-blasts, social media promotion, and their “Book of the Month” promotion on their website, social channels and email newsletter.
Center For Black Literature
Founded in 2002, the Center For Black Literature is on a mission to expand, broaden and enrich the public’s knowledge and appreciation for Black literature. The organization is stationed at Medgar Evers College in New York, and in 1986, created one of the top events for POC creatives, the National Black Writer Conference (more details below).
The Center For Black Literature offers literary programs and workshops to help authors perfect their craft, as well as classes for the general public, teachers and other artists. These workshops are for students of all ages, and have a dynamic impact in the industry. These programs include not only the National Black Writers Conference, but also the Re-Envision Our Lives Through Literature Youth Project (ROLL for short, this program is offered to high school students and aims to include more black literature in schools), the Wild Seeds Writer Retreat (a retreat that brings established and new writers together to focus on their craft), the Dr. Edith Rock Elder Writers Workshop (a workshop that encourages elder authors to share their stories through written memoirs), and weekly Writers on Writing radio show (a talk show for writers to share their stories, craft, and more).
Black Writers Weekend
Hosted in Atlanta in June, the Black Writers Weekend boasts itself as the largest gathering for black literary creatives and filmmakers. The weekend includes a series of live reading, parties, movie screenings and book signings to allow readers to get up close and personal with their favourite authors/filmmakers, as well as up and coming creatives in both industries. The weekend also includes masterclasses to help creatives continue building their skills. It’s truly a weekend built for POC creatives and culture lovers.
Any author can apply to be a speaker at the event through their website, as well as join their Ambassador Program. The Ambassador Program allows authors to help develop content and events for Black Writers Weekend and followers of African Americans On The Move Book Club Inc. in exchange for content promotion, monthly prizes, and more! It’s a great way to improve your craft and promote your book, while also making a difference in the community!
National Black Writers Conference
Hosted by the Center for Black Literature, the National Black Writers Conference is a biennial conference held over three to four days at Medgar Evers College. Similar to the organization’s mission, the conference aims to expand the scope and appreciation for black literature, and is geared towards established and up and coming authors. The conference also includes a symposium focused on either a major emerging writer or social theme. Past keynote symposium honorees include Maya Angelou, Toni Morrison, and Dr. Myrlie Evers-Williams, wife of the late civil rights activist Medgar Wiley Evers, among others.
On average, approximately 2,000 attend the conference over the three to four day period, and include a variety of writers, critics, booksellers, reviewers and the general public. The openness of the conference allows the Center for Black Literature to establish a dialogue amongst the community with discussions including the social responsibility of the Black writer, stereotypes in Black literature, reconstructing the narrative, and more.