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Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Meet us Saturday at Eso Won Books: More than just another signing...

AT 3 p.m. this Saturday (Dec. 6), I will appear with my husband, Steven Barnes, and Blair Underwood at Eso Won Books in Los Angeles as we sign copies of our new steamy mystery collaboration, In the Night of the Heat. The store is at 4331 Degnan Blvd.

Blair, Steve and I appeared at Eso Won last fall, and it had the feel of a community event: a full house, actress CCH Pounder and even a politician or two. And if you’ve never had the chance to meet Blair—or, heck, even if you have—it’s a great chance to make your friends jealous. (For video clips and an excerpt from our second Tennyson Hardwick novel, see the entries below.)

This is the only joint signing scheduled for In the Night of the Heat, which makes it special. The store will also have copies of Blood Colony (my African Immortals novel) and The Ancestors, the book of ghost novellas I did with Brandon Massey and L.A. Banks. But this event is exciting for other reasons, too.

Those of you who remember the glory days for your favorite black authors may have noticed that publishers don’t tour the way they used to—-and so I do signings less frequently. Family life also has a little to do with that-—with a husband and a 4-1/2-year-old at home, hitting the road has less allure than it once did.

But it’s not your imagination: Black publishing is changing. Publishing is changing, PERIOD. I just got an email from Zane on the subject while composing this blog. One publisher recently caused an industry-wide stir by announcing that it has asked its editors not to acquire new books right now. And with less disposable income in the hands of many Americans, authors and bookstores are struggling.

Eso Won is no exception. Owners James Fugate and Tom Hamilton were surprised by a marked decrease in book sales when they left La Brea and moved into Leimert Park more than two years ago. At this time last year, there was real fear that the store would be closing down.

So far, they are hanging in there. But how’s business?

“Slow,” says Fugate. “Black books are just not doing well in general.”

There are a lot of factors, perhaps: A bad economy. Internet book sales. Competition with chains. Fewer book tours to draw in the crowds.

But Fugate also says that he believes that in recent years, more of the books are lacking in originality and story. He wonders if some black readers may feel squeezed out by shifts in the marketplace.

The one bright spot: Barack Obama. For about a week after the election, buyers were flocking to his Barack Obama shelves. “The Obama stuff is helping quite a bit,” he says.

Eso Won is special to me, and it’s a Los Angeles institution. When I appeared at the store with my mother, Patricia Stephens Due, to sign copies of Freedom in the Family: A Mother-Daughter Memoir of the Fight for Civil Rights, I looked up and saw Angela Bassett sitting out in the audience! Long before Blair became my co-author, I always looked forward to seeing him at my signings at Eso Won too. The store has hosted everyone from Bill Cosby to Barack Obama to Octavia E. Butler to Walter Mosley, and the list goes on…

And I’ll be there Saturday. Leimert Park is a funky little area, worth the visit. For more information or to pre-order a book to be signed, call Eso Won at 323-290-1048.

Even if you can’t make it Saturday, don’t forget about Eso Won this holiday season. Or the bookstores in your own neighborhood.

Trust me, they’re struggling.

Barack can’t do it alone.




ABC is saying it won’t renew the series “Dirty Sexy Money,” which co-stars Blair, Peter Krause, William Baldwin, Donald Sutherland and Lucy Liu. Blair’s publicist assures me that all is not yet lost, so email, click on CONTACT US, and tell the network that you can’t live without “Dirty Sexy Money.”

Spread the word. It helps. Really.


Joy said...

See you there! I live around the corner. I am saving Blood Colony for one of my winter break reads. :)

Mista Jaycee said...

Can't make it oh,well I guess I just have to keep buying and reading your books!
Be well
Stop by my blog.

etc @ said...

I'm so upset that I'm just now finding out about this! Would've have loved to have come out for it. Next year...

I wanted to address what you were saying about the state of black books. As an avid reader I have found myself disenchanted with most black lit lately. So much of it (I mean even the stuff that is highly recommended by readers on Amazon) is awfully written and poorly edited.

There's a lack or originality and new ideas that I feel is choking black literature. Also the market seems to be flooded with books by writers who haven't formally studied the craft. I don't buy new black literature off the shelf anymore because I've been burnt so often by shoddy plots and unacceptably bad writing. Now if I see a black writer who I think I might like, I order her book from the library. If her first book is good or even decent THEN I'll put her on the list for my next Barnes and Noble order. So far only ONE new black author has made it on to that list this year.

Please don't get me wrong. I'm not a snob. I loved *The Accidental Diva,* and I'm not looking for high literature here. But a novel does have to be halfway decent for me to read it, and I can't afford to waste my money or my time on bad books.

I think the solve here is to put out less books of higher quality. No matter how bad the market is, adults who read will find good books -- with an emphasis on good. But if black lit publishing houses continue to betray their readers with a flood of drivel, then they deserve to go out of business.

What upsets me most is that there are a lot of good black writers whose books won't be given a chance b/c the powers that be might translate this to mean that there is no market for "black books" in general as opposed to doing the hard work and reassessing what they put out there.

Listen, people are out of work and books are affordable. They WANT to be entertained right now. Publishing houses need to work harder to get that primed audience.

Thank God for writers like you, Tananarive. If not for you and a handful of other good black writers that are still publishing, I might have to give up on black literature all together.

etc @ said...

Also black writers might want to do more to help other black writers out in this market. I noticed that Christopher Moore recommends good stuff that he's read from other writers on his website. CM is a good writer, so I trust his recommendations. If you read a good book, let us know about it. I would definitely take a recommendation from you.

I know writers are by nature fairly solitary, but if you guys put your heads together to come up with solutions for engaging more readers as opposed to purely promoting yourselves, then you could probably come up with some pretty fantastic ideas for weathering this storm.