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 ABC.com, click on CONTACT US, and tell the network that you can’t live without “Dirty Sexy Money.”
Spread the word. It helps. Really.