I’ve got two new books coming out this week and so I’m thinking about how to connect with readers. A friend let me know that some bloggers were disappointed that I hadn’t reached out last spring, but my decision was based on the widespread policy of many bloggers: indie authors need not apply. If you’re a book reviewer and you would like copies of The Girl Who Swallowed the Sun and/or The Magic Mirror, feel free to leave a comment or email me at info at zettaelliott dot com. Below is a “pitch” I made to a kidlit review journal a few months back—it was warmly received so maybe a change is gonna come after all…trying to keep hope alive!
Treasure or Trash? The Argument for Reviewing Self-Published Books
The bias against self-published books is not unjustified; many are poorly written and shoddily produced but when the traditional publishing industry excludes so many talented writers of color, self-publishing is often their only recourse. If we all agree that the traditional publishing industry is not as inclusive as it needs to be, is it fair punish those writers who have sought out alternative ways to tell their stories? There is a large pool of talent in this country, yet the publishing industry is only giving certain individuals the opportunity to shine.
The marginalization of writers of color is the result of barriers placed along the path to publication for far too many talented writers. Some Black organizations recognize this reality: awards like the Hurston/Wright Legacy Award, the NAACP Image Award, and QBR’s Phillis Wheatley Award accept nominations of self-published books. Respected bloggers at The Pirate Tree and The Book Smugglers don’t discriminate against self-published books, and their reviews prove that indie authors can contribute a lot to the field of children’s and YA literature—if they’re given a chance.
Members of the children’s literature community are paying close attention to the diversity debate but the industry will not change overnight. If the most trusted review outlets exclude self-published books, then they are upholding the status quo by privileging a system that clearly disadvantages writers of color. They are also denying their followers access to titles that might help to fill the “diversity gap.”
The Brown Bookshelf recently published a series called “Making Our Own Market.” They note that although many African American authors have been publishing independently for decades, “self-publishing still brings a stigma. The books are less likely to be reviewed, considered for school and library collections, and seen as on par with traditionally published titles. At The Brown Bookshelf, we grapple with covering them too. We receive a range of work from outstanding to less than professional. But if we want to change the face of publishing, we need to welcome self-published treasures too.”