Borders filed for bankruptcy. I have mixed feelings on this. I don't want to see a bookstore close and the Borders near me seems to do pretty good business. But they also insist on having the "Black book section." I haven't gotten into how much I hate this. No other group gets marginalized like this, but we're special. And while you're in that section, you will find anything from erotica, to "urban" lit to whatever else people think belongs there. If it's an Alice Walker or Toni Morrison work, I'm sure it will be placed with the "real" literature, but otherwise it will likely be placed with the AA books. To their credit, they did put a Tananarive Due book I read for a bookclub in the Horror section, but otherwise, this type of categorization makes no sense. I know some readers prefer to have that so they can find what appeals to them (if you are only reading books by one group...well...I'm glad you're reading, but you're missing out on a lot), but overall it's not doing black authors any good. So while it's sad that Borders is not doing so well, I would have more sympathy if they didn't insist on a separate but unequal section for "us." I am sorry that writers, especially midlist ones, will be negatively affected.
For the past six months I have been looking into what I need to do to get published. Writing the book doesn't even sound like the hardest part. You have to revise, get beta readers, incorporate feedback, write a query letter (which has to have a hook and enough pull in 300 words or less to make someone want to read more), have a "platform" get busy on Twitter and on the blog (ha) and so on. You have to build a following and then maybe, if someone is interested and the subject seems marketable, you get an agent. Then the agent must go around to publishers and pimp your story. Oh yeah, and then you still have to go on with your day job, because if you get a deal, it's unlikely that it will be enough for your to make a living.
I think what I have is marketable. There may be an issue with the era (early-mid 90's) but other than that, I think it can go somewhere. But this is not enough--I have to sell it to make someone else think it will go somewhere. The main character has my racial background and from what I have heard this is not a selling point. Sad. There is no major "struggle," no details on the history of slavery or the Civil Rights movement, sorry. There are annoyances that are race related that pop up here and there, but you get to know this character's personality first, and she never declares her race outright or constantly talks about it because people generally don't do this in real life. You figure it out by seeing the world from her eyes, and since I believe people are more alike than different, it's going to be a slight change in perspective, but the insecurities, the fears, and the triumphs of someone during their college years are there. I am not sure how to label it. For a liberal industry, there are some issues with white washing covers and being pigeonholed into writing your own race if you are not white. It's made me feel discouraged before I even send anything out.
There are some encouraging changes too, one which affected Borders-- e-book sales. There have been a few authors who are extremely successful going the non-traditional route. I usually laugh at people who self-publish, but some know what they're doing. If you price a book right and get the word out there through interviews and talking with readers, you can do pretty well. I'm going to consider this after the traditional route. Then there are some who self publish and then get picked up by a major publisher--it's not all gloom and doom, but the road seems to have a lot of detours.