At a young age I struggled to learn my value within a world that devalued me simply because of the color of my skin. Temporary limitations placed on what was considered my ‘deficiency’ created a determination within that was dangerous for people of color. I determined that I would not spend my money on substandard products; nor would I unnecessarily seed into entities that did not meet my needs.
So what does this have to do with book readers? More than you might imagine.
Burger King’s™ slogan and practice of allowing the patron to, ‘Have It Your Way’ did much to pull customers through its doors. Rather than embracing the, ‘This is what we have, take it or leave it’ mentality, they understood the power of choice. By giving their customers the option of choice it conveyed that they valued and appreciated their needs. It also showed that they understood what it took to remain competitive and have satisfied, returning customers.
Unlike the fast-food industry, publishers have yet to show that same type of consideration for its readers.
In the face of this nation’s economic woes, the struggles of the publishing industry cannot totally be blamed on Wall Street. The majority of book income comes from the pockets of J. Q. Public. Yet, for all the proclamations voiced by readers, their requests have been ignored on many fronts. It is this type of disregard for the consumer that is a major contributor to the lack of admiration and financial demise of a once-thriving and esteemed profession.
The results of such callous disregard (and economics), has turned the once-compliant buyer into a less compromising and budget-conscience shopper. When it comes to the African-American book reader the view of publishing houses and bookstore practices becomes much dimmer.
In order to give voice to the African-American reader (albeit only within my tiny sphere of influence) I decided to conduct a survey. Of fifty readers surveyed, the following are the most consistent responses to my queries.
As the reader, what is it YOU look for in terms of:
What is being pushed by publishing houses
Most are disappointed that the more marketed African-American books are usually drama-filled
Best-selling status is not a priority when considering a purchase
Read company promotions, but do not base their purchases upon recommended items
Purchase more books according to word-of-mouth
Variety of books that speak to your culture/heritage
Disappointed in lack of variety in the majority of storylines
Would prefer books with history focusing on something other than slavery
Would enjoy books that speak to maturing readers, i.e., forty to fifty year olds.
Prefer more multi-cultural books
Would prefer more variety in African-American authors to choose from
Availability of your preferred books in stores
Minimal in-store availability to current books written by African-American authors
Placement of books of African-American authors
1. Most being in obscure corners of the bookstore
2. Books rarely available before or after a book signing.
3. African-American Christian fiction rarely in ‘Christian’ bookstores own/operated by persons of non-color
4. Lack of availability of lesser-known authors on shelves
5. African-American Christian fiction books virtually unseen on shelves of stores owned by those of non-color
*The number one complaint among those polled is the necessity of having to order current African-American titles because they are rarely available in the store.
Availability of your preferred book online
Can usually find preferred book online
Like the option of online discounts
Availability of your preferred books in libraries
Can usually find on shelves
Some libraries are a bit behind, but are usually willing to order
What is your preferred method of purchasing books
· Directly from the author
· Discount stores
Your personal view as it pertains to this subject as a whole
Would prefer a broader variety of books in stores
Not so much pushing of drama-packed African-American books in bookstores
More multi-cultural offerings
More book series
More Internet promotions with offers of book(s) for sale directly from the author during blog/online tours
More opportunity to purchase from author’s site
Titles placed in general fiction and African-American section of bookstores
Much more consideration from bookstores for its customers
It has been said that knowledge is power. I will add to that, this—your dollars are power. The following is an excerpt from the article ‘Are Mainstream Ad Agencies Undervaluing the Black Consumer’?
“Today, Sharp notes that the industry’s neglect of the value of the black consumer dollar is an issue of benign neglect. Black spending is enormous, particularly when you study the consumption indices. I’ve worked in agencies for years, and often it is a matter of not being on someone’s radar.” He adds that the situation is complicated by the fact that the majority of African-Americans are concentrated in the South and Southeast, and in urban areas and in certain neighborhoods in the United States. “There are millions of whites whose primary sources of information about African-Americans are what they gain from the media. This means that many whites have little or no firsthand knowledge of, or experience with, black people.”
As a reader and consumer, YOU have the power of choice. You can choose to voice your concerns backed by the giving or withholding of your power—the almighty dollar. There are a variety of avenues to pursue to satisfy your reading palate. The choice is totally yours.
Until next time, remember—Purposely Said words can destroy or create a life. Linda!
Dr. Linda Beed is an educator, speaker, children’s minister and author of Business Unusual. She co-moderators BWChristianLit, maintains its sister online blog and is the founder of the Damascus Road Authors, review editor for KDGospel Media Magazine and contributor to Victorious Voice Magazine.
You can find her on the web at:
lindabeed.com / MySpace / On Assignment Reviews / BWChristianLit
Tuesday, May 12, 2009
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