On June 4 — a few days after protests over George Floyd’s death started seriously making our country examine its treatment of Black people, not just by law enforcement and the judicial system, but everywhere — I realized I could do one thing to help right the inequities in our system. Since I’ve gotten involved in the publishing community, I had a way to offer my assistance to Black authors. It’s much harder for Black authors to find publishers for their stories, and as a result harder for them to sell those books to readers. In my own small way I can help with that, by reading their books and writing honest reviews. I now know that reviews are an important part of convincing readers to consider buying your book, and so by writing reviews – real, honest ones rather than blank 5-star ratings – I can do my part in helping lift up their books.
That day I posted in the IngramSpark author community group on Facebook – a pretty active group of authors helping each other through the ins and outs of self-publishing – an offer to read and review books by Black authors. It got a broad reaction, and not only did I suddenly have dozens of books to read, but it kept drawing a trickle of replies as time went on.
As of today, I reached a milestone: I caught up! I have written reviews for the 41 books that were requested up until today. Of course, the trickle hasn’t shut off, so I already have 3 more requests. The owners of the IngramSpark Facebook group also posted their own version of my post a few days later – not offering reviews, just asking Black authors to post their books. I’ve ordered some of those books, too, so I have some more reviews to write from those. But those were not actually requests/promises, so I prioritized them last. I’ve still got about a dozen more books to read.
As my queue diminishes, I’m probably going to pivot my reviews to focus more specifically on books that will encourage a diverse set of young folks to get into STEM/tech, by any author, as well as a mix of other books by or about a variety of underrepresented minorities.
I’d like to take this opportunity to encourage YOU to think about getting more intentional with your media consumption. Seek out stories by underrepresented authors, and starring diverse characters. If you don’t know how to get started, ask your local librarian for some tips! Ask your friends. Ask me. Make sure you’re not just reading books by people who look like you, about people who look like you!
And P.S., for the books you like, don’t forget to leave reviews!