To find your niche as an author is a challenge. Especially, if you are an unheard of author making their debut.
As an indie author, you’re constantly looking for ways to market and promote your work while you also trying to perfect your craft.
In May 2011, I self-published my short story collection, Street Magic: Stories and Tales, my graduate thesis project. For three-and-a-half-years, I didn’t do much marketing. However, when New Year’s Eve rolled around this year, one of my resolutions was to focus on marketing my book and growing the visibility of my publishing house La Muse Press.
So that brings us back to the present. As a result of my resolution, I have spent countless hours scouring the Internet searching for “opportunities.”
I have searched high and low for book festivals that carter to my targeted audience—readers who enjoy themes of the African Diaspora, particularly both urban life and the supernatural.
During my quest to find vending opportunities, I stumbled across the Harlem Book Fair on the African American Literature Book Club (AALBC) website. AALBC was founded by Troy Johnson in 1997.
Johnson, who earned a MBA from New York University’s Stern School of Business, has a passion for Black literature. On the AALBC website, I frequently visit the events page, which lists literary events and book fairs across the nation. For any writer who wants to find vending opportunities, I highly recommend checking out AALBC.
It was on the AALBC site that I learned about the Harlem Book Fair, the largest African-American book fair in the country — Yep, I was thinking of the “Harlem Renaissance” too.
The Harlem Renaissance, or otherwise known as the birthplace of the black Arts explosion in the 1920s. Literary writers of that period include Zora Neale Hurston, Langston Hughes and Claude McKay just to name a few. Needless to say, the Harlem Book Fair is situated at the right location. What better place to showcase the works of talented Black writers from all over the country?
The Harlem Book Fair is a two-fold event. On July 17, the QBR Phillis Wheatley Book Awards will take place at Columbia University School of Law (435 West 116th Street). Poet Nikki Giovanni and the award-winning children’s illustrator Jerry Pinkney will receive the 2015 Wheatley Legacy Award. The book fair, which will feature book vendors and authors, will take place on July 18 (West 135 Street). The event will be covered by C-Span’s Book TV.
If you can’t make it to Harlem, there is also the debut Juneteenth Book Fair that will take place in Washington, DC.
On June 19th, there will be the Juneteenth Book Festival Symposium on Black Literature and Literacy held at the Library of Congress, Thomas Jefferson Building (10 First Street SE). There will be panel discussions including the “State of Black Literature” with a presentation by Haki Madhubuti of Third World Press. The second panel will focus on “The Stakeholders of Black Literacy.” The third panel is the “Independent Artist: Our Journey as Storytellers of the African Diaspora.” Author Marita Golden, founder of the Hurston/Wright foundation, will lead a storytelling workshop.
Additionally, there will be an awards reception, which will begin at 5:30 pm. The honored guest is Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton. The award recipients are the following: Dr. Haki Madhubuti (Lifetime Achievement Award), Ayanna Nejuma (Heart of Courage Award), and Hilary Beard (Empowerment Award). Don’t forget on June 20 the book festival will be held at the Anacostia National Park.
To put it simply, there are outlets for Black writers to showcase their work. Although the road can be challenging, it is doable. Blacks writers have a unique responsibility to share our stories to the world. We can’t let bumps in the road discourage us. My advice, fellow writers, is to keep writing and finding ways to market your work. The ancestors are counting on us to bear witness.