Making Our Own Market: Black Children’s Books & Authors

Looking for new releases by Black children’s book creators? Black Children’s Books & Authors (BCBA) has you covered. Each month, they share a list of books that have debuted. BCBA has become a go-to source for keeping in the know.

The many ways BCBA supports Black authors and illustrators include hosting cover reveals, providing an author directory including traditionally- and self-published authors and a guide to books by Black creators grouped by genre and theme. They boost social media posts and plan to host a book fest. We are proud to have Stacy Ladonna of BCBA sharing their mission and offering tips to help Black authors and illustrators succeed.

Our Stories Matter

By Stacy Ladonna

It is an absolute honor to share Black Children’s Books and Authors’ (BCBA) story with The Brown Bookshelf community. BCBA is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to promote awareness of children’s and young adult literature by Black authors.

In July 2013, I started a Tumblr account with the intent of posting children’s books that featured Black people or were written by Black authors. In my quest to find such literature, I discovered that White authors wrote most of it. I found this revelation to be frustrating, to say the least, but interesting. My thoughts were, “Where are the Black authors? Why do White people get to tell everybody’s stories? And Black people write, right?” Of course, I knew that Black people write. I was a writer. But I wondered if our stories mattered—because I couldn’t find them. I soon realized that my difficulties in finding such books were related to the dearth of those books being published by major publishing houses. I was then motivated to focus solely on children’s literature written by Black authors. I surmised that if I had a difficult time finding Black authors of children’s books, then others may be, too. I began researching and compiling a list of Black children’s authors, not knowing what I was going to do with the information beyond Tumblr.

What began as a simple interest led to me spending countless hours looking for Black children’s authors, upcoming new releases, and reading about the importance of having such literature in homes and classrooms. As a mother of adult children, I did not realize when they were children the importance of having books in our home that reflected them, so I did not look for Black authors when we visited the library. All this was new and empowering information for me. The Brown Bookshelf’s “28 Days” features; Rudine Sims Bishop’s, Free Within Ourselves and her metaphor “Mirrors, Windows, and Sliding Glass Doors”; the Cooperative Children’s Book Center’s stats on children’s book publishing; Walter Dean Myers’s New York Times opinion piece, “Where Are the People of Color in Children’s Books?”; and other voices in the industry have been valuable sources of information and wisdom.

Eventually, BCBA’s staff, consisting of my three daughters and me, decided to use the information to create an online author directory, blog, and nonprofit for parents, educators, librarians, students, and anyone seeking to increase their knowledge of children’s literature by Black authors. We believe that exposing children to diverse, inclusive literature fosters an understanding of others who have different cultural, religious, or social life experiences. We hope our online and community efforts can help promote Black children’s authors and their stories to our small but growing audience of parents, educators, librarians, etc. We welcome traditional and indie authors and publishers to contact us about new releases, interviews, and guest posts. We know that our stories matter.

For Black children’s book creators looking to bring awareness to their story, here are a few suggestions from my observations:

  1. Have a Website

Whenever I am looking to add an author to our directory, I am always surprised when they do not have a website. The website does not have to be complicated but definitely should have your book information (title, description, release date, any starred or positive reviews, and where it can be purchased), email address (for inquiries about author appearances), social media handles (such as Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook), and any new releases.

  1. Be on Social Media

Some authors are purposeful and creative when promoting their books on social media. But for other authors, I wouldn’t know they had a book coming out because they are posting and retweeting everything else but information about their book. Even on their book birthday, they post nothing. Since your book is hard work that has come to fruition, you must be on it and persistent. Find the perfect balance between engaging with your followers about current issues and letting them know you have a book coming out. What an awesome achievement!

  1. Use Free Promotion

Seek out ways to get your book promoted for free on blogs, podcasts, etc. I can’t speak for any other organizations or blogs, but BCBA welcomes authors to contact us about new releases, interviews, and guest posts, or other creative ideas you may have.

  1. Spend Some Money

You are going to have to spend some money to promote your book. I have seen authors share short YouTube videos, have book launches, do giveaways, or create beautiful bookmarks or other items related to the theme of their books.

  1. Connect with the Community

Try to connect with Black bookstores, festivals, or other cultural gatherings that may help you get some buzz for your book.

Stacy Ladonna is the founder and executive director of Black Children’s Books and Authors. She is also a writer, educator, mom, and nana. 

To Contact BCBA:

BCBA | P.O. Box 34334 | Memphis, TN 38184

Email: info@bcbooksandauthors.com

 

Follow BCBA on:

Twitter: @bcbooksauthors

Instagram: @ourstoriesmatterbcba

Facebook: @bcbooksandauthors

 

 

 

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