Day 12: Earl Sewell

You know how it goes, “If you build it . . .” That’s just what happened for Earl Sewell. When publishers didn’t give him a break, he created his own opportunity by starting Katie Books, a publishing company named for his late mother.

Sewell published his first novel and worked hard for two years selling it. Then, guess what? New York publishers came knocking.

Today, he is the author of more than 17 novels that have won accolades and been featured in publications including The Washington Post and Publishers Weekly. We are proud to salute young adult novelist Earl Sewell on Day 12 of our campaign:

The Journey

In the beginning, I think I was like every other would be writer. I felt I had a knack for storytelling, and I wanted to see my work in print. As a student at Columbia College, I studied fiction writing and thought for sure I’d graduate and suddenly become a world renowned author. Unfortunately, that did not happen, at least not at that time. For the next seven years, I attempted to attract the attention of a New York Publisher. After receiving over forty rejection letters, I gave up on the idea. In 1999, after the death of my mother, I decided to self-publish a book I’d written called, Taken For Granted. I successfully hand sold several thousand copies of the title throughout the Midwest. In 2001, the book landed in the hands of an editor in New York. She liked the story and offered to publish the book for national distribution. From that point forward, I’ve been fortunate enough to continually acquire book deals.

The Inspiration

I worked for a public library in my early twenties, which is where I first encountered the works of Zora Neale Hurston, Richard Wright and James Baldwin. Up until that time, I did not realize that African American writers even existed. My unawareness was a result of my suburban upbringing. After reading the works of those writers, I searched the book shelves for more authors. I found Alice Walker, Terry McMillian and a host of other authors who inspired me. One of the highlights of my career took place in 2009. While on a book tour, in St. Louis, I had an opportunity to share the spotlight with Terry McMillan whose works I’d always admired.

The Back Story

I currently have contracts with two publishers. One contract is for my young adult series, and the other is for my adult titles. Both book deals are the result of the hard work of myself and my literary agent. I wish there was some terrific back story to tell, but there is not. I am currently writing my nineteenth book, which in these difficult times is a real blessing.

The Buzz
My most recent book, Maya’s Choice, was submitted for an award to the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). Keysha’s Drama, which is the first in a five book series, has been selected as a quick pick for reluctant readers by the American Library Association. The other books in the series have enjoyed an equal amount of praise. In the November 2010 edition of Jet Magazine, my novel titled, Myself and I is featured.

Here’s a review of Myself and I:

“Sewell addresses some major social issues that confront young adults in a way that is both satisfying and nonthreatening. Readers are treated to nicely veiled and fully integrated lessons on the dangers of unprotected sex, teen pregnancy, drug addiction, and alcoholism, all woven into a story of romance, adventure, and yes, a little mystery.”

School Library Journal

Find out more about Earl Sewell at and

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