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The African American Writer's Handbook: How to Get in Print and Stay in Print


One World/Ballantine
Published:April 4, 2000

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The subtitle to The African American Writers Handbook: How to Get in Print and Stay in Print is misleading. Yes, there are chapters on writing queries and synopses, finding agents, dealing with editors, and promoting one's work. But plenty of books cover the same ground with greater depth and clarity. It is when author Robert Fleming turns his attention to the experience of the African American in the "almost lily-white" world of publishing that his book comes into its own. Should an African American author choose an agent based on racial solidarity? How does having a white (or black) editor affect the quality of the author's work? What kinds of inroads are black writers making in genre writing?

There is a kitchen-sink feeling to The African American Writers Handbook, which is published by Ballantine's multicultural One World imprint. A chapter on self-publishing is followed by one on tax tips; a list of authors and their day jobs comes directly after a section on award-winning black-authored books. Fleming's accounts of African American publishing history and his profiles of African American writers somehow lack the drama of their compelling subjects. Still, despite its lack of coherence and its workmanlike prose, this handbook is full of information that African American (and, for that matter, non-African American) writers will want to know. There are profiles of authors, lists of classic works, interviews with small-press African American publishers, discussions about African American distributors and bookstores, and a generous smattering of anecdotes about black authors. Despite the inherent difficulties, "there has never been a better time for African American writers in the history of American publishing," says Fleming. Maybe so. But it is tough indeed to ignore the words of novelist John Oliver Killens (Youngblood), quoted here: "Writing was the damnedest, hardest, and loneliest buck a man could make, especially if that man was black." --Jane Steinberg

Product Description:

With African Americans writing and buying books in record numbers, the time is ripe for a comprehensive publishing guide tailored expressly to the needs of this vibrant, creative community. The African American Writers Handbook meets this challenge perfectly. Written by veteran journalist and published author Robert Fleming, this book gives writers the heart, the determination, and above all the crucial information to publish successfully in this highly competitive field. Knowing the inner workings of the publishing industry provides any writer, novice or veteran, with a much needed advantage in the quest to get into print. Inside you'll find

- A complete, step-by-step guide to every aspect of the publishing process, from the germination of a winning idea to the nuts and bolts of book production
- Tips on submitting proposals, query letters, and preparing manuscripts for submission
- Advice on negotiating contracts that extend careers
- How to use on-line resources for research and profit
- Interviews with top editors, agents, publishing executives, and bookstore owners
- Updated information on copyrights, subsidiary rights, sales and marketing
- The trials and triumphs of self-publishing
- The art of promoting your work and yourself to a wider audience
- An insider's look at the economic realities of the book business
- And much more!

Here, too, are scores of inspiring interviews and capsule biographies of leading African American writers both past and present. How did Richard Wright become America's first bestselling black writer? How did Zora Neale Hurston break through the artistic boundaries of the Harlem Renaissance long after her death? What was Toni Cade Bambara doing before she sold her first book? Why should Ann Petry, William Gardner Smith, Nella Larson, and William Melvin Kelley be revered wherever African American literature is read? Blending practical information and fascinating anecdotes with a mini literary history of African American writing, this upbeat, savvy, essential guide is a publishing primer with soul.

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