Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Niche Buster

By Angela Henry

The thinking behind the black book niche is that being black gives an author a built in audience, that our books appeal solely to other black people, and that no one but black people would be interested in reading books with black characters. Okay, now let’s all laugh together. Well what happens when a black author discovers that the audience that has overwhelmingly embraced her books is outside the black book buying niche?

That’s what best-selling author L.A. Banks discovered about her Vampire Huntress series. Banks recently did an interview with editor Karen Hunter for AOL’s Black where she discussed attending DragonCon a few years ago and meeting her fans

"We were in the heart of Atlanta, where the majority of the population is black, but at the convention center, it was about 99 percent white," said Banks, who graduated from University of Pennsylvania with a degree in business and from Temple with a master's in filmmaking.”

"I had about 300 people in my room for a book signing and maybe five of them were black. I had so many white fans complaining about how hard it was to find my books and asking me why it was in the black section. I didn't have an answer. I went back and told my publisher that they had to do something. They needed to get me into the mainstream section of the stores." From L.A. Banks is Queen of the Damned by Karen Hunter, Black

You can click here to read the entire article to find out if Banks and her publisher succeeded in their quest to get her books moved. But the fact that her latest book in the series, The Thirteenth, is a New York Times Best-Seller should give you a clue ; ).



Rhonda McKnight said...

Very interesting about Leslie Esdaile's LA Banks books. I know my novel, Secrets and Lies isn't particulary ethnic. I remember when I first introduced it to my critique group four years ago one of the members asked me if they were black people. They're upper middle class and she couldn't see any distingushing marks that made it obvious that they were. I added little things like some sister-girl language between my main character and her best friend, which probably would have happened in the rewriting process anyway once I started looking at dialgoue. I also made the husband's alma mater Morehouse. But still their story is about two people who's marriage is collapsing under the weight of secrets and lies. Nothing ethnic about that.

I can't say that I care much about white readers buying my books. My primary market is African-American women and my secondary is African-American Christian women, so white readers and the rest of the world would fall behind those two groups. I could be extremely successful selling to my target audiences. Just have to find a way to get to them.

Thanks for sharing the L.A. Banks story.

angela henry said...


Hi. I can understand your point of view. Many books do very well within the black book niche. Christian fiction seems to very well. But typically horror and mysteries do not. I'm a mystery writer. I feel my target audience is mystery readers. Period. For me it's very frustrating as an author to only be marketed to a small segment of the reading public based on my race.

My mysteries could only be found in the black book section and I know I've lost out on sales because people were looking for me in the mystery section of the bookstore. I've had readers email and tell me they couldn't find my books. Would my sales have been better in the mystery section? I have no idea. But I'd sure love to find out.

Eric said...

Books of Soul has a feature interview with Leslie Banks, as well as a few postings of her books. See her comments at

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