Leveling the Playing Field: Black Writer’s Community Creates Virtual Workspace for Self-Published Au
New Orleans, LA – July 19, 2021 – In early February 2020, self-published author Michelle Jackson was excited to release her second fiction novel, From Darkness to Night: Book One – Family Secrets. With a set release date of February 14th, Valentine’s Day, she anticipated months filled with in-person book fairs, speaking engagements, and the day-to-day duties of implementing an aggressive digital marketing campaign. But just one month into her marketing strategy and everything changed.
Jackson’s intentions to promote her work came to an indefinite halt when the Covid-19 pandemic shut down the country, leaving her and other new and independent authors at home, with little book sales and limited ways to market their work.
“Covid’s immediate impact on the self-publishing book market was devastating,” Jackson said. “As an independent author with no agent or major publishing house backing me or exposing my work to a mass market, I have sole responsibility to get the word out about my book, and live events were a major part of my marketing strategy. After years of writing my second novel, I couldn’t have imagined that a pandemic would stand between me and my readers.”
Jackson, an experienced marketing executive and entrepreneur, knew she needed to improve her book’s likelihood of success and help others like her. So, she formed a private Facebook group, the Black Writers Workspace (BWW), and began to reach out to other black writers.
“I have a few author friends who I thought would like to connect, share marketing ideas, and writing tips,” said Jackson. “I had no intentions to attract more than 100 or so writers at the most. But, after the murder of George Floyd, social justice and health disparity issues, race relations, and police brutality all took center stage across the country. Many black writers needed a space of their own to connect, express their pain, and learn from one another.”
In 16 months, the BWW has attracted 8,000 black writers and avid readers from the U.S., Nigeria, Canada, UK, and South Africa. Jackson now hosts virtual book fairs for independent writers, monthly roundtable discussions, and a podcast for author interviews. She also disseminates a weekly e-newsletter designed to promote new and independent black authors in all genres and created the Chapter One Writing Competition to celebrate and award cash prizes to black unpublished and self-published writers.
“This is a movement,” said Jackson. “Black writers are publishing works of art daily without the support needed to hit the pinnacle of success as defined by the industry. We write because we love it. We have so much to say, and we refuse to stop just because we don’t have lucrative publishing deals.”
Although many black authors self-publish by choice, the traditional publishing industry has been under scrutiny for its lack of diversity. By hiring mostly all-white gatekeepers to the editorial rooms at major publishing houses, limited deal-making with black and minority writers has persisted.
Recent social media campaigns, including #PublishingPaidMe show that the industries’ systemic biases impact which books make it to the marketplace and how black and white authors are paid unequally for the same quality work.
As the BWW continues to grow, more black writers find supportive allies in the group who are open to sharing their writing, book marketing, and publishing experiences. In addition, more talented writers will see their works hit bookstore bookshelves through the group’s on-going effort to host events and create promotional opportunities for independent authors.
“We hope to give writers the lift they need to get published the right way,” said Jackson. “Self-publishing is too often seen as the result of amateur writing, but we are on a mission to change that perception.”
On July 31st, from 9 AM – 4 PM CST, BWW will host its’ first Virtual Writer’s Symposium. The event is designed to help new and experienced writers take their fiction, non-fiction, and poetry writing skills to the next level. Also, writers will learn about book marketing, self-publishing, and traditional publishing techniques. The speakers include award-winning authors and poets Vanessa Davis Griggs, Dr. Adair White-Johnson, Bryan Humphrey, and Akua Lezli Hope. To register, visit https://www.eventbrite.com/e/black-writers-workspace-virtual-writers-symposium-tickets-152795380095.
This event will follow the BWW’s Virtual Book Relaunch Party and Book Fair, Friday night, July 30th, from 5-9 PM CST. The event will showcase over 30 black new and independent authors in the virtual author’s lounge; this is the group’s third book fair. Each past event attracted over 1,000 views. During the event, book lovers can log on at no cost, meet authors live in their virtual chatroom, and purchase books without leaving their homes. Also, viewers will enjoy music by award-winning jazz guitarist Cashmere Williams, hear author interviews, and win prizes. To register as a guest or exhibitor, visit https://my.boothcentral.com/v/events/bwws-largest-virtual-book-relaunch-party-ever.
“We are calling this our Summer of Writing,” said Jackson. “It’s another way to expose the world to the amazing work of black writers everywhere. Self-publishing a book isn’t easy, but when we come together, share our experiences and strengthen our networks, we create avenues that will lead to our collective success in the industry.”