Sunday, April 6, 2008

Black Kid's Lit Authors - Down 12% in 2007

The number of African American Children's Book authors published in 2007 has declined nearly 12% since 2006!

The Cooperative Children's Book Center (CCBC) at the University of Wisconsin, Madison has tracked children's books by and about people of color in the US since 1994. Its study of African American children's book authors goes back further to 1985 (based on the books received by the CCBC). Recently the CCBC released the 2007 stats - an estimated 77 children's books by African American authors were published in 2007 out of an estimated 5,000 children's books published!

Seventy-seven Black Children's Book Authors - only? Indeed all kid lit authors of color are the same or down in 2007, according to the CCBC:
  • 42 Latino Children's Book Authors in 2007, just as 2006
  • 56 Asian American Children's Book Authors in 2007, down from 72 in 2006
  • 6 American Indian Children's Book Authors in 2007, down from 14 in 2006
What's happening? Is there anyone talking about this decline in publishing circles or on the Internet? Have you read these CCBC statistics in the news? Did the CCBC send out a press release on these stats? Are authors of color just producing less? Or, does it just not matter?

There are several self-published children's book authors. Heck, I'm one! As part of the marketing of my book, Martha Ann's Quilt for Queen Victoria, I donated a copy to the CCBC to ensure that I was counted... and to ensure that an organization that promotes and studies children's literature has my book in its catalog for future readers. Ensuring that institutions that teach children's literature have your book, especially books about kids of color, in their libraries is important.

Is there a sense that the number of African American children's book authors published in 2008 will increase? What say you?

6 comments:

Amy Bowllan said...

Kyra,

I am shocked by this! And since I just recently submitted my own manuscript - The Land of Crayons - to a publisher, it makes me nervous. Maybe the process of book publishing is so darned complicated that it turns people (of any color) off. Let me think more on this.

Don Tate II said...

Kyra, I might be wrong, this is just an educated guess. I think the number of books being published industry wide are down. In general, people are reading less -- black, white, all of the above. Therefore, less books are being published.

And since multicultural books are an even tougher sell -- even in a good market -- I'd imagine the authors who write them are going to suffer the most.

I wonder if the number of Black writers has declined? I have no idea, but I think if more are to be published, more are going to have to enter the field and write stories that speak to what publishers are trying to sell. Which, unfortunately, may not be books on Black people or subject matter. I don't know. Again, just a guess.

Kyra said...

Amy - Best wishes on your submission. It would be great to hear from publishers on the CCBC stats. I also would be interested to hear if other self-published kids lit authors are ensuring their books are included in institutional libraries for future study. Best, Kyra

Gareth said...

Not to downplay the seriousness of this issue, but you emphasise that out of 5,000 estimated titles only 77 authors were black.

The original study states that only 3,000 books were recieved by the CCBC, of which 77 authors were black.

Therefore you're underestimating the number of black authors by not estimating how many of the 2,000 missing books were written by black authors.

If you crunch the numbers, 77/3000 known titles becomes 128/5000.

Still a rather underrepresented 2.5% of authors (considering 12.8% of the US is black), but not quite as bad as your post states.

Mommy B said...

What a great blog! I found you through a post on YPulse and I'm so glad I clicked over.

The issue you bring to light in your post is pretty fascinating. I worked in publishing for a while and yes, though I would see many adult (and I do mean adult) African American titles come across my desk, kid's books were few and far between.

I think the poster above (don tate ii) might also be on to something. People are doing a lot less reading in general these days. Kids, especially are spending more time online, where they do read, but certainly not in the traditional sense.

But still, such a small handful of African American books out of thousands of titles is pretty distressing. As a new author myself I will be taking steps to make sure my book for pre-teens is counted among the stats for 2008.

And hopefully we can figure out a way to turn these numbers around.

anne rockwell said...

First of all, let me tell you how terrific your blog is! I'm in the process of putting up a long overdue website including a blog, so am trying to learn from blogs on picture books. Yours is one of the best.

The subject of the scarcity of books by black authors interests me. Though I'm white, I'm Anne Rockwell, the author of ONLY PASSING THROUGH, THE STORY OF SOJOURNER TRUTH, illustrated by Gregory Christie, Knopf 2000. I'm also the author of OPEN THE DOOR TO LIBERTY, A BIOGRAPHY OF TOUSSAINT L'OUVERTURE, also illustrated by Gregory Christie, which will be published by Houghton Mifflin in 2009. (Knopf passed on this title, feeling the subject was not sufficiently well-known to attract readers. Although ONLY PASSING THROUGH was cirtically very well received, the sales have been less than spectacular) OPEN THE DOOR TO LIBERTY was originally scheduled for 2007, but Greg was so late in delivering his finished art, it was delayed by two years. So there you have the reasons why at least one title wasn't published in 2007. Another reason is that publishers are drastically cutting their picture book lists, although leaving room for books by celebrity authors. Books whose sales are largely to schools and libraries are being hurt most of all, and sadly, most books by and about minorities fall into that category.

I'm interested that you have self-published your own books, and I'm ordering one through amazon.com. One of the great things about book publishing is that we can think small, and electronic technology has great possibilities for book publishing on a small scale. Blogging is also spreading the word to parents about books for children, which is wonderful. Publishing has traditionally depended upon the library and educational establishment to review books, so the audience is narrowed by that. Getting books into large chain bookstores is a whole other kettle of fish as I'm sure you know.

More black authors need to tell stories for children. At the moment, there are a number of black illustrators, who seem to be offered more work than they can handle, but not enough authors. So keep writing, keep posting, keep believing that books can change the lives of children.