Thursday, July 22, 2010

Urban fiction boosting the book industry?

I'll have more posts on my visit to the Harlem Book Fair last weekend, but I wanted to make this quick note about urban fiction, which was abundantly represented--or overrepresented--at HBF 2010.

This afternoon I sat in on a webinar that focused on the impact of independent publishers on the U.S. book market. Jamie Carter, a representative from the data group Publisher Alley (a division of the pre-eminent book wholesaler Baker & Taylor) talked about sales trends among books produced by independent publishers. One trend she noted was that sales were ranked high enough among urban fiction to make it a top-selling category among independent publishers on the Baker & Taylor list (for the period between Sept 2008 through June 2010.) Carter said the fact that urban fiction titles ranked highly on the Baker & Taylor list showed that it has potential in traditional venues.

Carter went on to say that she had heard anecdotally that urban fiction, also known as "thug literature," was popular, especially in the New York area, and that a lot of it is sold from the trunks of cars. Urban fiction is underserved by traditional publishers and represents an opportunity for market expansion, Carter said, to my dismay.

This news from Baker & Taylor adds to my disappointment with the abundant representation of urban fiction booksellers at the HBF, which I will blog about on a later post. I am still sorting my thoughts out about the enthusiasm I could feel by seeing so many Black writers and publishers entering the industry, on the one hand, versus the discomfort with the quality of the content and morality of the story lines of their books, on the other hand. Or am I just judging books by their covers? No, I have read a few of these books. I am struggling with my own extreme points of view as profound as, "judge not lest ye also be judged" versus "this has got to stop!" Leaning towards "this has got to stop." What do you think?


  1. Publishing companies are about making money and right now the urban fiction genre is doing just that. Its opening doors for authors who would have otherwise been dismissed. It would serve authors of urban fiction to stick to self publishing and leave out the middle man. Learning how to market and promote their own work will give them more revenue without mutliple hands dipping into the pot.

    K.C Baylor
    Urban Fiction News

  2. I think this is a very interesting new genre that has not been explored in depth before. I'm looking forward to seeing new urban fiction books hit the shelves and experience new exciting reads first hand.