3 Ways to Support Marginalized Authors

Marketing & Promotion

ahmed-zayan-684478-unsplashIt’s been absolutely incredible to see more and more books by marginalized authors being published. But it’s still those creators who are shouldering a huge amount of the promo they need to sell copies and, you know, make money.

I’ve been thinking a lot about money lately and about how marginalized creators are at such a disadvantage from the get-go because generational wealth hasn’t afforded us the privilege of being able to take many financial risks, like quitting our day jobs to write full-time or funnel any of the money from that day-job into marketing our art.

It’s obvious that when it comes to generational wealth, who has it and who doesn’t reinforces so many of the systems of oppression operating in this country. This is evidenced by the recent “Varsity Blues” scandal in which the rich and powerful bribed colleges to let in their mediocre children, spots that could have gone to qualified students from marginalized communities.

Not only are most marginalized creators facing many obstacles to becoming wealthy but we also are not allowed to be mediocre. It’s a lot of pressure, which is why it’s so incredibly important that we support each other in our efforts, not just to make the kind of art we want or to find a way to support ourselves financially with that art, but also towards the goal of building generational wealth that will benefit our families and communities.

Bottom-line: I want every marginalized artist I know to be rich. I want them to create the kind of wealth that allows them to become a force for good in the world.

So I’ve been thinking of ways I can use my resources and platform to better support marginalized authors and I’ve settled on a few things that are within my power to contribute. Maybe some of these will inspire you to increase your support of a marginalized creator you love.

1. Tell people they exist and how much you love them

I created a new newsletter feature called “Latinx Book Love” where I’ll be sharing books by Latinx authors I love. I’ll also be posting about them here on the blog. These aren’t traditional reviews because there is no critiquing going on. Instead, these are reactions where I talk about how the book made me feel, which themes resonated with me most and why.

My newsletter has almost 700 subscribers and this blog has over 1,000. They’re not huge numbers but if even one person chooses to buy a copy of one of these books from reading about it on my blog or in my newsletter then I’d call that a success.

How can you do something similar?

I know this one seems obvious but I also know a lot of readers who don’t write reviews. If you’re at all intimidated by posting your thoughts on an online retailer, find your own online space to share the books you love. AND remember: a review does not have to be time-consuming or 1,000 words long.

Like I said, my posts will be more like reactions to what I loved. A quick reflection on how a book made you feel is plenty to post as a review on Goodreads or Amazon and those reviews have a huge impact on a book’s visibility. As soon as you finish a book by a marginalized author, open up notes on your phone or grab a sticky note and jot down a few thoughts before you forget. Then post them to Goodreads, Amazon, or another online retailer whenever you can. Don’t forget text the reaction to a friend who you think would also love the book or share your reaction on social media.

2. Make your neighborhood libraries more inclusive

I mostly read library books because I happen to have a library right down the hall. Our ESL team has a great relationship with our librarian and at certain times of the year she asks for diverse books recs and/or linguistically accessible books (what we’d call low-level high-interest) that our ESL students might enjoy. I see this as an awesome opportunity to make our library’s selection more inclusive for all. The more diverse books that are in the library, the more likely it is that students will pick them up, fall in love with them, and want to read more by that author.

How can you replicate this at your own library? It’s super easy! I worked in libraries for several years before becoming a teacher so I know for a fact that the librarian at your local branch is a superhero and would definitely love to hear what you’d like to see more of. Especially if you check out books often, staff will really take your recs to heart. Even if you’re new to the library it’s really important that a library’s selection reflects the values of that community. So if you don’t see a book by a certain marginalized author on the shelves, give the title to the librarian who will either request it through an inter-library loan (which gets the books on their radar) or add it to their next order.

3. Make your neighborhood classrooms and communities more inclusive

Personally, it’s better for my budget to use the library at the school where I work to get most of my books. BUT because money is power I also want to make sure the things I’m doing are leading to actual sales for those marginalized authors. One of the ways I do this is by allotting a certain amount of our ESL department money to stocking our classroom libraries with diverse books. I always buy two copies of everything so reading is more social and kids can talk about what they’re reading with a friend who’s also reading the same book. This also helps when I want to do lit circles led by student choice because it ensures every book in my classroom library is an option for discussion.

Check out my lit circle haul from last year focused on diverse nonfiction texts:

Left to right *marginalized authors only: 1) Diary of a Tokyo Teen by Christine Mari Inzer 2) The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind byWilliam Kamkwamba 3) I Am Malala byMalala Yousafzai 4) Americanized by Sara Saedi 5) In the Country We Love by Diane Guerrero 6) I Will Always Write Back by Martin Ganda &Caitlin Alifirenka
And here’s my BOY haul focused on diverse anthologies & multi-genre texts:

Left to right: 1) Kim’s Convenience by Ins Choi 2) American Like Me *edited by America Ferrera 3) Fresh Ink *edited by Lamar Giles 4) Our Stories, Our Voices 5) We Rise, We Resist, We Raise Our Voices *edited by Wade Hudson 6) Flying Lessons & Other Stories *edited by Ellen Oh
And the summer reading books I’ll be giving away to students at EOY:

20190415_142944.jpg

TOP-Left to right: 1) Darrius the Great is Not Okay by Adib Khorram 2) American Road Trip by Patrick Flores-Scott 3) Love, Hate, and Other Filters by Samira Ahmed 4) To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han
BOTTOM-Left to right: 5) Picture Us in the Light by Kelly Loy Gilbert 6) We Set the Dark on Fire by Tehlor Kay Mejia 7) The Field Guide to the North American Teenager by Ben Philippe

As we approach our spring deadline for spending our budget money, I usually use it to purchase even more books. This year I bought the above summer reading books for my 9th & 10th graders and plan to do a gallery walk in May so students can choose one before summer break. I was very careful to find books containing representation that matches the diversity in my classroom and purchased books by and featuring marginalized people across different racial, religious, and cultural backgrounds.

How can you replicate this if you’re not a teacher and don’t have free money specifically allotted to buying diverse/inclusive teaching/reading materials?

You could start a book club with friends or coworkers for the purpose of reading books by marginalized authors. Whether the people in your group choose to buy the book themselves or request it at their local library the author is still making money. And who knows? Maybe someone (or multiple people) in your book club will fall in love with that author’s work and buy their entire backlist. Personally, when I discover a book that ends up blowing me away and becoming an absolute favorite I buy a personal copy to someday shelve in my *dream* home library.

If you have kids, you could also encourage them to start a book club like this with their friends.

If you’ve got the money to spend you can also seek out organizations that provide books to students in low-income schools. Or check out Donor’s Choose and search specifically for literacy projects focused on diverse books. Each year I make a few donations around Christmas time to teachers in my hometown who are building diverse classroom libraries or who need class sets of diverse books. If you can’t afford to fund one of these projects, share it on social media to help get the word out. You could even stop by a school in your neighborhood and ask if they need diverse book donations.

Again, if you don’t personally have the funds for this, organize a book drive and collect donations.

I think the most important thing to consider if you want to support marginalized creators is how can you leverage your own privilege and community to make a difference. We all have different financial situations and different levels of influence. If you can’t afford to spend your own money on these books, that’s okay. Find other ways to shine a light on them by reviewing them, shouting about them online, or recommending them to people and institutions that do have the funds to purchase them.

The methods listed above are just some of the ways I’m using my available time, resources, and platform to bring attention to diverse books. But as my financial situation and zone of influence changes, hopefully this list will change and I’ll be able to do things that make an even greater financial impact on the lives of these authors.

Because the more money these authors make, the more likely it is they’ll be able to build a sustainable career, and the more marginalized creators with successful track records, the more likely it is that publishers will be willing to invest in the work of other marginalized creators. A rising tide lifts all boats so let’s help each other rise and reach our goals while also getting these books into the hands of people who really need them.

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