Latest Posts

Sareeta Domingo is Making Waves

On a bright April day last year, I managed to grab a quick lunch with Sareeta Domingo. She’d whittled an hour out of her fiercely busy schedule to chat with me. To be safe, we ate at the Pret a Manger off London Bridge, a short walk from the Harlequin Mills & Boon office where she works as an editor.

When we spoke on that April day, Domingo was a published author with a romance novel (The Nearness of You) and an erotic novella (The Confessional Diaries of a Girl in Town) under her belt. In the months since that interview she has released Love, Secret Santa, a sweet Christmas romance for teens, cued up Love on the Main Stage – a summer romance for teens – for release this month, she has a July novel coming as part of Jacaranda’s 20 for 2020 campaign called, If I Don’t Have You, and she’s worked with a clutch of remarkable writers (including Dorothy Koomson, Daniellé Dash and Sara Jafari) on a new anthology celebrating women of colour in love called, Who’s Loving You (due out in Feb 2021). All this alongside the full-time, full-on day job.

That’s a lot, right?

Yet there’s more. If you attend a Black publishing event in London (pre-pandemic of course), you’re guaranteed to catch sight of her. Book launches, panel discussions, bookclub events – she shows up and supports fellow creatives, indie publishers and anyone working to make UK publishing more inclusive. She’s also started doing a weekly ‘book of the week’ segment on Morning Mari (@marinx666) on @worldwidefm.

Where does she find the time? How does she juggle it all? We’ll come back to that.

Read More

Why Publishing Advances Matter

On June 6, 2020, Leatrice “Elle” McKinney, (aka L.L. McKinney, author of A Blade So Black) kicked off a Twitter conversation about publishing advances. Using the hashtag #PublishingPaidMe she asked white authors to share the advances they’d been paid for books so Black authors could get a sense of how their own advances compared. Very quickly a huge disparity between the size of payments became obvious.

Read More

Mansa Musa

Mansa Musa: Glitter and Gold, streaming now…

I spent my Christmas on a train travelling from Canada’s east coast to the west. When I wasn’t gazing out of the huge plate glass windows at mountains, frozen lakes and endless prairie land, I was reading Mansa Musa and the Empire of Mali by P. James Oliver.

What an eye opener! Here’s your 60 second guide to the medieval ruler:

  • Kankan Musa was the 10th Mansa of the Mali empire
  • Mansa is a Sudanese word for ‘emperor’
  • His control of Africa’s salt and gold mines at a time when the commodities were hugely valuable made him the richest person in history
  • Ruled from 1312-1337
  • Turned the University of Sankore in Timbuktu into a fully staffed learning institution with the largest collection of books in Africa since the Library of Alexandria (246 BC).
  • Built the Djinguereber Mosque in Timbuktu (from pounded earth, straw and wood. It has stood for over 700 years)
  • Undertook an incredible 4,000km pilgrimage from West Africa to Mecca and back

Amazingly, while I was reading and travelling, Twitter began talking about Mansa Musa. Apparently Black Panther director, Ryan Coogler and actor Michael B Jordan are planning to make a film about the African ruler. The chatter began on Twitter (where debate is an Olympic sport) so opinion was soon divided. Some people argued that Mansa Musa was unworthy of a film because he owned slaves.

He did. Thousands of them.

Yet, I’d still pitch my tent in the ‘Yes, tell his story’ camp.

Why?

His life was epic. The same way we don’t question whether to make films about Churchill, Gandhi, Columbus or JFK – all of whom have problematic legacies. I don’t believe we should restrict ourselves to telling stories only about African figures we deem uncontroversial.

I’ll go further. I think a film would be too small a canvas to capture the adventures and numerous achievements of Mansa Musa. I’d prefer a five-season, streamed TV series a la The Crown. It would reek of money. Lavish sets, far flung locations, teams of costume designers, baked mud palaces, piles of gold everywhere…

If, however, I were restricted to an eight-part series, this is how it would break down.

Read More

20 Black Books out in 2020

It’s 2020 people! Time to get rid of all the books that have been clogging up your ‘must read’ pile and replace them with shiny new ones. Yes, that is exactly how reading should work. Here are 20 books by Black authors coming out this year. Go forth, read and spread the good news.

(Click the book jackets to buy or pre-order)

Baby Riot1. Riot Baby – Tochi Onyebuchi

Ella sees things. Things that have not happened yet. After her brother is locked up on racially motivated charges, she has to decide whether to use her special abilities knowing she could start a revolution that could burn her city down.
January 21

Not so pure and simple2. Not So Pure and Simple – Lamar Giles

Del joins a purity ring club to get closer to his childhood crush. He doesn’t expect to learn more about himself and have to reflect on questions about what girls want from boys and what it means to respect them. This important story of masculinity is something everyone can learn from.
Jan 21

The worst best man3. The Worst Best Man – Mia Sosa

Carolina Santos is DC’s hottest wedding planner. It feels like bitter irony when she is left at the alter on her own wedding day. She sucks up the pain, soldiers on and feels like life is rewarding her fortitude when an incredible business opportunity comes her way. Until she discovers that seizing the opportunity means teaming up with the man who encouraged her fiancé to jilt her, a man she hates with the fire of 10 suns, the worst best man in the world.
Feb 4

Read More

Black Book Christmas Gifts

Black Christmas Gift List

When Christmas is so close you can smell the turkey but you still have a stack of gifts to buy, you know what makes a great present? (Brace yourself, this may come as a shock but I’m going to say it anyway).

A Book!

A book and some colourful socks, a book and a box of chocolates, a book and a gift card, a book and – you get the idea, right?

The right book tells your loved one you care. They’ll never know that you scanned this list, bought 5 books for 5 people in 15 minutes, wrapped them all in record time – since nothing wraps easier than a book- and Tra la la! Christmas joy. It’s the gift the blesses the giver and the receiver. You’re welcome. Now go forth and share the Christmas spirit.

Mystery

Heaven, My Home

Heaven My Home by Attica Locke

American Spy

American Spy by Lauren Wilkenson

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

They All Fall Down

They All Fall Down by Rachel Howzell Hall

Tell Me Your Secret

Tell Me Your Secret – Dorothy Koomson

Fantasy

Black Leopard Red Wolf

Black Leopard Red Wolf by Marlon James

The Water Dancer

The Water Dancer by Ta-Nehisi Coates

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The City We Became

The City We Became by N. K. Jemisin

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Romance

 

Get a Life Chloe Brown

Get a Life Chloe Brown by Talia Hibbert

The Wedding Party

The Wedding Party by Jasmine Guillory

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One Day to Fall

Therese Beharrie by One Day to Fall

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Literary

Queenie

Candice Carty-Williams

Grand Union

Grand Union by Zadie Smith

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Half God of Rainfall

The Half God of Rainfall by Inua Ellams

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Teens

War Girls

War Girls by Tochi Onyebuchi

Secret Santa

Secret Santa by SA Domingo

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Let Me Hear a Rhyme

Let Me Hear a Rhyme by Tiffany D Jackson

Daughters of Nri

Daughters of Nri by Remi K Amayo

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Kids

Sulwe

Sulwe by Lupita Nyong’o

Princess Arabella is a Big Sister

Princess Arabella is a Big Sister by Mylo Freeman

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tristan Strong Punches a Hole in the Sky

Tristan Strong Punches a Hole in the Sky by Kwame Mbalia

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Non-fiction

Notes from a Black Chef

Notes from a Black Chef by Kwame Onwuachi

Broken Places Outer Space

Broken Places Outer Space by Nnedi Okarafor

 

 

Literary agent, Nelle Andrews sits in her office

Nelle Andrew is crafting a new narrative in publishing

“I love the deal. I LOVE the deal. I mean to be an agent you have to love the deal. I love sending out a book and getting those emails 24 hours later saying ‘I loved it! Don’t let someone else buy it.”

It’s a sunny Tuesday morning and I’m chatting with literary agent Nelle Andrew in a coffee shop in Bloomsbury. We are opposite the offices of Peters, Fraser and Dunlop where she works as a primary agent, a ‘hunter-gatherer’ as she puts it, searching out and representing the UK’s brightest writing talent. Read More

10 Questions for literary agent, Emma Paterson

Emma Paterson’s author list reads like a who’s who of influential people currently shaking up cultural discussions in the UK. Emma Dabiri (Don’t Touch My Hair), Otegha Uwagba (Little Black Book), Charlie Brinkhurt-Cuff (Mother Country), Bridget Minamore (Titanic), Panashe Chigumadzi (These Bones Will Rise Again), Funmi Fetto (Palette – a beauty bible for women of colour, out October 2019) are just a selection of her clients.

Paterson studied English at Cambridge then completed an MA in Gender Studies at the School of Oriental and African Studies. Her first publishing job was as editorial assistant for an academic publisher. She moved on to an agents’ assistant role at the prestigious Wylie Agency, joined Rogers, Coleridge & White in 2013 and is now a literary agent with Aitken Alexander Associates. She was named the Bookseller Rising Star of 2018.

1. You completed an MA at SOAS then went into academic publishing before deciding you preferred fiction publishing. How hard was it to get an assistant position at The Wylie Agency?

The first time I interviewed for that position, I didn’t get the job. Some time after, because the first interview had gone relatively well, I sent the director of the London office an email and asked whether any new vacancies had opened up. Luckily, there was a new position available so I interviewed again and finally got the job in 2010 around the time of the ash cloud.

2. What do you enjoy most about your work?

The breadth of it can be very stimulating. On the surface, the job is editorially driven but it also requires keen business instincts; the energy to generate new ideas; an interest in international publishing and global trends; a sensitive and complex understanding of people and their tastes. Deep down, though, I derive the purest pleasure from working closely with authors. That is the most rewarding part of the job, creatively and intellectually.

Read More

The Literary Gatekeepers

Literary agents play a huge role in shaping what we see in bookstores.
Huge.

Take a short walk with me and I’ll illustrate.

Let’s say you’re asleep one night when you’re woken by a voice calling your name from the darkness. After some investigation, it turns out that the voice belongs to God.

I know. Plot twist.

It’s the great I AM speed dialling you from Heaven and He orders you to sit down at your computer and start typing.

Several days and hundreds of pages later you finally finish and you’re shocked to discover that you’ve been inspired to produce The Bible: The Lost Testament.

What do you do next? Well, you’re gonna want to whisk that beauty into the hands of a publisher ASAP because it’ll be the most coveted thing since Harper Lee decided she had a little more to say about mockingbirds.

If you approached any of the Big Five (Hachette, HarperCollins, Macmillan, Penguin Random House, Simon & Schuster) via their fifty million subsidiary imprints, despite holding (literally) God’s Word, they’d ask you to submit your masterpiece via a literary agent. You’d then have to toddle off to go hunt for a suitable literary agent, persuade them to read your new manuscript, get them excited enough to sign you, then wait for them to successfully sell your work to a publisher.

This is how most publishing deals work. Many publishers, big and small, will only consider a manuscript that comes to them via a literary agent. That’s an awful lot of power concentrated in the hands of a few. So, who are these people with so much clout dictating our reading choices and do they represent the UK population?

Well, in the UK right now, in the Year of Our Lord 2019, there are only three black female literary agents.

I know.

I spoke to two of them.

Emma Paterson and Nelle Andrews were kind enough to make time in their insanely busy schedules, to give me the inside scoop on what they do, how they became agents, how they select the authors on their lists, and how they feel the lack of racial diversity in literary agencies impacts UK publishing.

I’ve made it a two-parter.

First up…

Link to Q&A with Emma Paterson

Emma Paterson