Here are ten ways you can support Black authors. (Spoiler: you can do more than just read their books.)
Books about anti-racism, white supremacy, and the black experience are backordered everywhere in the aftermath of George Floyd’s death. And as white people scramble to catch up on generations of complacency, ‘What You Can Do to Help’ lists and ‘Books by Black Authors’ lists are abundant. One of the most popular pieces of advice I keep seeing is that you can listen and learn by supporting Black writers.
There are lots of other things we can do. But supporting Black authors, and other creatives, can go a long way to educate yourself while simultaneously amplifying Black voices. Win-win (especially if you’re a book lover.)
No time to read? Maybe these tips for reading more will help!
Ten Ways to Support Black Authors
1. Read books written by Black authors.
This is obvious. Read fiction AND non-fiction writings by Black authors. Through their work, Black authors help us to understand their struggles and triumphs, as well as their everyday life experiences.
They also, though, simply entertain and teach on the entire spectrum of genres and topics. Looking for baking recipes to try while in COVID-19 quarantine? Search for a cookbook written by a Black person. Are graphic novels your thing? Find graphic novels created by Black artists. Black writers do much more than inform us of the Black experience. Don’t pigeon hole them – raise them up.
2. Tell people about their books.
I have a couple of friends who always make great book recommendations. Everything they recommend, I make a priority to read because I know I’ll be glad I did.
People are much more likely to pick up a book that is recommended by someone they know. Tell your friends and family about books by Black authors.
3. Recommend their books.
When you read something you enjoy or learn from, recommend it on public platforms. You can submit reviews on just about any site that sells books without having purchased the book from that site. So even if you borrowed the book from your library, hit up Amazon, Thriftbooks, Books-A-Million, BookShop.org, and any other online bookseller that allows users to submit reviews and recommend the book, sharing what you enjoyed about the book and what you learned. Oh – and don’t forget to review the book and add to your shelves on GoodReads!
4. Add their books to your personal library.
Ultimately, authors need to sell books – not just have people read them. If it’s in your financial means, purchase books by Black authors to add to your personal library. Put them on your wish lists, tell your friends and family about the books you want, and if you can, pre-order them before they are published (this REALLY helps authors by telling booksellers their book is one to pay attention to).
5. Give their books as gifts.
Books are pretty much always an appropriate gift. Help elevate Black stories and works by sharing them as freely as you would a box of chocolates or Starbucks gift card.
And this isn’t just for your adult friends. There are many Black picture book, early chapter book, middle-grade, and young adult authors as well. Purchase their books when you have an occasion to give a gift.
6. Request your library purchase books by Black authors.
Help make books written by Black writers widely available and submit a request to your local library to pre-order books by Black authors before they are published. Many people get their reading material from the library, and are thus limited to what the library has to offer.
Pre-orders are very important to authors because they let booksellers know there is an interest in the book. Booksellers look at these numbers to predict the book’s success and to determine how many copies they should purchase.
7. Ask your local library or bookstore to highlight Black authors.
You know those displays you see in libraries and bookstores that show a bunch of books that share a category (Beachy Reads in June, for example)? Browse those displays and ask the library or bookstore to add options by Black authors. Better yet, ask them to set up a permanent display highlighting Black authors exclusively (and not just in February!).
8. Follow them on social media and interact with their content.
Social media plays a big role in promoting products, and I’m guessing it’s the same in the book publishing world. And while followers are important, engaged followers are key to their content getting seen. So follow, but also be sure you engage by commenting on and sharing posts by Black authors.
9. Amplify their voices.
In addition to sharing social media content created by Black authors, you can amplify their voices by quoting them, tagging them in your own content that promotes their work, and by sharing links to their work. (Friendly reminder: always give appropriate credit when quoting anyone. 😉 )
10. Support Black authors’ causes.
Last but not least, get to know what causes your favorite Black authors care about and support those causes. Donate and/or volunteer if you can and if it’s a cause close to your own heart. If nothing else, though, support the cause or organization in ways similar to those described above.
Along with supporting Black authors, you can seek out Black-owned bookshops and buy all your books there. If there aren’t any local to you, there are many that offer online ordering and will ship to you. Here’s a list of Black-owned bookstores to get you started.