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October 28, 2019
By Raquel Delemos and Tiffany Richardson
Two authors have created a unique writing space for African-American #OwnVoices storytellers

The indie writing community can be a lonely place—a wasteland of unengaged social media posts and abysmal book sales. This isolation is often compounded for indie authors of color, many of whom struggle to have their voices heard and their words read. How do writers get noticed amid the millions of other stories out there? How do writers attract readers and grow fan bases when no one is acquainted with their work?

In the beginning, Big Black Chapters was nothing more than two best friends who wanted to write books. For years we toyed around with the idea of self-publishing, lurking in Facebook groups and following Twitter accounts for useful resources and information. It didn’t take long for us to recognize the lack of resources for indie authors of color. Where do you find ethnic cover models or editors familiar with African-American vernacular and slang? What about photographers and graphic designers accustomed to working with deeper skin tones?

At its core, Big Black Chapters is a writers’ collective. Our nearly 3,000 members span the globe and write across multiple genres. They have different life experiences, diverse cultural backgrounds, and varying levels of self-publishing success. The only things we have in common are our love for storytelling and African heritage.

"We believe in the power of diversity and the importance of representation. We also have a profound love of books and the written word. "
Some would argue that a group of black writers is discriminatory. However, we believe that having safe spaces for writers of color to address the issues they face is critical for the creative process. Alongside writing prompts and story excerpts, our group discussions involve topics relating to race and navigating mainstream creative writing spaces. We discuss the complexities of self-publishing alongside issues within our own community such as colorism and ethnic bias.

In the end, Big Black Chapters fulfills a fundamental need for any indie writer: to be heard. We strive to give every indie author of color a voice. Our blog and public platforms highlight self-published books by authors of diverse backgrounds while sharing book marketing and creative writing tips. We believe in the power of diversity and the importance of representation. We also have a profound love of books and the written word. Big Black Chapters combines it all in a diverse writing community dedicated to promoting and sharing each other’s work. We are a network of authors, avid readers, and friends.

The Big Black Chapters concept isn’t a new model. Our platform has had significant growth using basic niche marketing strategies that all indie authors can apply to their own marketing plans. Most successful writers advise new authors to know their readers and understand their expectations. What draws them into a story? Will they expect a genre staple such as a happily-ever-after? And then, of course, how can these readers be found? The answer again is social media. No matter the book genre, you can bet that there is a Facebook group, blog, or Twitter account dedicated to it. Aspiring authors should follow these groups and interact purely on a social level for a clear understanding of what readers want from said genres. Indie authors should also find groups and creative writing spaces within their own genres. It is incredibly helpful and encouraging to have networks of people who are in the know or who can answer burning questions.

We have learned so much from building Big Black Chapters that we apply to our own indie writing careers. The questions and tips that members share within the group broaden our knowledge and help us better understand the business. Just as much as Big Black Chapters is a platform to help showcase the talent of indie authors of color, it is a platform for us—the creators of Big Black Chapters—to become well versed in all things indie and diverse. We have immensely enjoyed creating this platform and our hope is that it will continue to thrive and grow. Our ultimate goal is to change the way readers and the publishing industry look at indie authors, and more specifically the way they look at indie authors of color.

 

Raquel Delemos is a freelance writer and editor and the founder of Big Black Chapters. Tiffany Richardson is the author of The Colored Line. She is also a beta reader and freelance proofreader, editor, and social media content manager.

 

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