Friday, May 23, 2014

Tell me if this is a good idea...

So, next week, I'll be speaking on the WeNeedDiverseBooks panel at BookCon. As you know, I've been very gung-ho about the campaign. Even though this is an issue we've been talking about for over 15 years (yes, my first book was published over 15 years ago! eeks!), I am hopeful that maybe now the time has come for some real, concrete changes.  As I said earlier, I have some ideas...

My biggest concern about diverse books is that the general public does not realize that these books are for them

A million years ago, I was a bookseller at a children's bookstore. I was not a very good one (mainly because I was socially inept) but I did learn a couple of things.

1. A customer who doesn't know what she wants can decide in two nanoseconds what she does not want.

2. A bookseller has only one of those nanoseconds to change the customer's mind.

It was very easy for me to interpret "That's not for me," when a customer had only looked at the multicultural cover. Customers put books in different compartments in their mind to decide whether or not they wanted it and the books with diverse covers were immediately put in the "multicultural" box that they had already decided they weren't interested in.

However, a bookstore floor is no place to deliver a lecture. Moreover, these customers were definitely NOT racists or horrible people in anyway. They were wonderful, intelligent people who loved books. I'm willing to bet money most probably didn't even register why they had immediately felt that the book wasn't for them.

So,  what I thought would be interesting would be to create a "Cheat Sheet" for booksellers that would help them "refocus"the customer's view of the book.  It would be fast, easy, non-diversity focused descriptions for the customer to relate to. The idea is that it would help booksellers get consumers to put the book in a different compartment than the "multicultural" box that they've already decided they aren't interested in:

However, does this"refocusing" the sales pitches of diverse books make it seem like we are trying to hide it or are ashamed of it? That is NOT what I am trying to do. I think multicultural books are more than their ethnicity--in the end they are stories with universal themes. The point of this "cheat sheet" would be to be focus on those themes.

But maybe this is a slippery slope? Would it be a step backwards? What do you think?