Ten Things NOT To Say To an African American Author at a Book Signing Or Book Festival

by Mirika C on January 28, 2016


Mirika Mayo CorneliusBook signings and festivals are absolutely fantastic, and for the most part, all readers come with super attitudes and ready to get a brand new book, meet the author, snap and chat and whatever else about books and reading that can be done in that moment.  It’s a wonderful affair to meet and greet 95% of the time in each and every city.


Authors must be prepared for the impossible-to-answer questions or address statements that come forth from the mouths of those who may mean well but don’t really understand what they are actually saying when they say it.  Don’t worry.  We don’t hate you, although we don’t altogether understand your logic, so here are are ten things that you may never want to say/ask an African American author…ever.  Pay attention.

1.I’m going to buy this book for my African American friend. 
Do us both a favor.  Don’t take the book to your black friend with a big cheese smile.  You didn’t buy the book because it’s a great story.  You bought the book because you wanted to impress your black friend…who sees right through your motivation.
Question:  If it is soooo intriguing, why not buy the book for yourself and your friend?  Answer: It’s a color thing.  We get it.

2.  You should write a book like this or that particular author.  You should honestly move ten steps back from the table.  If every author wrote the same exact story and thought the same exact way, the stories would be just as dull as the statement you just made.

The Secret Novel Collection

3. My sister in law is black, so this is something she may like.  Yes, this is similar to #1 but statements like these happen repeatedly so I gave an extra example.  Did it just annoy you that I stated it again but in a different way?  Well, now you know how it may sound to an African American author – quite annoying.  More than annoying, it sounds like because there are black faces on the cover or you see a black person as the author of the book that it isn’t for anyone – white or any other race – to read.  Wrong.

Yes.  Black authors write stories.  We write a variety of stories.  Pick up the book, read the synopsis, forget the color of author, and if the book sounds great, get it.  Don’t just get it for your BLACK sister in law as if you yourself would absolutely never enjoy it because the author is black and the characters may be black as well.  Heck, your BLACK sister in law may think it sucks because she reads dang sci-fi and you brought her urban (and we know why you did it, too.)

Guess what?  Black authors have a variety of races in their books, too, and in even the ones with only black characters, they are stories you just might actually enjoy!  It’s a story.  Black people are really people, too, and we aren’t that different from anyone else.

4. You know, I have some black friends, do you think they would enjoy this?  I don’t know.  Did you enjoy it?  Or did you not know that all black people aren’t built alike nor do they have the same tastes while they don’t even actually think alike?  How the heck should I know?  I don’t know your black friends.

Sins of Bain (Extended)

5. How’s that Barack Obama?  Countdown…5,4,3,2,1…  Sir, do you see him at the table?  Oh, you thought we were related?  Wonder why?  By the way, how’s that Bush or Charles Manson?

6. Is this book available in bookstores?  So wait.  You drove down here to the book signing to ask if the books are in bookstores and they are laid out right here in front of you?  Stop acting like you read.  I see your bag.  You have it loaded with free pamphlets and fliers, and no, I don’t have any candy…**snatches the bowl off the table**.

7. How are things in the black community?  To which are you referring?  Why don’t you go check it out yourself?  It’s right next door to you.  Make a new friend.

8. Where/when did you learn how to write?  I learned how to write in my mother’s home and in school, possibly the same as you did in your parent’s home and school, and as far as when… it was when the past lawmakers got up off their slaughter creed and stopped killing us (black people) for doing it.

A better question would be from where or how do you formulate the ideas for the stories you’ve written?  See the difference.  #blackpeoplewrite

I Thought I Was Alone Book Series

9. Is this a story about the ghetto?  No.  This is a story about AMERICA.  Would you like to read someone else’s side of the story?

10. Are these all urban because I can’t…  I would tell you, but you only looked at me (the color of my skin) and made your decision. Therefore, I will look back at you and remain silent as I wait on you to lift the book from the table and read from the multiple genres before you.  Because I’m black doesn’t mean I write solely urban or street literature.


These are just a few things that may possibly get under an author’s skin.  We may not tell you about it, so just don’t.  Thanks.  Pat yourself on the back if you’ve never asked an African American author these questions.  You deserve it.  Let’s have lunch…over a great book.


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