The Challenges and Triumphs of Black Romance Authors in the Publishing Industry

Despite the rising popularity of romance novels, Black authors face unique obstacles in the industry

The romance genre has seen a surge in popularity, with print sales increasing by 16.5% in the first nine months of 2023. Bestselling authors such as Hannah Grace, Colleen Hoover, and Ana Huang dominate the paperback bestseller lists. However, behind this success lies a story of industry constriction, with staff cutbacks, cautious acquisition strategies, and the phasing out of mass market paperbacks. These challenges are particularly pronounced for Black authors, who struggle to break through in an industry that often sidelines their work. This article explores the experiences of Black romance authors, their fight for recognition, and the hope they find in the support of their readers.

A Battle for Recognition

Breaking into the romance industry has never been easy, but for Black authors, the struggle is even more challenging. While social media has provided a platform for all voices to be heard, it doesn’t guarantee attention. Vanessa Riley, author of “A Duke, the Lady, and a Baby,” acknowledges the power of social media but highlights the difficulty in getting noticed. The result is a lack of representation for Black authors at the top of bestseller lists.

The Historical Sidelining of Black Authors

The marginalization of Black authors in the romance genre is not a recent phenomenon. Kennedy Ryan, a contemporary romance author, points out the outrage of having some of the best Black and brown writers in the industry, yet their work is not given the recognition it deserves. Esi Sogah, an executive editor at Berkley, recalls how Black writers were often relegated to Black imprints rather than being seen as writing romance. This lack of visibility extended to bookstores, where Black romance novels were often placed in a separate section.

Discoverability Challenges in the Digital Age

While bookstores were once the main avenue for readers to discover new books, the rise of social media and platforms like BookTok has shifted the landscape. However, Black authors still face challenges in gaining visibility. Taj McCoy, a romance author and literary agent, highlights the issue of algorithms not working in favor of Black authors. TikTok, for example, tends to amplify the work of white creators, leaving Black authors with less exposure. The focus on viral content also poses a concern for Black authors and authors of color, as their stories may not receive the recognition they deserve.

The Freedom of Self-Publishing

Many Black authors have found creative freedom in self-publishing, allowing them to write stories that center Black characters and experiences. Kennedy Ryan remains a hybrid author, publishing both traditionally and independently. Chencia C. Higgins, a self-published author, emphasizes the importance of writing stories that feel familiar to people who look like them. While self-publishing offers freedom, some Black authors have had positive experiences with traditional publishing, such as Higgins’s collaboration with Harlequin’s Carina Adores imprint.


Despite the challenges they face, Black romance authors are pushing boundaries and expanding the genre. Authors like Vanessa Riley and Tia Williams are bringing diverse perspectives to historical and speculative romance, while editors like Monique Patterson are championing Black authors through new imprints. The support of readers and the emergence of new romance readerships provide hope for the future. As the industry continues to evolve, it is crucial to recognize and uplift the voices of Black authors, ensuring that their stories are given the recognition they deserve.






Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *