• The Publishing Post

bigblackbooks: The brand-new online platform and publication for Black readers, writers, and authors

Entering 2021 with another national lockdown is not what anyone envisioned. The one thing we have that we didn’t last time, however, is knowledge. We know that the industry can function remotely, and that launching an idea you have had for a while now is possible. In this issue we chat to Jane, the founder of bigblackbooks, who has joined the ranks of those getting things done in 2021.


bigblackbooks is a brand new online platform and publication for Black readers, writers, authors and publishers. The platform spotlights a new genre every month: look out for verse novels, chick lit, memoir, historical fiction and crime, starting with Black love. The publication comes out twice a year and pits emerging writers in conversation with the big voices.

Full disclosure: I’m biracial (Cuban-Luxembourgish), but I’ve always felt far more connected to my Black family and culture. I think it’s really important to point that out because being half-white, biracials assume a gigantic privilege that is not always adequately acknowledged. I don’t know what the Black experience is in the same way as monoracial people, and that’s something that I always keep in mind when working on this project.



Jane explains that loving her Blackness was a huge part of the inspiration behind creating bigblackbooks. Black authors were not at all represented in the books she read growing up, or even during her time studying English in university. Her first-year syllabus only included one non-white author, lazily tacked onto the final week of the semester. “While I have always loved books, they haven’t really loved me in return. All this fooled me into thinking Black people aren’t literary or don’t belong in the book world, which couldn’t be further from the truth,” she says.

While now pursuing an MA in African Literature and specialising in genre classifications, Jane stresses that she doesn't want to ever lose sight of diasporic Black voices. “As a multilingual and multicultural person, I love seeing all the parallels between the writings of Black people all over the world. Determined to never lose sight of that range, I am hoping to read and work with Francophone, Lusophone, Hispanic, Pacific, Asian, and lots of other Black voices too.” Jane’s inspiration for bigblackbooks also stemmed from her admiration for platforms such as Brittle Paper, African Book Addict, The Black Book Blog, James Murua, Literally Black, Book of Cinz, Bad Form, Black & Bookish, and Jalada to name a few. “I am overjoyed to see how many people are already doing this, and I am so happy to join such an inspiring, committed community. As Cassava Republic Press’ incredible Bibi Bakare-Yusuf tweeted recently, ”we need a movement, not a hero.”


Having undergone many different iterations with the final project crystallising this winter, the intention for this project has been in the pipeline for some time. She had initially wanted to create a news platform like The Root, and later began to work on a book blog. However, Jane feels that bigblackbooks reflects the best combination of her interests and personal strengths. She has been very proactive during the planning stage of this project, using free online courses to learn about web design, coding and digital marketing: “Like many other hopefuls, I am hoping that the project will double as an opportunity for upskilling.”


When asked what her goals for the platform and publication were, Jane has said she wants to grow her knowledge and create a strong community, with the hope of doing justice to the beauty of her people’s books around the world. In the long term, Jane dreams of setting up her own publishing house with a similar mission to bigblackbooks. In the short term, we can expect to see interviews, reviews, opinion and reading lists, with the inaugural issue of the publication on the horizon. Although Jane is currently working on bigblackbooks alone, she is hoping to build a team of like-minded people that share her passions. With the inaugural issue of the bi-annual publication scheduled for the near future, she will soon be looking for submissions and hopes to pay writers a small honorarium, both of which you can learn more about on the website.

bigblackbooks is expecting to launch this week, starting with the theme of Black love. Inspired last year’s Jacaranda’s #Twenty2020 festival panel on empowering Black women through romance writing, this month will spotlight debuts like Maame Blue’s Bad Love, as well as Caleb Azumah Nelson’s Open Water to be released in the same week. Jane explains she was a bit apprehensive about launching during America’s Black History Month and stresses this project “isn’t temporary: my project and I are Black all year round!”


While the news of a third national lockdown is disappointing, Jane’s advice to any hopefuls considering launching a project is to “take the leap!” While the pandemic has been devastating, Jane believes that it has also accelerated a lot of things, including the growing awareness of systemic anti-Blackness. “It has catalysed a lot of the changes we need to be making, especially when it comes to representation in the publishing industry. Things have reached boiling point.”


For now, Jane holds out hope for a less anti-Black publishing industry and a post-pandemic world where she can pursue her dream of working for an agency, or an independent publisher in either editorial or rights.


A big thank you to Jane for taking the time to answer our questions!


Twitter: @bigblackbooks


Website: www.bigblackbooks.org



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