• The Publishing Post

Bigblackbooks: A platform and publication for writers and authors of Black and African descent

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 literary platform and publication for writers and authors of Black and African descent. On the main page, it will focus on a different genre every month: look out for novels-in-verse, chicklit, Afrofuturism, mass incarceration, literary crime, starting with Black love. With this focus on Black and African heritage Jane states:

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 where 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 and African-descended voices. “As a multilingual, third-culture kid, I love seeing all the parallels between the writings of black people all over the world. Determined to never lose sight of that range and diversity, 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’s 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 project were, Jane has said she wants to read and connect with more Black authors and writers, with the hope of doing justice to the beauty and diversity of Black and African-descended authors worldwide. 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, newsletters, and op-eds, with a book club and readathon on the horizon. Although Jane is currently working on the project alone, she is hoping to build a team of like-minded people that share her passions. Jane is always looking to review, interview and feature Black and African-descended writers, authors, and publishers. With a bi-annual, multi-genre literary magazine scheduled for August, she is actively looking for submissions and will be paying 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 (well, half) 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 racism because people are finally choosing to see the material effects of it. “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 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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