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  • [Reality Check] - What Does It Mean to Go Mainstream? by LeTeisha Newton
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[Reality Check] - What Does It Mean to Go Mainstream? by LeTeisha Newton
Contributor
Written by
Zetta Brown
October 2015
Contributor
Written by
Zetta Brown
October 2015

As promised, this week on [REALITY CHECK] is the follow-up post of LeTeisha Newton's "Interracial Writers and the Problems We Face."

If you write about or have a cast of interracial and/or multicultural characters and fear of being typecast or finding yourself on the receiving end of (unwarranted) criticism about your characters and your credentials to write about them, LeTeisha's previous post raises the questions: "What can you do about it?" and "What do you mean by mainstream?"

Read this post and see how LeTisha has found a way to reach a broader audience without limiting herself to genre--or demographic. It's a simple solution, and may be the answer to putting the end to at least some of the angst when it comes to "writing what you know" with regard to your characters.

 

What Does It Mean to Go Mainstream?
By LeTeisha Newton

©2015

Thank you so much, Zetta, for having me here for part two of [REALITY CHECK]! It’s been a blast so far.

Today we are going to continue along the thread of my previous article, talking about interracial writers and the problems they face. For now we want to answer one simple question my previous article raised: What the heck did I mean by going more “mainstream”?

Easy. It means that I don’t have to blast all over the place that I’m writing about POC (people of color) in my books with their obvious Caucasian or other-raced male counterparts.

This doesn’t mean, by far, that I stop writing about interracial characters or their romances. It means I release the stigmas of the genre and go from there. When I sit down to write now, I don’t think about how “black” my heroine needs to be, or how she must interact with the hero in order to get that across. I don’t stress about finding the correct African-American model on my cover, or have to make sure the first tag on Amazon is Interracial/Multicultural. What is my story about? What genre is it in: romance/erotica/etc.? That is what I focus on. Let me give you an example to better explain my meaning.

Currently, I’m working on a large WIP in the Fantasy Realm with diverse characters (as this is an alternate world there is no White, Black, Asian, Italian, whatever). What I have are characters that are different colors, yes, but it isn’t a blatant thing. One of the heroines is a Caucasian, her love interest is a Fallen Angel, the other main heroine is Black/Asian mix with a Caucasian wolf-shifter love interest. Pretty crazy, right? Well, it’s fantasy, in a world full of magick, war, swords, and kings. It’s a place where the theme is staying true to one’s self, no matter the cost, no matter the obstacle, because the Gods favor purity.

Now, when I market the book, my strategy is not necessarily the diversity of my characters. Kavion, the Caucasian lead, is on the designed cover, and the cover fits that genre. My story is an Epic High Fantasy first. I can tag Multicultural later. I market the book from the angle that I and my co-author, Sarah Rodriguez, my cousin, are Women of Color writing in this genre. We are marketing ourselves because, so often in the genre, it is dominated by white males. Do you see the difference yet? My story stands on its own merit, marketed toward a large group of fantasy readers, with the added bonus for those of color looking for characters that look like them to come along for the ride. That is the point of mainstream. I’m not marketing the characters or attempting to satisfy only a niche.

Let’s face it, writing is a business. If you haven’t learned to research what’s hot, the rules of your genre, and the tricks of the trade, all while writing what you love, you’ve missed the boat and need to swim and catch up at mega speed. So, let me see if I can give you some help for those wondering how to go “mainstream.”

1) Pay attention to the story first.

This, and always this, must be the first thing you worry about. Not the color of your characters. Not stereotypes and tropes. The story is what makes you the spinner of dreams, and that, at the end of the day, is what is going to sale you books.

2) Market to your genre

Interracial/Multicultural, while a genre, is technically a portion of the major genre of your books. For example, let’s use erotica, just to do something different (and who doesn’t like a steamy, hot book?). Let’s say I’ve written an Interracial/Multicultural paranormal erotic novel called Dragon’s Lust that has shifters and vampires. This is how I would rank its genre categories:

  • Erotica
    • Paranormal Erotica
      • Shifter Erotica
        • Dragon Shifters
          • Interracial/Multicultural Story

Now, look at that breakdown of Dragon’s Lust, a fictional erotica book. First, it’s  erotica, then a paranormal erotica. After that it’s further broken down into shifter, versus vampire or fantasy creatures, then into what type, and finally into being an interracial/Multicultural story within that.

Some of you may say that you find Interracial/Multicultural sooner in Amazon or other categories, but the truth is, this is how it would break down in algorithm. Do you market it then as a new, hot Paranormal Erotica, which has a much larger niche--or even Shifter Erotica--or do you pigeonhole yourself into a much smaller category?

Think about it.

3) Find ways to tie in the Interracial/Multicultural aspect without it being all about that.

As I’ve said, I would never leave Interracial/Multicultural behind. Look at Avarice Touched, my current Fantasy WIP. I’m obviously staying true to a genre I absolutely love and will always love. But, as with my aforementioned marketing strategy, I’ve found a way to make the book mainstream first, and the Interracial/Multicultural aspect more secondary to broaden awareness and relatability, because, let me tell you, POC are not the only ones reading Interracial/Multicultural!

4) Take the time to realize that sometimes you have to get out of your own way.

Realize that it’s okay to step back and let the story take the stage. That’s what it’s supposed to do, and you aren’t supposed to stop it. Let your story find its way into the hearts of millions because your characters deserve it! You ever try to force a situation on your characters and it just never works for you, no matter how much you write it? That’s a warning that you aren’t staying true to the story. Don’t ignore that warning for the sake of a title, hence why I usually introduce myself as “LeTeisha Newton, International Bestselling Author.” Adding Interracial/Multicultural limits readers into thinking that’s all I do well in, and that’s not the case.

5) Love your readers to the end, and always give them a GREAT story—that’s what keeps them!

Readers are an author’s lifeblood and I love all of mine, bad to good critics. All of them teach me something about myself and my writing. They have helped form my craft to what it is today, and will continue to do so throughout my writing career. A reader knows a good story when they read one because it makes them feel that way. Don’t deny more readers the chance to see your work just because you’ve hidden it within a genre that has been inundated with a ton of less-than-even-good works (we’ve all seen it). Give them a chance to find you where they may not have before. Many retailers let you tag your book as you see fit, so use that wisely and think of where you may fit best. Trust me, your die-hard fans will always find you, and you may have a chance to score some more.

 

Writing professionally since 2008, LeTeisha Newton has spanned from Fantasy to Interracial Romance on her road to getting the jumping characters out of her head. Most days she’s pretty color blind, unless it’s a great shade of red (then she can’t ignore it). Other times she’s plotting her next twenty books and then remembering that the computer can’t read her thoughts and doesn’t type at lightning speed. Either way, she just can’t seem to get enough of quill to paper…or eh…keyboard strokes, apparently.

Website: http://leteishanewton.com/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/LeTeishaNewton
Google+: https://plus.google.com/+LeTeishaNewton/posts
Facebook: http://facebook.com/AuthorLeTeishaNewton
Newsletter: http://eepurl.com/olL9D

 

©2015. Zetta Brown. All Rights Reserved. Zetta is an editor and the author of several published short stories and the erotic romance novel Messalina: Devourer of Men. She provides services through JimandZetta.com.

Got a [REALITY CHECK] about the publishing life to share? If you would like to be a guest on my blog, please friend me on She Writes with a message! :)

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Comments
  • Zetta Brown

    @S. Ramos - Thanks for commenting. I'm going to have to make a new list of books to read! Congratulations on your awards. :)

    One of my WIPs has the female protagonist researching her family tree. She's African American and thinks the trail will take her to one place, but it ends up leading her someplace else and discovering her family tree is more diverse than she ever expected it to be.

  • S. Ramos O\'Briant

    Great strategies and genre labeling always tricky. One of my first short stories was pubbed in Latinos in Lotusland. The editor picked it because my heroine, while Spanish surnamed and from East L.A., wasn't dripping with ethnicity. One of the reasons I wrote an historical novel, The Sandoval Sisters' Secret of Old Blood, which won two awards at the Latino Book awards, was to explore the diversity of ethnicity in my hometown of Santa Fe, NM. The characters spanned the gamut-Spanish, Mexican, Native American, French, and, yes, Anglo. 

  • LeTeisha Newton

    @Sakki you are very welcome!

  • Sakki selznick Publishing

    And thank you, top, Zetta, for hosting this. I always gain something valuable from your blog--today, it's doubly and triply rich.

  • Sakki selznick Publishing

    LaTeisha, your practical information about marketing cuts across genres and racial categories. I am saving this post and will use it when I am (hopefully) published and marketing.

  • LeTeisha Newton

    @Cate

    Thank you do much! If I can help just one person I am happy

  • LeTeisha Newton

    Thank you, Vivienne! It's been a struggle to learn, but I am so happy that I have. It's been an eye-opener, but a good one. Over time, I've learned that being identified with just one group or in one niche can make it hard as an author. It's different than being known for one genre or another. That's still broad enough to give some artistic license. I am happy that you enjoyed the article!

  • Vivienne Diane Neal

    Love this article. I have never been one to pigeonhole myself when it comes to writing stories. As I commented in the previous article, I don't make references to my characters' color or ethnicity. Sometimes readers may think they know the character's background, and that's okay. What I incorporate in my stories are locations, which can be domestic or international, or the character's name may give him or her away, but as long they enjoy reading the stories that is all that matters. Continued success in your writings.

  • LeTeisha Newton

    Thank you for having me!