Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Smithsonian... Yes!


Okay, it looks like my Smithsonian appearance is back on track. We've rescheduled it for the evening of Mar 21st. The old link to information about it doesn't work anymore and I don't have a new one yet, but I'll add it here when I do. For people who bought tickets before, I certainly hope this new date will work for you. And I hope the weather will be wonderfully spring-like.

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8 Comments:

Blogger Wynn Bexton said...

Hello, this is my first visit to your site (via Gabriele's) I'm intereted in your work, in particular the Pride of Carthage. Sounds fascinating. I'm also a historical fiction writer.

4:23 AM  
Blogger David Anthony Durham said...

Hi Wynn,

Thank you for visiting. I'll pop over and check your sight as well. And if you take a look at Pride of Carthage... Well, thank you, and I hope you like it!

David.

10:06 AM  
Blogger Gabriele C. said...

Hi David, thanks for visiting my blog. I found yours via Scott Oden, and I've ordered Pride of Carthage - I never can resist the combination of battles and Romans, lol.

Your Acacia project sounds interesting, too, I wish you good luck and sales.

1:37 PM  
Blogger David Anthony Durham said...

Gabriele,

Scott's blog seems to be a center for quit a bit of networking. I guess yours is too, though. I've had a blog for a while, but only recently have I started to really get into it, and into responding on other people's sites.

Thank you for ordering Pride of Carthage!

Best,

David.

2:58 PM  
Anonymous Submariner said...

I feel so blessed to have come across your link in Mat Johnson's website. I just ordered the book today and hope to have it read by the the time you come to DC.

Why do you think Pride of Carthage was never reviewed in certain high profile publications? The subject is certainly compelling and at over 500 pages, the breadth of your treatment warrants serious examination. But I never saw or heard it mentioned on C-SPAN BookTV, NPR, Harper's, History Book Club, the Economist or the NY Times. I have to admit that I'm just a general reader and not part of the academy or literary elite. Most of the books I read are those that get some kind of review in the outlets mentioned or win a major literary prize. My gut tells me that the main reason for this oversight is that if a black author writes about about a topic that does not overtly touch upon race or gives rigorous scholarly analysis of a racial topic that can be perceived as favoring radical, liberal or leftist sentiments then the book is more likely to be marginalized by the mainstream. I'm curious to know what you think.

By the way, the cover for Acacia is hot and the political storyline is captivating. I can't wait for it to come out. Best of luck from your newest fan.

9:34 PM  
Blogger David Anthony Durham said...

Submariner,

Hey. Glad you found my work and thank you for dropping in. Mat Johnson has a great blog, doesn't he? I've connected to other people/writers through it myself.

As to your question... Well, I'd start by saying that it's easy to miss writers even when you are keeping an eye out. I check reviews everyday, but still get surprised regularly by discovering writers later on that I can't imagine how I missed in the first place. I'm thinking that's the case here, to.

I certainly didn't get reviews everywhere, but all three of my novels have been reviewed in the NYTimes, The Washingon Post, San Francisco Chronicle. And various ones have been reviewed on NPR by Alan Cheuse, on the Tavis Smiley show, in USA Today, The New Yorker, Christian Science Monitor, Newsday, etc. Both Gabriel's Story and Walk Through Darkness were NY Times Notable books, and on best of the year list from the SF Chronicle LA Times... Walk Through Darkness was a Wall Street Journal pick for the summer it came out...

All these reviews are out there in the cyber-world, by the way. So, really, I can't complain. Many writers would cut off fingers or consider selling children in exchange for some of the review attention I've gotten. BUT, it's still easy to get missed.

The thing is, reviews have a short life. Here today, gone tomorrow. If there are areas I feel slighted it more has to do with marginalization in the retail sector. For example, Gabriel's Story did fairly well in terms of sales for a literary novel. I would have expected stores to stock my next one in comparable numbers - or maybe put a few more out there. But Walk Through Darkness was a literary novel about slavery, written by a black writer. There's only room for about one of those a decade. So it was bought in smaller numbers than my debut, and many chains - if they stocked it - never put it in the front of the store with other new releases. It went directly into the stacks, into the African-American literature section. This, despite the fact that the book received plenty of glowing reviews.

When Pride of Carthage came around my publisher put a lot of effort into explaining to the bookstores that it was not just a "black" book and that it should stacked with other new releases and with the general fiction. That happened, but it took some effort.
And hopefully it'll happen in an even bigger way with Acacia.

So, I want to strike a balance. On one hand there are many ways that race has effected my career; on the other hand I've published four books with a major publisher, have the fifth under contract, and my novels are being published in eight foreign languages. I have to acknowledge that I have it pretty good at 37 years of age, and the foundation is firm enough that I'm aiming high for the future.

Anyway, thanks for the question. I hope you enjoy the book, and maybe I'll see you in March!

David.

3:40 PM  
Blogger Scott Oden said...

Many writers would cut off fingers or consider selling children in exchange for some of the review attention I've gotten.

There's no 'consider' to it; I'd be first in line to hack off any non-necessary digits ;)

What kind of marketing push did your publisher do for Pride of Carthage? Where I am (North Alabama), it was prominently displayed on the front tables of my local Barnes and Noble for several weeks; later, when the trade paperback came out, you were on an endcap with other similarly-themed books (especially about Alexander). I can only imagine it was the same across the country.

Here's a curious observation: I had no idea of your ethnicity until long after I'd read Pride of Carthage. To me, Carthage wasn't (and isn't) a "black book" or a "white book", it was simply an excellent book.

I'm looking forward to Acacia, too!

4:11 PM  
Blogger David Anthony Durham said...

Scott,

At least it's only the non-necessary digits you're willing to loose!

Doubleday had a solid promotional push for Pride of Carthage. I think they've become a pretty prudent company, so I don't feel like it was a bells and whistles style of promotional plan. (I'm often surprised at what some other publishers do - and the money they must spend - on books that I'm sure don't earn out on the investment.)

I do think that Dday did a great job of working with the big chains to get the book prominent placement. I don't exactly know how all that works, but certainly the decision to put books on display is a financial one. Those tables in the aisle of B&N are high rent districts, and the stores know that the publishers will pay (in some form or another) to get their books on them.

I had a national tour. Not a big one, but enough to keep me busy for a several weeks. And Dday placed some prominent aids in places like the NYTimes.

I think they also work in a lot of ways I can't see, like just making sure particular titles stay fresh in the minds of the right people. The paperback edition of was Pride in the "Paperback Row" section of the NYTimes Book Review for two weeks. That's clearly an editorial decision on the part of the Times, but I imagine they're a lot more likely to remember a book if a publisher has people making sure they remember it.

Nice to hear that the display in Alabama was good. I don't think everywhere was that prominent, but, again, there's proof that I have a lot to be pleased about in terms of my publishing position.

I am, of course, very pleased that the book worked for you without any labels attached. That's exactly what I want for it to do, even as I also hope that it speaks to different audiences in different ways based on what they bring to it or what they're looking for within it.

And thanks about Acacia! I'm excited, and oh so curious as to what sort of life it'll make for itself.

David.

7:24 PM  

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