“Bulk Fiction”: Atlanta Welcomes Three Black Literary Conferences

By Aileen Dodd Contributing Writer | 7/26/2013, 2:52 p.m.
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“In 2005, I was scouring the Internet looking for events that I could go to as an aspiring writer,” said Hickman of Washington D.C., who is now working on her sixth book, “When Trouble Finds You.”

“I had just finished my manuscript and wanted to communicate with authors and readers. The book conference was everything that I imagined it would be and more. What keeps me coming back is the fact that it is such a fun event. It is the one time of the year that I can communicate with book club readers from across the country.”

Industry experts estimate that there are approximately 100,000 black book clubs nationally. Nearly 98 percent of book club members are women.

“Right now, book clubs are the most powerful entity in publishing,” said Bunn. “Everyone in the book clubs love to read. They download books. They meet once a month to talk about books. If your book becomes a book club sensation, you can get your book in the hands of clubs across the country. Those people tell other people. That’s a lot of sales.”

One of the highlights of the conference will be an evening with author Judy Smith, founder and president of Smith & Co., a strategic crisis communications firm with offices in Washington D.C. and Los Angeles.

Smith will speak at a banquet Saturday evening. She is the inspiration for the character of Olivia Pope, the “fixer” in the hit ABC drama ,”Scandal.” Smith is co-executive producer of the series and the author of a self-help book called, “Good Self, Bad Self.”

“We bring the big names that attract readers, but we also lace the event with self-published authors and others with deals who may be lesser known so they can get the exposure they deserve,” said Bunn. “The beautiful thing about our event is that we have about 35 authors who will come and stay for the whole weekend. They will hang out with readers, sign their books and have a really great time.”

Suzetta Perkins of North Carolina has been traveling to Atlanta for the conference since it was first launched. In 2008, she was a featured author.

“I am there every year,” said Perkins who has written eight books and has a contract with a division of Simon & Schuster. “I have a nice following of folks. My publisher hosts a couple of cocktail parties and has her team of writers with her. Curtis is one of them. It’s a way to keep yourself in front of readers. I make connections that get me invited to go all over the United States attending book club meetings with groups who read my books. I do Skype meetings with them as well.”

Registration for the book club conference is $300 a person. It includes breakfast, a cocktail at the reception, an awards banquet on Saturday and a gift bag with at least three complimentary books, plus other giveaways.

A third cultural event will be held Aug. 2-4 at the Crown Plaza Ravinia. Hank Stewart’s “White Linen Affair”, which is in its 12th year, exposes audiences to urban arts including books, poetry, films, dance and more. It features seminars, performances and social functions at night. Daily passes cost $35. A weekend pass costs $50.

Several visitors coming to Atlanta will spend time at multiple events. Authors Jason Mott and Victoria Christopher Murray are scheduled to appear at both the Chocolate Social and the National Book Club Conference.

Curry, the host of the Chocolate Social also will event-hop.  She said all three are helping authors to succeed.

“I am attending all of the events,” said Curry. “Curtis Bunn was at my event in 2011 and he was a speaker. He is a fabulous writer who can bring out superstars like Walter Mosley to his conference. He has the best literary event in the industry. “