Millenia Black writes that the publisher of her second book, The Great Betrayal, is demanding that she change her characters from Caucasian to African-American before they publish the book. The publisher isn’t named, but according to my sources, it’s New American Library Trade Books. We only have Black’s word to go on. But if this is true, then this is abominable on several levels.
Since nobody thought to look into this, I called NAL Signet to see if I could hear its side of the story or what it had to say in response to Black’s charges.
I got in touch with the NAL publicity department first and was then led to another publicist, who suggested I contact the main switchboard. I then got in touch with a woman who worked in “editorial,” but who did not identify herself. I asked her if she could tell me who the editor for The Great Betrayal was because I was trying to verify some information about the title. When she did not, I then told her about Black’s story. She immediately replied, “I don’t know anything. It’s not my book.” Before I can say anything in response, she transferred me to publicity.
I then spoke with a publicist named Lisa, one of the two I had spoken with before. She didn’t have any information on who was handling the book. I then told her what the charges were and, in an effort to get somewhere, I said, “Well, if you’re publicity, then you’re going to have to offer some kind of official response to this. Because I’m sure you’re going to have many people calling you about this.” Lisa told me that she had asked around and said that Black’s allegations were “not true” took down my name and number and wouldn’t reveal the editor’s name to me. But the editor, a woman, would be calling me back.
If I don’t hear back from NAL tomorrow, I will call again. And I’ll call the next day. And the day after that. And I will continue to call until I get an answer from NAL on this. If anyone has any leads or if there’s anyone inside NAL who would like to respond anonymously about this, then you can email me at ed AT edrants.com and I will treat your emails with the strictest confidentiality.
(The lead on this story came from Lee Goldberg.)
[UPDATE: I have also sent emails to Claire Zion, editorial director of NAL Signet, and Tina Brown with some questions. I will keep readers apprised of any information I uncover.]
[UPDATE 2: An anonymous tipster suggests that Millenia Black plans to file a lawsuit for damages. But the story is suspect, because this tipster reports that Black has retained an attorney named Susan Clark, who is not even listed in the New York State Attorney Directory. So I remain dubious.]
[UPDATE 3: Last month, The Palm Beach Post reported that Millenia Black cancelled an appearance at Pyramid Books in Boynton Beach because the bookstore asked if she was black. I plan to call the bookstore to hear its take on this. The question is this: is Black making up charges to gain notoriety or is there truth to her statements? Or is the truth somewhere in between?]
[5/31/06 UPDATE: I spoke with Millenia Black this morning and I have several calls into many parties pertaining to this matter. There is a forthcoming podcast in the works devoted exclusively to this issue, but here’s what I can tell you now:
The Great Betrayal, the novel in question, is being released by NAL Trade on December 5, 2006. The novel will feature the characters as Caucasian, rather than the suggested change to African-American.
Black claims that recent legal maneuvers spawned the book’s release as is. She told me that, outside of the change in race, she had no problems with any of the editor’s changes. (I also finally got through to the editor today and hope to hear her side of the story.)
The Great Betrayal was accepted in outline form with the characters as white. Black then wrote the novel based on this outline. It was just after Black had finished the manuscript when the character race change was requested by her editor.
Communications on this matter between Black and the editor came through her agent. The editor broached the race change question with the agent; the agent then relayed this to Black. Black said no and there began an email volley between Black and the editor. Curiously, the matter was never taken up by phone directly between Black and the editor.
There is a lot more I’m following up on here and I will present the results as they come in.]