Ratchet INK

Disclaimer: By no means am I criticizing  for the sake of it or calling out anyone in particular. These are just my observations and opinion.  However, if you are offended by my views don’t take it personal because it is not my intent to bash.

On my Facebook feed this week, the theme seemed to be the presence of trifling titles and tasteless covers in Urban Lit.  I couldn’t turn around without seeing a status about some low budget and base title or a cover that leaves nothing to the imagination and devalues the words between the front and back covers.  In Urban Lit, it is nothing to see the grit and rawness of the streets, because anything less would  water things down a bit .

However, when there’s a “bitchapalooza”  (ie hoards of books with “bitch” in the title after it’s been done before), covers with images that would put porn mags to shame festering on the wall of African-American and Urban lit like  kudzu, it’s beginning to become a problem with  some readers. I have heard thoughts like this:

It (The book) might be a good story but I’m at the point where I can’t look beyond the title anymore”

“Using profanity in their titles and pretty much X Rated pictures on the covers. Deal Breaker. Turn Off.”

“Just because a story is based on ghetto reality, the title doesn’t have to be ghetto. With some books, you can tell it’s ghetto as hell just by the title. It’ shouldn’t be that way.”

The irony in all of this is the complaints by some about Urban Lit not being taken seriously. The titles and the covers  are only two  of the reasons why the genre is being vilified.  I get that the author wants to appeal to their demographic  and wants to sell, but I really believe that it could be done without the  outrageous titles, covers and fonts. I go as far as to say that watching what you put on your covers should be mandatory. Before you look at me with a skeptical eye, picture this:

A reader strolls into Barnes And Noble, really thristy for a great novel. He or She searches endlessly for that little section in the store reserved for black authors in the corner. The store lumped them all together because if we “look” alike, we may “write” alike, but I digress. The eager reader sees  tastefully done covers on the shelves such as   Treasure Blue’s ” Fly Betty”, Terry McMillan’s “Who Asked You?“,   Jason Mott’s “The Returned” or even  Zane’s “Afterburn” or  Walter Mosley’s “Debbie Doesn’t Do It Anymore”  next to your “ Hand Me Down Bitches part 3″, “Shame On You, Bitch 2” or “My Baby  Daddy May Be Shit But He’s My Lump of Shit and I love Him“. What would they think? I’m willing to bet you that  they’ll either scrunch their face and frown  and frown before moving on and away. If it isn’t that,  they’d probably  pickup the book  and laugh at the title before putting it back on the shelf  and going on facebook to tell  their friends about the tomfoolery  that they found in the store. Either way,  you lost a customer and a potential fan with those covers and titles.            ratchet

For some, maybe your aim isn’t Barnes and Noble. However, the same principle applies on Amazon. The covers and titles will still turn them off.

If some of these readers see it, you better believe that some authors are paying attention as well. I believe that while a huge percentage of authors are serious in their titles, there are some that wrote a story and came up with such a crazy title and cover just to see if it would sale or get a bunch of reviews.  Sadly, they get the pop of attention  and the reviews to go with it sometimes.  Even if an author get the reviews and the acclaim from that experiment or even those who are serious about the titles, the billion dollar question of the hour is “will they keep the readers coming back in the long run?”

Readers! I would love to hear more from you. What kind of titles and covers appeal to you generally?

Authors! I’m not leaving you out either.  Why the graphic titles and covers in the first place? Is it preference or is it profit that’s driving you to put them out there or both?

About the author


Jannelle is the author of “Wild Cards”  “Thirst”, “Thirst II”, and “Love’s Hangover” and is  a fresh voice in African-American fiction, spending time on Amazon’s Hot New Releases list for two of her four titles. She’s also a freelance journalist.  Her DC Bookdiva Debut, “Uppity” will be released in November, and is available for  pre order now.

Twitter: @jannelle12
Instagram: writerdiva

3 thoughts on “Ratchet INK”

  1. I am one of those readers who have long got over the Bitch series. If I wanted to revisit it I would continue to read Deja King who happens to be the best that ever did it. However, I recently read a book with Ratchet and Bitch in the title and surprisingly it was a very good read and didn’t need the shock factor at all. Why did I buy it you ask? It was free. I would read from this author again. However, I hope she has grown in her title choice since her first two. I must say as avid reader who has been reading since the Danielle Steele days it disappoints me that we as a people can’t be more creative. I still give my props to the many new talents we have to choose from now days but those of us who have been reading since junior high and high school are really tired of the inappropriate covers and books. IJS

  2. It’s a case of monkey see, monkey do. There are more “opportunists” than there are writers who love and respect literature. To them, it’s a get rich quick scheme, and there is a plethora of ratchet readers that condone foolishness. “I’ll do anything for my favorite author” the reader says and it is done. They could care less about the next author, the future of the genre, and anything beyond the bandwagon readers hopping along for the ride. When it’s all said and done, these writers are only hurting their own brand. So keep up the bad work, it will catch up to you in the long run. The hare always tires themselves out and the tortoise will continue to produce quality products that will last for years.

  3. As an author, I get sick of hearing people complain about urban lit. The most common complaint is all the stories are the same. Well guess what? I travel often , up north and down south , and it seems to me that people are doing the same things in the streets. Point being, when our shared experiences change, then our stories will change. Also, I worked in a library for a number of years and THE most popular books were Westerns by Louis L’Amour. Not only were the stories all the same, the covers were crass and sexist. Yet no one complained. I say we support our genre and let the readers incite change.

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