Her words completely floored me. “I don’t want a Black man narrating my book.”
“Excuse me?” I balked. She suddenly seemed like some sort of neanderthal. It was 2013! Who thought something like that?!
At the time I co-owned a publishing company. Other editors, writers, investors, and myself had worked to publish over a hundred authors in just over a year. But authors—like this woman—had begun irritating me.
As a first-time author she’d submitted a list of demands. Her book hadn’t sold well, and now she wanted book signings in key New York locations along with reviews in publications that would cost thousands of dollars each. We couldn’t do all of that, but I’d tried something else and actually had luck!
A famous man had agreed to narrate AND PROMOTE her audiobook! But when we actually finished the project—and we’d slated it for release—the author didn’t want a Black man connected with her book??? I had never heard something so idiotic—something so completely infantile….
“I’m terminating your contract,” I immediately told the woman. “You wanted your book to sell so we found a well-known narrator—who kindly agreed to narrate your book—and you’re upset because of what he looks like? I’ll email the details to you, but we will no longer fund this project.”
She screamed, and I hung up. Within the next hour, my editors had talked about the situation and agreed. We would not support an author like that.
As a side note: I’d built an amazing team. They knew how hard we’d work to establish the publishing company, but they also knew we’d reached a critical point. I’d just filed for divorce, and because of my ex’s financial involvement, none of us knew if we’d be able to keep the company going through a split like that—and while I adjusted to being a single mom to four little kids.
So, long story short, the company—my dream—dissolved. I think it actually ended well for everyone. I taught authors how to self-publish, and they even got to keep the rights to their covers and promotion materials.
But as for the famous narrator, he wouldn’t be making anything off the project he’d worked so hard on. And just the idea of that irked me because he’d been so exceedingly kind throughout the whole ordeal.
“How much would you charge for something like this…if you weren’t getting a percentage of the profits?” I asked, and he gave me a number. It was a small fortune to me, but I’d made up my mind.
He had no idea where the money came from—or what I’d just gone through—but as a single mom I worked extra hours. Through two different jobs and over six months, I paid the man what he should have made.
“Why are you doing this?” one of the previous editors asked. “The company went under. I don’t think you need to front the cost.”
“It’s the RIGHT thing to do. He worked hard. He deserves to get paid.” I’d begged him to narrate the book. How could I not pay him after he’d gone out of his way to help me?
I remember making the final payment. It felt so good. That day I’d actually looked up the author—the racist one. She’d self-published her book, which hadn’t sold well. And to think, she’d almost had it narrated by someone who could’ve made it a bestseller….
I thought about all of this today, because we’ve had some pretty astronomical medical bills, and I spent a chunk of yesterday afternoon fighting debilitating pain AND our insurance company. Anyway, I opened my email, only to discover that someone had given us a bit of money—exactly what we need to get by! It was the narrator who I’d worked so hard to pay off while I was a single mom! I read his name about three times…just totally stupefied. Had he seriously given us money? I haven’t heard from him in over seven years! Yet, there it was…a random email and a gift.
Tears literally streamed down my face. I’m not quite sure why it touched me so much, but it did. I can’t believe he’s following my story—or that he even cared enough to help me in my time of need.
I still don’t know how to process this, or why it’s made me feel so completely humbled and just grateful really. I did something for him—simply because it was the RIGHT thing to do! And somehow…it came back around.
This whole experience has brought me to my knees, over and over. The kindness of people—even acquaintances from years ago—it’s truly astounding. As I type this, I can’t help sitting here…still amazed.