National Black Book Festival brings book lovers, authors together

Book lovers across the city will be in literary heaven as the 10th annual National Black Book Festival (NBBF) returns to Houston.

Sponsored by Cushcity.com, the world’s largest African-American online retailer, the event attracts a wide array of authors, publishers, book clubs, libraries and individual readers from the Southwest U.S. and nationwide.

The three-day event will feature dozens of African-American authors from around the country reading from their works in the genres of business, fiction, self-help, poetry, sci-fi, faith and romance. Attendees will have a chance to interact with their favorite writers through Q&A sessions, autograph opportunities and speaking engagements.

Cultural exhibits, seminars, educational booths, book club meet and greets, poetry slams and live musical performances are among the additional attractions, and there are opening receptions, networking breakfasts and power lunches to feed both the body and the mind.

The Defender talked with organizer Gwen Richardson about the event.

Defender: Why did you decide to start the National Black Book Festival?

Gwen Richardson: My husband, Willie, and I already had a bookstore and website, Cushcity.com, which focused on African-American literature, as well as communication with thousands of African-American authors across the country. We thought it would be a good idea to bring dozens of authors to Houston every year and showcase African-American literature.

Defender: What do you hope readers get from the event?

Richardson: We hope readers meet authors they otherwise would never know, gain access to their work, and purchase their books.

Defender: You showcase a lot of new authors. Why is that something that’s important to you?

Richardson: With the book industry changing, making it possible for the average person to self-publish a book, there are thousands of new books published every year. Many of them are published by first-time authors who don’t get exposure or information about the industry. The National Black Book Festival provides the opportunity for them to sell their books, learn and network.

Defender: How have you seen the literary landscape change over the years?

Richardson: There are many changes to the industry over the nearly 20 years since we started Cushcity.com. Digital books are one obvious development, but we’ve also seen some of the power shift away from the large publishing houses. Authors with the ability to self-publish have more control over the process, keep more of their royalties, and have direct access to readers.

Defender: What are your plans to keep up with the changing times?

Richardson: We always have our ears to the ground to know which way the literary winds are blowing. Social media allows us to keep our finger on the pulse of the industry. We have more than 80,000 fans on Facebook and are engaged with them daily promoting African-American literature and learning about their interests. We listen to the people. That’s how we’ve been able to stay around where others have folded their tents.

National Black Book Festival

· FREE

· Oct. 26-28, 2017

· Fallbrook Church, 12512 Walters Road, Houston

· Exhibit Hours: Friday, Oct. 27, 10 a.m.-7 p.m.; Saturday, Oct. 28, 10 a.m.-6 p.m.

· www.nationalblackbookfestival.com for info and author appearance times