Literary Life in a Pandemic

A Word from the Publisher 

Six years ago, I was laid off from a job that came with a six-figure salary, 401K, bonuses, health insurance—all of the things my father told me to I needed. What I liked best about the gig is that has allowed me to work in my chosen field, book publishing and self-supporting. I was great at my job—signing authors, editing and managing the publishing process of their books—if the measure wasn’t financial profit for the company. I did sign and manage best-sellers and big money-makers, including Zane, T.D. Jakes, Susan Taylor and Miles Davis. But many of the books on my list were literary works of art that did not deliver the kind of profit margins that corporate publishing demands by amazing writers such as Maryse Conde, V.Y. Mudimbe, Lorene Cary, Jewel Parker Rhodes, Tananarive Due and many more. I worked with scores of authors over a few decades across many genres and categories and earned the respect of my colleagues. But, by 2014, none of that mattered, my individual profit versus loss profile was not a plus for the heads of my place of business. So, they sent me—and another colleague with a similar profile—to the exit door of the company.


My corporate career ended in August 2014, during high vacation season. I was among the few, working in the office that day. I often chose to work during holidays when there were fewer people and things to distract me from the part of the work I liked most, actually working with people ideas and words. My boss was around though and called me into her office for a closed door talk—something that tended either mean good news for me—a raise or promotion—or the opposite. This time it was the latter. What she had to say was that our division of the company was going in a different direction. I knew immediately that I was being fired. Part of me was relieved. I’d been visualizing my exit as a part of my shift into the third act of my working life. The other part of me was pissed because of the way this was going down. I had had conversations with my boss about my desire to shift into an editor-at-large role with the company, downsizing my role in such a way that I could focus on books that fall into my niche and be good business for the company as a bridge to my retirement. She agreed that it was a good idea at the time.


But clearly either she or her superiors had a new idea. But, the only thing new about the direction they wanted to go in the intention to cease their investment in me, an editor who had a track record of delivering a bestseller every now and then, but not nearly enough. Never mind that I represent a demographic among readers and writers—Black people– who are underserved even when we overperform as book authors. Think urban fiction authors such as Shannon Holmes, Vickie Stringer, and Danielle Santiago, as examples—as well as those already mentioned.


Job security has always been an oxymoron to me, in part because I’m Black and female. But, also because I’m literally and figuratively dance to a different drummer than most upwardly and downwardly mobile Americans. To use geography as a metaphor: I’m like Austin, Texas—in an Afropolitan kind of way. I’m weird and I like myself that way. So again, I understand corporate decision-making, but I do disapprove of the fear-based, ass-covering, ism-based, no-home-training way the carry out their human resource decisions. The lay-off gave me the freedom papers I needed to move my life positively forward. But, at the same time. Even with severance pay, shredded the plan I had for my economic security like old receipts.


The arts and letters, writing, publishing, and performance are fundamental to my core belief in the power of storytelling that is the foundation of my life’s work and the source of income that’s afforded me a quality life. I’ve worked hard in these fields, but never saw myself as job-dependent. So, when my corporate job ended, my work continued. I accepted jobs as an independent contractor, writing and editing and established a boutique company called Adero’s Literary Tribe LLC, as a structure for developing literature and books, working with individuals and organizations as a consultant and/or agent. I found a way to continue the work I love so much, my way, not dependent on a job.


Working without management approving my clients and projects and without the demands of being a cog in a machine, I have done some of best work with authors who are experimental and new like Walter Mosley who I consulted in the publication of an art book, revealing him as a self-identified graphomaniac and fine art painter Aaron Henderson who is publishing a book on a series he painted inspired by the African American spirituals tradition. I’ve worked with a diversity of authors: A White American lower eastside New York poet, a Baltimore-based freelance journalist who has written a novel driven by her desire address issues of race; a Black debut novelist who I believe is this generation’s E. Lynn Harris and literary Trinidadian giant Elizabeth Nunez.


I have my dream job minus the six-figure salary and the great health insurance package. The savings, stock, and 401 K benefits I came home with after the lay-off have in the six years is spent. Such that in this season of the Covid pandemic, I am living off of a pension from the company who released me, social security, and earnings from agent commissions, books authored, and editorial clients. I have not been in such a vulnerable place financially since the last event that paralyzed the country: the September 11, 2001 World Trade bombing when I received a payment for work that very day, but not another for another five months, when out of the blue, I was offered an opportunity to ghost write a biography of Zora Neale Hurston and then—in the following month, the last job I would have in corporate publishing, the one who let me go.


So, I trust that I will continue either on the edge of poverty, as I am, or receiving more than I need all the time. In the age of Covid, people not only need to read and write more, multitudes of us have more time to consume the stories and information that drive my life’s work.  And I have work to offer them, first and foremost my latest book, my first for young readers: A Black Woman Did That (Downtown Bookworks 2020). It’s come to market at the best and the worst of times.


If you are so inclined (a phrase often used by publishers when we beg for things), please buy it for yourself and others young and not-so. Consider buying it from an independent bookseller and a Black-owned business would be particularly ideal. There is Sankofa in Washington DC, Uncle Bobby’s in Philadelphia, Eso Won in Los Angeles, Medu in Atlanta. Check to find bookstores in your area and is itself the largest oldest online book seller who puts the needs of Black readers first. Check out Scuppernong in Greensboro, North Carolina, Union Avenue in Knoxville, Tennessee, Parnassus in Nashville, Charis in Atlanta, and so on and so on. But, not as many finely curated shops owned by people who need to make a living and love sharing the words that are books. If you live, like most people, in a book desert, there is Barnes & Noble (newly owned by a British Company) and the 8,000 pound gorilla, Amazon. Any of these sources will help keep writers and publishers sustained in the time of Covid and after. In the Zoom meeting of several hundred publishers in the Black world, everyone was intent on continuing their work, nobody was closing their door.  The success of every book business and author of a book contributes to the bounty of the collective—like free speech is necessary. So, long as we have the opportunity to be free.

–Malaika Adero, publisher

 Writer’s note: every writer needs an editor, particularly if she is one. Homeslice doesn’t have paid staff, so if you see an error feel free to bring it to my attention. Like so many creatives I care about quality in addition to being like E. Badu “sensitive about my [ish].

For more on Adero’s Literary Tribe LLC and me, go to: On the virtual gathering of Black publishers, go to



Literary Agents


McKinnon Literary Agent

Tanya McKinnon, Principal

Carol Taylor, Editorial Director


CCMNT Speakers

Partnering speakers bureau

Principal, Rolisa Tutwyler


Serendipity Literary Agency, LLC

Principal, Regina Brooks


Cherise Fisher

Kelli Martin


Adero’s Literary Tribe, LLC





Black Classic Press

BCP Digital

Principal, Paul Coates


Third World Press

Principal, Haki Madhubuti


Africa World Press

Principal, Kassahaun Checole



No comments yet.

Leave a Reply