All Articles Tagged "publishing industry"

New Doc Takes An Inside Look At Black Authors And The Publishing World

April 18th, 2013 - By Ann Brown
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Director, producer, and author, C. Mikki. (via Twitter)

Director, producer, and author, C. Mikki. (via Twitter)

The new documentary Black And Write takes an inside look at black literary circles. Directed by C. Mikki and produced with help from Indiegogo, the film examines the world of black authors and the publishing industry. The film travels from the age of former Frederick Douglass’ famous narrative on slavery to feminist writer bell hooks and Toni Morrison.

Southern Gurl Productions is creating a documentary that offers a behind-the-scenes view of an American-based writers’ conference that has helped shape several best-selling authors and added their voices to the Black literary giants who made an indelible impression on us all,” reports

According to the filmmakers, they have filmed all over the country, including New Orleans, Austin and Fort Lauderdale, in all amassing more than 50 hours of footage from the Black Writers Reunion & Conference (whose next event in is August). When completed, it will be a feature length film running 70 to 90 minutes. The film is budgeted at $25,000-$50,000 and the filmmakers are seeking to acquire the larger funding. 

Southern Gurl Producations looks to release the film by December 12, 2013.

We’ve been paying attention to the publishing industry this month. Click here to check out our latest features about blacks and the publishing industry.



The Business of Black Book Clubs

December 26th, 2012 - By Nana Ekua Brew-Hammond
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Over the last 20 years, the channels for discovering new books, especially books by first-time and emerging authors, have shrunk or disappeared. Newspapers and magazines dedicate mere slivers of arts sections to book reviews — if at all. Those papers like the New York Times that do devote more space to book coverage rarely review debut authors. Likewise, bookstores prefer to invite already established, bestselling, or celebrity writers to do readings and signings. That leaves Oprah — and the Queen of Talk has endorsed only 72 books since she started her eponymous book club in 1996, including the two she has recommended since her 2.0 reboot.

It’s even more difficult for black authors — new and established — to get their books on readers’ radars. As it is, African-American interest books receive a mere fraction of the coverage noted above, and with the closing of more than 100 black-owned independent bookstores in the last 15 years, as well as the shuttering of Black Issues Book Review there are even fewer places for black authors’ work to gain visibility. Mosaic, African Voices, and the new Spook can only review so much.

“The last [issue of] Essence covered the same book Oprah covered,” observed Troy Johnson, founder of the African-American Literature Book Club better known as

In this landscape, black book clubs offer authors a valuable — albeit extremely competitive —promotion and sales channel. “[Book clubs] have advanced far beyond the small get-togethers in someone’s living room,” says Carol Mackey, editor-in-chief of direct-to-consumer book club Black Expressions.

In keeping with the tradition of African-American book clubs that dates back to the 1820s, many are highly-structured reading societies. The book club model has also evolved to leverage the internet as a promotional vehicle similar to AALBC. Of course, writers and publishers are eager to get their books on the lists of both traditional and 2.0 clubs.

For his part, Johnson says he is deluged daily by emails from authors vying for a review. “It’s like a fire hose,” he says of the volume of author requests. “They all feel like their book is the best book, ‘You really need to read it’; and it’s hard for them to understand it’s impossible for me to read every book request that I get.” He says even when he can read the author’s book, the review may not be free.

“Unfortunately, for a self-published author, the main way they get reviewed is if they pay for the commissioned service. And, you know, sometimes, the review is not favorable.” Johnson offers a range of paid services including ads and manuscript editing via, and says some bestselling black authors even pay out of pocket for ad placements on his site to maximize their exposure to readers.

Authors hoping for free exposure must work to get on the radar of a more traditional book club like Go On Girl!, one of the largest black book clubs in the country. Every month, its 300 members meet in 31 chapters in 13 cities to read the same book. But getting on their reading list is not easy.

“The books are actually selected by a committee,” explains Lynda Johnson who co-founded Go On Girl!, also known as GOG, in 1991. “[There] is a Reading List Chair, and she oversees the selection of the books with members of the organization.” GOG holds a selection meeting twice a year with strict adherence to the club’s founding principle of a genre-diverse reading list.

“We’ll read social commentary. We will read historical. We will read a classic. We search out new authors.” Johnson says they whittle the final list from a large volume of recommendations by traditional publishers as well as self-published authors, and work with online bookseller Mahogany Books to offer members discounts on selected titles.

Smaller book clubs like Sistah Friend, which has 35 members across three branches in South Carolina, Atlanta, and online, are also valuable. Though founder Tasha Martin allows each of the three branches of her club to choose the book they will read each month to keep the reading list diverse, authors and publishers still have the opportunity to sell their books to multiple readers at once. “[In] January which is our anniversary month,” Martin shares, “I select the book of the month [for all three branches].”

How She Built It: Wayetu Moore, Publisher & CEO of One Moore Book

March 16th, 2012 - By Sakita Holley
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Wayetu Moore, founder of One Moore Book

Wayetu Moore shows off her books. (Credit: Wayetu Moore)

Wayetu Moore has always been curious about how and why things are the way they are. At age 8, she was so fascinated with the financial and social benefits of product/service trading that she began to sell candy in school as an experiment, not knowing that the experience would kickstart a lifelong pursuit of entrepreneurial ventures.

Now, at 26, Wayetu is the founder and chief executive of One Moore Book, a one-year-old publishing house that develops and distributes books for children in countries with low literacy rates and underrepresented cultures.

Keep reading to learn how she built it.

MN: Launching a business is hard work. Who or what was your inspiration?

WM: My parents are the two most inspiring people I know—both individually and as a team. They are both so selfless but also understand how important their lives and legacies are to the people around them. They have such an inspiring love story and are such brilliant and rare people.

MN: Do you have any business partners and/or employees?

WM: My 4 siblings and I are business partners. They were the first ones I asked to join in this venture. They make up the creative team and assist in writing and illustrating our books. In total, there are 7 employees.

MN: At a time when the print industry is being called an antiquated form of media…you decided to launch a publishing house. Why not just go 100 percent digital?

WM: If I were publishing young adult or adult books, I may have considered that, but I don’t see children’s books or the children’s book publishing industry becoming completely digital any time soon.

New parents and parents of elementary-aged children enjoy the tradition of filling their child’s library with stories they will remember. Children’s books are an opportunity for parents to interact with their children, and to physically chronicle their child’s growth.  Also as a writer, I appreciate the emotional and psychological value of holding a book.

MN: How does One Moore Book make money? One Moore Book sells and distributes children’s books. We also partner with non-profit organizations to create culturally sensitive literature for their programs.

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Barnes & Noble Chair Personally Finances African Author

September 19th, 2011 - By TheEditor
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(New York Times) — It is trickier than ever for an author to persuade a publisher to finance a traditional book tour. Brick-and-mortar bookstores are decreasing, travel is expensive, and money for marketing and promotion is increasingly being spent online.  So it is striking that Leymah Gbowee, a relatively unknown author of a memoir describing her life as a peace activist in war-torn Liberia, has just embarked on an eight-city tour to promote her book, “Mighty Be Our Powers,” which was released by the tiny Beast Books on Tuesday. The tour is possible because Ms. Gbowee has wrangled an unusual sponsor: Leonard Riggio, the chairman of Barnes & Noble, who is personally covering the costs.

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Expensive E-Books Keeping Standard Tomes in Print

September 12th, 2011 - By TheEditor
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(Wall Street Journal) — Even as readers grow more comfortable with digital books, some continue to question why so many of the most popular new e-books are priced so high.  Michael Connelly’s recent legal thriller, “The Fifth Witness,” has more one-star reviews on Amazon than five-star reviews in part because some angry reviewers focused on the e-book’s $14.99 price.  As physical book sales fall, publishers’ fixed costs are becoming more cumbersome. One area major publishers can cushion the blow is by keeping e-book prices higher. “If e-book prices land at 99 cents in the future we’re not going to be in good shape,” said one New York publishing executive, who asked not to be identified.  Indeed, e-book prices on many new national best sellers are higher today than they were at the start of last year. That’s because the six major publishers have adopted a new pricing model, known as “agency pricing,” championed by Apple Inc. Publishers, worried about the deeply discounted $9.99 digital best-sellers promoted by Inc., agreed to set the consumer prices of their digital titles. Under this model, retailers act as the agent for each sale and take 30%, returning 70% to the publisher.

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Publishing Industry Pushing in New Direction

August 29th, 2011 - By TheEditor
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(Wall Street Journal) — The economics of the book business are changing so rapidly the industry barely looks like it did just six months ago.  The era of the book superstores, with their big windows and welcoming tables stacked high with books, has gone into decline. Many of the country’s most enthusiastic readers have already switched to less-costly digital books. Amazon customers now buy more Kindle titles than hardcovers and paperbacks.  Divining the profitability of a book is a mysterious art. But basic book economics suggest an e-book is more profitable than a hardcover, even at substantially lower consumer prices, due mostly to the inventory and return costs associated with physical books.  At least 80% of all books purchased are still physical copies, however, which means that publishers must still pay legacy costs at the same time as building their e-book business.

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Magazines Having Trouble Making Money

August 10th, 2011 - By TheEditor
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(Wall Street Journal) — Newsstand sales of consumer magazines declined 9.2% in the first half of the year, as double-digit drops at several celebrity titles dragged down an industry in which losses had been moderating from their punishing lows in 2008 and 2009, according to the latest figures from the Audit Bureau of Circulations.  Total circulation, which includes paid subscriptions and free copies as well as newsstand sales, was down 1.3% for the latest period, according to the data, which cover the six months ended June 30 for 418 magazines.

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Street Lit Debate: Does Urban Fiction Undermine the Black Canon?

July 26th, 2011 - By TheEditor
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Urban Fiction: The Street Lit Debate“Representing the race” remains a prickly issue in black literature

By Nana Ekua Brew-Hammond

In the 40-plus years since Robert “Iceberg Slim” Beck released Pimp, the audience for so-called “street literature” has remained faithful to the genre, making bestsellers of Beck’s contemporaries and successors like Donald Goines, Omar Tyree, Teri Woods, and more recently Sister Souljah. But in 2008, after penning 16 novels, Tyree dramatically retired from the genre via a blog post.

“I’m done with writing all urban fiction,” he wrote, lamenting what he said was the “[urban audience’s] love for grit, crime, sex, broken hearts, drama, and other bullshit.” Calling his own work “urban classics,” Tyree juxtaposed street lit against what he termed “responsible lit.”

This debate rages on in the field of black publishing today. Toni Morrison, Alice Walker, and James Baldwin represent the African-American literary canon with their musings on race, feminism, and sexuality, while so-called “Street Lit” continues to occupy a controversial, but commercially successful spot in the hearts of African-Americans. Though most of us fall somewhere in the middle in reading preferences, the anxiety commonly felt about this contrast is not so much about the poles themselves, but distress over being defined solely by “low culture.” Centuries of being stereotyped will do that to a people.

Leading authors in this field see this struggle between telling gritty tales and promoting laudable writing as more complicated than judging street lit as all bad — or good.

Torrey Maldonado, author of Secret Saturdays does not appreciate the distinction of this label at all. “I’ve heard people call [the genre] ‘street lit’ and it kind of discredits the type of literature that it is,” he told The Atlanta Post. Maldonado, whose book is set in Brooklyn’s Red Hook Housing Projects, adds: “Although Secret Saturdays is set in an urban environment, it deals with universal themes… You can’t say because a black boy is on the cover of the book, that this book is only for black people.”

But that’s exactly what many people assume, says author David L who does not publish under his full name because he wants to keep his identity as an author separate from his role as head of the company Total Package Publications. “That’s one of the reasons I don’t even put my picture on the back of my book,” L explains. “I want to be known for the type of fiction I write, not because I’m an African-American author who wrote about a specific subject matter.”

Oprah's Greatest Hits: 10 Careers and Companies That Flourished Because of Lady O

May 25th, 2011 - By TheEditor
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By Alexis Garrett Stodghill

Oprah Winfrey used her eponymous television show to influence millions beyond the scope of a typical broadcasting career.  Over 25 years she has expanded industries, promoted individuals to levels of unheard of prosperity and driven corporate sales with a steady drumbeat of her favorites. Today The Atlanta Post takes a look at some of the personalities and companies that have benefitted from Oprah’s magic touch.


President Obama

President Obama’s career received a significant boost when he was introduced to Oprah Winfrey through his then-mentor, Valerie Jarrett. While Oprah kept her open support of the president at a low level while he was campaigning, her behind-the-scenes promotion was crucial to connecting him to fundraising power-players and celebrity endorsers. Would Barack Obama have becomeAmerica’s first black president without Winfrey’s influence?  Let’s say this: it would have been harder.

Wahida Clark Talks On Launching Her Writing Career and Publishing Company

April 22nd, 2011 - By TheEditor
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"wahida clark"

By Sheryl Nance-Nash

Inspiration can come from any where – even from behind prison walls. In 2003, Wahida Clark began writing fiction while serving a 10 and a half year sentence for money laundering, mail fraud and wire fraud at the federal prison camp in Lexington, KY. By the time she was released in 2007, she had written the first three novels of the “Thug Love Series.” Next week, she releases “Justify My Thug,” the fifth novel in her dramatic and erotic collection.

The New York Times and Essence magazine bestselling author entertains with tales of four girlfriends addicted to the fast-paced life of money, crime and danger, while also suffering the consequences that come along with falling in love with the hood’s most notorious thugs.

Clark, who grew up in the tough world of Trenton, NJ, traded in her street-savvy for business acumen. Her company, Wahida Clark Presents Publishing, established just four years ago, currently has 11 titles in stores and is home to more than 10 authors. The company is approaching $1 million in sales.

We spoke to Clark about her growth, trials and successes.

What motivated you to start writing?

I needed to write. I had just begun serving my 10 year prison sentence. I worked in the law library in prison. I was surrounded by books. I read about someone who was locked up and wrote a book. I started visualizing my name on the spine of a book. I knew I had to build a foundation for my future, and though I had written before, I had no [formal training in] writing. I got the revelation to write.

And write you did. You wrote five books while in prison. How did you stay focused?

My characters. They always have unfinished business. There’s more to tell. I am motivated by my huge base of fans to keep writing because they are looking for more…and of course I have a contract.

How is it that as soon as you got out of prison you were able to launch Wahida Clark Presents Publishing?

I was always entrepreneurial. Before, I had a landscaping business; I sold long distance services and had a small publishing business.