All Articles Tagged "publishing"
A recent article in The Grio discussed the hurdles that writers of color face trying to get deals from mainstream publishing’s Big Six: Hachette Book Group, Harper Collins, Macmillan, Penguin Group, Random House and Simon & Schuster. Best-selling writing duo Virginia DeBerry and Donna Grant declared that their writing careers are on hold due to a variety of issues, including the lack of deals.
So we asked a a couple of writers their opinion on the situation.
“There is the lack of pipeline of people, the absence of a backbench in publishing, because there are not enough new editors from varied backgrounds entering the business. There is a generational problem in publishing; editorial committees green light most projects, but young editors are often outvoted,” notes writer and novelist Pearl Duncan, author of Water Dancing.
She says she has been affected by this directly. “Twice, I had two different young editors at two major book publishers get so excited about a query for my book about African American DNA and ancestry, from the perspective of my ancestors in colonial American and the Caribbean, in medieval Africa and Europe, they responded in 24 hours. But when they took the proposal to the editorial committee, they were overruled by more senior editors. Both were white,” she reveals.
Due to the absence of diversity within the publishing firms many editors don’t understand or appreciate books that focus on the African-American experience. In fact, Duncan was once asked to change the angle of her book about her ancestors because American readers think of African-American ancestors as “victims and will not accept [a] portrayal of them as heroes.” The ancestors Duncan had written about where Maroons who rebelled against slavery on ships and on land, as well as a Scottish ancestor who was an abolitionist.
Because of this attitude in the industry, Duncan has changed her own strategy, hiring a new agent who deals with the editors, leaving Duncan free to concentrate on research and writing.
D Hunter, author of The Game Of Life, feels that if African Americans supported black writers by buying their books, the publishing houses would take note. “Black people need to pull together and start supporting one another more. I feel the big publishers are looking for money, regardless of your color or creed. And if we do not help one another, how can we expect anybody else to? We as black people have had to pave our own way for years against our oppressors and against all odds, so this is not a new hurdle for us,” says Hunter.
Hunter also thinks more blacks should enter the industry and start their own publishing companies. “It is all about presentation and unity. Without that, we are lost to our own devices, complaining when we should be applying ourselves to start our own and move forward,” he points out. “We [should] not look at what others do, but what we can do. There are big names in urban lit, but it was the route they took, the decisions they made along the way, hard efforts, and their writing abilities that put them there.”
Book publishing still relays on in some part who you know. Some literary agents will only take on new writers if they were referred by a current client. This too can be a major obstacle for African-American writers. Says Duncan, “There is no American Idol, The Voice, or X Factor for writers.”
When author Victoria Christopher Murray received her first NAACP Image Award nomination for Outstanding Literary Work, Fiction, in 2001, she was beyond surprised. The nod was for her debut novel Temptation, and she was up against stiff competition in the likes of bestseller list mainstays Terry McMillan and Eric Jerome Dickey.
“It was huge,” Murray said. “I was literally standing at the door shaking, waiting on my husband to come home so I could tell him.”
She didn’t take home the prize that year, but following an official announcement by the NAACP on December 11, Murray now has a second nomination for her book Destiny’s Divas – albeit in a literary landscape that hardly resembles the one she first encountered 11 years ago. The presentation of the NAACP Image Awards will air on NBC on Friday, February 1 at 8pm, the first day of Black History Month.
The bankruptcy and subsequent closing of Borders bookstores, plus the growing popularity of e-books, and the ease with which self-published authors can take to the web and sell their writing to the masses (often for as little as $.99) has had a tsunami-like impact on the industry. Reports lamenting the death of traditional book publishing are likely false – or severely premature, at least – but make no mistake: the game ain’t the same.
Murray has certainly noticed the strain on her books’ sales, but regardless, she has exhibited a level of sustainability that is rare in any corner of the entertainment world. She’s been continuously signed to a major publishing house since Temptation, with a total of 16 novels under her belt – even as many of her contemporaries have failed to receive new contracts.
“I believe I was put on this earth to do this,” said Murray of her writing career. “It gets very hard, but I know that God has it all under control.”
She may be confident and secure in her career choice now, but Murray’s road to literary success was a long and winding one. She worked in financial services for ten years before deciding to focus on her writing full-time in 1997, a luxury she was afforded through a sizeable bank account. Together, she and her husband invested $50,000 of their own cash to publish Temptation, a contemporary tale of love and friendship, complete with sex, scandal and, notably, Jesus.
Mike Tyson just keeps on doing it.
The former heavyweight boxing champion, reality TV star (Taking on Tyson) and movie actor (The Hangover franchise) can now add author to his resume. Tyson’s memoir, Undisputed Truth, will be published next summer by Blue Rider Press. Of course, the book will also chronicle Tyson’s tougher times, including the loss of his $400 million fortune and his trip to prison for rape. He’s collaborating with another writer, Larry “Ratso” Sloman, who worked with Howard Stern on his book Private Parts.
It’s also worth mentioning that Tyson has just launched a nonprofit organization, Mike Tyson Cares, which helps at-risk kids.
This is really an epic comeback. Will you be reading this book?
by Andrea Williams
By numerous reported accounts, the average dress size of American women is a size 14 and, according to a 2011 Gallup Poll, the self-reported weight of women is up 20 pounds from 1990. But despite greater numbers of larger waistlines, there are still segments of American business and society that seemingly turn a blind eye to the unique needs of full-figured women – including the bridal industry.
Enter Shafonne Myers, founder and owner of Pretty Pear Brides Magazine, the online and print source of “bridal inspiration for plus-sized brides.”
Myers fell in love with all things matrimony as a wedding and event planner when she began coordinating events while studying biology at Mary Baldwin College in Virginia. Though a full-time career in event planning beckoned after her 2001 graduation, she took the “safe” route and went to work in medicine.
It was until Myers planned her own 2004 wedding to her high school sweetheart that she decided to start her own business, with a blog thrown in for good measure. But despite the success of her site, the wedding blog market was becoming more and more saturated, leaving Myers in search of a niche.
“I was a plus-sized bride, so I knew the trials and tribulations that a plus-sized bridge goes through from personal experience,” Myers says. She soon discovered that many of her clients were sharing the same struggles and, in February 2011, the Pretty Pear Brides website was born.
So how did Myers transition from blog to full-blown magazine? She credits a close-knit group of friends that encouraged her to push well beyond her comfort zone. “I have four or five girlfriends that I talk to at least three times a week,” she says. “I didn’t have any publishing experience, but they kept telling me that I could do it.”
What Myers lacks in experience, she makes up for with first-hand knowledge of the subject area and a true commitment to bringing awareness to the plus-sized bridal market. Pretty Pear Brides is full of candid talk about body image and the full-figured experience – a welcome sight for other women who can relate to Myers’ similar story.
Aliya S. King is and has been a major player in the publishing industry for years. Known in the magazine world as someone who “isn’t new to this, but true to this;” as a freelance journalist, King has managed to land positions and bylines in publications including VIBE, The Source, Essence, US Weekly, Upscale and others. As co-author of two memoirs, Faith Evans’ Keep the Faith and Frank Lucas’ Original Gangster— in accordance with book and magazine writing genres, she’s written it all.
In February King released Diamond Life, the sequel to her urban fiction novel debut Platinum. Read on to learn what she had to say about the business of freelance journalism, transitioning to book publishing and the logistics in-between.
The Never-ending Hustle
You’re always pretty busy. What do your days consist of now that you’re just coming off of a book release?
I’ve been doing a lot of publicity for the book. I’m working on an investigative story for VIBE right now. That’s been taking up a lot of my time. I’m also trying to figure out what the next novel is going to be, which is kind of nerve-racking. I’ve always thought, ‘What if this book is the last one.’ I’m always kind of scared. I can’t speak for other writers or authors, but I never take anything for granted. I’m always hustling like I just started.
Do you mean in terms of coming up with new material or the way things play out in book publishing?
In terms of the publishing industry. I don’t know for sure that I’ll get another deal. I always have my eye on what’s next. I feel like I have to work as hard now in 2012 as I did in 1998 when I got into this game.
I don’t think people understand how much of a hustle freelance journalism is. Can you compare it to something or elaborate on that?
It’s like juggling 10 different fruits in the air —and not of the same kind. There are all these different editors and magazines that have preferences and deadlines. It’s challenging to keep your eye on each one, because if you drop one you can damage your career.
How did you get into writing?
In 1998 I was teaching and I was reading an article about the Columbia Publishing Course. It’s a course for people who want to move from any career to publishing. I signed up for it and got accepted. You learn everything there is to know about publishing and from there they try to help you get a job. After I finished that I got a job at Billboard magazine. From there I went to The Source. In 2000 I left The Source and started freelancing— and have been ever since. I’ve taken little jobs here and there in social media and marketing, but for the most part I’ve been freelancing ever since.
On the Business of Freelance Journalism
For people wanting to move into freelance, what’s a misconception about the business that you understand now?
The biggest misconception is how you have to nurture the relationships with editors. Other than the quality of your work you have to be in their faces. I don’t always like to go out to the album release parties and different functions, but I have to. Sometimes I’ve gotten assignments because I made it my business to get up, go into the city and see somebody. It’s been a long time, but I’ve gotten to the point where I can e-mail an editor and say ‘Hey it’s Aliya, I have a great story for you.’ You want to be on their radar and know you’re going to get that e-mail back right away.
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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(Death and Taxes) — In the music business it’s all about merchandising these days. The Odd Future gang has landed a deal to turn their photo-based Tumblr Golf Wang into a hard-cover photo book, which ships to stores on November 5.
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.”
(Tri State Defender) — 1. “The Grace of Silence: A Memoir” by Michele Norris: Quite frankly, this heartbreaking memoir in which the author wistfully recounts her family’s quiet and dignified way of dealing with racism and discrimination, moved me to tears. NPR’s Michele Norris describes lives painfully limited by the color line, including a litany of humiliations endured by relatives well before she was born, such as the indignities suffered by her maternal grandmother while employed by Quaker Oats as a traveling Aunt Jemima. Particularly poignant is the painstaking lengths Norris goes to resurrect the besmirched name of her late father. For following his honorable discharge from the military after serving in World War II, he’d returned to his hometown of Birmingham, Ala., reasonably believing he’d earned the right to vote by fighting for his country.
(Publishers Weekly) — Many publishers are still trying to understand what impact the rapid growth of digital technology will have on the industry and their businesses. Publishers of titles aimed at the African-American market are no different, and the digital strategies—from making e-books readable on every kind of device to using online marketing and social media—are very much the same. PW talked with a variety of publishers—from small independents to the large New York trade book houses—about how they are using digital publishing and the new technologies to reach readers in the African-American book market. The promise of digital publishing prompted Karen Hunter—publisher of the Simon & Schuster imprint Karen Hunter Publishing, a line of mostly nonfiction works aimed at the African-American market—to align with a new and separate digital publishing venture. She’s heading a digital publishing house that will launch in January and is owned by Mgmt one, a business advisory firm headquartered in Cincinnati. First One Digital Publishing plans to publish 10 e-books and will determine whether to publish print editions on a case-by-case basis.