Monthly Archives: March 2011

Random Thoughts About Facebook

Facebook became available to the general public on September 26, 2006.  Other than Google I would argue Facebook has had the most significant impact on how we use the Internet than any other website.

I created my Facebook account on October 21st 2007.   The 4th post on my wall came almost a year later, in September of 2008.   The message was my from my friend and business associate Ron Kavanaugh who wrote: “post something!”

In response, I commented on a photo he tagged me on.  However it took another 6 months before I began to actively use Facebook.  That was two years ago and I’ve been an active user ever since.  Today I spend about an hour a day on Facebook; it is part of my daily routine and an integral part of my business.

As a result, of this experience I decided to share some random thoughts about Facebook.  Hopefully you’ll find a few interesting.  Please share your own insights in the comments.

  • My aunt calls Facebook, “Myfacespace”
  • MySpace has actually gotten a lot better, but no one has noticed.
  • More than 50% of Americans over 12 years of age are users of Facebook.  However, most of my family and friends don’t have Facebook accounts.
  • I never believed Facebook user counts.  There are Facebook profiles for pets, characters from novels, people with multiple profiles even Big Foot has one.
  • I have almost 4,900 “friends”.  I’m now suspicious of friend request from someone with whom I share no friends.
  • I’m surprised when I get a friend request from someone I actually know.
  • My teenage children and I are not Facebook friends, and we love each other.
  • I hate the Facebook feature where a “friend” can add you to a group without your permission.  Your only notice is the rash of emails from the group.
  • I spent about an hour a day on Facebook.  If I were not running a web based business I suspect it would be about an hour a week.
  • I love to play games, but I never play games on Facebook  – In fact I block all game applications.
  • When removing that spam post for the “free iPad” on my wall, I accidentally clicked it.  The associated application proceeded to spam by friends with the same message.  It took an hour to remove those spam messages from my friend’s walls.
  • It is astonishing how many people use their websites to drive traffic to Facebook rather than the other way around.
  • Too many people take the activities of others, on Facebook, way too seriously.
  • I can’t reply to all of my Facebook messages — especially if I don’t log in for a day or two.  If I don’t reply, don’t assume I hate you, just try again.
  • The best thing about a Facebook Fan Page is the visitor statistics they provide.
  • Through Facebook I’ve reconnected with people I have not seen in over 30 years.
  • I thoroughly enjoyed the film Social Network
  • Facebook is great.  Some think it will “become the Internet”.  I think that would be a disaster.

Troy Johnson Facebook Profile Page:
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Iyanla’s Vanzant’s Book Now a #1 New York Times Best Seller

In 1998, Iyanla Vanzant was’s first #1 best selling author.  Vanzant had three titles on our 1998 Best Sellers list including our #1 best selling book for the year, One Day My Soul Just Opened Up: 40 Days and 40 Nights Towards Spiritual Strength and Personal Growth.


Peace from Broken Pieces
Peace from Broken Pieces: How to Get Through What You’re Going Through
by Iyanla Vanzant
(read an excerpt)

Iyanla also holds another distinction: she, along with Terry McMillan, and Maya Angelou are the only authors to appear on both our 1998 and 2010 Best Sellers lists.  Vanzant’s latest title, Peace from Broken Pieces, came in as the 10th best selling book on for 2010 — even though it was not released until the middle of November 2010.  Iyanla’s personal stories of triumph over tragedy resonate with many visitors.

Of course these stories are universal so it was no real surprise to learn that on March 13th, Ms. Vanzant’s, Peace from Broken Pieces, also reached the #1 position on the New York Times Best Seller’s list.  Congratulations to Iyanla and the extraordinary team at SmileyBooks.

This was simply going to be an article to congratulate Vanzant and her team’s accomplishment of reaching the #1 position on arguably the worlds most important best seller’s list.  But as I reflected on that achievement, it occurred to me I should point out the other Black authors on “The List”.

Below I’ve highlighted the Black author’s on The March 20, 2011 – New York Times Bestseller’s List. (“These lists are an expanded version of those appearing in the March 20, 2011 print edition of the Book Review, reflecting sales for the week ending March 5, 2011”). Clicking the name of the list will send you to the New York Times web site where you can find all the titles for that particular category.

Combined Print & E-Book Nonfiction

I Beat the Odds: From Homelessness to
I Beat the Odds: From Homelessness to “The Blind Side” and Beyond
by Michael Oher
(read an review)

Hardcover Nonfiction

#8 – I BEAT THE ODDS, by Michael Oher with Don Yaeger.  (2 weeks on the List)
Michael Oher became famous a year ago when his inspirational story was made into a heartwarming Hollywood movie. That overcoming-the-odds sports saga recounted how a traumatized, black teenager went from homeless to National Football League star with the help of the a well-to-do family who rescued him from the streets of Memphis. Sandra Bullock even won an Oscar for her endearing portrayal of matriarch Leigh Anne Tuohy, a compassionate Christian who altruistically invited the gentle giant to move into her house.


#25 – OUTLIERS, by Malcolm Gladwell (Little, Brown) (read an Review)
“This is a book about outliers, men and women who do things that are out of the ordinary. I’m going to introduce you to one kind of outlier after another: to geniuses, business tycoons, rock stars, and software programmers. In examining the lives of the remarkable among us, I will argue that there is something profoundly wrong with the way we make sense of success…”





Paperback Mass-Market Fiction

The Other Wes Moore
What The Dog Saw
by Malcolm Gladwell

Paperback Nonfiction

#6 – WHAT THE DOG SAW, by Malcolm Gladwell (12 weeks on the List)
In the past decade, Malcolm Gladwell has written three books that have radically changed how we understand our world and ourselves: The Tipping Point; Blink; and Outliers. Now, in What the Dog Saw, he brings together, for the first time, the best of his writing from TheNew Yorker over the same period.

#15 – THE TIPPING POINT, by Malcolm Gladwell. (335 weeks on the List)
In this brilliant and groundbreaking book, New Yorker writer Malcolm Gladwell looks at why major changes in our society so often happen suddenly and unexpectedly.

#16 – BLINK, by Malcolm Gladwell (177 weeks on the List)
In his landmark bestseller The Tipping Point, Malcolm Gladwell redefined how we understand the world around us. Now, in Blink, he revolutionizes the way we understand the world within. Blink is a book about how we think without thinking, about choices that seem to be made in an instant – in the blink of an eye – that actually aren’t as simple as they seem.

The Other Wes Moore
The Other Wes Moore
by Wes Moore
(read an review)

#19 – THE OTHER WES MOORE, by Wes Moore. (5 weeks on the List)
“This is the story of two boys living in Baltimore with similar histories and an identical name: Wes Moore. One of us is free and has experienced things that he never knew to dream about as a kid. The other will spend every day until his death behind bars for an armed robbery that left a police officer and father of five dead.”

E-Book Fiction

E-Book Nonfiction

Hardcover Advice & Misc.

#5 – PEACE FROM BROKEN PIECES, by Iyanla Vanzant. (SmileyBooks, $24.95.)  (2 weeks on the List)
Vanzant recounts the last decade of her life and the spiritual lessons learned — from the price of success during her meteoric rise as a TV celebrity on Oprah, the Iyanla TV show (produced by Barbara Walters), to the dissolution of her marriage and her daughter’s 15 months of illness and death on Christmas day. Like a phoenix rising from the ashes, Iyanla shares why everything we need to learn is reflected in our relationships and the strength and wisdom she has gained by supporting others in their journeys to make sense out of the puzzle pieces of their lives.

The Other Wes Moore
Straight Talk, No Chaser: How to Find, Keep, and Understand a Man
by Steve Harvey

#8 – STRAIGHT TALK, NO CHASER, by Steve Harvey with Denene Millner. (11 weeks on the List)
Drawing on a lifetime of experience and the feedback women have shared with him in reaction to Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man, Harvey offers wisdom on a wealth of topics relevant to both sexes today.  Also check out a cool new website; North Paran co-founded by Denene Millner and her husband Nick Chiles

Paperback Advice & Misc.

Children’s Picture Books

#6 – OF THEE I SING, by Barack Obama. (16 weeks on the List)
The book, illustrated by Loren Long, is a tribute “to 13 groundbreaking Americans and the ideals that have shaped our nation,” the publisher said, including Georgia O’Keeffe, Jackie Robinson and George Washington. The cover features an illustration of Mr. Obama’s daughters, Malia and Sasha, as they stroll across a grassy lawn with the family dog, Bo, leading the way.


Of Thee I Sing: A Letter to My Daughters
Of Thee I Sing: A Letter to My Daughters
by Barack Obama
(read an Review)

Children’s Chapter Books

Children’s Paperback Books

Children’s Series

Hardcover Graphic Books

Paperback Graphic Books


Combined Hardcover & Paperback Fiction

Combined Hardcover & Paperback Nonfiction


Black Book Websites Need Love Too

Over the last decade there has been a great deal of lamenting over the closing of Black owned, independent brick and mortar book stores.  Recently this anguish has even extended to the large chain retailer, Borders Books and Music, which many Black authors say are responsible for a large percentage of their sales nationwide.

Throughout this turmoil Black owned book websites go largely ignored.   When we do get attention it is often in the context of contributing to the demise of the physical book store.

As the owner and sole operator of the largest website dedicated to Black books I feel it is time to emphasize why websites dedicated to Black books are just as important as physical stores.  If these websites are taken for granted they too will disappear, and we will have lost another important platform for celebrating and showcasing books by and about people of African descent. in 1997

When I first started in 1997, its value became immediately evident  based upon feedback from visitors.  Much of the feedback reflected the excitement visitors experienced discovering that there were so many books written by Black writers.  These visitors not only discovered new books, but older classics as well. and the other websites around during the late 90’s, including,,,, (the last 3 sites no longer exist) were very valuable as many of our visitors did not live near a bookstore.   There was value even for those who were fortunate enough to have a bookstore in their community, as the selection of Black books was very limited.

Given the current trend of physical bookstores closing and the lack of coverage in newspapers and magazines; websites that promote Black books and authors are more important than ever.

For several years I’ve been maintaining a list described as, Web Sites That Support, Promote, and Sell Black Books(  The list captures websites dedicated to Black books including the websites of physical book stores, web-based bookstores, book reviewers, book clubs, and other entities.  Many of the websites have been on-line for close to a decade, exhibiting a long term commitment to their respective missions.

This list does not include websites dedicated to an individual book, author or publisher.  The websites are expected to praise or critique books without bias.  These websites are not owned by multinational corporations whose coverage of Black books typically focus on celebrity, and who completely ignore books published by small presses and individuals. as it appeared in 2008

What prompted me to Blog about this issue is that when I updated the list recently (March 9, 2011), I had to remove more than 20% of the websites that I’ve been tracking.  Each time I update the list I remove more websites than I add.  I found the number of websites I had to remove this time extremely disheartening., and, to name a few are gone.

What is more disheartening, alarming even, is that of the literally tens’s of millions of active American websites there less than 100 websites dedicated exclusively to Black books.  Less than 50 are regularly updated and less than 20 receive an appreciable amount of traffic.  In other words, the Black book niche is effectively unrepresented online.

One reason is that it is very hard to earn a living selling Black books on-line.  I started building in October of 1997, sold my first book on-line in December of 1997, launched in March of 1998 and it became my full time vocation in February of 2008.  Even if one is able to earn a living selling Black books online, they will not become extremely wealthy.

On-line booksellers constantly deal with many challenges, which we address in relative obscurity and with even less sympathy.    Early on there was a reluctance for my demographic to provide credit card information on-line, this and competition from and made making money selling books directly extremely difficult.  I redirected my focus to providing services to authors and selling advertising.

As the economy continues to suffer my income from advertising sold directly to publishers and authors is down, fortunately this revenue made up by income from, and other affiliate programs.  However today my biggest challenges is staying relevant in a publishing industry and internet environment that is in a state of constant change. on Facebook

As social media competes for traffic, is forced to become actively engaged in sites like Facebook and Twitter; not only contributing to the conversation, but to using these platform to bring readers back to  A massive website redesign was performed in 2009 to help accomplish this goal.

On the horizon there are early indications that despite the increased number of books being published and new technologies to facilitate reading – the number of readers is waning.   This reduction in readership appears to be most pronounced for literary.

To further compound the problem the support from authors, and publishers to promote literary fiction and poetry is essentially nonexistent.  When you see a literary title or poetry on it is because I personally feel the work was important to share.  Commercial fiction, erotica, urban fiction, and non-fiction subsidize the promotion of literary fiction on  Figuring  out a ways to promote literary fiction and the variety of work Black writers produce while earning a living is another challenge.

While I can’t speak for everyone who runs a Black book website, I can say most are mission driven.  Our reward is knowing we are doing something important: promoting and preserving a culture by providing an important platform for writers.  We enjoy the written word and the exchange of ideas.  We rejoice in the diversity of our stories and take pride in the fact that we help ensure the voice of the Black community is shared not only within our community but globally.

But it can’t be all about flowery rhetoric, Black book websites made a tremendous impact in helping to keep our voices alive., for example sold 3,392 different titles in 2010 alone (virtually by writers of African descent). has published more than 100 videos of authors garnering over 1 million views.  By the end of 2011 will have profiled more than 1,000 different authors.  We have published hundreds of reviews of books which were published by major houses, academic presses and individuals.  I attract 100,000 to 300,000 unique visitors to each month. has hosted an on-line book club for the better part of a decade and have hosted events from Harlem to Los Angles.  I attend and support events all over the country with money, time and expertise.

The impact of the web based book sellers is incalculable and the potential is unlimited.  Keep in mind on-line booksellers support physical bookstores as well.  I can’t tell you how many people have told me, “I just discovered a book on your site and went straight to the store to buy it.”  Indeed, most book websites actively promote physical bookstores (assuming they don’t own one outright), by publishing content about the stores, promoting their events and even attending signings and making purchases.

Next time you read an article about the demise of the Black owned bookstore, consider the potential demise of the Black book website as well.  We need your support too. Remember supporting web based stores does not come at the expense of supporting a physical store nor does require much effort.

Simply sharing our website addresses with your friends, “liking” us on Facebook or “tweeting” the content you enjoy is a great start.  Buying a book and providing feedback to help us improve is even better.

And always remember, book websites need love too.

Book Industry Professionals Gather at 2010 Black Pack Party — Hosted by,,, and Linda Duggins

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