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Join the Fight for Independence on the Web

Join the Fight for Independence on the Web

This article is intended for writers and other content providers, who are active on social media and have a goal of generating revenue from their content.  However, people who use social media to share photos and thoughts with friends and family can benefit from reading this article too.

The best way to experience AALBC.com’s content is not through the peep hole of a 140 character tweet or a stripped-down, plain text post on a Facebook wall, but by visiting the website and enjoying our curated, multimedia content.  This may sound obvious to anyone reading this blog post.  However, given the energy I’ve invested posting content on a variety of social media platforms, it might not be obvious by observing my behavior.

As a publisher of book reviews, interviews, videos and articles, I generate revenue by attracting visitors to this website.   For over 16 years I’ve been pretty good at it, particularly when you consider the content, books written by or about Black people, is not the most popular subject on the Web.

After years of experience using social media to market AALBC.com, I’ve noticed several adverse trends.  As a result, I’ve decided to not allocate my increasingly limited resources to social media.

“So Troy, why bore us with the details?  Why don’t you stop whining, take your marbles and leave social media already?”

Well this is issue is much bigger than me or AALBC.com.  In fact, I’ve been doing relatively well, compared to my peers, using social media to drive traffic to my website.  Consider a snapshot of the insights of an AALBC.com Facebook post highlighting the work of Peniel E. Joseph (less than 24 hours old at the time of this writing):

Peniel Insight Image

There is nothing unusual about this post. Some of my posts perform better, and others perform worse, depending upon the metrics considered.  As you can see (click the image for a enlarged view), the Peniel post was viewed 1,827 times in less than 24 hours and the link was clicked six times.  While this may not sound like a lot of clicks, the ratio between the number people who saw the post, and the number who clicked the link it contained, is relatively good.  Besides, it only took about 10 seconds to share the information.

“Now I’m really confused Troy.  If Facebook is working for you, then what are you complaining about?

The popular belief is social media is a mandatory tool for anyone interested in promoting their business.  The vast majority of us have brought into the hype without question.  The reality is everything we do on Facebook, to drive traffic to our websites, enriches Facebook and depreciates our websites.  The minor, short-lived, benefit some of us might extract individually is simply not worth what we give up collectively.

everythEverything we do on Facebooking-we-doPrior to the popularity of social media, generating traffic was much easier.  It was very common for a writers to refer visitors to other writers’ websites.  We had related links pages, web-rings, blog rolls and other ways of promoting and supporting each other online.  Today there better tools that could allow independent websites, acting together, to be much more effective at promotion that Facebook can alone.

The more power we give to Facebook, social media in general, the less control we have over what is seen on the Web.  I suspect you have already noticed the effect of social media’s dominance of the Web; scandalous or celebrity driven content is recycled and dominates what we see; sponsored content (paid advertisements) masks itself as news and editorial; and advertisements are embedded everywhere you look.

Another profound and troubling problem is the ongoing weakening of platforms dedicated to promoting Black books and authors.  In a 2011 article, Black Book Websites Need Love Too, I noticed that we were losing Black book website’s at an alarming rate.   That trend has continued; the remaining sites are receiving fewer visitors and generating less revenue as a result.  With less revenue, the ability to create content and attract visitors is diminished, furthering increasing downward pressure on revenue.  Pretty soon the website is no longer a viable business—assuming it ever was.

It is an extremely hostile environment for independent websites today.  Despite social media new websites have virtually no chance to build an audience.  So not only are we losing what we had, new websites are discouraged from ever launching.

Ironically, these conditions tend to drive people to social media even more, because it is much easier to establish a web presence on a social media platform than launch and maintain an independent website.  But the result is more people competing for attention on that social platform and everyone ends up being heard by fewer people.  The writers and potential readers are the losers.  The social media platform is the only winner.  Indeed, the more we struggle to be heard, by being more “social” or paying to promote posts, the more the social media platform profits—whether we connect with our readers or not.

If what we are losing from independent websites was compensated by equivalent content on social media, it would not be so completely tragic.  Not surprisingly, social media has failed miserably in delivering the richness and variety offered by individual websites.  This is understandable as the goal of social media is to maximize revenue for their owners.  Independent websites, on the other hand, are primarily driven by their mission.

Social media is seemingly an impossibly tough opponent in the competition for visitors.  As writers and owners of websites we can not continue to exacerbate the problem by fueling our competition with content and sending traffic directly to social media with every “Follow me on Facebook” request.  The trick is to exploit social media, not to allow social media to exploit us.

AALBC.com is not immune to these pressures.  I’ve been able to grow and monetize my eNewsletter, obtain concessions from vendors, use my time more effectively and leverage the support of partners in creative ways.

Actually, I’m not pulling up my social media stakes completely.  I plan to continue to share some of AALBC.com’s updates with on social media, but posts will executed remotely from AALBC.com, using AddThis.  For automated social media updates I’ll use Twitterfeed.  I suspect my remote and automated updates will eventually be shown less frequently by social media and therefore become less effective, but I will continue to adapt my strategies as I have done over the last two decades.

I will only engage with readers on independent platforms.  Engaging with readers on social media platforms about AALBC.com content is the activity that saps the most of my time and provides social media the most value.  In the past I often found myself engaging with readers on AALBC.com and multiple platforms over the same content—I can no longer afford to do this.

Today writers struggle over the effective management of their social media.  This is understandable as they are often judged more by the number of Facebook fans and Twitter followers than the quality of their writing.   Again, many say social media is a requirement—in fact I was one of these people.  When you consider the fact, the majority of top earning authors barely use Twitter and many don’t even have an account, you have the question the value.

I don’t pretend to have all the answers.  This is a tough problem, but not an intractable one.  If we do nothing, diversity on the World Wide Web will continue to decline.  In exchange, we will be left with a handful of social media platforms algorithmically determining what we see and how we see it, invading our privacy and profiting from the content we provide.

My goal is not to get rid of social media (though personally, I would not miss it for split  second).  My goal is to ensure that independent websites not only survive, but thrive.  The last thing I want to see is a world where the presentation of Black books (our culture really) is controlled, owned and operated by a corporation, solely driven by profit.  With the closure of the most of the Black owned bookstores over the past decade, we are essentially at a place today where Black books can only be purchased online from Amazon.

Remember, as writers it is our content that provides the most value to social media.  It is time we work together to reap the fruits of our labor and stop the digital sharecropping.

I’m working with others to develop strategies for us all to utilize our collective websites, to share and promote our content.  If you are interested in learning more, sharing your experience or joining our effort, email me at troy@aalbc.com or share your ideas in the comments below.

Finally, if you are a writer with a website send readers to YOUR website and encourage them to engage you there.  If people are desperate to find you on a social media platform, they know already how to do it.  Social media does not need any additional promotion, but our websites certainly do.

Join the fight for independence on the Web.

5 Things Writers Must Do To Survive Online

Today, despite all the technology and social media at our disposal, it is becoming increasingly difficult for the average writer to earn a living through their writing.  A few powerful corporations are reversing many of the benefits and gains writers have achieved as a result of the World Wide Web (Web).  This does not have to continue.

Almost twenty years ago, the Web became available to the public, to utilize in ways limited only by our imaginations.  By the late 1990’s software made it easy for writers to create their own websites and blogs.  Coupled with the self-publishing revolution, fueled by print on demand and ebooks, writers were able to publish anything they wanted.  They were also able use the Web to attract and interact with their target audience.

fas typing at keyboardIt was an exhilarating time as the volume and variety of stories and ideas that were expressed online increased dramatically.  Gatekeepers at corporate owned media no longer controlled what was published.  Rejection was no longer based upon what was deemed most marketable or appealed to a particular editor.

Not only could writers publish anything they wanted, they could also earn money for their efforts.  The more successful writers might be able to earn a living, the most successful ones could become wealthy.

Unfortunately the Web is rapidly becoming controlled by a handful of very powerful corporations.  These powerful corporate entities hinder the efforts of writers to independently connect with their readers and generate revenue using their own platforms.   These corporations are solely interested in maximizing revenue.  The adverse impact on writers, or the world wide web itself, is seemingly of no concern.

In the relentless pursuit of more revenue, these powerful corporations are killing independent websites using a number of tactics including controlling what is discoverable through search (reference: “Google is King — not Content” and “Google Worsens Web Experience by Retuning Poor Search Results”).

These corporations are also exploiting the efforts of writers who feel it is necessary to give their content, to the wealthiest of corporations, just to reach an audience they are no longer able to reach with their own websites.  Ironically, these writers are giving their content to the very same powers that are colluding to thwarting their own independent efforts, further exacerbating.  The barriers to entry are back up.

Writers can survive, even thrive, online but we must do things differently.  Here are just five of many potential actions that can help.

1 – Establish Your Own Website
Every writer should have their own website.  A Facebook fan page or a presence on any other social media website is not the same thing.  Indeed hosting your content solely on a social media platform only enriches the corporation that owns that platform.  Register a domain name and take advantage of one of the many applications like WordPress to create your own web presence.

I’m not suggesting that one should not have a presence on social media.   However, I do suggest that social media be used to direct people to your website, where your actual should reside — not the other way around.  Telling a potential reader to, like you on Facebook, or find you on Twitter, not only gives Twitter and Facebook free advertising, but it also sends readers visitors to those websites where they usually stay.  Direct readers to your website first.

I also discourage using social media as your primary platform because all the revenue generated, as a result of your work, goes to the corporation who owns the platform.  Your writing on most social media sites is fleeting, from the reader’s perspective.  Unless readers are online when you post your content, they are much less likely to see it, given the deluge of other information they are bombarded with.  Social media also controls, in ways not made clear, who and how often your writing is seen.  Writers feel increasingly pressured to buy, relatively expensive advertising, just to have their writing noticed on the social media platform!

Retrieving and organizing older content is often very hard if not impossible.  You don’t even control your own contacts — but the social media site does.   What happens when the social media site goes away?  How many of us have abandoned MySpace profiles and all the content and connections created there?  Building your own mailing list is still a much better way to reach your readers.

Finally, privacy is a huge problem.  How your data is used, shared with others, and monetized is completely out of your control.

2 – Link to an Independent Book Store’s Website for Online Sales
If you visit any author’s website and you should find a link to purchase their books online.  Some authors fulfill their own online orders, but you will often find a link to Amazon.com as well.  Every author should also provide a link to an independent bookstore’s website to facilitate online orders wit that store.  It does not matter which one, just pick one that can fulfill orders directly.

By linking to a independent store for online sales you also increase the potential for in store sales and promotion.  You will also help promote the store, increase the store’s potential to generate revenue. and build valuable goodwill.  If you need help finding an independent store to support you may visit IndieBound.org or Huria.org for a list.

In discussing this idea with some authors, a couple mentioned they are uncomfortable linking to a single store because they don’t want to show favoritism to one store over another.  Sure there is a risk a store may become upset over not being listed on a given author’s website, but linking to no independent stores while maintaining a link to Amazon just hurts the independents and enriches Amazon even more.

save revolution booksIt is true the web has made purchasing books much more efficient and certainly less expensive.  It may also be true that these efficiencies have resulted in the need for fewer bookstores, certainly poorly run stores.  This however, combined with the bankruptcy of Borders Book & Music and Barnes & Noble’s recent announcement of their plans to close at least 20 stores a year over the next decade, means many of us will no longer have access to a brick and mortar bookstore, let alone an independent one.

Independent book stores play an important role for both writers and the reading community.  We must actively support them if we want them to remain open.   Today Amazon sells more books than every other bookseller combined.  Do we want a world in which books can only be purchased online from Amazon?

Side Bar: Here is information on two independent stores, at risk of closing, that have asked the community for help; Revolution Books in New York City and Marcus Books in the San Francisco.

3 – NEVER Link to Amazon Without Using an Affiliate Code
I get information on books every single day with links directing me to Amazon.  The vast majority of these links do not have affiliate codes applied.  By joining Amazon’s Affiliate Program and applying an affiliate code, an on-line bookseller can generate commissions of up to 8.5% on books from Amazon (excluding booksellers residing; Arkansas, Colorado, Illinois, Minnesota, North Carolina, or Rhode Island).

AmazonFailing to use an affiliate code is simply leaving money on the table.  If you can’t or don’t want to join Amazon’s affiliate program.  You can very easily use AALBC.com affiliate code.  Just substitute your book’s ISBN-10 in the following URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0385535988/ref=nosim/aalbccom-20

Not only does this generate commissions for AALBC.com, providing us with much needed support, but books sales generated through these links also count toward AALBC.com bestsellers list.   This will result in a lot of free promotion for any book that makes the list.  This is win-win for the author, AALBC.com, or any on-line book seller whose affiliate code is used.

The affiliate code rule applies to all of the large corporate booksellers including Barnes & Noble.com, Booksamillion.com, iTumes, etc.  I chose Amazon.com, for this example, because it is the site authors most frequently link to and Amazon also has a well run affiliate program.    If any big corporate site does not offer an affiliate program, I suggest that you stop sending visitors to that site to purchase books.

4 – Link to Other Independent Websites
When individuals began creating websites in the mid 1990’s, before there were search engines, people would recommend other websites they found interesting and useful, by providing links to those websites.   Often it was as simple as creating a list of “Favorite Websites” or a “Related Links” page.   Groups of related websites often banded together and formed webrings (a set of sites linked together in a circular structure).  Before “social” media became the rage, the web was actually more collaborative — it had to be.

Today, the majority of writers provide free promotion for large corporate social media websites by prominently placing social media logos and linking to them from their websites.  At the same time, links to independent websites has become a thing of the past.  Over the last few years, I’ve seen far too many book platforms; stores, websites, magazines, blogs, book review, and other related sites struggle in obscurity or just wither away partially because of the lack of support from other websites.

In order for writers to thrive online we need an environment with healthy, robust and diverse websites dedicated to writers, books and related subjects.  Linking to websites you like is just the start, but also visit them periodically and read, share and critique their content.

5 – Stop Writing for Wealthy Websites for Free
I recently wrote an article called, “The Pimping of Wikipedia.”  In the article, I describe how the work of countless researchers and writers, laboring for free, is taken by Google and Amazon and used to generate revenue.  Amazon’s “Shopping-enabled Wikipedia Page” is a carbon copy of a Wikipedia page with anything that  can be purchased from Amazon hyper-linked to enable an immediate purchase! Here is an example a Shopping-enabled Wikipedia Page for a prominent author.

coporations want information for freeThe monetization of Wikipedia by Amazon is a brilliant idea, but why would any writer volunteer to enrich Amazon without sharing in any of the revenue generated?  The same goes for volunteer Huffington-Post bloggers or writers who publish content on social media websites.

Somehow writers have been duped, by large corporations, into believing that the small potential for notoriety is ample compensation for their work; which collectively is used to generate millions and millions of dollars of revenue.  I remember how disappointed and angry some writers were when the Huffington-Post was sold to AOL for $315 million.  Meanwhile those writers continued to receive no financial compensation for their work.

There is a often quoted slogan floating around the Internet, “Information Wants to be Free”.  It is almost a cliche, but it also utter nonsense in the context of our capitalist system.  Anything of value is always sold and purchased, why is a writer’s work any different?   A more accurate slogan might be, “Corporations Want Information for Free ”, so that they may exploit it for monetary again.

Social media sites can thrive fueled solely on user generated content.  Content written by everyday folks, just being… social, and that is fine.   Those contributors get to exchange rumors, celebrity gossip, jokes, their personal minutiae and play games in exchange for a platform to engage in this activity.  They also agree to be inundated with advertising, mined for information and exposed to spammers.

Professionally trained writers need, deserve and should demand more in exchange for their craft.  The best reviews are written by professional reviewers, the best news coverage is written by journalists.   Writers who give away their writing to a fantastically rich corporations, for free, are engaged in high tech sharecropping.  Where are writer’s unions when you need them?

Sharecroppers pick cotton in Georgia in 1898 (Library of Congress)  - Sharecroppers on Wessyngton Plantation

Sharecroppers pick cotton in Georgia in 1898 (Library of Congress)      –       Sharecroppers on Wessyngton Plantation

Readers looking for quality writing will gravitate to where quality writing resides.  Writers generating quality content should be paid for their efforts.  We just need to work together to ensure this continues to happen.

Finally, Do Something
I hope you will consider implementing one or more of my suggestions.  I also hope you will share this article with other writers.  If you have any other suggestions please add them in the comments below.


AALBC.com eNewsletter – November 30th 2012 – Issue #196

AALBC.com eNewsletter Banner

AALBC.com would like to thank all of you for being loyal readers of our eNewsletter. We are proud to have continuously published this eNewsletter for over 15 years — perhaps the longest running eNewsletter of its kind! Our eNewsletter is also available on your Kindle ebook reader and via RSS.

However, we really need your support. We are asking every subscriber to seriously consider purchasing a subscription to the AALBC.com eNewsletter for only $7.99 per year. Your paid subscription will make it possible for us to improve our coverage of books, authors, film, events, and to continue celebrating our literary legacy.

Troy Johnson
Founder, AALBC.com


Bestselling Books September/October 2012

The Reverend's Wife by Kimberla Lawson Roby

1. The Reverend’s Wife by Kimberla Lawson Roby
2. I Dreamt I Was in Heaven: The Rampage of the Rufus Buck Gang by Leonce Gaiter
3. When Sunday Comes Again by Terry E. Hill
4. Payback Is A Mutha by Wahida Clark
5. The Family Business by Eric Pete, Carl Weber
6. Zane’s Z-Rated: Chocolate Flava 3 edited by Zane
7. Payback Ain’t Enough: Payback 3 by Wahida Clark

Raising Black Boys by Dr. Jawanza Kunjufu

1. Raising Black Boys by Dr. Jawanza Kunjufu
2. Brainwashed: Challenging the Myth of Black Inferiority by Tom Burrell
3. Countering the Conspiracy to Destroy Black Boys Vol. 1 by Dr. Jawanza Kunjufu
4. Countering the Conspiracy to Destroy Black Boys Vol. 2 by Dr. Jawanza Kunjufu
5. Countering the Conspiracy to Destroy Black Boys Vol. 3 by Dr. Jawanza Kunjufu

Check out all 25 of AALBC.com’s Fiction and Non-fiction Bestselling Books


Authors You Should Know

news-kevin-youngKevin Young
Young was born November 8th, 1970 in Lincoln, Nebraska. Young is a poet and teacher of poetry. Young graduated from Harvard College in 1992, was a Stegner Fellow at Stanford University (1992–1994), and received his Master of Fine Arts from Brown University.His 1st work of prose, The Grey Album: On the Blackness of Blackness (Graywolf) was recently selected as one of the 100 Notable Books of 2012 by the New York Times.

news-andrea-brianAndrea Davis Pinkney and Brian Pinkney
Andrea is the New York Times bestselling and award-winning author of many books for children and young adults, including picture books, novels, works of historical fiction and non-fiction.Brian is the illustrator of several highly-praised picture books including The Faithful Friend, In the Time of the Drums, and Duke Ellington . He is a graduate of the University of the Arts in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and holds a master’s degree in illustration from the School of Visual Arts in New York City.

news-gary-golioGary Golio
Golio is a children’s book author who writes about subjects one might not readily assume would resonate with children. His book “JIMI: Sounds Like A Rainbow” was a New York Times bestseller.His most recent book Spirit Seeker: John Coltrane’s Musical Journey is illustrated by Rudy Gutierrez (Clarion Books), is described by reviewer Robert Fleming as a, “…warts-and-all, cautionary tale chronicling both Coltrane’s personal flaws and incomparable genius.”

new-eric-deggansEric Deggans
Eric serves as TV/Media Critic for the Tampa Bay Times, Florida’s largest newspaper. Some people call him the most critical guy in the place, because he’s served as TV critic, Pop Music Critic and Media Critic at various times. He also provides regular commentaries on TV for National Public Radio and writes about media issues for the National Sports Journalism Center at Indiana University.Look for out an author event, hosted by AALBC.com, in the Tampa Bay, FL area the 2nd week of January 2013. We will feature Eric and his latest book, Race-Baiter: How the Media Wields Dangerous Words to Divide a Nation.

new-julia-nathan-hareDr. Nathan & Dr. Julia Hare
This married duo have published numerous critically acclaimed books on the Black family and raising Black children. Haki Madhubuti, Publisher of Third World Press called their book, The Endangered Black Family: Coping With the Unisexualization and Coming Extinction of the Black Race “…one of the most important books published in the past fifteen years.”Julia Hare gained some notoriety during the 2007 State of the Black Union where she asserted, in a fiery oratory that, “We need black leaders not leading blacks!”

news-ty-allanTy Allan Jackson
Jackson is the winner of the Dr. Martin Luther King Content of Character Award and received citations by the Governor of Massachusetts, Deval Patrick, Massachusetts Senator, Benjamin Downing and the House of Representatives because of his efforts to promote literacy. His books build self esteem and confidence in today s children by representing them in a modern, positive and fun way.Ty will not stop at just writing books, his goal is to teach the power of reading to every child. He has spoken to thousand of kids about the importance of literacy and they in turn have spoken to him, in person and through social media telling him how his books have changed the way they think about reading.


Fiction Book Reviews

news-the-cutting-seasonThe Cutting Season by Attica Locke
Attica Locke’s (Black Water Rising) latest novel, The Cutting Season, takes place on a sugar cane plantation in Louisiana. Though the story is set in present day times, the memories of slavery remain alive.The Cutting Season, is a treat that successfully marries old and new. Not only will it cause readers to reflect on the long-ago atrocities of slavery but it will also cause them to imagine what it would be like to work on the very grounds the atrocities were committed and live in the shadows of the ghosts that were wronged. Definitely pick this one up.

news-black-coffeeBlack Coffee by R.L. Byrd
In Black Coffee, the sequel to R.L. Byrd’s Looking for Sweet Love, men take center stage.In this testosterone-driven novel, characters known as Dr. Houston, D.K., Quentin, Brass, Miguel, Michael, Donnell, and Pastor Lee form what becomes The Brotherhood. Before they can share the male point of view on The Love Forum radio show, they must first travel to Alaska for some male bonding and a bit of therapy. It’s during this bonding that readers come to know these men, including a radio producer and host, a man of the cloth who is not so holy, and a man with big money and an interesting past involving a mistress.


Nonfiction Book Reviews

new-rebiuld-the-dreamRebuild the Dream by Van Jones
Just because President Obama has been re-elected is no reason to presume that the concerns of the constituents who put him back in office will be addressed. After all, he garnered over 90% of the black vote before, yet failed to deliver much in the way of the promised change.Yes, the Republicans who openly admitted that their mission was to make sure his first term was a failure deserve a big share of the blame. But so do the masses of American citizens who failed to attempt to hold him accountable. That is the contention of Van Jones,…

news-darkest-americaDarkest America: Black Minstrelsy from Slavery to Hip-Hop by Yuval Taylor and Jake Austen
According to Taylor and Austen, black minstrelsy is described as “not only stereotypes and caricatures, but comic traditions, linguistics, low humor, verbal dexterity, improvisation, and numerous other elements.” The book tightens its focus when the writers discuss the importance of sitcoms like Good Times, Sanford and Son, and The Cosby Show, which went against the customary norms of the concepts of acting niggerish and provide some sense of humanity to black characters and themes.Well documented and very comprehensive, Taylor and Austen are at ease discussing the artistry and social traditions of the Zulu Krewe at the Mardi Gras carnival from the zaniness of Harlem Renaissance writer Zora Neale Hurston to the rich hip-hop clowns Flavor Flav and Lil Wayne. However, pay attention to the astute analysis of Tyler Perry’s commercially profitable films and plays which are an offshoot of the low brow theater vehicles from the “Chitlin Circuit” pipeline. The writers also zoom in on one of the most satirical, articulate Spike Lee films, Bamboozled, a modern take on a latter-day minstrel show.

news-the-black-church-where-women-pray-and-men-preyThe Black Church: Where Women Pray and Men Prey by Deborrah Cooper
This fearless feminist levels so many accusations against brothers it’s frightening. But she does make a persuasive case by way of a compelling mix of statistics and anecdotal evidence.She chides black females for being the most religious demographic in the country, since they’re getting little out of religion besides pie-in-the-sky promises. Meanwhile, their pastors are pressuring them to tithe 10%, even though such a directive is apparently nowhere to be found in the bible.

news-when-i-left-homeWhen I Left Home: My Story by Buddy Guy
When I Left Home, the memoir of legendary blue guitarist Buddy Guy, with support from noted writer David Ritz, traces the musician from his sharecropper roots in Lettsworth, Louisiana, in a shack with no water or light, to his first strummings on a battered guitar with two strings and his initial exposure to the blues overheard when a neighbor played the classic Lonnie Johnson’s tune, “Tomorrow Night.”Guy doesn’t spare the reader his grueling apprentice time before his skills approached professional level. It was trial-and-error as Guy taught himself to play the basic blues chords, growing better over time, until he hopped a train for the Windy City in 1957. With a rough demo cut and his Les Paul Gibson guitar, he settled into Chicago’s bustling blues scene but it was tough going at first; in fact, he called his father to send train fare back home after six months.

news-unfinished-businessUnfinished Business: Black Women, the Black Church and the Struggle to Thrive in America by Keri Day
In this age of mega-churches and prosperity theology, it is natural to wonder how many members of the black clergy even bother to minister to the needs of the least of the their brethren anymore. That question came to intrigue Professor Keri Day, Director of Black Church Studies at Brite Divinity School, after noting that Christianity is now a very different experience for sisters, depending on their social class.While many black females have been fortunate enough to make the leap to the middle and upper-classes, the bulk remain poor with less and less hope for deliverance from their plight. In her book, Unfinished Business, Dr. Day outlines a plan to return to the times when poverty was a primary concern of the Black Church.

news-nicki-minaj-book-coverNicki Minaj: The Woman Who Stole the World by Lynette Holloway
Ms. Minaj might strike the uninitiated as Lady Gaga in blackface, given her similarly-bizarre sartorial style. Furthermore, she has no problem wearing wigs of any hue, natural or man-made atop those ridiculous, revealing outfits which defy description.As far as clues about where Nicki learned to swear, look no further than her father who, she admits, “would yell and curse a lot.” And that wasn’t the worst of her dysfunctional childhood, since her dad was also a crackhead who routinely ripped-off his own relatives. Is it any surprise, then, that she’s still a little rough around the edges?



news-donna-virginiaVeteran Authors Virginia DeBerry and Donna Grant have put the writing career on hold
The authors at the top-you know the names, are doing just swell. Their books sell on their names alone, they get gobbled up by Hollywood and the beat goes on. Those at the bottom are eager and willing to do whatever is asked of them, including work very hard for very little. We fall somewhere in the middle and like the rest of the “middle” the squeeze is tight-especially for black authors.When we started, there was no African American category. We wrote contemporary women’s fiction. Then they created a “Black Box” for “us” (one publisher actually did this-with a real black box) and in many ways decided what would go in that box. And as they put more and more of what they wanted in the box, the space for the kind of books we write became smaller and smaller. We’ve been asked to do things we’re not interested in or willing to do. “Can you put in more sex?” “NO!” “How about making this more ‘urban’-a little more ‘street’?” “NO!” “You could write erotica under a pseudonym…” “NO!” “You guys are so good, you could write anonymously as a white author…” “NO!”

news-readI have not read a book in three months!
The last time I walked into a book store, purchased a book (Toni Morrison’s Home), and read it from cover to cover, was this past summer. Now I’ve purchased books, in stores since, but I have not finished reading any of them.I’ve been “working” on Isabel Wilkerson’s The Warmth of Other Suns for 3 months — that is if you count “working” on it as it sitting on my nightstand for 3 months with the hope of being read someday. Wilkerson’s tome isn’t lonely, there are at least 10 other books I’m “working” on to keep it company.

news-are-bookstores-relevantAre Bookstores Relevant?
I recently conducted an on-line survey asking just one question: Are Bookstores Relevant? Over 300 hundred people answered the question. An overwhelming majority, almost 87% , said “Yes”. Despite querying a demographic that is 100% online, the vast majority felt brick and mortar bookstores are indeed relevant.


Film Reviews

news-lincoln-movie-posterLincoln – Civil War Docudrama Revisits Great Emancipator’s Team of Rivals
Based on Harvard historian Doris Kearns Goodwin’s 944-page opus “Team of Rivals,” Lincoln telescopes tightly on the last five months of the Great Emancipator’s life, a period during which he was desperately devoted to both abolishing slavery and reuniting the country by ending the Civil War. The movie was directed by Steven Spielberg, and bears many of the legendary director’s trademark visual effects like blowing curtains and light flares.Abraham LincolnThe production is first rate in terms of cast, from Daniel Day-Lewis in the title role to a stellar supporting ensemble which includes Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Tommy Lee Jones, Sally Field, James Spader, David Strathairn, Gloria Reuben, S. Epatha Merkerson, Hal Holbrook, Tim Blake Nelson, John Hawkes, Jackie Earl Haley and Bruce McGill. Nor did Spielberg scrimp when it came to costuming or set design, which means the film feels authentic and never hits a false note plot-wise.

news-flight-moive-posterFlight – Hero Pilot Participates in Cover-Up in Special F/X-Driven Legal Thriller
Directed by Academy Award-winner Bob Zemeckis (for Forest Gump), Flight is a riveting thriller marked by spellbinding special effects and a nonpareil performance on the part of two-time Oscar-winner Denzel Washington (for Glory and Training Day). After the spectacular, stomach-churning, opening scene plane crash, the picture shifts in tone to a character-driven portrait of a self-destructive addict in denial and plagued by demons.An instant screen classic destined to be deemed among the very best of Zemeckis, alongside Gump, Back to the Future and What Lies Beneath.

news-middle-of-nowhere-movie-posterMiddle of Nowhere – Wife Weighs Absentee Hubby’s Worth in Introspective Tale of Female Empowerment
The picture was written and directed by rising star Ava DuVernay, this year’s winner at the Sundance Film Festival in the Best Director category. The story revolves around Roberta “Ruby” Murray (Emayatzy Corinealdi), a med student who’s on the brink of becoming a doctor when her husband, Derek (Omari Hardwick), is sentenced to 8 years behind bars for a drug conviction.Rather than abandon the love of her life, the loyal wife decides to drop out of med school to give her man the emotional and financial support he’ ll need while in prison. This means she’ ll have to endure long bus rides just to see him, and also have to pay his legal bills on a nurse’s salary.

news-hoodwinkedHoodwinked – Black Stereotypes Debunked in Thought-Provoking Sequel
In 2007, I named What Black Men Think the Best Documentary of the year in my annual Blacktrospective film feature. Now, Janks Morton, Jr.. is back with Hoodwinked, an equally thought-provoking sequel to his groundbreaking directorial debut.This go-round, Janks again handles emcee duties in a project ostensibly designed to debunk a host of harmful stereotypes about African-Americans. He’s helped in that endeavor by an impressive supporting cast comprised of esteemed luminaries like Dr. Marc Lamont Hill, Dr. Boyce Watkins, Dr. Steve Perry, Dr. Ivory Toldson, Dr. Jawanza Kunjufu, Dr. Joseph Marshall, Maniko Barthelemy and Kai Jackson.



new-yolandaYolanda Adams on “How Sweet the Sound” Competition
Ever since her late-Eighties debut, “Just as I Am,” Yolanda Adams has triumphantly carried the torch for contemporary gospel and inspirational music via a dozen glorious albums. Stunningly beautiful, exceptionally educated, filled with the spirit and blessed with one of the most powerful voices in any genre of music, this former schoolteacher is a stately beacon of God’s light.Here, she talks about her life and career, and about hosting Verizon’s “How Sweet the Sound,” the country’s most prestigious gospel music celebration and competition. Now, in its fifth year of celebrating the community and the power of gospel music.

news-soledadSoledad O’Brien on “Who is Black in America?” (Black in America 5)
Soledad O’Brien is the anchor for CNN morning show Starting Point and a special correspondent for CNN/U.S. Since joining the network in 2003, O’Brien has reported breaking news from around the globe and has produced award-winning, record-breaking and critically acclaimed documentaries on the most important stories facing the world today.A graduate of Harvard University, Soledad lives with her husband and four children in Manhattan. Here, she talks about her upcoming Black in America special “Who Is Black in America?” which is set to premiere on CNN on Sunday, December 9th.

news-naomiNaomie Harris on being the New “Bond Girl” and Daniel Craig on Skyfall
Naomie Harris was born on September 6, 1976 in London, England where she was raised as an only child by Lisselle Kayla, a single-mom and TV scriptwriter of Jamaican extraction. The accomplished young actress has already made a name for herself in film, television and theater, and just completed production on A Long Walk to Freedom, a biopic in which she portrayed Nelson Mandela’s wife Winnie.Here, she talks about her latest outing as a Bond girl opposite Daniel Craig as 007 in Skyfall.

news-toksToks Olagundoye on her role on “The Neighbors” Sitcom
Born in Lagos, Toks Olagundoye was raised not only in Nigeria but also in Switzerland and England. The exotic Nigerian-Norwegian beauty moved to the United States to attend Smith College where she received a Bachelor of Fine Arts.In addition to acting, Toks enjoys writing and producing films for the web and is the founder of Unlimited Ceiling for which she’s created web series like “Callbacks” and “AlphaSeries.” In her spare time, she enjoys cooking, horseback riding, Pilates, archery and going to the gun range. Toks’ secret talent is doing all sorts of accents from around the world. Here, she talks about her life, career and work on The Neighbors.


Book Related News

news-a-gatheringThe New York Times – 100 Notable Books of 2012

On November 27th the New York Times released a list of 100 notable books for 2012. “The year’s notable fiction, poetry and nonfiction, selected by the editors of The New York Times Book Review.”AALBC.com is pleased to see Bernice McFadden’s novel Gathering of Waters (Akashic Books) included on this list. The Washington Post also named Bernice’s moving novel as one of the 50 Best Books of 2012 — Go Bernice!Described as “…reminiscent of Toni Morrison’s Beloved“. Gathering of Waters tells the story of three generations of black women who confront floods and murder in Mississippi.

news-animalK’wan’s Animal is #1 “Amazon Top Rated” Book
K’wan’s Kindle eBook novel Animal (Cash Money Content) has been in the top position for days. Rankings are based upon customer reviews and are updated daily.K’wan is the #1 Essence bestselling author of Section 8, Gutter, Still Hood, Hood Rat, Eve, Hoodlum, Street Dreams, Gangsta, Road Dawgz, and others. He has been featured in Time, New York Press, King, Big News, and on MTV.

news-cash-4-booksCash 4 Books: Sell Your Used Books Online
Cash 4 Books makes selling your used books very easy. A free iPhone ap scans your book’s barcode and tell you exactly how much they are willing to pay you. Shipping is free you print the mailing label and apply it to the box.Use bonus code “BLOGGER3” Sell a minimum of 3 books for an extra $5 bucks on your order good of all of 2012!

ghetto-heat-num1-sept-nov-2012GHETTOHEAT® Magazine Publishes 1st IssueSep 2012 – Nov 2012 #1
“GHETTOHEAT continues to work within real industry standards, and has done so since its creation on June 4th 2003. No prices have ever been reduced, no prices will ever be reduced: not even during recessions. I take great pride in producing wonderful works and quality goods, and will not devalue my company, authors, merchandise and productions, nor will I allow chaotic economic climates or unethical business practices by some within the industry, dictate operations at GHETTOHEAT®, or compromise my integrity. I love what I do and do what I love, and will continue to do so, righteously…. If you stand for nothing, you’ll fall for anything: GHETTOHEAT® remains top shelf. GOD bless you all….” —HICKSON Also, check out a few popular book published by Ghettoheat.

new-free-ebooksAmazon’s Top 100 Free eBooks
Here you will find a list of Amazon’s top free Kindle eBooks. I can’t vouch for any of these titles.The tactic of pricing one’s ebook at $0.99 or free is controversial. Some authors argue it is a good way to get your product out and build an audience. While others believe giving one’s book away merely lowers the perceived value and hurts prospects for revenue generation in the long term.We had a long conversation on the AALBC.com discussion forums recently. Let us know what you think?

news-blackboowebsiteneedlovetooLooking for More Excellent Book Websites?
Here you will find a list of over 40 websites that promote books and authors of African descent. Check out the list and visit a few of the sites.If you discover a site that you really like shares the news with others — or just share them all by sharing the link to the page: http://bit.ly/bestbooksites



new-hurston-wrightHurston/Wright Legacy Award
On December 1, 2012 at Howard University, the Zora Neale Hurston/Richard Wright Foundation awarded Black writers for their outstanding contribution to literature in the categories of Fiction, Nonfiction and Poetry during an award ceremony at Howard University.  The event was co-hosted by Terry McMillan and Lucy Hurston (Zora Neale Hurston’s niece).

The winners were; Fiction – Helen Oyeyemi’s Mr. Fox (Riverhead), Poetry – Evie Shockley’s The New Black (Wesleyan), Nonfiction – Tomiko Brown-Nagin’s Courage to Dissent (Oxford University Press).   Also, Cheryl and Wade Hudson, founders of Just Us Books received the Hurston-Wright Foundations’ Madame CJ Walker Award for Entrepreneurship.

The Hurston/Wright Legacy Award is the first national award presented to published writers of African descent by the national community of Black writers. This award consists of prizes for the highest quality writing in the categories of Fiction, Nonfiction, and Poetry.  Submission deadlines for the 2013 Hurston/Wright Legacy Award has extended to December 10, 2012.  Visit their site for more details.


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sarah-gordon-weathersbySarah Gordon Weathersby is the youngest of seven siblings, and the first to migrate back to the South after living in DC, New Jersey and New York. She is a retired Information Technology professional. She lives in Raleigh with her husband, and imaginary dog, Dusty. Sarah is the author of a memoir, Motherless Child – stories from a life, and publisher of a family saga, The Gordons of Tallahassee, written by her sister LaVerne Gordon Goodridge. Tell Them I Died is her first work of fiction. Learn how to get you “mug on AALBC.com too.


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