Tag Archives: Writers

Why Black Owned Websites Fail

A few days ago a friend came across an article in, WhereItzAt Magazine. In the magazine was an article, “In defense of Black Bookstores,” which addressed the loss of Black bookstores and why it matters.  This is an issue I’ve covered extensively.  Indeed, I have published a directory of Black owned bookstores for as long as I have run this site.  My current coverage of Black owned bookstores is probably the most extensive coverage available on the web today.  So it goes without saying that I applaud WhereItzAt Magazine’s coverage of this important issue.

My friend took a photo of the article (shown below) and shared it with me, because this website was mentioned, in the last paragraph, as a resource where one my find a list of Black owned bookstores.

Of course I was interested in sharing this article, but I decided to look for an online version which would make it possible for others to more easily read.  I found the article, but noticed that the online version did not mention AALBC.com at all?!

This just struck me as simply dumb.  Why would the website not mention, and link to an, online resource  to help readers discover the remaining Black owned bookstores–the very thing they are purporting to support?  They were obviously aware of the resource; why would they decide to exclude it on the online version of their article?

I still shared the article, because the subject is important.  In fact, I even added WhereItzAt Magazine. to my listing of Black owned magazines (even though I have not yet verified that they are still in print).  I also added their website to my Huria Search engine which allows people to search Black owned websites exclusively.

Now, while I’m using WhereItzAt Magazine as an example they are the norm–and this is our biggest problem. Stated plainly, Black websites do not link to each other.

To illustrate this point, lets run a Huria Search on “aalbc.”  Again Huria Search’s only goal is to elevate Black websites by making their content easier to find.  In fact, the websites I own, including AALBC.com, are not included in the hundreds of sites that are indexed in Huria Search.

If you examine, the top results you will see that most are two years older or more.  There are none from the largest Black websites.  The one search result from a top Black website was Black Enterprise Magazine, where they credited AALBC.com for an image that they copied from my website.  Even here Black Enterprise they did not actually link back to the the AALBC.com page where they grabbed the image (looking at the page today, Black Enterprise even removed that reference).

You’ll also see from that query that there are 13,000 results.  Which may give you the impression that there are many links back to AALBC.com—and there, but they tend to be older links.  The problem I’m describing is relatively new.

When the web first started Black-owned websites were very likely to link to other sites. We all recognized that by helping visitors discover other interesting websites, that added value to our own websites.  In fact, before search, this was the primary way we discovered other Black websites.  This is why I continue to link to other websites and may be the reason I’ve been able to keep this website viable for 18 years

What changed?

Well some webmasters have been convinced that linking to other websites hurts their website: Some feel linking to other websites encourages people to leave their website. Others feel by linking to a potentially lower “quality” websites, hurts their website in terms of search engine optimization (SEO).  Of course there is the problem of the site they link to removing the page in the future, creating a broken link on their website, which is bad for SEO and the experience of their visitors.

But all of these reasons can be addressed—particularly by webmasters interested in the health and vibrancy of the Black web.  Relying on social media, or search, to elevate our sites and make them discoverable, is simply not working.

To compound this problem, when webmasters started linking to other websites, they began linking aggressively to social media websites. The result is that collectively we are uplifting social media and marginalizing our own websites.

This problem is further exacerbated by Google (who handles the majority of searches), whose search algorithm looks at our behavior, of linking to social media and not linking to Black websites, and makes the reasonable conclusion to elevate social media over Black websites in search engine results.

All of this has had disastrous results on the ability of websites to generate traffic and survive.  As a result, the web is far less rich—particularly as it relates to content generated by and for Black people.  We have lost some terrific website and potentially great ones are discouraged from even starting because of the difficulty of attracting visitors.

If you have read this far, I suspect this article has resonated with you.  If so, there is something you can do: Take every opportunity you have to link to another website.  You don’t need to have a website or blog to do this.  You can link to and share links to websites from your social media sites—a hyperlink to a website is much better for a website, than tagging or liking that website on a social media platform.  If you read an article which has a place for comments, and feel another website offers a related resource, link to that website in the article’s comments section.

Of course if you appreciated this article share it by linking to it or using the social media icons shown.

Footnote:
Immediately after publishing this article, I connected with the publisher of WhereItzAt Magazine; not only will they update their “In defense of Black Bookstores,” article to add a link to our bookstore database.  They have also expressed an interest in collaborating.

I’m pleased WhereItzAt Magazine received the article as intended.  I also look forward to working with them in a more constructive, and mutually beneficial, fashion.  As a result, you the reader, will be much better served.

2015 Year End Thank You!

Coming in the New Year

newbookscreenshotThe biggest news for the new year is our website upgrade. We are redesigning AALBC.com from scratch, and we have the benefit of 18 years of content and experience, to bring you a world class website, celebrating Black culture through literature.

Without getting too technical, we are developing a customized CMS, which will allow us to present information about books and authors in a way that no other website can. Our new website is, mobile first, faster, more easily navigated, and less cluttered.

We now offer more flexible book buying options, including links to publishers (as with Just Us Books) and other independent booksellers, to bring you the best deals while offering publishers better opportunities to profit from their books. In some cases, as with the Go On Girl! Book Club’s reading list, commissions from book sales are donated to charity.

Speaking about book clubs, we are greatly increasing our coverage of book clubs, not only to help book clubs attract new members and share ideas without other clubs, but to help readers discover the great reads book clubs have researched and uncovered.

This is just the beginning; we still have a lot content to migrate and have not settled on a layout for our homepage, but you can review our progress, in real time, on our development website aalbc.org.

Our upgrade is a massive project, which we plan to complete in the spring 2016. Your ongoing support is crucial to the success of this effort, indeed to the survival of AALBC.com. Here are 5 things you can do to help:

  1. Share our content.
  2. Purchase your eNewsletter subscription.
  3. Buy books through our website.
  4. Share your thoughts in the comments on each page and join our discussion forums
  5. Keep reading!

The Power List & Huria Search Will Be Decommissioned

Decommissioned websitesHuria Search’s goal was to support and showcase independent Black owned content producers and book websites by making them more discoverable. The spirit of Huria Search will continue on AALBC.com. We have already migrated most of Huria Search’s content to AALBC.com, including our information on Black Bloggers, Black Newspapers, Black Magazines, Black Bookstores, Black Book Websites, with more to come.

The Power List was a collaborative effort to fill the void, left by Essence Magazine and Blackboard, for a bestsellers list covering African American literature. However, AALBC.com’s best selling books list, with our newly increased focus will be a suitable alternative next year. The new website design has made it possible to add a children’s bestselling books list and we will be able to produce a new list every month.

The freeing up of resources, previously dedicated to the Power List and Huria Search, will allow me to focus more intently on improving AALBC.com.

A Very Special Thanks to These AALBC.com Supporters

news-troyWhen one compiles a list like this, important people are invariably left off. To you I truly apologize. However I feel compelled to acknowledge a few people and institutions, who in 2015 lifted me spiritually, financially or through deed. Without your support AALBC.com would simply be impossible. In no particular order:

Dr. Elizabeth Nunez, Christopher D. Burns, Akashic Books, Kimberla Lawson Roby, SmileyBooks, Wade and Cheryl Hudson, The Center for Black Literature, Dr. David Colvin, Good2Go Publishing, Vanesse Lloyd-Sgambati, Robin Johnson, Connie Divers Bradley, Victoria Christopher Murray, Sherrie Young, Mike Cherichetti, Fertari Netsuziy, W. Paul Coates, Jewell Parker Rhodes, Lynda Johnson, Pamela Samuels Young, Gwen Richardson, Charisse Carney-Nunes, Queens Public Library, Baruch College, Kam Williams, Black Caucus of the American Library Association, Carol Taylor, HICKSON, Google, Martha Kennerson, M. D. Williams, Robert Fleming, Rita Williams-Garcia, Tony & Yvonne Rose, Ramunda & Derrick Young, Jamie Blatman, Kalamu ya Salaam, HICKSON, Mike D’nero, Bernard Timberlake II, Cordenia Paige, HARRY BROWN, my “Bookends NYC” crew, anyone else I failed to recognize.

Finally to my wife and daughters who bear, involuntarily, the struggle I have taken on without complaint and with love. They support my effort, of celebrating Black culture through literature, simply because it is my dream.

I wish you all a happy and prosperous New Year!

Peace & Love,
Troy Johnson
AALBC.com Founder and Webmaster

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AALBC.com Co-Hosts the Annual Black Pack Party Which will be Held in Chicago in 2016

 

Great Books, Events, Films & More – October 2015 eNewsletter

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AALBC.com’s Best Selling Books — July/August 2015news-childrens-bestsellers

We just published our ten best selling fiction, nonfiction, and children’s books for the period July 1 through August 31st. The photo above highlights eight of the top selling children’s books on AALBC.com. We are substantially increasing our commitment to children’s literature.

As part of this goal, we are compiling a list of The 100 Most Important African-American Children’s Books. If you would like to suggest books for our list, please visit our blog and share the books you would like to be considered for inclusion.


Book Reviews & Recommendations

Nonfiction

The Face That Changed It All: A Memoir by Beverly Johnson — Book ReviewThe Face That Changed It All: A Memoir by Beverly Johnson — Book Review

Beverly was signed by the Ford agency which, in turn, led to her meteoric transformation into the first black supermodel. Her face would eventually grace the cover of over 500 magazines, including Vogue, Cosmopolitan, Glamour, Elle, Essence, Ebony and Harper’s Bazaar, to name a few. By 1975, she’d paved the way for models of every hue, inspiring editors and fashion designers to adopt colorblind hiring practices.

The Face That Changed It All (Atria Books, August 25, 2015) is a touching, warts-and-all autobiography in which Beverly recounts not only her considerable professional achievements but also reveals the litany of challenges she’s had to surmount in her personal life. Of topical interest, undoubtedly, is the chapter devoted to Bill Cosby, since Beverly was the most famous female and the first African-American to publicly accuse him of drugging and assaulting her with intent to rape. More


Rock the Boat: How to Use Conflict to Heal and Deepen Your Relationship — Book Review
Rock the Boat: How to Use Conflict to Heal and Deepen Your Relationship — Book Review

I’ve refrained from reviewing relationship books lately, basically because there’s been such a profusion of self-professed love gurus hawking lighthearted advice ever since comedian-turned-love guru Steve Harvey not only published Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man, but turned the runaway best-seller into a hit movie, too. However, I’ve decided to make an exception for this relatively-sobering opus by Resma Menakem, a licensed therapist you might recognize from his appearances on Oprah, Dr. Phil and elsewhere.

Resma is a licensed clinical social worker whose approach to counseling encourages couples to confront rather than smooth over their differences. In Rock the Boat (Hazelden Publishing, April 28, 2015), a how-to handbook delineating his professional philosophy, the author starts with the thesis that marriage is never the happily-ever-after fairy tale suggested by the end of every romantic romp you see in the movies. More


African-American Philosophers: 17 ConversationsAfrican-American Philosophers: 17 Conversations

Originally published by Routledge in 1998; I’m finding African-American Philosophers: 17 Conversations to be a fascinating insight into the minds of some of America’s great philosophers. The brilliant thinkers include; Anita L. Allen, Robert E. Birt, Bernard R. Boxhill, Joyce Mitchell Cook, Angela Y. Davis, Lewis R. Gordon, Leonard Harris, Joy Ann James, Tommy L. Lott, Hoard McGary, Jr., Michele M. Moody-Adams, Albert Mosley, Lucius T. Outlaw, Jr., Adrian M. S. Piper, Laurence Thomas, Cornell West, Naomi Zack.

I started reading this book in reaction to a conversation on our discussion forum, “Who has filled the intellectual void after James Baldwin?,” which I initiated in reaction to Toni Morrison blurb for Ta-Nehisi Coates new book, the Power List and AALBC.com best seller, Between the World and Me ; “I’ve been wondering who might fill the intellectual void that plagued me after James Baldwin died…clearly it is Ta-Nehisi Coates.”


Children’s Books

news-one-million-men-and-meOne Million Men & Me for the 20th Anniversary of the Million Man March Written By Kelly Starling Lyons, Illustrated by Peter Ambush

Lyons relates the events of the 1995 Million Man March as told from the point of view of a girl who accompanies her father to Washington, DC, for the historic gathering. She begins, My cousin, Omari, said no girls were allowed. But Daddy took me.

…The description of the faces as a rainbow of chocolate, graham cracker brown and cream is accompanied by a spread depicting men of different ages, dress styles, and color, but their expressions of pride and hope are the same. Ambush successfully varies the illustrations to include both warm close-ups of father and daughter and wider views of the speakers she sees while sitting on her dad’s shoulders. An author’s note includes additional historical facts about the march. —School Library Journal. (Just Us Books, Oct 15, 2014)


news-poems-in-the-atticPoems in the Attic by Nikki Grimes, Illustrated by Elizabeth Zunon

During a visit to her grandma’s house, a young girl discovers a box of poems in the attic, poems written by her mother when she was growing up. Her mother’s family often moved around the United States and the world because her father was in the Air Force. Over the years, her mother used poetry to record her experiences in the many places the family lived. Reading the poems and sharing those experiences through her mother’s eyes, the young girl feels closer to her mother than ever before.

To let her mother know this, she creates a gift: a book with her own poems and copies of her mother’s. And when she returns her mother’s poems to the box in the attic, she leaves her own poems too, for someone else to find, someday. Using free verse for the young girl’s poems and tanka for her mother’s, master poet Nikki Grimes creates a tender intergenerational story that speaks to every child’s need to hold onto special memories of home, no matter where that place might be (Lee & Low Books, May 15, 2015).


news-mixed-meMixed Me! — Book Review

A few years ago, actor Taye Diggs and artist Shane Evans collaborated on Chocolate Me (see it on the new AALBC.com website), a children’s book about a little boy who was teased by his friends about having skin the color of dirt and hair that made him look like he was scared. That illustrated best-seller received critical acclaim for its sensitive treatment of the emotional impact of taunting on the young mind of an impressionable black child.

Now, Taye and Shane are back on behalf of biracial and any other kids of mixed ancestry with a story highlighting Mike’s struggle to fit in. A medium-complexioned boy with a ginormous orange afro, he’s being bullied at school by classmates who called him “Mixed-Up Mike.” They also make fun of the fact that his parents supposedly don’t match, since one is much darker-skinned than the other (Feiwel & Friends, October 6, 2015).
Fiction


 

news-rhythm-of-the-august-rainThe Rhythm of August the Rain by Gillian Royes

Shannon, a photojournalist on assignment for a Canadian magazine, arrives in the impoverished but beautiful fishing village of Largo Bay, Jamaica. But she’s seeking more than a tropical paradise: She wants to know why a Canadian woman named Katlyn went missing there more than three decades ago. So she calls on Shad Myers, the lovable bartender and town sleuth of Largo Bay, who hunts down clues to a woman’s mysterious disappearance in this fourth riveting novel in the Shad detective series.

As in her previous novels The Sea Grape Tree, The Man Who Turned Both Cheeks, and The Goat Woman of Largo Bay, Royes transports readers into a beautiful Caribbean setting where life is cheap, but religion is strong and one man is still trying to solve the island’s relentless questions. (Atria Books, July 28, 2015)


news-captin-blackmanCaptain Blackman by John A. Williams

Named “among the most important works of fiction of the decade” by the New York Times Book Review when it was first published in 1972. Captain Blackman was republished in April, 2000, as part of Coffee House Press’s Black Arts Movement reprint series.

“Captain Blackman chronicles the fevered dreams of a black soldier’s journey through time from the American Revolution to Vietnam. Published in 1972, it was the first book of speculative fiction that I’d ever read by an African-American, and I loved its power, its history, and that it was rooted in the race’s struggle to find dignity in a country intent upon denying that dignity by all means necessary. Williams was one of the finest unsung American writers of his generation.” —Beverly Jenkins, Author


daddy-homeDaddy’s Home by Janae Marie

Janae Marie is a writer, journalist and publisher. Born in Michigan, she’s earned a Bachelor’s degree from Wayne State University in Media Arts and working on another as well. She’s also wrote, produced, directed and edited her own film entitled, My Mother Donna. She is also the publisher of Young Urban Voices Magazine, an online publication for young adults.

Daddy’s Home is the second novel from Janae Marie. Abandoned, raped, homeless, and molested are just a list of things Danielle Turner has endured while growing up. Being sexually abused at the age of thirteen by her alcoholic father and ignored by her mother after she witnesses the act herself forces Danielle to run away from home. She later meets smooth talker Dante Willis who promises to take care of her. What she doesn’t realize is that his promises come with hidden agendas. Danielle finds herself being coerced into prostitution and abusing drugs to earn her keep in Dante’s house.


news-akaschic-booksAnything Published by Akashic Books

“Akashic Books is a Brooklyn-based independent company dedicated to publishing urban literary fiction and political nonfiction by authors who are either ignored by the mainstream, or who have no interest in working within the ever-consolidating ranks of the major corporate publishers.”

Akashic, publishes authors of all colors, but continues to make tremendous contributions to Black literature. Their roster of authors reads like a veritable who’s-who list of significant Black writers including, Elizabeth Nunez, Bernice L. McFadden, Nelson George, Percival Everett, Preston L. Allen, Amiri Baraka, K’wan, Shannon Holmes, Courttia Newland, Colin Channer, Persia Walker, Kwame Dawes, Chris Abani, and many more.


 

 

Events — October 2015

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The 11th Annual Cavalcade of Authors with Brenda Jackson, Beverly Jenkins, Lutishia Lovely and more. Hosted by Naleighna Kai and J.L. Woodson — October 2-4, 2015, Chicago, IL

Literary Festival of Charlotte Formerly the Charlotte Book Fair started in 2011 — October 3, 2015, Charlotte, NC (Postponed due to heavy rains and winds)

11th Annual African American Literary Awards Show Organized by Yvette Hayward the event’s goal is to recognize the accomplishments of African American authors and industry professionals. — October 3, 2015, New York, NY

The 2015 Black Authors & Readers Rock Weekend — A two-day literary conference for authors and readers — October 16-17, 2015, Bowie, MD

National Black Book Festival 2015 Journalist Roland Martin, nationally-renowned model Beverly Johnson and New York Times best-selling author Lalita Tademy will headline. — October 23-24, 2015, Houston, TX

14th Annual Hurston/Wright Legacy Awards Ceremony Mistress of Ceremonies, S.Epatha Merkerson; with Special Guests Nikky Finney and Yusef Komunyakaa; and Edwidge Danticat, Recipient of the 2015 North Star Award — October 23, 2015, Washington, DC

2nd Annual Independent Authors Book Expo Independent Authors Book Expo is a free event open to the public where independent authors, poets, publishers and writers can promote their work. — October 24, 2015, Elizabeth, NJ


Film Reviews

news-the-black-pathersThe Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution — Film Review

…The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution (In Theaters: Sep 2, 2015), a warts-and-all documentary directed by Stanley Nelson (Freedom Riders). The film is fascinating not only because of its copious archival footage, but on account of the many revelations exposing the dark underbelly of an outfit often given a pass in spite of myriad flaws in terms of misogyny and machismo. More

David Hilliard the executive director of The Dr. Huey P. Newton Foundation, founding member of the Black Panther Party, and chief of staff of the Party during the time Huey and Bobby Seale were incarcerated says, “The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution is not the story of the BPP, like many other academic and mainstream media interpretations of the Black Panther Party it is an inaccurate, external description of the BPP and it’s legacy.” More ▶


news-warroomWar Room — Film Review

In 2011, Pastor Alex Kendrick produced, directed, wrote and starred in Courageous, a very compelling, action-oriented, faith-based drama. With War Room (In Theaters: Aug 28, 2015), he’s opted to play only a supporting role in the flick, thereby freeing himself to focus more on his duties behind the camera.

The film revolves around protagonists Elizabeth (Priscilla Shirer) and Tony Jordan (T.C. Stallings), a couple we meet already in the midst of a relationship crisis. Most of their marital woes are of the husband’s making, as he is a workaholic who’s emotionally and physically unavailable to his wife and their young daughter, Danielle (Alena Pitts). More


news-malalaHe Named Me Malala — Film Review

Initially, she blamed her dad for her plight, since he was the one who’d cultivated her activist streak. “I am a child,” she said, “You are my father. You should have stopped me. What happened to me is because of you.”

But eventually her health was substantially restored, and she became a stoic and serene symbol of resistance to radical Islam. With continued death threats hanging over their heads, the Yousafzai family (including Malalal’s mom and two younger brothers) was forced to resettle in England where she would become a champion of oppressed females all over the planet (In Theaters: Oct 2, 2015). More


Related Articles & News

news-black-panther-comicTa-Nehisi Coates to Write the New Black Panther Comic for Marvel

Created in 1966, Black Panther, who is from the fictional African country of Wakanda, is the first Black superhero.

Ta-Nehisi Coates the; #1 Power List bestselling author; AALBC.com bestselling author; #1 NY Times bestselling Author; 2015 National Book Award Winning Author (AALBC.com prediction); and heir apparent to Jimmy Baldwin; will write the new Black Panther comic for Marvel! Coates definitely has “the juice” right about now.


news-bloggers-helpHow Bloggers Can Help Each Other

In 2011, I created a website, Huria Search, to showcase and highlight the websites of Black content providers including, magazines, newspapers, major websites, bookstores, and most recently bloggers.

I completely understand the difficulty bloggers, especially those just starting out, face attracting readers. Many excellent writers no longer maintain blogs, as they are unable to attract readers or generate revenue. Without the contributions of these writers, the World Wide Web does not reflect the richness of our culture and is a less interesting place.

Some bloggers are migrating to Facebook, but the creativity and unique design of a blog is simply impossible to replicate on a Facebook page. In addition, Facebook is solely revenue driven, so if your writing is not designed to engage the maximum number of people—good luck getting it seen by other readers, without paid promotion, no matter how substantive, creative or important it is. Of course there are also the issues of ownership, revenue, privacy, and control to consider on Facebook.

This was not always the case; the web started to become more challenging for independent entities about a decade ago. We can—indeed must— do more to support each other, otherwise our online platforms will continue to grow weaker and the power of the web will coalesce into the hands a few powerful corporations, and this does not serve any of us.

So visit a blog, comment on an article, share articles with others. If you need help finding a blog you’ll like, visit the Blog section of Huria Search.


Troy Johnson, AALBC.com Founder and webmasterDear Reader,

If book websites, and physical stores that focus on Black literature are going to survive (there are not many left), Troy, you have to support us. This is the only way our stories will be recorded and shared widely.

The new version of AALBC.com, planned for official launch in March of 2016, will provide book buy links to independent booksellers, not just to Amazon, the way we are setup now. Sure, we will provide links to Amazon, but we are committed to ensuring independent booksellers have a chance, and will highlight links to those sites when we can.

Check out the “Buy This Book” button for Buffalo Soldiers by Robert H. Miller you will find an option to purchase this book directly from Just Us Books. Buying this book directly from Just Us Books benefits this independent publisher more than buying the book via Amazon. More profit for Just Us Books more books for us in the future.

As always, remember to help us support for the writers and institutions we cover, with your paid subscription to our newsletter.

Peace & Love,
troy signature 1
Troy Johnson,
Founder & Webmaster, AALBC.com
Support AALBC.com, Support this eNewsletter

AALBC.com eNewsletter – September 29, 2015 – Issue #228

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