AALBC.com's publishers section contains information on publishers who express an interest in, or exclusively publish the work of African American authors.
New York, NY (September 21, 2006)�VIBE Media Group and Kensington Publishing announced today the acquisition of the first title in the VIBE Street Lit franchise, Death Around the Corner, by famed rapper C-Murder. The inaugural title will be released in trade paperback on December 26, 2006.
G-Unit Books, Hip hop star 50 Cent's new book publishing
line at MTV/Pocket Books. Roy Glenn associate publisher of Urban Books introduces Urban Soul to
debut in Summer of 2006.
One World Launches Nikki Turner Book Line - Nikki Turner Presents "...Nikki
Turner Presents, a line of urban fiction titles written by new and original
authors. The line will publish two to three books each year beginning in 2007.
Turner joins such African American writers as
Zane (at Strebor at Simon &
Shuster) and Carl Weber
(Urban Books at Kensington) who have set themselves up as publishers aligned
with, and supported by, large houses."
"Growing Publishing Market For African-American Readers"
|Imprint or sub-imprint||Parent Company||Books|
|Amistad Press Founded 1986||HarperCollins||Under new ownership First books|
|One World Founded 1992||Ballantine/Random House||Now expanding into commercial fiction and more|
|HarperTrophy||HarperCollins||Long-established imprint to add women's romances|
|Jump at the Sun Founded 1998||Hyperion/Disney||Publishing 20 children's books a year|
|Dafina Books||Kensington Publishing||Fiction and nonfiction debuted in September |
|Walk Worthy Press||Warner Books||Christian-themed novels debuted in September |
|Strivers Row||Villard/Random House||Fiction debuted in January |
|Harlem Moon||Broadway/Random House||Originals and reprints, debuts 2002 fiction and nonfiction|
Principal source: New York Daily News, Tuesday, December 12, 2000
Visit halala.com to learn more about African American books and authors from the Time Warner Book Group's family of imprints including Arcade, Back Bay, Bullfinch, Little, Brown & Co, and Mysterious Press.
There are two basic routes to getting published, mainstream and self-publishing. Mainstream is when you submit your work to a publishing company to have them publish it. Self-publishing is when you decide to publish your own books. They both can be equally effective although the mainstream manner is the most respected because it has an aura or illusion of validation. Where self-publishing does not offer the validation from the establishment, it offers a satisfaction of artistic and economic control of one's work.
Again, the mainstream route is when you are hoping to strike a book deal with an established publisher. The cons of publishing using the mainstream route are: 1) most larger publishers do not accept unsolicited manuscripts from writers without an agent, 2) the larger publishers usually require writers to sign over their rights to the material for some period of time, usually anywhere from two to five years, 3) even though one may have a deal with a major publisher, it is still required of that author to schedule readings and signings across the country, and 4) most first time authors earn only ten - fifteen percent of the profits of the book. The pros of publishing using the mainstream route are: 1) because they are established (ingrained into the minds of the reading and buying public) there is an innate sense of acceptability and validation of the writer and the work and 2) one has the mega-machine behind him which allows one's books to be placed in bookstores across the country as well as gain entrance into �so-considered� prestigious organizations and societies.
Most writers embrace the mainstream route because it frees them to be creative, or so they think. Although one is always responsible for promoting one's own books, publishing with an established publisher accesses one to roads, connections, and certain avenues, such as book clubs and other literary societies and organizations which wish to only deal with authors who have been validated by the establishment. Self-published authors are often left outside or are locked out of these organizations or societies. Again, the established publisher represents, ideally, immediate access to mass markets and elite persons and organizations. In reality, most writers, even after acquiring these mainstream deals, still find themselves having to pound the pavement to sell their books. So, validation is the major pro for publishing with an established publisher.
This validation is important if one plans to make a career as a college or university professor. If this is one's pursuit, then the importance of accredited and validated research must be realized. One of my mentors, Dr. Reginald Martin, professor of English at the University of Memphis and editor of the best-selling anthology Dark Eros, puts it this way.
�If you�re in the scholarly writing game, it is not only validation that you receive by being published by a commercial publisher; it is also job perks and being allowed to keep the job. This is very important for younger black scholars to understand. Walt Whitman's self-publishing of Leaves of Grass (1843) would still be the great book it is, but if Whitman were a professor, he�d get kicked out of his job because only peer review and publishing by a large house matters to a university. This is wrong, and you can easily see how this will only re-create the same boring material and ideas, but that's the way it is� (Martin 1999).
Most established publishers like Random House, St. Martin's Press, etc., will not accept unsolicited manuscripts from writers who do not have agents. So, often times one will find oneself submitting to agents in the very same manner that one will submit to a publisher. Before any writer submits to a publisher or an agent, a writer must first subscribe to and submit to local, regional, national, and international journals. Journals are a way by which a writer is able to gain a feel for what is going on in the field or a particular genre, hone his skills, and submit, hoping that even in rejection one will gain some type of feedback. A writer should also submit one's work to various emerging and established writers. They, of course, will have very demanding schedules which will not allow them to respond to every inquiry, but I have found that most will take the time to send you some comments about your work if you include a SASE. Also, attempt to identify persons working in the filed as critics or scholars. You will usually find these individuals through journals and university presses. That is, identify certain colleges, universities, or writing programs and send your work to them. The feedback you receive from journals and other writers will allow you to measure your talent and growth as a writer and will also act as marketing tools when you do approach an agent or a publisher. It is always an added plus to be able to say that you should publish me because my work has been hailed by this renowned scholar, critic, or artist. This makes journals and publishers sit up and take notice. In fact, I would suggest that a beginning writer work the journal circuit for about two years before submitting their work to an agent or a publisher.
Another interesting trend is the manner in which established publishers are looking to independent or self-published writers. That is, once a writer has proven that he can sell a certain amount of books by pounding the pavement, often larger publishing houses come-a-calling. So, self-publishing is no longer just an avenue for writers who want to own and control their work and ideas. Self-publishing is now a very viable vehicle which allows writers to gain the attention of larger publishers.
The pros of self-publishing are: 1) Not having to wait to be validated which is important if you a doing something that is not being regularly marketed, 2) controlling what you write, when you write, and how often you write, and 3) being able to directly reap the artistic and economic benefits of your hard work of pounding the pavement. The cons of self-publishing are: 1) publishing work when, as an artist, one may not be ready or well-crafted and 2) the money that one has to front.
Self-publishing is a good idea if the writer has a balanced and level head, which is driven by a desire to produce well-crafted work and not driven by the desire to just publish or to gain stardom. A person who self-publishes must create a system of checks and balances so that his work is not guided by a self-absorbed ego. This, I submit, is the most difficult task of self-publishing, being objective, if such a thing is possible, about one's own work. Thus, the self-published writer must continuously identify and engage writers and critics whom he respects. So, even when self-publishing, a writer is always submitting work to someone other than oneself.
Self publishing is expensive. It is expensive to publish your books, and it is expensive to continue to re-print older books while at the same time publish new work. And the expenses do not stop there. Once a book is published, you have the responsibility for delivering complimentary copies all across the planet which can be anywhere from thirty to one hundred and fifty complimentary copies which must be included in your budget, not to mention postage for all of this. To distribute thirty complimentary copies at three dollars a pop is ninety dollars. Bulk mail helps, but it is not as helpful as one may assume.
An added issue is when authors wish to have illustrations within the text of the book. Photos, of course, do increase the cost of printing. Ordinarily, printers charge somewhere in the area of seven and thirty-five cents per page, depending on the quality of the paper and the quantity of the copies. (A high volume order of books decreases the price.) Color copies can increase the cost of copying a page to the range of one dollar to one dollar and fifty cents per page, again depending upon the quality of the paper and the quantity of the copies. Black and white copies are a bit different. If you are attempting to get a high gloss looking black and white, then the printer will shoot it with a laser printer or copier (the same method as color) and will charge you the same amount as a color. If you are able to reproduce those black and white illustrations by way of a standard copier, then it should not increase the cost at all, since the printer does not have to do any additional work. Of course, always ask. Here is the general rule of thumb. No matter what you need done in your books, always try to pay no more than three to four dollars per book. This, of course, keeps your price for the book down. Three should really be your limit, and you are probably going to have to get about 500 copies minimum to get a cost of three dollars or lower.
Even though I was not ready, not as well-crafted as I needed to be, self-publishing allowed me to gain the attention of some folk who would say, �Most of this stinks, but there are some moments here that let me know that you seem to have talent.� With hindsight being twenty-twenty, I should have worked the journal circuit more, even if I was going to self-publish. Even if one is going to self-publish, one needs to gain feedback from journals, university scholars, and critics as well as established creative writers. This is important because a self-published writer will need some validation from somewhere else since he will not be validated by the larger publishers.
What is this validation of which I keep speaking, those little comments on the back of books that tell a potential reader, �Hey, buy this book; it's good.� The real fact of the matter is that we live in a society where most readers must have new writers validated by someone else before they will pick up the work. Well, word of mouth is always the best advertisement. It can make you or break you. These comments that you will be receiving from various members of the writing community will help to propel your work into a larger reading.
Yet, it must be realized early in one's endeavors that this validation sought by a self-published author will be difficult to find. Further, Dr. Martin lets us know that �even if you self publish, the general rule for reviews is that no organization will review the book unless it also came out in hard cover. Again, this is silly, but this is the current state of trying to get a book reviewed by most southern journals and any large media outlet� (Martin 1999). Also, most large or more notable journals and periodicals tend not to review unsolicited work. Most self-published authors must hope that their work makes enough noise in the smaller periodicals that larger, more noted journals will be called to the work's attention.
Again, when one is self-publishing, everything is his responsibility. But no matter which road you chose, always copyright your own work. If some one publishes your work, you can give them permission to use your work, but the copyright allows you to retain all the rights. I tend to copyright all my work about every six months. Others wait and copyright only their complete manuscripts. As a rule of thumb, I never submit work to anyone that is not copyrighted. You obtain your copyright from the Library of Congress, Copyright Office, 101 Independence Avenue, S.E., Washington, D.C. 20559-6000. Or, you can go online and print a form at http://www.copyright.gov/forms/formtxi.pdf. It costs forty-five dollars per copyright. That is forty-five dollars to copyright one poem or forty-five dollars to copyright a collection of poems. That is why every six months I copyright a collection of work.
One issue that always arises is when self-published authors submit or allow their work to be included in anthologies. Generally, when a publisher applies for a copyright of an anthology, he is applying for a copyright for the entire work in the name of the publisher. What his copyright covers is the work as a whole. That is, his copyright only covers the works inasmuch as they are collected and complied to create one cohesive work, allowing the author to retain all rights to present, submit, or sell his individual piece. The rule is, if you have a copyright of a work and do not sign it away, then the work remains yours until you sign something giving that right to someone else. The only problem that can arise is if you do not already have the piece copyrighted before the publisher applies for a copyright for the anthology. Yet, unless you sign something specifically giving the rights of your work to someone, then your rights are covered. There can only be a problem if a publisher wishes to claim that your work was done as work for hire. That is, you specifically produced a certain work to be used by the publisher for a particular publication. In this case, it will be best that you had your work copyrighted. Here again, as long as you do not sign away your rights then you are protected. The publisher's copyright covers the anthology as a whole, but you still retain the rights of your work.
Once you have your copyright and your reviews or comments, it is time to put your work into book form. This means finding a printer and acquiring ISBN (International Series Book Number) and LCCN (Library of Congress Catalogue Number) numbers. An ISBN is the social security number of a book. It allows your book to be tracked and sold anywhere on the planet. The LCCN is the social security number of your book for the world library systems. It allows your book to be tracked and loaned through any library system on the planet. To receive an ISBN write to R. R. Bowker (U.S. ISBN Agency), 630 Central Ave., New Providence, NJ 07974-1154, Phone: 877-310-7333, email@example.com, or go to https://commerce.bowker.com/standards/cgi-bin/isbn.asp. You can complete the form online or print the application and mail it. Ten ISBNs cost $269.95, 100 ISBNs cost $914.95, 1000 ISBNs cost $1429.95, and 10,000 ISBNs cost $3949.95. R. R. Bowker will assign the numbers to the entity you list under company name. You can not transfer or sell the numbers to anyone else. If you do a joint project with someone, your ISBNs must still be listed to your named entity, or you and your partner must apply for an ISBN jointly. Because most if not all retailers require that books have a bar code, there is a place to order a specific bar code for a specific ISBN on the ISBN application. 1 � 5 bar codes cost $25.00, 6 � 10 bar codes cost $23.00, and 11-100 bar codes cost $21.00. Also, as of January 1, 2005 the book industry began adopting the use of a 13-digit ISBN. This change aligns the ISBN identifier with other worldwide product numbering systems, helping promote an efficient global supply chain structure. All books must be compliant with the new 13-digit ISBN by 2007. If you already have an ISBN, you can get it converted for free at http://www.isbn.org/toolkit.html. If you are applying for your first ISBN, you will be automatically given a 13-digit ISBN.
After receiving your ISBN, you will need a library catalogue card number (LCCN), which is also referred to as the PCN. This number is free, but you can not gain one without an ISBN and a title page of the proposed work. The form is very self explanatory. Write to Library of Congress, Cataloging in Publication Division, 101 Independence Ave., S.E., Washington, DC 20540-4320 or go online to http://pcn.loc.gov/pcn007.html. Again, this number is free, but you need an ISBN to gain one. They only ask that after you receive your LCCN and your book is published, send two copies of the book to be filed there. Submit those mandatory deposits to Attn: 407/Mandatory Deposits, Compliance Records Unit, Library of Congress, Cataloging in Publication Division, 101 Independence Ave., S.E., Washington, DC 20540-4320. When you receive your ISBNs, you will also receive a Pre-Publication form from R. R. Bowker. Six months before the publication of your book, fill out and send this form back to R. R. Bowker. This allows R. R. Bowker to list your book with all booksellers around the planet. So if I know your name, or the book title, or the ISBN, I can walk into any bookstore and ask for your book. Even if they do not have the book in stock, they will have the ability to order the book directly from you. This is how I sell all of my books. It is pre-pay only. They send me a check, and I send a book. I still get at least one order a week from Europe for The Lyrics of Prince. I have never been to Europe, and I am not planning to go. But as long as I stay updated with R. R. Bowker, people can order my books from anywhere in the world.
Now you do have to stay on Barnes and Noble and the other large dealers about keeping your books listed. From time to time I go online and check to see if I can find my books. At the moment, all of my books are listed at Barnes and Noble and Amazon.com. Finally, when publishing your book, it generally cost about $1,800 for a quality printer to print 500 books. This is about $3.60 per book. I use a local printer rather than a national printer because I like being in close contact with the printer though it does cost me more because they do not specialize in book printing. Always check with several printers in your area. It will then cost about $150.00 to $300 in postage to send complimentary copies to journals, writers, and friends. You need to set aside about 100 copies for promo. Book clubs are fine, but they generally only read and review fiction and essay. They tend not to read much poetry.
Writing is like all other professions. You must be a student of the trade. This means that you need to get a subscription or two in order to see what is out there, what is being published, and what are the current conversations/issues of the field. This helps you grow as a writer. One should also join some regularly meeting workshop. A good writing workshop stresses reading and writing activities and exercises that force you outside of your comfort zone, which forces you to challenge yourself and grow. There are several online workshops that can also be used to supplement one's local workshop. An excellent online workshop is deGriot Space, which is facilitated by Askhari. For information to join, contact her at deGriotSpacefirstname.lastname@example.org or http://groups.yahoo.com/group/deGriotSpace.
A good reference point for workshops, conferences, publications, and journals is a free listserve operated by Kalamu ya Salaam. He is an institution within the institution of writing. Kalamu ya Salaam is one of the driving voices behind the African American Southern Literary scene. Salaam's work includes the spoken word CD My Story, My Song (AFO Records) and his latest book What Is Life? (Third World Press). To join, simply e-mail him at Kalamu@aol.com. He has a cyberdrum network by which he sends e-mails to anyone on the list about magazines, book companies, journals, conferences, and other publishers who are looking for writers to submit their work. You will get about ten daily e-mails on submissions and discussions around the country.
Next, subscribe to at least two literary journals. One should be very academic and the other should be very culturally astute and wise so that you get the best of both worlds. Academic journals focus on the form, genre, and structure of writing. Culturally artistic journals focus on the amalgamation of form and culture. Subscribing to both types of journals allows you to grow in various areas. Do not worry if many of the articles look intimidating. You need to know theory (elements of literature) to write well or effectively. I use Callaloo ($40 yearly, Johns Hopkins University Press, Journals Publishing Division, 2715 North Charles Street, Baltimore, Maryland 21218-4363, 410-516-6987) as my academic journal and Mosaic Magazine ($15.00 yearly, 314 W 231 St #470, Bronx, NY 10463, mosaicmagazine.org) as my cultural journal. African American Review (Department of English, Saint Louis University, Humanities 317, 3800 Lindell Blvd., St. Louis, MO 63108) is also a very well established scholarly journal. A final journal to which I subscribe is Black Issues Book Review ($19.95 yearly, 350 Fifth Ave., Suite 1522, New York, NY 10118).
I am not suggesting that one rush out a get all these journals. But, I want young writers to understand that writing is more than what we feel. You may feel or think something, but you need to develop the tools to articulate specifically and effectively what it is that you are thinking and/or feeling. Even if you may have good ideas and tools, you must get to work developing them. No matter what road a writer chooses to follow, only well-crafted writing will get a writer where he wants to go.
There are four additional books that all beginning African American writers should have in their possession: The Norton Anthology of African American Literature edited by Henry Louis Gates, Jr., Trouble the Water and Black Southern Writers both edited by Dr. Jerry W. Ward, and Call and Response edited by Dr. Trudier Harris. These four anthologies give you a cohesive understanding of the African American literary cannon. They also give you an idea of how the publishing of African American literature has changed and evolved. Specifically, these anthologies show how self-publishing and small/independent publishing have always been a part of the African American publishing tradition and how it remains a necessary mainstay.
As for self-publishing, I am broke but happy. I own my work. I control my work. I work at my own pace, which is cool since I know that I will work harder at selling my books than anyone else. Nikki Giovanni began as a self-published author, riding around with books in her trunk. Third World Press, which is now a major publishing force, began with Haki Madhubuti selling single poems at a barber shop. Gwendolyn Brooks and Amiri Baraka both have been visible and consistent supporters of independent and self-publishing. Self-publishing has been a major vehicle for African American writers who have been and are still very much locked out of the mainstream media. Self-publishing and independent publishing appeals to many African Americans whose voices and subject matters have been and remain contradicting to mainstream publishing. When African American writers have needed a tool to raise their voices about their situation in American and that voice was no longer en vogue, self-publishing and independent publishing remained as excellent vehicles, ensuring that all voices will be given the opportunity to be heard.
Martin, Reginald. �Personal Interview.� Spring, 1999.