Category Archives: African-American

2 Ways Google is Killing Online Booksellers & How You Can Help

(1) Google Uses its Dominance in Search to Hijack Traffic from Websites

Google does this by placing content, it has collected from other websites, ahead of their search engine results, to sell its own products and services.  Google engages in this practice in a wide variety of areas from restaurant ratings to travel directions.

However, Google has had a particularly devastating impact on online booksellers—Google has literally embedded its own online bookstore prominently in their search engine results.  Rather than directing visitors to other websites, which should be the purpose of a search engine, Google is abusing their virtual monopoly in search by standing in bookseller’s virtual doorways and grabbing visitors before they can enter.

I’ve been tracking, and participating in, online book sales for 20 years.  My niche is Black literature and the impact on this group of sites has been particularly devastating.

Despite websites being less expensive and easier to create than ever before, there are far fewer websites dedicated to black literature today than there were 10 years ago. Those that remain are struggling to grow because they are unable to attract enough visitors to generate the revenue needed to maintain their websites.

The video below demonstrates how Google does this:

 

(2) Google’s Virtual Monopoly in Search Allows Them to Control Which Sites are Visited

I would argue that Google’s search engine is one of the the most significant developments on the web.  In fact, I use Google’s search engine on this site, because it is an excellent service (Google is discontinuing this service in 2018).

Unfortunately, Google does make mistakes, and these mistakes and be very costly if not catastrophic for the affected business.  Consider the following graph from Semrush’s website, which shows their estimate of this site’s traffic.

Graph of AALBC.com Traffic hit

While Semrush’s data is not prefect, they estimate a site’s traffic based upon how frequently it shows up in Google’s search results (big data stuff), they did correctly identify a significant drop in traffic to AALBC.com, back in 2011.  The drop in traffic was a direct result in a reduction of traffic from organic search from Google.

Now Google never provided, or even made themselves available for, an explanation of this dramatic, overnight, drop in traffic from search.  Many, less sophisticated, web site owners never knew what hit them. The drop in our traffic was apparently the result of a change in the code Google used to rank websites. Affected businesses were left to speculate on the specific underlying reasons for their site being penalized in search engine results.

This lack of transparency from Google has fostered a industry of people touting services to help you understand and improve (or game) your site’s search engine rankings.

This has also fostered a level of paranoia, which has led to an unwillingness of websites to link to each other for fear they could hurt their own site’s ranking in search. This behavior actually puts more power into Google’s hands, as websites are no longer a good way to discover other sites.  AALBC.com has never stopped linking to other good sites. Part of the value the site our site provides is helping visitors discover other websites they will enjoy.

From my experience, the best way to address Google’s search engine rankings is to follow all of Google’s recommendations and guidelines.  No matter how you feel about it, if you want your site to rank on the only search engine that matters, you must follow Google’s rules.

AALBC.com’s traffic has completely recovered 2011. 2017 is on track to be a record year for page views. Visitor quality is also better; visitors look at more pages and stay on the site longer.

AALBC.com is a higher quality site because of my adherence to Google’s mandates, but I invest a significant portion of my time addressing “Google Issues.”  This time and energy comes at the expense of creating valuable content for the site.

The environment created by Google also discourages the creation of new sites because it is not enough to produce quality content, you must also be well versed in Google search engine optimization.

Google Makes the World Wide Web a Less Rich Place

Because of these practices and more, Google makes the World Wide Web a much less rich place.  We are rapidly reaching a point where only the most massive corporate sites have a chance at survival.

Google has argued that they are trying to create the best possible experience for their visitors. In reality, what they have done is help make the web less accommodating to diversity and creativity, by making it an environment hostile to independence and where only the wealthiest companies have a chance to maintain a profitable platform.

Many who would have operated their own website, just 5 years ago, are now using Facebook as their primary web presence, because they believe their chances for discovery and survival are better on Facebook. As a result, visitors need a Facebook account to engage with this content. Once on Facebook visitors are treated to the same cookie cutter style and presentation. This situation contributes to concentrating of wealth into the hands of a few massive corporations. The rich get richer and wealth inequality continues to rises…

What Can You Do?

Support independent bookseller websites by;

  • Visiting their websites (here are more than 50);
  • Purchasing the products they sell;
  • Sharing their content by utilizing word of mouth, social media, anyway that makes sense;
  • Linking to bookseller websites from your website or blog;
  • Engaging with their content by leaving comments and participating in their discussion forums; and
  • Buying advertising on their platforms if available;

Sure, buying from an indie bookseller, might cost you a bit more on the price and you may need to wait a little longer to receive the product, but will we be better if the only place we can buy a book is from Google and Amazon?

Join our conversation about the importance of independent booksellers (both online and physical stores).

Support Independent websites, including this one, especially if you want them to thrive rather than merely survive.

Black Writers Dominate the 2017 Pulitzer Prizes

Tyehimba Jess, Hilton Als, Colson Whityehead and LYnn Nottage. Black writers winners of the 2017 Pulitzer Prize

Back in January of this year, I took the time to try to figure out how many Black writers have won Pulitzer Prizes in the six “Letters and Drama” categories; Biography/Autobiography, Fiction, General Non-Fiction, History, Poetry, and Drama.  The results were spectacularly dismal.

The award was first bestowed in 1917.  The first award was not given to a Black person until 1950! Gwendolyn Brooks was the first to win for her book of poetry Annie Allen.  Almost another three decades would go by before another Black writer, James Alan McPherson would win for his novel, Elbow Room in 1978.

As far as I can tell, no Black writer has ever won for General Non-fiction. Only one writer Ta-Nehisi Coates was ever nominated in the category, for the spectacularly successful, Between the World and Me.

Up until 2016, only 19 Black writers have won Pulitzer Prizes during the first century the award was given.  However this year, three Black writers have won half of the awards in given in the Letters and Drama categories.  Given the history of the award, it is like lightning striking not twice but three times.

In fact, novelist and critic Hilton Als won the Award for Criticism.  I did not research the history of the other 18 categories for which Pulitzer Prizes are awarded.  The other categories deal mostly with journalism and reporting; I suspect that would be an interesting and revealing exercise to review those categories too.

I’d be the first to argue that the Black community does not need the validation of Pulitzer Prize Board to substantiate our work.  Indeed, given the history of the award, it is not expected either.  However, there have been substantive changes in the awards in recent years.  This is the first time three Black writers have won in these categories in a single year. Of the total 22 awards given to Black writers, almost half were given in the last 10 years.  This is a positive trend.

So while we do not need the award to know our writing deserves merit, it is, of course, welcomed when our literary merit is acknowledged and celebrated by the broader community.   In additional to the $10,000 monetary award, these writers will enjoy even greater success with better book advances and more lucrative speaking gigs.  This is America and awards like the Pulitzer help authors achieve financial success—a benefit denied so many talented Black writers.

AALBC.com congratulates all the winners of Pulitzer Prizes in the Letters and Drama categories:

Fiction
Colson Whitehead for his novel Underground Railroad

“For a distinctive work that melds performance art with the deeper art of poetry to explore collective memory and challenge contemporary notions of race and identity.”

Poetry
Tyehimba Jess for his book Olio

“For a smart melding of realism and allegory that combines the violence of slavery and the drama of escape in a myth that speaks to contemporary America.”

Drama
Lynn Nottage for her play Sweat

“For a nuanced yet powerful drama that reminds audiences of the stacked deck still facing workers searching for the American dream.”

 

March 1, 2017 Newsletter — Book Award Announcements, New Books, and More

New Book March 2017New Books Coming Out March 2017

Helene Cooper tells the amazing of story Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, leader of the Liberian women’s movement and the first democratically elected female president in African history in Madame President: The Extraordinary Journey of Ellen Johnson Sirleaf

Early Sunday Morning, a picture book for young children, is the first book from Denene Millner Books, the new children’s line in partnership with Agate’s Bolden. Millner is also a parenting authority, editor, and a New York Times bestselling author.

A few years ago, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie received a letter from a dear friend from childhood, asking her how to raise her baby girl as a feminist. Dear Ijeawele, or A Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions is Adichie’s letter of response.

New York Times bestselling author Mary Monroe takes you on the ultimate twist-filled ride with the next installment of her her Lonely Heart, Deadly Heart series, Never Trust a Stranger.

Adrian Matejka, author of The Big Smoke, a finalist for The Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award, is back with a new collection of poetry, Map to the Stars.

Learn about these and other excellent new books coming out this month and in the coming months.


Coretta Scott King Award Winning Books AnnouncedCoretta Scott King Award Winning Books

CSK Award MedalOn January 31 the American Library Association announced the 2017 Coretta Scott King award-winning books. These awards are given annually to outstanding African American authors and illustrators of books for children and young adults that demonstrate an appreciation of African American culture and universal human values.

All of the Coretta Scott King Award-winning books, since the award’s inception, may be found on AALBC.com.


2017 NAACP Image Awards Winning BooksNAACP 2017 Image Award Winning Books

NAACP Image Award TrophyOn February 11, 2017 the winners of the 48th NAACP Image Awards were announced. The awards show aired live on TV One. The winners of the book categories were announced during the non-televised awards dinner.

The big winner of the night was Trevor Noah whose book, Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood, won in two categories, Biography/Autobiography and Debut Author. I was particularly happy to learn AALBC.com friend, supporter, and bestselling author, Bernice L. McFadden won the fiction category for her novel The Book of Harlan.


…But Only 16 Black Writers Have Won Pulitzer Prizes for BooksPulitzer Prize Winning Books

The Pulitzer Prize has honored excellence in journalism and the arts since 1917, but only 16 Black authors have won the award. Literary giants including Baldwin, Hughes, and Wright were never honored. I reviewed the list over the past 100 years the award has been bestowed in the book-related categories (Fiction, Drama, History, Biography or Autobiography, Poetry, General Nonfiction, and Novel).

August Wilson was honored the most, winning twice and being a finalist three times. As far as I can tell, no Black writer has won the General Non-Fiction category. Ta-Nehesi Coates was the first writer nominated and that category.

I hope I’m wrong and that someone discovers that I missed a few names. Even if it the list of Black winners were doubled, we’d see how very important if is for us to recognize and celebrate Black talent and to celebrate the institutions who do.


Recently Reviewed Books

Life is a canvasLife Is A Canvas by Joy Elan

Lifeis a Canvas is a contemporary novel about finding love and self and how the choices we make early in life, particularly in our twenties, sets us on a path, positively or negatively, for the rest of our life.

Allegra Johnson is a go-getter. She graduated from college in three years, and got her master’s degree in one. At 23 she has secured a $75,000 grant to start a company, Mane Attraction. I didn’t understand this play on the word “Mane/Main” since the business doesn’t have anything to do with hair. It is a cafe in the early hours, then a lounge with live music during the evening where artists can perform spoken word or rap. Allegra wants to give “the youth a platform to perform and share their talents.” Elan is also a spoken word poet, and it is clear that this is an area she is passionate about. Read the complete review.


The Meaning of Michelle: 16 Writers on the Iconic First Lady and How Her Journey Inspires Our Own edited by Veronica Chambers

Barack Obama made history by becoming the first African American President of the United States. Of almost equal significance was Michelle Obama’s becoming the first black First Lady.
Just as her husband undoubtedly inspired a generation of marginalized youngsters to believe that they could achieve anything they set their minds to, Michelle was a transformative figure in her own way, including the way she helped the world appreciate black beauty. Because of the high visibility of her position, almost single-handedly, she managed to successfully challenge the culture’s narrow definition of beauty based on European features (more).


Book Events, Fairs, Festivals, and Conferences

The Annual Harlem Literary Bunch
Videos from Harlem Literary Bruch

Dawn Davis and Sandra L. Richards

Dawn Davis and Sandra L. Richards

The brunch was co-hosted by Dawn Davis VP and Publisher of 37 Ink (an imprint of Simon and Schuster) and Morgan Stanley Managing Director and author Sandra L. Richards.

Check out videos of the readings and pictures from the event featuring Erica Armstrong Dunbar author of Never Caught: The Washingtons’ Relentless Pursuit of Their Runaway Slave, Ona Judge; Tiffany Dufu, author of Drop the Ball: Achieving More by Doing Less; supermodel Pat Cleveland, author of Walking with the Muses: A Memoir, and Sandra L. Richards reading from her children’s book Rice & Rocks.


The African Americans On The Move Book Club Literary Awards — June 9-11, 2017 — Atlanta, GA

AAMBC AwardsThe annual AAMBC Literary Awards was launched in 2009 in San Antonio, Texas by Tamika Newhouse. Smaller ceremonies were then hosted in the years following in Chicago as well as in Baltimore in conjunction with other literary events. In 2015 the first inaugural red carpet ceremony took place in Atlanta, GA marking the beginning of the black writer’s weekend.

AALBC.com Founder’s, Troy Johnson, was nominated as “Literary Activist of the Year,” and will be at the awards ceremony to celebrate with all the other honorees and readers of Black literature.


One of My Favorite Bookstores – Underground BooksMother Pearl at Unerground Book bookstore

Since the closing of the only library in Oak Park in the 1970’s, it became the mission of St. HOPE founder, Kevin Johnson (former Sacramento Mayor and NBA player), to ensure that the students and the community had access to books. Underground Books hosts book signings by local and national authors, lectures, poetry events, children’s story time, radio shows and much more!

Managed and operated by the effervescent Georgia “Mother Rose” West (pictured above). The bookstore is a wonderful space and an asset to not just the local Oak Park community, but to the national Black book scene as well.


How an Ex-Black Panther Waged a Successful, Four-Decade Revolution In Publishing Without Planning To

W. Paul Coates

Upon leaving a restructured Panther party to focus more energy on assisting local comrades still incarcerated, [Paul] Coates helped forge the George Jackson Prison Movement in 1972 as a means of connecting inmates with a supportive and functional network on the outside.“What I envisioned through this movement was working with brothers who were incarcerated, bringing them out and having them work in our first program, which was to be a bookstore,” Coates says, describing it as a way for them to “contribute to our community some of the goodness that got shaped while organizing with the comrades in jail.” The idea was to then build a progressive publishing house and, subsequently, a printing house that would all work together in a symbiotic relationship with the bookstore, providing knowledge, employment, revenue and a supportive exchange between those in and out of the jail. “This is where Black Classic Press was founded,” says Coates, explaining the vision, largely inspired by the prison-based educations of Malcolm X and George Jackson, and by a literary call from Madhubuti stressing the need for Black publishing. “It didn’t have a name yet, but it was founded inside the George Jackson Prison Movement.” Read the entire article by D. Amari Jackson at the Atlanta Black Star.


AALBC.com Discussion Forums—Join The Conversation!

Discussion ForumElsewhere, this Pop Culture Vulture is motivated to put on her Milo hat because she is sick of BEYONCE who, thanks to the slavish devotion of her social media “Beehive”, thinks that having a big belly full of twins has not only obligated her to parade around and show off her bloated abdomen, but has also elevated her to the realm of Earth Mother – a goddess to be held in awe and worshiped by all who look upon her! Her appearance at the Grammys, looking like a latter-day Cleopatra with a stomach tumor, was a yawner. She needs to go somewhere and sit down and hope Jay-Z’s genes aren’t stronger than hers. I’m also sick of seeing a frolicking Obama’s grinning face plastered all over the internet, as he has embarked on an extended vacation, immersing himself in a lifestyle where the troubles of the world will never again intrude upon his carefree existence. He may be better off as result of his presidency but I’m not so sure about the rest of the black people who put him in office.


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Troy JohnsonDear Reader,

I missed sending a newsletter in February. That short month just got away from me. I will send another newsletter the last week of March to make up.

Today I decided to stop using social media indefinitely. There are several reasons for my decision. Perhaps the most important one, as it relates to AALBC.com, is that engagement on social media comes at the expense of AALBC.com—the relationship benefits the social media platform more than it benefits our website. While this decision may appear abrupt, it was carefully considered and support by years of analysis.

I know my decision is not for everyone, but as someone who runs an independent, mission-driven, website that is also their livelihood. I don’t really have much of a choice. You don’t maintain a website for 20 years by making easy decisions or following popular, often fleeting, trends.

My leaving social media does not mean you should stop sharing links to AALBC.com’s site on the social media platforms you enjoy—by all means please continue sharing information about AALBC.com everywhere.

AALBC.com will continue to thrive not because of some social media platform Troy, but because of your support.

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


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AALBC.com eNewsletter – March 2, 2017 – Issue #242