Category Archives: Supporting Literacy

2016 National Black Writers Conference

Update: March 25, 2016
The Conference’s Complete and final Schedule of Events is Now Available.

Greetings Colleagues,

national-black-writers-conference-2016We are excited about the upcoming 13th National Black Writers Conference. Thank you for your support of the National Black Writers Conference and the Center for Black Literature at Medgar Evers College. You have witnessed the growth of the National Black Writers Conference and the Center for Black Literature over the years, and we truly appreciate your support as you are aware they both add value to Medgar Evers College, the Brooklyn community, and the general public. Both the Center for Black Literature and the National Black Writers Conference are known nationally and internationally.

Our 13th National Black Writers Conference will be held at Medgar Evers College, from Thursday, March 31 to Sunday, April 3, 2016. Poet laureate Rita Dove is the Honorary Chair for the Conference and we are also honoring Edwidge Danticat, Charles Johnson, Michael Eric Dyson, and Woodie King Jr. I hope that you will attend some of the programs and that you will be able to attend our opening and Awards Program.

Please see the attached press release, as I hope you will be able to offer some coverage of the conference, as well.

You are important to ensuring that the public knows about the value and importance of our work. There are other organizations that focus on promoting African American studies, but we are the only Center for Black Literature in the country still focused on doing this work. We value your support in helping us to realize our mission.

Sincerely,
Clarence V. Reynolds, Director
Center for Black Literature at Medgar Evers College, CUNY
718-804-8881


Highlights from the National Black Writers Conference Include:

publishing-workshop-530

Publishing Workshop: Editing, Marketing, Book Production, and More
Join book industry leaders; Earl Cox, President of Earl Cox & Associates; bestselling author and editor, Carol Taylor; and AALBC.com’s Founder, Troy Johnson, in a workshop on the publishing process.  This workshop will introduce participants to the book publishing process by detailing the path that a book should take from writer’s mind to reader’s hands. (Sunday, April 3, 2016, 12:00 p.m. – 2:30 p.m.)


news-youth-program

Youth Literacy Program
Award winning children’s book authors, Jerry Craft, Cheryl and Wade Hudson, Denise Patrick and Calvin Ramsey, will meet grade school students and talk about their work. (Thursday, March 31, 2016, 9:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.)


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Provocateurs: The Symbiotic Relationship Between Photographers & Writers Photography
This group show features the work of, Laylah Amatullah Barrayn, Rachel Eliza Griffiths and Marcia E. Wilson. The purpose of the exhibit “Provocateurs” is to present the linkage writers of African descent and their photographer counterparts share in rendering the Black experience and historical narratives.  The opening reception will be held Monday, March 28, 2016 from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.


To learn about other major events, coming up this year, visit our events page.

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.

Share Info from Indie Black Owned Websites

Add Huria Search Resources to Your Website or Blog

Huria Search was created in reaction to the current trend in search results that favor deep pocketed advertisers and large corporations over independent websites. Huria Search

While this trend affects all independent websites, the impact on Black websites is more severe.  As a result, some of the best content generated for and by the Black community is buried too deep in traditional search results to be easily discovered.

Today, not only can you discover great content from independent websites more easily, you can help others do the same, with a growing set of databases and tools from Huria Search.

Huria Search Engine
Huria Search allows you to quickly search hundreds of Black owned websites (including all of the sites in the databases below) free of advertisements!

The Top Black Websites
Here you will find a list of the most popular websites targeted to Black people on the world wide web.

Database of Independent Newspapers
A database of 100+ Black owned newspapers

Database of Independent Bookstores
A database 100+ Black owned booksellers across the United States

The Power List
The only National Bestsellers List of books read by African Americans

Book Sites
A database of the top Black book websites

The Book Look Video Program
Popular online video book program which can be added to your site.  New videos are served to you about twice a month

Magazines
A list of 50+ Black owned magazines (a sharable database coming soon)

You are free, indeed encouraged, to share any and all of the information on Huria Search.  To paraphrase a conscious Brother I know, “This information must be shared”.

Learn more on about how to support Huria Search’s efforts.