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The mission of #readingblack is to encourage everyone to read quality books written by Black people and to purchase those books from independent booksellers. We strive to develop strategies that will make it easier for book buyers to support our mission.
  1. What's new in this club
  2. Troy, I am so glad that you found this helpful. I don't see independent publishing as a competitive business, but a collaborative one. And so many people have given me suggestions and information, I am compelled to return the kindness when I can. Also, if I have made a mistake, there is no need for others to make the same mistake. I appreciate your company on this journey. I will keep aalbc.com posted.
  3. Wow, @Wendy Jones this is a treasure trove of information! Thanks so much for sharing it! I will share it in my next newsletter.
  4. Just week I sent a number of emails to the leadership of the American Booksellers Association, telling them that needed to be more nuanced in how they describe Bookshop.org’s support of independent booksellers, for they were not supportive of booksellers like AALBC. This ultimately lead to a conference call with Bookshop.org’s leadership. They ultimately addressed my concerns. They asked me to join their advisory board to insure the issues of sites like AALBC are addresses. The issue of Ingram’s virtual monopoly on distribution is another issue. I continue to strategize on this and it is perhaps more challenging.
  5. Troy, Thank you for making your argument so clearly. The owner came to IBPA touting the website. I looked at it, but I wasn't interested in steering readers away from my website and I am not interested in Ingram. So wonderful that you are supportive of Black bookstores as a whole, not just your own. This is what social action on the part of the community means. My hat's off to you. Bravo.
  6. Every book is different, but I thought it might be helpful to you, my fellow writers and independent publishers, to come on this journey with me. I feel as if I am perpetually falling behind schedule in doing what’s needed to get The Culinary Art Portfolio of Josephine E. Jones into the hands of readers who will be uplifted by it. THE BOOK Since here at aalbc.com you have been surrounded by advertisements, a description, and a review about the book, I won’t take too much time talking about it. But here is a summary in one place. The Culinary Art Portfolio of Josephine E. Jones– where art and food intersect. Neither a cookbook nor a how-to-book , the book is a portfolio, with ready-to-frame prints, of the culinary art created by Josephine E. Jones with photography by the late John Turner. Opposite each photograph is text, which includes the ingredients, the process used, and a story about my mother’s culinary art. My illustrator, Natalie Marino, gets the credit for suggesting that the photographic pages be perforated, so they could be framed. The text pages on the left hand side remain even after the photos on the right hand side have been removed. This results in periodic blank pages, but they are there by design. THE PROMOTION SCHEDULE First, I researched the promotion schedule by reviewing archived articles from ibpa independent, the Independent Book Publishers Association magazine that comes as part of membership, researching online, and reviewing the IBPA webinars I took that covered the subject. I usually attend them in person so I can ask questions, but all webinars are recorded. IBPA offers monthly hour-long webinars for $19 each if ordered singly and 50% off if ordered annually. I order annually. There were 9 month, 6 month, and 3 month deadlines. CELEBRITY ENDORSEMENTS--HA Nine months in advance, I researched and wrote to two well-known people in the subject area of the book. I already had two friends lined up to write the other two endorsements. One was a culinary historian and the other was a professional cook whose radio cooking show-- with the original host--our son and I had listened to for years. In fact, it was our son who had first recommended the program to me when he was in grade school. I genuinely enjoyed reading the culinary historian’s books. And I had a fine time listening to the show with the new-to-me host of my favorite cooking show, as well as researching the host online. Neither person responded to my painstakingly-written concise emails. This highly-touted practice is a waste of time. Writers should stop doing this unless they know someone who knows someone who knows someone. My guess is that in a traditional publishing situation, the agent or editor has a contact who is a friend of the well-known person. That well-known person then writes the endorsement as a favor to the friend of the agent or editor, not because s/he knows the unknown writer. I don’t blame the well-known person. S/he is inundated with requests from people s/he does not know asking for endorsements. However, when I wrote the late Maya Angelou years ago for an endorsement for a novel I was writing, I did receive a response. Her assistant sent me a note politely declining, explaining that Ms. Angelou had too much to do. The tone of the note sounded regretful, not haughty. Now it is true, a few years before, I had bumped into the late Maya Angelou in Charleston, S.C. when she was somewhat lost, a situation which accidentally graced me with her presence. But I doubt if she remembered me. I just think she was more considerate than most people. NETGALLEY REVIEW PROGRAM Moving on to the six month deadline. I still needed two more endorsements, but now it was time to consider an IBPA review program I knew nothing about. I researched NetGalley. The program allows you to send your digital galleys to be reviewed by librarians, reviewers, and book buyers. With the IBPA discount, I paid $400 for six months on the site. Since my book has three main potential audiences: food lovers, art lovers, and black history lovers, I listed the book in those three categories. IBPA administers it, so you need to email them if you need anything changed or to request reports, but they are quite efficient. No more than a day or two elapsed between a request and completion. The monthly reports give details about the reviewers: emails and affiliations. Early on--with information from these reports--I contacted two reviewers who had given the book highly positive reviews. I asked them for permission to use review excerpts on the Praise page. They both agreed. I now had my two missing endorsements. I didn’t need any quotes on the back cover, because I was using a photo on the back. Altogether I received 23 reviews, most of them favorable. Several of the reviewers had their own websites or were also sending the reviews to Good Reads. One reviewer even showcased the cover and her review on her cooking blog. The last time I checked, last night, there were 11 reviews on Good Reads. I still have lots of work to do with these reviews now that the program has ended. Sending the reviews to libraries and potential readers will get the word out. Lessons learned: I should have scheduled NetGalley for three months before the book’s original publication date–May 20– and three months after. I scheduled for December 2 to June 2. AALBC.COM PROMOTION Just by accident, I stumbled onto the Books Coming Out Soon section. I was delighted to find out that it was free. As soon as I had a cover image, I sent it along with my codes that give the data about the book and a description. Here at aalbc.com, I made a better decision about scheduling. I scheduled the ads from May through July. Troy advised me to move the requested date for the book review a little later to give the reviewer time to read the book and write the review. It worked out just right. The aalbc.com review link will go to my email list with a request for friends and family to send it to people they think would be interested. IBPA MEDIA KIT PROGRAM I started the three month deadline a little late. In February, I signed up for the Media Kit Program, which is a digital press kit. It includes a cover photo, a description, the story behind the book, an author bio, and an author photo. Once I completed the kit, my materials were sent out in March. I used this program for my first book, An Extraordinary Life: Josephine E. Jones. As a result of that Media Kit mailing, I was interviewed for the online edition of Black Enterprise, which led to an interview with a journalist writing a book about Black women in corporate America. That journalist recommended me for a discussion on the NPR affiliate in Boston. The magazine interview , the journalist’s book interview, and the radio segment all resulted in book sales. In the Media Kit Program, you can choose which categories of online newspapers, blogs, and online magazines to send the kit. My choices: Women, African American, Art, and Food. I received 10 review requests. So far, I have had one interview for an Art blog, which will be posted soon. BOOK LAUNCH - SPRINGFIELD PUBLIC LIBRARY ONLINE - MAY 20 - 7:30 - 8:40 I had a fine book launch with wonderful sister and brotherfriends from several decades of my life, as well as a couple of people I didn’t know. With the technical and creative assistance of my life partner, I presented a slide show of the pictures in the book, which took about 10 minutes. The rest of the hour was spent answering insightful questions from the audience and the librarian. At the end of the hour, I offered bonus materials to anyone who ordered that night. People who had pre ordered or were “makers” (developmental editor, copy editor, illustrator, volunteer publicist friend, copyright advisor) also received bonus material. The librarian kept the online room open an extra ten minutes so everyone could order their books. A malfunctioning printing press delayed the publication until June 4. But now, a little over a week later, nearly all the pre orders have been sent out. BUDGET I am $1,000 over my $5,000 budget, which includes the print run, but most of the spending is behind me. I still have to place ads in the Black newspapers and decide which awards programs to enter. Awards programs are expensive, but I can put aside money monthly to cover the costs. The radio programs I am considering cost nothing and are excellent for selling books. While working on this book, I have appreciated all the people who have given me discounts on their services or volunteered their services because they believed in the book. It has been an uplifting experience. NOW THE WORK BEGINS Even though states are opening up, COVID-19 is not completely over. I don’t feel comfortable indoors with large crowds even though I am fully vaccinated. So, I will figure out how to promote the book during this transitional period. My fellow writers and independent publishers, I hope even some of this has been helpful.
  7. NO SURPRISE--PUBLISHING INDUSTRY STILL LACKS DIVERSITY Diversity, equity, and inclusion were central components of several workshops and one of the two keynote speeches. A little over 100 out of approximately 3,700 members attended online April 7 - April 10. One keynote panel composed of women of color from various publishing houses spoke of the continuing lack of diversity among the staff and executives in publishing as the main reason for the lack of diversity in books published by people of color, differently abled people, LGBTQ+, and people who are gender non-conforming. A panelist from Lee & Low-- a minority-owned, family-owned, independent publisher of diverse children’s books since 1991-- published its first diversity report on the publishing industry in 2015. Here is an excerpt from the analysis of the 2019 report, the most recent from Lee & Low’s website: According to the survey, 76 percent of publishing staff, review journal staff, and literary agents are White. The rest are comprised of people who self-report as Asian/Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander (7 percent); Hispanic/Latino/Mexican (6 percent); Black/African American (5 percent); and biracial/multiracial (3 percent). Native Americans and Middle Easterners each comprise less than 1 percent of publishing staff. “The 2015 survey reported that overall, 79 percent of people who work in publishing self-report as White. Given the sample size difference, this 3 percent change in White employees does not meet the bar for statistically significant change. There is no discernible change to any of the other racial categories. In other words, the field is just as White today as it was four years ago.“ For more details on the report and hyperlinks to various recent publishing controversies, please click on the link below for the Lee & Low website: https://blog.leeandlow.com/2020/01/28/2019diversitybaselinesurvey/ Panelists felt there were problems concerning the practice of using “sensitivity editors,” free lancers who review manuscripts to catch cultural, racial, and ethnic blunders. By hiring these freelancers, companies avoid hiring full-time staff members from diverse populations. Also, these independent contractors are often underpaid. After all, without these sensitivity editors, publishers could end up recalling 10,000 books and dealing with a public relations debacle. NEW POLICIES FROM BARNES & NOBLE The other keynote speaker was Jim Daunt, the head of Barnes & Noble. Daunt said that B & N’s stores would focus on their local areas instead of having book-purchasing decisions emanate from headquarters. In other words, books from local writers and the book-buying habits of each area would be paramount in managers’ purchasing decisions. Daunt was asked about the return policy, in which bookstores are allowed to return unsold books, instead of discounting unsold items as every other retail business does. He said that returns would now be “rare” and seen as a sign of failure. However, he did not jettison the practice altogether. IBPA IS TAKING THE SOCIAL JUSTICE MOVEMENT SERIOUSLY Trainings, workshops, evaluations, revisions of values statements, revamping committee criteria, all are ongoing at IBPA. Those of us working on these committees are doing all that we can to make change that is structural, not cosmetic. Some members have left because they felt the organization was getting too “political.” IBPA did not try to convince these people to stay. I know, we have seen this many times before: Reconstruction followed by Jim Crow laws, When the Negro was in Vogue (Langston Hughes’ s chapter about the Harlem Renaissance in his autobiography) followed by the First Depression, the Civil Rights Movement followed by backlash. But this time is different. In the aftermath of the January 6th unsuccessful coup and the flood of voter theft laws, enough people have had their eyes opened that lasting change is possible if we’re willing to do the work. And many of us are. That work is both inner–-reading true American History, working on the racialized trauma in the bodies of all Americans (“My Grandmother’s Hands” by Resmaa Menakem is highly recommended)– and outer–joining local political organizations, making phone calls, or sending postcards to urge others to take different types of political actions There is nothing easy about any of this, but together we can do it.
  8. I just read the article. Amazon is indeed forcing people to use credit cards rather than Library cards. The author also noted that Amazon owns the paper in which the article was being published, but said his viewer were his own. This may be true today, but the writers has completely missed the point. because Jeff can change this ant anytime.
  9. Or open the link in an incognito window
  10. Try Mozilla Firefox, I read it through that browser. And you might also have access to the audio version.
  11. The article has a paywall, but I recall Trevor Noah's ebook was (apparently still is) exclusive to Amazon. Amazon is the only one who can sell the ebook. So naturally they can restrict the ability of people to access it from a library. The WP article has a paywall, so I could not read it. But thanks for sharing it anyway.
  12. So it's not enough that am*zon wants to put independent booksellers out of business - now they are attempting to shut down Public Libraries too? Independent publishers and authors please don't publish with am*zon. It can only harm your business model not help it. Read more from the Washington Post Consumer Tech Want to borrow that e-book from the library? Sorry, Am*zon won’t let you. Its monopoly is stopping public libraries from lending e-books and audiobooks from Mindy Kaling, Dean Koontz, Dr. Ruth Westheimer, Trevor Noah, Andy Weir, Michael Pollan and a whole lot more... https://www.washingtonpost.com/technology/2021/03/10/am*zon-library-ebook-monopoly/ NOTE: If you reach a paywall try Mozilla Firefox. I read it through that browser. And you might also have access to the audio version. H/T https://aalbc.com/tc/profile/6477-richardmurray/?status=1491&type=status
  13. Thanks @Maurice I noticed this too. Libro has made the book available to booksellers at no cost. I have not started listening yet, but will do so on my next road trip or airplane ride.
  14. https://blog.libro.fm/ways-to-resist-am*zon-from-raven-bookstores-danny-caine/?mc_cid=34a4ba2011&mc_eid=357bcc6aa1
  15. Honestly that would explain their behavior. Oprahs is the face of the publication and it gives the implicit impression that supporting Bookshop.org is the same as supporting an indie web based bookseller.
  16. O, the Oprah magazine, is partly or maybe even wholly-owned by Hearst Communications. And according to the circulation report, nearly 64% of its subscribers are white.
  17. It was both. O Mag ignored my emails explaining what they were doing and what the impact had. Still, I was disappointed they decided not to link to a Black booksellers. I get that linking to Bookshop.org pays affiliate commissions. I would have done the same. I've had a couple of conversations with the ABA on this issue, they are sympathetic, but won't doing anything, as they have a financial investment in Bookshop. The investment in Bookshop was not revealed to me. I read about it in Publishers Weekly. Bookshop offered to discuss the issue with me, to their credit, but I saw no path and declined the conversation (in hindsight that may have been a mistake, but I'm human). Yeah Paul, realizes he is an elder now and that these efforts need to be lead by younger people. But I'm not interested in leading in organizing I can help but I don't want to run the show -- but it has to be done, or we will continue to marginalized into obscurity. Paul also have more "clout" in the business he can get booksellers to do things that I can not do. But again, we must pick up the reigns at some point...
  18. I found another "write 'em and forget 'em" author who signed with a Big 5 publisher and thought it meant the publisher would put in the work to sell his book. Signing with the Big 5 means you're going to get superior distribution - and better access to awards - BUT it doesn't mean they will sell and market your book. I was so disappointed to learn the book was out of print - mostly since the protagonist was a Black woman FBI agent taking on a case that was far beyond her reach. This book was optioned for a screenplay by none other than Angela Bassett and Courtney Vance! I did reach out to the author on Twitter, and he said he would sell me a copy. Now he's Ghost. Please, please indy and traditionally published writers - handled your marketing and sales. The Bottom line: It's up to you to make your book a success!
  19. From mediabistro via Twitter How to Pitch Christina Orlando for Tor.com WHAT IS TOR.COM? Tor.com is an online magazine and community site that covers science fiction, fantasy, and all the many related subjects that interest us as readers - Pay around $75 per article
  20. What’s the point in writing if you aren’t going to be read? If you are selling books you have to establish a plan that is going to make you known. I think that’s one of the biggest challenges authors face. It’s not the competition, developing and executing plans which get the in front of people. If you don’t have goals it’s harder to aim for greatness. I now need to learn redirection or hire someone who does it.
  21. Since I wrote my response. I have dropped all Amazon links, but I have decided to allow advertisers to link to Amazon. Many authors do not have websites, have published through and sell exclusively through Amazon, so they have nowhere else to send readers to buy their books -- I can't even sell their book here on AALBC as I'd have to source them from the author -- which is inefficient. this is an alarming trend... but that is another story. Again I believe Amazon's near monopoly has contributed to lowering of the average author's revenue. Part of the reason is there are more authors than ever and therefore simply less money to spread around. Amazon also extracts more wealth from the authors, as mentioned, putting downward pressure on list prices and and extracting a higher percentage of the book production and sales without adding any value to the quality of the production. I took an ad from an author who published their book through Amazon. The book's title had a typo! Amazon really does not care what they publish even a cursory glance at the author's book would have caught that error. But again, authors feel they are saving money by going through Amazon, but at what cost? @daniellegfny Good luck with your goal. It is indeed aggressive -- bold even. $154K in sales within a year for a an independently published children's book, during a global pandemic, by an unknown author and illustrator would indeed be impressive. If your book retails for $15 (which would be pricey) you'd have to sell more than 10 thousand copies. That is a lot of books man!
  22. This is very good news: Self-published authors’ earnings are rising rapidly, but they still make less than traditionally published authors. While the median book-related income for self-published authors nearly doubled since 2013, rising to $1,951, they still earned 58 percent less than traditionally published authors. Among the authors surveyed who ranked in the top decile for book-related earnings, self-published authors earned 50 percent less with an annual median of $154,000. Like I said in another post my goal is $65,000 in a year of sales from this first book alone. But from this article I can see my next goal should be $154,000.
  23. Hey @Mel Hopkins yeah sites that do that are a real pain. Bookshop did delete my account the very next business day. I decided not to pursue an additional offensives against Bookshp.org. As I implied earlier my time can be better spent focusing on AALBC. I could have had my affiliate program setup now were it not for me expending energy countering Bookshop.org AALBC has weathered many challenges I'll weather this one too. I'm not even going to share the video beyond posting it here.
  24. This is an excellent move! I've been on a few websites that wouldn't let me self-delete - and I've changed the copy - but never did I think to use the opportunity to protest! Bravo!!!
  25. Bookshop deleted my page and noticed my commentary. They took issue with it, obviously, and sent me this comment among other things; "We are determined to be a socially-conscious alternative to Amazon and we will not stop improving our platform to make it better and better for our patrons, our booksellers, and all of our affiliates." I replied; "I’m sure you personally believe Bookshop.org is supportive of indie booksellers, but as someone who has been selling books, independently on the web, for almost 25 years I can tell you Bookshop is not supportive of AALBC.com or any other indie online bookseller – that much should be plain. If I’m wrong; explain to me what I’m missing. Bookshop’s goal, based upon behavior (not public statements) is to become the ecommerce platform for brick and mortar stores. This fosters dependence – not independence. As bookshop’s dominance continues variety on the web will be diminished as online book sales coalesce under the control of two sellers Amazon and bookshop." This short video describes just one way Bookshop.org is undermining booksellers -- especially web-based booksellers -- like AALBC as they continue their march to become the ecommerce platform for every brick and mortar store. It is the "socially conscious alternative to Amazon" that I profoundly reject, because it is bullshit. Bookshop.org wants to dominate book sales on the web, just like Amazon before them. Trust me if Bookshop.org demonstrated any support of online booksellers I would be making better use of my time. Bookshop poses an existential threat to booksellers on the web -- Black booksellers in particular. Now Bookshop.org can do what they want to do. How we, as Black people who care about our book platforms, react is what matters most.
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