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About This Club

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.

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  2. Marketers in publishing houses tend to use social media for online promotion. This is easy, but it is not the best way to reach Black readers -- shoot it isn't even the best way to reach me and I can't promote book I don't know about. I can't tell you how many people discover a book, I thought was popular, for the first time on AALBC.com or through my newsletter. Brilliant.
  3. @Wendy Jones the three quotes I pulled actually illustrate what Troy and what most marketing professionals advise. Know your why, who and how. Marketing (promotion) doesn’t dictate WHAT an author should write just that they should have a group in mind when they do. You intuitively crafted a market and wrote your story for them. Your narrative indicates what you wrote, why it’s important and to whom it would matter. The through-line looks a bit like this: Oral History - African American Women - during early part of 20th century - with a hot button issue that is still relevant today - social security - and how one black woman over came an inequitable system meant to assist all americans - with a twist of mystery (because who knew it didn’t?!?!). If I were the script reader and wrote the coverage it would pass because its “marketable” .
  4. @Troy this is so true! Sadly, those authors could probably sell well if marketing wasn’t an afterthought. In fact, there’s an article I think you posted here about “black book marketing matters” even in big 5 publishing. Unfortunately those authors - (writing while black) even when they’ve received the guidance of who they are writing to and for, the marketing and publicity departments still don’t know what to do with them. The reason is they don’t have black marketers. In fact, I was the only one at both Penguin and Putnam back in the day. Probably none or one today. This is solid advice - period. There’s no getting around it. It would be malpractice for any promoter to consult or advise otherwise.
  5. To be clear, are you saying that one does not need to define an audience for their book? I ask because on this forum, just the other day I wrote: "If your goal is to make money with your book, marketing should begin before the book is written. The author should consider who the audience for the book is, how large the audience is, how will they reach the audience, and how much it will cost. Independently published authors rarely do this. After some analysis you may determine not to write the book. Indie authors produce the book then struggle with figuring out how to sell it." I do know this is common advice and the reason I share it is because I believe it to be sound advice. Of course I understand that some indie authors -- most perhaps -- have a book in them that they must to get out and issues of marketing are of little concern. In fact, issues of how to properly produce a book and sell it are of little concern as well ... until it is too late. I'm including a link to your book here on AALBC: An Extraordinary Life: Josephine E. Jones by Wendy Jones
  6. Siteground is much better than GoDaddy. Here is the link: https://www.siteground.com/
  7. Hello, Promoter Before I begin, I want you to know that, for me, the language of “marketing”—even the word itself--is too close to the language of enslavement: branding, selling yourself, which I see as different from selling your book. Wherever these terms would appear, I will replace them. For this letter, I will only deal with nonfiction books. Yes, as a writer I will at some point need help selling my books. But I do think that if you, the promoter, understood me, the writer, better you would be more successful at promoting my books. Here is what I heard most often: “Figure out who is going to buy the book before you finish writing it.” Sure, there are some books that are rather concrete and straightforward: “The 10 Best Places for Fly Fishing in North America,” "Starting your Business on the Kitchen Table,” “Scientific Hair Care for Women of Color.” All of these books could conceivably have a promotion plan before the writer even set fingers to keyboard. For instance, fly fishing clubs and places both online and offline where fly fishers gather, people in unemployment support groups, and women of color who frequent beauty salons and read magazines, blogs , and websites, with information about hair care for women of color. All of these are obvious places to start. Note, I am not saying that creativity and imagination would not be essential for how to go about finding these readers. What all these books have in common, as different as they are, is it is pretty clear what these books are about from the beginning. By that I mean they are giving straightforward information about concrete topics. However, there are other types of nonfiction books. I will use my experience as an example. An Extraordinary Life: Josephine E. Jones began as a simple oral history. It was modeled on All God’s Dangers: The Life of Nate Shaw by Theodore Rosengarten. Even though my mother raised me alone after my father left the marriage when I was six months old, was burdened by family members who borrowed money they never repaid, and worked on three jobs to ensure I had a superb education--the combination of her savings, my scholarships, summer employment, and work-study jobs resulted in a debt-free education for me through graduate school—until that spring day in 1993, I had never seen her depressed. This South Carolina sharecropper’s daughter, born in 1920, who arrived in New York in 1946 to work as a cook in private homes, became perhaps the first black woman in management at a Fortune 500 company, Standard Brands, now Kraft Foods. Her statement: “I don’t feel my life has come to anything” spurred me to write the book. Although I was honing down my mother’s story, focusing it while retaining her voice, something was missing. But I didn’t know what it was. Only after my mother casually mentioned that black people did not get Social Security—which began in 1935-- until 1951, did the book take a turn into a slightly different direction. This was several years into the writing. While reading history books that spanned my mother’s lifetime, I found this quote, which I included in the book, in Blanch Wiesen Cook’s Eleanor Roosevelt: Volume 2, The Defining Years, 1933-1938: Social Security was virtually segregated racially, and women were discriminated against. Agricultural and domestic workers…’casual labor’ or transient, part-time, seasonal, and service workers (such as laundry and restaurant workers)…and local, state, and federal government employees, including teachers, were excluded from the only ‘entitlements,’ old-age and unemployment insurance. As a result, 80 percent of black women were excluded; 60 percent of black men were excluded, and 60 percent of white women were excluded. Only half the workforce was included” (281-82). After that I read works on the Great Migration, the Red Summer of 1919, the role of black women in the suffrage movement, and the histories of the companies she worked for, among other books. Now the writing crackled. This simple oral history had now become a book that examined the history of African American women through the lens of my mother’s life. How could I possibly have started promoting the book earlier in the writing? The book had not yet become itself. The writer and the book are engaged in an intimate dance. Promotion requires leaving this dance to look at the book through the world’s eyes. If this is done too early, it is dangerous for the creation of the book. Once the rhythm of the dance had been established, I felt comfortable enough to temporarily leave it. Now I could see the book on library shelves, in the homes of the many people interested in women’s history, African American history, culinary art (there are stunning color pictures of my mother’s food creations in the book), and in college and high school classes featuring female voices, mother and daughter stories, and the Great Migration. Now in its second printing, and already in several libraries across the country, the book was accepted by the New York Public Library’s SchomburgCenter for Research in Black Culture in 2019. Books are not bricks. Some of them grow organically and become very different as they grow. We can not possibly figure out who is going to buy the book before we even know for sure what the book is. I hope this helps us work together better when we start promoting my next book.
  8. Thanks Mel you are right in that the money I make contributes to Black writers not just in the form of book sales but for reviews, editing, and other assignments. I'm going to have to out source the book order processing I simply can't do the work. I think I have a compensation model that will be worth it to someone looking to earn a little extra money and get some free books.
  9. @Wendy Jones me too! I'm so proud of us and @Troy for this "writer's write to be read and profit too" movement!!! :D
  10. Thanks @Wendy Jones I was talking to a publisher and they told me "A" would order books send them back before the payment terms (that A defined) expired only to reorder the same books just to avoid paying for the books by extending the terms. The publisher loses money on each book they sell through A. They were forced to increase the price of the book. In the meantime, given the lack of competition the publisher is selling far fewer copies. Everyone, including the publisher, author, reader, and bookseller are worse off. The only one benefiting in this scenario is "A." The real problem is that readers don't appreciate how they are less well off. In an world with "A;" books are more expensive than they would be otherwise (save the most most popular titles), and readers are exposed to fewer titles because of a lack of competition.
  11. If you haven’t heard about A’s latest dastardly deeds, here are two of the most recent: A (no need to keep repeating the name, the initial will do) was not ordering the number of books from various independent bookstores and publishers that they had placed large orders with previously. To have this happen just before the holiday season was a disaster. This is not in the update, but I recently heard from an independent bookstore owner that orders were now larger than they had ever been. I didn’t say anything, but I have a feeling the returns are going to be larger than they’ve ever been, too. Here’s the link to the response from the Independent Book Publishers Association: https://www.ibpa-online.org/news/news.asp?id=478273 As many of you know, writers’ rights to their work are bundled, like pickup sticks held together with a rubber band. For instance, you can sell the rights to the e-book, the rights to the audio book, the rights to the hardcover, and the rights to the soft cover. All these rights are sold separately, one pickup stick at a time. In the case I’m going to describe, writers sold the rights to the audio book version of a particular book. However, now A has decided to create an Audible Captions Program. What’s that? Instead of just listening to the text, the listener can also read the text on the screen. The sentences are broken up into a few words at a time. Then they disappear. A trumpets this as a way to help remedial reading students gain fluency in reading. Besides the disappearing text, the other problem is an “acceptable” error rate of 6%. On a page of three hundred words, there will be 18 “acceptable” typographical errors or otherwise mangled words. A intended to do this with all the books it had control over, not just those in the public domain (the writer is dead and the estate no longer owns the copyright). In other words, A was going to make a version of the book for which the writer had not been paid and had not given permission for the work to be produced (destroyed) in this way. Since September, A has been in court fighting a lawsuit waged by the writers and publishers whose work it had intended to steal. For now, A has agreed to roll out this program only for books in the public domain and the books it publishes. Look at the hypertext to see what happened to Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. Here is the link to the article from the Independent Book Publishers Association: https://www.ibpa-online.org/news/news.asp?id=467194 I am so pleased that so many of us at AALBC.COM are working together to break free from A’s chains. Troy, thank you for making this possible. I wish you continued success with your online bookstore.
  12. Serving Writers and Readers: African-American Literary Organizations by Diane Patrick Features our own @Troy and AALBC.Com leading the pack of several organizations that help books by and for African Americans thrive. The Publisher Weekly's article lists African American Literary and Culture Society, Cave Canem, The Center for Black Literature, Harlem Writers Guild, and Hurston Wright Foundation. For more of what each organizations offers writers and readers visit Publisher's Weekly November 22, 2019
  13. Universal Music Enterprise (UMe) is a brand of the global music conglomerate Universal Music.
  14. This was handy. I was unaware of Sisters so when I hopefully visit NYC next year, I'll visit this shop as well as Revolution books and Schomburg.
  15. Here is a link to an article where I describe my 10 favorite Black-owned, brick-and-mortar bookstores.
  16. I'm unaware of UME. Not over here, I think. Love the info booklets in CDs but you can't beat buying a lovely bit of vinyl, especially 2nd hand but in good nick.
  17. @Maurice UMe is releasing a lot of its catalog in vinyl ... I won't say I'll never buy vinyl again - but they are sure making it hard to ignore.
  18. The only High St bookshop in the UK is now just Waterstones. I don't shop there as I think that they are pretty expensive. I occasionally like browsing in there as I like to see what's new. Maybe I just like to be surrounded by books. Book shops of the past that are now gone include Books etc, Claude Gill and Ottakers. So that just leaves Waterstones. Of course we can buy online but we don't have much choice there. The same goes for music. Just HMV are left. Virgin and Our Price no longer exist.. But there are some cracking record shops around though most of these tend to specialise in particular genres. As for e- books. No thankyou. Yes, they are handy and you can store scores and scores of books on them but they're not for me. Actually, though I no longer purchase any reading material from Amazon I still have a music wish list on there. Perhaps I should consider not buying from them full stop. The last albums I bought were on EBay anyway.
  19. That is what I have to figure out before I can sell eBooks -- even if it means few authors will take advantage of the option and fewer readers will purchase these types of ebooks. There many authors, usually the selfhelp type, who seem to do well selling their own ebooks. I'll look into what technology the are using nowadays.
  20. Hahaha! Get it together, @Troy ! But quiet as kept, I always go back and edit my comments for the same reason! 😄 Agreed! But you can see how enticing it must be. Amazon always provides the Easy Button. So, we independent authors/self-publishers must include an “Easy Button” in our sales repertoire. Now what would that “Easy Button” look like - is the question we need to answer and act on.
  21. @Mel Hopkins you decoded my text correctly 🙂 (I can't help but think of Cynique when my typos are exposed she was a stickler on that). Your comment on free is actually really important -- nothing is "free." Indeed we provide so much value to social media, Amazon, and Google they should really pay us for using their platforms -- I'm completely serious. Amazon was still paying me to send readers to their site. I just did not think it was enough, so I stopped. All the "free" services Amazon provides can become fee based or removed at anytime. Which is what they tend to do once they have as they Again, easily creating a eBook that you can only sell on a single vendor's platform is only considered a benefit if that platform holds a monopoly position. Easily creating an ebook for a platform noone uses is no benefit. So I'm afraid giving authors an easy way to create ebook that can't be sold on Amazon is not an alternative....
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