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Is Black Success Possible without White Infrastructure?

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This article was written by a Brother I met at the Black Pack Party this week.

Is Black Success Possible without White Infrastructure?
by Dr. Obari Adéye Cartman

I decided to go the “all Black everything” route last year when I published my book.  In the text I encourage us to do for self, so it felt hypocritical to let Amazon make money while I advocate Kujichagulia. I had a vision of becoming a model for large-scale collectively sustained Black success. It was unsettling trying to think examples and only coming up with Marcus Garvey and Tulsa from decades ago and Tyler Perry today.  Independent black bookstores are barely surviving, so I dreamed of doing my part by creating a demand for my work to then say ‘you can only buy it from a Black owned bookstore’. Which still sounds good, but I’m starting to have some doubts.

Now y'all know this brother is singing my song. When I was setting up his pages on this site, I noticed his book, despite having an ISBN was not in any of the major retailer websites.  I inquired about this and he sent me a link to his article.  I was like whoa! I'm completely down with this--I just did not know.  So I asked him for a direct to his book.

Interestingly, I'm increasingly have conversations with publishers and indie authors who are interested in selling books directly--completely cutting Amazon out of the picture.  I think this is a great trend, as Amazon OWNS the Black book retail business and this is impoverishing black business, and not serving the reader very well.

The other benefit is that with Amazon out of the picture the author will make more money and the reader will pay less for the book. The example I shared about Dante Lee's book is a perfect example.

But the trick is, getting the reader to buy the book on a platform other than Amazon.  This will require a seismic shift in attitude among readers, but with enough promotion on the reasons why this matters I think it can be done.

Dante was able to address the issue of getting reader buy by directly from him with by setting a very low price.  This works for the type of book he was selling; a very short ebook.  But for a physical full-length book, the model may not hold, but it is something we are wrestling with, and we are open to ideas.


Below is a photo of Dr. Obari Cartman and a few other "Book" brothers at the Black Pack party; from left to right (front) myself, Obarl Cartman, (rear) Kwame Alexander (Newbery Medal Winner and Coretta Scott King Honor Award Winning author), Earl Sewell (bestselling author), and Earl Cox (publishing consultant).

obari-troy.jpg

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Guest Dr. Obari Cartman

thanks for the share troy! what are some black online shopping sites that you'd recommend me looking into? the only one I knew of was webuyblack.com. 

theblackmall.com is currently just a directory, but the owner said will be moving into eCommerce in a month or so. 

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If the writer does not rely on writing to make a living then they can pull off doing this. I should actually do something like this considering I don't place much of an emphasis on my books. I could easily switch the production of the book to a Black printing press and carry the books on my site only. Since the books are something I really love, but I don't see becoming as profitable as my sneaker biz, I made a choice to take a hands off approach and place the book where I assume readers are. Which limits the time I have to invest in finding readers.

I guess if I was still an academic, I would place the energy into my website and book signings since this would be the natural progression in being a professor. I definitely commend the Dr. for attempting this. I look forward to a report on the short term and long term results.

Good luck Dr. Cartman.

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@ocartman1, for ebooks you can sell them directly from your site.  You would use other sites like AALBC.com to help generate sales by providing a commission implemented through an affiliate program. You would also promote your ebook through publicity and advertising--something most authors don't do enough.  Check out Dante Lee's model.

For physical books it is tougher because of all the issues related to physical products, postage, returns, storage, insurance, etc. But if you are willing to fulfill you own book orders, then everything described above for ebooks applies.

AIl you need someone to drop ship your orders (send the books to the customer in your behalf).  I'm sure there are a number of Black owned businesses that would be willing to do this.  I suspect Dare Books in Longwood Fl, Mahogany Book in MD, Brother Mati of Africa World Books might be willing to do this, of course there are others.

In fact, for a few years Earl Cox (pictured above) and I sold books in the manner Obari described.  Earl was the publisher and distributor, I sold the books on my site and he fulfilled those orders too.  I earned a commission on those sales.  There is potential in this model.

In any event, this might be a business concept worth thinking through and reviving.  We see where the Amazon dominated world has taken us.  Now that they are a powerful lobby and own the Washington Post, I don't expect any anyone in D.C. do anything about Amazon's growing Monopoly.

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I don't know too much about the publishing industry but generally speaking.......

In the infancy stages of most Black business....operating outside of the mainstream White infrastucture is not only possible but often times ESSENTIAL for your very survival!

Regardless as to the field (art, music, writing, even sports....) when Black people initially try to start their businesses the "official" way, too often the over-regulation, start up costs, and other expenses suck them under the water and eventually ends up drowing them out of the business all together.

When they go "underground" and build up a clientel as well as enough capital to go "legit"...they tend to stand a better chance.

We've all heard the stories of Master P, Too Short and other rap artists who started off recording their own music and distributing it themselves out of the trunk of their cars.
But I also knew Black barbers who had to go around giving people haircuts at home.
I knew a few sisters who started off baking pies and cakes at home until they built up enough clientel and capital to go legit.

Now REMAINING on the outside perimeters of the mainstream can be a bit of a problem.
Outside of the jealousy and resentment you may encounter from those who hate the fact that you found away around the system.......also when you operate outside of the larger White infrastructure you often lose the LEGAL PROTECTION that it offers.
You may open yourself up to having much of your material stolen with little opportunity for redress.

But when your business is in it's embryonic stage, doing your own thing is usually a MUST.

There are 2 types of people who don't do too well in this society:
-Those who can't follow the rules.
-And those who can ONLY follow the rules.

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