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Top Ten Reasons Why African American Bookstores Are Closing

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"Top Ten Reasons Why African American Bookstores Are Closing" by Gwen Richardson: http://aalbc.com/blog/index.php/2012/03/25/death-of-the-black-owned-independent-bookstore/

 

Gwen has actually been running an on-line book store Cushcity.com almost as long as I have been running ALBC.com. Her brick and mortar book store in Houston predates the website, though I forget how long it has been open.

 

Gwen and I collaborate on advertising sales, and the National Black Book Festival. This list is complied from a series of post Gwen made on her Facebook profile. She agreed to let me share her thoughts with AALBC.com visitors.

 

I think there are probably a couple of other stronger reasons why our bookstores are closing; including a cultural shift from immersive reading, and reading for pleasure.

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Guest Gwen

Troy, I wanted to correct something for the record. The web site came first and was launched in Dec. 1998. We didn't open the store until almost 2 years later in Sept. 2000.

Gwen Richardson

Co-Founder, Cushcity.com

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I WILL NEVER FORGET THE TIME WHEN I'D FIRST STARTED TOURING MY POETRY BOOK, GHETTOHEAT® IN SEPTEMBER 2003, AND WOUND UP BUMPING INTO A WELL-KNOWN URBAN AUTHOR ON THE BUS (WHO WAS ALSO TOURING AT THE TIME) WHO WAS DOING VERY WELL IN HIS CAREER, EVEN LANDING A DEAL WITH A MAJOR PUBLISHING HOUSE. I'D ASKED HIM HOW WAS HE DOING IN GENERAL, AND HIS RESPONSE WAS, "THE WHITE MAN IS KEEPING ME HAPPY." I WAS SO UPSET AND DISAPPOINTED BY HIS COMMENT AT THE TIME, ME BEING SO IN LOVE WITH BLACK PEOPLE AND ALWAYS WANTING THE BEST FOR US AS A NATION (I NEVER CO-SIGN ON THE CONCEPT THAT "WHITE IS RIGHT"), THAT I DIDN'T EVEN WANT TO CONTINUE MY CONVERSATION WITH HIM FOR THE DURATION OF THE RIDE. YET, IT WOULD BE FIVE MONTHS LATER THAT I'D FULLY UNDERSTOOD HIS COMMENT, AS WELL AS BEFORE I'D BEGUN ADOPTING THE SAME CONCEPT. I'D LANDED A DISTRIBUTION DEAL WITH BIBLIO AT THE TIME, WHO WAS RESPONSIBLE FOR PLACING GHETTOHEAT® TITLES IN THE TOP CHAIN STORES, WHO, I HATE TO ADMIT, WELCOMED ME WITH OPEN ARMS, AND TREATED ME BETTER THAN MY OWN.... IT WASN'T THE INDEPENDENT BLACK BOOK STORES THAT WERE FULLY PUSHING MY TITLES, IT WAS THE CHAIN STORES, STORES WHO ACTUALLY BELIEVED IN ME, SO MUCH THAT: THEY (B.DALTON, WALDENBOOKS AND BORDERS) ALLOWED ME TO COME WHENEVER I WANTED TO, AS WELL AS GAVE ME THE OPPORTUNITY TO DO WHATEVER I NEEDED, TO MAKE SALES AND FURTHER THE GHETTOHEAT® MOVEMENT--WHITE MANAGERS AT THAT. I'D DEVELOPED GREAT RELATIONSHIPS WITH MANY MANAGERS, THAT I'D SOON BEEN ASKED TO MEET REGIONAL MANAGERS (WHICH ISN'T NORMAL), WHICH MANIFESTED INTO ME HAVING MEETINGS WITH DISTRICT MANAGERS (ABSOLUTELY UNHEARD OF!). THEY UNDERSTOOD ME AS A BUSINESS PERSON, AND I UNDERSTOOD MY GOAL AS CEO OF GHETTOHEAT®: TO WIN! WALDENBOOKS HAD THE LARGEST AFRICAN-AMERICAN SECTION IN NORFOLK, VIRGINIA IN MILITARY CIRCLE MALL, HAVING OVER 12 HUGE SHELVES OF URBAN FICTION ALONE, LET ALONE BLACK LITERATURE. BEFORE THE STORE CLOSED, THE SECTION WAS INCREASING--IT WAS MAINTAINED BY A WHITE FEMALE MANAGER, ONE WHO WOULD ORDER 300 BOOKS FOR MY HOLIDAY/SPECIAL EVENT SIGNINGS ALONE, KNOWING THAT AT LEAST 250 WOULD BE CLEARED PERSONALLY BY ME. SHE WOULD EVEN PUT ME UP IN HER HOME AT TIMES, IF I WANTED TO STAY OVER...SHE UNDERSTOOD ME PERSONALLY AND PROFESSIONALLY.

I WOULD AT TIMES HAVE ISSUES WITH BLACK INDEPENDENTS (SOME, NOT ALL) WHERE THEY WOULD BOOK ME FOR SIGNINGS, IN AND OUT OF STATE, AND NOT PROMOTE ME OR THE EVENT: EVEN WHILE I WAS AT THE SIGNING. SOME WOULD ALSO DISRESPECT ME BY PLACING BACKDROPS OF OTHER POPULAR, WELL-KNOWN BLACK AUTHORS BEHIND MY TABLE WHILE I'D SIGNED, INVESTING MORE INTO THESE WRITERS, KNOWING ALSO SAID MENTIONED WOULD NEVER VISIT THE STORE. IN HARLEM ALONE, I'D ASKED A STORE OWNER IN 2003 COULD I SIGN AT THE STORE LOCATION. THE RESPONSE I GOT WAS, "I DON'T CARE FOR YOU STREET WRITERS ONE BIT (ALREADY SUMMING ME UP WITHOUT INVESTIGATING IF I'D DONE MORE THAN ASSUMED), WHEN YOU SIGN 10,000 COPIES OF GHETTOHEAT® LIKE E.LYNN HARRIS DID WITH HIS BOOK, MAYBE I'LL CONSIDER YOU THEN." I REPLIED, "WITH ALL DUE RESPECT, IF I SIGN 10,000 COPIES ON THE STREET, I WON'T NEED TO SIGN IN YOUR STORE. NOW, I'M AVAILABLE ON SO-AND-SO DATE TO SIGN--DOES THIS DATE WORK FOR YOU?" IT WAS THEN WHEN STORE OWNER "UNDERSTOOD" I WASN'T TYPICAL AND BOOKED ME. YET, I WOULD'VE ASSUMED TO BE WELCOMED MORE AS A HARLEMITE--REASON WHY I NEVER ASSUME ANYMORE. I ALSO HAD INCIDENTS (SOME PENDING AND I CAN'T GO INTO FULL DETAIL, DUE TO ME SUING ENTITIES) WHERE I LEFT BOOKS ON CONSIGNMENT WITH INVOICES, AND THE STORES SOLD THEM, YET REFUSED TO SUBMIT PAYMENT, REASON WHY I DON'T DO CONSIGNMENT ANYMORE--NOT EVEN WITH THOSE I'M CLOSE WITH IN THE INDUSTRY. IF BOOKS AREN'T PAID FOR IN ADVANCE (AT WHOLESALE PRICE: 60 PERCENT DISCOUNT GRANTED TO STORES), OR IF I DON'T WALK THEM IN, SELL AT VENUE AND GET PAID AFTER THE EVENT IS OVER (60 PERCENT PROFIT, MY FAVOR), THEN I WON'T SIGN. PERIOD.... I SHOULDN'T HAVE TO FIGHT FOR WHAT'S RIGHTFULLY MINE, AND DEFINITELY NOT FROM "MY PEOPLE". A SITUATION HAD GOTTEN SO CHAOTIC WITH A STREET VENDOR WHOM I'D GRANTED CREDIT WITH AND HE TRIED TO BEAT ME BY NOT PAYING ME, THAT I ACTUALLY HAD TO TAKE 30 COPIES OF A WELL-KNOWN URBAN PUBLISHER AND AUTHOR'S TITLE OFF HIS TABLE FORCEFULLY, JUST TO RECOUP SALES OF 30 GHETTOHEAT® TITLES, IN WHICH I LATER SOLD AND GOT MY RETURN BACK, BUT LOOK AT HOW I DID....

SO, IT GOES BEYOND WHAT THE TOP 10 REASONS WHY BLACK BOOK STORES ARE CLOSING. SOME STORES AREN'T IN ACCORD WITH WINNING, THE MOTTO IS "TO BEAT OTHERS". ALSO, FROM MY PERSONAL EXPERIENCE, I FIND THAT MANY STORE OWNERS/MANAGERS HAVE BECOME COMPLACENT, NOT PUSHING THE ENVELOPE TO WIN SALES AND A GAIN A HUGE BASE OF CUSTOMERS TO CONSTANTLY SUPPORT THEIR STORE LOCATIONS. THEY DON'T PROMOTE BOOK SIGNINGS, DO BOOK SIGNINGS, MAINTAIN DATABASES TO REACH OUT TO CUSTOMERS, MERCHANDISE BOOKS TO LOOK APPEALING WITHIN STORES, OR PROVIDE FRIENDLY CUSTOMER SERVICE TO OTHERS. THE ENERGY PROJECTED IS WELL UNDERSTOOD, AND POTENTIAL SALES THAT COULD'VE BEEN GRANTED TO STORES WERE GIVEN TO CHAINS OR DISCOUNT OUTLETS LIKE AMAZON.COM. WHY WOULD SOMEONE WANT TO SUPPORT AN ESTABLISHMENT THAT DOESN'T GREET YOU? SOMETHING SO BASIC CAN GO A LONG WAY: "GOOD AFTERNOON, WELCOME TO 'MY BLACK BOOK STORE', HOW CAN I HELP YOU TODAY?" SIMPLE. THE EFFORT IS NOT GOING WHERE IT SHOULD AND IT'S KILLING BLACK BOOK STORES.

SAD TO SAY THAT "THE WHITE MAN IS KEEPING ME HAPPY" CONCEPT WAS DEFINITELY IN EFFECT: A CHECK IN THE MAIL EVERY 30 DAYS--NO DOUBT ABOUT IT, AND WITHOUT INQUIRING ABOUT IT; PAYMENT IS SYSTEMATIC! YET, I STILL LOVE MY PEOPLE, AND WANT THE BEST FOR US, YET NOTHING WILL IMPROVE UNLESS CHANGE IS MADE. I HAD TO RECENTLY TELL A FAMOUS STORE OWNER WHOSE STORES WENT DEFUNCT DOWN SOUTH TO "LEARN HOW TO GET OUT OF YOUR OWN WAY". FORMER OWNER IN RETURN THANKED ME FOR SAYING SO, AND HAS ACTUALLY TAKEN MY ADVICE. ONE THING IS FOR SURE: I'M KNOWN NOT TO "KISS ASS" FOR PRODUCT PLACEMENT, SALES OR EXPOSURE. I SPEAK THE TRUTH, SOMETHING THAT I'M LOVED AND HATED FOR SIMULTANEOUSLY. IT IS WHAT IT IS: THE TRUTH WILL BE TOLD! THERE'S MUCH I CAN ADD TO WHAT I'VE ALREADY SAID, BUT I THINK I'VE SAID MORE THAN ENOUGH. BLACK BOOK STORES NEED TO STEP IT UP, OR BE COMPLETELY CLOBBERED BY ONLINE OUTLETS.... PEACE & GHETTOHEAT®!

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There is no more loyalty in America anymore. Everybody complains about huge corporations but we were the ones that built them. We buy from Amazon and Walmart. We could easily keep our African American (online) bookstores in business if we had loyalty to our people and to our small business owners. But we're all trying to save a buck. We need to fix things about ourselves instead of blaming big business that we give our money to. We can't have everything we want for nothing. It costs just a little extra.

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Hickson, Biaunca, I completely feel where you are both coming from.

The lack of cohesiveness is appalling. I can give you hundreds of personal anecdotes from over the last 15 years that would have you shaking your head.

Exacerbating the problem is that we, effectively, do not control our own voices. Because of the fact this very issue will never be reported on in the mainstream media. The average person really has no idea what is going on.

I just sent this message to another internet entrepreneur as few moments ago:

"Over the last few years I noticed most Black independent website (including my own) are becoming harder to find via search – it was an effort to even find [your site]...

In the early days of the net people would link to other sites. Today, the assumption is that we can find what we are looking for via search, but the reality, at least for sites in my space, Black book sites, this is no longer the case. You have to know the site exists, otherwise we are becoming more difficult to find. This fact prevents new book sites from forming or they die a couple years after they start. While this helps me (AALBC.com), because of a lack of competition, it hurts our voice on the web. We have fewer Black book websites than we did 5 years ago.

Speaking of competition, I’ve also noticed over the years, building alliances in the Black community online has become more difficult. This is why I appreciate your thoughtful response; as it is an increasingly rare occurrence. This is also the reason I’ve made Huria Search free to users and free of advertising.

My hope is that folks will see it for what it is an attempt to help increase the exposure of Black website. Ideally the increased exposure will help benefit all of our the websites."

Hickson, you are right bookstores on line and off HAVE to be come more creative to stay alive. The problem is resources are hard to come by which makes it impossible to grow.

Our best resources go to "majority" owned business. It is not because they pay more. Many Black writers will write for the HuffingPost for free.

Many Black authors will quote every "Major" source before the quote a black one.

I've done events for Black authors who will announce Buy my book at B&N or Amazon -- every where but AALBC.com. They are not being mean -- they just don't understand. Some do, but most don't.

it is a very profound problem.

But there is hope. There are conscious people who understand the problem and are willing to do something about it. In fact AALBC.com would not be alive were it not for individuals like this. I'm not talking about famous people or very rich people. [Amazingly I've NEVER received an ounce of support from a famous or rich author - even though I strongly support them].

Most of my support comes from regular folk, and relatively unknown authors, like the people who regularly contribute to the conversations here.

There are also others on the web -- doing their thing, day in and day out, grindin' not because they are trying to get rich, but because they believe what they are doing will benefit our people, and in turn the world.

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KARMA IS A BITCH: ESPECIALLY WHEN YOU'VE BEEN A FIERCE ONE TO MANY WHO'VE SUPPORTED YOU OVER THE YEARS...

http://www.publishersweekly.com/pw/by-topic/industry-news/bookselling/article/52851-hue-man-to-close-bricks-and-mortar-store.html

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Hickson, I hear you man. I can see from comments, all over the place, your opinion is shared by many.

Here are the comments I left on the PW website:

It is not just Hue-Man, Black book stores have been closing at an alarming rate for the last few years. Here is a list: http://aalbc.it/deathboibs.

It is not just book stores it is Black book websites, Black book magazines, and related businesses. The outrage one might expect from such a profound and swift obliteration of our cultural institutions is non-existent because we no longer have the platforms to inform Black people. I have to applaud PW sharing this aspect of the story.

I wish someone had the resources to probe and dig deeper inside the Hue-man Bookstore and Cafe story. I suspect one could reasonably conclude the stores closing was inevitable.

Here is a database of the bookstores that remain (If I’m missing any bookstores let me know) Support them, be critical of them, help them if you care, otherwise watch these disappear too: http://aalbc.com/writers/bookstores.html.

Hickson what do you think of

Sisters Uptown Bookstore

1942 Amsterdam Avenue

New York, NY 10032

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HUE-MAN BOOKS TOOK A TURN TO THE LEFT, IN MY OPINION, WHEN RITA EWING'S LOVELY SPIRIT AND PRESENCE "LEFT THE BUILDING".... SHE ACTUALLY CARED ABOUT THE STAFF AND DIDN'T DISRESPECT OR BELITTLE THEM, AS WELL AS THE CUSTOMERS: ORDERING STOCK THAT THE READERS REQUESTED AND MAKING MUCH AVAILABLE TO ALL READERS. MS. EWING ALWAYS WAS ATTENTIVE, DELIGHTFUL AND WILLING TO HELP YOU: NO MATTER IF YOU WERE A NEW YORK TIMES BEST-SELLING AUTHOR OR A NEW, INDEPENDENT WRITER ON THE COME UP, THE ATTENTION WAS EQUAL, AND I WILL LEAVE IT AT THAT. YET, WHAT I'VE NOTICED OVER THE YEARS WITH MANY BUSINESSES IS THAT THERE'S A COMMONALITY: MOST PUT PERSONAL FEELINGS OVER BUSINESS, AS WELL AS EMOTIONS OVER LOGIC. BOTH CAN'T EXIST TO CONDUCT BUSINESS PROPERLY. I'VE HEARD IT ALL AND SEEN IT ALL, EVEN WITHIN MY OWN GHETTOHEAT® CAMP. YET, IF I TOOK ALL TO HEART, I WOULD'VE BEEN STRUCK A MATCH TO MY WAREHOUSE LIKE ANGELA BASSETT DID IN WAITING TO EXHALE. BUSINESS IS BUSINESS, AND I'M ALWAYS IN THE BEST INTEREST OF MY BOOKS, WHEN AT TIMES, NOT ALLOWED TO BE THE SAME WITH MY CLIENTS....

AS FOR SISTERS UPTOWN BOOKSTORE, I'VE DONE OPEN MIC POETRY READINGS AND SIGNINGS THERE IN MY EARLY CAREER (2005). IT'S A GRASSROOTS COMMUNITY STORE THAT RELY ON THE POWER OF THE PEOPLE, WHO I FEEL DON'T SUPPORT THE STORE AS MUCH AS IT SHOULD. THE OWNER IS ALL ABOUT COMMUNITY AND GOES WAY BEYOND BOOK BUSINESS. YET, WITH ALL THINGS, IMPROVEMENTS CAN BE MADE. THE STORE HAS SURVIVED THROUGH TURBULENT STORMS, I'M SURPRISED IT'S STILL HERE, YET THE OWNER IS A GRACEFUL OWNER WITH A GREAT SPIRIT, SO I KNOW SHE'S RECEIVING TRUE BLESSINGS FROM ABOVE.

TROY, I'M GOING TO GO THROUGH YOUR LIST AND TELL YOU WHAT TO DELETE SOON. I SAW A FEW STORES THAT NO LONGER EXIST. PEACE & GHETTOHEAT®!

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Thanks Gwen!

I also see I couldn't even spell the name of my own website correctly wink.gif

No one would have probably even noticed had you not brought it to attention. :P After I scrolled up, I was like, "Oh!"

The bro and sis speaking on the lack of loyalty and the lack of a desire to pay as prompted by black faces are so much on it. These two issues can be seen in the downfall of black bookstores and the downfall of a people in many other areas, too. You don't see our people going to Barnes and Noble expecting to be hooked up.

Also, like Hickson was kind of saying, that "The next man's ice is colder, so I'm going to buy his" mentality has got to be purged from our collective. Our loyalty and support coupled with the knowledge that we need no one else's validation could go so far.

On another note, Hue-Man Bookstore has closed? Dang twice. Dang, I'm late. Plus dang, because that is one bookstore that I planned on supporting again when I got to NY.

Finally, I have not yet looked at the list of reasons. I soon will, but is this reason listed? Reason: MOST PEOPLE DO NOT REALLY READ AND WHEN THEY DO READ, THEY ARE NOT READING FOR OUT OF THE DESIRE FOR ENLIGHTENENT OR PLEASURE BUT MORESO OUT OF SCHOOL/WORK RELATED OBLIGATIONS.

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Waterstar the reasons will never be listed. What you will find will be a list of anecdotes and speculation. The subject is apparently unworthy of study...

However the economy is probably more of a factor than one might assume. In Harlem the unemployment rate is 50%. Even those that have jobs are not making a lot of money. Despite the numbers of Black folks in Harlem, there may not have been a large enough numbers of potential Black book buyers.

The problems Hickson describe are complex and can be viewed differently was from different perspectives.

The "water man ice is colder" is a very profound problem. I could write a book about it. Here is an example from a few minutes ago:

A Black writer emailed me asking me to "like" articles they published on the HuffingtonPost, imploring me how important it is to get "likes". I almost did it to support the writer.

But I decided against it. If HuffPost ever supported AALBC.com in any way I might consider it. If the writer wrote for me for free and promoted it so aggressively I would consider liking the HuffPost articles. I'm not even going to visit the HuffPost site -- let alone "like" the article.

It occurred to me to explain to the writer my position but I decided against that too cause I know the person was doing this to promote their work. But when folks bend over backwards to get a HuffPost byline and promote it when they do. All this does is uplift HuffPost -- more so than even the writer.

HuffPost has sucked up Black Voices then marginalized it. They have the support of all the major media -- all the benefits that accrue to majority businesses.

This is what makes a HuffPost's ice colder than an AALBC.com's. This is an issue across the board.

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Good points Troy. We really lack the complete understanding of building a community. Despite these issues, I do have some good news for you. My parents opened a christian bookstore in Baltimore two years ago and are doing pretty well. They specialize in distributing books for Black authors and offering acapella music. The community has really helped us to build a brand and we are so thankful. The name of their store is Agape Christian Books Gifts & Music. This is just a small victory, but it is still worth acknowledging.

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Thank you, Brother.

There have been quite a few times that I have seen great insight offered on there on HuffPuff's 'Black Voices' and have quoted it, but what you just said has caused me to not support the madness that is going on there.

However, I'm just a reader. Imagine what could happen if the writers had such a mentality about their own exploitation.

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Waterstar, I can only image if writers were that conscious -- some are, but not enough. This is not likely to change.

...and another thing. There are people who used to frequent this discussion board that will engage me on facebook but not here -- even after I ask them to reply here and explain to them why -- this actually irks me, 'cause this is a clear example of supporting Facebook at the expense of AALBC.com

FinanceFree please post as much information about Agape Christian Books Gifts & Music I'll be sure to add it to the database: http://aalbc.it/agapebooks

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Wow. And we are free? You know how people do the "iIt's complicated" thing to an otherwise yes or no question? Well, that seems to be a very much "complicated" freedom.

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Yes it is indeed very complicated.

Another problem is that we (Black people) don't support our own literary events. I'm may write about this later because it is a serious problem.

I know the economy is an issue, but I'm beginning to wonder how much people actually value reading/literature, I know the culture does not support reading/literature in the Black community --- never has, but the support of people is waning as well...

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TROY, I'M A TRUE LOVER OF LITERACY, AND PROMOTE IT CONSTANTLY WORLDWIDE, YET I CAN'T CO-SIGN ON WITH TRIBALISM, AND NEVER HAVE (A PATHFINDER FINDING HIS OWN PATHS). I'M ALL FOR US AS PEOPLE ELEVATING AND PROGRESSING, BUT I CAN NO LONGER KEEP SUPPORTING LITERARY EVENTS JUST FOR THE SAKE OF, AND IT'S NOT A MUTUAL BENEFICIAL SITUATION. FOR EXAMPLE, I WON'T BE PARTICIPATING IN ONE COMING UP IN 2 WEEKS IN HARLEM...AND THE FOUNDER OF THE EVENT KNOWS AND WAS TOLD WHY MONTHS AGO--I'VE STILL YET TO GET A FOLLOW-UP EVEN FROM THAT CONVERSATION IN FEBRUARY, SO GO FIGURE.... I'VE YET TO EVEN HEAR ANY REAL PUBLICITY ON IT, ONE OF MY MAIN GRIPES, AND I REFUSE TO KEEP SPENDING CLOSE TO $500 ANNUALLY AND NO HEAVY MARKETING, ADVERTISING & PROMOTION ISN'T DONE, ONLY TO HAVE DWINDLING TRAFFIC BROWSE MY TABLE, CONTEMPLATING WHAT TO BUY, DUE TO THE ECONOMY ON TOP OF IT. NO LOVE LOST TO THE FOUNDER, YET, LOVE ISN'T ENOUGH: I NEED POSITIVE RESULTS, AND ALWAYS GOING FORWARD THIS TIME AROUND--I'M NOT JUST HAPPY TO BE HERE, I'M HERE TO CONDUCT BUSINESS! CORRECT?

TIMES ARE MOVING QUICKLY AND ONE MUST MOVE WITH THE TIMES: FOLKS CAN'T KEEP GETTING IN THEIR WAY AND NOT MAKE CHANGES, OR SOLELY RELY ON BRAND NAMES. THERE ARE MANY IN PUBLISHING, BOOK STORE OWNERS AT THAT, WHO STILL DON'T EVEN USE SOCIAL MEDIA, PRINTING UP LIMITED FLYERS AND HANDING THEM OUT TO LOCAL POTENTIAL CUSTOMERS. I HAD TO ASK ONE RECENTLY, "WHAT ABOUT PEOPLE WHO MAY WANT TO PATRONIZE IN SURROUNDING AREAS? WHAT ABOUT NATIONWIDE?" THE STORE OWNER ASSUMED THAT ONLY LOCAL PEOPLE WOULD COME TO THE EVENT, WHICH ISN'T THE CASE. TRUE READERS TRAVEL FAR, AND WILL GO THE DISTANCE TO MEET THEIR FAVORITE AUTHOR: I'M A WITNESS OF THIS FROM BOTH ANGLES. THE KEY IS ONE GETTING OUT OF HIS OR HER WAY. SO ON THAT NOTE, THE ROLLED UP SLEEVES THAT WERE AT MY FOREARMS ARE NOW AT MY BICEPS, WITHOUT AN ISSUE TO MEET SHOULDERS: OR BE MADE INTO A MUSCLE SHIRT!

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Hickson! Man I honestly needed to hear that.

See here is the thing, I'll support almost any event. While some organizers try to reciprocate I always put out more compared to what I get in return. I consider it an investment. I have a strong desire to see events succeed because ultimately we can all stand to benefit.

Often people will why I bother with this event or that event. I reply is usually along the line of you gotta work with what you have. In fact my work with Huria.org and ABLE (Alliance for Black Literature and Entertainment) are directly related to helping other entities learn from each other and support each other. I'm not progressing as quickly as I would like with these efforts but something has to be done.

When there are no more general Black book websites, Black literary events, or Black owned bookstores it will not be a very good day.

Of course, as you related, one can't afford to support poorly run events, and get nothing in return, as you'll be out of business yourself.

Regarding the Harlem Book Fair:

I have seen zero promotion myself. I normally promote the event (for free) myself 'cause I'm usually involved in some way (for free), but this year for the first year, since the first fair over a decade ago I'm not involved at all -- and I've done just about everything you can do with the fair. I was even considering whether I would even attend this year myself.

I have decided to go, walk the street, hand out flyers for my new Manuscript Editing Service: Edit 1st http://edit1st.com and maybe check out panel or two. The street is NOTHING like it was in it's hey day and there are reasons for this. Perhaps it will recapture the old experience... I don't know.

I do know I'd rather there be a Harlem Book Fair than see it go away.

Hickson (anybody) what is your favorite Black book event and why?

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I had to chime in on this. The reasons that African American bookstores are closing is both simple and complex at the same time. one big reason is the shift in what entertains us. Black bookstores already relied on a narrow section of the reading public and that segment aged and those coming behind them had other interests in entertainment such as music and videos. Given the low rate of graduation in the AA community, where are the new readers coming from.

AA bookstores are getting ground up in the fight betweent retailing giants Amazon, Walmart, Target and Barnes & Noble who sell books at prices less than small store can buy at wholesale.

The loss of independent authors to the new technology of ebooks that cost nothing to produce and distribute really hurt those stores that were hanging on. I can produce my books in print and/or digital format, but the cost of digital product is $0 and my titles are worldwide in one day. The Kindle and Nook allows independent bookstores no way to share in revenue. There are no book signings or consignment sales with ebooks.

It is a tough story, but it is a tough world to survive in.

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TROY, I'VE LONG FREED MYSELF FROM FEELING OBLIGATED TO PEOPLE AND ENTITIES IN PUBLISHING: IF IT'S NOT RIGHT, GHETTOHEAT® CAN'T ROCK, WON'T ROCK! I'M ALSO NOT INCLINED TO JUST "GIVE AWAY MONEY" & NOT CAPITALIZE POSITIVELY ON MY RETURN. YES, IN THE PAST, AND EVEN MOST RECENTLY, I'VE INVESTED MORE THAN GAINING A RETURN WHEN DOING EVENTS, AS I, TOO, TROY, LOOKED AT IT AS AN INVESTMENT. THE DECIDING FACTOR WAS LAST YEAR IN HARLEM: BOOK SALES WERE LOW, PATRONS ATTENDANCE WAS LOW, AND THE BACKBITING WAS HIGH: I STILL HAVE THE MARKS FROM OTHER WRITERS AND PUBLISHERS TO PROVE IT.... I TOLD MYSELF RIGHT AFTERWARDS, THAT IF I DIDN'T SEE AN IMPROVEMENT, THAT I WASN'T ATTENDING. I TOOK IT A STEP FURTHER, I CALLED THE FOUNDER, ONE I EVEN CALL "UNCLE", & EXPRESSED MY CONCERNS AND UNHAPPINESS, NOT JUST WITH LAST YEAR'S EVENT, BUT THE LAST FEW. I THEN GET THE "WHAT SHOULD I DO?" QUESTION. EXCUSE ME, FOUNDER, YOU HAVE A DAMN TEAM OF PEOPLE & YOU'RE ASKING ME? ALSO, WHERE THE HELL IS MY CHECK FOR CONSULTATION? AGAIN, I'M NOT JUST HAPPY TO BE HERE: YOU WILL PRESENT A CHECK TO HICKSON & HANDSOMELY. & PLEASE, PEOPLE, BEFORE I GET THE NEGATIVE RESPONSES: I AM BEING MODEST, AND HELP/HELPED MANY IN THIS GAME, SO PLEASE DON'T GIVE ME THE BUSINESS, UNLESS YOU'RE REALLY GIVING ME THE BU$INE$$.... I'VE PUT IN WORK/STILL PUTTING IN WORK, I CAN SAY THIS, & WITH EASE. SO, ALL THAT TO SAY: GHETTOHEAT® WON'T BE PARTAKING IN THAT EVENT, YET I WISH MY "UNCLE" WELL, & WHEN HE'S READY TO ROCK, HE KNOWS WHAT TO DO, & IT SHOULD START WITH PROMOTING MORE URBAN/STREET WRITERS.... AMAZES ME STILL TO THIS DAY HOW FOLKS TRY TO IGNORE HOW MUCH MONEY & BUSINESS, HIPHOP BRINGS IN THE BUILDING!

TROY, DON'T STRUGGLE ANY LONGER WITH PARTICIPATING IN CERTAIN EVENTS, DO ONLY WHAT WORKS FOR YOU: EVEN IF YOU STILL SHELL OUT MORE THAN RECEIVING (I HAVE AND TRAVELED LONG DISTANCE IN THE PROCESS), YOU MUST STILL GET MUCH OUT OF THE EVENT IN OTHER ASPECTS, YOU FEEL ME? SO, WEIGH THE COSTS, AND MAKE SMARTER DECISIONS GOING FORWARD. BUILD YOUR BASE, COLLECT YOUR CONTACTS, DO YOUR "MR. TROY JOHNSON", YOU'LL BE FINE.

THE GAME WILL GET BACK TO WHERE IT NEEDS TO BE, TROY, BUT IT WILL BE TOUGH, & TOUGHER IF FOLKS KEEP LOWERING THEIR PRICES NEXT TO NOTHING. DO YOU SEE THE FOLKS AT GUCCI JUST "GIVING IT AWAY"? HOW ABOUT CARTIER? MAURICE VILLENCY? SO WHY ARE WE AS BLACK PEOPLE, GIVING IT AWAY LIKE "CRAZY EDDIE" & GOING "I-N-S-A-N-E!!!"? HOW ARE WE TO COME UP IF WE DON'T PLACE REAL VALUE ON OUR GOODS, BRAND OR INDUSTRY, & OURSELVES? IT'S BAD ENOUGH "THE POWERS THAT BE" ARE TRYING TO CHANGE OUR CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHTS! GHETTOHEAT® BOOKS ARE NOT/WON'T BE FREE INFORMATION: THE BOOKS ARE FULL PRICE, & WILL REMAIN TOP SHELF. TROY, GROWING UP IN HARLEM ALONE, I LEARNED THE VALUE OF A DOLLAR EARLY ON (HOW MANY POOR, INNER-CITY FAMILIES WILL BUY THEIR KIDS EXACTLY WHAT THE KIDS REQUESTED ON CHRISTMAS?), AND IT'S THE MAIN REASON WHY I KEEP MY PRICES TOP DOLLAR. IF SOMEONE REALLY WANTS SOMETHING, HE/SHE WILL DO WHATEVER IT TAKES TO OBTAIN IT, EVEN IF IT MEANS PAYING ON IT WITH LAYAWAY, WORKING OVERTIME, OR SAVING CASH OVER A PERIOD OF TIME FOR IT. I WILL MAKE A READER WORK THEIR WAY UP TO GHETTOHEAT®, TRUST & BELIEVE ME...I'VE TURNED AWAY EVEN FOLKS IN THE STREET WHO "CLAIMED" TO BE A DOLLAR SHORT (AS I PERUSE THE LABELS WORN FROM HEAD-TO-TOE, COSTLY AT THAT) AND MADE THEM COME BACK "WHEN THEIR MONEY IS RIGHT"! THEY DON'T GO IN GUCCI & OTHER ESTABLISHMENTS SHORT, ACTUALLY MANY ARE PROUD TO PAY FULL PRICE AT SUCH COMPANIES, EVEN BRAG ABOUT IT, YET WANT TO BEAT ME, A BLACK MAN INDIGENOUS TO THEM, OVER THE HEAD AND GET OVER ON ME? NO, SIR, TROY: THE JIG IS UP!

MY FAVORITE BLACK BOOK EVENT WAS THE HARLEM BOOK FAIR, FOR THE OBVIOUS REASONS OF ME BEING A TRUE HARLEMITE, AND JUST FOR LOVING THE GREAT CROWDS OF PEOPLE WHO USED TO COME AND PATRONIZE WHOLEHEARTEDLY! YET, TROY, ANY BLACK BOOK EVENT THAT HAVE WELL-PAYING CUSTOMERS BUYING TONS OF GHETTOHEAT®, KEEPING ME OUT OF SOCIAL SERVICES WOULD INSTANTLY BECOME MY "FAVORITE" BLACK BOOK EVENT TO PARTAKE IN! LOL! TROY, HITTING THE STREET AND GIVING OUT FLYERS WILL BE THE TICKET...I WOULD JOIN YOU, BUT I PURPOSELY BOOKED A SIGNING OUT OF TOWN, TO REINFORCE THE ACT OF NOT GOING. I WANT THE BEST FOR OTHERS, AND I HOPE MANY IN THE GAME WILL SMARTEN UP, WORK HARDER & MAKE BETTER DECISIONS, AS WELL AS NOT ONLY RESPECT OTHERS IN THIS ARENA WHO MIND THEIR BUSINESS WHILE MINDING THEIR BUSINESS, THAT THEY ACTUALLY RESPECT THEMSELVES, ALSO.... WE HAVE TO DO WHAT WE HAVE TO DO: MR. TROY JOHNSON, HICKSON IS DOING HICKSON, SOON LIKE I'M DOING IT ON TV--BECAUSE I WILL BE....

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DT, I hear you but your reasoning does not explain why I can go almost anywhere in this country and find several white owned, independent, bookstore thriving.

Hickson I hear to you. Unfortunately much of the local support for the Harlem Book Fair is lacking for reasons similar to the ones you've mentioned. It is too bad the event has so much potential.

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A very deep discussion going on here. Hickson is dropping some serious knowledge. As I get deeper into my own publishing journey I'm encountering some of the same issues y'all are discussing. I had to disassociate myself from an event that I've attended since it's inception because the founder has decided it is better for him to play favorites than to do good business. It's a bittersweet decision but one that had to be made in order for me to continue to do good business and grow my company. To make a long story short, I embrace, enjoy and prefer doing business with my people AS LONG AS THEY DO GOOD BUSINESS. If not, I can't work with them. Period.

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Hey Milton, I'd appreciate if you would drop me troy@aalbc.com the name of the event and what happened (or share you experience here).

Another problem we have is that many of us are forced to learn the hard way. That is we in order to avoid airing dirty laundry or coming across as "haters", we don't talk about bad experiences that we've had, as a result others get burned more easily. We could use a Black Book Better Business Bureau (BBBBB or B5) or something.

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This is an interesting conversation. I feel almost guilty for not knowing about these black book fairs and black book stores. I mean, I "know" about them, but I am not deep on that scene. I've never even looked for a black book store near me, no matter where I've lived.

Whenever I felt like reading for fun, I've always checked my books out from the library. The only time I ever bought books (before I got my kindle) was when I joined that Black Expressions thing (which, until now, I thought was black owned & was actually glad to be supporting it...SMH).

I wonder how many others are just like me. We simply did not realize how much of a problem & sad situation this is.

From my observation of the young people in my world, I notice that they all tend to get their books - on the rare occasion that they show an interest in reading instead of reality television - from their school libraries or from online vendors like amazon.

Maybe the problem lies with promotion of the book store? I say this because I grew up in an all black neighborhood, attended an all black high school, and never heard of a black owned book store. If it existed, I would think somebody would have promoted at our school. There were lots of kids like me who loved to read just for fun. But at the same time, as a kid I wasn't going to go hunting down a book store just because it was black. My reading needs were already being met at my local library. I wonder if a similar thing is happening today - lack of promotion for the store. And nowadays readers have more than just the local library at their disposal. There's the Internet, Wal-Mart & all the other places already mentioned. Why go to a black book store when your reading needs are being met? There has to be something to pull you in there - something to even make you remember that the black book store even exists...something to introduce you to it if you are clueless like I was. Isn't that good business sense? If you want the people to come, put yourself out there, treat them with open arms when they do come (you want them to return right?), and keep your name out there.

If you offer a service that a person feels they can't do without, they will support your business. I think too many times people open businesses & just expect people to show up and support just because.

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TROY, SPEAKING OF THE BETTER BUSINESS BUREAU: I FILED (9) NINE CLAIMS IN LESS THAN AN HOUR ON A FEW FOLKS IN PUBLISHING, UNFORTUNATELY, FOLKS I EVEN KNOW ON A PERSONAL LEVEL, BUT BUSINESS IS BUSINESS, AND TACTICS LIKE FILING REPORTS AND COURT PAPERS ARE NECESSARY EVILS, ESPECIALLY WHEN OTHERS TRY TO TAKE ADVANTAGE OF YOU. SAD BUT TRUE. ONE SETTLED OUT OF COURT, AND UNFORTUNATELY I HAD TO USE AALBC.COM'S TWITTER FEED TO PUT HIM ON BLAST AND TO RECEIVE A PAYMENT VIA PAYPAL: THE SCORE HAS BEEN SETTLED. (8) EIGHT MORE TO GO...

HELLO EVERYONE WHO HAS JOINED IN: WELCOME! NEWCOMERS, DOT YOUR I'S AND CROSS YOUR T'S, AND PREPARE YOURSELF FOR THE SALT MINE....

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I know it's been a while since this discussion, but I wanted to say that I appreciate all of your comments and suggestions. I am a new author and am also in the process of opening a new bookstore to be located in Las Vegas, NV. I am excited about this venture despite having seen other stores succumb to the external pressures. I am grateful to see you all talking about this!

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DT, I hear you but your reasoning does not explain why I can go almost anywhere in this country and find several white owned, independent, bookstore thriving.

Hickson I hear to you. Unfortunately much of the local support for the Harlem Book Fair is lacking for reasons similar to the ones you've mentioned. It is too bad the event has so much potential.

As I said in my post, black bookstores already draw from a much smaller base to begin with. A larger base allows some white bookstores to survive even with reduced traffic. Black bookstore were already on the edge when they had less competition.

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PEACE, MILTON. I'VE BEEN IN PUBLISHING SINCE 2003 AND BUILT MY COMPANY, GHETTOHEAT® WITH MY POETRY BOOK, TITLED "GHETTOHEAT®" (BRANDING EARLY ON). I HAVE MANY MANY REFERENCES AND PEOPLE TO DRAW UPON, GOOD, BAD & UGLY TO DRAW UPON, SO I CAN DEFINITELY SPEAK FROM EXPERIENCE. I'VE ALSO COME ACROSS SOME WONDERFUL PEOPLE WITH BEAUTIFUL HEARTS AND SOULS WHO ACTUALLY WERE STRANGERS, SEEING A PERSON SUCH AS MYSELF ON A GREAT PATH AND WANTED TO HELP: WITHOUT RECEIVING ANYTHING IN RETURN: BLESSINGS GIVEN TO ME. THESE I FIND ARE ALWAYS THE MOST SUPPORTIVE ALWAYS, THEY ALWAYS HAVE A BETTER UNDERSTANDING OF YOUR MISSION AD VISION. ALTHOUGH HAVING TO ALWAYS FIGHT FOR WHAT'S RIGHTFULLY MINE, EVEN WITH A FEW AUTHORS I HAVE CONTRACTS WITH (OFFERED THE HIGHEST PERCENTAGE WITHIN THE INDUSTRY, COPYRIGHTS GRANTED TO THEM, & SAID MENTIONED NOT SIGNED AT GHETTOHEAT® UNDER STRESS OR DURESS...) I'VE ALSO MET SOME BEAUTIFUL FOLKS WHO APPRECIATE WHAT I DO & WHAT I STAND FOR, SO IT'S DEFINITELY NOT DOOM & GLOOM ACROSS THE BOARD. YET, THE REALITY IS YOU WILL RUN INTO MANY DISGUSTING OPPORTUNISTS WHOSE MAIN OBJECTIVE IS TO GAIN FROM THE EXPENSE OF INNOCENT PEOPLE, REASON WHY YOU HAVE TO ALWAYS BE ON TOP OF YOUR GAME. SOME HAVE WRONGED ME: THEIR DAY IS COMING, QUICKLY...LEGALLY. COULD I HAVE GONE AFTER THEM WITH BASEBALL BATS & APPLIED BODILY HARM & OTHER UNPLEASANT TACTICS? YES...EASILY.... BUT MILTON, THAT'S NOT THE CORRECT WAY TO GO ABOUT HANDLING BUSINESS--AGAIN, I'M A BUSINESS MAN IN THIS GAME DOING BIG BUSINESS WITH POSITIVE INTENTIONS TO DO BIGGER BUSINESS, RIGHTEOUSLY. TO STEAL AUTHORS' RIGHTS & MONEY IS LIKE STEALING FROM SELF: THAT'S NOT LOGICAL--SOMETHING I NEVER UNDERSTOOD OTHER PUBLISHERS DOING TO THEIR AUTHORS. YET, EVEN WITH OFFERING WRITERS GENEROUS DEALS, DOESN'T MEAN THAT ALL WILL DO WHAT'S REQUIRED, OR PERFORM AT THE LEVEL OF EXPECTATION. I'M ALWAYS ACTIVE...I LOVE PRODUCING, I LOVE THE IDEA OF INCEPTION TO CONCEPTION, AND AM FULLY INVOLVED IN ALL ASPECTS OF BUSINESS HERE FROM START-TO-FINISH. I LOVE WHAT I DO: BUT I CAN'T STAND THE POLITICS & BAD PEOPLE WITHIN THE INDUSTRY: ON ALL LEVELS--ESPECIALLY "NIGGERS IN PUBLISHING"; THEY'RE THE WORST (READ ALL ABOUT IT IN MY ARTICLE INTHE SECOND ISSUE OF GHETTOHEAT® MAGAZINE THIS FALL)!

IN LIEU OF ALL THE TRIFLING THINGS I'VE EXPERIENCED FROM SOME (EVEN LOVED ONES) IN THE GAME, I HAVEN'T BECOME JADED, & I'M STILL IN THE LIGHT & WILL REMAIN THERE--BEING A CHILD OF GOD, HE WHO MAKES ALL THINGS POSSIBLE. LEARN FROM OTHERS MISTAKES, ESPECIALLY YOUR OWN, & NEVER REPEAT THEM.

HELLO, SOURAYA. CONGRATULATIONS ON YOUR NEW STORE & MUCH SUCCESS TO YOU! A WONDERFUL THING YOU'VE DONE: CREATING A NEW BLACK BOOKSTORE, ONE MORE THAT'S NEEDED. TAKE HEED OF ALL THAT'S GOING ON: THE INDUSTRY BEING TURNED UPSIDE DOWN & BY THE POOR ECONOMY, THE RISE OF EBOOKS, & E-TAILERS TERRIBLE SALES TACTICS OF DRASTICALLY REDUCING PRICES, & AUTHORS & PUBLISHERS NOT RESPECTING THEIR BRANDS, GOODS, AUTHORS AND SELVES WITH CHEAPENING THE INDUSTRY. NO ONE JOINED FORCES WITH ME WHEN I PUBLICLY ANNOUNCED ON AALBC.COM (SEE POSTING, GHETTOHEAT® STANDS STRONG) THAT I REFUSED TO LET RECENT DEVELOPMENTS & OTHERS SHADY TACTICS IN THE GAME, DICTATE MY OPERATIONS. NOTHING HAS CHANGED WITH THAT DECISION & I'M STILL STANDING ON MY GROUND, STRONGLY, WITH GREAT CONVICTION, INTEGRITY & DETERMINATION. ALTHOUGH I'M DEVELOPING MY OWN LINE OF E-BOOKS, I WILL ALWAYS DO PRINT RUNS (SEE POSTING, HICKSON: THE PAPERBOY AT GHETTOHEAT®!), SO KNOW THT I WILL DEFINITELY SUPPORT YOU AND OTHERS DOING REPUTABLE BUSINESS: AT REAL INDUSTRY TERMS. YOU CAN CONTACT ME FURTHER AT HICKSON@GHETTOHEAT.COM & THANKS IN ADVANCE.

GREETINGS, HEN81. ALTHOUGH THE RECESSION, SUPER CHAIN STORES, A MAJOR E-TAILER & E-BOOKS CHANGING THE GAME & MAKING IT MUCH CHALLENGING FOR BLACK BOOKSTORES, COMPLACENCY, IN MY OPINION CALLS FOR THE DEMISE OF BLACK BOOKSTORES. TO DATE, MANY WHO I DEAL WITH ARE STILL ON THE SIDELINES TRYING TO NOT ONLY FIGURE OUT WHAT HAS HAPPENED, WHY IT HAS HAPPENED, BUT WHAT TO DO NEXT. MANY ARE CLUELESS.... I'VE CALLED MANY, THOSE IN THE GAME & ONES WHO WERE FORCED TO BAIL RECENTLY, REGARDING THEIR CONTINGENCY: THERE WAS NONE! I FIND THIS TO BE UTTERLY DISTURBING: ESPECIALLY OF THOSE IN THE GAME OVER 20 YEARS. WHERE IS THE LEADERSHIP? AS FOR PUBLISHERS AND WRITERS, I DON'T LOOK FOR ANY REFERENCES OF LEADERSHIP: I JUST LEAD BY EXAMPLE WITH MY TEAM, STAY TUNNEL VISIONED, & MOVE FORWARD. HOW CAN I LOOK TO OTHERS IN THE GAME BEFORE ME WHO OPTED TO DEVALUE THEIR BRANDS, BOOKS & AUTHORS? SO I DON'T, & HONESTLY, NEVER REALLY HAVE SINCE DAY ONE. EVEN WITH TERI WOODS, THE KING & QUEEN OF URBAN FICTION PUBLISHING (EVERYONE, PLEASE BE CLEAR: I'VE LET IT BE KNOWN!) IN THIS GAME PHENOMENALLY, I'M STUDYING HER EVERY MOVE. WHY SHOULD I WHEN I'M MAKING MY OWN? SUCCESSFUL SHE IS (& I LOVE HER BUSINESS SAVVY), TERI IS DOING THINGS HER WAY, I MUST DO MINE MY WAY. THAT'S ANOTHER ISSUE OF THE GAME: THE-MONKEY-SEE-MONKEY-DO SYNDROME! MANY SUFFER FROM IT, LACKING IN INNOVATION, VISION & REAL DECISION MAKING--SETTLING FOR THE CHEAP & EASY, OR FOLLOWING SOMEONE ELSE'S BLUEPRINT INSTEAD OF CREATING THEIR OWN. YES, EVERYONE NEEDS A REFERENCE & SOMETHING/SOMEONE TOBE INSPIRED BY, BUT COPYING SOMEONE'S EXACT STYLE & BLUEPRINT (EXHIBIT A: THE URBAN BOOK COVERS) IS LAME....

HOLA WRITERGIRL870. WHEN I VENTURED INTO PUBLISHING, JUNE 4, 2003, THERE WERE HUNDREDS OF BLACK BOOKSTORES! SO MANY, THAT IT WOULD ACTUALLY TAKE ME 5 DAYS TOTAL TO CONTACT EVERYONE PERSONALLY FROM ARIZONA TO WISCONSIN. TO DATE, I CAN DO SO IN TWENTY MINUTES, TOP: THAT'S HOW MANY HAVE CLOSED AND IT'S UNNERVING! YET, I DON'T SIT AROUND CRYING AND WALLOWING THE "WOE, IT'S ME" BIT! I DO WHAT I MUST, RIGHTEOUSLY--I WORK HARD! THAT WAS ALWAYS THE KEY TO MY SUCCESS: HARD WORK, BIG DIVIDENDS. A GREAT ASPECT OF THAT WAS/IS MY PROMOTION--IT'S A MUST! WHEN IN HUSTLE MODE, I GO OUT OF MY WAY (A KNOWN TRAIT OF MINE) TO MEET ALL READERS ON ALL LEVELS. THE PEOPLE ARE THE MOST IMPORTANT, & I'M AT THE MERCY OF THEM: NOT THOSE ISSUING AWARDS AT BOOK EVENTS. I NEVER CARED FOR AWARDS, & NOW, SELF-PROCLAIMED MYSELF AS THE "LITTLE RICHARD OF THE BOOK AWARDS", NEVER NOMINATED FOR ANYTHING THING MORE OR LESS GRANTED AN AWARD (EVEN WITH DOING MORE THAN OTHERS WHO MAY HAVE RECEIVED ONE--GO FIGURE...). WHAT I FUEL OFF OF ARE THE REWARDS: THE GREAT APPRECIATION OF THE PEOPLE APPRECIATING MY EFFORTS, AUTHORS & WORKS AT GHETTOHEAT®. NOTHING ELSE.... I'VE BEEN TO MANY STORES TO DO SIGNINGS (TO DATE DOING OVER 880 BOOK SIGNINGS SINCE 2003), BUT I DON'T APPEAR NECESSARILY BECAUSE OF BEING FOND OF THE MANAGERS & OWNERS OF THEM: I'M THERE MAINLY FOR THE PEOPLE. YES, HAVING A GREAT RAPPORT WITH MANAGERS & OWNERS IS IMPORTANT: BUT I DON'T LOVE THEM...I LOVE THE PEOPLE! THE MANAGERS & OWNERS MAIN OBJECTIVE IS TO MAKE MONEY OFF OF ME (SOME LIKE ME PERSONALLY, ALSO), & I'VE MADE MANY THOUSANDS--THEM LOVING MY HUSTLE & ALLOWING ME TO DO SO. THAT I'M THANKFUL FOR & ALWAYS, BUT I'M THEIR FOR THE READERS: MY GHETTOHEAT® SUPPORTERS.

SHOULD THE STORES DO MORE PROMOTION? HELL YEAH & FAST! WILL THEY TAKE HEED, WE SHALL SOON SEE.

FOLKS, DON'T FORGET TO EMAIL ME AT HICKSON@GHETTOHEAT.COM TO RECEIVE MY ANNOUNCEMENTS & PROMOTIONS FROM DAY ONE TO NOW, AS WELL AS TO BE ADDED ON MY MAILING ADDRESS TO RECEIVE THE DIGITAL VERSION OF THE NEW GHETTOHEAT® MAGAZINE! PEACE & GHETTOHEAT®!

PS, TROY, DID YOU GO TO THE HARLEM BOOK FAIR? I FINALLY GOT AN UPDATE ABOUT IT: 2 DAYS BEFORE THE EVENT.... #EPICFAIL

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This is an interesting conversation. I feel almost guilty for not knowing about these black book fairs and black book stores. I mean, I "know" about them, but I am not deep on that scene. I've never even looked for a black book store near me, no matter where I've lived.

Whenever I felt like reading for fun, I've always checked my books out from the library. The only time I ever bought books (before I got my kindle) was when I joined that Black Expressions thing (which, until now, I thought was black owned & was actually glad to be supporting it...SMH).

I wonder how many others are just like me. We simply did not realize how much of a problem & sad situation this is.

From my observation of the young people in my world, I notice that they all tend to get their books - on the rare occasion that they show an interest in reading instead of reality television - from their school libraries or from online vendors like amazon.

Maybe the problem lies with promotion of the book store? I say this because I grew up in an all black neighborhood, attended an all black high school, and never heard of a black owned book store. If it existed, I would think somebody would have promoted at our school. There were lots of kids like me who loved to read just for fun. But at the same time, as a kid I wasn't going to go hunting down a book store just because it was black. My reading needs were already being met at my local library. I wonder if a similar thing is happening today - lack of promotion for the store. And nowadays readers have more than just the local library at their disposal. There's the Internet, Wal-Mart & all the other places already mentioned. Why go to a black book store when your reading needs are being met? There has to be something to pull you in there - something to even make you remember that the black book store even exists...something to introduce you to it if you are clueless like I was. Isn't that good business sense? If you want the people to come, put yourself out there, treat them with open arms when they do come (you want them to return right?), and keep your name out there.

If you offer a service that a person feels they can't do without, they will support your business. I think too many times people open businesses & just expect people to show up and support just because.

It definitely is so that the overwhelming majority of those in the younger generations do not dig reading. It's like "Books? Who needs those? If I need to find something out, all I gotta do is whip out my handy-dandy iPhone and WIKIPEDIA it!" :wacko:

Reading for pleasure seems almost obsolete. The digital takeover has many consequences and not all of them are cool, either. We're eating more junk, watching more junk ("reality" tv case in point), listening to more junk, and neglecting the building of the minds more and more. I digress, though.

Maybe the problem lies with promotion of the book store?

That, to me, points not only to a possible problem with the book store promoting itself but also it possibly points to the problem of our not instilling the importance of supporting black enterprise within the children and within the community. It can be likened to an adult who does not eat vegetables attributing this to the lack of promotion by the USDA when it was no big deal for the parents and the community to promote the consumption of vegetables. So yes, owners of black book stores often should promote more, yet I think we all have an important role to play in the bigger scheme of things. I think that the promotion of these black owned bookstores should be much more of a collective effort.

I'm just saying that we as adults have to do better not only about promoting reading but also about promoting the importance of supporting black enterprise to the youngheads (younger heads). Yes, that brother who had the only black owned and operated record shop back in the day's records cost more than the chain store and true his shop took about 5 more minutes to get to, but what's paying a little more and driving just a little farther to support his business? Such is an example of the type of examples that we need.

Though Amazon is very convenient and though it is often much cheaper, I buy the majority of my books from a black book store. If the store doesn't have a book that I want, then I will see if it is possible for the store to order the book. If this is not possible, I even try to see if I can get the book from another black bookstore that will be in a different city or state that I am set to visit. (That HURTS when you're addicted to books, because you be feenin' n stuff and u don't really wanna wait. lol)

Anyway, I think that we need more dedication and that we all have to do better about playing our parts promoting and supporting one another. Sometimes we gotta get down and grassroots with it.

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Yes it is indeed very complicated.

Another problem is that we (Black people) don't support our own literary events. I'm may write about this later because it is a serious problem.

I know the economy is an issue, but I'm beginning to wonder how much people actually value reading/literature, I know the culture does not support reading/literature in the Black community --- never has, but the support of people is waning as well...

Bingo.

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Souraya, be sure to send me information about your bookstore and I'll add it to my database: http://aalbc.com/writers/bookstores.html

Hen81, the potential customers for many Black for a bookstores, like Hueman, is larger than many white owned stores I've observed that are doing quite well. Plus Black bookstores have less competition today than 5 years ago and are still closing. It is not the relative number of potential clients causing these stores to close. Unless you buy into the idea that readership is down (which I'm not really prepared to dispute).

Hickson, yep I went to the fair. I too got the email on Thursday?! I walked the entire street. It was a picture perfect day, but there were less attendees. There were also less vendors. I can't speak about the panels as I could not get into the Schomburg. Considering that I've been actively involved with the fair since the 2nd one and have coordinated all the volunteers, gave seminars, moderated panels, created street maps, shot video, interviewed authors, provided online promotion, and served on the advisory board, for free -- I'm don't expect any special treatment ;)

Waterstar trust me you are unique, most people don't think the way you do when they conduct their personal business.

I agree we have to "get down and grassroots with it" -- for real. Even on the web, it honestly feels like I'm starting out again. The rules have changed, and barriers to entry are back up, But that just means there are more voids to fill and more opportunities.

My concern is that there are fewer people up for the challenge. There is a level of conscienceless, skill, energy and time required that is increasingly rare.

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I have refrained from entering this discussion, becase it's a subject I know very little about since I am what might be called "old school". I'm a library person dating back to my childhood and I love the ambience of the library experience. I'm a regular visitor at my local library and any book I think I want to read, I go there and if it's not on the shelves, they will either order it or put me on the waiting list if it's checked out. They tell me that I'm their type of client, because I help keep them abreast of what's hot and what people want to read, something the hired help there apparently is no longer up on themselves what with only one of them actually being a professional librarian, thanks to the decline in city revenues that created a budget crunch, not to mention a fall-off in patrons.

Any way I have a confession to make. If I like a book I've checked out from the library and want a copy for my personal collection, I will wait for it to come out in paperback then go on-line and purchase a "used" copy of it. I'm really not proud of my chicanery in light of all I've read here. But I'm a bargain hunter, and like I said, - old habits die hard.

But I submit that I atoned for my transgression by never charging more than $5.00 for my books at books fairs, later even giving away any left-overs. That's because profit was never my motive and I never had dreams of getting rich from penning a blockbuster bestseller. I wrote for my love of the craft and I always felt that people were doing me a favor by reading my novels and lord knows I was doing many of them a favor by attempting to complete the high priced self-published poorly-written monstrocities that were pawned off on me.

My other confession is that I read as many books by white authors as I do by black ones, and, lately, more nonfiction than fiction. -_- But I just thought I'd add another point of view to this thread.

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In my first go around in business I discovered much of what you guys are expressing. When i went into the publishing business I harbored no illusions. Like Hickson says, I've run into the scam artists and I've met some great people that have helped me along the way. My best advice is to go into this with no expectations. Write the best book you can, present it in the best way, and sell your ass off. That's all you can do.

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Cynique, your observations are most relevant as reader you are the ultimate consumer of what we all do as authors and booksellers.

My observation over the years selling books is that people want the "cheapest one". Lately that has been the online option, shop from your home, speedy delivery and low prices. Now if you are very price sensitive you will borrow the book from the library, or a friend or simply skip reading that particular book.

The bookstore, is not where you go to get the cheapest book or transact in the more convenient fashion. An independent bookstore can not possibility compete on these on these characteristics -- not in 2012.

Further and Black owned independent that thinks they can survive on the largesse of Black folks simply because they are Black owned is in for a sobering awakening and will not last very long. Sure there are folks like me and Water who will buy a book to support and author or a store -- but again this is rare and certainly not the foundation for a profitable business (this is known as a charity).

Bookstores must (and can) provide an experience that can not be replicated online -- or even in a B&N superstore. Sure some independents have opened cafes, and provide free wifi, but this is not the bookstore's core value proposition -- 'cause you can just open a starbucks if you wanna do that.

Stores sell other things including completely unrelated things like clothing and jewelry -- again this takes away from he real value of the store.

Part of the bookstore's job in 2012 is to:

  • Be passionate about books -- even titles you may not care about
  • Your value proposition is selling books to customers -- convincing them why they NEED to read a particular book and being correct about your recommendation. You can only do this if you know people and books
  • Discover and share hidden gems -- anyone can pick a book off the NY Times bestsellers list -- show me something good -- something I would not have found on my own
  • Be discoverable on-line make sure your information and events are up to date
  • Don't bother trying to sell a books on-line that an Amazon can sell -- you can't compete with them. If you have an exclusive item great -- otherwise don't bother
  • Don't alienate authors, they can be your biggest ambassadors - if you can't place their books on your shelves make sure they understand why and have a path for inclusion in the future
  • Don't have signings that you can't promote -- authors hate this and word travels fast
  • Engage natural supporters; avid readers, book clubs, community groups, schools, publishing professionals

Some of this stuff is obvious and I've ignored business aspects like managing expenses and paying bills on time but these too are obvious.

The best experience I've had in a Black (any) independently owned bookstore was one in which I was greeted warmly upon entering and was given good recommendations. You'd be surprised how many bookstores can't accomplish this simple feat.

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The Black book store may have to consider become more diverse as well. Some are the only bookstore in the mall or shopping center they occupy. For instance, there is a local bookstore here that has a large Latino population as well. The store owner could probably benefit by offering spanish language books while keeping focused on his core business. He could also offer popular titles and periodical as well, since it is the only bookstore in the shopping center.

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Milton -- of course! Even on this site I feature writers like Howard Zinn, Paulo Coelho, Ezra Jack Keats and other non-Black writers. It is no secret that Black folks read books written by writers that are non Black.

Other news flash - white readers read books written by Black writers :o You are excluding potential customers if you only target Black readers.

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Milton -- of course! Even on this site I feature writers like Howard Zinn, Paulo Coelho, Ezra Jack Keats and other non-Black writers. It is no secret that Black folks read books written by writers that are non Black.

Other news flash - white readers read books written by Black writers :o You are excluding potential customers if you only target Black readers.

I love Howard Zinn books. He really got me back into reading.

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WHITE PEOPLE DEFINITELY READ GHETTOHEAT® BOOKS! I DISCOVERED THIS IN 2006 WHEN I'D FIRST BEGAN PUBLISHING NOVELS. I WAS DOING A "CONVICT'S CANDY" BOOK SIGNING AT B. DALTONS AT THE NEWPORT CENTRE MALL IN NEW JERSEY. MANY WHITE PEOPLE CAME TO BUY THE BOOK, & SURPRISINGLY KNEW OF IT PRIOR TO ME INTRODUCING MYSELF OR THE TITLE TO THEM. YET, I ALSO HAD ASIAN READERS BUYING THE BOOK, ALSO. YET, WHAT BLEW MY MIND WAS WHEN I WAS DOING A "HARDER" SIGNING AT BORDERS AT THE CHRISTIANA MALL IN DELAWARE IN 2007 & A 86-YEAR-OLD WHITE WOMAN NOT ONLY BOUGHT THE TITLE, SHE ALSO ASKED ME WOULD THERE BE A SEQUEL TO CONVICT'S CANDY! I WAS STUNNED! 86-YEARS-OLD & WHITE, READING HARDCORE URBAN BOOKS! SO, THAT CHANGED MY WHOLE OUTLOOK ON WHOSE NOT ONLY READING THE BOOKS, BUT MY TARGET AUDIENCE AS WELL. IF THEY COME FROM GREAT LENGTHS ON BUS TOURS JUST TO EAT SOUL FOOD AT SYLVIA'S RESTAURANT (GOD REST HER SOUL), WHY WOULDN'T THEY READ BOOKS BY BLACK AUTHORS, ALSO?

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"IF THEY COME FROM GREAT LENGTHS ON BUS TOURS JUST TO EAT SOUL FOOD AT SYLVIA'S RESTAURANT (GOD REST HER SOUL), WHY WOULDN'T THEY READ BOOKS BY BLACK AUTHORS, ALSO?"

Hickson, while fatty foods and literature are two different things, I believe the analogy is sound.

I came across an African American book club whose members are all white. They even had a video explaining how to appreciate the African American literature.

White owned publishers like Kensington Books, Akashic Press and others publish a ton of book written by Black (non-celebrity) authors and they are not just targeting Black readers -- why should they -- and why should the bookstores?

In fact, one would think a Black publisher like Ghettoheat or a bookstore like Hue-man would find it easier to purvey Black authors and books to a white audience in much that way Sylvia Woods (R.I.P.) had an advantage over white soul food restaurants.

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HI TROY, SEE LINK REGARDING YOUR LAST POST TO MY COMMENT : http://www.flickr.co...tream/lightbox/ ALTHOUGH EMBARKING 10 YEARS SOON WITH BEING IN THE ARENA OF BOOK PUBLISHING, IT'S ALL STILL A LEARNING EXPERIENCE FOR ME. THE ONLY PART THAT'S EASY IN THIS GAME I FIND IS ME LOVING WHAT I DO: ALL ELSE IS HARD WORK, & ALWAYS! ALTHOUGH HAVING A NAME SUCH AS "GHETTOHEAT®" FOR MY COMPANY, I'VE ALWAYS BEEN ABOUT DIVERSITY AND HAVE TOLD FOLKS EARLY ON THAT I'M NOT JUST AN URBAN PUBLISHER, YET I'M FROM THE STREETS, & OF COURSE THE STREETS GRAVITATE TO WHO & WHAT IT KNOWS, YET MY RANGE IS BROAD. http://www.amazon.co...ords=GHETTOHEAT

BUT I REACH OUT TO ALL FOLKS OF ALL RACES, BACKGROUNDS, SEXUAL PREFERENCES, INCOME LEVELS, CREEDS, ETC. I RELATE TO PEOPLE PERIOD, FROM DOPE FIENDS TO DIPLOMATS, ILLEGAL ALIENS TO ARISTOCRATS: IT DOESN'T MATTER, I'M NEVER INTIMIDATED BY FOLKS, NO MATTER WHAT THEIR STATUS MAY BE, & I JUST DO MY PART AS A PUBLISHER IN PUBLISHING.

AS I SAID BEFORE IT WASN'T THE INDEPENDENTS BUSTING DOWN MY DOOR, EVEN WHEN THEY'D GOTTEN WORD ABOUT MY HUSTLE & PRODUCTS, IT WAS THE CHAIN STORES, WHERE I WAS ABLE TO MEET MANY OTHERS OUTSIDE OF MY RACE, WHO PATRONIZED ME, FORTUNATELY & UNFORTUNATELY, MORE THAN MY RACE & FASTER. TO THIS DAY I'VE NEVER SOLD OUT: I'VE CASHED IN--YET, CAN NEVER BE BOUGHT: MY SOUL ISN'T FOR SALE.... MY NEED FOR GLOBALIZATION & FUNDS IS DEFINITELY FOR A HIGHER CAUSE, AS WELL AS MY AGENDA AS A PUBLISHER ISN'T JUST FOR BOOK SALES. I'VE TURNED AWAY THOUSANDS OF DOLLARS TROY: IF I DON'T BELIEVE IN SOMETHING (THE HUNDREDS MANUSCRIPTS THAT I'VE REJECTED), I CAN'T ROCK WITH IT. I COULD'VE LONG BEEN A MILLIONAIRE OF THE POORLY WRITTEN MANUSCRIPTS THAT HAVE COME MY WAY, REAPED FROM PIMPING THE HOOD & CAPITALIZING FROM PUBLISHING NIGGERIZED WORKS--BUT I'D TOLD MYSELF FROM DAY ONE THAT I WOULDN'T GO DOWN THAT ROUTE.... SO, I CONTINUE TO DO MY PART, AS CHALLENGING AS IT IS TODAY. IF THE INDEPENDENTS, ONES WHO'VE BEEN HERE 30 - 40 YEARS PRIOR TO ME CAN'T FIGURE OUT WHAT TO DO, EVEN WITH COMPETITION AS SUPER CHAIN STORES OUT OF BUSINESS FOR THEM TO COMPETE AGAINST, THEN SURELY YOU KNOW THAT ME, THE UNDERDOG OF IT ALL IS BEYOND CHALLENGED GETTING LOCAL INNER-CITY FOLKS TO READ MY PRODUCT WHICH FULLY RELATES TO THEM, MORE-OR-LESS WHITE PEOPLE....

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