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Troy

Where are the Novels That Speak to Middle Aged Black Men?

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This post was motivated, in part, by another conversation on these forums, “Black Middle Aged Men Invisible? I call BS.” I’m using the world of books to support my argument that Black middle aged men have been so marginalized in our culture; that they have been rendered invisible.   

 

I'm hoping this 3 minute video will help drive home my point.  Let me know what you think?

 

 

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Maybe this situation will evolve and correct itself in the next 10 years as more and more young talented black male authors enter middle age and begin to write about their mid-life crises. The void in the genre has to be publicized so the idea can resonate.  You have your work cut out for you, Troy. The vanguard is calling you...   

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47 minutes ago, Cynique said:

more young talented black male authors enter middle age and begin to write about their mid-life crises

 

LOL Word!

 

But by then I'll be wondering where the books for Black Elderly men are 😉

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10 hours ago, Troy said:

I'm hoping this 3 minute video will help drive home my point.  Let me know what you think?

 

@Troy  For me, there's still a disconnect.  

Maybe because I've worked/work as a journalist and also in marketing, my first approach to anything is "why should I/they care" and "what's in it for me/them." 

- As I've mentioned in Pioneer's original post, and the post I've created; there are many middle-aged black men visible and present in society.  Further, there are books written about them, by them and for them.  They are also front and center in current events, sociological, physiological,  psychological studies,  and non-fiction.  Those disciplines translate into marker for them in the history books of tomorrow.    So, the group is anything but invisible.  

You've already said that you are not really talking about literary fiction that is NOT plot driven. Middle-aged black men are represented in plot-driven novels written by white men (that's just to my knowledge because that's what I read)... 

 

My takeaway from this video is it might be possible middle-aged black men are represented in novels that aren't plot-driven and not publicized.

 

So, maybe the goal is to locate those novels and publicize them. 

We no longer live in a society where what we read or write is dictated by a gatekeeper.  While you may look to PW to find your books many of us read based on word of mouth. I mentioned to you that I got a recommendation from AALBC about a horror book I purchased some time ago.  By the way, the author is a 46 year-old black man and the protagonist is a white male... The author, Victor Lavalle, was 40 when his book was published.  But I digress.

Therefore, if it's your goal to make these novels popular, especially if they are exploring the hopes, dreams and desires of middle-aged black men - I agree, you have your work cut out for you.

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7 hours ago, Mel Hopkins said:

My takeaway from this video is it might be possible middle-aged black men are represented in novels that aren't plot-driven and not publicized.

 

@Mel Hopkins, you are half right.  The books exist (indie authors, small presses, etc), but the are not publicized for a variety of reasons most notably a lack of platforms with a sizeable audience promoting these books.  They are invisible.

 

7 hours ago, Mel Hopkins said:

So, maybe the goal is to locate those novels and publicize them. 

 

Are you talking about me?  I know you ain't talkin' 'bout me!?  What the heck you think I've been doing the last twenty years 🙂 Bottom line: one man can not do this alone.  I can tell you this because it comes from 20 years of experience, neither the culture or the media are aligned to publicize these books.

 

7 hours ago, Mel Hopkins said:

We no longer live in a society where what we read or write is dictated by a gatekeeper.

 

Oh my, you could not be MORE wrong about that statement.  One could always write what they wanted, but the gatekeepers are in full effect.  The web and technology promised to help bring these walls down, but they are as high as ever -- perhaps higher.

 

7 hours ago, Mel Hopkins said:

While you may look to PW to find your books many of us read based on word of mouth.

 

Yes I'm a bookseller and PW is a trade rag, so I would not expect it to be consumed by a casual reader. My job is to pull out the good stuff for the reader's benefit. However, I do think an avid reader would get a lot out of the magazine.  It is a trade rag, but it reads like a commercial publication.   Obviously PW is not my only source to discover books -- otherwise i would not have very many books on the site. 😉

 

7 hours ago, Mel Hopkins said:

By the way, the author is a 46 year-old black man and the protagonist is a white male... The author, Victor Lavalle, was 40 when his book was published.  But I digress.

 

No, that is not a digression, you make a good point.  I have active promoted Victors work from jump.  I even paid him to do a reading once. I'm glad you discovered one of his book here. His book The Devil in Silver was an AALBC bestseller, but you won't read that anywhere else than on this site... you can think about that for a minute.

 

Yes, I do have my work cut out for me; On your final point we agree 🙂

 

 

black-writers.jpg

 

 

 

 

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1 hour ago, Troy said:

Oh my, you could not be MORE wrong about that statement.  One could always write what they wanted, but the gatekeepers are in full effect.  The web and technology promised to help bring these walls down, but they are as high as ever -- perhaps higher. 

 

@Troy I'm not - or these obscure creator-folks wouldn't be getting film/tv/book deals from the conglomerates ...  Maybe you don't have the time to track these deals but I have and do. 

We live in a society that is no longer dictated  by the average - but rather the specialization... First it was in music then with POD technology dropped; social media and blogging took off - then more book deals.  (well you know because that's how Street Lit went mainstream.)   The new rules are now if it's popular it get picked up. 

Troy you're really going to have to spend more time on twitter/medium /reddit - these young black millennials are getting lit agents and  book deals.  

Anyway once the creator finds the audience then the conglomerate  buys up or partners with the creator specialization in said genre.   I've been following this media trend in film/tv/video since the mid-2000s... but now the deals are easier to track with the internet. 

 

For example, I belong to PR NEWSWIRE and I just saw the press release that Common just got a television production deal with Lionsgate - and Ginuwhine just inked a deal with Bungalow Media to do some reality programs... 

Bottomline, if you're an influencer -with a large following; you are getting a book/tv/film/music deal.

By the way, I meant to tell you,  my girls told me that Cardi B started on social media with her straight talk...(I didn't even know my youngest was following her) -  so no gatekeepers. The approach is a lot different today.

 

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No Mel, book deals by Black people are fewer and those signed are getting smaller advances (at least not compared to the early 2000's).  Perhaps I know this because I'm looking at the actual books published and not at social media.  Here is a list of up coming books ow many of the really bug books are y talking about am I missing: https://aalbc.com/books/comingsoon.php

 

I can't speak to movies but it is not like there have been an explosion of Black movies lately -- unless I'm missing something.  Do tell.

 

As far as TV, the streaming services are competing for content I image that this drive higher demand for any quality content.  But I suspect, if history is any indicator, any benefit to Black folks will be short lived and really only benefit a few.

 

 

 

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What's your source on this? 

19 minutes ago, Troy said:

No Mel, book deals by Black people are fewer and those signed are getting smaller advances (at least not compared to the early 2000's).

 

@Troy Please provide a  source for advances.  I've looked for figures and I can only find them listed if there's an auction or if someone mentions it in social media but I can't verify. 

I'd like to follow up  and compare advances for now compared  to the 2000s...  My point, is these book deals are based on popularity - now.

And yes you may be missing out on  movies with black casts.  When I was writing Issa Rae's article ...I read of quite a few including  3 picture deals with several studios... Issa has one coming out next month based on the The Hate U Give and during the interview she was filming "Little" which is one of the 3 picture-deal production with Universal pictures... Yeah I'd say you were out of the loop in media and entertainment industry.  Check out deadline or sign up for PR Newswire as a content provider - 

 

One of my favorite exec producer creator Ben Watkins has "Through his recently launched banner Blue Monday Productions, Watkins and his producing partner Eli Dansky, have projects in active development for FX (Trainhoppers) and USA (Roar). Up next, Watkins will executive produce Apple’s anticipated upcoming series Are You Sleeping, starring Octavia Spencer, Lizzy Caplan and Aaron Paul. "

And yes, streaming content is hot for black creators... Shonda & Kenya both did 150 and 100 million deals respectively with netflix ...oh and HBO bought 4 shows from Issa Rae including her own...

 

33 minutes ago, Troy said:

But I suspect, if history is any indicator, any benefit to Black folks will be short lived and really only benefit a few.

 


How so?   Benefit a few like who? if you follow the trajectory of black shows being produced you'll notice they hire black talent both in front and behind the camera - so what do you mean benefit a few? those who have been working in the entertainment business?  This last statement doesn't even make sense. 

Nah, I stand by what I say - no gatekeepers - if it's popular it will get bought, produced and published.

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Mel, here you go again: you want to tell me about TV and film and female celebrities -- when I'm talking about books, and more specifically as they relate to the invisibility of middle aged Black men. 

 

The data that you are requesting for Black books does not exist. My information is based upon 20 years of observing the publishing industry and tracking published authors. As far as advances this is based upon conversation, usually confidential, I've had with authors.  They complain about not getting new deals or getting advances so low they they either stopped writing, went to an indie publisher, or just self published. Virtual all of them are making less money.  What is your source of information @Mel Hopkins?

 

Actually, I probably have enough data to run a meaningful query of titles published by the big five over time.  It won't be perfect, but it will be better than anything that is currently available and an excellent proxy.  I'll run the query tomorrow and look over the data for any potential biases.  Lets see if the huge explosion of Black books is revealed.

 

Mel for every so called break out author you scrape up, I'll tell you about Big five Black imprint that shut down along with the professional who worked in them. 

 

Even if I entertain your distractions, where are all the movies you are talking about?  ...Let me think Black Panther, Sorry to Bother You, and Black BlacKkKlansman”  you can tell me about the names of the 3 or four others... but with the year 3/4 over it sounds like par-for-the-course to me.  

 

Also, how to you define "gate Keeper?"  In terms of movies I define it as someone who can green light a major motion pitcure.  Are there really that many Black folks in that position today?  Or are we still talking about less than a handful?

 

Again, I can't talk to TV the only thing I'm watching now is Bill Maher and John Oliver's shows, Luke Cage, and Fauda.  So I'm not going to talk to you about that. Besides I've already explained my thing on the issue

 

So Apple is in the movie business now wow!  You realize there will be a glut of movies and there will be some losers -- big ones.  Don't think for one second that Black folks won't feel the greatest impact when this bubble explodes.  As competition the competition heats up there will be downward pressure on subscriptions prices.  The ones with the most cash will win... This will result in  gate-keeping steroids!

 

 

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1 hour ago, Troy said:

Mel, here you go again: you want to tell me about TV and film and female celebrities -- when I'm talking about books, and more specifically as they relate to the invisibility of middle aged Black men. 

 

That part of the conversation is over.  Remember,  "your work is cut out for you" is how I ended.   I actually quoted you for the gatekeeper aspect of the conversation.  Now we're talking about gatekeepers no longer keeping people out of the marketplace - instead  we're dealing with popularity in the media and entertainment industry. 

By the way, THE MEDIA & ENTERTAINMENT Industry is publishing, gaming, music and film/tv  - which is why I talked about the gatekeepers for the entire industry. 
 

I shared my sources... deadline,  prnewswire I should include variety,  I told you can sign up for any of those but PR Newswire you can sign up as an content provider.  There are also other media sites you can sign up for that are exclusive to journalists but since you have a website you can sign up too...

I've learned about some of the books through the films they're based on.

I'm asking you for sources for your claims. I don't have any when it comes to advances. This was your claim.   If you only have observations over 20 years and only spoken to a an handful of authors who quit the game or self-published;  well that actually doesn't qualify as a verifiable source for the industry.  It does serve as first person source - but it doesn't speak to the industry.  You wouldn't even be able to get that past a copy editor/fact checker of a reputable newspaper or magazine.  

 

1 hour ago, Troy said:

I define it as someone who can green light a major motion pitcure.  Are there really that many Black folks in that position today?  Or are we still talking about less than a handful?

 

This statement just piggybacks on what I wrote earlier - and yes that's how these films are getting made by black people.  The studio offers the deals to the black person's production company, gives them the money to make the film and then the studio distributes it.   So yes,the most successful black content creators  are in that position today. 

 

1 hour ago, Troy said:

 

Even if I entertain your distractions, where are all the movies you are talking about?  ...Let me think Black Panther, Sorry to Bother You, and Black BlacKkKlansman”  you can tell me about the names of the 3 or four others... but with the year 3/4 over it sounds like par-for-the-course to me

 

Now you just sound ignorant.   While those may be the movies you've heard of ...Those are not the only films slated for production and release this year, 2019 or 2020.  BUT I'll leave you to your ignorance and not entertain you with any more of my distractions about movies coming from the production houses owned by black folks.

 

1 hour ago, Troy said:

 

So Apple is in the movie business now wow!  You realize there will be a glut of movies and there will be some losers -- big ones.  Don't think for one second that Black folks won't feel the greatest impact when this bubble explodes.  As competition the competition heats up there will be downward pressure on subscriptions prices.  The ones with the most cash will win... This will result in  gate-keeping steroids! 


Finally, now you understand why gatekeepers are in the past,  @Troy The public decides what they want to see, read, play AND on what platform.  None of these platforms can survive without content - and right now black people want to see/read about themselves - so black people content is in demand.   

The most popular content wins.    So while you're focused on when the bubble explodes - these young creators are making deals, creating jobs  and making money NOW.   

-
 

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13 hours ago, Mel Hopkins said:

That part of the conversation is over.  Remember,  "your work is cut out for you" is how I ended.

 

Oh, OK

 

13 hours ago, Mel Hopkins said:

well that actually doesn't qualify as a verifiable source for the industry. 

 

Mel it is just you and I talking (and whoever else wants to join in). You are not researching for a Wall Street Journal article. Still, there are not that many Black authors being published. I would not be so quick to dismiss my anecdotal evidence given the number of people involved -- especially since you don't have any al all...

 

13 hours ago, Mel Hopkins said:

The most popular content wins. 

 

Sure Mel, but how do you think that content becomes popular in the first place?  Whose platforms does this popularity exist? Whose algorithms determine which content rises to the top?  When you answer those 3 questions you will be begin to understand how gatekeeping works.

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1 hour ago, Troy said:

 

Mel it is just you and I talking (and whoever else wants to join in). You are not researching for a Wall Street Journal article

 

@Troy , I'm always researching a Black Enterprise/Ebony/ Amsterdam article -...ALWAYS  (btw, WSJ is too biased)

...We can't ever be caught slouching!  Seriously, it is a thing for me to always have verifiable sources or evidence.   I was born under the sign of the virgo the virgin - otherwise known as the anal sign of the zodiac.  I don't play fast and loose with information. 

 

1 hour ago, Troy said:

Still, there are not that many Black authors being published. I would not be so quick to dismiss my anecdotal evidence given the number of people involved -- especially since you don't have any al all..


I must dismiss your anecdotal "evidence"  even in the absence of none of my own because the result is the same - No verifiable evidence of loss of book publishing deals for black writers.    

It could be a good enterprise article though.  So, please if you come across proof either way - please share. 

The black authors who have currently have book deals have an audience i.e., popularity.   As I mentioned, some are easy to spot on twitter - they have a blue tick by their name and a released date of their new or upcoming book (s). 

 

 

1 hour ago, Troy said:

Sure Mel, but how do you think that content becomes popular in the first place?  Whose platforms does this popularity exist? Whose algorithms determine which content rises to the top?  When you answer those 3 questions you will be begin to understand how gatekeeping works.


You don't understand gatekeeping then. Gatekeeping is controlling access and  no one is controlling access to books or any other media content -  there are too many channels available - too many platforms - and I am for one discovering new ones daily.

 

Now big money promotion of said item even directing someone to something is NOT gatekeeping... Del might be onto something, you are beginning to sound like 45*" (8=| 

Staying in the media and entertainment industry - box office; books sales; albums sales and video games are proof that no amount of manipulation can buy popularity. We still get flops, show cancellations, direct to video - and what's popular rises and remains on top.  


 

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You can find some information on book deals in Publishers Lunch.  It is a subscription based publication that would be a good source, but someone would need to dig through the reports.

 

I do have some real data that would be supportive of my anecdotal evidence that the number and size of book deals are smaller.  The graph below is the number of books published by the "Big 5" and a large independent (Kensington) over the past 10 years.

 

Since virtually all of the books in my dabasse were written by Black writers and I have captured all of the most popular books, my data is an excellent sample. As you can see this data reflects a steep reduction in the number of deals over the past decade..  While this data set does not speak specifically to the size of advances.  I do know authors who refused deals because the advance was too small.  If you don't find my data coupled with my anecdotal evidence convincing -- you are just being stubborn.

 

Admittedly the reasons there are fewer Black authors being published by the large presses are more complex that just being offered a smaller deals. Virginia Deberry and Donna Grant wrote an article about this a few years ago: "Our writing career is officially on HOLD."  They have not published a new book since.

 

Of course my finer point, speaking to the lack of books dealing middle aged Black men is part of this. 

 

@Mel Hopkins, you glossed over my questions (cutting me deep with the 45 dig 😉), but I believe the will help you understand the role gatekeepers in determining and indeed growing popularity . Again Whose platforms does this popularity exist? Whose algorithms determine which content rises to the top?  Popularity does not happens as organically as you seem to believe. 45's ascendance should help you appreciate this.

 

 

total_number_of_books.png

 

 

bigbooks_detail.png

 

 

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2 hours ago, Troy said:

I do know authors who refused deals because the advance was too small.  If you don't find my data coupled with my anecdotal evidence convincing -- you are just being stubborn.

 

LOL! Troy, it's not being stubborn -  I need verifiable evidence.   Your word isn't good enough. If I'm interviewing you about your personal experience -then it is but another person's experience is just hearsay.    I can't go to someone and say "Troy said it's so, so it's so." folks would say who the eff is Troy?... But if I show roster of black authors for big publishing -in 1992 compared to the the roster in 2018 and there's a decline... then I will have to find out what has changed?    Did these authors lose their contracts or did they leave on their own?  Did the publishing house decide Indian writers were now in vogue - and they kicked off white writers too?   Did these authors get imprint deals ... There's a whole host of reasons but we have to start with facts first... So your data is a beginning point.
GATEKEEPERS
I stated what a gatekeeper was - here it is is again.  The "gatekeeper" is one who controls access. That would mean the thing isn't AVAILABLE for consumption.  Prior to POD or ebooks it was cost-prohibitive for an author to get his/her work out - that meant they had to go through an intermediary which was controlled by a gatekeeper.   That is no longer the case. The fact that you mentioned that some of your writer friends -published their books when they didn't get the advance they wanted is proof the gatekeeper is no longer in play.   You actually did a story on publishing company I think it was brown girls publishing? nd I've never heard of them before you - but their release mentioned they have 2 MILLION books in print.   Guess what? There's no gatekeeper keeping them from selling even if I never heard of them EVER through any of means than AALBC...

Again, algorithms and advertising dollars is NOT a gatekeeper - it never was. 

By the way, for 45 - have you heard of Mike Farb?  There's possible evidence that 45 didn't get those crucial votes needed to secure the electoral college win... and   90 million people didn't vote - so maybe he's not a good foundation for your gatekeeper argument.

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You are indeed being stubborn Mel. 

 

Seriously, the graphs I showed you are backed by data which can be very easily verified -- it is all on that site.  But that is fine.  My beliefs are backed by a great deal of data. No one I know, close to this issue, shares your perspective which is backed by nothing, other than your refusal to entertain the ideas or even concede that it might be plausible.

 

Nothing you have mentioned, not ebooks, POD, Brown Girls Books, not indie publishing, nothing, has made up for the loses over the past decade -- which itself was the end of a fleeting period of growth in the number of Black books being published.

 

As far as 45 is concerned; no I was not aware of Mike Farb and his theories.  It is interesting that you accept and share Farb's theories, while he is just some blogger without any data to support his conspiracy theories.  I give you actual, verifiable data, and you reject all of it.

 

Why? What makes Farb so special?  Think about it @Mel Hopkins...

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23 minutes ago, Troy said:

I give you actual, verifiable data, and you reject all of it. 

 

Are you alright, @Troy?  Where did I say I rejected your data?   I suggest you re-read what I wrote. 

And even if I did. So what?  As long as you are happy with your work that's all that matters.    Wow.  smh.

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After I shared my data you wrote; "I need verifiable evidence."  What did you write to suggest that the data I shared had any validity?

 

Why share Mike's opinions when he offers no verifiable data?  

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6 minutes ago, Troy said:

"I need verifiable evidence."  What did you write to suggest that the data I shared had any validity?

 

Did you read beyond that sentence, @Troy ?  and do you read my responses in context to what you wrote last...and how they correlate to what you've written? 

And finally do you read or skim?  I'm beginning to get the sense that you don't pay attention -not even to your own words. 

As for Mark Farb it was a dig at your 45 comment...and how 45*s "win" is questionable.  Therefore, you may not want to hang your hat on it to validate your argument.  

AND finally notice I wrote "POSSIBLY" about Mike Farb's analysis too.     I do intake, I don't TAKE ANYONE's word as gospel..

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20 hours ago, Mel Hopkins said:

LOL! Troy, it's not being stubborn -  I need verifiable evidence.   Your word isn't good enough. If I'm interviewing you about your personal experience -then it is but another person's experience is just hearsay.    I can't go to someone and say "Troy said it's so, so it's so." folks would say who the eff is Troy?... But if I show roster of black authors for big publishing -in 1992 compared to the the roster in 2018 and there's a decline... then I will have to find out what has changed?    Did these authors lose their contracts or did they leave on their own?  Did the publishing house decide Indian writers were now in vogue - and they kicked off white writers too?   Did these authors get imprint deals ... There's a whole host of reasons but we have to start with facts first... So your data is a beginning point.

 

I dunno Mel, what am I missing? I thought my data was factual and verifiable.  I did not just pull this out of thin air. It reflect an excellent sample of Big 5 output of books written by Black people. So, which one of my assertions do you now agree with or feel that might be more substantiated based upon the data i presented -- if any?

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1 hour ago, Troy said:

I thought my data was factual and verifiable.

@Troy , for argument's sake I'll say it is "factual and verifiable." But if you were an actual statistician, you would submit that as raw data.  

Now, look at it objectively - can you see that it's ONLY the beginning of a story - not a whole story. That's what I wrote.  See that last sentence you quoted? 

 

"So your data is a beginning point".      
 

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@Mel Hopkins of course I would submit the raw data -- it is what drives the website -- so of course it is "factual and verifiable."  Obviously it is valuable, so I would not share it with just anyone, but I'd be happy to share it with you if you are that interested.  Shoot maybe you'd be moved to write an article 😉

 

Also many people talk about the self publishing "revolution," as previously stated, but this has not replaced what we have lost.  Below is a graph of the rest of the independently published book on the site.  This is a much smaller sample of independently published books but probably a good sample as it skews to the books that clearly have some prominence or marketing dollars which would rules out book that are not likely selling well.  The 2018 figures are not as good as with the traditional publishers because most indie authors are not provided advance information.  But 2018 is shaping up to be the lowest total in the past decade.  

 

indie-publishers.png

 

 

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Once this information is gathered, sorted, formatted and written, then we have a feature news story.

 

 

What: is the problem?

 

3 hours ago, Troy said:

of course I would submit the raw data -- it is what drives the website -- so of course it is "factual and verifiable."  Obviously it is valuable, so I would not share it with just anyone, but I'd be happy to share it with you if you are that interested.  Shoot maybe you'd be moved to write an article 😉

 

Also many people talk about the self publishing "revolution," as previously stated, but this has not replaced what we have lost.  Below is a graph of the rest of the independently published book on the site.  This is a much smaller sample of independently published books but probably a good sample as it skews to the books that clearly have some prominence or marketing dollars which would rules out book that are not likely selling well.  The 2018 figures are not as good as with the traditional publishers because most indie authors are not provided advance information.  But 2018 is shaping up to be the lowest total in the past decade.  


@Troy

Actually, your findings presented here are the raw data. 

Here's how a journalist for a reputable or even non-reputable publication goes about writing the article.   

When they don't follow the procedure then we get fake news and lawsuits. If I were to use AALBC findings without follow-up and circulate as is, chances of being sued by any business or person mentioned goes way up.


So, if I were to write an article, I'd have to answer for who, what, where, why, when, & how...

Who: is the story about? 

The reader is the focus of the article.  They are the booksellers.  In this context, this means they are the ones who decide what books sell.    Yes, you've said you believe the process is rigged. And investigating that angle is what would make the article interesting.

Ultimately, the reader is the bookseller because they are the ones who buy the books.  If the bookseller doesn't know what's available or if publishers are not offering certain books, then how can the reader/bookseller make an informed purchase?

 

What: is the problem?

Are the Big 5 Publishing houses publishing fewer books by black American authors?  Are there fewer black American authors in traditional publishing?  

 

When: did the change occur? 

AALBC, who has been keeping track of the numbers for the last ten years says there's a decline. 

Every company mentioned would have to verify those numbers. If not the article would read - AALBC says this - Penguin says this and so on and so on...

Then of course the method of accounting would be mentioned for both entities - i.e., AALBC versus Penguin, SS, Hachette, etc.- whomever is willing to answer....

Why: if true, are there fewer books by black American authors?  Why, if any, was there a reduction-in-force of black Americans authors?

If big 5 dropped the black Americans authors - if true why aren't they signing any book deals with black American authors?

Where: if any, was the largest decline?  Which division?

Children, YA, Women's Fiction, Men's Fiction, Literary, etc... 

Where:  are the black American authors writing now?  Are they still publishing? If so, then where?

Here AALBC's findings for self and indie-publishing comes into play.

Of course, the process of fact-finding continues because the fact checker would look at your findings and then looks to see if we've used two more sources in addition to AALBC numbers...

How can this problem, if any, be solved? What is the solution?

How can big 5 publishing get a more diverse collection of publications in front of the booksellers?  How will it impact the bottom-line?

 

Once this information is gathered, sorted, formatted and written, then we have a feature news story.

 

 

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@Mel Hopkins, That is an interesting breakdown it was more than I would have anticipated thanks.  Of course I did not expect you to take my data and run with an article trying to address all of the issues you raised would probably not be worth the effort given the potential interest in the subject.  If the subject was expanded beyond just book it would be more interesting. 

 

I'll react to your questions:

 

9 minutes ago, Mel Hopkins said:

Is the Big 5 Publishing houses publishing fewer books by black American authors?  Are there fewer black American authors in traditional publishing?  

 

My data seems to indicate "Yes" is the answer to the first question. I suspect it is true for the 2nd question as well, but I would need to run a query of the number of authors published by the big 5 over time.  The data presented here counts the number of books published.

 

11 minutes ago, Mel Hopkins said:

Every company you've mentioned would have to verify those numbers

 

I've been tracking this data for 20 years.  We would not need to have the publishers to verify it, as it is essentially public information.  There are plenty of database where is information can be obtained. I get a lot of my data from Ingram's database -- my challenge is actually identify the Black writers many of the names I know other I have to check, but one could actually count the number of Black authors published by the big five.  The largest published Penguin Random house only published 15K books a year a distinct list of authors with first editions will be a smaller number still.  You don't need the published to verify. 

 

17 minutes ago, Mel Hopkins said:

if big 5 dropped the black americans authors - if true why aren't they signing any book deals with black american authors?

 

Again, I've speculated on this another reason I have not previously mention is that fact that mainstream publishing has increased it focus on hits big books that often skews to celebrities books intoday social media driven world.

 

20 minutes ago, Mel Hopkins said:

Children, YA, Women's Fiction, Men's Fiction,  Literary,  etc... 

 

YA has seen growth.  This is my impression given the increase attention given to the genre.  I could run another query to see if my data supports my impressions.  Mens fiction, always anemics has probably seen a decline, as with everything else.  Books a African writers are seeing a surge.  AGain we are talking about changes, relatively speaking, in really small numbers of books.

 

24 minutes ago, Mel Hopkins said:

How can big 5 publishign get a more diverse collection of publications in front of the booksellers? 

 

I don't think the Big 5 are the answer frankly -- they, like the rest of media have challenges of their own.  The Big 5 have the financial resources that indie publisher do not have. However indie publishers have the requisite motivation to get the books we need published. I think we can work both angles and other to be determined.

 

 

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16 minutes ago, Troy said:

Of course I did not expect you to take my data and run with an article trying to address all of the issues you raised would probably not be worth the effort given the potential interest in the subject.

 

 

 

@Troy that's the job of journalism  - It gives the reader a chance to think about a subject that would otherwise go unnoticed... Good journalism provides the means for the public and industries to take a second a look - at something other than their immediate needs or the bottomline. 

If I got these answers from big 5 - any reputable publication would pay me well for the rights to print it. (Yes, EBONY paid me well for those two stories)  

Normally, I wouldn't post this type of of information in public.  Now anyone can run with this outline and pitch the story  because I did the work for them - as did you.  

But I posted it this one time, because I wanted you to understand why no reputable publication would just run your findings without -at least attempting to get comment from the big 5 publishing companies and follow-up with other sources,

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@Mel Hopkins, thanks again. Since the books published is public information, book sales are available through bookspan and other sources, and one could interview the authors themselves (it is not that many), I think a compelling story could be told without the publishers input.  My anecdotal information comes from both publishing professionals and authors.  Again my data supports what they are telling me.

 

I often hear stories where the journalist would say something like, "Multiple calls, for comment, were made to Penguin Random, but our calls were not returned." The implication is especially when it is a reputable news source that say Penguin Random has something to hide.  The story is still run despite not having input from the publisher.  Sometimes I think the news sources need to try harder to get a comment, for it would make a better story.

 

As an FYI here is the count of authors published by the "Big 5+1."  As you can see the totals peak in the late-aughts.  It would be interesting to understand the blip in 2017.  It is possible 2018 will increase a bit (I track books pre-publication) but it will not like exceed 2016 and follow the downward trend.

 

Looking at the actual numbers, for the first time, I find it alarming -- for whatever reason --  that the number of Black authors published is on par with 2000!

 

numberofauthors.png

 

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10 minutes ago, Troy said:

think a compelling story could be told without the publishers input.  My anecdotal information comes from both publishing professionals and authors.  Again my data supports what they are telling me.



If someone collects the data and then reaches a conclusion and neglects to get input from decision-makers that's propaganda and not journalism, if published.

 

The GOAL of the proposed article, however, is to inform the reader/Booksellers.   They are the one who ultimately decides the fate book sales.    As I mentioned (or thought I did) they are the consumers of the information because they are the ones charged with making an informed decision.  

 

Therefore, these readers/booksellers deserve an unbiased and balanced news report. 

 

In Journalism, specifically enterprising journalism that process begins by noticing a change in a procedure, process, activity, etc.   Since actual numbers are available that data is included in the story but it is not the story. 

 

By the way,  it doesn't matter which organization gives up the data- whether it be AALBC, Ingram et al as long as the organizations are reputable they may be used as a source. 

 

Journalism, which is unbiased, allows the people who are in control of those numbers to tell the story behind the trends.  They are making the decisions on what they choose to publish and by whom.  

 

To leave the big 5 publishers out of the story means it's not a story. 

 

All there is a set of numbers that indicate there's a change in the # of black American authors.

 

If no one contacts the  big 5 publishers for input- then the story becomes one-sided.   Reputable publications won't use big 5 publishers in the story if they can't get an answer. They will change the story angle because  all the journalist is left with is there might be less black American authors publishing books.  And that might not even be true- because black Americans are publishing independently, even if those numbers are small. 

 

Removing big 5 from the equation changes the story's angle.  Now all we have is the focus on black American authors who many be publishing books.  So the journalist changes the story to how many books they're publishing.  Once talking to the authors-who may have become independent publishers  the journalist may find a new story angle.  

 

For example, when I did a story on Wheeling Pittsburgh Steel defined-benefit pension option I had only spoken with steelworkers and union reps. I used their CBA (collective bargaining agreement) as a source for to determine their current pension plan. They were fighting a proposed change.     If I stopped there - that would be propaganda.  Therefore,  I contacted and spoke with Wheeling Pittsburgh Steel's  CEO because I knew he was making the decision on the steelworkers pension.   He would (and did) tell me why they were deciding to move from the current defined benefit pension plan to contribution pension (this was in the early 90s).   Once I got his answer and then input on the data from a CFP, Stockbroker and an economist, I had my story and the possible outcome on the scenario.   The comparison and contrast allowed the viewers/residents to determined their support for the issue. Once I presented my story, the residents who were ultimately the beneficiaries of the final decision - were now  properly informed.

 

 

If a journalist from the  New York Times  would run the proposed story, they would have input from  the group president and if they had a great relationship they would get in put from the CEO - in this case, Penguin Random House.  They would then repeat the question for each big 5 publishing house mentioned.   The heart of the story is  WHY the change and its ramifications.

 

Numbers don't tell the story. 

 

Once they get the answers, then they would know where the story would take them.  Prior to the Big 5 input there's no story. 

 

Then authors would have input because they would share HOW the change affected them.  The journalist would learn what's next with those authors. such as if they're pursuing independent publishing.    

That's the process of getting an unbiased story that actually answers the 5-Ws and H.    

So, @Troy if you were to pursue this story - you'd first have answer for yourself, what is your goal for presenting this information?  What audience are you trying to inform and what do you hope they will do with this information.

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1 hour ago, Mel Hopkins said:

If someone collects the data and then reaches a conclusion and neglects to get input from decision-makers that's propaganda and not journalism, if published.

 

I actually agree with this to a certain extent.  However, if you consume as much news as I do, from "reputable" sources, then you know that the "so-n-so" could not be reached for comment is a common refrain.  To me this is a lack of diligence or a reflection of a lack of resources.  The programs I hear on NPR comes to mind as doing this alot.  Maybe that is why so many feel they are a liberal propaganda machine.

 

@Mel Hopkins when vernerated publications like The New York TImes or The Washington Post don't get the perspectives of the subjects of their articles, are they not practicing true journalism?  I can't tell you how many articles I've read about Facebook where this is the case: A simple query like "Facebook could not be reached for comment," demonstrates this quite plainly.

 

Not being able to get a quote from the subject of an article can be quite telling -- perhaps they have something to hide and don't want to get caught in a lie. Still even compelling Zuck to testify before a congressional grand jury did nothing by result in a stream of Facebook propaganda. If a company has something to hide and are going to lie what is the point?  

 

We've seem cases when journalists give both sides the opportunity to express their side -- even when it is demonstrably false, as with the case of climate change or vaccinations,  journalists set up a false equivalency which simply confuses people which can results in people actually dying.

 

1 hour ago, Mel Hopkins said:

what is your goal for presenting this information?  What audience are you trying to inform and what do you hope they will do with this information.

 

Where do I begin? The original intent of this conversation was to explain why there are no novels that speak to the experiences of middle aged Black men.  This is initiated, in part, because of my statement that MIddle Aged Black Men are invisible. An admittedly provocative statement that you disagreed with and I was quite game to justify.  Indeed in the case of our literature I think I have made that case -- the data speaks for itself.

 

The next question is, why is this the case?  This is a question worth exploring, and might be an interesting article. 

 

However, in my mind the reasons for the current state are not very interesting without a solution.  The solution will not come from some corporation, history has demonstrated that; I will need to come from us.

 

But first we need to recognize there is indeed a problem in the first place. As you said Mel, my work is cut out for me. 😉

 

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Guest Nick Mann

In "Forgetful" (2013) and "Wounded" (2017) Ben Parks is a middle-aged black professional living in Washington, DC. He is an organization development consultant and part-time college professor. Other middle-aged black men in these two novels include Levi Chance (musician) and Tracy Brown (military man). I'm currently working on a third novel to complete this trilogy.

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Hi Nick, your book is definitely what I was looking for.  Thanks for sharing information about them here.  I have added both to the website.  Would you send me a headshot I can use on your page.  Please send me information about the 3rd book in the trilogy when it is available.  Would you like to share an excerpt of Forgetful?

 

Forgetful by Nick Mann      Wounded by Nick Mann

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This book just came in and we will be publishing a review next month.  It is exactly the the of book I'm talking about.  

 

Click for a larger image of Material Witness: The Drew Smith Series (Book 3)

Material Witness: The Drew Smith Series (Book 3)
by Norwood Holand

  • Publication Date: 
    List Price: $15.99 (store prices may vary)
    Format: Paperback
    Classification: Fiction
    Page Count: 336
    ISBN13: 9780983165699
    Imprint: Windmill Books

 

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@Troy   You really have to read Victor Lavalle's books.   Whenever I finish one I think of this discussion.   Well, I've only finished two and now half-way through the 3rd  but like I said everything you ask for you already have. 

 

Remember I mentioned that I learned of Victor LaValle on this forum.  I bought one of his books back in 2012 - I started it last year and finished it within the month.   I read one of his novellas next and now I'm reading "The Changeling"  (( 2018 World Fantasy Award Best Novel, winner ("The Changeling") , 2018 British Fantasy Award Best Horror Novel, winner ("The Changeling") 2018 Mythopoeic Award Fantasy Award for Adult Literature, finalist ("The Changeling") 2017 Shirley Jackson Award Best Novel, finalist ("The Changeling") 2017 Dragon Award Best Horror Novel, winner ("The Changeling"))


The main character is in his 30s but his two compadres are middle-aged average men doing somewhat extraordinary things.   In fact, the protagonist and his besty are both rarebook dealers lol...  

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