The Author, The Entrepreneur, The Live Show Producer… One Man, Many Talents
QUESTION: What/who inspired you to become an author?
ANSWER: I was locked up and serving seven years of potentially idle time. I hate anything nonproductive, so I began to write songs/4 and five songs per day for a few months. I developed that routine until I had 300 or more songs and poems. It was a point that I realized the return on investment of time wouldn’t be as quick and as easy as I imagined. So I began writing books. Writing books to me would give me therapy (on one hand) and the potential to turn my “nothing” into “something.” I knew there would be large figures behind the effort, and that turned out to be true. Furthermore, my work would fuel soundtracks, films and content that could be seen on the small and large screen forever. (However long that is)
My first book took a year to write and my second book took three months. Those books were mostly therapeutic, enabling me to get a lot off of my chest and out of my system. However, I decided to study the Craft more and read the best authors in the business. These weren’t merely authors who were “said” to be the best, they were authors who wrote books that routinely turned to film. So we are talking John Grisham, James Patterson, Elmore Leonard, Stephen King, Lawrence Block. As it is, these cats are the best who’ve ever done it. And so I read them and learned their techniques and basically created my own content using those techniques.
QUESTION: Where did the title urban lit come from? Do you consider yourself the king of Urban Lit? If So why?
ANSWER:I never heard anyone use the phrase Urban lit before I did. I spoke of Urban lit in 1986, although I know there have been black authors before me and before I coined the phrase/I’m not stupid. But I use to promote them in the late 80’s and into the 90’s, custom fed by Julia Shaw. Julia was (pretty much) the only woman publicizing and promoting Black authors in those days. She would pitch them to me for promotion in my magazine and on my TV show. Those were the days when desktop publishing was birthed, with little-to-no substantial representation of street lit and Urban Lit. There was mostly nonfiction intelligence, autobiographies, and of course some fiction. Sure we heard of Terri Mcmillan and Octavia Butler, Claude Brown and Donald Goins. But only in the mid to late 90s (with Flyy Girl & Coldest Winter & Dutch catching on) did Urban Lit begin to take flight. At the same time I was also pushing the concept of the “Willie Lynch Syndrome.” Yes we’ve heard of Willie Lynch and yes we’ve heard of the Willie Lynch letters, but I don’t believe I’ve heard Willie Lynch Syndrome before I pushed it in 1996.
As for “The King” of Urban Lit, Street Lit and the like… naw, I’m not the King. Just an unimportant memory; a mustard seed really. I keep my head in the sand, and besides my covers aren’t shiny and bloody and murderous or as sexy as all the others. I’m just plain boring. I think I’ll keep it that way.
QUESTION: You live in Atlanta Ga, but your are originally from Westchester County. What prompted the move, being that you moved from a place where Urban books were a hot commodity to a place where it seemed that the venues to sell the books were limited?
ANSWER: I moved to Atlanta because I wanted to prosper. In my opinion, there were very many copycats who followed my lead in urban lit; whether I train them or that they looked on from a distance. Just as I followed Omar Tyree and Perry Satin Brown, selling books from my trunk and my backpack… just as I began to align my brand with Tyler Perry’s brand, selling books in front of the Beacon theater and the Newark Symphony Hall, dozens of authors followed what I did. I posted up and sold books on Fordham Road and Authors followed me. I posted up and sold books on 125th St. and 34th St… and even more authors followed me. But this is nothing new, since everything I’ve done in my life has created followers and imitators. From the TV shows in the late 80s, to the talent shows and concerts in the early 90s, to the magazines in the late 90s. I built a strip club on Boston Road in the Bronx and within a year a strip club was built across the street, where there had not been a strip club in that area ever. I’m flattered, really that I should be the pioneer where folks see something successful and follow suit. Fast forward to today, and you will see the same thing. Followers. Except I’m a lot more isolated now; hard for the other crabs in the barrel to get a grip on what I’m up to. I am in Atlanta where Black entertainment, Black culture, music & art have formed a Mecca. I live in a town where the biggest Black Filmmaker lives. When people need me, they know how to reach me and either fly or drive out to see me, consult with me, etc. I also travel to others for the same reasons. My destiny in content creation is inevitable. The book business is dying, shifting from the hands of big publishers to that of boutique brand-owners. Thousands and thousands of bookstores have folded and their employees sent skirmishing for unemployment checks. Day by day newspapers and magazines and anything printed on paper has lost value and or has folded. Megatrends have dictated major shifts in our society, from the agricultural age to the industrial age, and from the industrial age to the information age. If you’re not clear about the shifts then you need not be in business at all. And for the record, the most important author is not the author who sells the most or makes the most noise. Nor is the most important Author the one who has a connection that gets them certain resources and a certain marketshare. The authors of today are the armchair theoreticians that we see on TV and on the Internet. These folks are the authors who are producing the most content to date. With their mouths, they are out-writing and rewriting an entire history of content. As for the streets, there’s a saying that “if you keep doing the same thing you’ll keep getting the same results.” I don’t want to be on a street selling books for the rest of my life with 1000 other authors competing for eyeballs/creating juicy book covers if only to draw in the next sucker-consumer with money in hand. I didn’t come to the world to pay attention or to cower to competition. I came to the world to be a pioneer, a leader and an inspiration to others. To date, no Author living has the catalog that I have; the diversity and dimensions of content, the impact of my characters, story lines and plots. On top of that no Black Author dead or alive has pulled down a bigger debut book deal than I have. The idea that our books are a hot commodity in New York versus Atlanta is an illusion. The fact is that there are more potential buyers/more crabs in that barrel in New York; more people with common interests, all confined to a certain area. Atlanta, on the other hand, (and really, most of the South) not only has a different way of life, but because of the historic dependence on the agricultural Industry, there was no room for reading. Not only that, but reading in the South is historically far behind the reading and literacy of folks living in New York or Boston (for instance). But I should say the learning curve and the tech curve is improving every day. We must keep in mind the long, dirty history behind us, in that the 1900s ushered in 76 percent of Southern Blacks (age 10 and over) as illiterate. Those ugly truths still affect us today. All of us. If someone from the South moves up top, they easily spread the unfortunate cancer that lives here.
At one time New York City was the Mecca for Urban Lit with Vendors, book stores etc. How is the book business in Georgia in comparison with New York?
ANSWER: There is no “book business” in Georgia. There never was. The business of books is great for those who have their own devoted markets, their fellowships and cults to whom they can direct towards this or that concern, product or service. But books are not the high priority here. They are the lowest. Georgia is about dance clubs, churches, music, movies and all of those businesses and initiatives that are supported by the same. Its about the realities of infrastructure, healthcare and hospitals mending victims of too many assaults, attacks and accidents. People-shit and the defaults of the same. Georgia has a number of industry-leaders in the soda market and defense and disease control. Of course there are the sports teams and the majority-allegiance that follows them. In a sad way, Paula Dean represents the ignorance that remains here from long-ago-slavery and the remaining gibberish that we see as a “language difference.”
QUESTION: How many novels have you written?
ANSWER: 37 of my own and numerous books for others as ghost writer.
QUESTION: You do not seem to have a big presence on kindle/knook. What is your preferred medium, in terms of books? Digital format or paperback?
ANSWER: When the publishers asked, I declined. I knew that once they digitized my work it would go viral and be shared for free. I don’t mind that/that’s life, everyone scrambling for assets and resources. My content is more unique than just about every other author in my genre. I’m sure you’ve heard or experienced that “we’re all writing the same stuff.” We, the cream always rises to the top. The top is not necessarily digital as it is “being in demand.” I rather like my backwoods underground way of life right now. I peek up from under every now and then for the big meetings, but as it relates to the mass market realizing my presence: I will get there soon. Unfortunately, the publishing deals I had, while they paid handsomely and historically up front, they cared less about editing, typos, etc. These publishers paid me for the hype and the possible money it might make them. They lost in that dice-roll. But in the meantime I won by the branding, credibility and so many other rewards and resources it brought me. Even with their poor editing, careless representation and not understanding marketing to my audience, I was able to win in the long run. Again, Ebooks will be released soon.
Meanwhile, I have about 100,000 other ebooks that were acquired for free/all of the NYT best sellers, all of the Wiley, McGraw Hill, Harvard, Oxford University printings for the past few decades. Many of my friends also have access to these resources. If so many books are “shared” where is the money in publishing? Ahh, but thats another story.
QUESTION: You are known for excellent marketing strategies, how do you come up with the various marketing plans that you have?
ANSWER: I have studied marketing, sales and (later) branding for most of the past 4 decades. I’m 49 and was working at a cash register at Dads Mount Vernon deli by age 10. I am all of the “One Man Marketing Machine” that ABC News says I am. From the filming & audio, to the printed, graphic representation of ideas, concepts and agendas. That is me.
QUESTION: Are you currently signed to a major publishing company?
QUESTION: What’s the difference between being signed with a major and self publishing?
ANSWER: Being signed with the major means that you found an investor nothing more nothing less. Being signed by a major also means marketing muscle, that is if they know what they’re doing. In my experience having money and knowing what you doing is entirely too different things; something like mixing peanut butter and squash. On the other hand, self-publishing means that you have published books on your own, which means liberty and risk and the consequences of knowing or not knowing what you’re doing. I make a living from showing people how to save money when they publish themselves because I have done it over and over again.
QUESTION: What other titles do you have besides author?
ANSWER: LOL I am a live events producer, graphic and website designer, book publisher, Internet radio producer, video and film producer, sound editor, clothing design and cologne are just around the corner.
QUESTION: Do you have a 9-5 or Is the book your main source of income?
ANSWER: I am 49 and have not worked and 9 to 5 since leaving the Marine Corp. I tried (and failed) a few times at age 18, and that is all because of loss of respect for authority. Meanwhile, my DNA is “Entrepreneur.” From my grandmother to my father to me, the baton has been passed.
QUESTION: This industry seems to be oversaturated with “authors” what sets you apart from many of the authors in the industry today?
ANSWER: First of all I have studied and mastered my craft. So many other authors simply know how to tell a story or have a story to tell but do not have all of the components. More then knowing how to tell a story and telling the story there is the marketing the networking and the tech-savvy it takes to move the story and brand forward. Every book is a brand. Every character in that book is a potential brand. A few more resources that keeps me winning are connectivity, who I know and where I am, since geography has so much to do with success. I am thankful to have so many of these resources, and a healthy imagination & sex-drive are the cherries on top.
QUESTION: Besides books, what other business ventures do you have going on? ANSWER:I produce and film live shows at one of the biggest Starbucks stores in Georgia. I still do publishing and writing consultation as well as digital print online marketing.
QUESTION: Many of the veteran authors seemed to have faded into the background because of Limited Facebook/social media presence but you still have a presence. Is this intentional? If so, why is it important for you to have a presence on social media?
ANSWER: Once upon a time we communicated by homing pigeons and African drums… then there were couriers, there was Morse code, the telephone and the pager… now it’s social media that brings us together and through which we communicate sound, image and the written word. It doesn’t get any better than this and telling your story or sharing a message. Those who are savvy, in touch and resourceful already understand this. Those who are not still rely on the telephone and fax machines/some still swear by/have their 8track tapes and vinyl.
QUESTION: What is your take on the beefing between authors, that tends to go on in this industry?
ANSWER: The thing is normal amongst competitors and more prevalent amongst the haves and have-nots. It goes on in every industry. The difference amongst writers is their assumed weakness. Same goes for rappers and singers; all of us with egos. All of us fighting to keep our face & our dignity. We are already good liars and storytellers and armchair theoreticians and conspiracy theorists, so most likely we will be the best name callers. Even if they are empty threats, we will make them. It relieves us to have someone to get angry at/a sounding board to vent and to make us look better, stronger faster… more successful. So many of these writers are but rappers getting entertainment twisted with real life. And most times they author their lives by the fantasy in their minds; in other words, life-imitating-art.
The image in Street culture, hip-hop, gangster films & music videos show tattoos and motorcycles, pit bulls and shotguns, muscles, muscle trucks & cars. So much of this amounts to a false sense of security, pride and confidence. There is always a bigger bully to fight, or a stronger army to face, or a more powerful force to encounter. There is always a fight if you so choose to fight all your life. Nowadays, comedians even have beef. When it’s all over, there’s no money to be made and no achievement to be earned from all the nonsense. It simply shows immaturity. We all die humble, softened, frail and weak anyhow, so who’s kidding who?
QUESTION: Have you had any beefs/incidents with any authors within the industry?
ANSWER: Everybodys my best friend. They all love me so much and wish the absolute best for me. I am so blessed to have so much love Industry-wide.
QUESTION: You seem to spend a lot of time in Starbucks. Do you have a makeshift office set up there?
ANSWER: Pretty much.
QUESTION: Can you tell us about some of your up coming projects?
ANSWER: Working on films. Just completed a contract to write the Kalief Browder Story. Plus, I’m interviewing for a soulmate. Tough work there.
QUESTION: Any last minute comments?