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Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Reflecting on the Urban Industry's Growth (or lack thereof)...

Reflecting back on almost 10 years of being in the urban lit industry and I am still amazed that it has not evolved to the potential it could be. We all know the reasons...
I still remember when I decided I was going to go this route and I reached out to EVERY person that wrote an urban lit book that I had read. I did not ask anyone to hold my hand - I just introduced my goals and asked if there was any one (1) piece of advice or suggestion that could help me find my own way and guess what, (when I say EVERY- I mean EVERY single author I'd ever read- back in the day of paperbacks) only two authors responded with a genuine words of advice. (Shout out Al-Saadiq Banks and K'wan!) Every one else blew me off (which was probably one of my first and the best lessons). Since then, I have worked with almost every one of those authors, or their publishers and only read their books when I'M paid to now. Please don't judge me but I am one of those die-hard urban lit fans. I WILL pay $14.99 for my favorite author's ebook - however - I will NOT pay .99 cents for a book from someone I know brings negativity or destruction to an industry I feed my kids with, or that they disrespect by their representation and influence on a craft I love. 
I guess this blog is a venting session- I just hope it is not interpreted as yet another negative reflection of the urban genre, and instead enlightens. This is to make the point that no matter how successful this book or that book is/was, until we collectively support and positively encourage others in the industry to uphold a certain standard and lead by example, it will always be in a category of its own (urban fiction) as opposed to fiction. I feel like enlightening isn't derogatory remarks regarding the partakers of this bullshit- I feel like enlightening others is not to condone or participate. You can't be part of the solution by being a part of the problem so this is not a personal attack on one person, crew, clique, bromance, etc. This is just a PSA to remind us that we are ALL in the same click/crew/squad. The Urban Literary Industry movement.
IN MY OPINION, urban fiction doesn't describe the genre anymore - it indicates that the author will have a high probability of being messy, uninformed and uneducated in the business. And it will be the 'genre's' fault, according to the offender (not their own fault). There is no accountability for personal conduct, choices or actions. I would love to see this genre be recognized, same as mainstream when someone displays exceptional talent, but who wants to invite  the crab-ants to the picnic? 
So what if you're 'from the hood'? Does that mean you conduct your business a certain way and it is excusable or okay? Do you think that lends more credibility to your work? (It doesn't). Your work speaks for it self and you speak for your personal character. Those who have respectable character, can be themselves, and still inspire, encourage and uplift while keeping it 'gutter'. Real ALWAYS recognize real - fake mo-fos can not fathom that. Yet, any real-mo-fo is NEVER gonna tell you how real they are or how real it can get. IMO (always have to put that) it indicates you're def a fraud. Another real person is going to already have that understanding and right then and there, they recognize how real they are not. When did you ever hear the hitman brag about his next hit or the kingpin talk about the next drop? However- you do see the dumb ass with the 26-inch-rims and the music banging, talking about he's gonna go make a hit - and then Tuesday afternoon- you hear about them doors coming in and now he's working with the feds. This is the perception you're giving the real mo-fos when you're participating in this fuckery that is bringing down the moral of the entire industry. Basically, it indicates shit ain't as real as you'd like to portray, you look like a clown who likes to talk and needs some attention, and your creating your own demise and bringing a small part of the industry with you. So, if you're character is questionable, STFU and just keep writing good books and let that speak for you. You being locked up before don't mean shit to the industry, nothing for your book sales. As a matter of fact, probably a large part of the successful authors have been locked up before - no secret - however, it's not the foundation for their success, it's a detail of their struggle. Not to be bragged on and used for credibility. If anything, it's an indication of their new-found humbleness, and their intelligence which has created their ability to move on. Choosing to write about their struggles and strife as opposed to repeating the cycle and writing the next book from home while smoking on a B and sipping on something with their loved ones around them as opposed to from the cell they wrote the last banger at. Capitalizing legally off of their forced participation in the game, until they found a better way. That indicates intelligence and evolution. If I was charged with facilitating an international drug organization (let's be clear- charged- not convicted) does that mean I am fit to run a publishing company or an editing service for urban fiction? I wasn't that competent or else I would have never been arrested, real shit. So it should have no bearing on how I run my business so why would that be mentioned constantly? But, would my professionalism, application of my street knowledge to further my financial position, and my conduct as it directly relates to business indicate my level of ability? Should people automatically assume since I had this trumped up fed charge and could run the financial operations of a cartel mean I can run an urban lit business or would my conduct directly related to industry issues determine my competency and standing? If anything, I'd think bragging, mentioning, implying I had some illegal shit and could possibly, if I wanted to, turn that water back on would make me look silly- phony as hell, because we all know who talks about it, is not usually really about it - so CONSTANT tough-gangsta-shit talking that has nothing to do with inspiring or encouraging book sales is ridiculous <-- for lack of better word. 
When I started this Editor Carla Dean was the only other editor I was aware of specializing in urban fiction independantly(and guess what? She is the only one I know that has been doing urban lit longer than me - not saying others aren't out there, just using my personal experience). I became familiar with her shortly after starting. I have never had a personal conversation with her, obviously we both provide the same service, and guess what else... I respect her. I don't know the woman, have never met her, never had a personal conversation, or really any conversation for that matter - however- I respect her. I respect her grind, I respect her longevity, and I respect her experience. I don't have any connection, dealings, interactions or anything else with this woman. However, she is a pioneer for editors specializing in urban fiction, so she gets my total respect. I don't have a personal opinion, nor do I want one. I respect her as a peer. 
See how that works? ^^^^^ I promise you, showing respect also feels good!
I have seen SO MANY editors come and go, they sometimes last a month or two, a few a year or two... but they don't last for whatever reason- I'm so busy with my self, I could care less what brought upon their demise, nor do I care to know where they're at or what they're doing now. Not my concern - but if it wasn't for lack of skills, I would assume the next logical reason for the short career is somehow related to respect - getting involved in author beef - unprofessionalism, etc. You get my point? It applies to the industry as an entire entity. Publishers, authors, editors, graphic designers, etc.
It's really easy. Worry about your own conduct, effort, longevity, etc. There is plenty out here for everyone to eat authors. Respect your lane and worry about your shit. That should be the common goal. Not bringing anyone else down. You bringing someone else down means your taking a few steps below them to pull them. Common sense.
Trust and believe, I fully get, If you're not with me, your against me. I actually agree with that statement wholeheartedly and I don't fuck with any one who fucks with the enemy on a personal level. However, this is business, and our business is urban lit. I also believe, if I fuck with you- I fuck with you and if I don't - I don't and I don't care who does fuck with you or who likes my personal decision regarding it. I've always been like that. However, I fuck with urban fiction.
I have read a book or two (because their personal character stopped me from reading any more) books from talented writers, really, really, really good books. However, anyone who disrespects this craft, brings it down, limits credibility, I can't support, nor will I something that potentially indirectly holds my success back because I'm a part of this industry. There are a lot of talented writers, but trust they are not the only ones who can weave a torrid-gangster-street lit tale together for a reader. I'll take the time to search the unknown talent out and support their movement, before I'd support anyone participating in the melee and destructive attitudes that define the majority of public opinion regarding urban lit. And another personal opinion here- the BEST story tellers, do not participate, and actually only comment enough to pretty much say, "Some of these 'writers' are bitches too..."
So- now let me wrap this up in a positive way. Newbie authors/writers - I ASSURE you- controversy does not sell. You will have to give that shit away (either free or for .99 cents if you're lucky), and come for me if you want to because I said it, but you'd be killing the brave messenger, not the message. I ASSURE you newbies- all that messy does not SELL a book. Okay- you got your name out there, but it's not in reference to your talent, skills or ability as a writer. It is not because you wrote a great book. It's because you're messy as hell and that shit is amusing to a certain point (right before it becomes disgusting). GOOD BOOKS sell. Interacting positively with readers sells. Professionalism no matter where you're from or what you're on sells! 
So- if you're a writer and you don't 'give a fuck' who likes you? Then quit selling that shit and make it free. At least then, we have no expectations from you and we don't suffer because of the black eye your funky ass attitude and holier than thou speeches reflect on us all. A reader's gonna read - even if they read Hoodrat Publishing's book, they'll read yours too if that ish is good so no reason to worry about Hoodbooger's ish. Let's all work on making sure we are ALL doing what's best. This is a billion dollar industry, however we'll only be making some change around here until we come together. Not for the good or benefit of this guy or that guy, but for the industry as a whole. How does checking, commenting or even acknowledging their royalties help me increase mine? (Maybe someone can enlighten me). 
Newbies- Google is your friend. Google technical articles regarding your craft. Google numbers, statistics, policies and procedures to get your craft right. If you do, they'll be no need for observing the fuckery to try to 'learn' something. Facebook beef can't teach you shit other than to use your time more wisely. If you're learning the game from Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram - whatever - you're already fucked. Learn the industry- and there will be no need for warnings. You really want to know the industry, you really want to know what to be aware of, how things work? Educate yourself via educational resources. Then, no need to be 'warned' you've already informed your self so no way you'll fall for some bullshit and if you do- shame on you because you haven't done your research thouroughly. And if you were bamboozled and want to warn others, share the detailed facts, leave your personal opinions and issues out of it, and do better next time. Subliminal attacks are just childish. Just take time, energy and credibility from your movement. You gave your factual account of your negative experience so other's don't fall victim to the same scenario and then you keep it moving by following up with some real tips and advice. Which printers have inexpensive books and good quality? Which editors have been helpful and professional? What is the process you use to publish? Why aren't these things the subjects of our 'advice'?  Which size book do you like and why? Who are some good graphic designers? 
Lastly, when someone does share some personal insight on the game, take heed, chew it up, spit out the fat and keep it moving. Eliciting and encouraging the nonsense will not produce any cents let a lone dollars. 
Respect, humility and professionalism is universal. It's not only mainstream who understand this. It's the people who give it that get it. There are some vet authors who I personally think are a joke, however, they have earned their respect through their work so I give them total respect - what else can you do? Doesn't mean I'd do any business with them. Doesn't mean any one they support is someone I'd want to do business with. But I respect them as my peer. 
I wish the 48 Laws of Power were a requirement for authors before they could publish. Let me help you with a few important ones that should start you off on pretty much, the exact track you should be on.
Law 1 Never outshine the master. - for you special ones, I'll elaborate - it doesn't mean you can't exceed way past your favorite vets author's success! Stop being so simple minded. It means, even if you can-do-will exceed someone else's success- humble yourself. They've put their time in. Respect that just as you'll want the ones coming behind you to respect your struggle. Then guess what - everything respectfully falls in line.
Law 4. Always say less than necessary. 
Law 9. Win through actions, never an argument.
Law 10. Avoid the unhappy and unlucky.
Law 19. Know who you're dealing with and do not offend the wrong person.
Law 34. Be royal in your fashion. Act like royalty to be treated like royalty.  I was going to elaborate on how each of these can be applied to this like I did on Law 1, but I assume if you're reading this, you're a big boy/girl and can figure it out. However, I'm not judging if you can't! Email/inbox me and I'll be happy to elaborate. 
Actually- almost all of them I can apply somewhere in this blog, however, I don't want this to be about the 48 Laws of Power. I'm just saying, if you don't want to get the message because it's coming from me - pick it up from Robert Greene and let's get our shit together.
Let's start educating ourselves, respecting each other for the sake of the craft and not our personal opinions of conduct, and uniting to boost urban lit as a movement, not as the armpit of literary works. I sincerely hope this rant <-- another 'lack of a better word' moment* will positively encourage.  
And K'wan - no copyright infringement intended but this has to be followed by a portion of your hashtag... #WritersWakeUp!