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Saturday, July 30, 2011

Surprise Ending to the Summer YA eBook Exclusive series! A FREE copy of ISIS on Smashwords for a Limited Time!

To conclude the Summer YA eBook Exclusive series I'm offering up a  surprise! A FREE eBook Copy of Isis!

I didn't feel it was fair to the hundreds of readers of Saga of MastiKatious, Baptism of Blood and Trial of the Goddess to leave them hanging so I'm giving them a chance to conclude the Isis saga on Smashwords .

However, this is for a limited time only. Come August 13th the price goes up to 99 cents on Isis. So get your copy NOW!

Friday, July 29, 2011

Unemployed need not apply- WTF?

Some jobs listings on, Craigslist and other job hunting sites are now stating that unemployed need not apply to them.

I didn’t know my help wasn’t wanted.

Employers who post this disclaimer on their job listings because say they want to discourage a dearth of applications from unqualified candidates. Others state they put it on their listings to find specialized talent. And some others say unemployed people are rusty and won’t be able to keep up with the fast pace of their business.

I find all of those reasons to be excuses. I also find this kind of job listing to be unethical and dishonest.

Here’s the insanity behind this policy: If someone has a job, is making a decent wage and is satisfied then why would they want to apply for another position at another company during an economic downturn? During this depression, most people with jobs these days are struggling to stay where they are. They aren’t willing to take a risk and leave a steady job at a stable company to go work someplace else where they have no job security and no benefits accrued. With companies laying off last hired first, it really wouldn’t make any sense for a person to think of taking another job at another company during an economic downturn. Those with jobs would wait for the economy to stabilize before applying for another job.

So it would be in an employers best interest to hire a person who is laid off. Chances are they’re eager to get back to work and eager to learn.

Employers who post such listings don’t know they’re presenting the worst image of themselves and their business to the world and leaving a poor first impression on potential candidates. Even if the job market is bad, working for a company that uses these types of insincere tactics to recruit people would be worse. Why would anyone want to work for someone who is unethical and dishonest enough to discourage unemployed people from applying for a job without taking the time to assess whether or not their skills meet the position? And why would anyone with specialized skills want to work for a company that has unrealistic expectations? No new hire can hit the ground running in any field; it takes 90-180 days for anyone to get adjusted to a company and its policies. Long-term this kind of job listing shows that a company has inept and incompetent leadership and won’t be a great place someone can build a career at. Moreover, it shows that a company won’t be there for their employees and won’t support them in a time of crisis like the depression we’re in.

Then there are the employers who say they put this disclaimer on their job listings because unemployed people are lazy and taking their unemployment as one big long vacation living off unemployment benefits. In their imaginations unemployed people will only look for a job when their benefits run out.

That’s the biggest crock of crap I’ve ever heard.

Having lived on Unemployment Benefits for 99 weeks I can tell you it’s no vacation. It’s no party. For me $247 week wasn’t used to vacation. It was used to look for work, and pay bills. Dry cleaning, paper, toner, bus fare, internet and groceries all don’t come cheap. Looking for a new job takes resources.

Then there are the employers who say unemployed people are lazy and won’t take a lower paying job at a fast-food place.


I’d love to take a job at a fast food restaurant or a retail store, but hey, they don’t hire college graduates.

It’s a fact that McDonald’s doesn’t hire college educated people. Neither does the Gap, Target, Staples, Barnes & Noble or any retail or fast-food business. I’ve known this since 1994 when I graduated college and went looking for work at those places. Why? Fast-food and retail employers don’t want those pesky college grads with their shiny new degrees coming in talking about OSHA, SHRM, or other government rules and regulations regarding their workplace. And these employers don’t want those idealistic college grads around their workers talking about stuff like a living wage or using profanity like U word.

That’s right UNION.

It’s a fact Fast food and Retail managers want their workers to be uneducated (High school dropout) because they like their employees DUMB. This is so they can get employees to work long hours for low pay, and do dangerous, unsafe, and illegal tasks without question.

And to keep the dumb employees under control the work environment around these retail and fast food jobs is engineered to turnover employees every 90 days so they won’t have to pay unemployment benefits or disability insurance.* (Fast Food Nation)

Besides, even if an unemployed person is lucky enough to get a job at a fast food place or a retail store, the employer of the full-time job who told the unemployed not to apply for a job there would then use that experience against them during the interview.

That’s happened to me quite a few times when employers read my resume and saw my writing background and my Americorps*VISTA service.

Some employers are dishonest slimy douchebags. And they’re the type to post an ad that tells the unemployed not to apply. Personally, I believe these employers will reap what they sow. Sooner or later their businesses will become victims of their cheap stupid employees and eventually will have to deal with the seeds they planed when their business stops growing due to incompetence, turnover, and a lack of worker morale. Bad seeds lead to a bitter harvest.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Is Self-Publishing the Future of Fiction?

In 2008, the publishing industry collapsed. Senior editors, executive editors, editors, editorial assistants, art directors administrative assistants and just about everyone else in trade publishing lost their jobs. Literary agents were left with no one to pitch their clients’ projects to as entire divisions of publishing houses scaled back production, and writers were left with projects stuck in limbo. Some publishers went bankrupt and others went out of business
In the aftermath of the publishing industry meltdown, many are scrambling to find a place for themselves and their books in the ruins. With the days of book deals over martinis between agents and editors over martini lunches over, today’s trade publishing have turned into books approved by a committee. It’s a place where best-selling authors and books by celebrities and politicians get priority over first-time writers and fiction projects.

With a 90 percent failure rate in the marketplace, it’s becoming less economically viable for publishing houses to publish original fiction by new writers. Moreover, with the advance for authors now at around about five thousand dollars at a trade publishing houses for a book, it’s not profitable for the fiction writer to write original fiction for trade publishing houses. So new authors who want to write and publish fiction may have to invest their own money to self-publish their own projects to get them on the market to establish their careers as writers.

More and more it looks like the future of fiction is self-publishing. It just makes more business sense.

As print-on demand and eBooks shape the new marketplace for trade publishing, the future of literature seems to be one where the fiction writer won’t have to seek a publishing houses’ approval to get their book to the retail marketplace. With the cost of self-publishing a print-on demand paperback now a few hundred dollars and the cost of publishing an eBook nothing, it’s not cost effective for a fiction writer to continue to spend hundreds upon thousands of dollars submitting query letters and manuscript samples to editors at publishing houses and literary agents to look at their work.

More and more, It’s looking like it would be more cost effective for authors of fiction spend their money on on free-lance editors, cover artists, and page layout specialists to prepare their work for the marketplace instead of on ink, toner, paper, envelopes and postage for queries. By side-stepping the costly bureaucracy of literary agents and editors at trade publishing houses, an author can save thousands of dollars and reap profits much higher than royalties of ten percent of the list price at bookstores.

With fiction by first-time authors bookstores not having that much impact on sales at retail, a first-time author would actually better be served by focusing on online sales through eBooks and print-on-demand. By focusing on these self-publishing venues, an author can establish their reputation and build an audience of readers. Currently, with more readers buying books online a new author has a better chance of finding readers at amazon, pubit, smashwords or the ibookstore or on social media than through promoting their titles at bookstores which are struggling to stay in business.

In addition to saving money and time, the author can also gain much more creative control over the publishing process. By self-publishing the author won’t have to make compromises in their material to appease editors at publishing houses and cut out major portions of their story to appeal to a certain demographic. Moreover, authors won’t have to surrender creative control over their page layouts and their covers to the publishing house and wind up with a finished book that doesn’t provide an enjoyable reading experience for the reader.

Also by self-publishing, the fiction writer can keep their books in the marketplace much longer than if they sold the rights to a trade publishing house. Ususally after six months, a book by a first-time-fiction writer is taken out of print and remaindered if it doesn’t meet sales expectations. However, a self-published book can remain in print as long as the author wants it to remain in print. By having more time to keep a book in print, an author can come up with an effective business plan to promote their title and help it discover its audience.

And by self-publishing an author gets to keep all the rights to their works. Retention of rights enables an author to not only publish a print version, but an eBook version or a foreign version.

If the future of trade publishing fiction is self-publishing? I believe it is. In a few years it’s just not going to be cost effective for trade publishers to continue invest in publishing fiction. It’s also not going to be profitable for writers to spend money submit fiction queries to trade publishers. As the landscape for publishing continues to change, it’s clear authors will control more of the publishing process and when it comes to fiction self-publishing may be the only route to go to get stories on the market.

Monday, July 25, 2011

First look at the All About Nikki Paperback

Good News! All About Nikki is now at the printer.

The new book features the new matte cover offering from Lightning Source. I felt it made for a great contrast to the glossy All About Marilyn cover.

After seeing the positive response to the All About Nikki sneak preview eBook earlier this summer, I felt encouraged to get the paperback back into production. Since June, over 100 people downloaded the free YA exclusive eBook teaser on Smashwords. And thanks to the success of the Nikki sneak preview I had my first international sales of a title since Isis in 2004. I’m hoping the new paperback can continue to build on the momentum of the free eBook sneak preview.

While the eBook featured just the first three episodes of All About Nikki, the paperback will have all 13 complete episodes of the fabulous first season. There will also be extra features and bonus material. The book is designed to be like a DVD boxset with pages and written in an easy-to-read style that will get tween and teen readers excited about screenwriting. Kids who love Disney and Nickelodeon sitcoms like Hannah Montana, Zack and Cody, That’s So Raven and True Jackson V.P. will love All About Nikki.

That’s right it’s a screenplay book and it’s for kids!

All About Nikki should be on Amazon and other online retailers sometime in early September to coincide with the start of the new television season.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

DCnU? More like DC Screw You!

I was reading about the San Diego Comicon anticipating the reveal of the next wave of DC Universe Classics.

Warner Bros Wants Mattel to stop producing These characters everyone has known for years...
  Then I read the bad news: The DC Universe Classics line is ending at Wave 20.

The line of six-inch action figures based iconic characters from over 75 years of Dc Comics history is ending because DC editorial and Warner Brothers management are mandating Mattel relaunch the DC Universe action figure line focusing primarily on the DCnU characters from their poorly planned comic book launch this September.

To produce action figures based on designs no one has seen or reacted to before. Good Business sense or just plain stupidity?

It’s a ridiculous risk that will cost Warner Brothers huge market share of the declining comic book market. The Classic DC characters have worldwide brand recognition and a strong core audience of fans nationally and internationally.

But instead of continuing to invest in a sure thing license wise that would continue to reap them profits for years, Warner Brothers management is hedging its bets on licensing a new group of untested unproven version of its classic characters.

Untested unproven versions of characters who haven’t established an audience yet. Who have no TV show or other media outside of comic books to introduce them to casual buyers.

Untested unproven characters who no one knows about outside of comic fans on the internet and local comic shops, many of which are closing due to the bad economy.

Untested unproven versions of characters who haven’t established a presence at retail.

No one knows how well these new versions of DC’s Comic Book characters will sell at retail at the comic book store, or how the general public of casual buyers will respond to them, but Warner Brothers Management is insisting Mattel produce action figures for them as a condition of the license they bought.

And I thought the managers who ran the Borders Group into the ground were imbeciles.

The insanity from the comic book industry has turned into madness. Clearly, the inmates are running the asylum in the comic book industry.

And now they’ve taken over the Warner Brothers Corporate offices.

And eventually they’ll run the entire comic book business into the ground with their twisted logic.

I love how DC Comics editors Dan Didio, Bob Harras, Jim Lee and Warner Brothers senior management are rushing to shove untested unproven versions of characters down customers’ throats at mass-market retail instead of waiting a year or two to see if these new characters can build enough of an audience in the comic book marketplace to support carrying a licensed product line on its own at retail.

In order for these new versions of characters to gain any type of significant exposure to a mass-market audience that would sustain long-term brand recognition, they need to prove they can sell 250,000-300,000 units a month for five to ten years.

Currently, the best-selling comic books barely sell 50,000 copies these days. There’s no mass-market audience available to build that type of brand recognition around a commercial product yet.

What’s even more insane is the fact that Warner Brothers is insisting Mattel produce large quantities of action figures of new versions of untested unproven characters who most people won’t know about and most will never see.

With the current comic book retail distribution system still not offering returnablility to retailers like drugstores, supermarkets, and big-box retailers, it’s doubtful large audiences of customers will ever see these new versions of DC Comics characters at retail to recognize them. And with the current cycle of cancellations and reboots, revamps, retcons, and new costumes in the comic book industry every two to three years it’s even more doubtful these designs are going to be around long enough for them to establish the type of brand recognition needed to support a mass-market toy line at retail long-term.

Given the low comic book sales numbers and the limited exposure these new characters will have in the commercial marketplace, there aren’t enough customers to sustain a mass-market retail licensed product of DCnU action figures at this time. While these untested unproven versions of DC charcters could support a limited-run line of comic shop exclusive action figures like DC Direct, there is no possible way a DCnU toy line can sustain a mass-market commercial line with a minimum 250,000 units per action figure of a character worldwide for Mattel.

On the high end of 50,000 comic sales there’s going to be a 4:1 ratio of toys to customers in retail.

That means for every four action figures based on a DCnU character there will be only one person who recognizes them compared to EVERYBODY who knows who the old iconic Superman, Batman Robin and Wonder Woman are.

That’s wonderful brand recognition. Brilliant business strategy.

So brilliant it’s going to lead to a load of pegwarmers at in places like Wal-Mart and Target. So brilliant it will strain relations between Mattel and its retail network. Without a movie or a TV show to establish some type of strong brand recognition for these new versions of DC Comics characters in the public eye, it’s going to be a tough sell at retail for customers, especially longtime superhero toy collectors.

Seriously, where’s the demand for product if the audience doesn’t have a reason to buy the supply? Where’s the collector’s incentive to continue to spend money collecting action figures when the previous toy line they’ve been supporting for years is discontinued by a corporate mandate from Warner Brothers?

More importantly, why would the collector be interested in starting a collection of brand new action figures if there’s the possibility they toy line could be abruptly discontinued by another corporate mandate in the future?

Warner Brothers management and DC Comics editorial have no idea how they’ve breached the trust of the customer with its company mandate for Mattel’s DC Comics license. Nor do they understand how their offensive their relaunch is to long-time comic fans and toy collectors. It’s an insult for a company to tell loyal customers who bought over 300 straight action figures over the course of a decade to just start over.

What Warner Brothers and DC comics editorial are forcing Mattel to do with its company mandate is the equivalent of Mattel telling loyal Barbie customers over the past 50 years to instead start buying a new doll they’re offering called Sandy, or Coca-Cola telling its billions of customers over the past 80 years to buy New Coke.

This is the kind of boneheaded business practice that turns loyal customers into buyers of competitors’ products. It’s the kind of business policy that alienates companies like Mattel and makes their employees not want to have anything to do with superheroes or buying licenses to produce superhero products. And it spreads the kind of word-of-mouth that makes people think twice before buying a DC Comics product.

I personally believe Dan Didio, Bob Harras, Jim Lee and Warner Brothers management live in their own world. They produce what THEY like without regard for the customer, patting themselves on the back for a job well done and paying themselves millions of dollars while the comic book industry continues on its rapid decline into irrelevancy. Right now if it weren’t for the licensing of character images to other businesses for retail products, the DC comics catalog wouldn’t be worth a dime to Warner Brothers. The only thing allowing them to pay for the printing costs and keep the trademarks relevant for those 52 plus brand new comics titles was the licensing of over 3,000 characters from their catalog.

And if they start alienating licensors like Mattel, it’s going to be hard to find the money to keep paying for those printing costs on those 52 plus brand new comics titles.

With this Mattel mandate, Warner Brothers and DC editorial are getting close to killing the goose which lays DC Comics’ golden eggs and deep frying it with the Colnel’s 11 herbs and spices.

It’s sad to watch as this group of incompetent managers take a top franchise and a multibilliondollar franchise like DC Comics and mismanage it into oblivion. Once a customer walks away from a product, nine times out of ten they’re GONE FOR GOOD. It’s harder to win a customer back after they’ve left, which is why it’s important for a company to stay on the public’s good side. Business 101 and no one at DC Comics or Warner Brothers gets it.

Sometimes I hate being a brotha on the sidelines. Sometimes I wish I could take action. This is fixable, and I wish I could get involved. But no one wants to listen to anyone unless they have an MBA from Harvard these days. If only common sense were a qualification to be an executive.

Lamenting the end of DC Universe Classics toyline and thanking all the staff at Mattel.

The DC Universe Classics action figure line is ending at Wave 20 at retail in January of 2012.

DC SuperHeroes! Can you name them all?
I’m deeply saddened by this decision because there were still so many characters left unproduced and so many team displays I won’t see finished. DC Universe Classics was a great line and I hate to see it come to a close. While there will still be a chance to fill those holes with the Batman Legacy line and a plannedmonthly online subscription, an opportunity for this kind of character diversity and commercial distribution may never come again for superhero toy collectors in the retail market.

DC SuperVillians! Can you name them all?

I never thought I’d own action figures of Metal Men, Doom Patrol or lesser known characters like Jonah Hex, Black Adam, Killer Moth, and Deadshot. I never thought I’d own an entire set of Super-poseable updates of the Super Powers action figures I used to play with as a kid back in the 1980’s. But ten years later and after producing action figures of over 300 different characters collectors have an action figure universe that’s richer deeper and more diverse than any time in history.

I want to thank Scott Neidlitch, the sculpting team of the Four Horsemen and the staff at Mattel who have done an amazing job over the past ten years in producing the various action figure lines featuring DC comics Superheroes. They’ve worked hard towards giving us the most diverse selection of DC Comics characters in action figure form and I'm proud to have these toys on my shelf.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Learning How to Publish Books Cost Me Next to $0

I was reading an article in the New York Times about the Columbia Publishing Course, a program that bills itself as the shortest graduate school in the country. Over the course of six-weeks 100 lucky people have the privilege of paying $6990 to be taught everything someone would learn over a year in an entry level job in publishing.

Personally, I feel they paid too much.

I learned everything about publishing for next to $0.

That’s right $0.

How did I learn so much about publishing? I studied the industry by reading books on my own, reading articles in magazines and online and reading blogs like Miss Snark (defunct) Kristen Johnson, The Rejectionist and Writer Beware.

I studied editing by reading books like Elements of Style, The Chicago Manual of Style, The Bedford English Handbook, and Webster’s Dictionary. Still not a great editor, but I’m getting there.

I studied graphic design and art on the internet. Studying packages in the Supermarket and DVD cases at Best Buy. I’m not a perfect graphic designer, but my books have their own distinct look to them.

I studied how to write a press release by reading up on it online.

I learned how to get a book reviews by doing a google search.

I learned how to do book promotion by going out to bookstores, and using social media like twitter and Facebook.

And outside of bus fare and some postage, I spent next to no money to learn any of this.

What I did learn by studying on my own is that the information is out there, and has been out there since the early days of the internet. All anyone has to do is go look for it. A Google search of a variety of topics can turn an average Joe into a publishing pro in a couple of months for little to no money at all.

On the technical side, I taught myself how to do cover design using Adobe’s Photoshop Elements. It’s a program that costs under $100 and has most of the features of the $1000 Adobe Photoshop. There’s a bit of a learning curve at first, but YouTube Videos all will teach someone how to finesse layers, clean up pictures and text to put together a very marketable cover for their books and eBooks.

I taught myself how to do page layouts using Microsoft Word and Adobe Acrobat. Both programs came installed with my laptop.

With just Word, Photoshop Elements, and Acrobat, an individual can put together .pdfs for their cover and text and publish a book or eBook that can compete with any title on Barnes & Noble and Amazon. Yeah, it’s that easy.

And over the course of my time studying publishing I’ve used what I’ve learned to publish, blogs, articles, paperback books, and eBooks and taught myself to publish on a schedule, on a budget and within a deadline. All the stuff the Columbia Publishing Course teaches people with Bachelor’s degrees to do for $6990 tuition, room and board.

So if I learned the same skills on my own, I have to wonder: Do I have a Master’s level education in publishing? Do I have a set of marketable skills?

Who knows?

All I know is that almost ten years since I published my first book with a POD publisher I’m now about to self-publish my fifth book with my own imprint. And currently I’m helping other writers put their books and eBooks together and helping them get them on the market.

Sure I don’t have the Columbia degree, and I didn’t spend the $6,990. But I’d like to think the skills I’ve learned about publishing on my own over the years could compete with anyone from the Columbia Publishing Course. Could I qualify for one of those jobs in publishing?

I’d like to think I could if given the chance.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

R.I.P. Borders Bookstores

Borders one of the largest Bookstore chains in the United States is liquidating. They say they’ll be out of business by September.

I’m sad to see them go.

My sister and I were regular shoppers at the Borders next to Madison Square Garden on Broadway here in New York. She bought a lot of books for her classroom there. I bought my A+training manual there. On occasion, I’d peruse the African-American fiction section to see what publishers were offering brothers and sisters to read. From what I saw there I wrote a blog about Street lit dominating the African-American fiction section way back in 2007.

I noticed problems with Borders way back in 2008, and I knew where they were making mistakes. Unfortunately, I’m just a brotha on the sidelines. I don’t have the degrees people covet for those executive positions. But I know what a business looks like when it’s in trouble by just walking into the store. I wish I could have been a manager there to help Borders employees’ save their jobs.

From a business perspective three things did Borders in. One was the overdependence on New York Times Bestsellers. Every time I went to Borders most of what they had in stock were the most popular books from the New York Times Besteller lists and books from all the big celebrity authors. In the African-American section it was always stocked with the top ten of the Essence Bestseller list, popular street lit, Erotica, Christian Fiction and nothing else.

Bestsellers may be popular, but they don’t get most of the sales at bookstore. What really makes the money at retail in the bookstore are the niche titles produced by self-publishers and small presses. Specialized stuff like African-American fiction, African-American fantasy, fantasy, Sci-fi stories and nonfiction like art books, computer manuals, gaming books, and technical manuals. These niche books are what people buy on sight because they are hard-to-find at regular retail. Usually, bookstores have to order these kinds of books from the publisher and pay extra for shipping them to a customers’ home. Having them on hand save customers time and money and help a bookstore stand out in a competitive retail market.

Ironically, a long time ago Borders used to carry more books by small presses and self published authors than bestsellers. I remember when I could find Isis in their system when I typed it in back in 2007.

Then in 2008, a new management team took over Borders They stopped carrying Isis. In fact they stopped carrying books by all the small presses and self-publishers. That decision is what turned many of the regular Borders customers into Amazon customers.

At Amazon a customer could find all my old titles and my new titles. Moreover, they could find all the titles of the small press and self-published authors who Borders stopped carrying. The niche titles that made them money. The niche titles that made Borders stand out as a retailer.

In addition to eliminating the small press and self-published titles from their shelves, the New Borders management didn’t pay attention to what their competitors like Barnes & Noble and Amazon were doing.

At Amazon a customer could find a book at a discounted price. Moreover they could find the eBook version for their Kindles for a third of that price.

At Barnes & Noble a customer could find a book at a discounted price. Moreover, they could find the eBook version for their Nooks for a third of that price.

Two, Borders always sold their books at FULL LIST PRICE. No bookstore large or small looking to make a profit charges full list for a title at retail. Discounts are the lifeblood of the retail book business. They’re what turn browsers into buyers. They’re what move product off the shelves and out of the stores.

On top of the crazy full list prices they charged for books, Borders also offered DVDs and music at full list price here in New York. That’s crazy because I could find DVDs and CDs for a third of that price at Best Buy down the street. I could find them for half that price at Amazon.

By charging full list prices, Borders offered customers who came into their stores no incentive to purchase books at their stores. I can think of a few novels and graphic novels I would have purchased with them if they offered a discount of some kind.

Three, they had a store layout that made customers feel indifferent. The Borders sales floor didn’t stimulate the customer’s senses or emotions. It didn’t set a mood that connected readers to a distinct shopping experience they could remember. With pastel colored walls and fluorescent lighting like a drugstore and woodgrain tables and shelves fresh out of a Staples catalog, the sales floor of Borders stores felt artificial and manufactured. There was an antiseptic, sterilized feeling in the air. The place had no heart and soul like Barnes & Noble or a neighborhood bookstore that made it feel like it was a part of the community.

Along with the dry retail floor the customer service at Borders was just average. While the staff was professional, I never felt a personal connection to anyone like I did at other bookstores like Barnes & Noble or even the Book Vendors in Harlem. There was always a new face at the register, and they were often indifferent as they rang me and my sister up. Everything at Borders was just an end to a means, not about creating a relationship with the customer so they would go out of their way to shop there.

My shopping experiences at the Madison Square Garden Borders felt cold and distant. I wanted to get my books and get out of there. That kept me from staying longer and really perusing the shelves. Maybe finding something I could like. Maybe talking to the employees. Forming a relationship with them. Forming a connection with the retailer. Having that great shopping experience that I could tell others about. Wanting to come back and go out of my way to buy more books with their stores.

Some will say eBooks killed Borders. No, Borders was in trouble way before eBooks became popular. It was a combination of limited inventory, lack of discounts and an uninviting retail environment that drove Borders out of business. The weak economy only accelerated and exacerbated the long-standing problems at retail caused by a group of incompetent managers that didn’t know what direction they wanted to take the Borders Group in. Did they want to be a book retail superstore, media retail superstore, or an entertainment superstore? On one hand they wanted to compete with Amazon by having a large inventory of merchandise, but they didn’t offer the discounted prices Amazon offered. On another hand they wanted to compete with Barnes & Noble by having large retail stores, but didn’t offer the shopping experience Barnes & Noble offered. Because Borders never picked a direction they wanted to go in they never stood out in a competitive retail marketplace. And because they didn’t focus on something that made them stand out as a retailer they never gave the customer a reason to care about Borders. And because customers didn’t’ care about Borders they didn’t form a connection to the store. I can’t honestly say I’ve had that one great Borders shopping experience I could tell others about.

I’m really sad to see Borders go out of business. 11,000 people are going to be out of work because of this and I feel really bad for them.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Temptation Reject Art

When I’m designing covers I often go through several drawings and several color models. A lot of this rough art never sees the light of day. Like this reject art for The Temptation of John Haynes.

I really liked the story in this picture. I thought E’steem baring her fangs would show how much of a predator she was. However, when I got to the rough coloring stage on the test picture I didn’t like the way E’steem’s mouth looked. It just didn’t look natural to me. So I wound up scrapping this piece before I went to final color models and photoshopping and using the closed mouth art instead.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Back on the Creative Side

For most of 2010 I’ve been working hard on the business side of self-publishing. On print books, I’ve been editing manuscripts, buying ISBNs and barcodes, designing cover art, assembling cover elements into a finished cover, laying out pages, then shipping that off to Lightining Source, checking and approving proofs, ordering books, drafting up press releases, sending out review copies and promoting, promoting, promoting.

Then on top of that this year I’ve been busy on the eBook side as well formatting and assembling eBooks, designing covers and coming up with business plans like the free YA eBook exclusives and promoting, promoting and more promoting.

Then there are the articles for the blog. In between working on the promotion of the fiction I’m researching topics and writing up stuff for the twice and sometimes thrice weekly blogs.

I’ve been so busy working on the business side of writing I haven’t done much work on developing new fiction projects. Since I completed All About Nikki in 2009, I haven’t worked on writing a new fiction project at all. I feel I need to get back into the groove when it comes to fiction.

It’s been two years since I’ve written a story from start to finish. And I don’t want to jump into a novel just yet. While I’ve got some ideas brewing for stories, I feel my storytelling skills are rusty and they need to be polished up before I tackle another full-length novel. Working on complex books like The Temptation of John Haynes is draining and I want my writing skills in top form before I take on another project of that scope.

So to get back into that groove of writing fiction, I started a new screenplay last week. Spray Em’ Up is an action pic set in the Webster Houses about an Iraq War vet who comes home to find South Bronx his neighborhood terrorized by a drug kingpin. It’s in the style of those old 1980’s low-budget Cannon Group movies like The Delta Force and American Ninja. It’s the kind of movie I used to watch on Channel 11 back in the day on a Saturday afternoon.

Spray Em’ Up is not deep or complex like All About Marilyn, It’s a popcorn story. Entertainment. It’s not meant to be great. It’s a warm up so I can start other projects and make them top quality.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Onixlink No More

I went to log on to to submit some articles. When I went over there I found out the site is gone indefinitely. I hated to see it go. It was a very well put together site and a great way to connect with other African-Americans.

I was offered the opportunity to be a feature writer after Howard White, the founder of read my blog last year. Onixlink was an up-and-coming social media site like MySpace and Facebook. The feature gig was for no pay but it was an opportunity for me to get my stuff published and reach a bigger African-American audience. Plus it was my opportunity to write a regular column where it’d be read by brothas and sistas on a regular basis. I’m glad I didn’t pass it up.

Being a feature writer was a big deal for me. I had my own column! Many of the articles were ones I posted on my own blog, but with better photos and a nicer layout. I was really impressed with the page layouts on the Black men in Dresses piece, The Black Church piece, The Eye Contact piece and the Montana Fishburne piece. Seeing the way my words were presented in those pieces, made me step up my game on articles like the tribute to Dwayne McDuffie and Salli Richardson-Whitfield pieces for the blog adding pictures to enhance the and enrich the story. 
I want to thank Howard White for the opportunity to post articles over at over the past year or so. It gave me the motivation to start writing more than one article a week and commit myself to a regular update schedule.

As one door closes another opens. Maybe I’ll get another opportunity to write for another African-American website in the near future. And maybe this time it'll be for pay.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Afrika Owes- After 90 Days in Jail Can she Get Her Life Back on Track?

Afrika Owes will soon start a 90-day jail sentence as part of a plea deal. The hope is she’ll be out in time for her to go back to classes in the fall.

She needs to thank God for working out a miracle in her life.

Without God’s intervention and the help of Charlie Rangel and the Reverend Calvin Butts working behind the scenes this little sista could have been spending the next ten to twenty years of her life in Sing Sing or some other state penitentiary in New York for her involvement with the 137th Street Crew.

I’m hoping that Afrika Owes takes this second chance God has given her and uses it to make her life count. She still has an opportunity to live her dream of going to a top college.

That’s if she can get her life in order after she does her time.

Once she leaves prison in 90 days, Afrika Owes is going to be at a cross roads. A place where she’s going to have to make some of the toughest choices in her life. And the decisions she makes over the course of this year will define the woman she will become.

There’s going to be a lot of pain as she transitions from the directionless streets towards the road to college. I’m hoping her parents, Reverend Calvin Butts, Rep. Charlie Rangel and the Abyssinian Baptist Church are there to support her because she’s going to need it.

As Afrika gets serious about making changes in her life, it’s going to mean giving up old habits old behaviors, and even ending some friendships and acquaintances with people in the neighborhood. The journey to college is a lonely road for brothers and sisters in the inner-city. There are so many crabs in the barrel trying to pull a person down as they try to come up, and it’s only on that journey up where a brotha or a sista like Afrika discover who truly is for them or against them. It will take all of Afrika’s resolve, courage and strength to overcome the obstacles that will be thrown in her way over the next year as she tries to make it to college.

I know about those tough choices because I had to make them myself at sixteen back in 1990. Starting the journey towards getting my high school diploma back then meant giving up old habits, sacrificing relationships, and committing to my classwork and focusing on where I wanted to go in the future.

Like Afrika I had my share of setbacks, and had to spend an extra year in high school to finish my credits to get my diploma. But I didn’t let anything stop me from getting my diploma and eventually my degree. I’m hoping she stays motivated on her journey towards earning her diploma and eventually her college degree. Now that God has worked a miracle out in her life, I’m hoping she takes the opportunity He’s given her to make the most of it.

Progress Report

Half the year is over and it’s time for a progress report.

The Temptation of John Haynes debuted to some of the best reviews of my career. Along with those strong reviews, it’s gotten pretty decent sales in print. Not Marilyn sales numbers, but it’s doing about as well as Isis did when it first came out. Strangely, it’s sold more copies as an eBook than as a paperback.

On another note, the cross-continuity I used in Temptation seems to have been a success as well. I think Isis saw a sale as a result of it.

All About Marilyn has a price cut this summer to spur some interest among the beach readers. Currently, it’s down to $12.80 at all online retailers like Barnes & Noble and Amazon. Marilyn is a great book and I want to get more people reading it.

The Cassandra Cookbook... Three years in print with no sales and, no interest. It’s official, Cassandra is a flop. :( It’s unfortunate because that book meant a lot to me; writing it uplifted my spirits during one of the darkest times of my life. I hated to see it do so poorly in the marketplace. But African-American readers don’t seem to like quirky whimsical stories. Time to take it out of print and move on.

To mark the end of The Cassandra Cookbook in print I’m offering it as an August Free eBook on Smashwords with a new generic cover. It’ll also be revised to be free of the word “digress” that annoyed so many readers and I’ll try to fix some of the grammatical and spelling errors people complained about.

To coincide with the free Cassandra Cookbook swan song eBook there will be an Easter Egg blog.

To my surprise the free YA e-book exclusives have been a tremendous success. People asked for YA books at the Harlem Book fair last year and it seems like readers are responding to my YA offerings. Ebooks like The Sneakers, Trial of the Goddess and All About Nikki actually have more readers than my print books! Both currently have more likes on Facebook than my print titles!

A strong positive of the YA eBook campaign is that people are buying books. I’ve had 10 eBook sales in June at the various eBook retailers. Those are some of the best sales I’ve had in my career.

Another strong positive of the YA campaign is that people who read one eBook actually come back and download the others. Others buy the books for their Nooks and Kindles. I’m really glad to see my YA campaign is getting people reading. I’m just hoping that it’s reaching tweens and teens; I made them free to get younger brothers and sisters reading. Literacy in the African-American community is so poor these days; I feel everything we can do to encourage reading will make a difference.

The success of the All About Nikki sneak preview eBook has really encouraged me. I delayed production of the print version of Nikki for fear the book wouldn’t find an audience, but the response to the three-episode sneak preview makes me think that the thirteen-episode full season paperback will have no problem getting readers.

The paperback version of All About Nikki-The Fabulous First Season will be out soon; I’m shooting for a September or November release. I’m working out the final bugs with page layouts. The final book will be like a DVD boxset with pages. It’ll feature 13 episodes plus bonus material at a price competitive with most DVD boxsets.

I did a few commissions for other authors. A print project for an upcoming author and page layout work on a pair of eBooks for a national bestselling author. The work went with the national bestselling author’s books went smoothly, but I had to be very patient working with a new author; they wanted to do things that would have left a poor first impression on readers. I did my best to make sure that the finished final product was top quality and met industry standards.

I’m still trying to get them to understand how the publishing game works, and that an author needs a plan when they’re promoting a book. Readers not only need to know why the author wrote the book but also what they’re going to get out of reading the story.

So far I’ve met a couple of the goals I’ve set for 2011. These include:

Publishing more than one title. I’ve published multiple titles in eBook and paperback over the course of the first six months of the year.

Increased sales. The eBook campaign has led to more readers buying and trying my titles. I’m hoping long-term it helps towards me building an audience.

Expanded the formats my titles are in. With the exception of The Cassandra Cookbook, all my titles are now in paperback and eBook formats.

Expanded my audience. All About Nikki and many of my eBooks actually have found an audience in foreign markets. With the All About Nikki sneak preview, I’ve gotten sales in the UK, Germany and Australia for the first time since 2004.

From the way the YA eBook campaign is going I’m thinking the readers are enjoying the titles. The All About Nikki sneak preview on Smashwords got 15 likes on Facebook and The Sneakers got 7 likes there.

I’m working towards improving quality control on my titles and I’m trying to expand my public presence. Also starting a new project. It’s rough, something to get me warmed up and work out the kinks. I haven’t done a new fiction piece in a year, So I’m not expecting to do a great job first time out.

Looking at the list of goals for 2011 I’m pleased to see I’ve achieved a lot of what I planned to do. I’m hoping that I’m able to build on this momentum for the rest of the year. Now if I can only get a few more paperback sales…