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Saturday, December 1, 2012

Is There a Market for Books For Young Black Boys?

Is there a market for books targeted at books for young Black boys?

I’ve always believed there was.

When I first started getting serious about writing novels back in 1995, I originally planned to target African-American males. Especially Young Black males ages 14-25. In my mid to late twenties I wanted to create positive stories featuring African-American males as the main character.

Unfortunately, when I went to submit my first book The Changing Soul in 1998, I was vehemently rejected by editors Trade publishers. All saw no market for a title with a positive Black male main character.

And I still have the rejection letters in a folder to prove it.

I’ve been trying to bring products with Black male leads to the market for Black male readers since 1998. With no success.

Many of the books I’ve tried to submit with positive Black Male main characters were vehemently rejected by trade publishers.

Features strong positive Black males and
Black male relationships. Also features
A Black father  leading his family business. 
When I first submitted The Cassandra Cookbook/A Recipe For $ucce$$, in 2004 to publishers and literary agents, Simon James was originally the main character.

I couldn’t get a soul to touch the book. It was only when I retitled it The Cassandra Cookbook and put Cassandra Lee as the main character that literary agents wanted to look at it.

And even then they didn't like it because she was a Black woman.

And even after I self-published the book, customers didn't start buying it until I re titled it A Recipe For $ucce$$. Most Black folks who saw it at the Harlem Book Fair in 2009 and 2010 thought it was an actual cookbook.

I originally wrote this book with Black males
in mind. 
And I originally wrote The Temptation of John Haynes with the plan to target Black male readers with an action/fantasy story. The book was originally designed gateway to fantasy stories for African-American readers.

I can’t tell readers how much literary agents and publishers hated that book. Even with the Twilight/Harry Potter craze at its peak, No one in the publishing world wanted to touch a fantasy book with a Black male as the lead character.

And today after critical acclaim and two years in print, it’s actually more popular with women than the Black men I wrote it for.

The only successes I've had in the book market are with books with a female leads. Isis was the only book I've had to sell regularly for 10 years. In fact, it was the only book to get noticed at the 2009 and 2010 Harlem Book fairs.

Now I see the growing Black Young Adult market. In 2010, when I was attending the Harlem book fair, a middle-aged woman asked me if I had books for tween/teenage readers, preferably 11-14-year-old-girls.

Me being shy and put on the spot said I didn't have anything. Or so I thought. It turns out I did have something for that customer. If I weren't so shy I’d have told her I had Isis for her, an action packed fantasy story with a positive Black heroine.

After Listening to that woman at the Harlem Book Fair I became inspired. The following year I began developing my campaign to target younger readers. Instead of working on a print campaign, I began targeting my work on a digital catalog to reach young readers on the hand-held devices they used like tablets, cellphones and ipod touches.

For Summer 2011 I launched four titles:

YA fiction for Young Black boys! 
The Sneakers- An urban tale targeted at young Black males,

The Saga of MastiKatious, An afrocentric tall tale giving background on the Isis series,

Baptism of Blood, Another fantasy tale detailing the Origin of Isis supporting character E’steem

Isis: Trial of the Goddess, The official start of the Isis series,

And All About Nikki- Three Episodes from the Fabulous First Season, A sneak preview of my upcoming screenplay paperback eBook All About Nikki-The Fabulous First Season.

All five titles had tremendous success. Along with the launch of the digital edition of Isis, I was able to break through and reach a larger audience of readers.

A mostly female audience of younger readers.

The runaway hit was All About Nikki, And the females came out in droves to support it. And females from a wide array of races and ethnicities. White women read Nikki, Black women read Nikki, and people as far as Canada, the UK, and Australia read Nikki.

The one title I targeted at Black boys in 2011 as part of my summer Young Adult eBook series, The Sneakers wasn’t too popular with young brothers in the Black community. It was actually more popular with foreign audiences. The first person to write me about how much they enjoyed it on twitter was from Australia.

And the fantasy titles I wrote to target Black males like The Temptation of John Haynes were more popular with Black female audiences than male.

Written SPECIFICALLY for Young Black
teens ages 13-25
And Lawrence Cherry’s Christian saga Commencement, another title I published in print and digital targeted at young Black males, is also more popular with female readers, especially international audiences. The first person to write me about how much they enjoyed it and where they could actually buy it was a woman from Grenada.

I want to write YA fiction for young Black males. I want to publish YA fiction for young Black boys. I have a boatload of ideas ready to go. I have a horror title I’m eager to write. Along with a contemporary story about a young brotha

I’d love to have those books go on sale next year to go right beside The Thetas, the YA book I’ve written about a rich black girl pledging a secret sorority.

But I need to see the brothers putting their money where their mouth is. If Black readers want me to write more books for Black boys, they have to start supporting my current titles, especially the ones I target brothers with like The Sneakers, The Temptation of John Haynes, and Stop Simpin-Why Men don’t need Finance to Get Romance.

And so far the females are voting with their wallets. And Shawn has to go with where the market is leading him. When I check Shelfari, most of the faces with my fiction titles are women.

And that audience of women is growing. This summer, Over 500 people came back for the second season sneak preview of All About Nikki.  across Smashwords' network of eBooksellers On those 500 free downloads I got 30 Facebook likes. And quite a few came back to buy the first season of All About Nikki.

On the hundred or so downloads of The Politics of Hell, I got digital sales on Isis and The Temptation of John Haynes.

Nonfiction for young Brothas! 
However, The two titles I targeted at Black males this summer, Stop Simpin-Why Men Don’t Need Finance to Get Romance, A FREE nonfiction book targeted at teenage Black males entering the dating game, and Spray Em’ Up a YA action movie screenplay with an American history lesson in between the lines, did OK, but not the blockbuster numbers of the All About Nikki Sensational Season 2 Sneak Preview.

Spray Em’ Up was a moderate hit with 125 downloads this summer and 25 Facebook likes. And Stop Simpin only got about 85 downloads this summer. But it has over 45 Facebook likes currently.

With those kinds of numbers on a free download I’m encouraged to produce more positive titles for Black boys and teens.

Learn Screenwriting and U.S. History!
Written for young brothas who like

But again, I need to see the sales. Brothers have to come out of their pockets and support my work if they want me to produce more paperbacks and eBooks. I’d love to do a print version of Stop Simpin and follow it up with an eBook with tips and strategies on how to overcome bullies this summer.

Lawrence Cherry has another urban Christian fiction book he’s eager to get out there. In fact he’s planning a Commencement series with young Black male leads.

The only thing stopping me from publishing these works is money and support of Black readers.

I’m hearing more from foreigners than my own brothers and sisters. Moreover, they’re willing to put their money on the table for my work.

Brothers and Sisters, That table at the Harlem Book fair you walked by and bought nothing from two years straight costs me money. Those paperbacks you continue to ignore at amazon and online booksellers costs me $12 a year to keep in print. Those free eBooks I offer to Black children and are read mostly by foreigners cost me time and effort to produce. If you want books for black boys, I need you to come out of your pockets and show me the money on the books I currently have on the market.

Writing these books takes time. Editing takes even more time. Uploading them for self-publication can be both challenging and frustrating. So I need to see a return on the investment I put into these stories. When I spend a year or two committing writing full fiction pieces like novels, I need to see an audience readers willing to pay for them.

So Brothers, if you want the stories featuring Black male leads, you have to show me the money. I need the numbers on old products I wrote for black males to bring you new ones for Black boys. I can’t create a supply for a product if I don’t see a demand for it.

Below is a short video detailing my thoughts about publishing fiction and non-fiction for young Black males:

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