Do You Want to be The First or The Best?

by Narzell Wise
April 2008


Are you tired of people who have nothing better to do than stand around and preach about how much they've accomplished and how much they know about this street lit industry? They talk about how they paved the way and how everyone’s books are nothing more than copies of the DNA of their books.

We all know them. The ones standing around wasting their time and energy: complaining, whining, and criticizing every one else instead of joining the race to chase their own dreams. They poke their lips out at your success, your desires, your goals and everything else that fuels your movement, all the while pointing their finger at you saying, "I started this, I was the first!" But have you ever stopped to wonder instead of preaching from atop their soap boxes why they wouldn’t start a hip hop literature consulting firm? Or better yet why no one knows who they are anymore?

Authors: if no one knows who you are then that's your own fault and if your books aren't selling that's your own fault too. You are the sole ruler of your world, the manager of your life. Take responsibility for your failures. Maybe your book cover wasn't attractive enough, maybe your book title was lame (Side note: Books named after songs that used to be popular are tired. I thought you were a writer? Let’s get creative.) Maybe your marketing plan was a wash. Maybe you self-published but didn’t have the art or the heart for hustling which is what’s needed in self-publishing.

But just how do you measure success and what does it take to be successful? Do you have to walk to Brooklyn to get cheesecake? Or do you think you've made it once your books arrive back from the printer and you are officially a published author? But remember to publish anything, only means that two people have to read it. I say this to say that you have to do more than publish a book to be successful; you have to put yourself out there, get in the race and start running, otherwise everyone will pass you by. Instead of sitting back and complaining about how no one respects you or asking why you didn’t make The Urban Book Source’s Top 10 Authors of All-Time list, run the best race you can, if not spare us and stay in your place under the radar. While you are complaining others are rising to the top. Authors like Wahida Clark and Kwame Teague have taken this street publishing industry by the horns, all while they have been behind the wall. Relentless Aaron, another formerly imprisoned author wrote over 15 books while incarcerated and shortly after his release had most of them published, inked a six-figure deal with a major publishing house and wrote for 50 Cent’s G-Unit books. If they could do it then so could you if you used your time wisely.

Like the saying goes “Yesterday is history. Tomorrow is a mystery. Today is a gift.” We must all wake up and ask ourselves do we want to be the first or the best, because in the fickle world of publishing you are only as good as your last book. The fact that you've coined terms and published the first set of books in a certain genre doesn’t matter unless you grind hard enough and leave the industry with a lasting impression. DJ Kool Herc is widely known to be the founder of hip hop; however, artists like 50 Cent, Jay-Z, Nas, Eminem and Kanye West are now in the forefront and have been more successful than most hip hop artists before them.

We all honor and show respect to those who came and opened the door for us, but maybe that was their place in history. Maybe it was for them to open the door so others could enter; are we to live in the past and not strive and embrace our current success? My advice is to those of you who fit this mold is stop complaining about not making lists, or about being overlooked, disregarded or bypassed and in the words of Russell Simmons, “Do You!”


Narzell Wise is an avid reader; she graduated from New York University with a degree in Journalism.


Comments page 2 of 2:
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