The Talented Tenth
aka The Challenge
by Jarold Imes
Urban Book Source
Another year full of new and old street/urban/hip-hop authors; another group of awards; another set of milestones being established; another group of haters. I promised to leave the haters alone, and I was doing fine. That was until I saw something published in Essence magazine that made me change my mind. After reading this article it has occurred to me that they don’t know where we, street/urban/hip-hop authors are going.
Starting in August, some of our most respected literary artists will start to debut novels that are not street fiction. What?! You mean to say that we can write a good book without cursing, talking about drugs, and leaving the hot sex scenes off the pages? Well, I did, He Changed My Name will come out in October to commemorate North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University’s Homecoming 2006 celebration. My goal is to present an opportunity to involve more black people in the publishing industry. My interns will edit, design, model, promote and even handle orders for this title. And the best part about this branching out is that ten percent of the retail price (my royalties for those who don’t know) will go back to North Carolina Agricultural & Technical State University, Winston-Salem State University, and Johnson C. Smith University through various scholarships for books and supplies for students.
That is what I did this summer. What did our critics do? Nothing except waste their time writing more articles about how we are destroying the industry with our trash. When these critics sponsor or even attempt to create a program that gives black students in colleges and universities an opportunity to get a foot through the door of THIS industry, that’s when they can come back to speak to me and some of my competitors. (Respect to RJ Publications and Crystell Publications for stepping up to the plate and providing scholarships and book stipends for the upcoming school year.) If I left off a company doing their thing to provide more job training for a career in publishing to our people, pat yourself on the back.
We, the successful authors who can claim that we are the movement behind the resurrection of the black book store are branching out. We’re knocking on the doors of authors who feel that they are in the elite top ten percent of black writers who can’t be touched. And the best part about it is that we’re bringing our suitcases and bumping our cars to their tune.
I can honestly say that no genre will be untouched come 2007 and we want our street/urban/hip-hop fiction fans to come along with us for the ride. We want you to support our other works just like you supported us in the streets. We have arrived to that pinnacle of success. Since B-More Careful first entered the Essence Bestseller List in the spring of 2002, very seldom has there been a month when a street/urban/hip-hop fiction novel, or five, has not appeared on the list. Now that we are here, we have a responsibility to bring others along for the ride and to create opportunities. We have the responsibility to re-write the rules of what it takes to enter the talented tenth.
I’m not going to diss writers who don’t write street/urban/hip-hop fiction because not all of them hate us. Support them. If we want to be taken serious as movers and shakers in the publishing industry, we’re going to need them just like they will need us to continue selling books that are keeping the black owned book stores alive.
Next on our agenda should be to form an organization just for our genre. We need our own association of people who want to network and celebrate our successes. We need this association so we do not become like the rappers who have beefs with one another. Right now we are fighting each other behind the scenes for the same nickel and dime instead of helping each other. This association may have the potential to make two or three black distributors stronger so we can work directly with our own and decrease our chances of getting robbed and cheated out of hard earned money.
We need to organize so we can reap the benefits of working together. Stop this bickering and stealing from one another. We need to start making more appearances at different book festivals. Yes, I know most of us were at the Harlem Book Festival, but there are other festivals on a state, local, and genre level that we can attend and show support to. You never know who you are going to meet in another genre that can get your foot in the door to writing that song for Mariah Carey or making your book or unpublished screenplay another Spike Lee Joint.
This is my challenge to all of you. I have a lot of ideas but I don’t have a lot of money. I can see the potential that we have not just as authors but as a people to really make the literary industry what it is suppose to be. Rappers and singers are consistently pushing 500,000 and 1,000,000 units while we are content if our best writers reach 100,000 (which very few of us have done). Why aren’t we pushing those units? Why are we settling for this amount of sales? I hate to sound racist but white authors push these
numbers all the time on a consistent basis.
So this is the deal. My email address is firstname.lastname@example.org, and my company’s fax number is 336.217.8169. I want to share some ideas with some of you and then come back in September and say what we have accomplished. If you’re not scared of keeping it real and doing something to preserve our future, give me a call.
Jarold Imes is a contributing writer for The Urban Book Source and author of Hold on Be Strong; he is the creator of online soap opera: Hold on Be Strong (www.holdonbestrong.com), send emails to:email@example.com
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