Hip Hop Fiction Beefs
by Seth "Soul Man" Ferranti
The book business as with any business involving entertainment can be a war. There are crooks. There are double crooks and then there are triple crooks publishing urban and street books, making a lot of money but robbing the artist behind the words, the authors. It’s much like the rap game where Q-tip called it right, record company people are shady. And now in Hip-Hop fiction authors are finding out that book publishers are shady too. They take people’s creative works, put them out and pocket all the money. When people fuck with your money it leads to beef.
Nikki Turner/Triple Crown, Kwame Teague/Teri Woods, Wahida Clark/Black Print Publishing, Teri Woods/Triple Crown, Kwame Teague/other black writers—these are the beefs in the burgeoning Hip-Hop fiction industry. As the genre has exploded, grossing over $50 million annually the beefs have escalated. Be it financial, artistic or personal these authors and publishers are ready to get down.
“Vickie and I don’t have a relationship whatsoever,” Nikki Turner the author of the hood classic, A Hustlers’ Wife, says. “Any relations are through our attorneys. I met Vicki Stringer when I was originally looking to get a blurb for my book. It was Shannon Holmes who loved the book and together they published my book." It was reported in Don Diva magazine how Nikki Turner and Shannon Holmes, author of B-More Careful and co-publisher with Vickie Stringer of Triple Crown Publications, got into it at the 2005 Harlem Book Fair. “I thought I was watching Ike and Tina,” Susan Hempstead, an editor for Don Diva wrote. “But there was never a love affair between these two—just business—and they got pulled apart before there were any blows. But I could have sworn that Nikki pulled off her earrings and was ready to go toe to toe with him.” And that’s just how the Richmond, Virginia native Nikki does.
“I do know that a lot of unhappy authors are unhappy with Vickie Stringer,” Nikki says, and if rumors are to be believed then Vickie Stringer is one of the biggest crooks in the industry. Some authors who sign to Triple Crown are even forced to give up their copyright. “I’m committed to our model of signing unknown writers at a lower fee,” Vicki said in Inc magazine recently. “It’s easier to work with writers when they’re excited and don’t have the ego.” Or perhaps is it when they don’t have a lawyer looking out for their interests. It seems Vickie Stringer preys on the uniformed and the naïve who are just happy to get their book in print. Just like the new band that is happy to sign a record deal and go on tour but who notice later that they sold a million albums and don’t have any money to show for it. Imagine if your book sold 100,000 copies, which is platinum in the book industry and you didn’t see any money. Nikki Turner was in that situation with Triple Crown when A Hustlers’ Wife blew up. It sold well into the six figures and it’s said that Nikki didn’t get anything but the notoriety. But Nikki is being the soldierette she is. “I try to steer away from the negative aspects of the literary industry, and although there is a lot of negative stuff out there. To me, it isn’t a point of who treated me better. People treat you the way you allow them to and I have no tolerance for B.S.,” Nikki says. “I can only be responsible for my behavior in this literary game, which means I will always remain professional and deal with authors in passing as well as the authors under my label as I want to be treated.” With this attitude, even with her unsavory experience with Triple Crown, Nikki has gone on to much success.
“I left Triple Crown before signing my first deal with Random House,” Nikki says. “With life you have to take the good with the bad and determine what you will dwell on. I’ve chosen not to dwell on the negative but rather appreciate the opportunity given to me. Triple Crown was a stepping stone for me and a lot of other authors but I wouldn’t go back. I’ve learned integrity counts for everything and although I’ve witnessed people that lack integrity, I’m proud to say that through it all I’ve maintained mine.” As for Vickie Stringer, well, she’s built Triple Crown into a $1.8 million company with 36 titles by 25 different authors, but at what cost to her integrity? That is the question.
“Love/hate I think best describes the cyclical nature of our relationship,” Kwame Teague, author of the Dutch series says of his publisher Teri Woods. “Mainly because in an industry where the commodity is artistic talent, there are going to be strong issues. But I believe in black owned companies, I believe in what Teri is trying to do. I support that and there are many times when Teri has supported me while at other times our conflicts have become obstacles to both our successes, where business has become personal and have led to regrettable decisions on both our parts.” Kwame who’s doing two life sentences in prison for a crime he says he is innocent of, has a claim. His name doesn’t appear on the Dutch books. Teri is listed as the author but in fact she is not, but let Kwame explain.
“The Dutch thing was more of a marketing decision,” he says. “Because Ghetto Sam (his first book) is a hip-hop book, not a street book and didn’t do too well with the street crowd, although it’s a hell of a book. So I felt if Sam didn’t do well and cats saw my name again they’d think it was another Sam, especially with a name like Dutch. So the decision was made before World War I (laughs) at the time when we were discussing things a lot, so it was mutual. But the other factors for me was being incarcerated and the content of the book.” But still a man deserves recognition for his works, especially for a book that is clearly a classic in its genre. Let’s not even get into the money for a book that sold well into the six figures or the movie options for the book which have caused more friction.
“Teri’s involvement has yet to be discussed at this point,” Kwame says of the movie project that is in the works with C. Miller (formerly C Murder). “I hope we can work something out. Because I truly feel if we can get on the same page we can create a force in the entertainment industry.” Kwame thinks reconciliation is at hand with Teri but he does have problems with other writers in the urban book industry. “The Omar Tyrees, Zanes, Eric Jerome Dickeys, Terry McMillians and their like are middle class drab,” he says. “Straight up. They think they have a monopoly on urban experiences but it’s weak and contrived. They have no depth just mangled emotions. Just like Hip-Hop challenged R&B in the eighties and triumphed I believe our words and voices can do the same. I want to see us become a street renaissance.”
Wahida Clark who is on Kensington Publishing now with a new book, Payback is a Mutha, is screaming and moving units like 50 Cent. She has a beef with her scandalous first publisher who she wrote two books for in her Thug series from prison. “Black Print was my first publisher,” she says. “When the checks started bouncing my agent was able to get me out. Well, part of the deal was to turn over all inventory. Twelve months later both of my books are being printed. Eighteen months later it has trickled down but they are still putting them out.” It’s not like these are bootleggers but in a way they are doing the same thing. Making money off of someone’s work and name and the author isn’t getting a dime of it.
A similar situation has been rumored to be happening with Shannon Holmes’ book, B-More Careful. Teri Woods is the publisher of the book but Triple Crown has supposedly been printing copies and selling it with other Triple Crown books. Considering Shannon Holmes is the co-publisher of Triple Crown and B-More Careful is his book the rumor is probably true. With big money involved a lot of these beefs are bound to turn into lawsuits.
Teri Woods the independent giant seems to have beefs with just about everyone in the industry. “I don’t need to justify myself to anyone and you don’t have to like me.” She said in Don Diva magazine. “You don’t have to like what I write, you can be mean and nasty which most authors are to me along with a lot of the people in the publishing industry.” In the same interview Teri expressed her problem with her fellow writers selling out as she sees it. “I keep telling these writers,” she said. “Stop taking these deals with these companies. You’re already selling your own units so why would you let these companies eat off you? Those little bullshit advancement checks don’t mean a thing. Don’t break bread with these people. Stay independent.” But it’s not that easy.
Vickie Stringer called it in her Inc magazine interview. “Triple Crown is a bill paying company so I get real angry sometimes and feel like bringing out my gangsta background.” In a movement that came up from the street and centers in the hood and prison world, Hip-Hop fiction is a lot like the rap game minus the gunplay, where street credibility can be the difference between moving units or not.
But another industry leader, Carl Weber of Urban Books breaks it down precisely. “Integrity and good business is the only way black people can do well for themselves. Loyalty among black people is hard.” With everyone fighting for a piece of the American Dream feelings are bound to get hurt, rip-offs will happen, egos will get bruised and beef will be present. Just like the rap game the book game is a drama itself.
Seth Ferranti is a contributing writer for The Urban Book Source and accomplished journalist having written articles for Don Diva, Slam, King, Feds and many more. View more of his articles at: www.gorillaconvict.com
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