An Analysis on the Imperative Marketing Theories for African-American Authors in the Genres of Fiction/Fantasy: Indie Publishing vs. Traditional Publishing

For Writers

Definition and Overview

Marketing Plans refer to the strategies for market of a product (in this case, a novel) to their core demographic. The goal is to not only maximize the awareness of the product’s existence, but to persuade consumers to purchase the product. In the case of this case study, research will look at the strategies applied to African-American authors, and how the strategies have succeeded in the past ten-to-twenty years, or what specifically caused failures for authors not in the sells, but in reaching the maximum audience possible.

 

Whether an author is self-publishing their novel or going through traditional publishers, a marketing plan is almost more important than the novel itself.

 

However, an important factor one should consider before diving into marketing strategies at all is the marketing strategy of the Publisher. It’s pivotal to consider which Publishing path an author wants to take early, because this step will not only decide available resources for the author, but the variables of control and hierarchy of agreement between the author must anticipate before action. A self-published author will have less middle men to weed through, but less resources and more financial liability, whereas a traditionally published author might have more resources given to them, but little to no self-control over the novel’s plan. Success for one novel in a single path can mean failure in another.

 

But, before we can establish the Publishing paths an author must consider, it’s necessary to consider what is Success and Failure for an author?

 

Success v. Failures

 

For Authors, success has a wide range of definitions and characteristics. Some authors pursue a monetary growth as an estimation of pivotal success within their field. Other measure their success through: accolades, cult following, critical acclaim or the parameters of academic criticism. However, an author’s work can have all of these things, but be considered a failure if a variety of variables are positioned into a negative connotation, such as a book receiving wide sales in the first six months and then yielding wide returns following as a result of bad press or public reaction. Thus, measuring success for authors and their works is truly dependent on individual criticism of what qualifies “success” for an author. For the purpose of this study, we will allow readers to critique a sense of success by their own criteria, but the study will analyze success based on the success of the marketing strategy to appeal to the core demographics overall. Specifically, we analyze traditional publishing and Indie publishing (digital) meeting the criteria with minimum cost from the author professionally and financially.

 

However, while success is subject to opinion, failure is a bit more emboldened. For Traditional Publishers, failures are established when an author’s work is “pulled” or discontinued within the first two years of publication. This is largely a concern of Returns and how many of them are executed. A majority of books are discontinued within the first two years and whole series are often terminated with no ending. Further, as the contractual rights of the series belongs to a publisher until the publisher goes out of business, there is little to no hope of taking the series to a new publisher unless a contract specifically stipulates this. For this reason, some writers prefer the fluency of an independent career.

 

Need-To-Know: Traditional Publishers

 

According to Judith Applebaum, there is a clear dichotomy between the kinds of Traditional Publishers: small and large. The difference is in the expectations between not only approach, but theory. Large Publishers target audiences interested in a general prose — voices that suitable for larger audience sizes; thus, the marketing is in the branding. Large Publishers tend to infer prestige due to the recognition of their names and will likely pay larger in advances, yet offer little to no promotion lest your author’s platform (the visibility of the author) is sizeable, like a Celebrity or influencer (Youtubers have been known to be successful with their platforms). There is an impersonal stigma associated with these publications, and there is some truth to this approach. Many authors are expected to be the driving force behind their own marketing strategies, leaning against their platforms or enhancing it to the best of their abilities.

 

Smaller Publications are known to put out little product yearly. However, the more personal touch of these publications are more attractive to some readers. Further, smaller publications are notorious for applying literature to “niche” as in releasing materials that will cater more to a specific flavor of audience. New and emerging writers are suggested to begin with Smaller Publications due to the tendency to bolster the “self” of the author within the involvement of the publishing process. And yet, this is not to suggest that Smaller Publications are a stepping stone or less critical of the manuscript they accept. In truth, a Smaller Pub might be just as fickle of the Manuscripts they will publish (though, they are known to offer lower advance rates, if any at all, and prioritize a longer net worth over the course of the novel’s performance). Smaller Pubs and Larger Pubs should only be chosen in accordance to how much faith they have in an author’s work. Thus, we find ourselves within discussion of a fairly new topic that completely inverts this established truth:

 

Co-publishing is a topic of discussion between the publishers of some houses where the author and publisher share the costs of release and often the author will yield higher shares of the book itself. This could be an option for writers who seek success outside of financial gratification immediately (advances) or believe their stories will yield low returns. However, this strategy has been criticized as any publication expected to do well for the sake of an author should believe in the work enough to not expect a larger upfront contribution. For authors, it’s the story that’s being sold and not the vanity of distribution. This is often referred to as “Hybrid Publishing” as well. While it is considered an aspect of “indie publishing” or Independent Publishing, it is still largely the same marketing impact as traditional publishing and thus, will be considered the same category.

 

Overall, Traditional Publishing is varied not only by the kind of publication accepted, but is uniformly different from Independent Publishers because the author cannot decide a variety of factors considered in the marketing of the novel. Authors do not decide release dates for the novel, nor do the decide the cover art. They also have zero control over “brick-and-mortar” sales of the work, meaning they cannot decide who will sell their material and to what demographic?

 

Further, because Traditional Publishing cannot guarantee critical successes even in the form outlined in this study, the only thing guaranteed within the control of the author or the publisher is the respect and experience of Traditional Publishing. If a book contains little expectation for success, a Publisher can release a book during a “dead” month for income and perform mediocre amounts of editing and/or delay a release.

 

One alternate strategy of contention is the concept of “catch-and-kill”, or purchasing a product for the sole purpose of neglecting it, reflecting the major trouble with Traditional Publishing: the interests of a publisher might not always reflect the interests of the author.

 

In any case, all Traditional Publishers should offer a version of the following:

 

Need-To-Know: Independent Publishers

 

Otherwise known as Self-Publishing, or Indie Publishing, these Publishers provide an absolute control over every step and detail of the works and marketing strategy. The author is in-charge of everything from the line editors, the designers, the marketing plan, etc. There is nothing the author does not touch. However, one crucial issue with Self-Publishing’s dynamics is that it’s dependent on constant hustle and grind from the Author. Without the wider acclaim or advertising of a Publishing house, success is a matter of more variables than just the few considered for Traditional platforms.

 

For instance, how does one yield massive royalties for an independent market without a budget? The answer is you can’t. Thus, an author necessarily becomes their own Publishing start-up. Thus, if your Publishing business that has nothing to do with the author business you’ve just launched isn’t successful, your business as an author will not be neither.

 

Further, with the onset of Digital publishing, indie authors have had to deal with the stigma of Amazon/Kindle publishing. Antoine Bandele, author of the Kishi (Tales of Eshowon), has had issue getting his novel onto the shelves of Indie bookstores due to the fact Amazon/Kindle puts independent bookstores out of business. However, much financial success can be reaped by digital releases like those offered by Kindle bookstores. For instance, Quan Millz, a prolific Urban Fiction/Romance writer mentioned in interview the financial success of Indie books can read up to $140,000 a year. This concept was explained at large by Indie authors

 

Black Authors compose 71% of the Indie novels released in 2017.

 

What Publishers Think

In a 2018 interview by Diane Patrick for Publisher Weekly, several African-American editors, market strategists and agents were asked what they looked for when consulting what books to publish and back, they answered with an overwhelming focus on not only current trends, but focuses on contradictory attention towards demographics:

 

“Johns: Even as a person of color, I cannot assume I know the full span of the black/minority experience. I read a lot, from books to magazines. I pay attention to viewership of programs, blockbusters, new media platforms, and more examples that seem to be creating and shaping culture for ethnic audiences. Who’s winning awards? What social justice issues are shaping conversations and the next years ahead? It helps inform not only what’s on trend, but maybe even an overlooked area that could benefit from exposure.

Coleman: Another crucial part of my job entails critically reading Beacon’s books to suss out target audiences and what they may want from the books. In other words, this is about getting into their heads. From there, I come up with proposed marketing activities to reach these readers.

Stewart: Our main mission statement is to make comics for everyone—and that really means everyone. You can’t have that goal if you aren’t open to reading and learning about stories outside of your own, or outside of what you’re used to. In my opinion, knowledge about a variety of marginalized creators, in addition to those who have been working for years, is what makes you a well-rounded editor.

Funches: Lion Forge has the luxury of having a very diverse range of staff and freelancers who can speak authentically and passionately directly to marginalized groups without pandering or creating heavy-handed marketing campaigns that feel disingenuous. For us, it’s not an agenda but simply who we are.

Ladelle: My job will always involve engaging diverse readership, because it’s why I came into publishing in the first place. It’s downright depressing to look at your list of titles you have to market and not see one person who looks like you. It sends the message that your story isn’t valid or deserving. So I had to be strategic in finding a job that I felt had a list of authors who came from diverse backgrounds, in order to work and engage with diverse authors and content, which was what I was able to find in the YA department at HarperCollins.

 

Clark: By virtue of the types of books I publish, I engage with an ethnic readership. I don’t know that I’m always an expert, but my authors are.” (Patrick, 2018).

 

Many of the observations on marketing for a bit of literature at these publications is strategic consider a diverse audience for the material, engaging the readership. While many consider voices that come from a diverse background, they appeal the story to a larger demographic at large. It is implied that these titles are sold based on themes, rather than purely the “African-American interest” group that has become sensationalized to mean “Black only,” as seen when dissecting media trends for African-American films and tv shows that have been marketed over the last 20 years.

 

Further, we also see editors like Clark invoking the same principles as Maggie Langrick, but diluting the approach through the lens of ethnicity as an element of publication, relying on the author’s knowledge of the material to sell the novel to the target audience. One editor in particular, Zakia Henderson-Brown, seemed to suggest a similar point of view:


Brown: If it’s a black author, we want to make sure we research media that speak to that audience. Going after the same traditional media is lazy. Part of my job is to dissect a book to make sure that we are targeting the readers that will pick up and buy that book. (Patrick, 2018)

 

The key point in Brown’s strategy is to lean on the demographic as an entity that the author should possibly understand. In this, guess work is a given, but all marketing is a guess work.

 

 

Marketing Strategies: Print

According to the Pocket Guide to Publishing by John Koehler and Joe Coccaro, Print publishing marketing strategies are primarily attempts to decrease the amount of returns within publishing. Despite the fact most authors want to be in brick and mortar bookstores, bigger chains are far more aggressive in their sales tactics but increase in the amount of returns that they execute within a given space of time and receive their money back entirely from the return if done within the proper time frame. They take on minimum risk while the publisher takes on maximum with this exchange. For Black authors, it becomes important to release during dates where the Print will perform best and stores can maximize on seasonal purchases. For Black writers, stories like Marlon James’ Black Leopard, Red Wolf and Angie Thomas’ On the Come Up were released during Black History Month. However, hese novels did not receive equal treatments within set ups. Angie Thomas’ book was largely featured on the New Releases sections of Barnes and Noble while Marlon James’ novel was placed strategically on its own board separate from the New Releases despite Marlon James’ novel having a one week release age. This marketing strategy seemed to be a result of Marlon James’ novel expense when juxtaposed to Angie Thomas’. Further, Marlon James’ novel stands as a best seller, meaning there is less demand to exhaust the novel’s returns than for Angie Thomas’ novel. However, this marketing strategy is highly troublesome, as during a season where their stories — one coming off the hype of the Hate U Give’s film debut, a story created by Angie Thomas — there is a involuntary competition between novels to out pace one another in terms of “success” (strictly in low returns, in the case of print performance). Rather than positioning Angie Thomas’ release around the release of the Hate U Give the marketing was to invoke the exclusive attention of audiences during a time they deem the market will be focusing on Black writers. Marlon James’ strategy may seem to have invoked similar acclaim, however it was also positioned during a time where advertising for Game of Thrones would be highest, an excellent ploy as Black Leopard, Red Wolf has been compared to an “African Game of Thrones”.

 

This is likely what helped Black Leopard, Red Wolf yield higher pre-orders which pushed Marlon James’ novel onto three different best seller lists, which in itself is a powerful marketing tag-line that cannot be ignored. This implied vanity is marketing in itself. Unfortunately, Indie novels cannot invoke similar strength and often book returns bring great harm not only to books and to publishing companies. This is twice so for African-American Independent authors (see also: “Need-to-Know: Independent Publishers”, Antoine Bandele). Indie authors cannot lean on the vanity of a traditional publication or the press tactics and knowledge of a Publisher to ensure faithful effort from brick and mortar or massive bookstores to yield high sales and low returns. In fact, depending on the method of self-publication, a writer may not be capable of getting an independent bookstore to purchase books at all.

 

Marketing Strategies: Digital

However, Koehler and Coccaro do have much to say about online booksellers for Independent Publishers. Most online sales count for 90 percent of print sales with very few returns. This is largely because digital marketing being far more lucrative and simpler to execute than in-person sales of books and literature. Social Media Marketing reveals a healthy percentage of consumers prefer a quick-and-easy method of purchase, and thanks to the culture established by Amazon,  readers are prepared to order books that they’ve been recently sold upon before leaving the comforts of secluded environment. Further, online and digital consumers are more willing to experiment with interests, such as emerging authors and writers. This is established by the overall marketing tactics of Urban Fiction.

 

Quan Millz, a prolific urban fiction author, is a completely fabricated entity known for putting out materials essentially less than genre fiction or smut. However, he has among the largest catalogs of African-American novels on Kindle publishing and the corporation behind Quan Millz is explicitly powering the sales of his novel by social media marketing. The novel’s raunchy nature and shock is mass released and produced to his audience, allowing purchase by impulse alone, and allowing the viral nature of his platform to carry the sales. Explicitly, Quan Millz does not give attention to the quality of work that he is putting you, and is more concerned with the fact that the material is available for release at all: three novels minimum for a series at 25,000 words each book for anywhere between 3.99 to 7.99 a novel, not including the likeliness that Kindle readers will go through the Catalogue and binge all other series in the Millz Catalogue, purchasing maybe 10 different series along with anything else being released by Millz in the future. Thus, there are minimum returns. Further, all print copies of Millz’s novels are made-to-order, dramatically lowering the amount of returns necessary for release. Due to the marketing strategy of social media being minimum at best, Quan Millz is constantly generating his own resources to increase his marketing effectiveness. This process is so lucrative that Quan Millz’s author is quoted as projecting annual income somewhere near $140,000 a year annually. While some other Urban Fiction authors utilize press releases and physical marketing ploys for their work — it’s the effectiveness of these strategies on social media that yields the best results for Black authors, particularly when applied to furthering niche markets within the African-American social demographics.

 

In Traditional Publishing, Authors often send reviews to blogs and other influencers who possess a demographic that matches their goal demos and either have the promise of review, or simply the offer to do so for the reviewer and the heartfelt thanks if they’re willing. This method of publication has both its pros and its cons, largely being that there is no guarantee that a review will compel purchase — whether the review is positive or negative. For African-American authors, this option is further skewed as a majority of book reviewers skewed to “Diversity” are specific to Young Adult fiction — as those who primarily access these markets are millennials.

 

However, one method Traditional Black authors like Tomi Adeyemi and L. L. McKinney have employed is launching their Author Platforms onto social media accounts like Twitter or Instagram. They engage with readers, trends and even enhance the community overall rather than merely existing for the purpose of branding. One important alternative to this is realizing the wider market of Facebook and applying it, such as Quan Millz has. The flaw with this is that these markets typically require authors to have an established platform BEFORE the release or even the book deal. When looking at Ryan Douglas, a writer releasing a YA social thriller Jake in the Box with Putnam at Penguin Teen, he’s done exclusively all of the promotions on his social media (@ryandouglassw) to his following of 2,586 (February 14th, 2019) so far for a book sleighted for a 2020 released. Further, he continues his day job in retail and has spoken little on an advance. Jake in the Box’s Goodreads account sleights 6 ratings and 11 reviews total.One good and healthier alternative suggested is apply advances or marketing budgets (if one receives one at all, as it is rare for an author to be given a marketing budget) to reach out to influencers for the opportunity to project their marketing campaigns, leaning on pre-established platforms to reach out to niche audiences.

 

African-American Author Stats

Figure 1.1: Successful African-American Authors Who Released Titles Between 2018-2019 in Traditional Publishing within Fiction/Fantasy (Digital Units only)

 

AUTHOR TITLE PRIMARY STRATEGY AMAZON

RATING

GOODREADS

RATING

Price RELEASE DATE
Marlon James Black Leopard,

Red Wolf

Reviews/ Author Platform

“African Game of Thrones”

3.1 (24 ratings) 3.81 (634 ratings) 17.99 2/05/2018
N.K. Jemisin How Long Till Black Future Month Social Media/Author Platform/Good Reads 4.5 (48 ratings) 4.41 (1641 ratings) $13.99 11/27/2018
Tomi Adeyemi Children of Blood and Bone Social Media/

“The Black Harry Potter”

4.5 (1,820 ratings) 4.2 (68,437 ratings) $18.99 3/06/2018
P. Djeli Clark The Black God’s Drums Reviews/Author Platform/Social Media 4.7 (90 ratings) 4.12 (1,274) ratings) $3.99 8/21/2018
L. L. McKinney A Blade So Black Social Media/Reviews 4.1 (56 ratings) 3.59 (1,490 ratings) $9.99 9/25/2018

SOURCES: AMAZON, TWITTER,  GOODREADS

 

Figure 1.2: Successful African-American Authors Who Released Titles Between 2018-2019 in Independent Release within Fiction/Fantasy (Digital Units only)

 

AUTHOR TITLE PRIMARY STRATEGY AMAZON

RATING

GOODREADS

RATING

Price RELEASE DATE
Natavia Beasts Unleashed Social Media/ Kindle Unlimited 5.0 (131 ratings) 4.91 (249 ratings) 7.99 1/20/2019
Neicy P. Alphas & Angels: the Royal Pack of Louisiana Social Media 5.0 (35 ratings) 4.75 (69 ratings) $0.99 2/03/2019
Edwina Fort Redemption: Earth’s Cry Social Media 5.0 (38 ratings) 4.92 (72 ratings) $3.99 3/06/2018
Antoine Bandele The Kishi (Tales of Esowon Book 1) Social Media: Live streams/Youtube/Kickstarter 4.6 (33 ratings) 4.19 (47 ratings) $4.99 1/28/2018

SOURCE(S): AMAZON, TWITTER, GOODREADS, KICKSTARTER

 

References

 

African-Amercan literature sold predominantly by indie authors. (2017, January 21). Retrieved from https://teleread.org/2017/01/21/african-amercan-literature-sold-predominately-by-indie-authors/

 

Appelbaum, J. (1989). How to get happily published. New York, NY, U.S.A.: Penguin Books.

 

Fabris, M. (2008, May 01). Focusing your message for the African American market. Retrieved from https://www.targetmarketingmag.com/article/focusing-your-message-african-american-market-98162/all/

 

Haugen, D. M., & Musser, S. (2012). Are books becoming extinct? Detroit: Greenhaven Press.

 

Ho, J. (2016, August 09). Diversity In Book Publishing Isn’t Just About Writers – Marketing Matters, Too. Retrieved from https://www.npr.org/sections/codeswitch/2016/08/09/483875698/diversity-in-book-publishing-isnt-just-about-writers-marketing-matters-too

 

Langrick, M. (2015, May 16). What’s Your Book Marketing Plan? 6 Crucial Steps to Include. Retrieved from https://thewritelife.com/book-marketing-plan-steps/

 

The Next Black Publishing Generation Speaks. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.publishersweekly.com/pw/by-topic/industry-news/publisher-news/article/78668-the-next-black-publishing-generation-speaks.html

 

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BLACK MONA’ LISA, SMILE

Uncategorized


I was born to be the Mona’ Lisa.

I think about her when I’m on my back beneath him.

Or on my belly, because of him.

Revered and Beautiful. Rather than a second mat, under my husband– collecting checks just to spend them on a right to keep on breathing.

She has flaws, and she is not the most beautiful. But, millions flock to her virtue and give love to the flawed beauty of this white woman with the brunette hair.

Blacks ain’t even likened to brunettes.

Ain’t that something? So beautiful they find other words to describe her blackness. Raven. Brunette. Onyx.

But Black girls only know Black.

Black knees. Black hair. Black eyes and Black lives.

That’s how ugly they think we are. Liken if Ms. Lisa were ever subject to a Black eye, they’d call it something prettier.

Though, none of that keep me from thinking thoughts no Black girl should. That my skin is like caramel after generations of baring half-milk black babies we never asked for.

Maybe If I avoid the sun, I could be her: take her place: wear her paint chips like lotion.

Ain’t that a sight?

A Black Mona’ Lisa.

Black Art, made manifest.

Dream about it.

Never mind. I’ll do more than dream.

I pack my bags and buy the ticket under the cover of night — the darkness hugging me so close, and flee my husband, hootin’ when I outpace him onto the flight. He call me a mean name: “Black Ugly Cow!” The Ugly part doesn’t make me wince, but how he call me Black… why, it’s as if he ain’t realize he Black himself. His Mama Black, too. Makes me think all his hate he got for me, must be the hate he instead feels for his reflection.

I lay my head low on the flight and swallow my demon-shaped worries. I’ve got a lot to fret about. Barely a nickel to my name, but I’ve a passport. I’ve intent, and that’s more than most Black Women got.

I’ve a dream to be better than a fly on the wall in the Louvre: to be a painting before their eyes. And the Louvre will simply be another place surrounding my greatness.

I land. I make do in the hostels never far from Black-loving white children on a cocaine relay from one conqueror’s nation to another. I stay months too long and –

Well, conquerors have no charity. But I’ve a job; I’ve a dream. Now, I’ve a home too.

And the day I get the key, I get a tiny picture and pin it above my pillow. I gotta be on my tippy toes to kiss it up there, but I do every day: my face cut oval and glued to the Mona’ Lisa’s neck. Mustard neck, Golden-Black face. The Mona’ Lisa never looked so good.

I sway the mop around the porcelain floors, of the porcelain temple to the Porcelain Gods. The Louvre isn’t around me, I’m in it — devoured whole, I sway that mop in my sections and I watch the kids sneak a selfie of Mona’ Lisa and her smile that haunts you.

I smile back and a guard I cannot see shrieks.

He’s pretending: I’m not that ugly. He’s just French, and rude.

I pay them no mine: Mona’ Lisa can’t be ugly.

A Black cherub approaches me. She ain’t got two front teeth to cut with.

“Picture?” Her finger points back to the old Mona’ Lisa.

I smile. Of course dear. I take one with her, holding it up and getting close. I hand it back.

She looks disappointed, but I gave her my best smile.

My teeth radiate. “I’ma be Mona’ Lisa!”

She giggles and hugs me, and as the girl skips off, I keep on smiling. I smile so wide, my cheeks burn!

Mona’ Lisa made me like that, once.

Mona’ Lisa made her like that, now.

Black Art made manifest.

It’s not about showing what you could be — setting a mold for someone else to fit into.

It’s about showing them they can break a mold for themselves.

Black Art ain’t a guideline.

Black Art is an example!

Night fall. The guards are here, but I don’t care.

I stomp through the palace like I run it, because I do.

Land of conquerors — It’s mine!

Little Miss Louvre temple think she impenetrable?

I’ma raid it. This my temple, now. The God ain’t Porcelain! I find the Mona’ Lisa — oh, Girlfriend ugly now.

Guards are coming. The scissors I snuck in my stocking goes snip-snip. I cut a hole where Mona’ Lisa is — the smile and the brunette locks. I shove myself in her place.

Bright light!

“Huh, Mona’ est surement plus mignon maintenant!”

They’ll get my name right eventually.

This Monet’s Smile.

Black and Beautiful.

#THECRAFT: 6 Things Artists Need to Know About Social Media

Art, Articles, Essays, Non-Fiction

By: Steven Underwood

What’s Güd?

A lot of you guys have been asking me for advice on this pro-art thing so I decided why not turn this into a series?

Today, we will be covering social media in this steadily rising landscape. All artists know that exposure is important, but how to use it is kind of a hit-or-miss. What’s SEO? Are metrics important? Should I have a high follower count?

Read sweet babies. Let me guide you.

  1. Twitter vs. Instagram: social media platforms are as diverse as they are specific in execution. The main question artists ask is what they should be on? Maybe you know you should be on social media, but you’ve heard conflicting success stories about both. Essentially, it’s important to look at these mediums for what they prioritize. Writers have gained a lot of success on Twitter due to its idea and written based format; careers are literally defined based on how successful your thoughts are and that’s why it’s so important to apply this to your work. Instagram is far more visual. Just think about it, we’ve all heard the term IG model before, not Twitter Model. Brands and clients pay more attention to what they can see on a platform designed to make what you see better! Graphic designers should pay special heed to this, but not too much. Twitter has a need for Design as a form of meme generation and gif processing. I hear the older folk asking “What about Facebook?” Eh… Facebook as a brand is good for getting news out, or posting updates, but you can get better reach with these other two. It has a use, but as a support to these other two formats.
  2. Network Groups: Networking is 80% of the job. If you don’t know anyone, you won’t get far– no matter your talent. In writing, this means you should be hunting for the DM group chat on Twitter and doing whatever you can to stand out and participate. This includes online Forums and FB groups. Keep your name in their mouthes and betaread! Giving criticism and doing reviews for other writers will not only get your name out, but that translates into more Social Media advocacy. Followers are closely watched by publications. They matter! What matters more is if your posts are being shared by others who might have a larger network than you, or if you’re interacting with someone who has a better standing socially. This doesn’t mean be fake, or lie about what you review, but authentically these people share the same passion you do. The rest is simple to iron out. Visual Artists on IG should go to Meet-Ups, and frequent groupchats as well. Also, don’t be afraid to spam!
  3. Metrics/Avoid Purchasing Followers: This is a big one, and it isn’t top priority because now most people know its bad. Essentially, your follower count is only as good as a Thesis statement in an essay: it’s vital, but not as good as your body paragraph. Metrics are fat superior. For Example, my twitter account @Blaqueword, boasts a pretty 1k in followers, pretty average. However, my impressions range into the 40,000s. How? My followers are frequent and avid users and my tweets “go in”. Basically, more of my followers interact and share my content AND they have a larger follower count than me (boasting 100 active followers with a blue check mark works out soooo well). As long as I use this, my posts and shares will always guarantee me an upward trajectory! However, purchasing followers works out worse for you. If your followers are all not interacting, clients/brands will notice and hold it against you. It makes you a creative catfish. Sure, they should be interested in you because they like your work, but that’s not a good bottomline. They want someone who can guarantee sells or interest. You just don’t. Organically generating followers always works out.
  4. Scheduled Posts: This is probably the most difficult feat. Staying on top of your social media is important and draining. Sometimes, there just isn’t enough hours in a day. Well, not postinf frequently enough in one day can drastically harm your impressions and therefore your metrics. If every 10,000 impressions gets you 2 followers and they afford you 300 bonus impressions with whether they like/share your posts, you miss out on a lot of potential reach. But, being online limits how much art you actually get to do. Ergo, scheduling. For @Blaqueword, I use Hootsuite. It allows me to not only schedule posts, but knowing my analytics, I can better understand what I should be posting about via knowing my audience. CMS (Content Management Systems) is an important factor in all of this. Know your tools of your craft (or pay someone else to).
  5. Analytics: SMM or Social Media Marketing is all about knowing what your numbers are. This is categorized in so much. For instance, my IG: @Blaqueword holds a humble amount of followers. However, I can increase my range of likes and follows by applying posts at the time specific audience members interact. Most of my followers are from Columbus, OH and like Culturally mindful content on Fridays at 9 PM. So, I post those things at the exact time AND include hashtags to appeal to those groups! Starting off, this is difficult and requires a lot of base-setting. You’ll end up using random hashtags just to see which stick and which do not, but it is a necessary step, so if you’re self-concious about a step, feel free to delete and try again. After all, if you failed that means no one saw, right? (Wrong, god and Beyoncé saw, but they forgive you)
  6. Hire a Writer: Not a self-plug, though I do run several Social Media accounts for brands at a retainer fee. You need to know your medium well enough to pull this off and most of it involves proper writing technique. Writers thrive on social media because we can coordinate our thoughts for the platforms. If you can’t, it’s going to take a lot of footwork to get Followers to fall in. And, honestly, that means you’re depending solely on luck. Don’t do that. If you are incapable of reading trends and knowing what to say at the moment, you probably won’t get a tweet that sticks like grits. Take it from me, a man with 7 viral tweets under his belt, knowing when to say the right combination of words is key!

If this all sounds very business-like, welcome to Art: it’s 60% business. You just got to know how to play it to your advantage. If

Any more questions? Comment! I’m happy to answer.

Steven Underwood (@Blaqueword) is a writer from Columbus, Ohio, where he reigns supreme as the original Urban Bohemian. He received his Bachelor’s in English: Creative Writing and now wanders fiction shelves employing his academic powers to investigate where it says exactly that Black kids can’t be wizards.

Being Black and an emerging writer resisting Trump’s America presents interesting challenges.

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Being Black and an emerging writer resisting Trump’s America presents interesting challenges. You’re rising in an industry that claims to value your voice, and want to incorporate your narrative in a bid for diversity and rebellion, yet refuses to employ you.

It’s not a secret to Black writers — both radical and tame — that Editorial and Publishing is secretly thrush with covert corporate racism. You can actually count on a single hand how many writers of color at all are discovered before they’ve built their own platforms to an extent they very likely do not need the assistance of publishing houses who knock at their doors for a handout. Black Writers are seldom employed to use our nuance and navigation of our complicated lives and the translation of our bodies across the human experience — we are mitigated to a specific seat on specific staffs, many without more than one or two faces that look like ours.

Recently, many companies have made a bid for individuals to speak on POC and Marginalized Community-related politics, but rather than being a challenge to involve voices that aren’t heard, we find that unless we have a specific following behind us, we cannot even get a seat at the kiddy table, let alone an entry-level position with very little income.

Photo by Christin Hume on Unsplash

I had the irony of sitting in the backseat of an LYFT with a woman who had the fortune of working for a Big 5 Publishing House, one I’ve recently been rejected from for whatever reason. She had very little to say about her previous place of employment that I have not heard about many similar places who pay crumbs and ashes to the POC working amongst them while glorifying the pursuits and agendas of whiter, straighter counterparts.
I didn’t propose that this reflects on the BIG 5 publishing house not employing me, because honestly? It could be that I didn’t fit their no qualifications necessary bylines on the job description, and somehow me — a supposedly radical black queer writer with strong feelings on social justice and politics — didn’t fit their search for a writer who feels strongly about “marginalized communities, politics, and social justice).

However, this conversation on experience in writers is ridiculous in itself, because in a community that voices the problem amongst media being that it doesn’t give POC representation of our narratives or stories in any format, how is it that a Writer of Color is able to have any experience?

How do you have experience when you’re not able to be employed?

Quite easily: by working for free. By allowing yourself to be taken advantage of like this is a greasy Motown recording studio, and you’re looking for sounds that can “Cross-over” without that nasty glorification of the dark-skinned talent who made this art.

Photo by Matthew Spiteri on Unsplash

Black Writers have not had the opportunity to contribute the substance that we deserve to be able to contribute in this new age of digital content. There are platforms, but it’s limited and niched. And if we audace to self-publish: we are punished fo rit by those same Publishers; called not “good enough” for literary pursuits. That’s not to say that it was any better before — that’s to say that the current environment is just a different head of the hydra.

I wish I was the only writer of color — the only BLACK Writer with this issue, but I have counted 15 peers who have hit the same roadblocks, and we have all found our defeat at the hands of a Starry-Eyed White Girl with the Mid-West with a Sylvia Plath button on her backpack and a can-do spirit she wants to impart to the “Poor Blacks” she’s read all about on her friend’s blog.
Your NYU/New School Admission Letter and Democratic Party sticker doesn’t make you better than any of us. It makes you more privileged and it makes you more palatable to the audiences that the Publisher and Editors want money from.

Photo by Andrew Vickers on Unsplash

Ergo, it makes you almost as bad as the Gentrification you’re likely contributing to.

And Yes. I do come off as angry or wrathful in this particular piece/excerpt/chapter about the issues of marginalization I encounter. Maybe, it’s because I’m angry and wrathful, Lindsey?

At one point, I had dreams of working for GQ. As a Fashion enthusiast, a menswear advocate and a lover of a good fashion blog, It thrilled me to find a magazine that fit my personality. It became the thing I marked my career trajectory with.

I had dreams of also working for Marvel, and writing for the X-Men gave me hopes of sharing something with my father who gave me my first comic despite losing him to a mutation of his own genes. I had many other aspirations of becoming an editor — or becoming a content creator — or a novelist. So many things, but each and every industry has found its way to slam its doors closed at Black writers!

Photo by Julian Howard on Unsplash

And the few journals and magazines catering specifically to Black writers, or writers of color, are so congested with writers fighting for their voices to be heard, that it’s a mound of talented individuals clawing at each other to get to the top.

This is not the fault of Black Writers trying to be heard in a world that has silenced us since the Harlem Renaissance: this is the fault of the major companies and corporations who do not want to admit their inherent biases enough to realize that their Diversity initiatives have turned Black writers and creators into TOKENS.

I invite you to prove me wrong: search any of the Big 5 Companies — hell, search any editorial staff that isn’t Blavity or LATINX. Count how many Black Writers are on staff. Expand your search. Count how many Writers of Color are on their board.

Now, look at all “diverse” stories they’ve published. Will you notice a consistent trend among what’s being published?
Will you notice that the diversity initiatives by these companies are heavily white washed or place a glorifying eye onto whiteness in a way that makes them seem “troubled, but by golly — they don’t know any better!”

The particular Blackness depicted in all of these stories and narratives are structured counter-culturally against the issues and culture of poverty and class. You will never find a story of ghetto, slum or hood lifestyles, or even symmetrical comparisons — because the elitism being pushed forward heavily leans to drowning specific kinds of blackness and uplifting the more “tolerable” versions of it by the fault of the publications.

Refer to my Motown metaphor, you will notice a recurring theme in the performance.

“Four young people smiling while talking near a staircase outside a building” by Alexis Brown on Unsplash

Diversity is just the newest incarnation of the Mainstream Cross-Over culture of the 1960s — it’s not that original. It’s saying we can only be accepted by an artform when our art matches a certain tone. It’s saying we can’t all make it, so only the ones that they can accept will do it.

It’s troubling, and unless these companies are willing to confront this directly, they are hypocrites.

And there is very little as disgusting asa liberal hypocrite.

#TRENDSETTER: Kanye West’s YE Album and Kim Kardashian

#TRENDSETTER, Art, Articles, Culture, Music, Non-Fiction

By: Steven Underwood

You have an opinion on Kanye’s new album?

Dope. I don’t.

Over the past year, Kanye West has found some justified criticisms, and the fact that he leveraged that criticism into publicity is no one’s fault but the consumers who fell for it. Me? I wasn’t into it, I didn’t buy any of the outrage and any issue I took to his comments were mine own. I very pointedly stated this to a specific twitter account for fine art and art cultivation:

“When I cancel someone for being hazardous to our culture, I don’t mean it ironically. A man stands by his word, and an artist stands by their heart.”

It could be because I wasn’t that much of a fan of Kanye’s to begin with. I know of some who would skin their baby sister alive to breathe Ye’s backwash, and that inflates the legend that was Kanye West for me, but there was really not that much satisfaction I reaped from him.  I bopped to “Jesus Walks,” and “All Falls Down”; I know that College Drop-out was a defining moment for Hip-Hop. I know Donda raised better, and deserves better than what this minstrel show is presenting to us, but I don’t care about Kanye West. Never did. And probably never will.

Speaking of Donda – Kim Kardashian sustains herself on being a trash person and making “ignorant” comments just to increase her revenue that consists itself on drama, negativity and the outrage generated by the stupidity her family perpetuates, so I will NOT be focusing on the Donda’s House scenario much. What I will do, is say I am excited to donate to the advancement and mission of the new community support and outreach program that fills the voice of Donda’s House with the staff that has done such a terrific job at empowering the Community Kanye West once hailed from and Kim Kardashian flies over on her way to some sadidy penthouse.

There are too many underground rappers out here to cape for Kanye West.

Check out the single, “Jungle”, by Villenz from Columbus, OH.

https://open.spotify.com/album/0xabwsZqgrSuaTq419Wqom

https://itunes.apple.com/us/artist/illy/1017166404

For more music by Villenz, follow their SoundCloud.

https://soundcloud.com/anunnaki-villenz

 

Disagree? Change my mind below in the comments.

#TBT: EOP Honor Society Induction

Fashion

Best day to wear a turtle neck with your blazer: is all the time.

Love, Steven

Art, Poetry

The feeling of being hurt by the first person you allowed to love you, and refusing to allow yourself to be loved ever again after.

#TRENDSETTER: CONGRATULATIONS TO ‘STREET SERENADE APPAREL’’s GIANNA ROSS @ the #WCWFashionShow

#TRENDSETTER, Fashion

By: Steven Underwood

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

#Wcwfashionshow set it off with Gianna (or Gia, as she is affectionately called)’s ode to the Streets.

Yesterday, New Jersey native, Gianna Ross, released her street inspired collection for Street Serenade Apparel. Her line focused on the dynamic looks of rap, hip-hop and black culture, celebrating the fierce nobility in our nouveau noir generation. The bold Centenary University Alum’s showcase stunted, featuring several of her sorors as models for her collection.

“Heart Beat Of The Streets”

An ode to the Streets, Culture, & the People that arose from it. Using the streets as our muse & embracing our journey, from the ground up🥀✊🏻✊🏼✊🏽✊🏾✊🏿

Do what Janelle Monae said: Femme the future and follow her Movement!

IG: streetserenadeapparel

IG (Owner): Gia_lizz

Like, Comment and Follow for a close look at this artist’s journey!

#LOOKS: STEVE, HEIR OF SLYTHERIN

Fashion

By: Steven Underwood

Crappy Camera quality and grimaces are all a part of College Life.

I guess it started with a comment. Sorted into Hufflepuff with the release of the Pottermore test, I’ve always expected to get the normal flack most people throw:

Ha ha, you’re in the useless house!

Aren’t you guys, like, the “special” case wizards? Like the high needs student organization on campus?

I never expected the sideway glance of everyone and the astonished confusion in a: “Huh, you should retake the test, you’re clearly a Slytherin 🐍”

I wanted to be insulted, but they’re right. From my attention to cunning, ambition, viciousness and abandon to collateral damage in my pursuit of Honesty, I do evoke the very visage of a Slytherin. Since then, I’ve noticed my clothing choices have swung away from a neutral Fall coordination and right into an provocative inclusion of sharper colors of agile and ferocity: of Emeralds and Teals. Specifically, my interview attire (seen below) is something that channels the cut throat calmness of a Lawyer: an energy that says murder isn’t something i like or dislike, just something I have to do on Tuesdays

Maybe I should retake that test, and just accept the tact my compassion might be dwindling as I age.

Thick Dad Bod, But Make It Fashion — Slytherin.

Featured Look: Thrift Store Find (Gap Vest); Amazon (Allegra K Men Long Turtle Neck – Black); ASOS Pork Pie in Forest Green

#Looks: Banging Bangles

Fashion

All-new Bangles I snatched from ASOS. I think they make me look fancier when leafing through a GQ of stuff I will never be able to afford. Broke King Things.

#INSPIRE: LOVE FOR GQ

#TRENDSETTER, Articles, Non-Fiction

“I want to be an authentic, unapologetic warrior for black culture and the culture of the street and how it moves. My thing is most importantly to change the narrative of the black race. I can’t relate to anything that isn’t about that.” — Love, formerly Sean Diddy Combs, for GQ April 2018.

Here are a few of my favorite pictures from his shoot. Got any favorites? Comment below!

#LISTEN: KISS THE BOY BY KEIYNAN LONSDALE

#TRENDSETTER, Music

By: Steven Underwood

Listen to LEGEND OF

TOMORROW’s Keiynan Lonsdale’s newest single about love, happiness and acceptance. Keiynan Lonsdale is not only known for playing Kid Flash/Wally West on THE FLASH, but coming out as bisexual earlier this year.

For other versions, head over to http://keiynan.com/

Like the song? Comment below!