The BackList

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Wednesday, December 28, 2005

nat creole

A very cool online magazine called Nat Creole has a new issue posted with fiction from Miles Marshall Lewis and an interview with Zakes Mda. Check it out.

business models

I was just having a conversation with my godsister about publishing. She was commenting on the fact that reading is down, there is so much competition, etc. Of course she is right but I told her I believed there is still a place for books, but publishers have to connect the process of reading with the product. Can't just push books and not push the process behind it. And there is the antiquated business model that makes it hard for companies to actually connect with readers. You do see initiatives to get around that (like reading group plans, etc) but there is still this distance. But publishers have to realize that you can't just sell books traditionally anymore and that be it.

This article from NYT is about indie music labels and how they are becoming more savvy in reaching customers via the internet, etc while big comglomerates are struggling because they are still depending on an old business model involving radio play. How many of us really still listen to the radio like we used to, especially when they play the same crap all the time?

This article really resonated with me and could be thought about from a publishing perspective.

Monday, December 19, 2005

look what i found on google

The heavily edited version (my writing has never been very straight/narrow, i think i tried to be too creative, instead of laying down the facts) of the profile I did about Calvin Reid, news editor at Publishers Weekly and very important literary figure. It’s appeared in the Sept/Oct issue of Black Issues Book Review. Not only is Calvin extremely knowledgeable, he is a very nice guy as well.

It’s amazing the things you find when you google yourself.

awards and validation

The New Yorker has an article about awards, validation and uses the bold example of the black writers that banded together after Toni Morrison was denied award recognition for Beloved. The article brings up a good point, how much do we care about awards like the Pulitizer, NBCC, Nobel Prize? Do we buy that they are indeed unbiased and purely based on creative achievement? But, let's keep it real, I'd be one happy writer if I were to ever be even considered for one of those "validations."

Speaking of biases, NYT's public editor discusses the fairness of the paper reviewing staff books. Of the 100 Notable books this year, 6 were written by NYT staffers. I had to ask myself. Do I care? Yeah, a little. And maybe that isn't the correct question, perhaps I guess I have an understanding that there is a certain level of "corporate nepotism." And I guess I only "trust" notable and best book lists when I agree with them. That makes life alot easier.

I mean if Iworked at the NYT, you better believe I would try to have the paper review my book, , it would be stupid for me not to. And I would probably be pissed if they didn't. And then But then you think about the countless books that the NYT can't review because of "space limitations" and you begin to wonder. But hey, I'm a realist.

What I don't believe in is friends/enemies reviewing each other's books, especially for a flagship publication (the number one publication quote you'd put on a book jacket). The article also addresses the Times reviewer selection process which doesn't seem incredibly tight:

Kathryn Harrison, author of the memoir "The Kiss," was chosen to write a
November review of "Are Men Necessary?" by Ms. Dowd
, a Times columnist. The
Book Review editors made the decision even though they knew about a
1997 Dowd column
in which she referred to the Harrison memoir about a
four-year consensual affair with her father as "creepy people talking about
creepy people."

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Crisis Magazine

Perhaps I should be ashamed to admit this but for the first time, I've seen a real copy of Crisis Magazine, the NAACP publishing outlet. Well that isn't totally correct, I saw some copies from W.E.B Dubois days in Harvard's library (that was very cool) but I just don't hear about the magazine enough to remember that it is alive and well. I was pretty impressed with the copy I "borrowed" from work. It's the one with Rosa Parks on the cover and it contains some very thoughtful book reviews. Long ones at that! I couldn't think of another black-oriented magazine that dedicated that many pages to literature. I want to write for it.

New book coming soon from Jeff Chang

From Jeff Chang….Check out info on his next book.

Fam, it's been a crazy year on so many levels--but it is ending up nice in these parts. Can't Stop Won't Stop is scooping up year-end awards.
The details are all here:

If you're looking for a special gift, check out the special CSWS offer at the DJ Shadow Store:

The paperback version on Picador Books has begun shipping. All the words of the original in a more portable, shoulder-friendly, cash-saving size and weight and price! Stuff your stockings or add to your Winter Quarter or Semester reading lists now. Full-size first-edition hardcovers are still available, but going fast. You can order either just by clicking through the

Jeff will be kicking off 2006 with a tour to promote the paperback. You can always check here for the latest

We're also very happy to announce that Jeff has inked a deal with Basic Civitas Books to edit a new anthology entitled Next Elements: Hip-Hop's Future Aesthetics. The book documents the myriad ways that hip-hop has transformed not just popular music, but theater, dance, poetry, writing, and the visual arts. Featuring original contributions by many of the world's leading young artists, the book presents a multifaceted argument that hip-hop is the engine behind the global art of the future.

Next Elements will showcase writings by Danny Hoch, Eisa Davis, and Raquel Cepeda, feature discussions with Greg Tate, Vijay Prashad, Mark Anthony Neal, Sanford Biggers, and DOZE. More contributors and commitments will be announced in the spring of 2006.

The book project emerged from the Future Aesthetics project of the La Pea Cultural Center, made possible by a grant from a Ford Foundation initiative to create public discourse around changing demographics and emerging aesthetics.

Next Elements will be published and will go live in the winter of 2006.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Getting our youth to read

In the age of ipods, xboxes, and rap music (I sound like my mother), getting our young people to read, and I am thinking about our teens, is incredibly difficult, but not impossible.

Barbara Summers has recently edited an anthology entitled Open the Unusual Door: True Life Stories of Challenge, Adventure, and Success by Black Americans. Perfectly packaged for youth ages 13 and up (it's short and pocket-sized), it is a collection of sixteen inspiring essays from a diverse range of African Americans including Derek Jeter, Russell Simmons, and Colin Powell as well as Michael Cottman, Peter Westbrook, and Neil de Grasse Tyson. All in all, these stories teach youth how to recognize the many faces of opportunity and to know that when one door closes, another one is sure to open.

Barbara is a fascinating woman herself. She was a Ford model for 17 years (when there weren't many brown ones) and edited the bestselling I Dream A World and wrote the groundbreaking book about black fashion models, Skin Deep. She's now an educator dedicated toseeing Open the Unusual Door in every school across the country.

In my spare time, I've been helping Barbara reach out to young people about the book. It is definitely a beautiful struggle, but one we both believe in passionately.

So if you know any young people in your life, consider buying them a copy. And as a little incentive, the author, along with her publisher, Houghton Mifflin is sponsoring an Open the Unusual Door Essay Contest. Young people can enter to win cash prizes.

Check out the book at

Friday, December 09, 2005

Got One?

Got One?

I have only a few BackList t-shirts left. They make a wonderful holiday gift (I should know everyone in my fam is getting one). And they are just so fashionable.

At $16.00, you just cant beat it!

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

chapbooks and broadsides

From today's PW Daily:

Hoping to prove good things come in small packages, Random House is rushing a
stand alone edition of Maya Angelou's recently-delivered original poem Amazing
Peace. The poem, which was written (and read by the author) for the December 1
Christmas Tree lighting at the White House, will be packaged in a hardcover
edition by the publisher. Retailing for $9.95, the book, which will be a slight
30 pages and trimmed at approximately 5"x7", Random hopes Amazing will perform as well as the last stand-alone edition the company did for an Angelou poem: in
1993 Random had a bestseller with a 32-page edition of On the Pulse of Morning,
which Angelou read at the Clinton inauguration. That Angelou will be appearing
on The Oprah Winfrey Show this Friday (December 9) certainly bodes well for
sales…and justifies the sizeable 230,000 print run. Can you say stocking


Goldmine for sure.

This made me think about broadsides (not sure why) but I wonder if they would be profitable today? I think about Dudley Randall's and his launching of a press based on broadsides and wonder if the format could work today? Probably not because they would have to battle with technology, but I always thought the idea was so cool.

say it ain't so

this isn't publishing related, but deserved attention, nonetheless.

anybody that knows me, knows I am a huge Mary J. Blige fan. I mean I've been there from the beginning with You Remind Me. I was there through the drugs and bad relationships, the bad color jobs and the sometimes bad live performances. But still I loved her and didn't judge...

Despite how much I love her. She should not, I repeat, not play NINA SIMONE in an upcoming movie. I'm sorry. Should I start a petition?

First of all, Mary is not an actress. Why does every singer/rapper feel they need to "dabble" in acting. Stay in your own lane, sometimes that is best. Now of course some have genuine talent (I'm thinking Mos Def) but most (I'm thinking Usher) need to fall back.

Second, Nina is on a whole nother level, one that Mary won't be able to capture. Can I tell you that woman gives me chills? "Bird in the sky you know how i feel" goes through me.

I'm am very upset right now (100 times more mad than when I heard they were going to remake Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, how can you butcher a classic?)

Friday, December 02, 2005

shattered idealism

Speaking of depressing. One of my tasks at work includes organizing book sales figures. As a result, I am beginning to realize that it is incredibly difficult to sell books.

Well perhaps I should clarify. It is incredibly difficult to sell books if you don’t have the marketing and publicity resources (money, time, I can’t stress time enough) of say a Random House. Not to imply that all books published by Random House get the “Random House” treatment. Another depressing fact.

And it just keeps going. Not only are a lot of books not selling like they should, we (the publishing industry) just keep acquiring and acquiring, so there are more and more books that don’t perform the way they could.

Working at a small house has given me insight into the resource constraints of publishers. I always would side with the author saying it is a shame that publishers don’t do more in terms of marketing/publicity, but to be quite honest, sometimes they are doing all they can, they truly wish they could do more, but other demands pull them in all sorts of directions.

When I hear that self-publishers are selling 10,000 copies on their own, I look at them with renewed admiration. That’s a big deal.

But then I am like, wouldn’t it be nice if publishing companies could have one-two people completed dedicated to the marketing/publicity of one title for a year. Could you imagine? But it just can’t happen.

Part of me is wondering if the industry should just publish less books? But then that isn’t an answer. Alas.

the year of magical thinking

i've just started reading The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion (page 55). It's heavy. The press release letter said that it has an uplifting aspect, which obviously i haven't gotten to.

but already i can say that it deserves all its accolades. On one hand her descriptions about grief are so numbingly eloquent. You just want to absorb her words from a craft standpoint. And on the other hand, because they are so eloquent, you want to forget them as soon as you read them because you don't want to visit or revisit such pain.


BackList got a little, small shoutout (well maybe that wouldn't be the correct word) in the December issue of Boldtype.

The very smart Linda Chavers reviewed Hung and a link to my interview with the author, Scott Poulson-Bryant was included.

I met Linda recently. And just like me she is young, smart, ambitious and loves books. Damn, I can make myself sound good. I don't meet too many people my age that like to read and can get a joke I might make about publishing. Look out for her byline!

Can I tell you that this interview with Scott is probably the most popular article ever on BackList? I wonder if that has anything to do with the fact that we talk about penises. Brown ones at that.


If you don't subscribe or know about Boldtype. I recommend it.