“Literature is indispensable to the world. The world changes according to the way people see it, and if you alter, even by a millimeter, the way a person looks at reality, then you can change it.”
All my life, I wanted to be a self-made man. I dreamed of one day becoming my own boss and owning the affairs of my life. I also dreamed about using my writings to uplift people around the world. As I look at the occurrences in my life I see that I’m inching closer and closer to achieving these childhood dreams. However, this task is easier said than done.
In the book publishing world, you have tons of independent publishing houses springing up. Some are legitimate companies releasing quality products in a professional manner to the masses of hungry readers. However, others are delivering hastily written E-Books and literary trash that the families of these authors wouldn’t even feel comfortable supporting. At this juncture in history, it’s hard to separate the real authors and publishers from the pretenders, fakes and dirty hustlers.
Dictionary.com defines the word boss as “a person who makes decisions, exercises authority and/or dominates.” Simply put, a boss finds his way to stand above the crowd. You see it in every arena, especially in the sector of business. A boss is someone (male or female) who is defined by their morals and work ethic. They march to the beat of their own drum, forcing others to fall in line with their plans or get crushed if paths are ever crossed. A boss is a BMB (Business Minded Brother) or SRT (Sister Running Things) on steroids!
You can’t put a true boss in a creative prison. They walk their own path and create the projects that they approve of. The funny thing about it is that the work that these bosses release are always critically acclaimed in some sort of fashion. It’s almost like they force the consumers to see the world through their unique viewpoint.
This past weekend I had the opportunity to talk to Rahiem Brooks, owner of the independent publishing company Prodigy Publishing Group. He’s is also an award winning, national best-selling author of five novels. Rahiem is also known for his no-holds-barred advice and opinions on the publishing industry. As you read the interview, make sure you take notes. He’s really dropping jewels on subjects that are rarely discussed!
Randall: How do you feel about the current landscape of the black independent publishing market?
Rahiem Brooks: Great question, which I hope you’re prepared to get me a body guard if I reply honestly. (chuckles) I can’t speak about the landscape per se. I work to be an independent publishing house, and not a “black” independent publishing house. There is a lot of the blind leading the blind. Not many people look to learn the business or pay people to effectively do things for them.
It’s like being President Obama. He has a cabinet. Each cabinet member advises him on the things that he doesn’t know and provides him with options to make informed decisions. I don’t want to be an author without respect and being recognized for excellence. Outside of the authors performance one of my pet peeves is people that charge to promote sub-par material. It’s very saddening that people promote novels that meet the lowest publishing bar, and have people spend their hard earned money on these products. These same people turn around and want to petition Amazon to stop people from making returns.
I confess that over my four years in publishing, I’ve had three-five returns in the Kindle Store. Quality material is not returned. There are some people that do it right, and I applaud them as they continue to breathe life into the industry. But the many bad apples make people have no faith in the indie process, and prompts them to avoid buying any indie products.
Randall: What distinguishes a quality independent book from one that’s subpar at best?
Rahiem Brooks: Any book should have reputable and professional editing and proofreading. Professional book cover design, preferably one that sets the book apart from it’s competitors. That’s the great divider. The marketing, promotion, and PR will then determine who has the better product. Because an author writes better and has a better story line doesn’t mean they’ll sell more units. How that product is displayed will be the determining factor.
Randall: Earlier this year, you released a Google Play app. What inspired that move?
Rahiem Brooks: I found that my sales and demand was plateauing. I had to sit and think of plans to effective bolster my sales and brand. An app in the Apple and Google Play stores affords me the opportunity to meet people that are not connected to me through my social media networks. I am looking for avenues to advance my platform that doesn’t rely solely on me. All of my Facebook and Instgram friends that want my books and app already have it. The rest don’t and probably never will buy a book, share a status, or be of any benefit to my brand. So, I found it imperative to develop an app, adapt to audio books, and write for CNN iReport. The bigger the audience, the bigger the sales.
Randall: How important is having a strong social media presence to the modern day author?
Rahiem Brooks: Well, I am not so sure that a strong social media presence is a requirement. One thing that I pride myself on is operating the same way that publishing houses did prior to the Internet. As I stated early, you max out on your presence with FB. When I post things, I can predict who will like it. No matter how great you are some people are just not going to pat you on the back.
If they’ve been your FB friend for three years and you’ve published five books and they have none, they aren’t going to buy one. Focusing on them to make a sale is pointless. Which is why I have been focusing on branding in areas not involving Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. I can be at an event and have several people tell me about places I’ve been or things I did, but I don’t recall them liking a pic or discussing any of my posts. I make it a point to participate in my news feed, because I want to be engaging.
Randall: How do you effectively engage your readers?
Rahiem Brooks: I find that my readers like me as a man first and author second. They like my story. Where I’ve come from and what I now represent. Those people are my fans. I like to entertain and some people love me for that and some hate me, although neither group has ever met me. I focus on the people that love me.
Randall: At the 2014 National Black Writers Conference, AALBC.com founder Troy Johnson dropped a bomb on the world about the mass closure of independently owned African-American bookstores. What’s your take on this and how can we turn the tide?
Rahiem Brooks: I’ve written about this before, and I maintain that African-American owned book stores need to maintain a higher level of respect for authors and buyers. Some book stores look to make more off the sale of a book than the author. It’s absurd for an indie author to buy a book for $4 and sell it to a store for $6, but the store sells it to the consumer for $15, for a $9 profit. So the author makes $2. Many indie authors don’t have the capital to buy in bulk to get the bigger discounts. Also, many book stores don’t give new authors a chance. They expect to stay in business selling blockbuster series by K’wan, Wahida Clark, and Deja King. How is that possible? When their customers buy all of the top selling author’s books and there’s nothing new to buy, they have nothing else to offer. Many have not made the move into the 21st century either. If I owned a book store, I would sell E-books, as well. Everything is about going into the future.
Randall: Your novels are vastly different from the books that we see released from other black owned, independent publishing companies. How have you been able to keep your projects fresh? Also, how important is diversity in the African-American literary industry?
Rahiem Brooks: I am a black author, but that’s the extent of it. Race doesn’t play any part in this for me. I am keenly aware that I write to entertain fans of a genre, not a race. I had lunch with Walter Mosley for my 34th birthday in New York City. One of the questions that I asked him was should I make my main characters white, so that they’re widely accepted across racial lines. He adamantly told me that was not the way to go. He stressed that all of his heroes are black and no publisher would change that. And I now understand that. I have readers of all races and I’ve been expanding across cultures selling books in India, Israel, Australia and Pakistan. Again, people that like mysteries, thrillers, and suspense are not focused on the race of the characters, but the storyline and storytelling. James Patterson is most famous for the Cross Series. Alex Cross is African-American, the stories are well written, and probably the top selling series of all time.
Randall: By the time this article is published, it will be read by many young adults striving for better in the world. What is your message to them?
Rahiem Brooks: Education is king, know that. That doesn’t mean that you must go to college, but you must read and self-educate to help in making informed decisions. I constantly read magazines, books, and blogs on my profession. I sponge information like a doctor. I am always at workshops and taking courses on business related matters, even things that I may know. A new approach to an old topic could be beneficial. I read books on etiquette, too. I like to know how to act according to the world-at-large and not the neighborhood that I grew up in.
Randall: What upcoming projects do you have coming up?
Right now, I am doing more work as an independent editor, typesetter, and reviewer. I do that to have an all-around working knowledge of the business. I have five paperback novels published and working on numbers six ,seven , and eight simultaneously. They are tentatively titled: MURDER IN LOVE PARK (the sequel to MURDER IN GERMANTOWN), PRETTY BOY THUGS, and MR. CONFIDENCE.
Find out more about Rahiem Brooks at:
Web Site: http://www.rahiembrooks.com
Apple and Google Play App Link: http://rahiembrooks.mobapp.at
Facebook Fan Page: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Novelist-Rahiem-Brooks/168128746598922
Do you have any questions or comments for me? Is there someone you’d like me to interview? I would love to hear from you! Contact me directly at:
Twitter: @AuthorRandallB & @TeamYGB25
Check out a preview of my debut novel “The Diary of Aaliyah Anderson” on Wattpad today! It’s coming soon!