TRUE TO FORM

Meeting Al-Saadiq Banks was a true enlightenment and inspiration. I called him up and, I swear, it was almost like I was talking to my own twin: a man who understood the struggle, in finding a way to straddle the invisible line between intellect and aggressive egotistical street expectations; between respectability and savagery. A man whom, much like myself, shall answer the call and lead the charge, in a boardroom or a back alley and give you all you ask for, without question. For he is the type to go the extra mile and put in the extra work, always giving more than expected, because, in everything he does, he has a point to prove, in that he yearns to succeed beyond all doubts and/or expectations.

 

 I could just go on and on about this man. I mean, I was really just that impressed, and, I promise you, I am, by far, not just  some celebrity-author jocking fan. If you don’t EARN my respect, it is not so freely given. However, when one does, I’ll yell from the mountain top to give it. Al-Saadiq Banks, earned my respect to the fullest.
alsaadiqsmokin
Being as well read, as I like to think I am, I am sorta surprised that I wasn’t up on Al-Saadiq. This man is a real weapon of the urban lit. field. An honor roll student all through school who never even thought about living within the chaotic realms of the streets. Al-Saadiq didn’t grow up wanting to be the next D-Boy or hood star, and never even imagined it so. No, as a youngster, Al-Saadiq chased but one thing: an education. And, in fact, it was his chase of an education which ultimately lead him to the streets.

 

Encouraged by his, up to then mostly absent, dad to do so, Al-Saadiq, enrolled in college, to study electrical engineering, with the understanding that his dad would cover the costs and, in fact, his dad did cover those costs, for the first year. The second year, his dad backed out of the arrangement entirely, at which point, Al-Saadiq, turned to an old friend who’d become a successful D-Boy. Impressively, the friend picked up the burden and covered all of Al-Saadiq’s second year costs for school. But, by the third year, it turned all bad and Al-Saadiq had to get out and do for himself. Calling on his old street buddies to put him in the game, Al-Saadiq eventually turned to the streets, to hustle the money he needed for school. That’s when the beast emerged.

 

 Always wanting to do his best, and make a shining impression while doing so. Just as in school where run of-the-mill average was never good enough, Al-Saadiq remained true to form and took to claim his place as an honor roll student of the game and, dropping out of school, he eventually spent 17 years in the streets doing just that. Shot twice ( once in 1994 and again in 1996)  Al-Saadiq, luckily, never fell prey to the penal system so, in some ways, you could say he made it. For, when Al-Saadiq’s girl got pregnant things began to change.

 

 With the advent of the coming child, of course, Al-Saadiq vowed to be there to do his best and he knew that meant leaving the streets. So he slowed his roll and sat at home and, then, he began to write about the addictive street life which he still longed for. Within 3 months he’d written his first semi-autobio affectionately called “NO EXIT” and ironically NO EXIT would actually go on to become the exit he was searching for. The year was 2002.

 

Always a boss, Al-Saadiq turned to the then popular do-it-yourself print on demand (POD) version of self-publishing. Going with a company called iUniverse, Al-Saadiq would eventually spend upwards of $20,000.00 to print up 2000 books and, with the market being what it was at the time, the books began to move just like the dope he’d once sold. Until, finally, he’d netted the attention of a once-popular independent distributor who’d put the word in the stores and in the streets to find him. And, the rest, as they say, is history. Al-Saadiq is now 9 hot full-length novels in the game and still going strong, as owner and CEO of TRUE 2 LIFE PRODUCTIONS.

 

But, Ok, that’s enough from me, go ahead and meet the man Al-Saadiq.
Al-Saadiq all 3 books
Godfather:  Nine titles in the game. Go ahead and name them for us.

 

Al Saadiq: No, Exit, Block Party 1, Sincerely Yours, Caught em Slippin, Block Party 2, Block Party 3, Strapped, Back 2 Business(BP4), Young Gunz, in that order.

 

Godfather: Facebook seems to be the goto spot for marketing these days, do you do a lot of marketing on Facebook?

 

Al Saadiq:  I utilize all the social media networks but maybe not to the degree that I should. I’m getting better with it.

 

Godfather:  Do you use any other social media sites for marketing?  If so, which ones and which do you find to be most effective?

 

Al Saadiq: I’m heavy on twitter and I post sporadically on Instagram. I find Facebook to be the most effective when it comes to building a base and having your readers right at your fingertips. But overall I believe Instagram is where it’s at if you know the hashtags to use to bring you into other people’s networks and expose yourself to new arenas.

 

Godfather: What other marketing tools do you use?

 

Al Saadiq: In business I learn something new everyday and I try out new tactics everyday. With no formal training in marketing, I just have to try my hand and see what works. Sometimes you hit and sometimes you miss.

 

Godfather: You’ve been at the game as, an independent, for a long time. To what do you attribute your success?

 

Al Saadiq: Hard work, persistence and pure stubbornness.

 


Godfather: 
What are the biggest mistakes most new authors make? 
Al Saadiq:  I believe the biggest mistakes new authors make is coming in the game competing with the veterans instead of learning all they can learn from the authors who have been in the game before them. I’ve seen many new authors come in with the arrogance and not even get past their first book. Humility is key. It’s all about the delivery. There are some veterans who won’t give advice no matter what but you have a lot who will. If you come in the game with the “I’m the best” or “I’m the only official dude writing” mentality, most of us will sit back and watch you crash. That’s just the way it goes.

 

Godfather:  I know you published your first book through an on-line print on demand company named iUniverse. How did that work for you and would you recommend a new author go through a similar company today?

 

 

Al Saadiq:  In no way do I recommend the online publishing houses.  I see them all as a rip off.  The price they charge you to print your books makes it impossible for you to even compete in the market place. Booksellers don’t even respect books that come from those companies because they know that those companies will take any book from anybody just as longas the author can pay their fees.  Also with the price you pay them, you can use the same money to self publish. I stand on INDEPENDENCE.

 

Godfather: Distribution is almost like the holy grail to success, because even the best product in the world won’t succeed without placement and exposure. So, what kind of advice would you give a new author on acquiring distribution?

 

Al Saadiq:  With the market being as tight as it is, the shelf life of a book is probably about a week. Your book is new and in demand today and by the end of the week it’s considered old. You have to keep the life pumping in your book and understand that a book is never old as long as there are people out there who never read it. In order to obtain distribution you should first create the demand for you book wherein distributors hear about you long before you even contact them.  Distributors carry
your book, not promote it. The last thing they will do is tie their money up buying your book when other titles that have a bigger hype behind them are out there for the buying. To you, your book is your life but to them it’s all in the flip.

 

Godfather:  What are some of the current challenges in the industry? What do you find to be the most difficult element to succeeding as an independent author/publisher?

 

 

Al Saadiq: Distribution is and has always been the biggest issue of our genre. Then the distributors we do have in this genre, a great deal of the ones of our color can’t separate business from personal. We also have the crab in the barrel mindset all over this genre. It’s very cliquish and if you’re not apart of THE CLIQUE, there’s a chance that you will be overshadowed. I find the politics of this business to be the biggest obstacle. First of all as an independent, which they call self-published, they frown their noses down at you. But if you sign that same book over to the major publishing houses you’re now looked upon with more prestige. As an independent some of the biggest platforms like Walmart and Target are most times not even available to us which makes the playing field uneven.

 

Godfather: Unlike it was in the early years, there’s a flood of new talent in the industry these days. What advice would you give an author on standing out
amongst the crowd?

 

Al Saadiq: With the increase of books in this genre my advice is to put out quality projects and you will stand out among the many who are NOT. Don’t look at this as a hustle to make quick bucks. Look at it as a business and from the longevity aspect of it all.

 

Godfather: Have you ever or do you ever plan to publish other authors under your label, True 2 Life Publications?

 

Al Saadiq: I’ve never published anyone and I really don’t have plans of publishing anyone. First and foremost I’m busy focusing on my career and I’m not where I would like to be. If I published another author they would get slighted because I’m focusing on me and that wouldn’t be fair. Second reason I don’t publish authors is because most of the stories that I would publish come from prisoners, the raw and uncut stories. I have a problem paying BOSSES a royalty. If on the street in their boss stature, I know they would publish their own work but because of the compromising situation they’re in they pretty much have no choice.  I have a problem with that and would feel like I’m taking advantage of them because of their situation.  I will tell you what I’ve told many others who have tried to get signed by me, I won’t publish you but I will walk you through it so you can publish yourself.

 

Godfather: Price competition: What’s your take on the .99 ebook craze?

 

Al Saadiq: I’m not for or against the .99 ebook craze but for me it’s almost like a disrespect to the craft. I sit down for 6-9 months to complete a novel and after all that time I can only make a few pennies off it? It’s not worth it. But for the guys who don’t put time into their craft and produce books in a week, it may make perfect sense to them. It goes back to the question of doing business or hustling?  But really I could never frown my nose at how one eats. Get your money.  If it works for you God bless.  It just doesn’t work for me. I come from the paperback era, 15 bucks a book. Times change and everything runs it’s course, so I get it. At the end of the day, only quality will stand the test of the time so whether you sell your book at .99 or 14.99 the only way it will be around for ten years is if it’s of quality.

 

Godfather: What’s your take on the future of the urban book industry as a whole?

 

Al Saadiq: I see the future of urban books destructing just as it has over the years but at an even more rapid pace. The goal is to again create quality projects that will build you a base and when the urban fiction market self destructs, you will have a base that doesn’t see you as an urban fiction writer, but they see you as a WRITER, bottom line, point
blank, period.

 

Godfather:  Any other advice you want to give or comments you want to share?

 

Al Saadiq: The only advice I really have is what I’ve been yelling the whole interview, QUALITY PROJECTS. That will separate you from the masses.

 

Godfather:Where can your books be found?

 

Al Saadiq:  true2lifeproductions.com, amazon.com and most of the independent bookstores.

 

Godfather: How can you be a reached?

 

Al Saadiq:  @alsaadiqbanks instagram
@alsaadiq twitter
alsaadiqbanks@aol.comal-saadiq banks on Facebook.

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