Paperbacks are dead, is what they said. Ebooks are taking over, that’s what they told us. I remember exchanging letters, with Fwy Rick, back in 2009. Trying to convince him that I was onto something hot, with a bookstore/retail outlet idea I called Raw Truth Distribution. At the time, bookstores were closing like crazy, and, the entire industry was in an uproar about a coming doomsday device called an ebook, which was set to detonate and crumble the entire publishing game. But, they forgot about the West Coast. They forgot that hood books are read by hood folks (most times without an eReader) and they forgot about the long-lasting shelf life of urban lit., in an industry where 10-15 yr throwbacks like True to The Game, the Dutch series and the Cartel series, to name a few, still have people checking for them. An industry where people take pride in their collection of books and like to hold on to them.
Like hip hop music in the 1980’s, hip hop lit also found its initial footing on the Eastern shore. The South came alive, dumping books out of beauty salons, and the industry, as a whole, gathered steam, gaining distribution through the likes of Carl Weber and other powerful industry insiders. But, what about the West? Who’s moving books on the streets of the West? Who’s got the West Coast distribution on lock? Again, we search for names.
On the East coast, it’s common to find young urban authors/publishers out selling on the corners or opening their own bookstores, but, you think of the West and you hear crickets. Well, I’m warning you now: You better keep listening, for, it is most definitely the quiet just before the storm.
Cali Kim is one of the hardest working boss chicks in the West Coast book game. More than just talk, this Queen peeped the need then set out to fill it, opening her store right in the heart of (gun smoke) Central Los Angeles. Having just gotten into the retail game, she is leading the charge and doing amazing business, selling books as quick as she can get them, reminiscent of the East Coast book game some 10 years ago.
Not to be ignored, California has long had independent stores where urban books are sold, such as Smiley’s Bookstore in Carson Ca., Zahara’s Books and Things in Inglewood Ca. and Milligan Books in L.A. Ca., But the energy and vibe of those spots are not as you’d see on the Eastern shore. For example, I can tell you, first hand, as a guy who’s personally written letters reaching out to try and get my books carried in those very stores, no one, absolutely nada, ever even replied. However, through the help of a friend, I did eventually get my book placed in Zahara’s. But, that’s just it, these stores are mostly ran by older women who are not in tune with, nor compassionate towards, the struggles of the average independent urban author who’s just dumping books “out of the trunk” and has no ready “distributor”. Thus, to them, my cries meant nil. Enter the likes of Cali Kim.
Cali Kim (author of Devil in A Red Dress by DaReal Bo$$Lady) is an independent urban author who’s chased the dream and drummed the sound of the urban author’s struggle. And, having done so without distribution, she readily understands the struggle, so, she openned her doors and openned her heart and the readers have responded.
By being an author herself, Cali Kim knew how to tap into the audience she intended to serve. Instead of a reader going out to some quiet little store being ran by some sweet little old granny, with gospel music softly playing in the background, now, readers could go out and experience the urban culture, get ahold of independently released titles (which might not be in many stores) and meet an author face to face all at the same time. Starting to sound like the East Coast a bit? Oh, and, by the way, this Queen does have my book on her shelf. How awesome is that? Thanks, Bo$$ Lady!
Well, enough of that. Let me step back, and turn the light where it’s meant to shine. In case you haven’t heard or don’t already know, here’s the go-getting, beautiful and intelligent Bo$$Lady Kim herself.
Godfather: How long have you been writing?
Kim: . I’ve been writing since I was about 9 years old.
Godfather: Who/what first inspired you to write?
Kim: Life’s experiences is what inspired me to write.
Godfather: What books have you written and what were they about?
Kim: The first book that I wrote is called “Devil in a Red Dress. ” It’s about jealousy, greed and the type of things that go down behind the scenes of the music industry.
Godfather: What’s the name of your store and where is it located?
Kim: The name of my store is The Beauty Bar & Bookstore. It’s located in South Central Los Angeles, inside of the Slauson Swapmall.
Godfather: I notice that you sell more than just books, talk about that?
Kim: Yes. I sell 100% Virgin Hair, Make-up, Essential Hair Care Products, Books and so much more.
Wes: What made you open a book store?
Kim: Well, I’ve been selling books out of the trunk of my car since 2007. So, I always knew that if I had a location, I would do good.
Wes: How is business? On average, how many books do you sell per day?
Kim: Considering the fact that my business, is fairly new, I can’t complain. Business goes up and down, so it’s hard to say. But all I know is that I’m blessed.
Godfather With ebooks going for pennies on the dollar, how are readers responding to the average $15.00 price of a paperback?
Kim: We get a lot of people, all of the time, who say they have a reading device, but prefer to flip through the pages of a paperback. And, yes, we have some who don’t buy, because they say they prefer to pay the low for a download. So, I try to be as reasonable as possible to entice the readers to support.
Godfather: Do you plan to expand or open any other locations?
Kim: Most definitely. It’s already in the making.
Godfather: What’s your take on the pulse of book distribution on the West Coast?
Kim: I believe that a lot of authors from the West Coast prefer to sell ebooks, and aren’t really interested in distribution outside of Amazon & Barnes & Nobel. Maybe because it’s the easiest way out, but when you’re a born hustler and failures not an option, you have to be willing to go hard and expand your reach.
Godfather: Are a lot of your customers also Facebook friends or no?
Kim: No, not at all. A lot of my customers are those who I reach out to, by way of promoting.
Godfather: Are authors helping to promote, doing book signings, supplying you with enough books, etc? How would you say author support has been?
Kim: Well, let’s just say that I have more strangers sending me and dropping off books than those that I personally know.
Godfather: What are your biggest challenges?
Kim: I don’t really get much author support.
Godfaher: Has anyone in the industry stepped up to help guide you or lend support?
Kim: My biggest challenge is getting my people to see that support comes in many forms and fashions. You don’t necessarily have to spend money to support someone or their endeavors. Just spreading the word sometimes is more valuable than the money.
Godfather: Are you currently working on any other project? What’s next in the clip for Cali Kim?
Kim: Yes. I am currently working on the sequel to “Devil in a Red Dress”, which is called “The Fine Black Widow” along with a few other projects that I’m working on.
Godfther: What’s your advice to new authors?
Kim: My advice to new authors is, just do your research. You can’t go wrong by doing your own research.
Godfather: What would be your advice to anyone looking to get into the retail side of the book business?
Kim: The more bookstores, the better for us all. Why do you think there are so many alcoholics around? It’s because there’s liquor stores on every corner in the hood. If we can get just as many bookstores as liquor stores on the block, that would be excellent. And last but not least, location is everything.
Godfather: How can people go about getting their books on your shelves?
Kim: All they have to do is contact us at the store or email us.
Godfather: How can you be reached?
Kim: The Beauty Bar & Bookstore, 1600 west Slauson Ave #B17, Los Angeles Ca 90047 phone: (323)753-3963 email: email@example.com
“GODFATHER” Hunter is an incarcerated author from Los Angeles, Ca. He has written several books covering a variety of genres, to include self-help/how-to/advisory, autobiography, poetry, urban romance, erotica and street lit. Godfather has even taught urban lit during his many years of incarceration. He makes an added effort to lace his writings with history, social-political consciousness and other such pearls of wisdom while penning in a style which many have compared to the likes of James Patterson, John Grisham and Michael Connelly.