Ratchet INK 2: Beefs and Crab Barrel Politics

In publishing, just as in any entertainment based industry, I believe in these two things:  One, there’s enough of success and money to be had for anyone who is willing to work hard and grind for it. Two, your work will speak for itself, regardless of whatever the competition does.

With that said, it seems to me that some literary feuds go beyond general competition into something very childish and viscous.  You see the posts: an Author blast his or her gripes with a publisher over money. Authors taking shots at each other out of pure jealousy and envy. You also see the comments of avid readers saying how petty the latest round of beef is and later, you see these same readers post how they stopped buying books from authors and publishers because of how bad some of them act online.




Just in the past three months, I have observed an author lashing out at a book club that gave his book a poor review, another author airing out issues with a publisher , and  some authors trying to dictate how a reader spends his or her money.

So let me get this straight: A reader doesn’t have the right to read another author’s work and buy another author’s work because you think it’s a betrayal of your product? To me,this kind of thinking is rooted in insecurity. Nothing more and nothing less.   If you as an author know the kind of hard work that you put into your product and into building your audience, there’s no need  for shaming and intimidation tactics. If you write amazing stories, they will come. If you write amazing stories on a consistent basis,they will stay. Yes, they will read other people’s work from time to time, but  I promise that you will still be in their library.

As far as author/publisher feuds are concerned, it’s very easy to forget that books are a business and with businesses, Rule #4080 (shout out to A Tribe Called Quest) sometimes applies. Whether it applies or not, fulfilling a contract should be a simple, painless process.

There shouldn’t be a beef with someone playing out their contract and moving on.  It’s a problem when the publisher takes business personal and begin berating said author for moving on and doing everything in their power to blackball and intimidate him or her for moving on. To me, author/ publisher feuds that are  being played out in public has to be the most shameful and tacky feud of them all. They are the tackiest because the burden of perception is on the publisher. Authors, would you like to sign with a janky publisher, who blast their business matters on Facebook? Readers, would you want to buy books from a publishing company that is always in the middle of the mess that they start?   If I were a betting woman, those answers are a resounding “NO”.

When I think about the feuds and shadiness of the industry, I think about the root of the problem.   Here’s my theory: In the world of African-American publishing, we are operating off of a sense of lack. We believe that it isn’t enough of room for everyone in the game.  It really seems that way when readers throw crumbs of their money to us when they buy our titles for $.99 to $2.99.  We think there’s just crumbs for us and we are all doing whatever it takes to get our lion’s share of the crumbs.

Another theory is most of these authors aren’t used to much and when they get something, they hold on to it with everything in them. They cling to it like static to clothes in a dryer without softener. For some, it’s their first taste of legal money or their first taste of some kind of acclaim. So they do whatever they can to keep it, even if it means applying some of the same tactics learned on the streets to solidify their position in the game.   Regardless of the theories and causes, the beefs and the shady dealings are unnecessary and beneath us. I believe that there is enough of talent in the industry to create great work, and create it consistently. There is no lack in opportunity. It’s there for you to seize it and embrace it. It’s impossible to do that if you attend every argument you’re invited to.

Authors: What do you think is the source of the feuds and what could be done to get the focus back on the books?

Readers: How has the feuds displayed on Facebook and twitter influenced who and what you read?



About the author

Jannelle is the author of “Wild Cards” “Thirst”, “Thirst II”, and “Love’s Hangover” and is a fresh voice in African-American fiction, spending time on Amazon’s Hot New Releases list for two of her four titles. She’s also a freelance journalist. Her DC Bookdiva Debut, “Uppity” will be released in November, and is available for pre-order now at www.dcbookdiva.com




Website: http://www.jannelle.net
Twitter: @jannelle12
Instagram: writerdiva
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/jannelle1

Ratchet INK

Disclaimer: By no means am I criticizing  for the sake of it or calling out anyone in particular. These are just my observations and opinion.  However, if you are offended by my views don’t take it personal because it is not my intent to bash.

On my Facebook feed this week, the theme seemed to be the presence of trifling titles and tasteless covers in Urban Lit.  I couldn’t turn around without seeing a status about some low budget and base title or a cover that leaves nothing to the imagination and devalues the words between the front and back covers.  In Urban Lit, it is nothing to see the grit and rawness of the streets, because anything less would  water things down a bit .

However, when there’s a “bitchapalooza”  (ie hoards of books with “bitch” in the title after it’s been done before), covers with images that would put porn mags to shame festering on the wall of African-American and Urban lit like  kudzu, it’s beginning to become a problem with  some readers. I have heard thoughts like this:

It (The book) might be a good story but I’m at the point where I can’t look beyond the title anymore”

“Using profanity in their titles and pretty much X Rated pictures on the covers. Deal Breaker. Turn Off.”

“Just because a story is based on ghetto reality, the title doesn’t have to be ghetto. With some books, you can tell it’s ghetto as hell just by the title. It’ shouldn’t be that way.”

The irony in all of this is the complaints by some about Urban Lit not being taken seriously. The titles and the covers  are only two  of the reasons why the genre is being vilified.  I get that the author wants to appeal to their demographic  and wants to sell, but I really believe that it could be done without the  outrageous titles, covers and fonts. I go as far as to say that watching what you put on your covers should be mandatory. Before you look at me with a skeptical eye, picture this:

A reader strolls into Barnes And Noble, really thristy for a great novel. He or She searches endlessly for that little section in the store reserved for black authors in the corner. The store lumped them all together because if we “look” alike, we may “write” alike, but I digress. The eager reader sees  tastefully done covers on the shelves such as   Treasure Blue’s ” Fly Betty”, Terry McMillan’s “Who Asked You?“,   Jason Mott’s “The Returned” or even  Zane’s “Afterburn” or  Walter Mosley’s “Debbie Doesn’t Do It Anymore”  next to your “ Hand Me Down Bitches part 3″, “Shame On You, Bitch 2” or “My Baby  Daddy May Be Shit But He’s My Lump of Shit and I love Him“. What would they think? I’m willing to bet you that  they’ll either scrunch their face and frown  and frown before moving on and away. If it isn’t that,  they’d probably  pickup the book  and laugh at the title before putting it back on the shelf  and going on facebook to tell  their friends about the tomfoolery  that they found in the store. Either way,  you lost a customer and a potential fan with those covers and titles.            ratchet

For some, maybe your aim isn’t Barnes and Noble. However, the same principle applies on Amazon. The covers and titles will still turn them off.

If some of these readers see it, you better believe that some authors are paying attention as well. I believe that while a huge percentage of authors are serious in their titles, there are some that wrote a story and came up with such a crazy title and cover just to see if it would sale or get a bunch of reviews.  Sadly, they get the pop of attention  and the reviews to go with it sometimes.  Even if an author get the reviews and the acclaim from that experiment or even those who are serious about the titles, the billion dollar question of the hour is “will they keep the readers coming back in the long run?”

Readers! I would love to hear more from you. What kind of titles and covers appeal to you generally?

Authors! I’m not leaving you out either.  Why the graphic titles and covers in the first place? Is it preference or is it profit that’s driving you to put them out there or both?

About the author


Jannelle is the author of “Wild Cards”  “Thirst”, “Thirst II”, and “Love’s Hangover” and is  a fresh voice in African-American fiction, spending time on Amazon’s Hot New Releases list for two of her four titles. She’s also a freelance journalist.  Her DC Bookdiva Debut, “Uppity” will be released in November, and is available for  pre order now.

Twitter: @jannelle12
Instagram: writerdiva