Yes this is an unusual take off on Rihanna’s song Rude Boy. Why you might ask. Well her song, which is very good, posed an interesting question “Rude Boy is you big enough?”  Ri-Ri’s Rude Boy is not just another dance hall, reggae, R&B  bass  pounding pop song about just sex. Rihanna belts out some very assertive lines of healthy consensual sex, yet and still some have been critical of the song as being too raunchy. I guess when Rihanna sings lyrics like  “Touch me there… Pull my hair… Kiss it there… Move it there…” perhaps her critics should have first asked “Too Raunchy for who?”

Rude Boy” clearly does show the confusion that presently exist in our society between Making Love, Having Sex and the need to be Loved “Take it, Take it, Love me, Love me“. Yes, several men have pointed me to the part of the video where she is just really workin’ it, but that’s what I mean by confusion.  My new book It Ain’t Just The Size main story arc is a love story that follows Lance and Princess as they find their way to love, this sounds simple enough until friends, family members and a gun complicate matters. “It Ain’t Just The Size” and “Rude Boy” are both calls for honest communication between men and women. “It Ain’t Just The Size” was conceived to give the reader more… More Hip-Hop, More Pop-Culture, More Music, More Social Commentary, More Poetry,  More Humor, More Love, More Solutions, More Inspiration, More for your dollar and who doesn’t want more?

It Ain’t Just The Size was compiled from hundreds of honest conversations with hundred of people, which were molded into a compelling story. You will undoubtedly hear and see phrases applied to this book that have never accompanied a book before and like Rihanna I too have my critics. There have been those that say “it’s too real”, “it’s too funny” or “it doesn’t fit in any category”. It Ain’t Just The Size has been called “One of the most Powerful book I’ve ever read“, “Amazing”, “Entertaining”, “Controversial” and “A Great Book” as it is  filled with  thought and drama.  The real question is, are you big enough to join the conversations?

While Rihanna does what American Entertainment demands of it’s young artist, which is to brand and market themselves, a dutch magazine saw fit to refer to her as “De Niggabitch”. Rihanna’s response “I hope you can read english, because your magazine is a poor representation of the evolution of human rights! I find you disrespectful, and rather desperate!! You ran out of legit, civilized information to print! There are 1000’s of Dutch girls who would love to be recognized for their contributions to your country, you could have given them that article. Instead, you paid to print one degrading an entire race! That’s your contribution to this world! To encourage segregation, to mislead the future leaders to act in the past! You put two words together, with the intent of abasement, that made no sense…”NIGGA BITCH”?!….Well with all due respect, on behalf of my race, I have put two words together for you…FUCK YOU!!!”

Blacks and particularly Black Women have endured more than their share of coded negatively in the name of popular culture and entertainment. They have primarily been viewed as mammies, oversexed, violent, whores, acid-tongue, loud-mouths, and lazy welfare mothers in disproportionately higher numbers than other races, although coded. The complaints have been many but those in the military-industrial media are profiting by presenting Black women as disregarded hyper-sexual female stereotypes, so much so that media outlets can called black women, NiggaBitches without so much as a second thought.

The resulting social media pressure for Jackie magazine caused this response from the editor. “Because of the enormous pressure from social media, I can promise improvement in terms of language used in future issues of Jackie. Previously, I offered rectification. As I now come to the conclusion that rectification is not the right solution, I am departing. The term ‘nigga bitch” come over from America and we have only this to describe this particular style of clothes that we can try to interpret. After eight years, with my heart and soul, I have worked for Jackie. I realize that these errors – although no malicious intent – is a reason to leave.”

And with that closed quote the controversy is over, until the next time.

Every day countless authors make the error of thinking that covers don’t matter, well at least it appears that they think that it doesn’t matter. But that is precisely the point, how much time and thought you put behind your book cover can directly translate into sales. It can not be understated that your book’s cover is the most effective sales tool you have. Making an appropriate cover can be very tricky but it must be done.

But what is a good book cover? If you go to your local book store you will see hundreds of approaches to this question. Some try a minimalist approach, while others try to connect to the buyer through images. It is a new day and age in America, times are tough for everyone, so your book cover must say to the consumer “I am worth your disposable cash”.  It is also a new day in publishing, but what still seems to be true is that sex sells. The overdone shirtless model and uncovered sensual body parts still move books from the shelves, but this is not always the case.

Early on in the publishing process you’ll need to decide between photos, illustrations, sketches, computer generated images, 2 color, 4 color, or subliminal messages. You will have to decide on color schemes, what colors looks great against this background and whatnot. The type of cover you decide on usually depends on what kind of book you are publishing is it for children or is it very adult. It can also depend on what everyone else in the marketplace is doing. However, by going against the grain is where the unique cover can really stand out.

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If you don’t have a background in graphics and design it may cost you a little, but you can find many reasonable designers that will give you an original work for as little as $80 or as much as $1500. When I designed my book cover, for EveryDay Life, my mindset was that I wanted to create a book that people could have out on their coffee-table and not feel embarrassed or ashamed about having it out. So for me it started with the question of “Book cover to sell Vs. book cover as Art” I chose Art. Some authors want the cover images to convey what was inside the book and for me, the cover was the longest segment of the publishing process, aside from the actual writing of the book of course. You must decide on the best approach for your work.

Remember that your book will be judged by its cover. If the brick and mortal stores see any hint of an unprofessional cover, a cluttered front, if the cover screams I chose the wrong font because have no idea what I am doing, or my little sister created this cover, your book will be on Special Order so fast your nose will bleed. Error are unavoidable, but I can’t say this enough proofread everything and I mean everything.

Also do not neglect the book spine. Spend as much time creating the book spine as the front cover. You want to be able to read the title on the spine, but keep the same color schemes and fonts. Once the front cover gets someone to pick it up then it is the back cover that hooks them. What goes on the back cover? The synopsis, reviews of previous books, an author photo, bio and any blurb from noted professionals in the business. Usually white type on darker backgrounds is very readable. Make no mistake the back cover is where you will win over the audience.

  

 

Today one of the biggest publishing markets is Urban Literature. However, Street Lit has come under fire from many angles. With urban novels being turned into Oscar nominated movies such as Precious, this is as good of a time as any to ask what is the state of Black Literature? There are those that say that Street Literature has no real value to Black Literature as a whole, and that it is equivalent to gangster rap’s relation to the larger genre of Hip-Hop. Then there are people who swear by Urban Literature, as they claim that is type of literary fair is the only kind they will consume. Surprising the people who swear by Ghetto Literature the most are middle class black women.  Many Black authors are  relegated to an existence of selling books out their car trunks at every stop, while their white counterparts enjoy the heights of respected best seller lists.  Thousands of black authors have to ‘grind’, and or’ hustle’, while their counterparts have no concept of those two words. Is it the literature that is the problem, or is it those who are writing the literature?

Before I became an author I knew that urban literature had a credibility issue, I just didn’t know how deep that issue really was. I won’t go into how many authors have four or five books, but still don’t know how to use a simile, yet and still street literature dominates the market. With so many titles selling like hot cakes and its proponents saying ‘I’ve sold X amount of books” , “people are buying it’. So why would anyone think that there is a problem with black literature? I have heard statements similar to these being uttered by crack dealers of the 80s, as  justification as to why they sold drugs.  At a book event I overheard an author say “I am an Essence bestseller”, followed by the publisher snickering, is that respect?  This is not to say that there are not some wonderfully well written positive African American books out there. There are many stories of black success and black triumph, but are black people reading those books? “Any story celebrating the beauty and strength of black family life, the power of education, and the desire to succeed in the workplace and in business is now out of fashion.” wrote Juan William in his article titled “Precious’ Little of Value in Ghetto Literature”.

Since “Urban Lit” began as an often overlooked subdivision of the Blaxploitation era, over 40 years ago. The Film genre was considered exploitative because they took place in the ghetto, played up stereotypes and were mostly written by whites. Today Urban Literature contains many element that were present in its now defunct film counterparts the only difference, no is that blacks are at the helm of these projects. The main argument for this type of literature is that it attracts new readers. It has also been said that Ghetto Lit provides escapism, but for many blacks this type of escapism can be had by not opening a book, but a door. After reading a novel filled with busty women and thugs, overflowing with misogyny, depicting female characters as “dime pieces” or “trophies”, novels that proudly display real gritty scenes of  infidelity, criminal activities and murder that go unpunished or they are glorified, one would have to wonder if Marva Allen owner of Hue-Man bookstore in Harlem was right when she said, “It’s not literature it’s fiction… they offer no literary advantages.” Or is there something more to this “Box” that these Black ‘Harlequins’ have put black literature in? Maybe it has something to do with where you find these books in the bookstore. I have never seen the White Literature section, though I have seen American Literature sections devoid of black authors, except for one dimensional books like Steve Harvey’s “Straight Talk, No Chaser” and sport stories of course. Is a book made urban by the skin color of its characters, the skin color of the author, or its content?

In the New York Times article “Their Eyes Were Reading Smut”, Nick Chiles said ,“On shelf after shelf, in bookcase after bookcase, all that I could see was lurid book jackets displaying all forms of brown flesh, usually half-naked and in some erotic pose, often accompanied by guns and other symbols of criminal life. I felt as if I was walking into a pornography shop, except in this case the smut is being produced by and for my people, and it is called literature.” Is Nick Chiles right? Maybe the problem is in the definition, What is literature? If you solely define it as it as publication of printed material then there is no issue, but historically literature has meant much more than that. Rebecca West once said, “Literature must be an analysis of experience and a synthesis of the findings into a unity.” Apparently many disagree, noting that literature can mean many things to many people Nick Chiles mused, “That leaves me wondering where we – writers, publishers, readers and the black community – go from here. Is street fiction some passing fad, or does it represent our future? It’s depressing that this noble profession, one that I aspired to as a child from the moment I first cracked open James Baldwin and Gabriel García Márquez about 30 years ago, has been reduced by the greed of the publishing industry and the ways of the American marketplace to a tasteless collection of pornography.” I do not believe that these articles, bloggers, or reviewers are trying to ‘hate’ on anyone, or ‘knock’ someone’s hustle and neither am I for that matter, but these are legitimate questions, what is black literature? Where do we go from here? Is Black Literature viewed as nothing more than a collection coming of age Pre and Post Prison tales? “A lot of people complain that most of the Urban Lit books are the same three or four stories with different titles, character names and locations . And that many of the authors have the same felonious background story in their bios. I have been to high profile author meetings where terms like “This is Crip Shit” and “Am a Blood” were tossed around with hand signs. It was comical and something I will most likely write about later, but I digress. “Urban List is just like Hip-Hop nowadays” Was Joey Pinkey correct in his widely viewed article, ‘Urban Lit is Dead? ‘

Part Novel, Part Graphic Novel, All Vampire It's going to take guts to walk around with this novel.

Part Novel, Part Graphic Novel, All Vampire
It’s going to take guts to walk around with this novel.

As an author I feel all of these sentiment, but I also believe that urban literature, like hip hop, is not dead and that the problem, with both forms of entertainment, lies in where you get it from. Many people have asked the question I have posed in the title, but there have been no definitive answers. Perhaps this literary dust-up is equivalent to the one going in among our “Black Leaders”, see Al Sharpton and Tavis Smiley.  Perhaps this was summed up in an  article titled ‘The Shaky State of Urban Literature (a book reviewer’s lament)’, “this new millennium of emerging writers and novelists are still struggling to find a place in contemporary literary circles.” For the sake of argument let’s say that the critics in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and the blogs are all wrong, or at least mistaken. Let’s say books like mine and The Other Wes Moore are not “really Urban Lit. Let’s say that when you tell a publisher that you are an Essence Best Seller that they do not snicker, not even privately. Let’s say that the media gives black authors the same amount of press and credibility they do their white contemporaries. Let’s say that urban literature isn’t as watered down as hip hop. And let’s say that big publishing houses market African American works as they would the works of others. Does an author not want the respect of their peers? As a people we have always been told to wait for things, that everything takes time, this is what was said decade ago about urban literature. When street literature was young, we heard “it is just starting out, give it some time.” It is now 2011, so the question is has anything changed? Hopefully the documentary “Behind Those Books” answers some much needed questions, regarding the genre future.

Maybe, but now the question  is one of Credibility, but a question for who? Is it a question for The Relentless Aaron’s, Larry Wilson Jr’s, Vickie Stringer’s, and Zane’s of the literary world? Or is our new direction for the Aisha Ford’s, Eric Jerome Dickey’s, and Terry A. O’Neal’s to forge? Or do we follow the examples of James Baldwin, Richard Wright, Phyllis Wheatley, and others? Chances are that those in Ghetto/Street/Urban/African American Literature wont stand up, but the hope is that they will coalesce around something more important than shelf space, money, the thrill of the hustle or fame. Maybe Black literature reader see more of themselves in Rachetville and Grimy than they see of themselves in the future, which is why they haven’t fully embraced black sci-fiction because of how omitted we see ourselves in the future. Unfortunately, like many forms of entertainment, it is all we got.

Perhaps the discussion can best be summed up by what Mo’Nique said when accepting The Oscar for Best Supporting Actress for her role in Precious, “Sometimes you have to forgo doing what is popular, in order to do what’s right.”

The Shaky State of Urban Literature (a book reviewer’s lament) http://blogginginblack.com/?p=1076 Urban Lit is DEAD http://www.theurbanbooksource.com/articles/editorials/urbanlitisdead.php “Their eyes were looking at smut” http://www.nytimes.com/2006/01/04/opinion/04chiles.html “A critical look at Street Lit” http://www.theurbanbooksource.com/interviews/nick-chiles.php “Precious’ Little of Value in Ghetto Literature” http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748703740004574514260044271666.html

I am the thunder, the sky

I am the stroll along the shore

when the tide is high.

I am direct dark and collective,

not now, but I am funny

and I remain reflective.

I am struggle from start to last

A complicated forest

Simple as a blade of grass.

I am peace. I am love.

Consumed with post-conventional thought

send down from up above.

I am a son and a brother.

I have long admired my father

and always will cherish my mother.

I am hope. I am change.

I am continually conflicted.

I am contrary. I am strange.

I am aware. I am alone.

I am the opalescent one

through who light is shown.

I am an enigmatic vibrant seed

I am an incarcerated soul

now freed.

Part Novel, Part Graphic Novel, All Vampire It's going to take guts to walk around with this novel.

Part Novel, Part Graphic Novel, All Vampire
It’s going to take guts to walk around with this novel.

Is this a question that still needs to be answered…

It is the 21st Century and every writer should know by now that a good book summary is not only essential but it is one that is targeted directly at its readers. And what the reader wants to know is… what is this book is about. A summary should not insult the reader’s intelligence, or be boring. It should turn the reader into potential book buyers.

Although it is vital to create a book summary that condenses your entire book into a few paragraphs it may not be an easy task for any writer. Your book might contains multiple characters, story arcs, settings and an abundance of personalities, figurative language, themes, love, and money, but you have got to tell it and you must tell it well.

The only real question is how does one write a great summary? First decided what information is crucial to the story. Too many events, characters, story arcs can confound or overwhelm your summary. When you write the summary concentrate on the main character and then sprinkle in the conflict facing them.

Books that are changing everything

Remember to make it short and simple, use colorful words not colorful language to bring out your writing style. Sometimes the difference between a good book summary and a great one is only power word or two. Power words are adjectives that add a little color and make your work more interesting.

As a writer you must be to express your book in your own words, but be brief and describe the book. For a writer crafting a book summary is the creative fun part, targeting the right publisher is where the real work starts. A great book summary is but one of the many steps it takes to get your book published