The excitement of hitting the road with a few authors to tour the country, while visiting America’s quaint African-American bookstores has become nostalgic. No longer Am I able to reach out to some of the more tolerable author friends of mine, to ask them about the possibility of a road trip while earning some money as writers. The weekends were the most exciting. There were so many events to plan for, and so many cities to visit. Detroit, Chicago, Philadelphia, Washington DC, Jackson, Miami, Boston, Cincinnati, Los Angeles, Atlanta, Baltimore, Newark, St. Louis, Richmond and so many other cities welcomed us with open arms. As authors, we shared our personal experiences with each other on the road, because it was viable to the growth of our literary community. It seemed like the second coming of the Harlem Renaissance, but everything must come to an end at some point, right? Many of the doors of opportunity started to close. Black bookstores are no longer a staple in our community. One by one, we saw the doors closed as each dedicated book retailer was forced to develop a new economic plan for survival sake.
Most of the black distributors have been served the same fate as well. No longer can I pull up my truck and unload dozens of cases of books at a store, while my car is illegally parked on the sidewalk somewhere in Brooklyn, Baltimore, Chicago or Philly. Those days of bringing a lookout with me to keep from getting a parking ticket are over. No more will I have to worry about carrying my infant daughter into a book distribution center, and set her down by the desk of a polite secretary, while I conduct business. Those exciting days expired. Those people have had the pleasure to witness the writer, hustler, publisher, businessman and father that I had become. In the beginning, I thought those relationships would last a lifetime. I’d become acquainted professionally and personally with some of those people in the literary industry. Some of them are still good friends, while financial hardship forced others to become my enemy. Nonetheless, I treasure those moments that we shared together, doing business as black people, trying to create our own niche in a world dominated by white writers, publishers and distributors.
I remember when I finally received word that my company, RJ Publications, would be accepted by a major distributor. I was overcome with joy and excitement. No longer would I be restricted to just the Mom and pop bookstores, I thought. Borders, Barnes and Noble and Books A Million seemed like my gateway to financial freedom. My publishing company was flourishing. I could afford to pay new authors and offer competitive contracts like the traditional publishing companies. It felt great being able to make the dreams of many people from my community come true. The dedication was at an all time high, and the future was steps away from the shining sun. I could feel the burns of the bright future and the heat that was going to be bestowed upon me under the spotlight, and I was ready, ready to take on the world. Here comes the next mogul, I thought. I was gonna be the P Diddy of black literature. And then, all of a sudden it came to a halt. Amazon decided to stake their claim in the publishing game by introducing the Kindle. First was the burial of Borders, and next came all the independent bookstores that supported my business before the big companies came calling. I feel a bit of gratitude to those independent bookstores, because they helped me establish my name in the game. However, it was hard to make end’s meet when consignment was the name of the game. It was difficult and humbling to walk into a bookstore to find that all my books have been sold, but the owner couldn’t cut me a check owed to me.
We ignored many things that were going wrong with the industry, and at the end, we have to suffer the consequences. Some of us became complacent, while others embraced the new change that was to come. At the end of the day, I can only say that I’m still a writer, and the ride has yet to end.
Please check out all my books on amazon and my website at www.rjpublications.com