P.B.: I attended the first Black Writers on Tour Conference produced by Dr. Rosie Milligan of Los Angeles, in February, 1997. I listened to the other published authors. I learned from them immediately. Mainstream is not interested in newcomers. If youíre not a McMillan or Morrison, they have little time for, or interest in you. A friend was dating a major player in a publishing company and when I sent her the first twenty chapters, she never even responded. I knew my story was one that needed to be told... so I set out on my own with the determination to make it happen.
P.B.: After the "no" response from the friend of a friend, I never contacted another mainstream publisher. A friend said, "Letís do this on our own." She had promised to fund the project, but didnít. When that fell through, God provided me with a business opportunity that generated the money I needed to go to press.
P.B.: I was a writer at the age of six, but my aunt discouraged me. Told me I was being too Ďgrowní and who did I think I was trying to write. I never picked up a pen again, except to do business writing. Whenever someone died, I would always write the poem or obituary. In 1996, I was asked by the "Ebony Word," an internet magazine, to be a contributing writer. My first story was "Big Girls Donít Have to Cry."
P.B.: When I got the first e-mail from my first fan I was hooked! Someone enjoyed reading what I had written. I became a regular staff writer for "The Ebony Word" like I was collecting a pay check. "The Shirt off His Back" started as a short story, like all the others, but a plea from my fans kept me writing it every two weeks.
P.B: The story was published twice a month on the Internet for eighteen months. The last eight chapters were finished in eight days.
P.B.: I had just finished reading a story by another female African American writer and she had put down the brotha so bad in her book. I just cringed inside. I have so many male friends that are absolutely wonderful people...good husband, father, brother, son, friend...GOOD MAN and I was wondering why no one ever wrote about the good brothas. So, I started the story for my Internet magazine. It was going to be a three-part story. People were so happy to be reading good things about the brothas they begged me to continue. I loved writing about Terry because he exemplified the black manhood that was represented in my life. I knew it was a book about half-way through it.
P.B.: That is really funny. I donít think I have any. I just know what looks good and feels right. Along with writing, God has given me the gift of graphic design. I just put together what I knew looked good and felt right. I have been on the Internet for 5 years and developed a network of some very talented friends. They have been extremely valuable to this endeavor. It has been a word-of mouth thing. I have recently hired someone to do a marketing e-mail blitz, but I have had more than 2,100 hits from a friend telling a friend.
It is really important that we use this forum for the networking tool that it is. It is fine to try to get Ďda hook-upí but there is sooooo much more available here.
I truly believe in this project and will talk about it until people say PLEASE enough already....no one has said that yet! So Iím still talking.
Author Update: 09-10-99
P.B.: Using a United States map and a calendar, I determined which cities I would visit on what dates. Typed out a schedule and faxed it along with a press release and biography to all of the African American book stores listed in Dr. Rosie Milligan's Guide to African American Writers and Speakers (Milligan Books $49.95).
As I followed up with the stores via phone, I found they were very receptive and generally booked a signing. Then I just got in the Mustang and road from city to city. I have driven 20,000 miles since May 3, 1999.
P.B.: For the most part it has been FUN! I have met hundreds of wonderful people that have been so helpful. I have discovered that there is no such thing as a bad signing. Even small signings I make phenomenal contacts. I had a small (6 people) private signing in someone's home and from that was asked to go to Germany and Korea. I was also selected to speak at a conference with 6,000 people in attendance. Radio is also a key...people MUST know you are in town. It was tough getting started in radio, but now I am on the radio in almost every city.
P.B.: COMMITMENT! You must love this, cause it sho' ain't for da money! I feel that 1999 is my year of paying dues. I am getting out there, becoming known, so that when people say my name or The Shirt Off His Back, it will be Oh I have heard of her or that book. When first introduced, most times people will say I never heard of this book and my reply is "That's why I am here!" I am almost done with phase one of the tour and I would say it has been a success. I have sold 3,000 books in 6 months.
I would also recommend developing your speaking skills. It constantly amazes me how people purchase books after I speak. At a recent conference people rushed at me so fast it frightened me. I do love speaking and I have developed a seminar that is directly related to the novel. You have to learn what works and then work it.
The most important thing is when at signings walk up to people, enthusiastically introduce yourself and your book. I never sit behind a table, I get out there where the people are. It would be great to be able to sit there and have people walk up and say I want your book, but that only happens to the well known authors. The rest of us have to hustle.
You also need to have business cards available at all signings. I made book marks in a bright color that list all of my contact information. Larger than a business card and even if they don't buy my book right then they will probably use the book mark in other books and have the information right in front of them.