W.J.: Before I wrote Brothers, I was freelancing. I wrote regularly for Upscale, Black Elegance and Todayís Black Woman. Iíd also appeared in Essence (Brothers) section and other magazines. Of course, at that time, I was still working my regular job. I should say jobs because I was a real estate appraiser in business with my father and I was also a police officer.
My inspiration to write Brothers, and about relationships in general came -to be quite honest- from getting my heart broken a couple of times. Thatís sort of how I started writing about relationships. I wanted to express the feelings and thoughts of the "ordinary" guy. So often we hear what therapists and celebrities have to say, but not the man-on-the-street. Thatís the void I filled. Particularly the sentiments of Black men are overlooked. Often the very fact that we are human beings with feelings is overshadowed by stereotypes of us.
W.J.: In general terms, Yes I do feel that way. However, let me qualify my statement by saying female writers don't always have malicious intent when doing so. While some women are angry and venting at our cost; others are just writing from their experiences. For example, Terry McMillan was just writing from her own experiences when she penned Exhale. I donít have a problem with that. What I had a problem with was the fact that there was no balance. While everyone was accepting Exhale as THE book on Black relationships, I and other Black male authors were being told by publishers that there was no market for our voices on relationships. The market needs such balance between male and female voices. Who can talk about the life and passions of a Black man better than a Black man himself. Thatís why I self-published the first time around.
W.J.: I was blessed to make the Blackboard in six months as a self-published author! As an entrepreneur, I love business. The idea of publishing my book was really just another business venture to me. When I was getting "rejections" from big time agents and publishers that said thing such as "I really like this and itís very well written. But I donít think I can do it right now" etc... I didnít see that as rejection, the businessman in me saw an opportunity waiting to be jumped on. Also, I already knew from the article requests and mail I was getting about articles that I had a good and ready market for my book.
I researched thoroughly and read books such as The Self Publishing Manual by Dan Poynter. Now Dr Rosie Milligan has a book titled The Black Writers and Speakers Resource Guide which I think is terrific. Also, Jewel Parker Rhodes has a book for Black writers coming out from Doubleday and Iíve done a "how to" workbook myself to answer questions.
It is also important to note that I spoke to people such as Dr Earl Hutchinson, Dr Rosie Milligan, Don Spears, Ella Patterson... People who were out there successfully self-publishing. Most writers are very approachable. I met Ella and Don at their book signings. I met Earl and Rosie through my writing when I interviewed them for quotes in various articles. All were eager to share info once they saw Iíd done my homework and was very serious.
Go to booksignings and meet authors, especially self-published authors. The author-entrepreneurs are far less likely to be acting like a Prima Donna type. Most will be very down to earth. Sure, you'll run into some attitudes and introverts.
W.J.: Iím glad you liked that one. In a provocative book such as Brothers, such a reflective chapter has been under rated. But I think itís a very important chapter because it talks about the unsung good daddies out there. A father is just a sperm donor. Daddyhood is the lifelong follow-through. Again, the stereotypes of Black men make for better news headlines. And too often among Blacks as well the stereotypes prevail. Therefore, I highlighted the lives of some real and good daddies in the book to show they do exist.
W.J.: Oh, I see the sky as the limit. Contrary to what the naysayers chant, the renaissance in Black literature is not a trend or a fad. Itís a business reality that publishers have finally awakened to. They are in publishing for profits and Black books are increasingly profitable. Itís that simple.
In particular, Black male writers are going to find themselves in demand because the majority of readers are women and they want to know what is going on inside of our heads. But we have to resist being typecast. Often Iíve noticed agents and publishers pushing Black males into narrow topic areas such as: the angry black male, the reformed "dog" and the apologizing Black male. Albeit some of those books are sincere, we canít allow agents and publishers to make that our entire dialogue. I think about my friend George Subira who writes about business topics. We need to have a variety of topics and some of us are pushing for that. The market is there.
W.J.: The Doubleday version of the book made it back to the Blackboard Best-Sellers list back in Feb. Brothers, Lust and Love is a fire starter for discussions because the 37 topics in the book are things that are usually taboo for discussion. And here I am WHAM, right in the face straight-up with all the stuff weíd rather not talk about. And Iím not just giving the simple politically correct "Amen" Iím delving into the spiritual and common sense truths behind it all. Itís provocative, sobering and humorous all at once. People sometimes get hot under the collar in discussions. Sometimes a few women start crying. But mostly when presenting, I try to keep it entertaining and let people read the heavy issues at home in private.
W.J.: Currently I make my living as a professional speaker and author. The writing career helped to open the door to a career as a professional speaker. Something Iíve wanted to do for a long time. I speak mainly at colleges, churches and various events usually on topics centered around the book. Iím also a resident writer in the Writers In the Schools Program. This is my third year and I love working with the kids. I had fourth graders this year and had a blast! Each semester I also teach a publishing workshop at the Houston Community College. If all that isnít enough, Iím starting graduate studies in Theology and counseling this fall (as well as a book tour).
My next book is titled Understanding The Tin Man: Why So Many Men Avoid Intimacy. It centers around the fact that men can and should learn to be both masculine and sensitive. It will be published by Doubleday in December. Iíll be touring in January. Go to my website http://www.williamjuly.com for tour dates and details that Iíll be posting.
As for agents, currently, I donít have one. Iíve chosen to represent myself because I have some specific directions I want to take my career in. Many agents tend to box writers in to a rigid category. Sort of like the way actors get typecast for a role and later canít get work playing any other type of character.
I donít recommend self-representation for everyone and I did have a very good agent for my first book sale. Having a business background, particualrly one in which Iíve dealt with contracts, is useful. Also, the big use of an agent isnít the contract work they do so much as it is their access. They have access to editors and inside players that you and I donít even know exist. Thatís where they earn their 15%. My advice is this, a good agent is worth his/her weight in gold. But this person must have the same understanding of your career and goals as you do, otherwise the relationship will not work and it can sidetrack your career.
W.J.: Book tours are hard work and not as glamorous as people think. Hereís a typical tour day for me. Get up early to catch a flight. Early flights are best in case you miss your plane! (Yes, I have done that). Fly in and you're met by the limo driver. At this point Iím praying itís a regular Lincoln. I don't like being driven around in a stretch, it feels pretentious and itís such a waste of money. I mean, there I am, sitting waaay back in the back with room for one hundred people. Not my style.
Next, I check in and hit the room service menu. Hopefully Iíll have time to eat before going to a radio or TV station. Sometimes I do. If Iím lucky, I can squeeze in a workout before the end of the day too. Publishers assign you an escort who drives you everywhere. This is so you wonít get lost and they end up wasting all that money getting you there. (Like I got lost trying to drive around DC one day! Whatís up with the circular streets?). The escort takes you to your media bookings and to your booksigning.
The signing could have a handful of people or be standing room only, it depends on what kind of advance promotion it received. Then I come back to the room and eat dinner. I donít go hang out. Iím usually too tired and just want some quiet time. Thatís why I say Iíve been to many place Iíve never been. I call my wife so she knows I'm okay. After that I watch CNN and ESPN, maybe a movie and go to sleep because the next plane will be leaving VERY early the next morning. It can be demanding, but I love the pace and the energy of it all.
Now that was the major publisher version. The self-published version is very different. First, I had to scrounge up enough money to buy a ticket on a "cattle car" airline. Then lug a huge heavy box of books through the airport. Load my carry on luggage with one change of clothes (the rest of the space is for books) Get off the plane and try to find a shuttle to my hotel. No Ritz Carlton. I was looking for the Comfort or LaQuinta. Sometimes the bookstore would have my ride. But usually I had to eat the cab fare as well. Dinner was whatever fast-food was nearby. And of course, the free breakfast at LaQuinta and Comfort Inns made many a good morning for me. But I wouldnít trade those days for anything. I learned a lot about what it takes to make the wheels turn in this biz. And it was an adventure and fun!
As for changing, Iím still the same William July I was before. I donít think of myself as famous. This is my calling. Iím in Godís service. No room for me to be a Prima Donna or egomaniac. And it will stay that way. Being myself is what got me here...and thatís what it takes to stay.
Self-publishing is a completely viable enterprise. Some folks believe that a major publisher is the promised land, but it depends on your situation. If you have a good editor and publicist, then it is a great experience. But I've heard some horror stories from authors about bad editors and publicists. Bottom line, you're still in biz for yourself. I have a wonderful editor and publicist. But the success of my book must initiated and followed-through by me! You must relentlessly promote your work yourself or it won't go anywhere. I'm talking using my own time and money here. As a self-publisher you have to do the same thing. There are pros and cons both ways. It all depends on what you want to accomplish.
For example, many professional speakers or people marketing to a particular niche have sold thousands and thousands of copies. Yet they're unheard of in publishing circles. There's a couple that wrote a beanie baby manual a couple of years ago and have sold over one million copies on their own because they're marketing directly to their niche.
On the other hand, I enjoy not having to be burdened with distribution and collection chores. I also like having a great publicist to combine my efforts with. And a slick color cover and design to name a few things.
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