I just recently heard of a movie called “Birth of A Nation” that is out, or coming out that troubled me a little. It’s different than the one released in 1915. I remember a paper I wrote in class that told the history of the Ku Klux Klan that took me to that sad place in American history. Looking at all the chaos, clowning and noise that is talked about today on social media made me think about the importance of images. I learned quite a bit about images in some of my fails as an first time publisher and author. In this episode I share some of those memories as well as sprinkle in some history, cautions for new gun owners on Facebook, and encouragement for would-be writers.
It is an odd combination of subjects that I hope make sense to you in this short show.
Don’t judge a book by its cover
We all do it. We can’t help it. We’re visual creatures. Book covers draw our attention, create an expectation that excites us, and suggest a certain quality of writing. I screwed up on the first attempt.
Guns. It’s a simple word but it evokes emotion to different people. No one had really written about it in the way I was going to since 1967. I couldn’t be too controversial but I needed a hook. Playing off Robert F. Williams’ book “Negroes with Guns,” fear of an armed slave uprising, and a phrase from a TV police series– blackmanwithagun was born.
My webmaster registered the domain in 1999. It all about marketing.
The webmaster was superb to advertise my book she created a website that was ahead of its time. I let my creativity go wild and at the time of AOL 1.0. I had flash. I had music. I had graphics. The gun rights community I thought I was rolling. At the time my site was better than the National Rifle Associations. They had trouble with social media for many years. Convincing their leaders to use new technology and all. But my image didn’t convey the message I was trying to send.
I remember my first responses at the church was positive until I said the title or showed them the picture of what the cover was going to be. It mattered little that I was a police firearms instructor, and I was trying to save lives.
With money given to me by my cousin that had just signed a great deal as an NFL football player, I had 5000 copies printed and sent to my front door. 2000 pounds of paperbacks arrived as the snow was falling gently on a January morning before work. The truck driver pulled into my residential area and asked are you the company? Where is your forklift?
Self-Publishing can hurt.
I always wanted to be an author. I like books. When I was a child it was the smart kids, the respectable people and the esteemed people that read books.
Getting a book as a gift was a good thing when I was a kid. I learned to read early making my parents proud. I understood it as child that at one time African American people were not allowed to read in this country. I remember my parents paying a lot of money for Encyclopedia Britannica and for Christian books series to help me succeed. They did it with the same enthusiasm as a parent paying for college education. In all it was to help me read.
When I started my first business I knew to be taken seriously I should write. And even more than that I should become a published author. I decided to write about the Second Amendment, gun rights, and my experiences as an African-American firearms instructor. When I started, I was working for the Central intelligence agency and had restrictions on what I could say, write and publish. My training business was failing I was bankrupting my family. My spirit was low. I desperately needed a win somewhere with something.
My family join the new church and I took on a part-time job there. It gave me some time to reflect, to meditate, and work on my book.
And then, BAM there I was, a published author. I sought now to sell this thing. The cover which was “artistic” scared all the potential bookstores I thought would embrace it. Urban bookstores, Afro-centric shops which had books about pimps, hustlers drug addicts, criminals on death row didn’t want to feature or have this book about responsible gun ownership and safe gun handling in them. I was even contacted by the Oprah book club once. I got excited and thought if I could get on Oprah all my financial troubles would be over. Everyone would see that I was trying to help my people. I will sell these books. If I sold these books I can pay back my cousin for believing in me.
That shot never came. I got a note saying that this was something that “O” didn’t want to promote. I wept.
It was the cover that stopped it all. It was a book with pictures taken by a famous Washington DC based photographer that I couldn’t afford. It even had photos taken at a range. Firearms ranges are notorious for not being accessible to gun rights types, and activist like me but I had gained a great relationship there. They bought some books from me as did the Second Amendment Foundation, The Law-Enforcement Alliance of America, and Gun Owners of America. I still had 4,768 copies to sell. My mother sold 30 copies. God bless my mom.
Whenever I did a media event or book signing that got press coverage it always affected me at church, and my government job. I was either too famous for covert work or infamous for being the hand of the devil.
In the past 10 years many bookstores have closed. The mountain of brown boxes in my basement remained. Even though I was selling maybe one or two books a month on Amazon I threw away 2000 copies of the original. If you have one it’ll be a collectors piece one day. There’s no reprint.
In 2013, the publisher of White Feather Press encouraged me to redo my book and publish it under his company. In 2014, “Black man with a gun: Reloaded” was published. It’s different from the first although there are some bits that are the same. I share with you what was going on in between my life and the last time i wrote, and try make you laugh every once in a while.
Sometimes the same things that make you laugh, will make you cry.
If you want to write, you should.
Just make it happen. Take the time and start putting thought to paper/screen.
It can give you a great sense of fulfillment. It can make you an authority and distinguish you from others in your space. It won’t necessarily make you rich but it could. Do it with the audience in mind. Be careful of your images. Images are powerful.
and there is a little history sprinkled in to this story too if you listen.