T Styles is a boss. Fly, progressive and enough swag to lend to the haters. Now a bookstore owner, we had the chance to sit with T Styles to discuss her bookstore, the publishing business and e-books.
UM: Describe The Cartel Publications and what it brings to the publishing industry:
T Styles: The Cartel Publications is a street literature publishing house. Meaning we publish novels heavy in urban themes depicting street life. We bring consistency to the publishing industry and we offer a solid brand for our distributors and customers. Our customers are starting to realize that when they see the CP logo, it’s all good and your customers will be pleased. It’s a win-win situation for everyone!
UM: Most publishers build their house on at least one book or author. To date, what book has laid the most bricks for the The Cartel Publications?
T Styles: Without a doubt it has been the Shyt List series. For seconds I’d have to say my titles…Black and Ugly as Ever, A Hustler’s Son 2 and the like.
UM: You’ve remained focused on your house and have expanded your brand into a bookstore. In an economic climate where bookstores are closing, what has been your biggest challenge operating the store?
T Styles: I haven’t had any major challenges. I scouted the area in which the book store is located a long time ago. In fact, I grew up in the area and knew that a black book store would do great in a location where most of the customers commute by bus/train. If I had to pick a challenge, it would be hiring and maintaining qualified staff members. Although we seem to be doing pretty well now.
UM: As a bookstore owner, what misconception (s) have you learned about the publishing industry that you did not know as a publisher / author?
T Styles: Hmmm, misconception…you know what, I’m one of the few publishers who is not interested in how other people do things, and because of it, I’ve been protected from ‘How other publishers/authors’ do things. So I didn’t have any misconceptions or expectations outside of keeping my focus on the brand. I knew I’d have to grind to get the brand out there that if I did, the Cartel would be okay. I think too often business folk worry too much about what others are doing in the industry and base their business decisions on what worked or didn’t work for that person. Ignorance was my greatest asset because I didn’t know that most publishers didn’t put out two books at the same time, or this that and a third. Feel me?
UM: As a bookstore owner, what are some words of advice for authors and book signings.
T Styles: Well, I’d say please…please…please don’t cut corners when it comes to quality book covers. It’s imperative. And although your mother’s cousin’s uncle may have done good copy paste work in the past, when it comes to your book cover, take no chance. People say don’t judge a book by it’s cover but they always do! They pick up the book and put it right back down if the title isn’t hot and the cover isn’t hotter. I’d also say don’t expect a line to form around the corner when you sign your books. Successful books signings are 80 percent grind & pull (of customers) and 20 percent promotion from the book store.
UM: What is your view on urban books in the ebook format and publishers giving the ebook away for free?
T Styles: Publisher are giving books away for free? Nonsense! There has to be some reason for that madness I’m sure. Me? I LOVE ebooks but you have to pay for ours. We currently have our books available on Amazon.com’s Kindle and since Kindle’s AP is available for the iPad, you may download our books there too. In terms of e-books, the industry is changing. Publishing is changing and those who aren’t willing to embrace change will get run over. There’s no other way to say it. We have to get with the program or get left out of it. People want access and immediate gratification and ebooks provide it for the consumer.
UM: The amount of books in your catalog is impressive as T Styles. What made you write using the pseudonym Reign?
T Styles: I love writing under Reign because she’s relentless. And Reign means to prevail. Sounds just like me!
UM: What book did you enjoy writing the most?
T Styles: Black and Ugly. Why? I enjoyed the story because of the topic for one (about a young lady who hates her dark skin) and I like creating characters based on solid friendships because I never had that. When I was growing up, I moved around so much I didn’t get a chance to form long lasting bonds. And although the friends in Black and Ugly fight a lot, they love one another.
UM: Do you desire to sign with a major publisher or would you like to remain independent?
T Styles: As of now, no. I’d like to remain independent because I’m not feeling the idea of working for someone else. And the longer I am successful, the more I don’t want to. This may change depending on the offer, but for now, I want to see how far I can take the label.
UM: What are some upcoming dates for The Cartel Publications book releases, author signings or book tours?
T Styles: We have The Unusual Suspects, Miss Wayne and the Queens of DC, Hell Razor Honeys 2, Reversed and the list goes on and on!
UM: Where can readers reach you online?