Authors, publishers discuss the inner workings of the industry

In this tough economy, many people are looking for additional streams of income. For some, that means pursuing a lifelong dream of becoming a published author. On Sept. 17, several authors and publishing professionals shared their secrets of success at the Sankofa Cultural Arts and Business Center, 5820 W. Chicago Ave. CLTV anchor Tonya Francisco served as moderator.

Zondra Hughes, author of “The Ebony Files: E-mails from the Plantation” told how she turned a life changing experience into an opportunity. What inspired her to write her book?

“I got fired,” Hughes says. Hughes was working as an associate editor at Ebony Magazine when she lost her job. In 2006, she decided to write a memoir about that experience and uncover the workplace bullying and bad management which she says derailed one of the most influential black magazines in the country.

For some authors, putting the words on the page is the easy part. Getting your book into the hands of readers can sometimes be a bigger challenge. This is particularly true for independently published works. That’s where a publishing company comes in. Two experts from the publishing industry explained how publishers help market and sell books after the manuscript is completed.

“There are costs associated with designing a book cover, printing, advertising, marketing, and more,” explains Katara Washington Patton of Tyndale House Publishers. “When you use a publishing house, that company assumes that risk. When you self-publish, you may have to sell books out of the trunk of your car,” adds Patton.

John W. Fountain, author of “True Vine” and publisher at Westside Press, says the highest level of professionalism is important and basic skills are a must. “Take a writing class. Learn correct grammar and punctuation,” he says. “An editor is not going to re-write the book for you. If your work is sloppy, your editor is going to send it back to you.”

The panel also consisted of authors Nicole Jones (“Dare to Walk in My Shoes”), Shoya Bowman (“Goodbye Don’t Always Mean Gone”), and West Side resident Arlene Jones (“Billion Dollar Winner”).

At a previous authors’ panel, held last June at the Sankofa Center, Jones sat in the audience, eagerly taking notes and asking questions of the experts to help her complete her first manuscript. This time, she was one of the published authors offering advice to other aspiring writers. Jones is currently working on her second book.

Malcolm Crawford

For more information about future authors’ panels and other events at the Sankofa Cultural Arts & Business Center call (773) 626-4497 or visit