Monday, April 27, 2009

Is Oprah’s Booklist Attainable?

This week’s Business Question of The Week was sent in from the boot. Jacqueline Turner from Louisiana asks:

What is a realistic goal for me in trying to get media exposure? Is it likely that I could ever get my book on Oprah’s list? What could I do to get there?

Omar Tyree Answers:

Jacqueline, you have just jumped out of my range with the Oprah question. I hear people actually e-mail her repetitively to attempt to get their books considered for her club, but there is only 10 – 15 books a year that are chosen by Oprah out of the thousands of books that are published each year. That doesn’t sound like great odds, but anything is possible. So Google the Oprah Winfrey Show, go to the web site, and fire away. I have never tried myself. Maybe I should e-mail about a hundred of you guys to e-mail Oprah every day for a few months to get my own work featured (smile).

Anyway, as far as media exposure is concerned, it seems that the only sure way to get attention in America is by getting arrested for some unspeakable crime. That would surely get you plenty of media exposure, but probably not the kind that you would like. Other than that, you either hire a public relations firm for their services, or you go about calling up newspapers, magazines, web sites, television, and radio stations yourself, and pitch those folks until they give you a play for whatever you’re pushing.

I remember when I was hungry enough to make those calls nearly a decade ago about my own career aspirations. I was able to bully a few folks into covering my short-term goals, but it actually suited me better when I was less well-known. Once I became a household name in the African-American community, a lot of media folks began to think of me as obnoxious to call up and pitch my own coverage. Gossip radio talk-show host Wendy Williams even went as far as to call me “The King of Self Promotion.” I don’t really view that as a compliment, but sometimes your own tenacity can get you more media coverage than the folks you hire. Sometimes their more systematic approach fails to move anyone. And PR firms can also be expensive.

Ultimately, media exposure falls on how Attractive your story is, who you know for hookups, or who you talked to at the right place and at the right time. There are literally thousands of success stories of people who have gotten the attention that they desired in a multitude of ways. All you have to do is read more and listen more to the folks who have the attention. They are constantly talking about it. However, you definitely have to SEEK ATTENTION to get it. Asking for advice won’t do it, coming up with your own plans to execute will. So learn to do so, with whatever ideas work for you. Trial and error is the key here, because there is no one way.

As I explain in the 19th Chapter of The Equation, Attraction is the first element of Support. You must attract people to what you have to offer by any means necessary. And it seems as if you already know that. So now is the time to get busy doing it!

Monday, April 20, 2009


This week’s Business Question is part 2 of the answer to Marcus Bailey’s question about black novels and film. And the question read:

I have read several of your books and loved them. And I realize that you have 18 books total. I have also read several other African-American authors, including Eric Jerome Dickey, Sister Souljah, Carl Weber, Noire, and many others. But how come you all have not had movie deal developments like white American authors and their books?

Omar Tyree Answers:

Okay, enough already about the difficulties of black book authors attempting to break into the feature film game. Someone may begin to think that there is no need in even trying if all of the odds are that stacked against us. So, for this week, what I would like to do is pick back up on the very timely question concerning the production of African-American books into film by creating a doable game plan from which to execute.

#1) UNDERSTAND THE TYLER PERRY MODEL of filmmaking. Instead of running out to Hollywood with a book or a script, black authors must find ways to secure financial backers FIRST. So I have now developed a full business package and presentation to explain the execution of the African-American film industry. It is a very exclusive industry of only a dozen or so shot-callers who can get films made. So, whenever you have an industry that is THAT SMALL there is always a tremendous upside for gain. That’s Business 101, the smaller the competition in the market, the larger the opportunity for exclusive success. Investors must be lead to understand that.

#2) You must map out a PLAN FOR LONGEVITY. One of the many mistakes that I see aspiring filmmakers make is planning to produce 1 big film for success, without having any idea about the development of the next project to maintain your business as a filmmaker! Each film is a struggle to make, so you must create your own model of longevity before you even produce the first film, that way you can maintain within the industry. However, some authors and writers do not have enough film content, or their next project conceived or thought out, where Tyler Perry and several authors like myself already have a built-in slate of product from which to keep the Business going. So, as I have always advised other authors, keep creating your product regardless.

#3) STAY ACTIVE IN THE GAME. Now, I have not been running around out in Hollywood, California myself, but my partner Arthur Wylie has, and he continues to keep our business endeavors hot. So I would advise other authors and writers to link up with folks who can continue to talk to the Hollywood players about your projects while you continue to work on new creativity. None of us can do it all, so we need to find partner’s who are willing to do their share of the workload.

#4) PRAY FOR SUCCESS! The reality is, for those who are fortunate enough to be able to break into the film game, it is indeed a BLESSING! So, if you ever have a chance to acquire that blessing, make sure that you appreciate it and take full advantage of every moment, every dollar, every interview, and every ounce of national popularity that the opportunity affords you. And trust me, after more than a decade now of flying back and forth to LAX airport, and driving around California to meet and greet and speak to the Hollywood players, who I still have not moved any project forward with, I know full well how much of a blessing it will be to finally break my way in. But that blessing won’t come without the execution. Business investors rarely give money away for filmmaking. So it all has to be TIGHT! And that’s what we are presently working to create, a tight package that cannot be refused.

And The Equation for this week becomes a wing and prayer to entice the right Purple Business People to the table to write the checks that will launch the next African-American film brand into Business. That, my friends, remains the task for ALL OF US WRITERS! The film projects will not happen any other way.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Black Novels and the Silver Screen

This week’s business question comes from the state where big hats and belt buckles are fashionable. Marcus Bailey from Houston, Texas asks:

I have read several of your books and loved them. And I realize that you have 18 books total. I have also read several other African-American authors, including Eric Jerome Dickey, Sister Souljah, Carl Weber, Noire, and many others. But how come you all have not had movie deal developments like white American authors and their books?

Omar Tyree Answers:

WHOA! That is the question of the year, my friend! But I have actually answered this artistic/business question for YEARS now. Nevertheless, I have rarely had a chance to answer it for many of the large publications or major media outlets where a larger audience can hear me. Those outlets typically cover positive news. So they would rather cover the movie deals once you’re in the promotion stage for a release, ala Tyler Perry. So, here we are at my web site ( to answer this question for the behind-the-scene-details:

#1) AFRICAN-AMERICAN BOOKS ARE STILL NOT BEING READ by the power players in Hollywood, therefore black authors must continually explain their work. But how long does it take for a studio to read a book? Surely, someone at these major film companies can spend the time to read and determine if a story is worth a film. But I have been in meeting after meeting after meeting, where Hollywood folks know the names of the authors and the titles of their books, but they have not actually read the material to understand the content. And without them understanding the content, there will be no film. However, with white American books – THE FILM EXECUTIVES READ THE CONTENT!

#2) MONEY IS STILL AN ISSUE! That’s right, folks, we still have an issue getting black films financed, and there is no film to be made without the capital to shoot it. So a lot of the meetings with black authors actually ask the authors to basically give up the film rights for their books for practically nothing, and get paid on the back end of the film. Well, even if you were to be a “team player” and agree to this scenario, you still need money to shoot the film. So if there is not enough money to pay the author something for the rights, you have to ask yourself, “How much money do these guys have to shoot the film?” And the answer is, they usually don’t have the money. They want to acquire your book rights so they can SHOP for the money. But that rarely happens. So you end up with authors who negotiate their rights, with nothing moving forward for actual film production. However, with white American book authors – THE STUDIOS COUGH UP THE MONEY TO PAY THE AUTHORS FOR THEIR RIGHTS, AS WELL AS MONEY TO SHOOT THE FILM! They then go about attaching the right actors to the project, while hyping up the coming film to the audience in advance.

#3) AFRICAN-AMERICAN AUTHORS STILL DO NOT SELL THE AMOUNT OF BOOKS that white American authors sell. So if your Hollywood meeting starts off with a discussion about your book numbers, there are very few African-American authors who can match the books sales of major white authors. WHY? BECAUSE BLACK READERS STILL LIKE TO SHARE BOOKS INSTEAD OF BUY THEM! Furthermore, there are more white book readers in this country than black readers to begin with. So unless your book is picked up by the Oprah Winfrey Book Club, and it crosses over to a much larger group of white Americans, like popular hip hop music is able to do, it becomes harder to validate the economics of producing a black book for film.

Well, let’s pause for a minute. This answer is obviously too large for one week, so let’s finish it next week. But so far, The Equation of black books to film is this: we still don’t have enough Passionate Red from a Hollywood-based readership to understand the Artistic Gold value of our intellectual property that builds enough Attractive Green Support from the studios and investors that would create the steady Business Product of African-American books to film. However, for next week, I will discuss how to be proactive about the process. So PLEASE STAY TUNED! . . .

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

You Gotta Crawl Before You Can Run

According to the media it’s a great time to start a business. Although this may be true, it is imperative that up and coming entrepreneurs research business opportunities before jumping in head first. This week’s business question is a reality in many households that are being affected by our present economy. Christy from Boston asks:

I have a good friend who is willing to build a website for me. What advice do you have on what should be included on the website? I really do have to make some money before the bank comes for my house. Job hunting is driving me crazy, so I am concentrating on this today.

Omar Tyree Answers:

Sure. If you have a friend who can build a great web site, then by all means, have them do it! But do you have products and services that you are GUARANTEED to sell from your web site? That is a much bigger question to answer. Because I must warn you, having a web site does not automatically lead to business. I have had a web site now for more than ten years, and I have rarely sold more than 10 items per week in my BEST years! So to think that a new web site is going to create sales like an in our present economy is major dreaming! I’m just being realistic about that.

So here’s how I would do a deal with your web-site-building friend. If they are seriously go-hung about their site skills, I would offer to give them a healthy piece of the business to design it and continue to improve it for a 20% cut of the online sales that the web site creates and no upfront money. That way, they must work with you to figure out how to make it work on a production level. Otherwise, you will become yet another one of millions out there who has a web site that is only attempting to sell product! You feel me? In the meantime, I would study every professional web site out there that has been profitable to try and copy what THEY do! Okay?

But that is the hard-core truth of your dilemma. Web sites are not overnight saviors of any business. It takes a lot of work, marketing savvy, diligence, and everyday updates over time to be successful on the web. And remember, you still need to drive TRAFFIC to your site to begin with. That takes even more marketing savvy, and possibly more money. So I would come up with some other ideas to save your house, starting with calling up your mortgage holder to see what kind of new deals you could take advantage of. These guys are aware that ALL Americans are going through hard times in the present state of the economy. So make a new deal to give yourself more time to work with, set up your website to open up more opportunities, and come up with some other ideas as well to continue to earn short and long term money to stay afloat toward your goals of economic survival.

So The Equation of your question is all about Business know-how. Don’t just jump into something new because of what you THINK can happen. You have to research that particular Business and study it until you KNOW what will happen. This is why successful Business folks spend many hours, days, weeks, months and even YEARS of research in a new Business and its details before they jump in. They want to make sure that they know what they’re putting their time, effort and money into. And so should you.