Hello everyone! I am so excited that I had the opportunity to interview New York Times best-selling and Award-Winning Author Omar Tyree. Not only is he an innovator and one of the literary greats of African-American fiction, I have the honor of calling him a great friend.
Omar Tyree, is a New York Times best-selling author, an NAACP Image Award Winner, and a Phillis Wheatley Literary Prize recipient who has published 19 books, including 16 novels, and has sold more than 2 million copies worldwide. With a degree in Print Journalism from Howard University in 1991, Tyree has been recognized as one of the most renown contemporary writers in American. He is also an informed and passionate speaker on community-related topics, urban literacy and entrepreneurship.
“From now on, with ebooks, I know that every story can now be sold. There’s no longer a limitation on what I can write or publish.”
“Alive, Well & Still Hustling”
A 2012 Conversation with New York Times best-selling & Award-Winning Author
Ni’cola Mitchell: So what gave you the idea to write a detailed book like “Corrupted” about the publishing industry?
Omar Tyree: Frustration [Laughs]. I’ve been trying to break into the film business for years now, because I want my ideas to be seen and more than just read. I could already see that the competition in the black publishing game was getting steep. And I no longer had urban book ideas, because I had written them all. So as my story ideas began to fall farther outside of the urban marketplace, I knew that there would be repercussions for no longer writing what the people want. The entire black publishing industry was feeling that pressure. The next thing you know, I was out of the business, like several other black writers. We’re all being forced to adapt to the new readership or die. So I decided to pull together a book that explains exactly what’s going on in the publishing industry from several different perspectives.
NM:And why put it out as an ebook?
OT: It was the safest to do economically. I had started off self published years ago, back in the early 1990s, but since then, I’ve seen dozens of book stores go out of business and distribution companies fold. So there was no way in hell that I was going to print a book and deal with the limited resources of trying to sell it. And then you guys started [@ NM] talking to me about what you were doing with ebooks, and I said, “What the hell. Let me try this ebook route.” The ebook route also gave me an opportunity to publish “Corrupted” with one chapter at a time, while I was still writing it. I could have never done that in traditional publishing. So here we are; I have a no-holds-barred and an insider’s book on the publishing industry that was published in a unique way. And this book is classic in the sense that no publisher would touch it. The industry didn’t think that it would sell or that anyone wanted to read about publishing.
NM: Were you afraid at all about the possible backlash from the publishing industry? How honest is this book?
OT: You know what, a few friends of mine brought that up to me when I first talked about publishing “Corrupted” in the early summer of 2011, but that was never a concern of mine. When I was at Simon & Schuster for more than a decade, they made it very clear that they were in the business of publishing books, and as long as the books were good or deemed to make them money, they would be willing to publish it. So as long as you have a book idea that publishers feel will do well on the market, if you can get it in the hands of the right person or editor, you can still get it published. So I don’t worry about that. And this book is as honest as it can get without being based on any one person. It’s a compilation of various publishing issues.
NM:So what’s next for the brand of Omar Tyree?
OT: Oh boy! Once I found out how well this ebook market can work, the sky is the limit now. I just published “Insanity” in ebook this summer in 4 parts. It’s a crazy housewife story that I couldn’t find a publisher for. And the numbers started to jump off the wall. I was like, “Damn!” And I still have the last 2 parts to post. But now I know for sure that I can publish whatever I want. From now on, with ebooks, I know that every story can be sold. There’s no longer a limitation on what I can write or publish. And that’s big time, because I have plenty of old stories that I was hesitant to write, and a lot of ideas that I didn’t know how to sell.
NM: Like what?
OT: Like “The Traveler” my up and coming international thriller series. Publishers didn’t know what to think of it. It’s like a new “James Bond” idea, but instead of the guy being a spy, he’s a regular dude who inherited a lot of money, and who travels the world, while getting into trouble trying to help people. It was an idea that I’ve had for years. But the publishers were like, “How are we gonna put this out? Your audience is not an international audience.” And they were right. My audience was mainly young, black and urban. So I wanted to build a new audience for “The Traveler” series but no publisher wanted the workload or the risk involved until I found Koehler Books. Now we’re gonna roll this introduction out in January  and build the audience month by month @ TheTravelerBooks.com. The marketing and execution is all by design. And we want to be very inclusive with the audience and listen to what they have to say.
NM: Very interesting. Good luck with that. But are you ever going to publish traditional books again?
OT: Oh yeah, definitely! In fact, Koehler Books is a traditional publisher. It was just my idea to publish “The Traveler” back story “No Turning Back” as an ebook to build up the audience from January to August first, before publishing the first traditional book in the series called “Welcome to Dubai” in September or October. That gives us plenty of time to build anticipation for the book. And I’m excited as ever about it! Each year I’ll pick a new country to travel to, study, and then write a new thriller about; including Johannesburg in South Africa, Shanghai in China and Rio De Janeiro in Brazil. So if you can’t travel there, buy “The Traveler” series of books and let me take you.
NM: Okay, but what about your established urban audience? Are you still gonna be retired from them like you spoke about a few years ago?
OT: You know what, I got a lot of flack for talking about the pigeonhole of urban, street lit books. But “Insanity” hits that group hard now, with a Baltimore backdrop and plenty of sex. And I have a new short story series called “Unleashed” that I’ve been holding back for years now. It’s all provocative short stories that folks may think I’m crazy for writing. But I didn’t want to publish stuff like that without having something like the “The Traveler” to balance things out. I don’t want to be known as a shock writer just to keep people reading my work in this day and age. But now that I have these new ebooks, I’m thinking about making categories of Omar Tyree, where I can be as versatile as I really am. You know I wrote a vampire story called “Human Heat; The Confessions of an Addicted Vampire” in “Dark Thirst” [Google It]? The vampire was addicted to virgin blood. So I can write all kinds of books if given the venue for it.
NM: Wow! Categories of Omar Tyree. That’s interesting, because your books have hit a lot a different subjects, even voodoo and horror with “Leslie” and business takeovers with “Pecking Order” …
OT: Yeah, I’ve already thought a lot about it. Since some people only like to read certain things, I can give them a guide of my work with Red for hot and off the chain, urban; Blue for cool, calm and intellectual; Yellow for free-wheeling, fun and comical, Black, for deep, dark and dismal; White for my the mainstream and crossover; and Purple for just … new, weird shit. I’ve even been thinking about writing zombie books. So my mind is gone. And now you get a chance to read me going crazy, like the greatest, Stephen King [Laughs].
NM: So how would you categorize “Corrupted”?
OT: Ahhh … [Thinking] Wow! It’s kind of inbetween. It’s Red and urban, Blue and intellectual, and White with a lot of crossover appeal to it. So you just strewed up my categories already [Laughs].
NM: I didn’t mean to. But okay, we look forward to all of it. It sounds like you have a lot going on …
OT: Yeah, so make sure you check back in with me every 3 months or so. But for right now, we still have “Corrupted,” “Insanity” and then “The Traveler; No Turning Back” on the way out for January.
CLICK ON THE BOOK COVER TO ORDER YOUR COPY OF CORRUPTED ON KINDLE NOW!
Find out more about Mr. Tyree: http://www.omartyree.com/