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Tampa Bay Black Authors and Business Showcase
BY HOLLY KESTENIS, Staff Writer
ST. PETERSBURG – Tampa Bay black authors and business owners came together Sat., Aug 9 for a daylong event where they were able to promote their books and services to the general public as a part of National Black Business Month.
With the St. Petersburg Museum of History located along the picturesque waterfront downtown continuously packed with people throughout the day, the event, which is in its first year, was definitely a success.
“What ideas are you sitting here on that you need to get up off and stop procrastinating on,” asked author and motivational speaker Donald Dowridge. His book entitled “The Power of Being a Winner” is a top seller amongst self-publishers and he took a little time to speak with the spectators about how to overcome the odds and follow your dreams.
“If I shoulda, coulda, woulda, is a free ticket to Loserville,” said Dowridge who revved up the audience with his upbeat manner of speaking.
Tables were set up throughout the museum putting you in the mind of walking through a market. With over 30 authors and business owners actively promoting their business and grabbing the attention of those passing by, the atmosphere was electric, buzzing with excitement.
Author and author took to the stage discussing their experience in publishing. Discussing everything from what inspired them to pick up the pen to how they commit to finishing their work; each author had words of wisdom to share.
Kentrell Martin, author of the 20 book series “Shelly’s Outdoor Adventure” books feels the event geared toward highlighting and promoting black businesses is important for the community.
“We’re all authors and we all know the struggle of trying to promote our books,” he said emphasizing that self-publishing is a business like any other and needs to be looked at that way by not only the general public, but also aspiring authors. “So I’m thankful for the opportunity to do this.”
Martin knows of late night writing sessions and the dreaded writer’s block that leaves so many newbie authors discouraged. He encouraged those interested in finishing a book to continue writing even when facing the hardships of business such as limited funding and lack of marketing strategies that tend to plague authors and small business owners. But the biggest obstacle facing those starting out in business can be dealing with rejection.
“That’s just part of the game, something you have to deal with,” said Martin who knows the rejection of someone not liking the finished product can lead to discouragement. “You have to have thick skin to deal with it and not take it personally.”
Martin began the “Shelly’s Outdoor Adventure” series some seven years ago to bring awareness to those struggling with being deaf. Touched by his own brother’s struggle, Martin authored picture books emphasizing teaching general sign language to beginners, mostly to appeal to young audiences.
Hoping the educational system will pick up his book to use in classrooms, Martin sees a promising future for the Shelly Adventure series. But as a young boy with all the statistics against him, from being raised in a single-parent family to going home to the projects each night, Martin knows if he can do it, so can others.
So what does an aspiring author or businessperson have to do in order to be successful? Well Martin gave six points of wisdom to help get you along the way.
He says to be original. Find something you are passionate about that hasn’t been done yet or that you can put a new twist on. Also, start somewhere. Martin suggests not allowing negative feedback to deter you from your dreams. So find a starting point and then go with it. If there are negatives along the way, he believes a positive attitude is the best way to move forward.
“I got the call from the person I wanted, but it wasn’t what I wanted to hear.” he shared explaining an agent once told him his book wasn’t sellable. “I took it personally, but I set out for the next book I put out to be just as good as any from a publisher out there.”
Martin also encourages those endeavoring on creating their own business to take risks and have no fear. He recalled his first book festival in Harlem where for nearly three hours he couldn’t sell a thing. Being shy Martin had to learn to put himself out there and approach the situation differently. He ended up selling over a hundred books in just an hour.
And finally Martin preaches beginning with the end in mind and learning to balance life. “Some of us have jobs, kids,” he said stating he uses every free moment wisely in order to realize his dream. “If you get into the habit of not utilizing that time, it’s hard to break.”
Martin has earned five awards for his Shelly’s Adventure series to include the Indie Excellence Finalist Book Award, the Reader’s Favorite Book and the Readers Favorite Five Stars award of excellence.
A slew of authors took to the stage all afternoon giving inspirational tidbits on how to stay motivated, along with selling their wares. Henry Ashwood Jr., a local saxophonist, joined in the entrepreneurial spirit playing his sweet jazz, captivating the spectators with his talents. Ashwood can be found at Sylvia’s Restaurant every Wednesday and Friday from 7 -10 p.m.
To reach Holly Kestenis, email firstname.lastname@example.org